Since 2017 Deadly Hearts has showcased the contemporary sound of Indigenous Australia. It has celebrated Australian Indigenous music across numerous compilations and championed the storytelling of artists both well-known and loved, and young and aspiring. Ahead of NAIDOC week and Ausmusic month in 2020, the third incarnation, Deadly Hearts: Walking Together was released.
While the first two Deadly Hearts albums focused on songs considered archetypal to Indigenous Australian culture and identity, Walking Together sees artists recreate a song considered personally iconic and inspirational. The result is an eclectic, but a poignantly vulnerable ten-track album. Pulling no punches, the opening track from Ziggy Ramo is a compelling rendition of Miiesha’s Tjitji and features Miiesha no less. The overall sound and tone of Tjitji carry over to A Long Way Away From My Country by Kobie Dee then it transitions to a soulful flavour with Neon Moon. This song marks the second coming of Pitjantjatjara woman Miiesha (featuring The Woorabinda Singers) on the album.
Archie Roach’s Get Back to the Land is then transformed into a modern masterpiece by Drmngnow featuring Emily Wurramara in what is an album highlight before a dramatic genre twist occurs. Mitch Tambo’s electro-pop reworking of Vanessa Amorosi’s Absolutely Everybody is an upbeat gem that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Despite sounding slightly out of place, it is actually situated well to break up the album’s intensity to this point.
Sycco brings the tempo down a notch with subtle dance track Solid Gold. Lyrically, the Pnau song highlights a purpose of Deadly Hearts and generates a welcome positivity, ‘Teaching all the kids and the other kids/ So they’ll know, so they’ll glow/ Solid Gold’. Aodhan’s Always follows with its delightful indie-folk sound and hints of Gotye thrown in the mix. The final three songs bring with them a mainstream familiarity reworked into unique and unforgettable moments. Mi-Kaisha, with her velvety vocals, punches you right in the heart with her rendition of the Bee Gees How Deep Is Your Love. While Isaiah Firebrace and Stan Walker transform Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over into a tri-lingual aural feast.
The cherry on top of an already impressive compilation album is the closing track Beds Are Burning by Southeast Desert Metal. Put simply, it is an epic conclusion. A metal version of a classic, politically charged Midnight Oil song is only made better by Southeast Desert Metal’s lyric change to, ‘It belongs to us/ So give it back’.
Despite dramatic tempo peaks and troughs that render the overall flow of the album somewhat uneven, Deadly Hearts: Walking Together captures the spirit of modern Indigenous music. Given the song choices, the album is mainstream to some extent when compared to the previous two volumes, however, it is sure to be far-reaching in its listenership as a result.
Album Review By Anita Kertes