Dean Perrett is a successful bush ballad singer songwriter who has not lost touch with his country roots and is often found and working the family farm.
Most country singers today do not have a lot to do with anything country but Dean lives and works on his family cattle property Bowenfels between Nanango and Goomeri in the heart of the South Burnett region. Dean is a fourth generation cattleman and this tradition bears him in good stead for the art of writing Australian bush ballads. Dean’s father Glen took the reins of the property from his uncle Gilbert Perrett in 1970.
Back in 2012, Dean achieved one of his lifetime goals when he won a Golden Guitar with Lee Kernaghan for the song, The Dust of Kalkadoon. He did not let grass grow under his feet. “After my first trip to Nashville, I came home with a massiverespect and awe of how the Nashville musicians approached their country and bluegrass music. I thought we could achieve a top shelf bush ballad recording in Nashville even though this genre of country music was unknown in America. The simple truth is that the Australian bush ballad is great old traditional country and that is what gave the musicians and myself a lot in common when we went to work on the project.”
Dean worked with Nashville producer Larry Marrs on his gospel bluegrass album in 2013. Larry had worked on the road and in the studio with legendary country acts such as George Jones and Marty Stuart for many years and agreed to coproduce Dean’s album of bush ballads. “I didn’t want to tamper with the sound of the bush ballad,” Larry Marrs told me. “Dean was thereall the way to guide me but he still had to trust that we could get the right feel. I have been wanting to make an album like this for 20 years and it took a guy from Australia to bring the songs for us to do it.”
Larry called on some of Nashville’s top musicians including Bruce Watkins on acoustic guitar who toured Australia as part of Dolly Parton’s band, Paul Franklin regarded as the greatest pedal steel player in the world and Charley McCoy on harmonica, who played on recordings with Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Simon and Garfunkel.
Dean is back home in the saddle mustering cattle with his father Glen at Bowenfels. The album is getting good airplay around Australia and Dean is confident the long trip to Nashville has been worthwhile. “I consider I’m The Land my best album so far. All the songs on the album strike at the very heart of who I am. I hope the album will find a special place not only in the hearts of my fans but also at the core of the Australian country music industry. The bush ballad is unique and I hope this project goes a long way toward refreshing the sound while still preserving the integrity of this great Aussie music form.
Words and images by John Elliott