How does one of the most exciting new musical acts in the country, a soul duo from Darwin, end up on a Melbourne spoken word CD? Sietta deserve that description, by the way. They broke through in a big way last year, dominating non-commercial radio and playing all round the country on the back of their debut album The Seventh Passenger. Signed to the prestigious Elefant Traks label, people were calling them a hip-hop act, but that didn’t really fit. There was some element of it to James Mangohig’s deep electronic beats, but Caiti Baker’s singing over the top provided a very different element. It was 50s soul vocal meets dirty garage sound, soaring and stomping at the same time. People may not have been able to define what was played, but they knew what they liked.
Have a listen to this and tell me you don’t feel the same…
But the story. It is a Brisbane winter afternoon, mild on southerners. Rapper Joelistics and I are the Jam Jar Cafe in the West End. After a short Queensland tour of music gigs, we’re capping it off with a spoken word show, a new initiative arranged by the venue. A decent crowd are bunched into the cafe’s pleasant back courtyard.
My set goes without a hassle, but through his, Joel starts losing his voice. He’s played a lot of shows lately. He struggles through manfully, and occasionally to great comic effect, the reduction in volume bringing the crowd in closer to hear. Towards the end, he’s struggling. He looks around. James and Caiti are in a booth, having come to see the show after joining us for a show the previous evening in the Valley. It was the first time I had seen them play since their popular emergence, and it had been an impressive performance. Now they’re shifting around needing to head to the airport for a flight. Keen for a respite, Joel asks them to play a song before they go, handing James his acoustic guitar.
Of course they do. James plucks out a few notes, a Southern US vibe, and then Caiti lets that voice go. “When you walk through the garden you better watch your back…” It becomes familiar. ‘Down in the Hole’. The Tom Waits song given a renaissance as the theme song to The Wire, covered each season by a new artist.
This version shreds those others: delicate notes plucked, a singer in complete control using her whole range to twine around them. It’s spellbinding, and stays with me long after they disappear toward a date with airborne aluminium.
Some months later, when GDS settles on making #33 in part The Jesus Issue, something tripped in my mind. “He’s got the fire and the fury at his command, oh, you don’t need to worry when you hold on to Jesus’ hand.” Right, I thought. I have just the thing. I asked Sietta if they would record that song for us. Yes, they said. Yes, yes. When different people love music together, it’s a wonderful thing. When we get to share it with even more of you, it’s better.
Listen to a sample from the track here, and get the whole thing on the CD half of #33. You can even order it now.