DERMOTT RYDER'S FOREWORD TO THE ALBUM WORKERS IN THE FIELD VOLUME 2 - VARIOUS ARTISTS RM013
The prolific and the critical recording of the last 200 years of Australian history by poet, playwright, diarist, wandering balladeer and dreamer is a continuing tradition which finds expression in the contemporary writers and singers of today. These ebullient bards leave no stone unturned.
All creatures great and small get a mention. The greater the creature, the greater the potential for pummelling. Slithering politicians, idiosyncratic military giants, pontificating church dignitaries, vainglorious union leaders – and others too - may well tremble at the thought that it will be these unofficial historians who will, for better or for worse record - in story or song - the unsanctified doings of the stumbling almighty.
This is not to say that singer-songwriters are all gloom and doom and acid riposte, nor do they all have 'a mission' - some merely report and others have that endearing ability to inject excitement and humour into the musical chronicles of everyday life. There is also a gentler side to our ubiquitous folk poets. There are a remarkable few who have that very special gift which allows them to pause for a while and capture, in moments of quiet reflection, scenes of fading beauty which might otherwise be lost to us forever had they not been held timeless and alive in simple but enduring verses of some empathetic poet or song-maker.
The basic tools of the singer-songwriter's craft have not really changed very much over the years. The native wit, the pen and the harmonious voice are still mightier than the sword and, in the end the power of the 'right good cause' transcends that of the street march ban, the 'midnight doorknock' or the 'vested interest' serving tabloid.
Although the tools of the craft haven't changed much the distribution media has. Singers still travel the country, entertaining and selling copies of their songs' but now instead of the printed broadside of yesteryear they sell long-playing records and cassette tapes, usually produced on a shoestring and often with considerable difficulty - by a cottage industry of 'Little Labels''
Restless Records is one of the brave and noble few who have the courage to record 'folk music' - and from small beginnings, with great determination, an admirable catalogue has grown. 'Workers In The Field - Volume 1' (Restless RRP003), an early (ad)venture, demonstrated a growing recognition of a desirable symbiosis, tested the hard ground and prepared the way for 'Workers In The Field - Volume 2', a kaleidoscope of sound and synergy - pictures of the contemporary lifestyle - not shot through a soft focus lens.
The workers in the field are real people. Their music, by and large, is an egalitarian response to our life and times - eclectic rather than homogeneous - it spans a hiatus in time, gathering together the influences of the past, the urgency of the present and an intriguing variety of views of the future.
For as long as there are fields, I hope there will be workers in them, and for as long as there are workers, I hope there will be an intrepid 'Little Label' to present their wares to the market.
Dermott Ryder - Radio 2MBS-FM Sydney, July 1986