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James Reyne's refusal to rest on his laurels is an integral part of his style, and of his success. His old Australian Crawl hits are undeniably iconic, but he wrote and performed rings around them in his later solo years, which comprise the lion's share of Ghost Ships, his second album for the Liberation Blue Acoustic label.
His first, . . . And the Horse You Rode In On, was a tearaway success in 2005, and remains one of the most popular albums in a series that now spans thirty-odd releases and the cream of Australia's singer-songwriters.
"It surprised me," he says. "That album seemed to make people more interested in the acoustic gigs, cause they've been going down a storm. People I would never have expected to listen to my records have come up and told me they really like the acoustic versions, so it makes sense to continue in that vein."
Fall Of Rome and Motor's Too Fast are among this year's superb rediscoveries. Poignant and powerful 12-string versions of Burning Wood and Always the Way complete a substantial reappraisal of his triple-platinum solo debut album of '87.
Way Out West, the Dingoes song that he and James Blundell took to #2 in '92, reappears as a fast and furious ramble that tilts dextrously at bluegrass.
Then there's a cross-section of a vast and varied career, from his Company of Strangers project with Daryl Braithwaite in the early '90s to faithful nods to some of his underexposed classics, Design For Living and Speedboats For Breakfast.
"I still love the originals and in my heart of hearts I felt a little disappointed those albums were overlooked to some extent," he says. "So here's another chance for people to hear them. It might turn them on to the original versions."
As for those old Oz Crawl crowd-pleasers, well, it's amazing how a man can make peace with his past with nothing but an acoustic guitar, a microphone, a simpatico collaborator in co-producer Scott Kingman, and a modicum of invention.
"Beautiful People is really good fun to do live now," James says. "We managed to mess around with it in the studio, give it some of the rhythm it needs, some percussion. And for a song that has almost become a millstone around my neck, I actually really like this dubbed-up version of Boys Light Up."