“Slim & I” (PG) ***
IF you’re Australian and alive in the second half of the 20th century, it’s a fair bet that you’ve heard the music of David Gordon Kirkpatrick (1927-2003).
In 1938, young Gordon changed his stage name to Slim Dusty. What followed became Australian country music history. And reshaped Australian country music.
Not exactly the Australian folk songs that AB Paterson collected and Douglas Stewart and Nancy Keesing enlarged and revised forever in “Old Bush Songs” (Angus and Robertson, 1957). Not Tex Morton’s often lugubrious songs in the early years of recorded music. Nor the songs that in my youth in the early 1950s I delighted and sang in productions by a small Brisbane amateur theatre group. But that’s another story.
To describe Slim Dusty as an icon of Australian country music is to use that term correctly, unlike the galling over-use of its adjectival form, particularly by electric media folk.
In this film, director Kriv Stenders acknowledges Slim’s contributions affectionately and, as far as can be ascertained, accurately. As well he might, having access to the wide range of recorded images and sounds that weren’t available to the folk who wrote and sang in the years when writing down words and music was the only way of preserving the songs they sang about their daily lives and interests.
But Stenders’ film goes further. Indeed, his film sets the record straighter. Tucked at the end of its title is an eponymous “I”.
Who was that person? Well, it’s a lady called Joy McKean who before marrying Slim in 1951 had, together with her sister Heather, an established career in country music. Who, after marrying Slim, created most of the songs that made him famous. And at age 90 is still writing and composing. “Slim & I” is more a paean to her than to Slim.
Onya Joy. Onya Kriv. Can’t say more, better or fairer than that.
At Dendy, Palace Electric and Limelight