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I’m alive tonight!” So starts the fourth album by Perry Keyes, the best songwriter you’ve never heard.
It’s an optimistic opening, but don’t expect a fun ride.Sunnyholt refers to the road running through Sydney’s outer-western suburbs, where many inner-city residents relocated in the ’60s and ’70s.
All messed up with nowhere to go, this record documents the downside of the Great Australian Dream. It’s bleak, but Keyes’ writing is so wonderfully evocative – just check out the marvellously titled Mario Milano’s Monaro, which starts: “My cousin Doreen drives a taxi, she likes girls and one day cricket.”
These are heartbreaking tales of wasted lives, where “a lonely girl knows how it feels to have the beautiful things ignore her”, and “I’d trade all the lights on Sydney Harbour to feel my father’s arms again”. Bek-Jean Stewart’s sublime vocals sweeten Raymond John Denning and Shitville, but there are no happy endings in Keyes’ songs, unless they’re “in $59 rooms selling stoned rub and tugs”.
You’ll hear snatches of Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen, but Perry Keyes is telling his own story. And there is no better Australian songwriter.