Patricia Clarke: Keep The Fires Burning

Album Review:

Patricia Clarke

Keep The Fires Burning


Review by Anthony Amis

We don't want your evil power

It's too evil for us

We are the gentle people

Of this land

If Tamworth is regarded as the heart of Australian country music, then how does one describe the south-west Victorian 'Triangle', stretching from Lake Bolac, Warrnambool and the old Aboriginal Reserve at Framlingham?

Think of Shane Howard, Neil Murray and Archie Roach – three of the most highly respected songwriters in the country, all have been born or have lived in this part of the world. All too were born in the mid 1950s. All three have contributed stellar musical moments and all have released classic Australian songs. How does one top 'Solid Rock', 'My Island Home' and 'Took The Children Away' as the quintessential statements of living in this country?

Keep The Fires Burning easily stands with the best that the three above-mentioned artists have produced. All three also had a hand on this CD, with the album being produced by Howard with Roach and Murray adding backing vocals.

Keep the Fires Burning is full of songs and ballads probably honed and crafted around campfires  on Gunditjmara/Kirrae Whurrong land.  The tunes are so well rooted in the earth, that one can almost smell the eucalypt leaves wafting through the speakers as it plays. Patricia's voice is gentle and fragile, yet powerful in articulating the significance of the messages conveyed.

The songs also convey a sense of place, a sense of coming home to country and a feeling of deep spiritual connectedness with the earth. Perhaps these feelings could only come from an indigenous person. A person already grounded and deeply connected to their homelands.

Two songs on the album feature two of Patricia's sons, Crispian and Brett, who sing on a track each. 'Don't get lost in society, The rat race is not for me', warns Brett on Our Land Till We Die. The album was launched in 2003 at the Tarerer Festival held at Killarney on the south-west coast. I gave a copy of this album to a friend for his 50th birthday. "What did you think of the album?" I asked him some time later. "It's magnificent" was his emphatic reply.

In addition to her musicianship, Patricia Clarke is an artist, a book author and illustrator, and a lecturer in Education at Deakin University, Geelong, where she also coordinates the  Koorie Intern Program.

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