GRATITUDE AND GRIEF
The dichotomy could not be wider, and yet it is exactly this that makes the album work so well. Firstly Michael Leunig reads one of his picture-of-innocence, charm-laden, spell-casting poems in his uniquely lugubrious way, and then that same poem is set to music and sung my Katie Noonan in a voice that is as ethereal as Leunig’s is rooted in the earth. This happens with 10 poems, and it is like looking at the same set of words through two different kaleidoscopes: one of muted browns and yellows, and one of flaring golds and silvers.
The compositions are attributed to Leunig, Noonan and Noonan’s two collaborators in Elixir: her husband Zac Hurren on saxophones and that great Australian sorcerer of the electric guitar, Steve Magnusson. As well as the latter pair’s delightful solos, string arrangements flesh out some pieces, while others are left more naked, like a monochrome Leunig cartoon. The words – mostly wry observations and homespun philosophies of coping – seem made for song. Try these from Love Is Born: “Love is born/With a dark and troubled face,/When hope is dead/And in the most unlikely place; Love is born/Love is always born.”