Roger Knox, aka the Koori King of Country or Black Elvis (as he’s known in his homeland), and survivor of TWO plane crashes in ONE day (holy shit, now THAT'S a country song!), is an Aboriginal Australian Country & Western singer with a honeyed bear hug of a voice.
Back in the 1980s Roger Knox and the Euraba Band (named after the Euraba bush--which supplied him with traditional medicines made by his Aunt to soothe his crash-related injuries) were the hottest act in Australian Country music, black or white.
These days you’re more likely to find him out of cell phone range in some far flung bush community singing his heart out, counseling the youth and leading by example.
Artist Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers) met Knox on a visit to Australia several years ago. When he heard of Roger and the potentially-soon-to-be-lost subculture of the utterly unique cultural collision that is Koori country, Langford knew he had to be involved. Stranger In My Land is a collection of songs originally written by Aborigine artists who were Knox’s peers and predecessors; some tunes previously recorded but difficult to find as well as several unrecorded, handed-down folk songs (which without this recording, could have been lost forever).
It is powerful and moving material, heartbreaking and hilarious, downtrodden and uplifting, suffused with longing, alienation, resilience and hope; universal themes arising out of largely unexplored context. It possesses the urgency of a Alan Lomax field recording, but with a spirit that remains relevant in today’s world.
Country music crossed the equator in the kitbags of US servicemen in WWII and magically struck a chord with a voiceless and near invisible aboriginal population. Soon American cowboy songs and honkytonk classics were retooled to describe rugged outback lifestyles and the migration from country to city. Turns out, you can’t beat this music as a vehicle for telling tough tales and the Aboriginal Country & Western Songbook is peppered with drinking songs and prison songs; songs that yearn for justice and for home; songs of alienation and the loneliness of the outsider. Humor, resignation and outrage stalk a superficially familiar musical landscape that’s been re-populated with stockmen, bandicoots, wallabies, porcupines, grog-drinkers, pelicans and policemen.