For us too young to have been there on that fateful April night in 1968 all that we know of the Wahine Disaster are the grainy black and white photographs of the giant ship on its side and the distraught faces of those rescued from the lifeboats. There is some small feeling of nostalgia, but the whole event is too distant from us to inspire any feeling of what it was like and how it affected our nation.
For people who were there like Paul Gurney, vocalist and guitarist of The DeSotos, their lives and outlooks were changed and the memories linger to this day, revealing themselves to us through the music of The DeSotos.
The same melancholic nostalgia effectively portrayed in the song 'In the Harbour,' which is described by Gurney as "a song about loss, set against the backdrop of the Wahine Disaster" resonates throughout the fourteen tracks of Your Highway for Tonight. The sound is similar to the less commercial Springsteen tracks of old blended with the blowing wind against a wool shed in rural heartland New Zealand. For a new record it is haunted by the aesthetics and sensibility of music's golden years, bringing with it old memories which feel no less real and true for a child of the eighties than for someone who was actually there.
Your Highway for Tonight is true easy listening and a perfect accompaniment to the summer sojourn around the Coromandel in your Chrysler. With an average running time of around four and a half minutes these fourteen songs are stories, not sentences, so well suited for those long trips and lazy Sunday afternoons. Unlike some albums, the song length is not a downside. It's more of a requirement. Each track follows a natural flow, much like the lull of the rolling seas and not like winter waves rising, pulling, breaking then abruptly crashing into the shore.
I refute Graham Reid's parenthetic claim that Americana Country Rock is a 'mighty crowded genre.' This nod to the Louisiana music scene is a breath of fresh air in this world dominated by autotuned tween idols and the stale electric must of an overused synthesiser. The weeping of the slide guitar, the unfamiliar sound of the Hammond organ and the unusual event of people actually singing on a record inspire us to feel the music and truly listen to the poetry and stories in the lyrics instead of wallowing in the vaniloquent drone of the dime-a-dozen delinquent teen musicians we are becoming once again drenched in.
The DeSotos have cemented their place as New Zealand's leading exponents of the Americana / country blues genres following the release of two albums that have been universally embraced by the critics.
2008's “Cross Your Heart” was voted Manu Taylor's no 1 New Zealand album of the year, and the 2011 album, “Your Highway For Tonight” is receiving glowing 4 star reviews nationally.
Both albums have supplied the theme and continuity music to the TVNZ South and North series presented by Marcus Lush.