Biography: The Flood - 'Everybody's Favourite'
There's something prematurely mythic about The Flood. Their name swirls with the gravity of the Old Testament and the everyday calamity of life on the land: a force of nature, and a story thick with sediments of truth and fable.
Rock 'n' roll has its own tributary from this source, of course. Dylan, the Band, Creedence, Neil Young, Gram Parsons and John Prine drank from the stream that fuelled the Dingoes, Don Walker, Paul Kelly and the scores of waterholes between Sydney and Tamworth that nourished the Flood these past ten years.
This band, in turn, has carved its own legend. Nashville troubadour Kevin Welch said his brief stint out front was "like getting behind the wheel of a Formula One race car".
Fans have long known the feeling. Their last album, The Late Late Show, won Tamworth's Golden Guitar for Group of the Year in '06. Rhythms magazine calls them "the best Australian country rock band since The Dingoes."
EVERYBODY'S FAVOURITE is The Flood's wryly titled leap forward. It's the Sydney band's fourth album of stories that spring like desert flowers from the ancient, red Earth.
It's significantly book-ended by "Nick & Elliott", a lament for beauty lost to a cruel world –ironically as beautiful a song as you'll find strung between ringing acoustic guitar and piano.
"Country Girl" is one man's yearning for simplicity, a dirt road dedication to Mother Nature in her youthful bloom. "Come Tomorrow" wears the brave face of a rambler imagining salvation over the horizon: maybe a moment of clarity, maybe a distortion through the bottom of a glass.
We know these people and we recognise their landscapes, inside and out. That's partly the gift of singer-songwriter-guitarist Kevin Bennett, and partly the straight-up, wood-grained master craftsmanship of James Gillard (bass, harmony vocals), Tim Wedde (keys, accordion) and Scott Hills (drums).
"I think we've captured the best things about the Flood with this record," says Kevin. "We’ve got the right balance of quality production and roughness."
As such, Everybody's Favourite splits the difference between the polish of The Late Late Show and the raw spontaneity of their self-titled album of '03.
The balance is in the hands of the four musicians, all lifelong journeymen of exceptional skill and sensitivity. Their entwined family trees reach back to yet more mythic names – Western Flyer, Russell Morris, Broderick Smith, the Chambers family and Paul Kelly, to name a few.
"This was the first time I've ever made demos for the band ahead of time," says Kevin, "although that often doesn't mean much when you play with guys like this. You might have an idea of how a song goes, then it gets dissected, changed into another animal completely. That's the part that I love."
Besides the bedrock of bass, drums and guitar, its hard to imagine these songs without Tim's spare, evocative organ and accordion, James's seamless high harmonies, or passing flourishes like Mick Albeck's violin on "Like Love" and Bill Chambers' fluid steel guitar on "Hey Brother".
There are no star turns here, though. No fireworks, just a steady, measured glow to illuminate the stories that come alive through Kevin Bennett's golden throat strings.
At the geographic heart of the album, "Rockdale" sounds suspiciously like literal autobiography. "Down The River" raises its voice to speak for all Australians of heart and conscience. The barely contained fury of "Too Many People" expands the field of vision to the level of global consciousness.
And so the ripples of empathy expand, from the wry music business parable of "Golden Hills" to the sentiments of "Serve You Well", a song of gratitude and compassion as universal as a parent's advice to a child.
"People who like our band are pretty loyal and hardnosed about it," says Kevin Bennett. It’s a typically understated way of saying that The Flood strikes a chord in everyone who takes the time to open their ears.
The Flood: Everybody's Favourite was released on 21January 2008 through One Stop Entertainment