This Album Changed My Life - Raechel Whitchurch on ‘Smoke’ by Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill

12 August 2021 | 12:16 pm | Mallory Arbour

To get to know Raechel Whitchurch a little better, we asked her to tell us about an album that changed her life - Smoke by Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill.

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Raechel Whitchurch is an alt-country singer-songwriter who grew up in regional NSW performing in her family band The Lees. In April 2021, she released her debut album, Finally Clear, featuring the hit singles My Father, You Ain’t One of Us (which we premiered here) and I Found Home. It debuted at #1 on the ARIA Australian Country Album Charts and #3 on the AIR Independent Album Charts. She is currently on the road with Adam Harvey on a 50-date national tour, is a guest on Fanny Lumsden’s Country Halls Tour, and she will also appear at Savannah in the Round and Groundwater Country Music Festival.

Raechel’s new single, the cheeky and self-deprecating I Used to Think I Was an Outlaw drops tomorrow (we have a sneak peek below). Written when her baby boy was almost 1 year old, it’s a telling story of how she found out the hard way that she wasn’t superhuman as a parent.

To get to know Raechel a little better, we asked her to tell us about an album that changed her life.

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Raechel Whitchurch on Smoke by Paul Kelly and Uncle Bill:

I was 12-years-old when my parents bought a new Paul Kelly album called Smoke. We had grown up listening to PK and were big fans, even from a young age, but the album he made with Melbourne bluegrass band, Uncle Bill, changed the way I felt about bluegrass music and kinda rocked my little 12-year-old brain.

Smoke was released in October of 1999. I’d been playing music with my two parents and three other siblings in our family band The Lees since 1995 but in ‘99 my parents decided to buy a caravan, and take the family band on the road!  We left in January, and the PK Smoke album was released at the back end of the year, when we were all feeling a bit homesick and not sure if playing in a band was all that great after all. This was a time before iPods, so we all settled in to listen to this new album together, on whatever outback Australian road we were travelling on.

I remember hearing the first few bars where the banjo (played by Peter Somerville) comes in for the track Our Sunshine, and then hearing PK sing:

Oh, there came a man on a stolen horse, and he rode right onto the page,
Burning bright but not for long, lit up with a whole new rage”

My three siblings and I had no idea what it was about, but we got the liner notes and read the lyrics over and over, then asked our parents a multitude of questions about who this person was that PK was singing about. My parents would never tell us things easily (I’m pretty sure ‘problem solving skills’ was one of our home-schooling subjects) but eventually, we discovered it was a song about Australian bush-ranger, Ned Kelly. I couldn’t believe someone could create a song that was about a Australian historical figure that could make me feel such emotion as a 12 year old!

Other stand outs on the album for me are, You Can’t Take it with You (an ode to leaving it all behind when you die), I Can’t Believe We Were Married (a reflection on no longer knowing the person that you used to love), and Taught By Experts (an upbeat cheeky song about breaking the heart of someone who broke yours first). Some of the songs were older PK songs, redone for this album, but once you hear them on Smoke, you can hardly believe they were ever played any other way.

This album instantly reignited my passion for good, solid country music. I’ll never forget my amazement that I could be so moved by bluegrass music (a time when I was yet to discover Alison Krauss and Union Station!) and it further proves that when it comes to Paul Kelly, he really can do anything.

For more of our This Album Changed My Life series, go here.
Keep up to date with Raechel Whitchurch on her Facebook page here.

Image: Supplied