HERE WE GO – The Sunny Cowgirls 8th Studio Album
Springtime is upon us again, breathing fresh life into the land for another year. For the hard-working farmers of Australia, it’s all hands on deck as calves drop and stagger to their feet, spring lambs caper in the new grass, and fallow paddocks beckon to the tynes, just waiting to be broken open and planted with another rich summer crop. Springtime is a special time of year. It’s also the perfect season for tireless country duo the Sunny Cowgirls to shake off the frost with a vibrant new collection of songs celebrating the unique rhythms of bush life.
With their typically stunning eighth studio album and ABC Music debut Here We Go, the Sunny Cowgirls set about spinning 12 fresh new yarns rooted in the sun-kissed soil of rural and regional Australia. It’s a mesmerising dedication to the working men and women who keep the wheels turning and Australia fed, overflowing with fired-up summer anthems and hymns to mateship, hard work, and the incomparable Aussie summer.
“We really wanted to get back to our roots and make this album sound like classic Sunny Cowgirls,” elder Cowgirl Sophie explains.
Above all, Here We Go is invigorating proof that rough hands caked in soil, greased with lanolin or stained by sump oil are perfectly suited to the business of straight-arm drinking at the end of a punishing working week.
“Work hard, play hard is our ethic!” says Sophie. It’s more than a mantra.
The Sunny Cowgirls have always sung about the places and people they know best: Sophie herself calls the fertile plains of Gunnedah home, while younger sister Celeste has recently made the trek back west to childhood stomping ground WA.
In reflecting on their lived experience, the eight-time Golden Guitar-nominated duo sing about who they are: sisters raised in both WA and regional Victoria – the Sunny Cowgirls take their name from family farm Sunninghill at Dunkeld, near Victoria’s picturesque Grampians – for whom the bush has always held an irresistible pull. They cut their teeth performing at rodeos and agricultural shows across WA, before slinging their swags into the back of a ute and setting out across the vast expanse of the Nullarbor, working as rousabouts and farm hands along the way – experiences they immortalised in debut 2005 single ‘Rousy’s Life’. The long road and warm glow of stage lights inevitably led the pair to Tamworth’s illustrious Academy of Country Music in 2005 where they caught the attention of Adam Brand – who promptly invited them out on the road. The rest is history written in countless kilometres of bitumen and dirt.
“It’s 11 years – I can’t believe it!” Sophie reflects. “It was 2005 when our first album Little Bit Rusty came out. We were a couple of kids: we were working on farms, rousabouting, driving the Nullarbor. We were literally pulled out of a shearing shed and went out on the road for a big national tour with Adam Brand! We were so green – Celeste was only 17, I think, and I was 21. But we sang songs and we wrote songs about what we were doing as rural youth in Australia, and I think people really resonated with us – especially kids our age. Over the years, we’ve tried to stay true to ourselves.”
Since then, the girls have carved out their own unique corner of the Australian country music landscape, crafting a songbook that perfectly captures the indefatigable spirit of rural Australia. And in singing about who they are, the Sunny Cowgirls have always been uniquely able to sing about who we are: theirs is the authentic voice of the bush. That the Clabburn sisters themselves are brimming with energy and an unflagging sense of fun is just the icing on the lamington!
The Sunny Cowgirls’ tearaway debut Little Bit Rusty (2005) claimed the No. 3 slot on the ARIA Country Charts, signaling the arrival of something special. Since then, they’ve graced the stages of every major country music festival in Australia several times over, from Tamworth to Gympie Muster to CMC Rocks, collaborated with the likes of Sara Storer and Adam Brand, released 7 studio albums, a live CD and two DVDs, and performed across the length and breadth of the wide, brown land.
“We’ve grown up and evolved – got married, had different jobs, had different houses all over the shop,” Sophie says of the journey so far. “But we’re still the same people we were back then.”
Assisting Sophie and Celeste to realise the winning country vision of Here We Go are players drawn from the ranks of Australian country’s best and brightest – as Sophie explains.
