For celebrated entertainer and country music purist Adam Harvey, one musical era stands out head, hat and shoulders above all the rest: Nashville’s seminal 1970s Golden Age. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Adam jetted off to the bright lights of the immortal Music City to record masterful 10th studio album The Nashville Tapes, armed with a brace of new songs couched in the classic country sounds that most capture his imagination.
“It’s one of those things that’s been on my bucket list for probably 20-odd years, to actually go and record an album over there in Nashville,” Adam says of the inspiration behind The Nashville Tapes. “I thought, I want to make a 70s country album: that’s my favourite era in country music. I just wanted to make it really authentic. While everybody else is heading further and further away from classic country music, it’s a good step for me to not only follow my passion and my heart, but also to go the other way!”
Perhaps more than any of Adam’s stellar solo releases to date, The Nashville Tapes is a sweeping, personal celebration of the sounds that defined a generation: from the legendary outlaws to the first wave of global country megastars.
Hot off a barnstorming national tour with great mate Beccy Cole in support of last year’s phenomenal The Great Country Songbook Volume II, Adam is poised to release The Nashville Tapes at the height of his formidable powers.
Adam Harvey has long been one of Australian country music’s premier artists. With eight Golden Guitars on the mantelpiece – including Male Vocalist of the Year Golden Guitars in 2002 (for ‘The Shake of a Hand’), 2004 (for ‘Call It Love’), and 2005 (for ‘That’s What You Call A Friend’), and Album of the Year wins in 2002, 2008 and 2012 (for Workin’ Overtime, I’m Doin’ Alright and Falling Into Place respectively), Adam ranks among Australian country music’s most decorated artists. Add to that more than half a million album sales, back-to-back No.1 albums on the ARIA Country Albums Chart, three ARIA nominations, and a succession of Gold- and- Platinum-certified albums, and it’s easy to see that Adam’s trophy room sparkles from every angle.
In recognition of his immense reach, Adam was awarded the CMA’s Global Country Artist Award in 2007, and is the recipient of a Centenary Medal in recognition of his charity outreach – including Ambassadorships with the Fred Hollows Foundation and the McGrath Foundation.
In one of countless peaks in his unstoppable ascendency, Adam made history in 2009, debuting 6th studio outing Both Sides Now in the Top 20 of the ARIA General Albums Chart, and taking out the No.1 spot on the ARIA Country Albums Chart. It’s just one in an unbroken string of No.1 ARIA Country Albums releases.
Recent years have seen Adam team up with longtime mate Troy Cassar-Daley to record the Platinum-certified The Great Country Songbook (2014) – which debuted at the No.1 spot on the ARIA Country Albums Chart, and at No.2 on the General Albums Chart – before releasing Top 10 sensation Family Life (2014), rollicking good time Harvey’s Bar…The Backyard Sessions (2015), and last year’s monumental The Great Country Songbook Volume II with Beccy Cole.
“Recording all those classic country songs with Beccy Cole, and travelling around on tour and singing those songs with Beccy, it inspires you,” Adam says of The Great Country Songbook Volume II. “You get caught up in those classic songs, and it reminds you how good and how timeless they really are. That gave me a lot of inspiration with my writing for The Nashville Tapes.”
The Great Country Songbook Volumes I and II spawned two landmark national tours that rank among the most immense of Adam’s career to date – the first with Troy, and last year’s with Beccy.
“They were huge, we packed them out everywhere, and I was singing the songs that I’ve loved and grown up with,” Adam explains. “They were really special tours for me – and Beccy and Troy are two of my best friends, so it doesn’t get much better than that!”
In making The Nashville Tapes, Adam decamped to Nashville, Tennessee, where he and another longtime mate, producer Nash Chambers, assembled a crack team of Music City’s finest and most sought-after session players to assist in realising the album.
“Nash and I have been talking about recording an album together for as long as we’ve known one another,” Adam relates. “He’s well known for the stuff he’s done for Kasey, and he’s a mad, passionate traditional country fan. It felt like a really good fit to go and work there with him. Someone who knows and loves that classic 70s country.”
