Al Montfort on Martin McBain’s – Winter… on the Harbour


For this installment of Hidden Gems, RSTB’s ongoing series in which artists pick an overlooked classic that’s impacted their life, I’ve asked Al Montfort to pick out a record he thought had gotten lost to time. For those unfamiliar, Montfort is integral to several Australian bands that should be populating your turntable, including Dick Diver, UV Race, Total Control, Terry and Lower Plenty. The latter two both have great albums out this year that have spent their fair share of time on the speakers here. Al picked a small press gem from Tasmanian singer-songwriter Martin McBain. Surely an unknown name to any from the States, McBain was also pretty far off the radar to most Australians as well, having only released this LP on the small imprint Candle in 1983 and two follow-up singles in ’84 and ’86 before slipping from view. I asked Al how this record made its way into his life and what lingering effects its had on his own songwriting.

“This record was found for me,” he recalls. “A very good friend/band-mate/OZ rock lord/record collector came across it through an underground international group of individuals who hunt down obscure records, something I’m not very good at but I am very happy to reap the spoils [of] and have it presented to me. He told me someone was selling unplayed copies on eBay for 25 bucks. I jumped on it. I think my friend was like “you will love this,” and he was right! I am lucky to have heaps of people like this around me. It’s such a great record. It’s got loads of the naive romanticism I love about Jonathan Richman. It’s dark but optimistic. Maybe it’s just the use of the word “easy” in the title but i think “Let Me Go Easy” reminds me of “I’m Easy” by Keith Carradine. Actually, it’s probably the antithesis in the meaning of the song but I get a similar vibe.

Montfort’s muses that the record got lost, “Because Candle Recordings was a tiny record label from Hobart, Tasmania. I don’t think the wider Australian market had the appetite for earnest folk music at the time. Maybe rightly so. I’ve listened to this record so many times I think it would have to seep into my ideas in some way or another. I think asking Mikey Young to play flute on “Run, Run, Run” a track off the new [Lower Plenty] LP is probably influenced by a few things including Winter… On The Harbour, [Van Morrison’s] Veedon Fleece and The Fates.”

The singles that followed show McBain expanding to a full band and are also worth looking into, as they stray into a more folk-rock format that showed promise before he dipped from the public eye. Sadly, the LP itself does remain rather hard to find, and unless you luck into one the way that Montfort did, eBay and Discogs are the best bets on having a copy to hold. There does appear to be a CD reissue of this available though, so for the interested, the tracks can be had. As for Montfort, he can be found populating the Aussie music landscape in endless outfits and chances are if his name’s in the lineup, you should be paying attention. Terry’s HQ is out now on Upset The Rhythm and Lower Plenty’s Sister Sister is out this month on Bedroom Suck.

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