Rocking Horse to Mars

Released: August 6, 2002

You can buy Rocking Horse To Mars here


Bulletin: …It’s all quality twang
Reviewer: JEFF APTER

As frontman of The Wheel, Australian Kim Cheshire peddled big-hatted country but delivered it with a kind of knowing cool – folks might talk about urban and western, but The Wheel were the real deal. For his solo debut, he’s hooked up with quality players and writers, including The Flood’s Kevin Bennett, who co-writes seven tracks, and golden girl Kasey Chambers, who coos her way through the sultry Ship of Fools. It’s all quality twang, veering between the swinging rockabilly of That’s Right and the bluesy rebellion of All it Took. Cheshire can wrap himself up inside a story, too, as he laments lost love and broken-down dreams like a battle-scarred vet.

Herald-Sun: …it is fairly obvious Kim’s musical tastes tend towards the rootsy

The former lead singer for The Wheel has released his first solo outing. The musical road Kim Cheshire is on takes in soul, bluegrass and rockabilly, with a liberal dose of country.

With Kevin Bennett co-writing many of the songs and other contributions from the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ Russell Smith and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, it is fairly obvious Kim’s musical tastes tend towards the rootsy. Yet this is a manicured sound.

The title track is a nostalgic piece about the idealism of youth contrasted with the materialistic “real” world. It opens with the swing-tinged Back To My Old Ways Again and finishes with the soulful love-lost finale of You Were Gone.

Production is by Cheshire, Bennett and Jeff McCormack; there is great playing by Mark Punch, Rod McCormack and Kim Warner.

Barfly: …a kind of Australian answer to Lyle Lovett
Reviewer: Tony Hillier

The Sydney Laughing Outlaw/Didgeridoo Records alliance, which recently unleashed releases from a pack of derivative 60s’/70s’ sounding young US bands on to the domestic market, unloads birds of a very different feather here. The common denominators this time: Sydney-based; country-flavoured; male singer-songwriters.

Pick of the trio is unquestionably Kim Cheshire’s debut solo album, Rocking Horse To Mars, which stamps the former lead singer of Golden Guitar-winning band The Wheel as a kind of Australian answer to Lyle Lovett. Like the big LL, Cheshire is a highly accomplished singer with an impressively ornamental style and a songwriter who obviously delights in tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The opening verse of The Good Life smacks of Lovett: “I have known the good life of women, wine and wealth/Of limousines and luxury only thinking of my self/All my real emotions just got put up on the shelf/I used to want to be somebody/Now I want to be somebody else”. Cheshire’s not afraid of showing his age either with references to the ‘60s and the dropping of names like Jimi Hendrix, Bobby Vee and Tommy Roe.

Unlike the other two, Kim Cheshire, who sings with a pronounced Nashville drawl (like so many Aussie country and altcountry vocalists), also slips in a couple of covers, and classy ones at that – a memorable version of the Grateful Dead’s Ship of Fools, which has some vintage Robert Hunter verses, and a poignant ballad from the pen of the Amazing Rhythm Ace’s Russell Smith (Anger and Tears). In these and on his own songs, he’s supported by some wonderful back-up vocalists who include Kasey Chambers (on Ship of Fools) and some ‘A’-list instrumentalists including Mark Punch, who gives early rock’n’roll punch to the authentic sounding That’s Right, Michel Rose and long-time Cairns resident Garry Steel, who adds a cute little piano outro to The Good Life.

Michel Rose bobs up again on Mark Lucas’s The Ghost of Lost Creek Road on dobro as well as steel guitar. Lucas also has the services of fiddle whizes Andrew Clermont (who also plays mandolin and didgerido on one track) and Mark Oats, and the back-up vocals of Papa Lips’ Kara Grainger on this follow-up to his critically acclaimed ‘99 debut, Jukebox Jury. There’s impressive variety, with nods to blues, bluegrass and folk as well as country, and while they are lyrically quite clumsy on occasions – at least compared to Kim Cheshire’s offerings – Lucas’s songs are admirably Australian in content, with a country meets city theme, and are undeniably strong in melody and rhythm.

Jack Nolan’s songs on Dreams of Flying, the belated follow-up to his 1997 album Goodbye Familiar, are short on substance compared to Lucas’s and Chesire’s and the album clocks in significantly shorter than the others’, at a miserly 42 minutes (including a repeat of one song, masked as a ‘single edit’ version). On the credit side, Nolan has a pleasantly ethereal voice – there’s just a hint of Nick Drake – and he has a very special guest in Chris Wilson, whose dynamic harmonica playing gives a dramatic lift to several tracks.

