Local guitarsmith Dave Arden, that is local if you live in Victoria, perhaps more well known nationally (Australia) as a member of The Black Arm Band, has released Kookatha/Gunditjmara Clan which as it’s title alludes expresses tribal identity. It is roots music, in the sense of the genre and content, with it’s focus on family, community, history and politics. It communicates the messages of these domains with sense of what constitutes a community/roots music but perhaps less aware of the sound and politics as being generic. Not that I don’ sympathise with the positions offered, I requested the CD ordered through the library, as testifies the photo, which is after all a proper domain for a community message stick to reside?
Should I stop the cynicism? It is folk music, well constructed with few surprises and would communicate with an audience well up for receiving this music. It is not however the work of a master craftsman of the genre and I suspect that our sympathies often override our critical faculties when we imagine the type of people we wish ourselves to be as opposed to the quality of the input which we feed our mind and soul. That is all incredibly loaded and the man with the computer keyboard is asking for words of abuse, but the question may be placed as to whether Dave Arden would survive wielding a Drum Machine and Laptop along with his particular brand of message music. Or would the audience have a good word or two with him – i.e. this is not the sort of society we are constructing! Think Bob Dylan goes electric.
So having moved on from cynicism to irony about the arena of the folk/political genre, the question may arise as to whether this is art of the state rather than state of the art? This question has been posed before yet it remains that to a great degree we represent our people in the cultural space, rather than representing technology, technique and structure, which are merely the tools of expression, concrete abstractions of mind states rather than expressions of essence, or however you wish to classify the stuff of the spirit. As to this mode of analysis, if indeed it is, Dave Arden presents an admirable case, an act one could take their kids to see.