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Quarter Past Late - A review of the Release by Ross Nicholson

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  • Quarter Past Late - A review of the Release by Ross Nicholson

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ID:	73310 Listening to Ross sing is at times like velvet being slowly passed across fine sandpaper or gravel spread with honey. It's like the voice of hard experience that has been tempered with a fine wine.

    Quarter Past Late is the latest solo release from well known Australian musician Ross Nicholson
    . In CD format it features 12 tracks, 10 of which are original tracks composed by Ross. Released late in 2014, Ross has drawn upon his 55 years of experiences in and around the music scene to produce a quality selection of music.


    To have some understanding of what is behind these tracks and how the project has come about, it is vital to tell a little of Ross's story.

    Born in 1948 in Wagga Wagga his first introduction into the world of rock 'n' roll came when the family moved to Melbourne in 1952, and in the subsequent years he would become familiar with the sounds of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry courtesy of a crystal set. In 1957 he bought his first guitar from Allen's Music in melbourne, and in Ross' own words, "It was a plywood box with strings, and cost 9 guineas." Between 1959 and 1962 he took 18 months of Flamenco guitar lessons and introduced himself to the world and work of artists such as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, the Clancy Brothers and other similar artists. Over the next couple of years he learnt a repertoire of over 200 folk, blues and country songs. The history learnt through folk music led him to read like an addict, a passion that fired his interest in words, expression and writing.


    In 1962 while attending Caulfield High School, he met with Micheal Gay and began a friendship that continues to this day. In Ross's words, "Mick and I bought Yamaha 6 string guitars and had them converted to 12 strings by the Victorian Banjo Club. During this year I started writing poetry, enamoured with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Be-Bop, thanks to my older brother Graham. I Began frequenting The Fat Black Pussy Cat , a jazz club located at 90 Toorak Road, South Yarra,and that was also my first meeting with Adrian Rawlins, poet, performer, organiser, raconteur, stirrer, hipster. I listened to live jazz with the Brian Brown Quartet, Barry McKimm, Ted Vining, Alan Lee, and many others. In a Caulfield High School talent quest, Micheal and I won 30 bob each, and this first taste of playing in public changed my life.

    Oh yeah, getting expelled from school some months later also changed my life."

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    Early 1960's

    At 14 years of age he hitched around Australia returning to Melbourne in 1965 where he worked in a variety of music oriented businesses including Discurio, Thomas' Music and Archie and Jugheads. Not only was he constantly learning about all forms of recorded music, he was meeting people who were seriously committed to music. According to Ross, "In mid ’65, I met my second musical partner-in-crime, Chris Fogaty. We played folk clubs in Melbourne and Geelong. Quoting Chris: The main thing was the fucking unreal improvising, solid and flying close to the sun, it was agile, it was hip and it was emotional. It was 12 string guitar, harmonica, jaw harp, finger cymbals and kalimba, all of which went into the gumbo of folk blues we played."

    A key person and a key date was Bob Bright and 1969. While Ross was managing a business called The Record Collector he met Bob Bright who in turn introduced Ross to to Frank Esler Smith (Musical Director-Marcia Hines Band and ex-Doug Parkinson), who along with drummer Ross Sutton, backed Del Shannon around Australia. So Ross was invited to join the backing band playing guitar and that was the basis of Ross's first tour.

    By 1971 Ross's reputation was spreading and he soon found himself in one of Australia's most loved contemporary country groups - Saltbush. In 1971 the line-up was:
    Bernie O’Brien (ex-Bobby & Laurie’s Rondells, ex- Merv Benton’s Tamlas), vocals, lead guitar, dobro and fiddle. Harold Frith (ex-Thunderbirds), vocals and drums. Paul Pyle (ex-Johnny O’Keefe Band ,ex-Hot Dog with Gary Young), vocals and double bass. Ross Nicholson, vocals and guitar. That group dominated the contemporary country music scene for 10 years and racked up many kudo's including their performance on the legendary Live At The Station Hotel album (1976), they also released their album "At Twin Rivers" in the same year and they also
    won the Tamworth Golden Guitar Awards for New Talent of the Year, in that year, with their song "Sassafras Gap".