Rocking Horse To Mars 4 flys
The Ghost of Lost Creek Road 3.5 flys
Dreams of Flying 3 flys

Up Country: …broad appeal to those who enjoy songs with substance
Reviewer: Bob Anthony

There are some artists in this world that are blessed with voices which are just ideally suited to country music.

Kim Cheshire is one of them.

Add to that, great songwriting ability and the long wait between drinks for Aussie country fans to hear this man again has been well worth it.

Kim was the lead singer of The Wheel, a band full of exceptionally talented musos who went their own ways in the late 90’s.

After a break, Kim is back with Rocking Horse To Mars, an album which shows that when country is in your blood and you are as passionate about it as he is, combined, the result is sheer class.

Kim is a great songwriter who enjoys coming at common themes from a “different direction” and his lyrics are clear, uncomplicated but intriguing.

Vocally, it’s hard to imagine Kim sings anything else but country (He does with the band King Horse but that’s another story).

He has a very smooth, friendly sound which is easy to understand.

On Rocking Horse To Mars, he has brought together 12 songs which looks at life in a broad sense and also from a personal perspective.

It’s an album which isn’t threatening nor is it one which loses your interest after a couple of plays.

From his gentle laid-back tracks like Back To My Old Ways Again, Anger And Tears, Big River, Gone But Not Forgotten and You Were Gone to the more upbeat numbers such as Ancient History, the swing tempo of That’s Right, No Place Like Home and Looks Like Trouble, the rhythms make their way into your system and you find yourself coming back to them.

Kim’s no slouch with the ballads either as he shows with Ship Of Fools, All It Took and the true country flavour of The Good Life.

This is an album which is easy to listen to and will have broad appeal to those who enjoy songs with substance and delivered by someone who appreciates what good country should sound like.

There’s no rough edges on this rocking horse, just saddle up and enjoy the ride.

On The Couch: …he is too fine a talent to be left out of the spotlight
Reviewer: James Kenshole

I’m sure many of you will remember that fine Sydney band of several years back ‘The Wheel’ fronted by the ex-pom Kim Cheshire. The outfit, if my memory is correct only made one SA tour, opening for Gina Jeffreys at the Arkabo in Adelaide.

Sadly the band only made two albums before the various members went their solo ways and I occasionally wondered if we’d ever see or hear of Cheshire again. Well I’m pleased to report that Kim has surfaced with a fine solo album ‘Rocking Horse To Mars’ on Laughing Outlaw Records. Apart from being a fine songwriter and distinctive vocalist, Cheshire always possessed the ability to find quality songs penned by others and the top covers on this album are no exception.

‘Anger And Tears’ is one of modern country music’s finest (until now) undiscovered gems. The tune written by Russell Smith, lead singer with one of my all time favourite bands, the Memphis originated ‘Amazing Rhythm Aces’, and released on his impossible to get solo album ‘This Little Town’ is the real deal tough and tender country tune. ‘The Wheel’ also covered another Ace’s classic, one of the finest anti-war tunes ever written, ‘Last Letter Home’, on an EP they released soon after their second album ‘Good Noise’.

The other cover ‘Ship Of Fools’, on Cheshire’s solo effort comes entirely from left of centre, and the left coast of America, in that it’s an old standard of the Grateful Dead, San Francisco’s best loved and longest surviving hippidelic band. Cheshire, along with stunning harmony vocals from Kasey Chambers, takes the tune to a level of intensity that I’m sure was never reached by its creators!

Covers aside, Cheshire’s own writing standards remain high on songs like the up-beat bar-room shuffle of ‘That’s Right’ and the waltz tempoed ‘The Good Life’, two love gone wrong ditties, where the fella realises ‘he got it wrong’. ‘Looks Like Trouble’ suggests that perhaps it is not always a good idea to revisit an old stamping ground, while ‘No Place Like Home’ is a fine take on the well-worn out ‘road song’. The album’s finale ‘You Were Gone’ with its theme of reminiscing over past love is becoming one of the favourite tunes on my radio show.

Personally, I’m pleased that Kim Cheshire has resurfaced and recorded again – he is too fine a talent to be left out of the spotlight.

Logged Off: …gives Rocking Horse an authentic and enjoyable feel

What does one call the revival of Australian roots/folk/bush music? Australiakarna sounds like a horse jumping event without the Vegemite, and alternative country Oz Style doesn’t quite match it either. It’s also difficult because traditionally Australian country music has stood outside the mainstream pop/rock industry and its influences have been shaped by American sounds as much as it’s been shaped by Australian bush music.

