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JOHN CAMPBELL MUNRO - The Kelly Collection 

JOHN CAMPBELL MUNRO - The Kelly Collection 
Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX407 

It has been a decade or so since I had the privilege of reviewing for this publication The Emigrant And The Exile, the late John Munro’s marvellously frank book of memoirs. Indeed it is a book I have dipped into several times in the intervening years. When John died in May 2018, it was not just Eric (Bogle) who lost an indispensible comrade: the whole world is a lesser place without John in it. But thank heavens he has left those of us who were his admirers, such a final work to embrace.

And so it is that a year after his death, we have this fantastic CD from Greentrax: quite simply it is the absolute high-water mark of John’s creative output. Astonishing to think that this was mostly recorded by Pete Titchener just a few months before John’s death: such is the high quality of John’s singing and playing. He is joined by Eric and their usual coterie of fine musicians: with the aforementioned Pete and fiddler Emma Luker in the forefront. And I was very struck by the assured vocals from Kathryn Ruby: I suggest Greentrax sign her up for a solo CD.

This album is John’s account of the life – and gruesome death - of Ned Kelly. He wrote all the beautifully crafted songs, and whilst they take a sympathetic line to our “hero” and explain how Kelly was a product of circumstance stemming from colonial injustice, there is positively no kite flying. All have the gravitas of a true historian, and could easily have come straight out of the pages of Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore.

It is October as I write this, and this is the best album I have reviewed all year. And I have reviewed some good ones.

Dai Woosnam


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine