Archie Roach is one of Australia's most treasured performers. He has been recording award winning albums for nearly 30 years. In that time he has gifted us with a songbook of incredible import. From his debut album, Charcoal Lane, released in 1990 to his latest album, Dancing With My Spirit, released in March this year, and featuring the sublime vocals of Tiddas, Archie continues to write songs that get to the heart of what it means to be human. And what he sees at the heart of humanity is love.

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I found myself in the crowd having the most exquisite experience with one of our finest singer / songwriters. Sitting in the front row, one picks up every nuance, cough and murmer from a gifted man who has truly suffered and triumphed over great despair. Last night, Archie Roach was surrounded by 8 or so in sync ( with Archie ) musicians, and it was one of the most beautiful concerts I’ve attended. I watched as Archie’s fingers trembled as he held the microphone, as he told us land based, spirit filled stories as introductions to each of the songs. As he sang we became aware of how his spirit soared in the singing, how his fingers stopped trembling as one of the world’s most wonderful soul voices reached out into the hearts of the jam packed crowd. He told us of the pain and darkness he suffered after his wife died, after he suffered a stroke, after he lost one lung to cancer, and then he sang with the heavenly tones of Sam Cooke, or sang in deeper sounds as old as the earth itself. In concert, live on stage, Archie Roach has the voice and vision to hold back all the violence of the world for as long as we can hear him, or hear his love infused refrains echoing in our rearranged molecules. Archie Roach is not only entertainment, he is a history lesson, an encounter, and he wishes us peace. Bravo Archie Roach... Thank you!
— Punter at Let Love Rule show

 
 

Charcoal Lane

When his debut album “Charcoal Lane” was released in 1990, the impact was immediate.

Critics were quick to realise Archie’s soulful vocals and heartfelt lyrics heralded the emergence of a major new artist. The album’s centrepiece, “Took the Children Away”, shone a spotlight on the impact of the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from their families and brought it to the attention of the global community. The single won an international Human Rights Achievement Award (the first time ever awarded for a song), while the album was certified gold and won two ARIA Awards.

 

Reviews:

In the best singer-songwriter tradition, Charcoal Lane is deeply moving in both personal and political terms
— US Rolling Stone
There’s an intangible yet utterly innate quality of Australia’s finest singer/songwriters that gives them both spiritual and chimerical gifts .. and rarely have the two clashed and blended in a way to move heart and mind as with Archie Roach
— CD Review September 1992 Disc of the Month

 

 

Jamu Dreaming

Archie followed the release of his debut album with 1993’s “Jamu Dreaming”.

Musically, the album explored new territory while continuing to traverse themes of love, family and culture.

 

Review:

His music is him, as I have had the opportunity to journey through some of his life with him and his wife Ruby, I also grew up with his Uncle and sat with Ruby and wiped her tears when Archie was having a rough time. I was there the first time they ever sung in front of people, and saw Archie’s house full of Aboriginal children he had fostered and adopted. And remember Ruby ringing one day saying “I’m nervous Paul Simons is coming to visit us and I can only give him vegemite sandwiches we don’t have any money.” I said Ruby you two have everything to give that is more important than a sandwich. And give unconditionally they have.
— Unknown Source

 

 

Looking For Butterboy

Produced in 1997 by acclaimed Canadian music producer, Malcolm Burn, the album was recorded on Archie’s mothers’ ancestral lands in southwest Victoria in an old Port Fairy B&B that was converted into a recording studio.

The album went on to win the 1998 ARIA Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album and the ARIA Award for Best Indigenous Release.

 

Review:

Songs are at the core of Aboriginal culture. As Bruce Chatwin explains in his book Songlines, the creation myths of Australia’s native peoples tell of totemic beings who traveled the continent in what they call the Dreamtime, singing the name of everything they encountered, not only bringing the world into existence but marking an ancestral trail of words and music that functions as both a geographical and spiritual map. On his third album, Aboriginal singer-songwriter Archie Roach ventures forth to assert that legacy from the perspective of his own strange, sad and beautiful life. His 1992 debut, Charcoal Lane, told the heartbreaking story of how Roach (like many other mixed race children) was taken away from his parents at the age of three, part of a policy the Australians termed “assimilation.” His second album, Jamu Dreaming, was a more hopeful celebration of his ancestry and search for justice. Produced by Malcolm Burn, Looking For Butter Boy was recorded with a small band at a guest house in Port Fairy on the Australian coast. It’s a perfect setting for Roach’s most mature, relaxed and expansive set so far. And Roach’s voice — a burnished liquid wonder that has reminded reviewers of such fellow masters of emotion as Ray Charles, George Jones and Aaron Neville — bursts forth from the atmospheric swaying of guitars, mandolin, lap steel, drums and percussion like a rainstorm, at once tender and fierce, ancient and new. Roach’s songs are mostly autobiographical, seemingly simple catalogues of people and places that become bigger and stronger as the details draw you in. On “A Child Was Born Here”, he journeys through the scattered haunts of stolen children. On “F Troop”, he revisits the Charcoal Lane neighborhood of his youth and recalls the bittersweet moment he met his brother for the first time. And on the album’s most poignant track, “Louis St. John”, he joins with his wife, singer Ruby Hunter, in a mournful affirmation of the persistence of the human spirit.
— December 31, 1997 - Archive Review

 

 

Sensual Being

"Sensual Being" is written from Archie's very unique perspective on life and beyond and boasts dozens of earthy, voluptuous stories which resonate with optimism and the joy of being in tune with family, spirit, soul mates and self.

My fourth album, Sensual Being, produced by Richard Pleasance with a few tracks produced by Paul Kelly, is an often-overlooked album. It has probably my favorite song on it, Small Child, a song about my spirit, which I liken to a small child, that inner voice that guides me through life. The rollicking Move It On, about being born in Mooroopna in Victoria, is another favorite, and I really like the special effects used on my vocals in Alien Invasion. This album has so many great songs on it and Richard’s production makes it so memorable. I hope that you enjoy listening to these albums again or for the first time. - Archie Roach

 

 

Reviews:

Everybody knows who Archie Roach is, and everybody who has heard Archie’s music is inevitably touched by it. But not everybody is fortunate enough to witness Archie’s recording performance genius up close. I am one of those lucky people who have.  Having embarked upon recording/producing, Sensual Being (in collaboration with Paul Kelly on four tracks) in my inner Melbourne back yard studio I got to witness Archie’s brilliance first hand. My job was to chisel away at approaches and sounds etc until the backing tracks complimented and did justice to Archie’s songs but the real magic didn’t happen until his singing was tracked. Standard procedure is to get levels and ask your singer to warm up whilst the hardware is all sorted. Singers usually use this time to lark around, cough and splutter but not Archie. Every take, whether a warm up or not, was sung as if it was Archie’s last ever performance. His eyes would close, his arms and fingers would splay out as if to reach into your soul and then his voice would nail you to the wall. Several times I could feel the tears welling up only to turn around and see Paul sitting to my rear with red eyes in the same boat. Archie is such a gentle soul but if he had a weapon it would be his voice. He could take down Armies with his beautiful voice and lyrics. They would pack up and go home. Producing Sensual Being was a huge privilege for me. I think of Archie as a national treasure, we are so lucky to have him.
— Richard Pleasance.
“Sensual Being” is the fourth incredible album from singer/songwriter Archie Roach. Like all of its predecessors, “Sensual Being” is written from Archie’s very unique perspective on life and beyond and boasts dozens of earthy, voluptuous stories which resonate with optimism and the joy of being in tune with family, spirit, soul mates and self.
— Editorial Review

 

 

Journey

In 2007, his album “Journey”, a companion piece to the “Liyarn Ngarn” documentary, was released. The film documented the journey Archie made with his friend, the late British actor Pete Postlethwaite, and political leader Patrick Dodson. 

The men covered the troubled landscape of modern Aboriginal Australia in the hope of reawakening a discussion of the many issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and of Reconciliation.

 

 

Reviews:

Archie, a “stolen child” himself, is one of the finest artists of his generation, and a guiding light for the indigenous struggle for recognition and reconciliation. He’s been called the Aboriginal William Blake. His music sticks in the soul. It gets deep inside you. These songs are a reaffirmation of identity, country, beliefs and spirit, and as Archie himself says, “they’re about how no one listened to our recommendations on stolen kids or people dying in jails. And so it continues ... but we are still watching and constantly taking note.”
— Pete Postlethwaite

 

Liyarn Ngarn & The Tracker

In 2007, his album “Journey”, a companion piece to the “Liyarn Ngarn” documentary, was released. The film documented the journey Archie made with his friend, the late British actor Pete Postlethwaite, and political leader Patrick Dodson.