Irrespective of definition, Kim Cheshire has managed to craft an album that references most of these genres, and yet retains a certain Australian-ness that gives Rocking Horse an authentic and enjoyable feel. Cheshire, once the lead singer in country band The Wheel, has gathered an impressive role call of fellow musicians to help him out on his first solo effort. Kasey Chambers, perhaps the most visible and popular of Australia’s artists, shares vocal duties on “Ship of Fools”, turning the Dead’s classic into a country ramble with sweet harmonies, whilst 60s star Shanley Del turns up on the melancholic “Gone but Not Forgotten”.

Cheshire’s skill shines in his lyrics, “Girl you look like trouble to me/please give your confidence my sympathy” being just one of the many couplets that stand out. He also takes on the bluegrass/hillbilly genre, as well as more the traditional and relaxed country styles heard in Nashville. If at times it can seem somewhat cliched or hokey, Cheshire makes up for it with his sincerity and passion. Rocking Horse to Mars is the type of album you listen to on a Sunday afternoon, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Americana UK: …a very mature, polished and personal collection
Reviewer: PB
Rating: 3.5 stars

Debut solo album on Laughing Outlaw from a stalwart of the Australian country scene, Kim Cheshire, a founder member and lead singer of The Wheel and more recently King Horse. Not knowing anything of those two bands, I found one review of The Wheel’s first album, calling it “a welcome addition to your country / line dancing library”. Don’t worry though, this is well clear of Billy Ray territory thankfully. Here he teams up with old band mates Kevin Bennett (who co-writes over half the songs with Kim) and Jeff McCormack and several of his favourite musicians and singers, adds a couple of covers and the result is a very mature, polished and personal collection. Highlights include the traditional country of “The Good Life” and “Gone But Not Forgotten”, the story of a long distance father missing his son (even though I normally hate that kind of stuff) and wonderful harmony vocals from Kasey Chambers on the Grateful Dead’s “Ship of Fools”. Carol Young and Kym Warner both contribute excellent harmonies too. Only the bluesy “Ancient History” and the rock n’ roll of “That’s Right” disappoint, the vocals sounding slightly uncomfortable, Kim’s voice more at home on the straight country songs. This is a good, mainstream-ish, easy going country album, which means that Kim Cheshire probably won’t need to reinvent The Wheel anytime soon (sorry, couldn’t help it). PB

UK website: …Real instruments played with conviction… coupled with Kim’s outstanding lyrics
Reviewer: Malcomb Carter

One thing is certain in this life; we are going to get older and as we do we gain the ability to take on board other musical styles which we might not give the time of day to right now. Sure, Norwegian Death Metal will always be in the record collection, even in later years and whatever the attraction of it is now, the same appeal will be there when listening to it in years to come. But surprisingly country music (not alt. country or new country or whatever name we are going to put on it this year, but traditional, Nashville country music) gets more appealing as the years roll by. It seems impossible as it shouldn’t be that way. It’s not very rock and roll to like the same music as our parents, but country music seems to be the road to take for many once the years begin adding up. From Neil Young and The Grateful Dead, who have both made albums full of it, to Billy Bragg’s albums with Wilco, country music, much like jazz, has more appeal as time passes by.

Kim Cheshire is the former lead singer with Australia’s The Wheel, winning that country’s most prestigious country award, The Golden Guitar, for two years running in 1996 and 1997 for Best Group Of The Year. In the intervening years since then Kim has been writing the songs for this, his first solo album, and has also been playing in a country / blues band Kings Horse. And it’s these relaxed country sounds which form the backbone of the twelve songs on ‘Rocking Horse To Mars’ for the most part , but Kim laces them as well with shots of blues, giving some tracks a more rootsy feel.

There are two covers. The other ten songs are written by Kim alone or with Kevin Bennett (who also co-produced the album with Kim and Jeff McCormack). The first of these covers is a straightforward country reading of a song written by Russell Smith (Amazing Rhythm Aces) and Carol Chase, ‘Anger And Tears’. Good as it is, the other cover is the real gem, taking The Grateful Dead track ‘Ship Of Fools’ from the 70’s and bringing out a tenderness in the song which was not apparent until now, turning what was always a beautiful song into something very special. It’s a stunning version, which features both the always-excellent Kasey Chambers on vocal harmonies and magnificent guitar playing from Stuart French and Kevin Bennett, making the song one of the best tracks here.

Of the originals, the opening, ‘Back To My Old Ways Again’, is the most traditional sounding country track on the album and, being the first song, makes you think that you are in for a whole album in the same vein, especially as the ‘Anger And Tears’ cover follows. Then on track three, ‘Ancient History’, a more rootsy and blues sound emerges. It’s this mixture of blues, country and rockabilly that then prevails throughout the remaining tracks.

