“Dark Matter is arguably the deadliest album yet in the distinguished solo recording career of Shane Howard” - Tony Hillier
5 Star Review*****
Dark Matter is arguably the deadliest album yet in the distinguished solo recording career of Shane Howard, one of the most enduringly engaging and socially conscious Australian singer-songwriters of the past 40 years.
Strong and occasionally scathing in message and metaphor yet softened by the troubadour’s mellifluous voice, ear for a melody and poetic words, it hits with a velvet glove while hammering out some home truths. Dreamtime legends and biblical citations sit in perfect sync with eco-political concerns, historical and cultural references and various collaborations. Between the sound of thunder and rain that bookend Dark Matter and storm clouds of despondency lay bursts of sunshine, optimism and expressions of love in the shape of exquisite strings-laced, female accompanied ballads, Wild Rivers and The Sweetest Thing.
Goanna-esque folk-rockers This Country and Times Like These articulate wisdom and vulnerability over driving rhythm. The latter features Howard and his partner-in-rhyme, Redgum’s John Schumann, swapping verses between clipped Mark Knopfler-like guitar fills. In 'Palya Wiru Uluru', an upbeat piece prompted by the cessation of climbing at ‘The Rock’, Howard takes a twangy country turn in tandem with Pitjantjatjara elder Trevor Adamson. The equally engaging Wattah, which also contains Indigenous language, was written with West Victorian Aborigine Andy Alberts to commemorate the repatriation of bones returned from museums in Australia and abroad. Howard recruited Archie Roach, another soulmate, to add lyrics from an Aboriginal perspective to his telemovie score for Secret River, in which he deftly incorporates the melody of English folk standard Greensleeves.
The questioning opener 'What Do You Want From Me?' and back-to-bush ode 'World Going ‘Round' are excellent co-compositions with long-time collaborator Phil Butson. The quizzical Writing On The Wall (“Why are the ears not listening? /Why can’t the voices be heard?”) is astutely offset by the bouncy folk-pop feel of Lay Your Burden Down that follows.
Interpolating a jarring Kurdish folk tune in a song inspired by Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani’s book is about the only dubious move in an otherwise impeccably arranged and executed album that merits a place on the same pedestal as Howard’s/Goanna’s classic 1982 long-player Spirit Of Place, which yielded Aboriginal rights anthem and radio staple Solid Rock.
This is the official site of Shane Howard, (AM) Australian singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer and author.
Howard has refined his art with 13 solo albums, 3 Goanna albums, two books and a stable of great production credits, that have established him as a significant contributor to Australian folklore.
His anthemic song, Solid Rock, from the album, Spirit of Place (1982), recorded with his band Goanna, was written after a moving experience at an inma at Uluru in 1981. It has since passed into folklore and the Australian psyche. He pushed on, beyond commercial success, tirelessly pursuing an artist’s journey, in order to make sense of the story of a ‘whitefella’ in an Aboriginal country.
His songs have been recorded by numerous artists as diverse as Ireland's Mary Black and Australia's John Farnham and Troy Cassar-Daley. He has spent much of his musical life working with Aboriginal musicians, as well as touring Ireland and forging Irish-Australian connections. Shane has been a producer for the Pigram Brothers, Street Warriors, Mary Black, Archie Roach and the soundtrack for the Jimmy Chi musical, Corrugation Road. In 2000 he was awarded a Fellowship by the Music Fund of the Australia Council in acknowledgement of his contribution to Australian musical life over many years. In 2016 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the performing arts as a singer, songwriter and guitarist,to the recording industry, and to Indigenous musicians. In 2018 he was awarded the Australian Americana Honors Award.
“ He sounds as though he has drunk deeply from the same fountain that gave the world Henry Lawson, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.”
— Bruce Elder - Sydney Morning Herald