Fred Smith to bring tales of Australians at war and new album to Far South Coast

Fred Smith stops for a break while travelling through Tarin Kowt in Afghanistan.
Fred Smith stops for a break while travelling through Tarin Kowt in Afghanistan.

Australian songwriter Fred Smith will be coming to the Far South Coast this month to perform songs from his rich back catalogue and his new album Warries.

Warries is Smith doing what he does best: vivid reportage, never jingoistic, humanising distant conflicts and reminding us that Australia, while a continent, is not an island.

The album is something of a retrospective, documenting a fecund phase in the artist's life, but also a remarkable period in which Australian soldiers and civilians were deployed into conflict zones in the Pacific and Central Asia as warriors and peacemakers.

It is a sequel to Smith's acclaimed Dust of Uruzgan album and begins with the song he regards as the "granddaddy of them all" - a searing rendition of John Schumann's setting of Henry Lawson's poem Scots of the Riverina.

Derapet - Fred Smith

"Scots is a remarkable piece of writing - a bitter struggle between father and son, a difficult marriage, the impact of a faraway war on a small town, the thin consolations of the Presbyterian Church, culminating in some meagre redemption, all in two minutes of verse!" Smith said.

The album then moves on to two songs he wrote while working with a little-known entity called the International Peace Monitoring Team, stood up by Australia in November 2000 in the immediate aftermath of ethnic violence in Solomon Islands.

"Say a Prayer reflects on the loss of the HMAS Canberra in the Battle of Savo Island in 1942," Smith said.

"Blue Guitar is a comic Dylan-esque blues ramble describing the chaos of Honiara after armed militants broke into the police armoury and 'borrowed' 1000 automatic weapons, but before RAMSI arrived to settle things down."

Then follows a suite of songs from Smith's period with the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville.

These capture the sinister tensions of the civil war, but also the beauty of the islands and the resilience of a people who found their way back to peace and normalcy.

The album then turns to Afghanistan, with two songs Smith wrote post-Dust of Uruzgan on a second stint in the dying days of the Australian mission in Uruzgan province.

"Going Home captures the mixed feelings of soldiers facing the difficult return into family and society, as we prepared to pull out leaving the province in the hands of 'local security providers'," Smith said.

Derapet is a seven-minute epic describing events before and after the death of Lance Corporal Jared "Crash" McKinney at the Battle of Derapet - the longest running contact by Australian regular forces since Vietnam.

"Sitting at Crash's ramp ceremony in August 2010, a little voice in my head said 'write a song about this soldier'," Smith said.

"But I never got around to it till I got an email from one of his mates a couple years afterwards."

Fred Smith will perform on Saturday, November 23 from 7pm at the Murrah Hall, 2989 Tathra-Bermagui Rd, Murrah.

Food will be available. Tickets are $20, to book online click here.

This story Fred Smith to bring tales of Australians at war and new album to Far South Coast first appeared on Bega District News.

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