Published 2023-05-26 06:00
Australian songwriter Dan Tuffy has been based in The Netherlands for over 25 years. In the 90’s he was a member of the Tasmanian psychedelic folk rock outfit Wild Pumpkins At Midnight. In the early 00’s he formed the bands Big Low and the Balkan Arabic world music formation Parne Gadje, and established the Smoked Recordings label.
In recent years, he has released 2 extremely well received solo albums. "Songs From Dan" in 2016 and "Letters Of Gold" in 2020, securing his reputation as a much respected songwriter, both in Europe and abroad.
For his 3rd solo album, "Country Star", Dan recruited some of The Netherlands finest young musicians to form his backing band Song Crew. Multi instrumentalist Madelief van Vlijmen, also known as Madlife, guitarist and pedal steel player Stefan Wolfs, and drummer and percussionist Mischa Porte.
Tuffy, speaking of Song Crew: “I let go of what the album should be and got them to throw everything they could at it, especially Madelief”. Tuffy is referring here to his main collaborator of recent years, van Vlijmen, who co-wrote 2 of the tracks and whose multi instrumental talent helped shape the album’s sound.
Recorded in Studio 150, Bethlehemkerk in Amsterdam, "Country Star" is dense with live energy and layered harmony. At a stretch, it’s modern day roots music, but it’s also a sound that defies straight jacketing. Even the title is deceiving. It is anything but country. Opening track, "Don’t Smoke In Bed", gently lures you into alt country territory before dropping you off upside down somewhere else altogether.
The haunting extinction lament "Firetails" has a piano and synth driven shimmer reminiscent of early 90’s David Sylvian, while the trippy left field pop groove of "Silver Morning" highlights Song Crew’s cracking rhythm section and bent taste. Big picture themes of human inadequacy, longing and hope inhabit the songs, but this record’s salient feature is the way it pulses and grooves you out of thinking and into feeling.
Zlaya Loud’s production is stellar. "Country Star" is a sonic revelation.