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    Bernie O'Brien, Ross, Harold Frith,Paul Pyle -1973
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    In 1978 Saltbush played as opening act for the Marty Robbins Tour of Australia, and then toured with Slim Dusty. In 1978 the band released their second album self-titled “Saltbush”.


    In 1981 the group disbanded and in 1982 Ross
    formed Thunderbox with Ed Bates, George Butrumilis, Paul Pyle, Harold Frith, Paul Neuindorf, and Mick Holden. When that group disbanded he formed Ross Nicholson’s Road Dogs with Craig Reeves, Dougie McDonald, Les Gough and Phil Para. Then in 1985 he formed Spot The Aussie, a group that during its life span of eight years had a total of over 35 members, with occasional members including such notable Aussie musicians as Les Gough, Peter Laffy, Ross Hannaford, Sam See, Chris Stockley and the list seems to be endless. Ross left the group in 1993 during which there was a period he refers to as "The Dark Years".

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    Spot The Aussie: R to L -Mick "The Rev" O'Connor,Les Gough,Ross Nicholson,Tony Bishop,Peter Laffy,Ali,Dave "Chicken" Stewart,Dougie MacDonald (1985)

    Following professional help Ross returned to writing songs in 2002 and he swung in and out music over the next eight years, but by 2011 he found he had over eighty songs, either new or re-written and was ready to return to serious recording. Over the next couple of years, on a shoestring budget and with the assistance of friends, both musicians and non-musicians, he recorded the album Quarter Past Late.

    Accompanying Ross on this album is a mighty impressive group of talent, all of whom are friends of Ross's and who bring with them not just their skill and experience, but their love for Ross and his music. When you read own the list it is a veritable who's who of Aussie talent. It doesn't get any better!

    Mark Kennedy - Drums & Percussion
    Joe Hiltz - Electric Bass
    Paul Pyle - Double Bass
    Gavan Anderson - Guitars and banjo
    Les Stacpool - Guitar
    Mick "The Rev" Connor - Hammond and Piano
    Brendan Mason - Mandolin and Ukulele
    Nicholas Lyon - Violin and Viola
    Genevieve Chadwick and James Gillard - Backing Vocals
    and the man,
    Ross Nicholson - Acoustic guitars and Vocals


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    So there are 12 tracks on the album and all but two were written by Ross, those being tracks three and four.

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    The album starts off with a beautiful but very small piece, just 42 seconds long. Called "Charlotte's Song", it is one of three such tracks, all short - that I like to think of as musical vignettes. According to Ross: "Back in the 60's,I used to sit for hours jamming around on a 12 string guitar,little instrumental things like this.This tune is dedicated to my youngest grand-daughter Charlotte." Charlotte's song has only one problem - it left me wanting more!

    Mark Kennedy-Drums/Percussion
    Joe Hiltz-Electric Bass
    Ross Nicholson-Acoustic 12 String Guitar


    Charlotte's Song

    The first full length track, which is track 2 - goes by the title "Draggin' Myself". A very good Country & Western style composition that brings together all the right elements for a good C & W track. Ross's voice sits in the groove just perfectly (or maybe I should say "purrfectly' as he is so at home with the genre and he oozes contentment like a cat with cream). It has a great banjo, violin and guitar support and, it has "Jesus". It asks us all to reflect on a number of questions, but I suspect that they may have been questions that Ross faced when he life wasn't all that together. It's a fine track indeed and a great track to help us settle in on a journey that Ross will take us on.

    "Ever had that feeling, that you're gone before your time
    Ever had that sense, one step over the line
    Ever thought to yourself, man aint love unkind
    Ever feel too punished, for way too little crime

    Draggin' myself, over coals for you baby
    Shootin' myself, in the foot for no reason
    Pickin' myself, up off the floor for Jesus
    And I'm way too tired, too tired to sleep....."



