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Robyn Martin, The Smith & Western Jury & More: The Highlights From This Week’s ‘Grass Roots’

19 October 2023 | 10:00 am | Mary Varvaris
In Partnership With ABC Country

Every week, ABC Country's ‘Grass Roots’ program shines a light on the best independently released Australian country content.

Robyn Martin

Robyn Martin (Source: Supplied)

Every week, ABC Country's Grass Roots program shines a light on the best independently released Australian country content. Selected from the hundreds of new tracks submitted, the one-hour program is now available on demand as well as premiering each Monday at 9pm on ABC Country, showing the health of Aussie country music across all its sub-genres. Here are four of this week's tracks you should have on your radar. 

Head here to have a listen to this week’s full episode of Grass Roots.

Matt Joe Gow & Kerryn Fields – Love Ya Like I Can

The banjo, stomping beat and ragged blues vocals. That’s how Love Ya Like I Can by Matt Joe Gow and Kerryn Fields starts, meaning that it’s glorious from the get-go.

Love Ya Like I Can is packed with personality, offering up an epic dose of Americana folk music that infuses wit and authenticity. The track is short and sweet, lasting just two minutes and retaining the high energy that we heard on their charming debut single, Your Heart Is Gold. The duo can’t resist whopping and hollering with joy on the second track from their hotly anticipated new LP.

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“The song started as an idea I felt had a lot of potential but was waiting for the right time,” Matt Joe Gow said in a statement. “It wasn't until I played it for Kerryn that she took that idea and ran with it, building on the push/pull concept, lifting the song with melodic and lyrical ideas, helping to create what is now the chorus.”

Fields added, “We were at Bakehouse Studios, the band had gone home, and it was one of those evenings where every idea seemed to work. It was as much fun to create this one as it sounds.”

Robyn Martin – Milk & Honey

Robyn Martin’s latest number, Milk & Honey, couldn’t be more different from the foot-stomping groove of Love Ya Like I Can. There’s still a pounding drum, but with its Rhiannon-esque electric guitars, Martin’s Australian accent and the subject matter, Milk & Honey feels like a timeless country-meets-rock classic.

Martin is a Golden Guitar nominee, and for good reason – Milk & Honey is as powerful as it gets. Following her first original songs with alt-country trio The New Graces in 2020 (their album, Seasons, hit #1 on the ARIA Australian Country Album Chart and was nominated for four Golden Guitar Awards in 2021), Milk & Honey is the title track from her debut solo album.

The hard-hitting track examines Australia’s complex past and demands listeners face up and own the country’s history as Martin personally grapples with letting go of white privilege and calls for connection via collaboration and embracing community.

The song was produced by David Ross Macdonald (The Waifs) and features musicians Nick Keeling (Mustard Courage), Heath Cullen and Djinama Yilaga – the Intergenerational Yuin Choir reclaiming Dhurga language.

The Smith & Western Jury – Button That Collar

Slowing right down following the whooping and hollering of the first Grass Roots track and the call to arms of the second, The Smith & Western Jury’s latest track, Button That Collar, contains the energy of a signature country music lovelorn ballad.

The Melbourne group, anchored by the crooning, at times cracking vocals of Samantha Lombardi, encourage smiles despite the song’s protagonist wiping away tears.

The entrancing alt-country vibe proves that this band isn’t going anywhere. Since debuting at last year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, The Smith & Western Jury have found themselves added to high rotation on ABC Country Radio and performed at sold-out festivals, including Meatstock BBQ Festival, Melbourne and Til The Wheels Fall Off Festival, Launceston).

Earlier this year, the group flew to Texas to record their debut album and wound up performing their first-ever international gig. Drums and bass were tracked right here in Australia – in Belgrave, Victoria before the band headed for to Floresville, Texas, to work with legendary country music producer Tommy Detamore (Jim Lauderdale, Jesse Daniel).

Inspired by the heat and Texan hospitality, The Smith & Western Jury prepped gorgeous electric guitars and dreamy vocals, with a little help from Detamore on soaring pedal steel and western swing pianist Floyd Domino (Asleep At The Wheel). Hotel Texas will be released in 2024.