Local music veterans The Darling Downs have released their first album in six years – a slow-moving collection of folky, bluegrassy tunes. In The Days When The World Was Wide is named after a Henry Lawson book of the same title, and the album has clearly been influenced by Australian outback culture. The album has an authentic, stripped-back, country-folk sound.

‘Saved’ sets the laidback pace of the album with tinny guitar, banjo and rough yet croon-y vocals from Ron Peno. It’s an atmospheric track that is indicative of the album’s overall nostalgic themes. ‘Forever Night’ is an aptly named song, reminding me of starry, outback night. It’s sleepy and simple, with spacious harmonies and bittersweet lyrics. ‘Wish You Were Her’ is a faster-paced country-sounding piece, with production giving it a vinyl record sound. The straightforward structure, easy pace and banjo fingerpicking in ‘There Were Tears’ give the track a definite country feel, but the predictable cadences are slightly worn out. ‘Between The Forest And The Trees’ is a more upbeat track, with a twangy guitar riff and echoing handclaps.

In The Days When The World Was Wide is musically simple and soulful. However, its lack of melodic variance failed to keep me engaged throughout – the tunes were not especially memorable, nor was the music particularly innovative. The chord progressions were unremarkable. The characterful guitar lines are a musical highlight of the album. The lyrics are poetically written with a narrative feel, again possibly influenced by Australian bush culture.

Overall, the Darling Downs’ album is certainly pleasant and full of character, but it is not something I would go back to listen to with any great enthusiasm.

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