The Re-Mains, Inland Sea – Reviewed by Andrew Hull

inland-seaThe path of the artist is never straight. There are no absolute truths and a day’s work does not translate reliably to a day’s pay, that is a labourer. The artist must take greater chances; they are by their very nature, open to all possibilities, interested in all eventualities, willing to embrace all opportunities. That is the way of the artist. Then there is the artisan, filled with passion for his chosen field that dedicates himself to his craft, cultivates his skills and gathers the perfect tools to continue refining and defining his path.

Mick Daley may well be a skilled artisan and possess tireless work ethic of the labourer, however his journey, and the documentation of it in song is all art. With the Re-Mains latest full length album, Inland Sea, the diverse journey has never been more vividly expressed. The album tours the Australian landscape as one would expect, (the national psyche has always been close to what the Re-Mains are) but also covers a vast swathe of internal and personal space. This is an album that requires and deserves a few listens, revealing itself over time and in small revelations. It unveils the artist and the artisan in the process.

One would not necessarily be engaged in untruth to declare that Inland Sea is more of a Mick Daley album than a Re-Mains album. By this virtue the indisputable fact is that the Re-mains have, of recent years, been something of a revolving door. Having said this, no two Re-Mains albums sport identical line-ups (save for the occasional LP) – it was a moveable feast of back lines mostly, they were hard on back lines. The Holy Trinity of Country Rock N Roll remained relatively fixed at the front. Father, Mick Daley sermonising like a great oak at centre stage, Son, Leigh Ivin breathing steel and electric guitar fire and brimstone at stage right, Holy Ghost, Shaun Butcher gathering in the un-converted with the open arms of his rolling banjo at the left. Guest artists ranging from a single fiddle to a stage full of Coalface luminaries depending on the occasion. That is the Re-Mains. Inland Sea sports a largely new array of musicians both at the front and back, and while Shaun is present throughout, the elephant in the room is the absence of Ivin.

For the sake of measuring against a benchmark, I put Inland Sea in a random playlist with Field Conditions, Thankyou for Supporting Country Rock N Roll, Love’s Last Stand plus a smattering of Un-released master tracks. It highlighted the change of tone in this album. The songs feel different and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Field Conditions is a masterpiece, a band at the height of its powers. Unrivalled as a live act, the album is a resume of live possibilities blended with mature songwriting and sonic presence. Love’s Last Stand achieves the unlikely act of capturing lightning in a bottle. Thankyou makes a bold declaration of intent. The unreleased tracks, if compiled would further propel the Re-Mains down the same path. The problem is that the band was becoming, dare I say it, predictable.

Change comes to all things and following a sometimes acrimonious split with Ivin, a near fatal collision on tour, and Butcher beset by some very serious illness, Mick Daley found great change thrust upon him. It is a testament to his tenacity that it can be called ‘change’ at all, when it seemed possible that the journey of the Re-Mains was, to all intent and purpose, over.

Inland Sea was born in this turmoil, its bones are formed from the wreckage of a broken van (and band), its flesh grafted from the variety of musical inputs, its heart and soul is the journey of its mastermind, and if it is a Mick Daley album, he uses it to cover a lot of territory. Copper City Motel, 2nd Century, Tequila and Methodone are all familiar ground for Re-Mains fans, you could be listening to any of their recorded releases. Your Reward, Woke Up Sad, Left on King and Who Shot Johnny D have all been hinted at previously, most notably on Field Conditions – hey, writers develop a style, it’s no crime. It’s the slower numbers that point to the truth. Things I Remember, Things I Forget is a simple, beautiful song that is given a beautiful treatment. Gentle and rich it exposes the frailties of Mick’s vocal which only serves to enhance the storyteller’s credentials as a tireless journeyman. The song builds like a familiar lover, without need or greed; it takes you exactly where you need to be. Praise be to The Rooster pours out a sticky dark molasses, underpinned by a refrain loaded with country sensibilities it is a dark tale of redemptive coincidence, uncertainty and tragedy. Clever writing. This Could be Anywhere is a triumphant wake up call with a simple major chord riff that will be returning to your subconscious for many years to come. A song of loneliness and unity, born of travel and of global as well as personal realisation. Othello’s P76 declares a savage (albeit beautiful) indictment on contemporary Australia. One can embrace the pointed finger of the song before one realises our own complicity is also being questioned. These songs define the album. They describe the journey of the artist and reflect the skills of the artisan.

There is also plenty of evidence of the labourer on the album. Mick has had to work hard to get some of these songs out and it shows. Pumulwuy reaches too far and the lyric suffers for the sake of the narrative – the painter beholden to the bricklayer. Who Shot Johnny D recalls echoes of Folk Singer Blues and while not necessarily offensive, when you can write songs as well and prolifically as Mick Daley, one does ask, why?

Christian Pyle’s treatment of the album will almost certainly inform the next batch of songs written by Mick. There is fullness to the sound that sets it apart from other releases. One is constantly reminded that this is a version of a song, a ‘take’, of a vocal, a mix of the component parts, all changeable on any given day. One can instantly conceive a hundred variations. Where other Re-Mains albums stamp their singularity without question or discussion, with Inland Sea the listener is invited to ponder the possibilities of further exploration with the sound. You can be engaged in the process.

The players on the recording all work together, which is no mean feat given the temporal and spatial scale of its production. Songs written over a long period of time, recorded in parts in brief opportunities are typically a recipe for disaster. However, this album has been given a sound, and whether it is Mick Daley on the cover or The Re-Mains, it is an album. It holds itself together, the songs talk to each other, they interact, they share the space. It is in fact, a fine album.

This country and its musically literate owe a great debt to Mick Daley; we have owed him for years. As a labourer he has never shirked his workload. Always turning up prepared for the toil, always first in with the dirty work and last to complain about the pay. As an artisan, there are more lessons in Micks canon that will probably ever be learned. The application of skill and dedication, the refining of craft, the sheer ruthless persistence, these are fine qualities for a building a body of work. Inland Sea however, is the document of neither labourer nor artisan, it is the diary of the artist and the path of the artist is not straight, but one can only hope that as his journey continues, Mick will leave behind markers like this one to show us where he has been.

You can purchase Inland Sea by visiting the Re-mains website at


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