Tim Rogers is sitting at a primo table, having a drink while he reads a book. Catherine Britt’s ma is out back selling the merch and the “older” crowd are finishing off the last of their dinner. Welcome to the madhouse AKA the Sydney debut for Australia’s very own alt-country supergroup, The Hillbilly Killers.
The band is made up of Rogers and Britt who worked together on the former musician’s most recent solo record and the Hillbilly Daddy himself, Bill Chambers (pedal-steel guitarist and father of Kasey). Australia’s very own Killers made their official debut at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January, but it was late last year when the trio initially performed together for Roger’s show at The Factory. This unlikely musical match started over late night conversations about Hank Williams. Yee-haw.
There were no supports at this show and they decided to simply “support themselves”. Each of the members and the two extra “friends” came out alone or in duo formats to perform acoustic covers of either solo or borrowed material. The banter during this initial set – like the main act – was worth the price of admission alone, with all three artists proving to be self-deprecating and funny, lending things a jovial atmosphere and all while offering interesting asides about their own compositions.
Chambers offered us a solo track from his “Award-losing CD” (or ones he’d apparently lost out to his daughter). We learned about his becoming a professional fox hunter in a stint that started out being four weeks and turned into a staggering ten years. Britt joined Chambers for a sweet rendition of Gram Parsons’ “Kiss The Children”, which sounded just like a duet between country royalty otherwise known as Johnny and June Carter Cash. Britt remained while Rogers joined her – looking like an elder statesmen of rock and rather debonair – as the pair owned his track, “Troubled Man”.
Rogers admitted to singing the last number “A little out of tune just to make sure we weren’t that jealous” before dedicating “Walkin’ Past The Bars” to his drug and alcohol counsellor. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, Rogers played some rambling, electric guitar. It was the same instrument he’d use for a cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Hot Burrito #1” where he embraced his inner-rock God in much the same way as Adalita from Magic Dirt does when she’s flying solo. He then called time because the group had to organise their quote, “Perfumed gussets, velvet and huge appendages”. Yep, it was more comedy gold from Uncle Tim!
Messers Chambers and Rogers donned matching cowboy hats for The Hillbilly Killers’ set and it was obvious that the mood was ready to shift across to the country dial. The trio had two additional musicians on hand and the now-quintet used everything from guitars to banjo, double bass, slide guitar and stomp box to create just the right mix of homespun charm, venomous love notes, down-to-earth storytelling and country hoedowns. The first song was ebullient in its rip-snorting, boot-scooting fun and although the name, “Calamitied Anatomy” may suggest otherwise, this number only built on the deranged air of silliness in the room.
“Roadhouse Blues” was not The Doors’ classic but rather a Chambers number and a road trip to a Texas diner where the meal of choice was a ham and cheese sandwich. There was a blurring of the lines between the full band performance and the earlier set; especially when the guys offered The Temperance Union song, “The Man You Want Me To Be”. It was a good fit though, because it is arguably one of the most country-like songs to be penned by Rogers prior to this current project.
The three artists seemed to compliment each other really well and while Rogers’ songs were about poking fun at himself (heck, this is the man who says he looks like he fell out of a tip) Britt’s were about taking pot shots at the bad ex (“I Hate Everything About You”) and at least one strange femme fatal (“Elsie Jones”). Her killer, “Love Sucks & I Hate It” received lots of loud cheers and whistles at the end, as this relatable ode to heartbreak sat well with the audience, as did the following one about a beautiful, female f**k-up.
The proceedings continued with more finger-picked guitars, wise-cracks and enthusiastic singing; especially during the group’s theme, “They Call Us The Hillbilly Killers’. The whole shebang concluded with “Hillbilly Daddy” and a country-flavoured, full-gut bucket version of “It’s All Over Now” (or the song made famous by The Rolling Stones). But it was easily the group’s unofficial theme – a cover of Faron Young’s “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young” that truly embodied the spirit of this toe-tapping and raggedly good country band. This number – like the night as a whole – had proven to be one fiery storm and passionate shindig.
Originally published on 25 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/the-hillbilly-killers-feat-tim-rogers-bill-chambers-catherine-britt-the-basement-sydney-24-04-2013
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/