Archer’s first album is Old Time Sing Song Man (2014), out on vinyl and digital download by boutique Melbourne record label Pound*. It is an album that explores the spirit of human kind and a variety of fallen heroes and has some poetic gems that will not wear thin on repeated visits. It is a confident first album by an artist who has matured his ideas and built a solid conviction to stand strong in his sound and messages.
Here, you’ll find a relatively young old time sing song man suitably accompanied by his guitar. Archer is romantic, musically malleable, and refreshingly compelling. The album title is a genuine description of the artist, rather than an aspiration, and showcases Archer’s original nostalgia but refrains from being overly indulgent or simplistic. Archer’s sound is quite distinct and is an extension of his speaking voice and off stage self. I’ve seen Archer play several times in the past few years and his live performance also has the theatrical capacity to be both transportive and transformative for audiences. His themes are reminiscent of the Cowboy era. That twentieth century archetype of the alpha male who was made most vulnerable in his confrontation with nature and women. The loner man who seeks redemption from his fatalistic ways and finds consolation is his fragile humanity.
Now calling Australia home, Archer is originally from near the Appalachian mountains in the USA. He explores and continues the musical and lyrical themes in the back catalogue of country and folk genres Compare Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Nasty Swing and Sunny side of the mountain. One grain a sand is a short opening song, a strong poetic statement that sounds like a religious allegory to the origins of cosmos and ego. Fire is a warning song, serious, and intimate through Archer’s baritone with an undercurrent of dramatic spanish style guitar. There are stories of Australian bush living and history in Murray River and Ben Hall, a bush ranger’s sad story that ends with an apt social commentary. References of Christianity in the delta blues styled Jesus was a man, reminiscent of Leadbelly, and the more hymn structured Church bells. There’s traditional Blues in Standing Still Blues, which could easily be a true Archer vagabond tale. In Rocking alone in an old rocking chair we are gently admonished for neglect of our isolated or discarded elders. In the slow and paced closing song,Time Machine, we can’t help but experience the protagonist’s deep regret, longing and redemptive hope.
Garden is the first single to be released from the album and is a simple and beautiful ballad, full of reverence for the inherent grace in birth, life and death (view video below). The album cover depicts Archer sitting in it’s branches as though on the knee of a living ancestor. One who has witnessed and accepts the cycles of life. The lyrics contain love, fortitude and charged familial attachment. This slow powerful waltz touches some of my deepest emotions and resistance, especially in this final verse:
As the light grows dim
I bow my head and sigh
For you must go
And so must I
Here, the beauty in our attachment is coupled with the pain of our perceived separation. Archer sings a hymn to our humanity, that we and nature are interconnected. It is our ego that identifies us as separate and finite and this is the root of our pain. The song urges us to look within to find our eternal peace filled garden, for all our inspiration and consolation. The song brings us to a resignation that we will safely dissolve into that from which we have risen and, ultimately, we are blessed by a purity beyond human construction.
Old Time Sing Song Man is definitely worth experiencing. It is fresh and alive. It will make you want to lie back and ponder the stars, hold your lover close, kiss your children’s eyelids, bring your mother flowers, and smile at your short but oh so worthwhile life.
*Pound specialise in fringe artists for vinyl release, with vinyl mastering.