“It was the vibe, the ageless mountain, the birds, and the sheer joy of playing music with your friends in a totally pure, and natural way.”

Paddy Dempsey is describing Confessions of a Ferryman, the latest album by the band he founded: West End legends, Sissybones. It is an album that succeeds on its ability to ebb and flow through a semi-autobiographical landscape with a wonderful combination of whimsy and considered observation.

His day job, as a Brisbane River ferryman, has provided Paddy with a rich tapestry of ideas. Apart from some joyous observations on his gainful employment on the title track (“At the height of all the drunken tides, I hear the soundtrack to my ferry life. They sing it loud, they sing it raw, like never done before”) this is an album where attention has been given to both a sense of aged contentment, and a glance toward a sense of unease at the fractured world dictating our every mood and folly.

This is music recorded the old way, on 2-inch analogue, reel-to-reel, with not a computer in sight. To use the word ‘old’, though, is a massive misdirection. While Confessions of a Ferryman embraces production of a hands-on nature, it’s very core is the sense of spirited, deliberated songwriting so essential in a world of mass-produced musical pap. The restrained, yet beautiful opening, Open in-instrumental, lures you in with its simple splendour, before the dulcet tones of Alison St Ledger sore on Home, with backing provided by bassist Bob Pound, violinist extraordinaire Salliana Campbell, and ‘new guy’ Innes Campbell adding banjo and mandolin. They’re making a statement early that this is an album of contribution.

Paddy said, “Most of the songs were done live to tape. We set up mics in the lounge and just played and sang. Such a wonderful experience. There were many moments of true inspiration on this recording session”. The album was recorded at the beautiful and serene Wild Mountain Studios, Mt Nebo and engineered, co-produced and mixed by Jamie Trevaskis.

At the halfway mark in the album, Paddy has something to say about living in West End. #thegreatestfreak is a tour de force of stinging lyrical observation, capturing our narcissistic lifestyle demands in a way that sits you down and gives you an hilariously good talking to: “I feel so cool, so free, so fundamentally alive, as I go walking down West End way in my purple velvet G-string”

But while stinging humour plays its part in this most measured album, it is the dexterous lyrics and gloriously relaxed interplay with the band on Dancing in the Fiery Flames that really epitomizes just how ‘West End’ this music really is. “I’m fragments and smudges of human frailty, forging mountains, comforts aging veins, I am bits and tacks and oozes of Mr Marley’s dream Shining silver-blue, so sordid and bright, flying swords and torches, slicing right through the night I go again.” Brilliant.

To find out more, purchase the album and discover where they’re playing live, visit www.sissybones.com

Words by Colin Bushell
Images by Colin Bushell