MUSIC IN THE BUSH – Ross Kurtz

Ross Kurtz and his wife Judy are bush musicians who perform at local pubs, private venues and markets.  They are passionate about keeping this music alive and encourage  young people to join them in their jam sessions.  Although they both live busy lives as artists and run a farm they always make time to keep the bush music passion alive.

When Joy asked me to write a story about music in the bush I thought ‘yeah, a piece of cake, I’m a boy from the bush.’ Then the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it wasn’t a simple task because it begged the question; ’Is there a difference between music in the bush, and music in the city’?  I think I can safely say that if you listen to canned music on the radio or tv, there is little difference because of their coverage.

People in the bush may tend to tune to country music stations more then their city
cousins. Here though the air isn’t clear, because the term ‘country music’ is more to do with style than content. It has become more urban to suit the masses in the cities.

Ross & Don In Jam Session 1
Ross & Don in a Jam Session

Live music, which is the real meat of this assignment, is even more difficult to sort out.  Pubs in the bush and cities generally foster similar types of music although they vary individually to cater for the different age brackets of their respective clients.  For example, a pub may put on a rock band on a Friday or Saturday night, then employ a band playing folk or middle of the road music on a Sunday afternoon.

Pubs in the cities realise the importance of employing bands more than country pubs generally. There are certainly more opportunities for musos to get gigs in the city. Clubs everywhere seem content to foster acts with old farts in black wigs and tight pants churning out nostalgia until you vomit!

Folk music, in which I am involved is an interesting case. The area from Bathurst, north to Mudgee has been one of the most fertile areas in Australia for folklorists collecting folk/bush music because of its early white settlement and gold mining. The irony here is that this music was taken back to the city in the 1950’s and 1960’s by collectors and fostered by various people such as the Sydney Bush Music Club. Many bands, most notably the Bushwhackers and Redgum, and individuals such as Warren Fahey got hold of these songs and made a commercial killing for many years, while performers of this genre in the bush declined.

Jamming on the Cudgegong  10
Jamming On The Cudgegong River

A few local bands such as November Shorn, Homerule and Stringybark performed for bush dances in county halls, shearing sheds and clubs during the 70’ and 80’s and 90’s. This wave has subsided and many of the musos have withdrawn to meeting at various small, unpaid jam sessions .

We no longer have isolated pockets of people to develop regional differences in music, except maybe a few remote aboriginal communities in the Top End. I am reminded of the Appellation people in America who developed a distinctive style because of their isolation.

A few of the people I jam with on a regular basis write and perform work of their experiences in the bush, as I do. The general population will never get to hear this music because there is no money in it for promoters. Of course there are similar groups of musos in the city writing and performing their own experiences, unique to urban life.

So, is there something unique about music in the bush? To most casual observers, there is little difference, but scratch beneath the surface and you might just find the odd, rare gem .