    Draggin' Myself

    Track 3 is "Cypress Grove Blues". The track title might be considered a bit of a misnomer - I guess Country Blues is an appropriate label, but label A or label B, it's a good 'shit-kickin'" track that has the effect of demanding you start tapping your foot, and maybe actually getting up and dancing. It's not an original composition having been written by a great bluesman - Skip James. However what Ross has successfully done is to put his own strong spin on the track. I also would make special mention of the great steel guitar work of Gavan Anderson. It's as good as I have heard on any Aussie composition.

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    I love track 4 - "Heaven Was A Drink Of Wine". Although not written by Ross, in fact by Sanger Shafer a well known American Country songwriter, it is easy to imagine that it touched a sympathetic note with Ross who has battled his own demons in the past. It is a very gentle, poignant track that is extremely well covered by Ross and incidentally, it was part of the Saltbush repertoire. Recorded by Merle Haggard back in 1979, I have to be totally honest when I say as great as Merle Haggard is, I think Ross has vocally put so much more into this track resulting in a superior version.

    It's a story about a man who has had his woman leave him (there must be more songs about a man's woman leaving him than any other topic), anyway he is talking to his doctor, a psychoanalyst who seems to insist, as they all do, of relating the man's problems back to his childhood. But the truth is much simpler. As the lyrics say:
    "T
    hat psycho, that psychologist
    Asked me about my drinking ways
    Every question that he asked me
    All related back on to my childhood days

    But if the truth was known
    I never took the drinking long, long as she was mine
    But when she left me I went to hell
    Heaven was a drink of wine"


    The track is a ripper, the line delivery is from the heart and the musical backing is just spot on, and again reflects the quality of the artists backing Ross.

    Mark Kennedy-Drums/Percussion
    Joe Hiltz-Electric Bass
    Gavan Anderson-Guitars
    Mick O'Connor(The Rev.)-Hammond/Piano
    Genevieve Chadwick-Backing Vocals
    Ross Nicholson-Acoustic Guitars/Vocals


    Heaven Was A Drink Of Wine


    Track 5 is the second of what I have called "musical vignettes", and is the second track dedicated to Ross's grandchildren, in fact his middle granddaughter. It's another short instrumental piece called "Tune For Zara" it is delicate, delightful and has a calypso feel about it, and once again, I wanted more!

    "The Woman I Love" is track 6 and it's a rollicking good upbeat track with some great violin playing. A perfect track in that it has a great lyric hook - "the woman I love", that encourages the listener to sing along, and what a terrific dance track. I can imagine in my minds eye the swirl of dresses as the room jumps to the track with the audience singing along. It is a really, really happy song and what can I say about the playing - brilliant! In fact I have to say, I just can't get the thing out of my head, it's one of those tunes that just follows you around endlessly replaying in your head.

    As all really switched on artists do, when you have taken your listeners/audience for an uptempo dance journey as the previous track did, is to then drop the tempo and track 7 does that - it's good arranging to bring the tempo down a tad and Ross does that. In fact if there is one thing good country music does, it's to provide a platform for reflective music and this is another reflective track by Ross. Simply titled "Louise", it is the story of Louise whose reputation was all that crash hot and it would seem she was not thought of highly, but when Louise takes her life, then the understanding she should have had in life was given in her death. A perfectly placed track that is played with feeling and and showcases another element of Ross' amazing voice.

    Track 8 is "A.D.D. Blues", and this is actually a well played well composed blues track. Now in case there is still someone that is not familiar with A.D.D it is a modern ailment - "Attention Deficit Disorder". This track provides another arrow in Ross's bow of vocal deliveries. His voice and his delivery in singing blues is superb! That gravel edge is there as it should be in any decent blues track, but at the same time there is genuine melody in his voice and the track surely reinforces that Ross's vocal abilities are anything but mono-dimensional. It's not surprising when you look at the guys backing Ross that they have turned out a premier blues track and this track is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

    According to Ross it's a true story about his 12 years in therapy, a time that stretched from the late 1990's up to the year 2010. The backing vocals are just spot on and all in all this is a really cool, well composed, played and delivered piece of music.


