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Cheersquad Records & Tapes is more than pleased to announce the long-deserved re-release, and first-ever vinyl release of the classic Chris Wilson live album, Live at the Continental.
The expanded edition of Chris Wilson’s Live at the Continental will be available on double LP (including a limited coloured vinyl pressing) and double CD and released by Cheersquad Records & Tapes on January 22, 2021, just in time for Chris’ 65th birthday on the 24th. The vinyl comes with a free digital download.
Originally recorded and released in 1994 after Chris had released his first solo album on Mushroom’s Aurora label, Live at the Continental is an intimate recording, made at a beloved venue, of the Melbourne blues, country, folk and roots-rock master, accompanied only by long-time sideman Shane O’Mara on guitar, and Australian jazz luminary Jex Saarelaht on piano. The album holds a singular place in a singular career. It is an Australian classic and was the subject of a documentary film that premiered in 2017 at the St Kilda Film Festival.
The original nine-song CD was expanded with extra material in a low-key fifteen-song independently released double CD back in 2007. That edition has now been remastered with yet more material – seventeen tracks in all – for a new double CD, and, for the first time ever, a vinyl edition. The initial double LP edition will be available in a limited run of yellow and black vinyl, matching the colours of Chris’s beloved Richmond Football Club.
Melbourne’s master blues & roots singer/songwriter/instrumentalist, Wilson was known for his classic solo work as well as his band Crown of Thorns and performances with Paul Kelly & the Coloured Girls, Diesel, Hunters & Collectors, Crowded House, Harem Scarem and punk stalwarts X.
Chris Wilson was a giant of Australian blues and roots music. A big man with a big voice and an even bigger heart, he followed in the footsteps of early pioneers like Dutch Tilders, Matt Taylor and Broderick Smith (and led the way for the likes of Jeff Lang, Ash Grunwald and the Teskey Brothers) and took his feeling for blues into the rock and punk worlds, eventually becoming the heart and soul of Melbourne’s legendary thriving live scene.
Wilson began his career with the pub R&B/soul rocking Sole Twisters before joining heavy hitting post-punk blues enthusiasts Harem Scarem in time for their revered Pilgrim’s Progress album – taking centre stage with his harp on their burning version of Iggy & The Stooges’ “Open Up & Bleed” amongst other great tracks – in 1986. He was known initially as an instrumentalist; he was often seen with a sax hanging off his neck but it was his harp playing that quickly drew attention. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, he was adding harp to the work of friends Hunters & Collectors (he played on 1987’s What’s a Few Men), Crowded House on their album Woodface, punk-rock legends X, and most famously, Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls (and most famously there on “Dumb Things”), with whom he undertook a 45-date North American tour.
Soon enough Chris found his voice upfront of his own group, Crown of Thorns. And what a voice it was; a rich, elastic baritone that fearlessly traversed areas that few since Tim Buckley had ventured through. At the same time Wilson also made his mark as a songwriter, and seemingly overnight he became the complete package.
Local success for records by Crown of Thorns and another project, The Pubdogs, featuring “Evil” Graham Lee of Triffids/Coloured Girls fame – all released on a label run by 3RRR’s revered blues DJ Max Crawdaddy – led to a deal with Mushroom’s Aurora label, home also to Archie Roach. Debut solo album Landlocked followed and in 1993 he was nominated for best male artist and breakthrough artist at the ARIAs. That in turn was followed by Live at the Continental, which soon became his fans’ favourite, and which had a deep resonance with many.
In 1996, Mushroom paired him up with Diesel as Wilson Diesel for the hugely successful Short Cool Ones – a top 20 smash. The sprawling double CD The Long Weekend followed in 1998 and showed the huge potential of his appeal to an audience of pub-going rock fans who grew up on the Dingoes and Cold Chisel and the like. Along the way Chris opened for both Bob Dylan (who sought him out backstage to shake his hand) and Elvis Costello and earned himself a clutch more ARIA nominations.
Chris soon turned away from the spotlight, preferring to play local and hang with his young and also musical family; wife Sarah Carroll was a member of much-loved country trio Git amongst other projects. They moved down to the Bellarine Peninsula, and Chris continued life and work as a harmonica teacher, running programs for boys at local schools and phoning in music book reviews to 3RRR-FM’s influential Off The Record program. And the music still flowed. New albums, new projects, and he was by now a scene elder – he had new artists who could use his helping hand. Amongst these was young guitarist Shannon Bourne, who recorded and toured with Chris from age 19 til 40, becoming part of the Wilson family and the last person to accompany him on stage. Late in his life, as sons Fenn Wilson and George Carroll Wilson (aka Pollyman) started making names for themselves on the scene, he recorded a final album featuring his new-found drumming skills and teamed up again with old mate Steve Lucas from X in the roaring pub blues rock band the Heinous Hounds, which featured one time Keith Richards & The X-Pensive Winos member Jerome Smith and another old pal, drummer Ash Davies.
In July 2018, Chris announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was unlikely to perform again. His final album was released, eponymously titled. A fundraising concert at the Corner Hotel was organised and quickly sold out. Chris passed away on January 16, 2019 to an outpouring of grief as great as any that Melbourne had experienced in a long time.
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