The likes of Tim Rogers, Kylie Auldist, Mark Atkins and more, will come together to record Keep The Circle Unbroken, an album intended to unite and pacify.
The year 1972 produced one of the most influential albums in the history of music. Across 38 songs, this particular release reconnected divided generations in the US at odds due to the perpetuating Vietnam War, hippie counter-culture and a troubling Richard Nixon presidential term.
The record flourished with country sensibilities but captured the imagination of rock music lovers, penetrating the mainstream whilst staying true to its raw, unadulterated aesthetic.
This is the story of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s seventh album, Will the Circle be Unbroken, a record which featured collaborations with country legends such as Roy Acuff, Doc Watson and Mother Maybelle Carter, and was pioneered by celebrated banjoist Earl Scruggs.
48 years later and the album is more pertinent than ever – it’s togetherness and unity holding strong in a society that remains largely divided. Now, some of Australia’s most prominent musicians are coming together to take part in an exercise that channels Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s warts and all recording approach on Will the Circle be Unbroken.
The likes of Tim Rogers, Mark Atkins, Kylie Auldist, Emma Donovan, Grim Fawkner and Bobby Valentine will team up with Row Jerry Crow, a supergroup consisting of members from The Screaming Jets, The Badloves, Vika and Linda, Delsinki and more, to record Keep The Circle Unbroken, an album of both original tracks and covers that draws inspiration from the 1972 LP in question. They will then perform the album live from MEMO Music Hall.
For Craig Johnston, the man behind genre-defying project Delsinki, the idea came about after Row Jerry Crow produced a collaborative video via Zoom in April.
“We [Row Jerry Crow] … did an iso video when COVID happened and at the end of it we were just like, ‘Oh, it would be fun to do a gig’, and the fiddle player [John Kendall] was like, ‘With what’s going on in the world, it would be fun to do something that brings everybody together’,” Delsinki says.
After communicating with MEMO’s co-manager, Simon Myers, and a handful of interested artists, the concept then slowly grew.
“It was never meant to be a live stream, it was always just going to be an album,” Delsinki continues. “I spoke to Tim Rogers and he was like, ‘I love Will the Circle be Unbroken‘ … so he was in from the get-go and I thought MEMO Music Hall would be a ripper place to do it over two days in the hall to record.
“Then most of the artists were like, ‘This is cool, let’s just do it and we’ll work the money out later’, which is a really great attitude and then Simon said, ‘Well, if you do a live stream … then you can put some dollars in people’s pockets’.”
Keep The Circle Unbroken will be recorded over two days, on Friday July 17 and Saturday July 18, live from MEMO, before then being performed via live stream on that Saturday night.
Alongside the names of Rogers, Atkins, Auldist, Donovan, among others, who will be vocalists on the album, there will also be a host of guest players along for the ride including known instrumentalists from bands such as Hunters & Collectors, Taxiride, Architecture in Helsinki, The Twoks and The Davidson Brothers.
While it is important that the artists, crewmembers and others concerned are paid for their involvement, it was also important for Delsinki that the project looked beyond that.
“We’ve got enough money at the moment that we can pay everybody a small fee for just doing it, then we’re going to auction off some posters, I’m going to get some A0 posters signed and we’ll auction those off to charity,” Delsinki says.
“Then with the album, we’re going to preorder vinyl … I think if you do a run of about 100 vinyl, you’ve only got to sell about 40 of them presale and that pays for the run. So if we do that, and we are able to get a few pressed, then every dollar after the mixing and mastering costs have been taken out, every dollar will go to charity.”
Keep The Circle Unbroken is both a fantastic cause in ingenuity and benevolence. Hopefully, listeners can resonate with its raw approach and take something away from an album set to stand as a truly unique timestamp of 2020 – a year that has offered us challenges from all angles.
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So what tracks can we expect from the record?
“So there’s a whole mix of stuff,” Delsinki says. “There’s some old traditional covers which are unlicensed – people refer to them as trad songs – there’s a couple of songs from the original recording, Will the Circle be Unbroken, there are a couple of original pieces – when I say that, Paul Woseen who is the singer in Row Jerry Crow, he’s the songwriter for The Screaming Jets, so we’re going to do his song, ‘Helping Hand’. Then there’ll be some more contemporary Aussie songs – we’re going to do a version of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’.
“We just went through and got some songs that we thought were relevant now and also too, a little bit post-COVID, like people being locked up and feeling isolated and whatever. Originally that was the thought behind it.”
With Jack Howard on board, the revered St Kilda trumpeter who’s a member of Hunters & Collectors and has toured with Midnight Oil, it will be intriguing to see ‘Beds Are Burning’ reimagined.
The album Keep The Circle Unbroken will be performed as part of MEMO Music Hall’s Live Streams on Saturday July 18. Grab tickets for the show here. Head to MEMO’s website to check out all the other live streamed gigs they have coming up.
MEMO Music Hall’s live streamed gigs are a collaboration between the venue and Renegade Films. Find out more about the professionally-made shows here.