The men covered the troubled landscape of modern Aboriginal Australia in the hope of reawakening a discussion of the many issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and of Reconciliation.

Read about Pete Postlethwaites Liyarn Ngarn journey


 

Music Deli Presents archie roach-1988

The second in a series of important artist releases from the live archives of ABC radio's music deli program captures some of the first ever recordings of Archie Roach.

 The majority of the album recorded in 1988 captures the raw power and emotion in song of what many who weren't celebrating 200 years of white settlement were feeling that year - particularly in the poignant 'took the children away' other highlights 'weeping in the forest', recorded live at Melbourne concert hall when Archie supported Yothu Yindi in January 1992 - and the 'Christmas eve' song with Paul Kelly was also recorded live in ABC studio in 1990.

 

Reviews:

“The first song he did was ‘Took the Children Away’ and I remember not knowing what to say after he’d finished the song - it was incredibly moving and emotionally charged. Archie had poured his heart out in that song. One take was all that was needed - and that’s how the afternoon progressed with each song that followed. Seven songs from that afternoon are included on this CD, and even though some are in a pretty raw state they’re loaded with power and emotion. It was a session I’ll never forget.”
— Paul Petran

 

 

Into the bloodstream

In early 2010, Archie’s life took a dramatic turn with Ruby’s sudden death.

Struggling to cope with the loss of his soul mate, Archie suffered a massive stroke that left him temporarily paralysed along his right side, unable to talk, walk or play his guitar. After intensive rehabilitation Archie briefly returned to performing. In 2011 he was diagnosed with cancer and was facing an operation to remove half of his lung.

Any one of these obstacles could have been career ending, but a year later, Archie returned with a new album, “Into the Bloodstream”. It did not dwell on tragedy nor lean on the impressive legacy of his career. Hailed in many quarters as a rebirth, the album proved Archie was as relevant in 2012 as he was when “Charcoal Lane” first propelled him into the national spotlight. “Into the Bloodstream” collected numerous awards, but perhaps more importantly, the healing effect of that record - on Archie and his audiences – provided a way for him to begin to live again.

 
 

Reviews:

Through his music, and as a role model, Archie triumphed against the odds, going on to achieve national and international status as a talented story-teller and musician.
He tells the stories that motivate a nation, and did so at a time when no-one was listening
— Deadly Awards

 

 

25th Anniversary of

Charcoal Lane

Charcoal Lane was co-produced by Steve Connolly and Paul Kelly and rocketed Roach into the national consciousness. The album won Roach two ARIA awards, achieved gold sales, and, unprecedentedly, an international ‘Human Rights Achievement Award’ for the song ‘Took The Children Away’.  The song was written by Roach about his own experience as a member of the Stolen Generations: he was forcibly removed from his own family and community at a young age.

 

The deluxe edition of Charcoal Lane included a thick booklet featuring previously unseen images from the era and lengthy and insightful liner notes. Included in the notes are reprints of significant early features on Archie by Clinton Walker from Rolling Stone and by former ABC Speaking Out producer/presenter Wayne Coolwell that provide, from a unique vantage, an in-depth look at what inspired Archie to create Charcoal Lane and what impact its release had on his and Ruby’s lives. The booklet also includes new pieces by long-time US Rolling Stone writer David Fricke and The Marngrook Footy Show’s Grant Hansen, who documented Archie’s first US tour in ’92. (An often over-looked aspect of Archie’s early recording career is the acclaim he received internationally.)

