"A modern day Dickensian folk blues artist and a friend of mine"
"Jimmy's got a lot of stories to tell, and he tells them his own way - with strong words and a steady hand"
"Dead Man's Lullaby is brilliant, I love everything about it; the music, Jim's voice and especially the lyrics.
The more I listen the better it becomes, like all great music it will be one of those albums that will never exhaust playing. Beautiful, stark and deep."
ROBERT ADAMSON (POET)
Dowling sounds like a troubadour in the mould of Shane MacGowan and has a voice of similar distinctive quality, but in this case it is a little like Paul Kelly’s delivery – world-worn yet not weary. Like MacGowan and Kelly he writes about everyday experiences of working people – fishermen, miners, farmers. He has released a previous album and the latest one arrived with the same complete lack of fanfare. Other musicians are raving about him but word of mouth can only go so far. However, after the first listen I had to immediately replay the album just to check that it was as good as I thought it was. It is.
What distinguishes Dowling from a host of other singer songwriters playing acoustic guitar is the depth of the songs, the imagery and conciseness of the lyrics and the quality of the musicians enlisted to help out. Amongst the guests here are the great Garrett Costigan on high, lonesome pedal steel, Shannon Bourne on electric guitar, Mark Elton on double bass, Will Swann on accordion, Ashley Jones on fiddle, Michael Parker with Uilleann pipes along with co-producers in drummer Roger Bergodaz on drums and Sime Nugent on harmonica.
“ it could have been worse/you might have been stuck here lone in this leaking old house,” sings Dowling on the opening song, ‘Sunken Glass,’ in which he conjures images of “money through a fisherman’s hand” and Victoria as “that cloudy, windy old state” while he describes the life of the trawlermen.
The title track, follows an instrumental opening in ‘Hangin,’ while on ‘Bamboo Culm’ he sings about “rusted old Holdens and a house without a window” and a “kingdom” that most of would recognise. ‘Emily Gardiners Ghost,’ with its appropriately eerie instrumentation is striking in its beauty. ‘Stale Bread’ tells the story of a prison ship where the captive sings over a chain-rattling backing, “you dirty floggin’ dogs, ya mongrels”. It is on a par with Van Walker’s Dylanesque ‘Dark Rider’ as one of my songs of the year. The reflective ‘Easter Basket’ closes the record with Dowling’s voice at the forefront.
Dead Man’s Lullaby is only 30 minutes long and, like the early Ry Cooder albums of similar length, all killer no filler. If someone tells you there are no great new Australian songwriters then you can play this album to them. It is stunning.
Rhythms magazine January 2010