James Cruickshank's name might not immediately ring a bell, but if I tell you he played guitar and keyboards for The Cruel Sea for more than a decade (including on hits like 'This is Not the Way Home'), you'll probably start to get the picture.
It might also help to know that many fans of Australia's independent music scene regard him as something of a legend, and that he's collaborated with numerous musical luminaries. His own solo releases and shows have also garnered high praise.
Cruickshank will be in town on Friday 12 August to launch his most recent album, 'Note to Self'. Described by his record company as 'a moody serenade...with strings and keys, swamp jazz and electronic propulsion', 'Note to Self' is a multi-layered offering from an experienced showman.
Tracks like 'Devil Took the Rain' are a joyous journey into swampy fuzzbox blues (reminding me of some of Jon Spencer's work with RL Burnside), while '07 Chrome Wings' brings an American Gothic sensibility to the Australian landscape, complete with Tom Waits-style vocals. The swampy side of things is balanced by gentler tracks like 'Lighter Later', featuring acoustic guitar, and 'Thom Yorke's Blues', showcasing sweetly melancholy piano, violin, and vocals. You can sample these and more tracks at the Vitamin Records site.
I can't wait to hear them all live on the 12th, when Cruickshank plays at the Beetle Bar on Upper Roma Street. Mainly known as a backpacker hangout, this bar has recently been upgraded to a 450-person club and is starting to earn a name for itself as one of the city's more interesting independent venues.
Cruickshank will be ably supported on the night by local band The Stress of Leisure, who purvey their own contemporary version of Brisbane's 'striped sunlight' sound, mixed up with some darker tracks. Usually a four-piece, they'll be playing in two-piece acoustic mode on this occasion, with Ian Powne on guitar and vocals and Pascalle Burton on keyboards and harmonies.
Also playing will be Brisbane violin and guitar duo, The Scrapes (Adam Cadell and Ryan Potter), who've been attracting increasing attention in local circles this year for their experimental yet engaging work. Melding elements of classical,electric, and post-industrial sounds, they use consummate musicianship to take listeners on a wild aural ride. Check out tracks like 'Magenta Moths' to hear the heavier end of their repertoire, or 'Before there's Nothing' for something more delicate.