“Matt Fell produced Here We Go – we love what he does with Sara Storer’s albums, and John Williamson as well. It was a perfect fit. We had Pete Drummond (Dragon) on drums, Glen Hannah (Kasey Chambers, Jessica Mauboy) on guitar, Shane Nicholson on guitar and banjo, Michel Rose (Slim Dusty, Beccy Cole) on pedal steel, and Matt played bass and every other percussive instrument you hear – from gumnuts to tambourine, you name it, he played it!”
Irresistible lead single ‘Cowboy’ is a warm slab of country fun – and a sly wink to country bachelorettes everywhere:
A Hemsworth kinda cowboy, that’s who I’m gonna meet, I’ll keep lookin’ through those paddocks till I wind up on my feet.
Sophie and Celeste have never shied away from the important business of letting their hair down, be it at a cutting-out party or a B&S ball out the back of Bourke: you can count on the sisters Clabburn to be among the first to plant their elbows firmly on the bar – a fact well established by signature party anthems ‘Cutting Up B&S Style’ and ‘Grog Monster’. It’s a theme given ample space on Here We Go: the supercharged ‘Rev It Up’ demands an airing on the main stage of the hallowed Deni Ute Muster. It’s a track with special significance to the sisters Clabburn – as Sophie explains.
“We’ve done something like 7 or 8 Musters. Our first Deni Muster would have been back in 2005, and we just couldn’t believe it when we got there. We were like two kids in a candy store – our eyes popped open. We couldn’t believe all these utes and singlets and boots and Bundy and fun!”
The slinky ‘Tie One On’ is a similarly compelling celebration of a hard-earned good night out:
Eatin’s cheatin’, now that’s the rule, have a couple of beers while we play some pool…now we’re onto the rums and I’m double-parked, the straight-arm drinkin’ got us kicked out.
The mandolin and rock-steady bass of ‘Dam Fun’ anchor a good-time anthem for hot summer days at the dam shared with mates – cricket bat, esky and Weber in tow.
There are delicate dedications to the healing powers of laughter and companionship in ‘I Need You’, with its gentle, fireside rhythm, and ‘My Little Mate’ – which features one of the album’s clearest examples of the sisters’ exquisite vocal harmony:
Sippin’ on champagne with the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, or cheerin’ on a footy game while we polish off a 6-pack, you’re my favourite friend, you’re the one who’s just like me.
Through it all, Sophie and Celeste salute the hard work and unique strength of the unsung Australians who make their living on the land – ‘Those Big Hands’ is a dedication to the resilience of a capable pair of hands:
You wouldn’t call them smooth and you wouldn’t call them weak. You wouldn’t call them soft, you’d get knocked right off your feet. Yeah, they’re pretty rough but they’re more than capable, what truly makes that man are those big hands.
Carried by some quicksilver pedal steel and infectious drums, ‘I Wanna Be A Farmer’ is a rallying cry for everyone who’s ever dreamed of beating their own path, while ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ is a sweet promise tinged with understanding and compassion –a recognition of those steadfast friends and lovers who see us through the toughest times, in all weathers:
I’ve got your back, babe, I’ll take the wheel. Let me drive a little while into the clear.
‘Took Me Back’ is a fond reflection on simpler, bygone times, while ‘Where I Wanna Be’ recalls the boundless gratitude that made the girls’ much-loved ‘Good Spot Here’ an instant classic, and finds the duo giving thanks for the simple joy of waking up each day on the land.
In true Sunny Cowgirls style, Sophie and Celeste have dozens of live dates lined up for the back-end of the year, taking in towns and cities Australia-wide.
A landmark recording in an already storied career, Here We Go is a stunning and remarkably colourful tapestry, into which the Sunny Cowgirls weave the golden threads of so many stories – stories with roots squarely in the ageless bush, and nurtured by the sure hands of the people who call it home. Stories warmed by the dappled, nurturing light of springtime sun.