In my last article, I talked about women in the blues – and believe me, there’s more around on that than the little I put in front of you. But, I figured that rather than spend time on too much in the way of general articles, I should alternate with a bit of detail on specific artists. More than that, specific local artists. I came to Geelong in 1998, and even though I had lived in Melbourne for a while back in the ’70s, I’d never been to Geelong, or for that matter anywhere in south-western Victoria.
The thing that rapidly blew me away was just how many amazing musicians there are in the south-west, from Queenscliff through to the South Australian border. So, I’ll take one of those every so often and tell you something about them. This time: Chris Wilson.
I chose Chris because at the Motor City Music Festival he appeared with one of his early bands – the Crown of Thorns. The prospect of seeing the band back together brought many people along. The original Crown of Thorns was formed in 1987 with Barry Palmer and Chris Rodgers. They had a studio album in 1989 using a line-up of Wilson, Palmer, Rodgers, joined by Justin Brady on violin, Barbara Waters (ex-Hollowmen) on guitar, vocals and mandolin and former band mate, Peter Jones, on drums. It was a great reunion.
Chris is a multi-instrumentalist, but is best known for his blues harmonica which he not only plays, but teaches. His repertoire range includes blues, a smattering of country (he is a regular at Tamworth) and rock and roll. You can even find him on YouTube with the Bob Sedergreen Blues Band, which was more jazz than blues, back in 1989. His work with Shane O’Mara is well worth seeking out, especially Live at the Continental which Chris re-issued a few years ago as a double CD. Definitely listen to the track ‘Face in the Mirror’.
The vast majority of Chris’ work is self-written, and the lyrics can stand alone as poetry as well as great music. His lyrics can be laconic, very much expressive and conveying strong emotion. His readings at the Dead Pirates Society evenings at the Piping Hot Chicken Shop (aka the Chook Shop!) in Ocean Grove gave me a greater appreciation of the works he presented. In complete contrast is his work with Pirates of Beer, an assembly of musician friends who have a good time playing music they enjoy.
If I had to give a complete list of the noted musicians that Chris has played or been on the bill with, I’d quickly run out of room. It would include Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls, Rebecca Barnard, Archie Roach, Deborah Conway, Bob Dylan, Johnny Diesel and Elvis Costello.
Over the years Chris has done some widely varied gigs, from appearing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in their George Gershwin concert, to playing to something like 170,000 workers from the back of a truck at a union rally.
As the famous Eccles once said, “Everybody’s got to be somewhere”, but I’m very glad Chris is local and can often be found at the Chook Shop and we get spoiled listening to his wonderful music.
Written by Dr John Lamp. Presented by The Sleepy Hollow Blues Club