Here is another great album by the Australian duo of Penny Davies and Roger Ilott. This is the latest of many of their CDs that I have purchased over the years. I forget which CD I purchased first but I remember thinking that the CD was great because (initially,as a bonus, it had a Byrdsy feel to it but also because) listening to (what I am guessing are) the Australian folk songs was extremely interesting. It gave me a taste and feel for a life and culture that I had never been aware of prior to listening. I can't thank Penny Davies and Roger Ilott enough for that experience. "Boomerang Bay" is an album that should not be missed. There are 12 great tracks, including a cover of that Carol King/Byrds hit, "Goin' Back". The other tracks make me conjure up imagery and visions of a place made vivid by Penny's & Roger's descriptive lyric and passion. The download is easily worth the price of admission. So, to avoid any confusion on this: Yes! You should buy this album!
This album is available for download from CDBABY.COM.


MOON CALLER Review by Bob Wilson (THE FOLK RAG)

This new recording from Penny Davies & Roger Ilott turned up in my mailbox like a welcome letter from an old friend with new stories to tell.

Penny and Roger have been producing independent music from their home studio near Stanthorpe for more than 20 years, and with at least a dozen of their own recordings behind them, the experience shows. Like Big Water (released 2006), this CD has a folk-rock feel with drums, bass, Dobro and Roger's Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar adding a Byrds' flavour.

Moon Caller is a family affair, with son Jordan Davies-Ilott playing drums and dobro. It must have been a special moment for him to hear Mum and Dad's original song, Goodbye To Your Schooldays, at his high school awards ceremony. The 15 tracks on Moon Caller include old favourites ( Joni Mitchell's Circle Game and J .C. Stewart's tribute to the 1969 moon landing, Armstrong ), and one of the few unpublished collaborations between Roger and the late Bill Scott ( The Goldfield ). Penny and Roger's eight originals include the nostalgic Aurelia (about Penny's experiences emigrating from England) and the wistful opening track, She's Like a Tree .

Jed Hudson , who played with Roger in Sydney folk-rock band The Rusty Dusty Bros in the 1970s, collaborated on this album, playing bass, mandolin and adding backing vocals to some tracks.

Although this is a “band” album, Penny's distinctive, gentle vocals and Roger's under-stated harmonies are always to the fore. O'Mara's Front Verandah is a nostalgic ballad featuring Dobro, mandolin, pedal steel and acoustic bass, but the instruments are well back in the mix, allowing the listener to focus on the words, harmonies and feel of the song.

Other highlights include Song of the Artesian Water ( A.B.Paterson / C.O'Sullivan ), the droll Wet Season Blues and the duo's climate change protest song, Crazy Weather . This is a well-produced, listenable album with a lot of heart.

FROM THE POP GEEK HEAVEN WEBSITE.....Jangle On by Eric Sorenson

"JANGLE ALERT!!  Over the past several years, my friend Ray Verno has shared numerous tracks by the catchy Australian folk-rock duo, Penny Davies and Roger Ilott, in his Byrdsian CD compilations.  The 12-string guitar riffs in Penny and Roger's songs are eerily reminiscent of Roger McGuinn's Rickenbacker sound, and the songs follow a blueprint very similar to the Byrds' and McGuinn's repertoire.  Standout tracks from Penny and Roger's five albums include “Rusty Dusty Days,” “Listen To The Wind,” “Pushing It Down,” “Must Have Been The Moon,” “Silverwood Dam,” “Peaceful,” “Brisbane Girl,” “Turn Again,” “The Lighthouse,” “We'll Meet On The Shore” and “The Long Haul.”  Click here to read more on the POP GEEK HEAVEN WEBSITE.

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BIG WATER CD Review by John Broomhall

I took this new album, (the 100th in the Restless catalogue and the 16th by Davies and Ilott) on a recent trip I made to the outback. Listening to these beautiful songs on the dirt road which follows the Darling River  between Pooncarie and Menindee gave me an added sense of connection: words, music and landscape, weaving their way through me like bright threads of meaning spun from the heart itself.

Penny Davies and Roger Ilott occupy a unique place in Australian music spanning the great divide between Folk and Country. They have reinvigorated the bush ballad, kept alive the protest song, and have celebrated  all that it means to be Australian and citizens of the world, as the new millennia continues its dark unfolding, without a cork hat, lagerphone or phoney accent on the horizon.

Big Water is an important album. It breaks new ground just as their 1st album, 'Restless' did some twenty three years ago. Here are songs of place and identity and of heartfelt humanity. Songs of hills and railway lines, rivers and oceans. Songs that you feel could just make a difference as we all keep on trying to 'turn the world around'.