    Mark Kennedy-Drums/Percussion
    Joe Hiltz-Electric Bass
    Gavan Anderson-Guitars
    Mick O'Connor(The Rev.)-Hammond/Piano
    Jimmy Sloggett-Saxophones
    Genevieve Chadwick-Backing Vocals
    Ross Nicholson-Acoustic Guitars/Vocals

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    A.D.D Blues

    "In The Dark Of The Night" follows the "A.D.D. Blues" and it is a contemporary country composition that not only features Ross's song writing and delivery abilities but the arrangement is most excellent. Ross has provided us with a nicely paced somewhat down-tempo track.
    From the Hammond organ played by "The Rev", through to the excellent sax work of Jimmy Sloggert which provides a very nice and appropriate touch, through to the backing vocal of Genevieve Chadwick, who is almost singing a duo at times rather than being a backing vocalist, it's slick and professional with a comfortable touch that results from the relaxed vibe.

    Track 10 is "This Hurtin' Over You" and it is a
    nicely paced track where instruments are subtly added one at a time as the track builds up in complexity. It's a track that allows the musicians to feature their skills without anyone dominating. It is a good example of another careful thought out arrangement that those involved in the production - led by the "Ringmaster" Mark Kennedy, have constantly achieved. it is a track that under circumstance of years passed, where quality music would get airplay, would have been a shoo-in for commercial radio. Sadly today to generally get that commercial airplay it comes down to "money talks" and whether you are attached to a large enough record label - rather than pure unadulterated talent, such as Ross demonstrates with this track. What is it about? Well, lost love and angst, but at the same time it's a rockin'!

    Mark Kennedy-Drums/Percussion
    Joe Hiltz-Electric Bass
    Gavan Anderson-Guitars
    Les Stacpool-Guitar
    Mick O'Connor(The Rev.)-Hammond/Piano
    Jimmy Sloggett-Saxophones
    Ross Nicholson-Acoustic Guitars/Vocals


    This Hurtin' Over You


    The third and final musical vignette is track 11 - "Seamus Shuffle" named and dedicated to Ross's oldest grandson. It immediately jolted me back to 1963 and the Rooftop Singers. No, the track doesn't sound like any particular track by that group, but the use of the the acoustic guitar in conjunction with the banjo and mandolin and the "way" they are played, was so reminiscent of the style - I like it and it becomes clear that these "vignettes" are small but important elements of the musical tastes that dance and play through Ross's head.

    So to the final track - "Young Love". A fine uplifting track extolling the virtues of looking after your woman, even if it means letting her go. By now we understand that Ross is not just a very good composer, but he has a most wonderful vocal delivery. When Ross sings he sings with passion and he sings and gives life to his songs. This country ballad is further bought alive with some exquisite electric lead lines once again courtesy of Gavan Anderson. A most appropriate track to finish this album off and, a measure of it's quality is that it left me wanting more!

    This may be Ross's first solo effort, but his many, many years of playing and all the experience he has gained along his journey melded with his natural talent has been channeled into this project and, it is a winner!

    Now It would be remiss not to also congratulate all who contributed to this album. From a point of view of someone associated intimately with the Australian music scene for over 50 years, I can't and won't claim to have heard it all. But I do know that musicians can have ego's that at times grow so large they simply get in the way. It is a mark of respect for Ross and the fact that those contributing their skills to this album are all very comfortable with those skills, their abilities and experiences, that any sign of ego is missing. This album is a classic example of bringing together musicians who as a result of the years of playing together in different combinations have instantly gelled and provided Ross with a musical palette that not just supports his lyrics and vocal delivery, but helps raise those elements to an even higher level.