 

Reviews:

A quarter of a century on, the world weary voice of Archie Roach is still just as mesmerising as he runs the gamut of troubadour acoustic sounds from folk, to country, to balladry, to (inexplicably) a sea shanty.
Even when tackling some of the ugliest parts of the country’s history, Charcoal Lane sounds like love letter to Australia. In addition to a remastered version of the original ten-track record, this reissue comes with a second disc of material from a ‘90s triple j’s Live At The Wireless and modern tribute versions from other artists. Far from filler, the second disc gives the original songs added context for the 2015 listener
— The Music

 

 

Creation

Creation consolidates a body of work from a storyteller who has and continues to make a profound and lasting connection with people of all ages. Many of Roach’s songs have journeyed beyond the shores of Australia to be embraced by cultures worldwide. Such is the transformative power of his songs.

The birthplace of these songs found their genesis at the family’s kitchen table. Archie created, crafted and then recorded songs on an old tape deck. Never far from his side his late partner and musical muse, Ruby Hunter, would provide never-ending cups of tea and occasional harmonies. It was at this kitchen table, with life bursting at the seams all around him; children running around, family and friends dropping in at all hours of the day and night, that Archie captured the essence of those songs that would one day travel to touch the hearts and souls of people worldwide.


 

Let Love Rule

Unlike his early albums, “Let Love Rule” was written around a definite concept. “On this album I wanted to explore the theme of love – what it is, what it means,” said Archie. “I wanted to write about love, or a willingness to love all people.” He was concerned by what he saw happening in the world and particularly in Australia. “We are closing ourselves off and not letting people in. And not just in the sense of not letting them into the country, but not letting them into our hearts, into our minds. This country was built on people coming here from other countries. That’s what made Australia what it is today.”

 

These are big words from a man who personally experienced the suffering of being forcibly removed from his family aged only 3 under the Australian Government’s assimilation policy, the legacy of this brutal policy is now referred to as the Stolen Generations.

Those close to him saw the healing effect of that record - on Archie and his audiences. For Archie himself, it was a chance to begin to live again. “It’s a two-way thing. The audience gives me so much back – it’s hard to explain. But that’s actually what I do this for … to get that interaction with the audience.”

 

Reviews:

Archie Roach’s tenth record is a gem. At it’s core is the theme of love, but overall it’s an 11 song long message of hope: “what I wish for,” as Roach himself says. Covering a range of styles, Let Love Rule centres around his deep and rough-edged voice, the mainstay through these songs which paint vivid pictures of a theme which in no way seems clichéd or overused, not in Roach’s hands anyway. The addition of the Dhungala Children’s Choir and the Short Black Opera Choir on the title track and “No More Bleeding” is a masterstroke; Jen Anderson’s violin throughout plays a pivotal role; the songwriting is poignant and as strong as ever, on an album which fair oozes soul and honesty.
— Samuel J Fell - Rolling Sone

 

 

Dancing With My Spirit

It’s hard to believe that Dancing With My Spirit was recorded nearly a quarter of a century ago, and since that time, for a variety of reasons, has been sitting ‘unreleased’ on a shelf in my studio. The album contains a gift of inspired songs written by Archie, and brought to life during pre-production by the talented musicians who performed on it – Bruce Haymes (keyboards), Dave Steel (guitars), Stuart Speed (bass) and Archie Cuthbertson (drums).

But the songs truly entered another dimension when the Tiddas came to the studio and added their gorgeous, bold harmonies to the mix. The combination of these 3 women and Archie singing together created a magic that’s rare and precious, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have witnessed this creation.

I suppose it’s just that Dancing With My Spirit has been waiting for the right time to reveal itself to the public. That time has now come, heralded by the Tiddas’ announcement that they are reforming especially to sing with Archie once more, and to showcase the songs from the album via series of performances around Australia.

Needless to say I’m absolutely thrilled at this turn of events – thrilled that a recording I truly believe in is finally being released, thrilled that the Tiddas are finally returning to the stage, and totally thrilled to be involved as producer of the album and one of the performing musicians in these upcoming shows. Some things are truly worth waiting for..

 

Reviews:

I remember when writing these songs that they came from a lighter place, in the sense that my previous albums dealt with heavier content. It was also a great pleasure singing with the Tiddas on this album and working with amazing musicians, one in particular being legendary bass player, Stuey Speed. Jen’s production brought out parts of my voice that I never knew existed. It was a memorable time. Dancing with my Spirit is a metaphor for exploring my own spirituality. It gives me great pleasure to present this collection of songs that we have unearthed two decades after they were recorded.
— Archie Roach