Cassar-Daley goes deep and meaningful on 11th album. The near-disintegration of the country musician’s 25-year marriage led to his strongest collection of songs and stories to date.
WITH PHIL STAFFORD
Sony Music / ★★★½
To paraphrase a Paul Kelly song title, from bad things good things come. For Troy Cassar-Daley, Australia’s most decorated country singer-songwriter, the deaths of two people close to him and the near-disintegration of his 25-year marriage led to this, his 11th album, his strongest collection of songs and stories to date.
If a measure of the man is the company he keeps, then the guest list on The World Today alone tells a story: the aforementioned Kelly figures in the co-writing credits, alongside Shane Howard and Cold Chisel’s Don Walker and Ian Moss, while Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie contributes instrumentally.
Moss also duets with Cassar-Daley on their song South, one of the album’s standouts, and Howard plays bodhran, whistle and violin on another co-composition, the Celtic-soaked closer, I Hear My River.
Kevin Bennett, from country-rock band the Flood, shares writing credits on opener Back On Country (the first single) and Broken Hearts Can Fly, one of two songs openly addressing Cassar-Daley’s marriage to singer Laurel Edwards.
Little more than a year ago, they almost called it quits. Cassar-Daley had lost his father and a musician friend to suicide in quick succession, and by his own admission was hard to live with.
With Edwards’s encouragement he wrote himself out of his misery, putting last year’s lockdown to good use by demoing The World Today’s 14 tracks in his home studio. There’s a concomitant continuity to the finished album, a sense of celebration and renewal.
But there are equal parts nostalgia, folklore and stark realism – songs about muscle cars “running at the speed of sound” around Cassar-Daley’s hometown, Grafton (Too Big For This Town); and Rain Maker, co-written with Don Walker (another ex-Grafton boy), recounting the ancestral tale of an Indigenous woman from the same area of northern NSW who could “cleave a storm in two” with an axe and “flood this land with healing rain”; nothing if not topical, intentional or not.
Augmenting family stories of incarceration (Parole, Doin’ Time, I Still Believe) is the album’s reflective title track, partly inspired by Cassar-Daley’s watching – along with the rest of the world – George Floyd’s 2020 death in real-time video: “I watched a man die on the news tonight”.