Roger Knox has been a legend of the Aboriginal music scene and the wider country music community since the 1980s. In recent years Knox’s music has spread to a larger audience via Clinton Walker’s Buried Country book/soundtrack/documentary (2000) on Aboriginal country music and his 2013 collaboration with Welsh musician/producer Jon Langford on the landmark album Stranger In My Land. It was that album that formed the centrepiece for Knox’s Sydney Festival full-band performance including Langford.
Knox’s voice was a magnificent and dominating instrument with its deep, rich, effortless tone. It was both assertive and vulnerable when required and across 75 minutes he showed the diversity and range of his singing, weaving compelling storytelling with country music melodicism. He was joined by a band that included his son Buddy, a rhythm section comprised of two of his grandsons. Langford on guitar and vocals and guitarist Jason Walker and they provided the perfect backing, adding muscle and drive when required and playing restrained classic country when called for.
Though the majority of songs were written by other Aboriginal artists Knox immediately put his stamp on them as a masterful interpreter. Whether it was Archie Roach’s deeply moving Took The Children Away, Dougie Young’s playful Scobie’s Dream or the political commentary of Vic Simm’s Stranger In My Land. Knox was joined by Simms for some banter and a duet on the aforementioned song and though it sounded great Simms’ protracted prologue and self-promotion was unnecessary. The set was nearing it’s finish time and long break between songs diluted the end of a performance that deserved – and would have most likely received – a standing ovation for its empathy, humour and superb musicianship.
this review was first published in The Music