The pair set up shop in the world-famous Sound Emporium’s hallowed Studio A – a facility established by the late great “Cowboy” Jack Clement, and the site of career-defining recordings from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and countless other icons. Joining Adam and Nash in the studio was a contingent of Nashville luminaries, including bassist Glenn Worf (Alan Jackson, Kenny Rogers), drummer Jerry Roe (Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell), Mike Rojas (Alabama, Marty Stuart) on piano, legendary pedal steel player Paul Franklin (Faith Hill and Tim McGraw), and Mickey Raphael, whose distinctive harmonica parts have long been a hallmark and essential ingredient of Willie Nelson’s best-loved songs.
“I was like a kid at Disneyland!” Adam jokes, describing the experience. “So many of my favourite albums have been recorded there, by Waylon, and Willie, and Johnny Cash.”
Rubbing shoulders, across time, with the immortal greats of the country music pantheon inspired Adam to dig deep into the sounds that have most inspired and sustained him across his storied career.
Rounding out the project, the album was mastered by Adam Harvey veteran and Aussie industry stalwart Jeff McCormack.
Album opener ‘Less of a Thinking Man’ is a statement of intent like no other: recalling the heady days of The Highwaymen’s outlaw dominance, and championing Harvey’s signature baritone croon.
Also at the beating heart of The Nashville Tapes is the anthemic ‘I’d Rather Be a Highwayman’, a careworn barroom sway coloured with intoxicating piano and cowboy drums, which transitions into a stirring dedication to the immortal flame of classic country:
‘Nothin makes me give a damn more than country can, I’d rather be a Highwayman than a Rolling Stone.’
A similarly heartfelt celebration of the power of music, ‘What a Song Can Do’ reflects on Adam’s early introduction to his dad’s country 45s, scored by a rich tapestry of fiddle, expressive keys, and gentle acoustic guitar.
A powerful dedication to wife Kath, ‘This Lovin’ You’ is a gorgeous country devotional thrilling with feeling and powered by a rollicking backbeat and careening fiddle, while Harvey lends his glorious, honeyed vocal to ‘Never Be Anyone Else But You’ (a UK Top 10 hit for Ricky Nelson in 1959). Capturing the unhurried locomotive shuffle of Johnny Cash at his early best, it’s a standout moment of deference to the bedrock recordings of country music’s forebears.
A freewheeling salute to one of Adam’s personal heroes, ‘When Willie’s Gone’ is a co-write and duet with Bill Chambers, at once celebrating the achievements of a country icon and striding assuredly into an uncertain future.
There’s a powerfully cinematic take on Neil Diamond’s ‘Solitary Man’, before ‘Lucky’ arrives as a potent hymnal to buckling down and making your own luck.
Turning his attention to the magic of Australia’s own 1970s country heyday, Harvey enlisted Lee Kernaghan to duet on a reverent rendition of Slim Dusty classic ‘Three Rivers Hotel’.
A witty tale of rebellious youth tamed by love, with its homespun fiddle and classic pedal steel, ‘Anything You Want Me To’ is a glorious breeze through the halcyon days of 70s country radio, before Adam reflects with bittersweet reverence on the glory days of Holden’s manufacturing presence in Australia with ‘Those Holden Days’ – a track brimming with easy Aussie humour and poignancy, enveloped in sweetly nostalgic fiddle.
A co-write with Troy Cassar-Daley, ‘We’ll Have to Drink Our Way Out of This’ deploys guest vocalist Brian Cadd to stellar effect, Harvey and Cadd trading lines about drinking away today’s troubles to the accompaniment of low-down guitar and sloping honkytonk piano.
“Just as an accident, one night, Brian Cadd called around to check out Nash’s studio, and we were all there having a few drinks,” Adam recalls. “We played him a few songs, and he said, I love that song about drinking my way out of it! I said, will you sing on it? And he said, righto! So a couple of Scotches later, Brian was in the studio, singing away.”
The Nashville Tapes is yet another a career-best album for Adam Harvey. A deeply personal, powerfully reverent release not years but decades in the making, The Nashville Tapes is the masterwork of an all-time Australian country music legend.
Adam and band are poised to take The Nashville Tapes on the road in the coming months, with support from The Voice Australia 2017 winner – and Adam’s own newly minted lead guitarist – Judah Kelly. Concertgoers can expect everything Australia has come to love about Adam Harvey’s incomparable live show: a rousing mix of new songs, established hits and live favourites, and a smattering of evergreen country classics – along with liberal doses of Adam’s trademark yarns, droll one-liners, and generous good humour. As Adam puts it, simply, the tour is set to showcase:
“The new band, the usual funny stories making people laugh, and a celebration of country music.”