When Tasmanian guitar wiz Stuie French was touring Australia with Merle Haggard in 1996 did he see a sign foretelling that in years to come he would fall in love with a Maori woman who sang like an angel and they would end up making beautiful music, and a family, together?
When Camille Te Nahu arrived in Australia in 1999 her vocal talents were immediately recognised by Kasey Chambers and Beccy Cole who employed her as their backing singer both on the road and in the studio. Over the years, Camille and Stuie released their own albums – Stuie with the Feral Swing Katz (Come out Swingin’, FSK with Peter Busher and Round 4) and Camille’s solo album (Camille Te Nahu), and their paths would often cross as they both toured with Australian country stars (Troy Cassar Daly and Gina Jeffreys). But it wasn’t until 2002 when their stars aligned and they fell in love.
“I’ll never forget the first time I heard Camille sing. It took my breath away as well as the rest of the guys in band, and suddenly our musicianship went up a couple of notches. Over the years she has taught me a new way to approach guitar playing. After all, why would you want to get in the way of a voice like that? Our different musical backgrounds over time has combined to give us a fresh new traditional sound.” – Stuie French
2012 sees the release of their fourth, and finest, album together, Big Days & Little Years. Recorded in Sydney and financed by fan donations, the album is a gentle look at the cycle of life and the sweet sorrow of change. The album’s tone is the calm acceptance of the passage of time. You not only hear this in the song lyrics but in Camille’s beautiful singing and in the relaxed and tight groove that their band of stellar musicians creates. Except for two songs, (Waves by Sam Baker and The First Time by Fred Koller and Danny O’Keefe) Camille and Stuie honed their songwriting skills to tell the stories of their life – of the spirits of their ancestors and the joy of descendants. With loving respect Camille and Stuie acknowledge the importance of the unbreakable thread that is family (or “whanau” as Camille would say).
Stuie is a master of the country/jazz guitar-style (Les Paul invited him up to play in New York), and his smooth voice harks back to the days of Tommy Duncan singing with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys – no pretense or exaggeration. Stuie leads his ensemble (who are more extended-whanau than hired guns) of Bill Risby (piano), Chuck Morgan (ukelele), Dave Ellis (bass), Doug Gallacher (drums), Garry Steel (piano accordion), Michel Rose (pedal steel, mandolin, dobro) and Mick Albeck (fiddle), who all play with finesse and feeling, creating the perfect bed for Camille’s gentle, velvet voice. She sounds like no other singer with a style that is effortless, a sound that is rich, deep and very easy on the ear.
Camille and Stuie are truly a musical marriage made in heaven. Big Days & Little Years is a must-have collection of beautiful moments.