" I have lived my whole life to get to this point" Audrey Auld states in the accompanying press release and Tonk is, indeed, a career highpoint. In some ways it places her right back to the territory of her first release Fallen. This is the most directly country-orientated release she has done in some time, in what has been a varied and interesting career that has seen her play folk, roots, singer/songwriter with hints of blues and more - Americana in general. All of it has been believable and honest. It comes from a Tasmanian and Auld has listened, loved and learned this music both from the outside looking in and the inside looking out.
She has always managed to mix the hard facts of life with underlying humour and hope. The songs move from the considered pain of Crying the Blues (written by Willie P Bennett) to a funkier upbeat dissertation on her current home town Nashville. There are two songs bearing that city's name: The first is upbeat and the second a fiddle-led lament for the fate of a singer trying to find fame and fortune in Music City. Rack Off is a riposte to those who may not understand her or generally manage to displease or annoy the fiery feminist. There is a another version of this song available as a download and one side of a 7" single where Rack is replace with another four letter word beginning with F. You have been warned. You mess with this lady at your peril.
Her home in East Nashville has meant that she had been able to call on the city's finest to play with her on this album and given their strengths and talent she has delivered perhaps her finest vocal performance to date. But when you stand in front of Kenny Vaughan, George Bradfute (the album's co-producers) and such players as Fabulous Superlatives Harry Stinson and Paul Martin to steel players Chris Scruggs and Gary Carter along with Andy Leftwich, you bring your game face.
The album title is endorsed by songs like Drinking Problem, Lonely Town, Broken Hearted Woman and Sweet Alcohol. The latter the album's second cover song, written by Terry McArthur. This is balanced by the humour of Your Wife and Bury Me at Walmart. It sees the lady wishing to be interred in a certain spot in the store so that the object of her desire can see her everyday. Auld is adept at getting these emotions into a song in a direct way that leaves no doubt to what the song is all about.
This is an all round great album. It is rooted in traditional country music but is never backward looking. The playing and the singing are focused and sharp. The songwriting is well thought out. However it is, above all, great fun. A great listen. It certainly honks my tonk.