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Archie Roach Foundation

Archie Roach Foundation - Archie Roach My Songs: 1989-2021 - 3 CD Wallet

Archie Roach Foundation - Archie Roach My Songs: 1989-2021 - 3 CD Wallet

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Review of Archie’s new song, One Song, by Jack Latimore.

If you travel 40,075 kilometres in one direction across the land, across the water, across mountain ranges, across deserts, across forests, you will arrive back at your starting point. That’s both science and poetry. I first heard that knowledge in the lyrics of Bob Dylan, but many writers have taken licence to bend that practical note to their work either on the page or in lyrical form. In fact, there’s a line from a song by Tom Waits that goes, ‘If you get far enough away you'll be on your way back home’. Years ago, I borrowed Waits’ line to write something about community and the great Archie Roach.

Years earlier still, I’d been tracing Archie’s life through the inner-city streets, following vestiges of Charcoal Lane both literally and figuratively, consciously and not so consciously. The same streets and the same alley ways Archie once trod. The Fitzroy streets. The Collingwood streets. Anybody could walk them. Everyday all around me all the people walked those streets, pounding and plodding along the cement and bitumen in the cold or in the heat. But it was the songlines contained on that landmark album that I sought. Archie sang them up. Sang a hidden history and broken tooth romance into those places. Sang a past and a present temporal conjunction which then sailed majestically forever forward into future.

‘One Song’, the new song - the last song on this definitive collection - is imbued with similar kinds of majesty and magic. It could be interpreted as Archie sailing full circle. The artist on his way home again to the fire hearth, or to a tranquil river flow.

‘One Song’ is sparse, stripped back – Archie’s voice generous and masterful in expression, even youthful in moments, accompanied only by a cloud shade of guitar and double bass that cycles and drifts atmospherically, adding texture to light. It's prayerful and serene, yet doing bold things with simplicity. It’s a country song, though not the genre you might expect. It’s a connection to place, a singing up of an ancient wisdom from deep time: An exquisite lullaby for humanity.

‘One Song’ is also the artist folding like fiddleback grain over and across his earlier compositions, recalling the pantheism of tracks like ‘River Song’, ‘Dancing With My Spirit’, and of ‘Weeping In The Forest’. It is a song as evocative as the sweeping spiritual landscapes on Archie’s 2007 album, Journey – works like ‘Liyarn Ngarn’, ‘Spirit Of Place’, ‘Morning Star’ and ‘Old People Singing’. And think ‘Mulyawongk’, with its hymnal Hammond organ and plaintive minor chords. And a reduction of the reverence in the exultant soul and gospel explorations of ‘Song To Sing’ and Into The Bloodstream.

Mostly, ‘One Song’ is immediately Archie: A life of weathered terrain imbued with an 80,000-year backstory. An intersection across millennia of cosmological expressions, transcendental reflections and ruminations of memory and fate. An ancient wisdom travelling at once forward and throughout the songlines and blowing along the streets. A message from the Old People to us.

“Remember well what we have told you
Oh don’t forget where you come from”.
A message from the Old People to us.

Written by Jack Latimore


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