HEAVEN & HELL - Kim Volkman (self released)
Although guitarist Kim Volkman has a long history in Melbourne bands including The Driver’s Eyes, Bride of the Atom and the Maryhillbillies, he’s probably best known as the sideman to Ian Rilen in the Love Addicts, a position he held with flair for the past couple of years until recently they disbanded following Ian’s death.

This, his first full-length solo effort, was recorded concurrently with his commitments to the Love Addicts. Apparently it was a long and difficult process too, so much so that on the inner sleeve he apologises to his wife and young son for the time he spent away from them. He played pretty much everything on here, and had a hand in production too. Mastered in the US by guru John Vestman, it certainly sounds great.

I’m not exactly sure of the history of the opener, “Mary’s Arms”. I do know it was floating round as a CD single a little while back, but I never got my hands on it. It’s a muscular thing, with soulful vocals laid over a dense, rippling “Roadrunner” type riff.

“Diving Bell” is his take on the old blues standard also known as “Catfish Blues” and “Judgement Day”. Kim renames it “lumbering beast” in a brief spoken intro, for good measure. I once saw him play a version of this solo, on an acoustic guitar in a small room at the Espy, where a few inconsiderate arseholes managed to ruin the moment by talking all the way through it. Here it’s been stretched out to nearly five minutes and beefed up with double-tracked vocals, plenty of raw fuzz & slide and Steve Prictor’s screaming harmonica, and this time round no one’s getting a word in edgeways.

He’s a St Kilda boy through and through, of course, and “Bitter Cup” is his story of dealing with the kind of troubles that suburb is notorious for, back during the time when, as he puts it, he was strung out on a razor blade, with a monkey on his back: “I was on the bottom, but I thought I was on top…I never held the scales and I didn’t count the cost.” Frankly given the choice I’d usually choose to pull my own teeth out with pliers rather than listen to junkie tales, but this is done elegantly and positively, with not a trace of self-pity. The closing track, “Bottle” covers similar ground, though dealing with drink, not drugs.

It’s tempting to try and draw some sort of parallels between Kim, Spencer Jones and Brian Hooper. It may be possible to make the case that lyrically they all fish in a similar depth of murky water, but to these ears they are nothing alike sonically , in texture or in style. There is a lot of sweetness here, especially on tracks like “Black Heart,  “Persia” and the title tune, which is a languid almost country thing, with soaring vocal backing from Vivienne Gaye.

Official launch date for this is January 5, 2007; what a great way to start the year. - TJ Honeyuckle