ARIA nominated Mustered Courage breathe new life into the Australian roots music scene with a diverse sound that appeals to both traditionalists and newcomers alike. Since the release of their eponymous debut album in 2011, the Melbourne based outfit that Music Australia Guide describes as “the link between Bill Monroe and Mumford & Sons,” have become the torch bearers for string band music Down Under.
The progressive folk-rock quintet blasted onto the national music scene when their
sophomore album, Powerlines, garnered two Golden Guitar nominations and a live
performance at the 2014 CMAA Country Music Awards in Tamworth. This led to a
collaboration with Kasey Chambers on the song “Rosa” which was included on the
album’s American release.
Mustered Courage’s steady rise and insatiable work ethic caught the attention of Lost Highway Records (Universal Music Australia) who went on to sign them to a worldwide record deal. While the ink dried, the two celebrated their new relationship by releasing a rootsy cover of Seal’s iconic “Kiss From a Rose” with the original instrumental B-side “Candle Creek.” These two tracks showcase the best of a sound that has Rhythms Magazine raving, “The four-part harmonies are right on the money. And the string picking, whether lightning fast or mellow and relaxed, is incendiary.” While the former received praise from Seal, himself, “Candle Creek” further cemented the band’s place in the alt-country music scene by bringing home the Golden Guitar for Instrumental of the Year at the 2015 awards.
After a heavy touring schedule of headlining club dates and festival appearances in Australia, these down-home pickers set their sights on the United States where they were invited by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) to perform at its weeklong 2014 World of Bluegrass conference and festival. This invitation turned into a full-blown tour that included 60 shows in 70 days across 43 U.S. states. The glowing success of the 2014 tour created a demand for a return trip to America, and the quintet traveled back to the U.S. in 2015 for a two-month tour of club and festival dates during
the American summer. This tour included the band’s biggest show to date – a slot on the main stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival – where they performed alongside some of roots music’s biggest names including Béla Fleck, Punch Brothers, Kacey Musgraves, and fellow Aussies the John Butler Trio.
Back home in Australia, and with no signs of slowing down, Mustered Courage keep the momentum at a fever pitch with the release of their third long-player White Lies & Melodies (Lost Highway). Their most ambitious album to date, White Lies & Melodies pushes the boundaries of what a progressive folk-rock album can be. “There was definitely a maturing that took place in the album’s symbolism, its instrumentation and its production,” says lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nick Keeling. “We didn’t feel constrained by any style or genre for this one.”
The band enlisted ARIA nominated producer Forrester Savell (Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool) to helm the recordings. “I’ve been a big fan of Forrester ever since I first heard Karnivool’s record Themata in 2005,” says guitarist Julian Abrahams. “We did an initial trial session with him where we recorded two songs. We loved what Forry did and pushed forward.”
“We didn’t want this album to sound like a regular country/bluegrass album,” adds
bassist Josh Bridges. “We generally approach our performances with a rock mentality,
so Forrester being more of a rock/nu-metal producer let us approach recording with that
same attitude.” The result is an eclectic 12-track album that covers everything from traditional bluegrass and alt-country to rock and R&B. However, for all of its different influences the album
never feels forced. Each song fits with the others as though it was always meant to be
There are songs of love. “Flames of You and I” is about a love lost too quickly, with an
arrangement that features an orchestral sound with timpani and bells. Whereas the
R&B inspired “Draw Five” speaks of a love whose heart beats to a different drum than
the one to which it is promised. “That song took me over five years to write,” says
Keeling. “It’s one that I never put too far on the back burner and just had to keep trying
to piece together. I’m glad I waited. I think I just needed to get to the next level of
songwriting to be able to finish it. We’re calling it R&Bluegrass.”
There are also songs about death. Though, this may sound dark on the surface,
Abrahams explains, “Everyone is ready for love. Not many people are ready for death.
That inspires me to live.” “Burning Bridges” tells the story of a man on his deathbed,
lamenting the mistakes of his life gone by. While the frenetic “Leave this Life Behind” is
a very personal song about a friend’s suicide that features a round of blistering solos.
“It’s about recognizing a disease called depression that is all too common in the world
today,” says Abrahams. “We all need to open the lines of communication a lot more
with the people we care about before it’s too late.”
With the expanded sound featured on White Lies & Melodies comes the addition of a
drummer for the first time in Mustered Courage’s career. “We’ve been wanting to add
drums in the mix for a while now,” explains Bridges. “Acoustic music can be
overpowered by the simplest things in a live setting, even with a PA system.”
Abrahams continues, “If you play a loud room and want to get it rocking, a bluegrass
band is gonna be in strife. We’ve had gigs where the people dancing are so much
louder than the band. We thought it was time to add drums to get the house rocking
harder. Also, now that we have drums, we aren’t constrained to just your standard train
feels. Now we can play hip hop beats (“Draw Five”), swampy rocking Americana
(“Burning Bridges”) or indie sounding stuff (“A Thousand Bullets”).”
With White Lies & Melodies, Mustered Courage prove that they “have a knack for
tempering the rough and raw roots edges of their twang foundation with hooky-as-hell
melodies and rich harmonies. Bill Monroe would be proud of his Aussie brethren-in-
arms.” (Folkadelphia, USA)