Les Thomas, “Survivor’s Tale”

“Learning is neverending.” Les Thomas.

Progressive Melbourne residents are familiar with Les Thomas. Like his hero Woody Guthrie, Les is passionately committed to social justice in his own land, and he regards, quite rightly, our abuse of the rights of asylum seekers as a matter of particular urgency. Most of the songs on “Survivor’s Tale” have been heard at protests and benefits, performed by Les on his acoustic guitar.
This album, although it contains such passionate and polemical songs as “Free Ranjini” and “Song for Selva”, is a venture into electric and collective music. In Les’s words, he had “lots of amazing help from different musicians” in its creation. The result is a well-produced rock album with a very Australian feel, a definite contribution (and tribute) to a fine Australian social songwriting tradition. (In a lot of places, this sort of music would be called folk-rock, I guess, because it has a strong Irish influence and often involves a violin. Australians mostly think of it as rock music).
This is a new adventure, an experiment. Often it soars, sometimes it clangs, just a bit. But is the rawness and experimental nature of the music that makes it attractive, encouraging repeated listens. The lyrics are an invitation to experience empathically the journey and outrage of the detained Australian refugee, as good social songwriting should do. There is a more personal invitation in the music.
Survivor’s Tale, in a generous and open-hearted fashion, invites the listener to share Les’s love of his craft, his enthusiasm for expanding his musical horizons. “I definitely tried to do everything as well as possible and learned heaps”, he told me. “I am keen to keep raising the bar as possible with future recordings.”. Since it is just the kind of musical journey I like, I for one am aboard. When you listen to Survivor’s Tale, you’ll be on the bandwagon with me.