    Now, no matter how good the music is, no matter how well the lyrics are crafted and no matter how well those lyrics are delivered, if the arranging of the music and the production falters, the project falters. Production kudo's go to Joe Hiltz, Ross and Mark Kennedy - who the liner notes intimate took the lead role. Mark is and has been for many decades possibly the very best drummer Australia has produced, but he proves on this project, that his production skills are likewise, very, very high.

    The album was recorded at "Joe's Joint" - Joe Hints, and was Mastered by Dale Warren with Graham Nicholson taking the photo's and designing the cover.

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    My final comments are in regard to Ross, and I come back to an comment -
    "Listening to Ross sing is at times like velvet being slowly passed across fine sandpaper or gravel spread with honey.
    It's like the voice of hard experience that has been tempered with a fine wine". Like a number of his contemporaries who have made the similar journey, such as Bob Bright, Ross's voice has matured like a good wine and while it may no longer have the instant sweetness that a freshly made wine can have, it does have a depth and richness that the aging of a good wine, or in this case - a good voice, brings.

    This is a fine album indeed and I do recommend you purchase.

    Incidentally, as a reviewer I am torn between providing some of the music to support the review and so give the reader something to judge the comments and indeed the album on, against the realisation that we live in a time where sadly, there is an ever increasing practice to "rip" music off in the misguided belief that music should somehow be free! OK, that's a conversation for another time. I asked Ross whether he wanted partial or full tracks inserted into the review, and he said he would leave that decision to me. I have decided to provide the full tracks because to provide only part requires me to make a judgement on what constitutes the "appropriate" part of the track - I have had to make that call on previous reviews, but I do prefer to provide the whole track. The resulting mp3 versions of the tracks provided here, are at a relatively low sample rate, but I believe are adequate for you to enjoy and appreciate the music.

    Hopefully not of sufficient quality to encourage that they be "ripped off". Again, I encourage you to fully support Ross's efforts and indeed the efforts of all Australian music, by purchasing and not stealing. At a time when Independent releases are on the rise because the major labels are not interested in quality, but generally "pap" that they can control. the only way Independent quality Australian music can survive is with financial support from the public.

    Buy, please do not steal!

    There are no shortage of places to buy the CD - and here are some of them:



    Available for Download NOW .... @
    CD Baby..... http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rossnicholson?SourceCode=widgetbaby
    iTunes.... https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/cypress-grove-blues/id913797656?i=913797666&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
    Amazon.... http://www.amazon.com/Quarter-Past-Late-Ross-Nicholson/dp/B00N5EOOTQ
    Google play.... https://play.google.com/store/search?q=Ross%20Nicholson%20-%20Quarter%20Past%20Late&c=music&hl=en
    tradebit..... https://www.tradebit.com/filedetail.php/275919594-ross-nicholson
    7digital.... https://www.7digital.com/artist/ross-nicholson/release/quarter-past-late
    or
    24-7 Entertainment

    Shazam
    Greatindiemusic
    ............. OR Mail Order from .... www.rossnicholson.org

    The mail order CD is a very affordable $20.00 and that includes postage.

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    Ross also has a CD out that he did in collaboration with

    Andy Burns, called "Your Sweet Love", as is available from:

    Download ONLY .... @
    ReverbNation ......... https://www.reverbnation.com/rossnicholson/songs
    iTunes.... https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/your-sweet-love/id960809024
    Amazon.... http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/184-3269091-3132954?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-music&field-keywords=Ross+Nicholson+%22Your+Sweet+Love%22
    Google play.... https://play.google.com/store/search?q=Ross%20Nicholson%20%22Your%20Sweet%20Love%22&c=music&hl=en
    7digital.... https://www.7digital.com/artist/ross-nicholson/release/your-sweet-love/

    ****LIMITED EDITION CD Available soon by Mail Order ... www.rossnicholson.org



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      Listening to Ross sing is at times like velvet being slowly passed across fine sandpaper or gravel spread with honey. It's like the voice of hard experience that has been tempered with a fine wine.

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