Musically, you won't hear better on an Australian album. You discover more with each listening. Roger Ilott has wound his guitars up full throttle and the Rickenbacker 12 string has a stridency which is compelling. Many of his arrangements reference the Byrds, but the sound he achieves goes much further than the tribute. It is a sound he and Penny Davies have made their own. It's one of the things about Big Water which make you want to listen to it again, and again. That and the sweetness and strength of both vocals. Roger Ilott takes more lead vocals nowadays and there is an integrity in his gentle delivery, a sureness which only comes from decades of performance. Penny Davies simply has one of the richest voices in Australian folk and country music. Put the two together and you have the best harmonies you're likely to hear.

This is an album of standout songs. From Bill Scott's wonderful sea shanty 'Back to the Sea Again, Johnny' to the evocative 'The Hills and Rocks of Home' ; the powerful message of 'Turn the World Around' ; the poignancy of 'Rusty Dusty Days' . Every song a poetic gem in itself.

It's little wonder Penny Davies and Roger Ilott who already have an Australia wide following for their music, are now finding an audience for their songs around the world.

John Broomhall

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From the Folk Rag November, 2006
CD Review by Lonnie Martin  

It is always a pleasure to hear new music from this talented couple who have been almost “fixtures” on the Australian folk scene for longer than I will admit to remembering. Stylistically, Big Water – their sixteenth album – presents a departure from their earlier work with more folk rock type arrangements and heavier orchestration than I have come to expect from a Penny and Roger album. However the carefully crafted lyrics, narrative impetus and beautiful close harmonies that I love about their work are still strong features of the overall sound.

There are some stand-out moments for me – “The Hills and Rocks of Home” , (P.Davies/R.Ilott) is a stunning arrangement and a lyrically elegant piece written for their son, Jordy, evocatively capturing their granite belt home, and “When the Cooper's Coming Down”, lyrics by journalist Max Fatchen, set by Roger featuring some gorgeous dobro guitar played by Jordy.

I particularly enjoyed the nostalgic “Rusty Dusty Days” , (R.Ilott), recalling the Sydney days in the 1970's in which the Rusty Dusty Brothers band almost made the big time, (Roger was lead guitarist). A nice touch is that the bass player from that band, Jed Hudson, plays bass on this album.

The gritty “Back to the Sea Again Johnny” , (lyrics by Bill Scott - written in 1946 after he left the navy - set by Roger), is another favourite, featuring very tidy banjo and Bill Rodgers playing gorgeous Celtic harp. “The Once-Great Railway Family” , (K.Foster/R.Ilott), paints a brilliant picture of a working railway station with a charming tag that evokes memories of Michael O'Rourke's “Poison train” – there's a light let it shine .

There are surprises on this album – including a Procol Harum cover of “The Angler” (G.Brooker) and a very Byrds' arrangement of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (Ecclesiastes/P.Seeger). This 1970's folk rock sound carries over onto other tracks and in my opinion, gives a dated feel rather than a modern punch to some of the arrangements. But this is an enchanting CD filled with their trademark clean tight vocals, excellent musicianship and high production values.

Well worth the listen and guaranteed not to sit on the shelf gathering dust!

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The genesis of my serious interest in guitar group instrumentals was when I first heard The Shadows in 1962. Then in 1967 I began to develop a great interest in acoustic guitar compositions via Jorma Kaukonen's "Embryonic Journey" (1), Gordon Giltraps's "Fast Approaching" (2), and Simon Nicol's "End of a Holiday" (3) and so many others.
Later on, in the 1970's, I entered the world of ambient music via Brian Eno. Eno has stated that "Ambient music is intended ot induce calm and a space to think." (4)

And now, in 2023, I am floating away in "Wine Glass Bay" with Roger Ilott's Meditative Instrumentals. This collection has elements of all three above genres. Such as:
The ear tingling tones of Roger's Rickenbacker 12-string on "Care for What Remains" - an electric chorale of conservation and restoration;
The acoustic elegance of "Girraween", as a prelude to the arrival of pedal steel, as if on a breeze;
"Singing Honeyeater", with the ambient vocals of Penny Davies, I hear as a hymn to the Australian bus;
"Wineglass Bay (Excerpts)" - an immersion in ambience. Calm waters for a restless mine.

I like to listen to this CD in the dark as it seems to enhance the glow of an inner light. It creates a 'space' in which 'to think'... and that's the esesnce of meditation.

