It is debatable whether the audience at Manhattan’s The Living Room has ever been so captivated as when Kath Buckell commanded the stage last Tuesday night. Equipped with her guitar, poetry-inspired lyrics from her Australian history and an impressive musical experience portfolio, Buckell performed for a full room and elicited notable appreciation in each member of the crowd.
Though she originally hails from Australia, Buckell’s most recent move was from Israel to the fair city of New York to follow the direction of her music. While it has thankfully led her here, Buckell’s musical career was born in Israel after she relocated for a relationship there. She seems to have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for the music scene in Israel and what she has taken from it.
“I was able to create and establish my music career there,” she admits. “Music in Israel is very eclectic. There are Jews from all over: Spain, Greece, the middle east. It’s a beautiful scene with very talented musicians.”
While her career may have essentially been born in Israel, Buckell’s passion for music was well established before she stepped foot outside of Australia. Beginning with piano at age four, Buckell expanded her repertoire to include drums when she was ten, and her passion for playing led her to study the instrument “on a tertiary level” and pursue a future as a drummer. A bit later, at 17, Buckell began to write songs and poetry which eventually led to her self-taught skill on guitar. By the time she met Aoife Clancy, daughter of Bobby Clancy, and her current bandmate in Jammin’ Divas, Buckell was a legitimate musician in every sense of the word.
Once she began to compose her own lyrics, Buckell’s musical style took on a life of its own, combining the rich history of her culture with more modern melodies that appealed to her. For Buckell, perhaps the most important part of her music is the poetry behind it. She attributes her inspiration and motivation to three particular Australian poets who each express a part of her passion in their own rights.
“I was more really interested in the poetry than the music,” she recalls. “I took from three iconic Australian poets. I took poetry that’s never been put to music from Andrew Barton Patterson, Dame Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson. The reason I chose these three artists: Andrew Barton Patterson depicted the landscape from early Australian colonial times. Henry Lawson is more socially conscious and often takes the perspective of a single man or woman in a family situation, and looks at how that influences his everyday life. Mary Gilmore was just very political.”
Buckell’s attention to her personal, Australian history is also very important to her in composition and music-making. In order to be satisfied with her music, Buckell needs to know that she is helping her listeners to understand where she comes from and keeping Australia’s heritage alive. One of the songs from her show at The Living Room is based on the true story of an indigenous orphan from Australia who overcame illiteracy for the sole purpose of documenting the ethnic cleanse carried out in Australia in early years.
Her new producer, Daniel Jakubovic has given her music the final boost it needed to capture Buckell’s style and purpose. In contrast with her first album, which she describes as “more of a folk sound with Celtic and Irish influence,” Buckell’s current project, Faces Do Not Change is “much more rocker” thanks to Jakubovic.
“I treat this one as my first because I’m happy with this one,” she says. “I didn’t have a clear sense of direction before, and my message wasn’t strong enough. Now my message is clear and represents history and culture, poetically and culturally.”
Through her passion for her music and world travels, Buckell has created quite a career for herself, which is evidenced by her guest singer and friend, Ula Hedwig’s appearance at The Living Room to sing backup. Hedwig is a longtime backup singer for Bette Midler and Darlene Love and has produced a record of her own as well.
As she has not released her sophomore album yet, Buckell’s focus remains in that area, but here’s hoping that she will launch a tour soon. With lungs and songwriting skills like hers coupled with her dynamic heritage and representation of it, Buckell presents a powerful show that is difficult to walk away from unaffected.