Flicking through a guitar magazine recently, it was a bit of serendipity to see Nigel Wearne in the ''Guitarists to Watch'' section. Serendipity, or good planning on Wearne's behalf, as he is promoting his latest record, Black Crow.
Either way, it's just one example of the kind of praise this man is garnering for his adroit country/folk guitar. And it's not just his playing drawing the attention of guitar enthusiasts. He also makes his own guitars, and played a few of them (including his Martin 000 copy) on this completely acoustic album.
Playing in the spirit of Woody Guthrie, Wearne's influences include Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Ryan Adams and Steve Earle. Used to working solo, his last album had him playing just guitar and harp. For Black Crow, though, Wearne employed the assistance of a band of musicians, who for this project don the collective moniker of the Cast Iron Promises.
''I spent some time deciding who I was going to ask to be in the band and, fortunately, the people I asked could be in the band,'' he says of compatriots Dan Watkins (mandolin), Kat Mear (fiddle/viola) and Andy Scott (double-bass). ''And I think the recording is the better for it.''
Recorded by Mick Wordley (who has worked with names like Jeff Lang and Jordie Lane), the arrangements on the album were all captured live. ''There is only a couple of overdubs,'' he says, obviously pleased with dynamics in the four-piece. Played in a mud brick and timber room, ''for this type of music, to me it makes more sense if what you hear on the album is what you are going to hear live. That's the decision I made this time around.''
Though he had planned to put the band together anyway, the Cast Iron Promises were formed to play the recent Port Fairy Folk Festival. The name came from the title of one of the songs on Black Crow. The song ''pretty much tells the story of why I'm doing what I'm doing now,'' Wearne says. ''We were coming up with band names, and we just liked the name of the song as a band name. I guess it's some sort of a metaphor.''
Talking to Fly the day after Black Crow's release, which is being featured on a range of radio stations, Wearne is happy with the result - even if it hasn't been out for long enough to sell many units.
''I was talking to my wife the other day, and I was thinking, 'Gee, it's getting pretty hard to sell CDs these days.' But then it occurred to me the CD was only released yesterday,'' Wearne laughs. ''When I think about the way it has been received and the air play I have been getting, I couldn't be happier with the way it's going at the moment.
''Country folk is not the style of music you are going to hear on Triple M and so forth, but I'm happy that people feel like these songs are worthy of radio airplay. And lyrically, I'm happy with all of these songs.''
Being selective with what he has put on the album - recording about a third of what he writes - Wearne says, ''My hope is that when I talk to people everyone is going to like a different song. And if that happens to be, that's affirming because it feels like the album is solid.''
November 9 at The Front Gallery & Cafe, Canberra (supported by The Wedded Bliss)
November 11 at Thornbury Theatre (supported by Luke Watt)
November 15 to 18 at Harrietville Bluegrass Convention, Harrietville
November 30 at The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove
November 25 at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton (supported by The Hushes)
■ Arne Sjostedt is a music writer, former drummer and an avid tunes fan