Award-winning singer-songwriter Jack Carty has had a massive few years. 4 critically acclaimed full-length albums; international touring; festivals; a number 1 independent album; a top 40 debut; sold out shows from Lismore to London; an APRA Professional Development Award; relocating to write, record and tour from a base in the UK; and now, a brand-new album for guitar, vocal and string quartet, written with long-time collaborator and former Papa vs. Pretty bassist Gus Gardiner.
The two have been inseparable since meeting in a university elevator in 2009. It's a friendship and creative alliance that's seen them through shoestring tours, share-houses, breakups and bridal parties. Gardiner has also held bass and 'cello credits on three of Carty's four studio albums.
Hospital Hill - due for worldwide release on 1 June - is a truly collaborative effort from these two accomplished musicians. The ten-song collection, co-written and produced by the duo, is a reflection of their individual and combined skills, magnified throughout by a stellar string quartet that includes members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Thematically, Hospital Hill explores the pull of nostalgia, the weight of time and the release of gratitude, delivered with the trademark honesty that has won Carty a dedicated following from Hobart to Hamburg. He explains:
"I've been thinking a lot about home these past few years, specifically the small town I grew up in. I'd been so focused on getting away for so long that it came as a surprise to notice it was still with me wherever I went. It was comforting, too."
The poetic refrain of opener Facing South charms even before its luscious and steady build, signifying the arrival of the strings. Its successor, the title track Hospital Hill, is immediately arresting with its 'cello prelude warming the way for Carty's enviable lilt.
Through the stirring swells of Low In The Highlands and the heart-tugging Antipodes to the final, rolling confessions of Stargazer, this album holds an energy that evokes the spontaneity and dynamism of a live performance. It also features a new take on an old favourite with Kindness Is A Dying Art - from Carty's previous album Home State - reimagined with Gardiner's dynamic strings arrangement. In Gus' own words:
"Having performed and recorded so much of Jack's music over the years, and having had our friendship and lives intertwine substantially, his music feels like a natural habitat for me to inhabit and explore. It felt logical we should work on something that would stretch the boundaries and include my perspective, and that we should capture it live in the studio."
Sweeping, intricate, moving and beautiful - recorded live, in complete takes, over two days in a Sydney studio - Hospital Hill feels ambitious and intimate all at once. Gardiner's clever string arrangements are perfection - lifting, colouring and embodying the waves of Carty's expansive voice. It's a coming together of poetry and playfulness, of vulnerability and cinematicity, via two of Australia's most exciting young composers.
Hospital Hill by Jack Carty and Gus Gardiner will be released worldwide on 1 June.