“This is like a sonic time machine that can take you way back to a simpler time, filled with awe and wonder.” Nkechi Anele, Roots ‘N’ All, Triple J
“The Marvellous Hearts sound like what happens when you give crate-digging music fanatics instruments and tell them to go make a record. There’s snippets of every record they’ve ever heard swirling around in their sound. One minute you hear The Beatles, then it’s Bob Dylan on rotation. Hell, then I hear a fragment that reminds me of one particular Paul Kelly song, and another faint echo that had me thinking Goanna. And yet out of this melting pot comes something distinct and un-pigeonholeable. And did I mention that they ooze attitude? I like them. Chances are you will too.” Stuart Coupe
When Craig Lyons of Sydney duo the Blues Preachers embarked on his new project it was a case of following his heart. The seasoned musician, who has performed at festivals all over Australia, including Byron Bay Bluesfest, the Woodford Folk Festival, the Blue Mountains Music Festival and the Gympie Muster, wrote a bunch of songs that felt like they needed a new home and so the Marvellous Hearts were born.
The first track he wrote was Love is Great, the lead single of their debut self-titled EP, and the uplifting song reflects the band’s philosophy. Fifty years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their bed-in, asking the world to give peace a chance, it’s a message that’s needed more than ever. “The only thing you can do is fight hate with love,” says Craig . “Realise we’re all different and that’s what makes the world a special place.”
At first he thought he’d hire a few musicians to record the tracks and that would be it, but the more people heard about the project, the more they wanted to get on board. Now his ragtag crew includes George Rigatos on lead guitar, Andrew Hutchings on drums, all established musicians in their own right. Their music is grounded in old school blues and traditional folk with flourishes of rock and reggae, with songs which are too relevant today to be labelled as “retro revivalists”. And it’s a line-up that feels meant to be. In fact, George was supposed to be part of the original Hearts line-up but couldn’t due to heart surgery. But a successful operation and a few twists of fate meant he was back on board after all.
If the Blues Preachers evoked classic blues of the 1930s and ’40s, then the Marvellous Hearts take their starting point from the ’60s and ’70s. They’ve been compared to the Beatles and Bob Dylan by none other than music icon Stuart Coupe, with their tracks being spun on 2ser. They’ve also had comparisons drawn to Tom Petty and the Black Sorrows and been played across the country on community radio and the ABC.
It’s a sentiment that’s reflected not only in their music but their message. Love is Great is backed up by songs including Impatient World, an anti-hymn to greed, Lovesick Rambling Blues, which pokes a stick at the addictiveness of new love, and Babble On, a hypnotic calypso-vibed serenade that points out the dangers of social and mass media.
Another track in their live kit bag is Polly Wants a Cracker, which takes a dig at politicians. “Basically politicians feather their own nest,” says Craig . “It’s a shame that someone like the New Zealand Prime Minister is rare. Jacinda Ardern seems like a great leader. How come there’s only one person in the world that everyone’s saying, oh, she’d be good, I wish we had a PM like that?”
The diversity of their sound comes from the diversity of their influences, and it’s also meant that the harmonica stalwart has had to strap on a guitar. “I’ve always had a guitar hanging around,” says Craig, who also runs the Bluetongue Harmonica School, “but like most harmonica players I was too lazy to do the hard yards. Now I’m in a situation where I’m writing all the songs and I’m playing guitar on everything and I’m really enjoying the process.”
The songs were recorded at Studio 57 with producer Marc Scully. And now the band are looking forward to taking them to stages across Australia or wherever the road leads. While he might have goals and ambitions, the Craig is happy to let the project unfold organically – because that’s what’s been working so far.
“It’s like what John Lennon said. ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.’ You can have your ambitions but it’s more than likely going to be different from what you had in mind, and if you’re on the right side of the fence, it should be positively different. I’m just happy to get the songs out there for people to listen to and hopefully put a good message out.”
Sally Browne, former journalist for The Courier-Mail
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