Jimmy Willing | Bushrangers and Ghosts

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Bushrangers and Ghosts

by Jimmy Willing

An evocative trilogy of Australian bushranging songs.
Genre: Folk: Folk-Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Singing Kate Kelly to Sleep (feat. Tim Freedman)
5:38 $1.00
2. Flash Johnny Gilbert (feat. Cameron Muir)
4:35 $1.00
3. Mad Dan Morgan (feat. Cameron Muir)
3:48 $1.00
4. Flash Johnny Gilbert (Instrumental) [feat. Cameron Muir]
4:35 $1.00
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Bushrangers and Ghosts – After almost two decades the lost recordings of Jimmy Willing are finally appearing.

The Willing Talking Machine Company has just released a long overdue ep of original songs about bushrangers namely Flash Johnny Gilbert, Singing Kate Kelly To Sleep and Mad Dan Morgan. Recently uncovered in a trunk full of old recording tapes, these unique Australian songs have finally been mastered by Michael Worthington for international release, Songwriter Jimmy Willing explains their provenance.

“Back at the turn of the century when I wrote a song about my childhood hero the bushranger Flash Johnny Gilbert, it pricked up the ears of my song writing colleague Tim Freedman who asked if he could take my simple cowboy waltz and change it into something else. It was a big opportunity for me but I was precious about my work feeling that the song was finished and that if Tim liked it he should just cover it, not tear it apart. Tim however wished for a songwriting collaboration and suggested that I write something else for him on a bushranging theme with the knowledge that he would alter it and rip it to bits.

I went home to the bush and one misty morning on the banks of the Iron Pot Creek I wrote the bones of not one but two bushranging songs, a two chord cowboy waltz called Singing Kate Kelly To Sleep and a country punk number called Mad Dan Morgan. I now had a trilogy.

I then travelled down to the big city of Sydney where Tim picked up Singing Kate Kelly To Sleep exclaiming about the music
“is that all there is!”
to which I explained that since he was going to cut the song up a simple waltz was all that was needed as a vehicle for the words. As we sat around his piano Tim morphed the song into minor chords giving it a bigger and more elaborate musical structure and a Leonard Cohen – Nick Cave kind of feel. I perform it this way to this day.
My song went onto change yet again becoming Kate Kelly when it was recorded by The Whitlams on Torch The Moon, upon release it gained Triple J airplay. Then Richard Tognetti arranged strings for it for The Australian Chamber Orchestra and it changed yet again gaining airplay on Classic FM. When The Bushwhackers covered it on their Ned Album it was played on Radio National, giving my humble little song the odd and almost unheard of honour of receiving airplay on all three national ABC radio networks!

The rip roaring Mad Dan Morgan lay unfinished until my mate the late Cameron Muir gave the song its signature lick and its haunting backing vocal. I didn't know it at the time but recently I came to the realisation that not only did we Rock and Roll Mad Dan and Spaghetti Western him as well, we also Hollywooded him as the song is not historically correct. One of the big influences on these songs was the old 19th century photographs left behind to history. This was the birth of photography and trophy shots of dead outlaws were very much in vogue. In one such faded photograph I spied the body of Mad Dan, his hair was feral and he had the eyes of a dead fish. For the camera his killers had clasped in his hand what I assumed was his Colt 45, but actually it's a Navy Colt. It can't be a Colt 45 as every good gun nut knows that Mad Dan Morgan was shot down in 1865 and the Colt 45 did not arrive until 1873!
Tim Freedman has a story that he tells onstage that he gave me the chance to make a big royalty cheque in the hope that I would fix my smashed up teeth. The royalty cheque was in fact large and quite substantial. I spent half the money on my family and the other half I plowed back into my songs by engaging the late Anthony Lycenko of Rocking Horse Studios to record Bushrangers And Ghosts. My long time drummer Clancy Robinson played the drums and Cameron Muir played the guitar and arranged and played the tin whistle, mandolin and banjo parts that give Flash Johnny its Celtic feel. Appearing on double bass were Nirvana Glassey and Ed Radclyffe. Tim Freedman was in Byron on tour with the Whitlams at the time and he dropped into the studio and played the grand piano. I never did fix my teeth.”

Jimmy Willing 2019



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