Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase Penelope Swales

Singer and songwriter Penelope Swales is at the cutting edge of contemporary folk in Australia. Like a musical journalist, she constantly tours Australia and the world. She combines wry and often outrageous humour with her deep passion for people and issues. Her spoken word material swings from anecdotes bordering on stand-up comedy to an astute presentation of deeply challenging and thought-provoking ideas. She pokes sly fun at our failings while celebrating with insight and compassion our attempts to build a better world and our capacity for love, courage and sensuality.


Swales has recently released her 7th solo CD in 10 years, which was number 6 on the Australian Independent Blues and Roots charts for two months and has garnered an number of 4-star reviews. The fruit of 5 years of writing, travelling and informal study, Monkey Comfort is a playful combination of anthropology and anthropomorphism that draws on the lush imagery of the natural world to describe the human condition. Swales draws parallels between modern human society and naturally occurring ecosystems, pointing out the predators, scavengers, parasites, grazing herds in our midst. Even large companies are described as Leviathan creatures: "You and I are the plankton that the multinationals graze upon. You and I at the bottom, Bill Gates at the top." Friends and lovers emerge as their animal alter egos, or perhaps as strange plants. The personal journey is expressed as travelling through - or even being - a landscape. Woven through the songs is the idea that we are animals, warm, intelligent, boisterous, sophisticated animals, and that we will never understand ourselves or change the things we need to change about ourselves until we come to realise this.

In concert and in the studio, Swales has re-invented the time-honoured singer-guitarist format. Not only does she sing a cappella and with guitar, but by applying a footswitched on-the-spot sampler to both vocals and guitar she builds live, hypnotic soundscapes over which she delivers a shatteringly incisive commentary. Acoustic Trance might best describe this. She recorded Monkey Comfort as close to live as the studio could take her, even taking a PA in and miking it for added warmth. The album features some very cool Beatbox/mouth percussion by Mal Webb and irresistible double-bass grooves by Amphibian's Barry Hill.

Penelope has just completed a two-months tour of the US following her success at the North East Regional Folk Alliance in New York State last November. Her visa has been approved for a year and she has been will tour again from May to August, appearing at the Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival and the Forksville Folk Festival. In the last 12 months she has toured in Japan, Britain, the United States, Canada, China and New Zealand. Highlights include a headline gig at New York's Estfest Women's Music Festival in August and a standing ovation for her formal showcase at the North East Regional Folk Alliance in New York State. Her favourite event of 2003 was giving workshops at the MiDi School of Music in Beijing. She was described as the pick of the 2000 Port Fairy Folk Festival by Melbourne's Inpress Magazine.

She is also know for her work as singer, guitarist and instrument maker for Cabaret-Style Festival band Totally Gourdgeous.


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