Review
 
Wireless Bollinger, online review 3 December 2007
 
ED KUEPPER AND THE KOWALSKI COLLECTIVE

JEAN LEE AND THE YELLOW DOG, PART I
(Das Kong Records [sic])


Review by Liam Tracy
 
Rating 91 out of 100
 

Jean Lee and the Yellow Dog is an extraordinary, epic retelling of the story of Jean Lee, the last woman ever hanged in Australia. Ed Kuepper and his newly formed band named the Kowalski Collective have created an album as exciting as any of his earlier material, one that also manages to be removed from Kuepper’s Saints era. Primarily written by Kuepper’s wife, Judi Dransfield-Kuepper, the album does not fall into the trap of simply retelling the story of Lee and instead delves beyond the surface and looks at the themes of the time and qualities of Lee herself, a beautiful woman caught up in a controversial decision over her guilt which to this day is regarded as dubious.

The storytelling of Dransfield-Kuepper is brilliantly portrayed by Kuepper’s undeniably Australian sound throughout Jean Lee. Rather than focusing on narrative, as many artists have done in the past, this album gives the listener an in-depth perspective on personalities and relationships, with imagery similar to that of author and poet Jordie Albiston. The listener is transported to the post-war 1950s where Kuepper paints the canvas of Lee’s situation, staying crucially Australian in his story telling ensure the album makes its point.

Daddy’s Girl is a portrait of the album’s central character, while the direct sentence given to Lee in That Depends Pt 3 depicts a blunt sadness. This movement between close imagery and its place in the greater story demonstrates the skilful storytelling of Dransfield-Kuepper, a trait that makes this album so unique. Musically, Kuepper has created a masterful sonic working of electric and acoustic guitars, melding this with an array of instrumental treats provided by the all-star line up of the Kowalski Collective: Peter Oxley (Sunnyboys), Jeffrey Wegener (Laughing Clowns), John Willsteed (The Go Betweens) and Warren Ellis (Dirty Three).

It is both Kuepper’s guitar playing and the combined experience within the all-star band that lends a telling maturity to Jean Lee. What’s more, Kuepper’s own production plays to the ability of these veterans, never allowing individual performances to outshine the narrative and mood – a result that is as fresh and new as the Saints I’m Stranded was in 1976.

The intensity of this album is immeasurable in parts, due to the rawness of Kuepper’s vocals. The fast, dance-inducing Hang Jean Lee provides the closest (yet still miles apart) link back to Kuepper’s punk years and the stadium worthy Real to Me [2] – a song punctuated by the surreal roars of “hang Jean Lee” – ensures Kuepper’s power over his instrument is still recognised. Slower inclusions like Demolition show a stripped-back Kuepper that allows the listener to appreciate the storytelling more, the minute of soft noise in Ambient Piece providing the closure needed for the raw intensity delivered over the best part of an hour. The end result is an unfaltering blend of incredible storytelling and musicianship, seamless in its transition. This current project of Kuepper has proven that the man still knows how to produce long-lasting material, and in this case a true piece of historic artwork, even decades after his first masterstroke.

 
The original article can be found at Wireless Bollinger
 
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