THE DARLING DOWNS ~ HOW CAN I FORGET THIS HEART OF MINE?
We are Ron Peno on lead vocals and Kim Salmon on guitar, banjo and backing vocals.
We formed 4 years ago when Kim followed through on Ron's threat/plea that the two of us would/should record a country album together. Kim visited Ron with his acoustic guitar one evening and by the end of that evening there were 3 songs on Kim's dictaphone. These get togethers happened very sporadically and still do. one thing remains the same. There are always 3 new Darling Downs songs on Kim's dictaphone at the end of the evening.
We don't like to mess with the songs too much. We pretty much play them the way they come to us.
We played our first show at the Corner Hotel Richmond supporting Ed Kuepper on May 22, 2004. Shortly afterwards we played a residency at the Victoria Hotel, Brunswick, then run by indie rock legend Kirsty Stegwasi. We gave her a photo of 2 country ladies from a book about country music - so she could run that in the press instead of a photo of 2 old guys (us). There were copyright issues that prevented the photo being used but she did a drawing of the ladies for a flyer. With Kirstie's permission that drawing has remained as our sort of trade mark.
Carrot Top Records (USA) one sheet:
The Darling Downs stand out as the most unlikely of collaborations between longtime members of the fertile Australian rock scene. While it is not at all insane to imagine the driving force behind The Scientists, Beasts of Bourbon, and The Surrealists, Kim Salmon, working with Died Pretty’s energetic frontman and songwriter Ron Peno, the improbable happens when you consider the result that might flow from such a teaming.
What are the odds that these two towering figures of Australian music, famous for swaggering, noisy, swampy punk rock (Salmon) and soaring pop rock (Peno) would concoct such a perfect love letter to American country folk? 1000-1? Armed only with Kim Salmon’s custom Cole Clark acoustic guitar and Peno’s singular voice and vision, The Darling Downs crafted an almost impossible album: a record of nuanced beauty, a subtle masterpiece that unfolds like a dahlia with each successive spin, giving the listener something new and unexpected at every helping. All from two guys and one pristine guitar.
At times Peno channels the spirit of Appalachian folk’s high lonesome sound, complete with yips, yelps and howls (“In That Jar,” “Let It Breathe”), while elsewhere his (improvised?!) vocals are hypnotically understated, almost delicate--threatening to disappear into thin air before crashing down like thunder (“Loverslain,” “Deep Deep Blue”). Supporting Peno’s acrobatic vocal brilliance is Salmon’s equally understated, elegant guitar playing, perhaps the most restrained of his career, made all the more stunning when you know the fireworks and growl of which he is capable and for which he is famous. From the more traditional strumming on “There’s a Light,” to the fingerpicked sparkle of the opening track “I’ll Be Always There” and “In a Cold Place by a Lake,” augmented by mouth harp and triangle that almost shock when they emerge from the surrounding ambiance, to the near ragas on “Why Did She Leave?” and “Waste My Time,” Salmon showcases not only his versatility but playing of such surprisingly refined grace that it defines the album as one of the best listens of 2006.
Their 18 months of live shows in Australia have garnered the most glowing reviews possible, with their appearance at the 2005 Harvest Festival, in front of The Handsome Family, stealing the show. Our hope is that American and European audiences will have a chance to have their hearts stolen soon.
“With Salmon often infusing the guitar lines with deft lilts and melodies, grasping each song is sometimes as difficult as interpreting a smoke signal in a storm, the ever-shifting qualities of the music making it difficult to categorize. The experience mesmerizes...” –The Age (AU)
“There are plenty of bands around at the moment paying homage to the proto-country rock sounds of The Band, The Byrds and Gram Parsons; only a trivial amount of them can claim to approach the Darling Downs’ idiosyncratic perspective on the country genre.” - Patrick Emery – Beat magazine
“Anyone who saw those guys that day at Red Hill will tell you greatness was at work.” - Marcus Mulcahy - Harvest Festival
"When country music falls into the hands of Kim Salmon (Beasts of Bourbon) and Ron Peno (Died Pretty), and Dave Graney and Clare Moore do the engineering, you can expect something different. Salmon strums away, there's low-key backing and miscellaneous wailing, and Peno is in full whining country mode singing songs of lost love and general unhappiness. The result will never win hearts and minds in Tamworth. It is simply too daring, too deeply felt and far too experimental." Bruce Elder, SMH
ABC dig Radio Interview: The Darling Downs. www.abc.net.au/dig/stories/s1739258.htm
Ron Peno and Kim Salmon have introduced dig to the genre "Countrapolitan", and for that we're forever grateful - even if they say that their Darling Downs album How Can I Forget This Heart of Mine? is much more stripped back than the label might suggest.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Appalachian folk sounds of the disc has found better record company support in the USA than it has in Australia, with Carrot Top records (also home to post-punk country band The Handsome Family) getting behind the duo.
released November 5, 2005
• Producer, Guitar, Vocals, Jew's Harp, Percussion – Kim Salmon
• Vocals – Ronald S. Peno
• All songs Salmon/Peno
• Engineers – Clare Moore & Dave Graney
• Mastered By – Greg Wadley
• Artwork By – Peter Barrett (Hoof.net.au
• Photography – Dave Tacon