William Alexander, Courtney Keil & Dan Cully: Highlights From This Week’s ‘Grass Roots’

13 February 2024 | 3:19 pm | Staff Writer
In Partnership With ABC Country

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

William Alexander / Courtney Keil / Dan Cully

William Alexander / Courtney Keil / Dan Cully (Supplied)

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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.

William Alexander – Castlereagh

Rarely is a fresh young voice on the radar of both young and old alike, as William Alexander has been over the last year. With the voice of an angel that resurrects the old ballads of a time long gone, Alexander found his voice as a pseudo cattle camp crooner. Castlereigh is the fourth and final single released before the long-awaited album The Singing Stockman comes out on March 22.

Brought to life from dusty old poetry books – oozing with the pain and beauty of a much younger Australian bush – comes Alexander’s take on a poem by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson. Originally called The Bushman’s Song, this ballad paints a vivid picture of a stockman travelling throughout New South Wales looking for work, only to find abuse and greed. Patrick Wilson shows his talent as a producer on this recording, with an eerie atmosphere playing backdrop to Alexander’s fingerpicked guitar. Tommy Brooks makes his guitar sing mournfully through the big old wool sheds and across plains and grasslands, while the stockman rides from station to station.

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Courtney Keil – All About You

Hot on the heels of her co-headlining performance at the 2024 Tamworth Country Music Festival, Courtney Keil unveils the cheerful bop All About You. The uptempo single puts romance centre-stage and reminds us that amidst the tangle of modern life, love can be a beacon of clarity. “We tapped into some of the contradictions about me as a person,” Keil admits. “I’m one part fearless / One part kinda shy / The life of the party / But queen of the quiet,” she serenades in the second verse.

Despite these juxtapositions, All About You reflects on “finding ‘the one’ that makes you feel sure of everything else”. When putting pen to paper, Keil sought out frequent collaborators Rod McCormack and Sally Barris. This time they were determined to compose upon the path less travelled. “We set out to write an anthemic, feelgood song. As songwriters it’s often naturally easier to write slower heartbreak songs so we wanted to focus on the love I have in my life and how it makes me feel.”

Produced by McCormack at his Central Coast studio The Music Cellar, the track intertwines banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar with a pounding backbeat and Keil’s bold vocal, to create something with authentic country spirit and twang.

Dan Cully – Changes

Indie, folk and roots artist Dan Cully is a nationally touring one-man band, incorporating harmonica, Didgeridoo, stomp-box, guitar and soaring vocal melodies. Cully has a unique ability to sing eloquently about connection with his land, with self and with the things that make life meaningful. Healing, nature and spiritual truths inform the creation process of the lyrics and energy of his songs.

This song is about being in the midst of transformation – no longer a caterpillar, not quite a butterfly. The lyrics depict vast last scapes from oceans, rivers, to mountains. The writing process reminded me to let go of certainty and be led by the mystery. Sonically it resembles a mixture of sounds akin to Ziggy Alberts and Xavier Rudd.