Paul Bacon, Sydney, April, 2023

(1) Jefferson Airplane "Surrealistic Pillow" (1967
(2) Various Artists "Contemporary Guitar Sampler, Volume 1" (1969)
(3) Fairposrt Convention "What We Did on Our Holidays" (1969)
(4) Brian Eno "Music for Airports/Ambient 1" liner notes (1978)


I found this new album a rewarding surprise to hear how the duo continues to succeed to deliver convincing songs and arrangements. Even with relatively simple songs they have the same effect, like the opening song, “Turn The World Around”, a track which has something of the strength of the late Steeleye Span (they could easily stand against them), and perhaps still has something of groups like Trees, Mary Jane, Morrigan,.. The song is catchy, a bit straight forward folkrock in energy, but is well arranged to give that convincing effect. Almost in every track they are creative with recognisable folkrock-like melodies, from quiet songs to more rocky folkrock melodies, with an almost live energy. What makes these songs stronger are the compact arrangements. They have a perfect drummer. Often the guitar is Byrds-like, in a very attractive way (the closer is a Byrds-version of Pete Seeger's “Turn!Turn!Turn!”). There are touches of nice slide guitar, where the best elements from alternative folk-country are hinted upon. The voice of Roger reminded me just slightly of Al Stewart on “The Humpback Whale”. A bit different is the Procul Harum track (one of Roger favourite bands) which was originally recorded for a tribute album, and a banjo-rhythmic train song, “The Once-Great Railway Family”. A rewarding album.

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Roger Ilott and Penny Davies have for decades been the epitome of the Folk tradition.  They have written and recorded a multitude of songs, which chronicle and celebrate the history and tradition of Australia, particularly that of the Northern Tablelands. Based in Stanthorpe, Queensland, they have also been the driving force in the production and recording of many albums by other Aussie Folk artists, including the legendary Gary Shearston.

In every way as important as preserving the traditions of the past, however, Folk Music has always set its sights on being the impetus for improving the world of the future. This is another reason that Roger and Penny's albums across the years have been so admirable. They carry on the tradition of the ‘protest' song which has also been a very big part of that genre's heritage. Both these factors have come forcefully together in two recently released CDs entitled, Chimes of Freedom and Pyramids Road .

Chimes of Freedom begins with a powerful self-penned song, ‘Light Across the Sea', which speaks out for the dispossessed refugees who have been forced from their homes only to be imprisoned and persecuted in the many countries in which they sought asylum.

The next track takes us back gently to the historical facet of the Folk Tradition with the track “Tenterfield'. This song, penned by Gary Shearston, tells the story of the influential Federation Movement speech which was delivered in that town and led Australia towards becoming a unified nation. 

The album Chimes of Freedom is a wonderful journey that leads us across an array of Folk classics and recent inspirational songs which call for change. It incorporates both original and ‘covers' material. The stand-out tracks for me include, ‘Whitehaven Coal', which confronts the destruction of our farmlands, our heritage areas and our water supplies by the mining corporations and the classic  ‘Turn, Turn, Turn',  penned by Pete Seeger from The Book of Ecclesiastes, which was a huge hit for The Byrds in the 1960's. Traditional Folk, Folk/Rock and elements of Australian Country Music come together seamlessly on this CD.

Pyramids Road begins with a compelling original track which chronicles the destruction of Australia's Indigenous heritage by white settlement. Again, in ‘Juukan Gorge', the Indigenous Cultural Heritage is targeted by Mining corporations. So, in many ways this song is a bridge between the two albums. 

Pyramids Road contains a greater number of original tracks some of which were co-written with other artists, including some, such as Gordon Bok, whose own original songs are featured on Chimes of Freedom .

‘Roll on Old River', a co-write with John Broomhall, follows the flow of both the river and the history of Broken Hill. It is followed by Gary Shearston's ‘Riverina Drover', about a family travelling ‘The Long Paddock'. This song highlights how equal the work burden and management of rural properties has always been for Country Women and celebrates the resilience of our Drovers. 

The next track that really demands our commitment to a better future is partly a tribute to Greta Thunberg. It asks the question we all need to ask as we confront the few remaining Climate Change Deniers ...'What Will it Take?' 

The other thing that I really enjoyed about this particular album is that, in its last half, it also showcases the great role our friendships and personal histories form in the journey of our lives. A number of particularly moving songs; ‘Counting quarters', ‘Haul Away', ‘Shadows and Light', ‘Space and Time' and ‘Long Time To Say Goodbye' feature at the end of the album.

Penny Davies and Roger Ilott are multi-talented and highly creative people. They have written, arranged, performed, recorded and produced these CDs on their independent label ‘Restless Music'. Gorgeous harmonies, sensitive instrumentals and arrangements and a very thoughtful sequencing of these story songs make them a very enjoyable experience.

Their fellow artists, their audiences and those in the future who will look back to evaluate the impact of art on heritage will be very enriched by sharing these experiences.  

Pat Drummond 11/05/2021

(Pat Drummond is a singer, songwriter from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, and has performed all over Australia since he was in short trousers.)