You may know Harry James Angus as the beardy chap from The Cat Empire. Well, he has utilised his band’s current hiatus by releasing a solo album. Little Stories was written over the past three years, usually in his lounge room and, according to Angus, largely just on his own, “laughing at my own jokes, lip trembling at my own tragedies, watching the characters come alive.”
Indeed, the album is aptly named. The eleven songs here are tales in the tradition of Paul Kelly's storytelling style. Each narrative is clearly defined over finger-picked acoustic guitar which, for a trumpeter, Angus plays expertly. Sometimes he has a real way with words. Banker, for instance, is clever and subtle. “I know I was put on this earth to change pounds into dollars and yen and back again,” he sings in this rather touching tale of loneliness and chaste love. Elsewhere though, the songwriter is perhaps a little too concerned with making himself laugh. The Batsman – which tells of a disgraced cricketer – might offer the occasional chuckle (“The cops found him naked on the steps of the church trying to hit his balls for six with his dick in the rain,”) but mixing comedic one-liners with genuine sentiment a la Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits is a tough thing to achieve and Angus doesn't always hit the target.
Generally though, this is an interesting an enjoyable alternative to the standard contemporary folk on offer elsewhere and shows Harry James Angus to have the potential to be a very clever storyteller.
Review by Bobby Townsend. It first appeared in Sydney's Drum Media.