Charcoal Lane

By Chris Mineral

Charcoal Lane was the debut album of Archie Roach where the song Took The Children Away made its first appearance. 

For many people this is the song that made them aware of the policy of taking First Nation children away from their parents, sending them to foster parents. This iconic song of the Stolen Generation is now celebrating 30 years.

During lockdown Archie Roach has been making videos sitting at his kitchen table discussing all the songs on Charcoal Lane and the stories behind the songs. They’ve been both entertaining and enlightening.

Took The Children Away received an Australian Human Rights Award. A beautiful picture book of the song has also been released, with Archie Roach’s evocative words to the song accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Ruby Hunter that depicts the action that happens in the song. This collaboration with Archie and Ruby was their last project together. 

Courtney Barnett delivers a compelling version of Charcoal Lane on occasion when she performs live, testament to the respect that musos have towards the legend Archie Roach. The book also has stories about Archie’s family and artwork by other First Nation artists. This illustrated gem of a book is published by Simon and Schuster.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) has relaunched its renewed site at Federation Square replete with a brand-new logo. Now, from the get-go of ACMI’s existence the cornerstone of its calendar has been the cutting-edge Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF). Talk to any arts lecturer at Swinburne University worth their weight in salt and they will tell you that music can play a pivotal role in the structure of animation film. Animation is one of the highest of art forms and deserves to be viewed on a big screen with an awesome sound system.

The curious thing is that the MIAF posse are not fussed about flying under the radar, beyond the consistent thrumming of mainstream society. MIAF in effect has edge.

This year’s edition of MIAF had to be cancelled, for obvious reasons, however the animation posse say that in one way or another the MIAF 20-21 program will be happening next winter.

One animation that deserves to be considered for next year’s edition of MIAF 20-21 is the cooler than school animated video to Melbourne muso Chris Smith’s title track from his long-awaited long play album Second Hand Smoke (out now through It Records).

Guitar maker Chris Smith has conjured forth a spaghetti western spoken word vignette that is reminiscent of the style of Andy Prieboy and his band Wall Of Voodoo. Smith’s signature overdriven fuzzed out guitar drench has been reined in, is more subtle with a Maton-esque acoustic guitar more prominent in the mix. It has been awhile between drinks for Chris Smith and he has delivered a ripper of a song. There’s a hint of a Warren Zevon somewhere there too. Pat AuGoGo Rocksteady considers the Second Hand Smoke album of Chris Smith’s brilliant.

The animation to the song Second Hand Smoke is a visual melange of cartographic delights, desert flora and fauna, big flashy red sedans, curve cowboy boots, hot chocolate, the cars that are Paris, rattlesnakes going toe-to-toe with motorcycles, playing darts in a pub and second hand smoke with people in Victoria realising that every day on TV they may be experiencing someone delivering the Chewbacca defence. A crow and a baby, a rattlesnake in the medicine cabinet.

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