Kim has said that there is “only one biographical song” on the album. The others are fiction with little bits of his own and other people’s lives thrown in. Most of the tracks, however, have a personal theme to the lyrics and they are so good and his storytelling so compelling that it’s a guessing game trying to work out which is the only biographical track. Could it be ‘Big River’, where the singer is listening to Bobby Vee and Tommy Roe on a Saturday night as he is getting ready to go out, and meets the girl of his dreams before realising that, “You just don’t know how the pain of love could deal a heavy blow in big river”. Or maybe it’s ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’, a touching tale of a parent’s feelings for a child after a marriage break-up. Kim’s vocals are ideally suited to this song; not over emotional, which would have been easy given the subject matter, but sung with the right amount of soul and reassurance in his voice- “I was thirty nine and you were ten, I guess that we’re supposed to act like men, but you were just a kid and I was too”. Currently all bets, however, are on the next track, the bluesy ‘All It Took’. It’s a nostalgic tale which starts off with its protagonist wandering around the streets “for hours the day that Jimi died”, before telling how every generation is going to change the world and how we try to hang onto these values even though age brings the realisation that it’s not going to happen. “We made it to the 80’s but the vision lost it’s shine” is another example of Kim’s talent of expressing his feelings so well. But, for me, the simple line in that song, “I was only seventeen and that was all it took”, says it all and sums up the whole point of the song in a few well-chosen words.

Throughout the whole album the playing by Kim’s chosen co-musicians is superb. Real instruments played with conviction and a live feeling, coupled with Kim’s outstanding lyrics, make this another outstanding release from Laughing Outlaw Records.

Dutch magazine: …eigenlijk heel weinig mis mert deze cd

Kim Cheshire is een countryzanger uit Australie, die ooit met zijn (vorige) band The Wheel de Golden Guitar in de wacht sleepte, een prestigieuze country-award. Bovendien werd The Wheel in 1996 en 1997 tot beste countryband bekroond in eigen land. Bandleider Cheshire doet het tegenwoordig solo en Rocking Horse To Mars (Laughing Outlaw Records) luidt de titel van zijn debuut dat twaalf pure tunes telt vertaald in het rijke countryidioom. Dat betekent dus dat we ballads horen, afgewisseld met het snellere werk en kleine uitstapjes richting swing, bluegrass en pop. Opvallend zijn de bijdragen: Russell Smith (Amazing Rhythm Aces) en Kasey Chambers (op de Greateful Dead-cover Ship Of Fools). Er is eigenlijk heel weinig mis mert deze cd, alleen vind ik Cheshire in het algemeen wat te gewoontjes klinken.

altcountry: … super stuff!
Reviewer: Doug Floyd

Kim Cheshire is, by all accounts, a long standing name in the Australian country music scene. After spells with The Wheel and King Horse he has decided to strike out on his own and this is the resulting solo album. His style is one of pretty laid back and restful country, with a touch of the blues and rockabilly/honky tonk to make things swing along nicely when the pace seems ready to stall.

Of the twelve tracks on show here there are ten originals and two covers, the pick of which is a pretty fine reworking of the Grateful Dead’s “Ship of Fools”. Featuring the wonderful vocal talents of Kasey Chambers, the arrangement transforms this song into something quite special and makes this illustrious song shine more than ever. As already mentioned this is a record has a very strong country flavour, tracks like “Big River” and “Anger and Tears” pretty much hit the mark as effective examples of contemporary country. “No Place Like Home” a biographical travelogue is nicely enveloped in a lively bluegrass wrapper that showcases the vocal talents of Cheshire to great effect. “Ancient History” has a jaunty country blues feel, while “That’s Right” takes a rockabilly swish and a Cajun rhythm twist to create a mood that’s so funky that it’ll make your dancing shoes come to you! There are a few ballads too, “Gone but not Forgotten” treads the path of the man talking to his ten year old child about the break up of his marriage, the sort of song that George Jones could rip your heart out with. In this version it does come across as a little sugary, but the sentiment is a nice one. “All It Took” is the standout track, a brooding and atmospheric piece in celebration of the romantic age of the sixties and the subsequent failure of the “Armchair revolutionaries high on LSD” to actually hold on to the vision and ending up forming the backbone of the corporate hell of the eighties – super stuff!

‘Rocking Horse to Mars’ is a very competent collection of a range of country music styles, all of which are very ably performed by Cheshire and his band. He has a very smooth vocal style, and the original songs that make up the bulk of the album are strong in terms of lyrical content as well as being very melodic and appealing. There are a few occasions where the foot goes down to give the listener a bit more grit, but in the main it is gentle and affecting stuff.