DUST OF URUZGAN
reviewed by Jim Low
Fred Smith’s latest, thirteen song collection is a valuable, intriguing by-product of his recent, eighteen months in Afghanistan. It was there that he worked for the Australian Foreign Affairs Department as a Political Advisor. These songs are characterised by their sincere empathy with those fighting and experiencing situations that the average person would find abhorrent.
The CD begins with the powerful, title song Dust of Uruzgan.
Australia has had a long involvement in the Afghanistan war so there is no concession made for the tragic story this song tells. This epic song about the fortunes of war, with its relentless, driving beat, emphasises the reality that wars kill and maim people.
The songs introduce us to a variety of characters. We hear the cocky, bravado of an American soldier in Taliban Fighting Man and the war-weary, disillusionment of another in Zeebrugge FOB. There’s rough humour in NNiet Swaffelen op de Dixi and melancholy in A Thousand Splendid Sons, with its historical information and Afghan feminine perspective. Songs like Christmas in Kandahar, August 20 and Sapper’s Lullaby standout with their addictive quality of wanting to be listened to many more times.
By using the first person and with a wonderful eye for detail, Fred Smith deftly strengthens the narrative of his songs, giving them great conviction. Many of the songs are littered with initialisms and acronyms. A useful glossary is provided as well as very useful, background information to the songs.
This song collection affords the listener a unique, warts-and-all insight into a war by a keen observer of people and events. It is highly recommended.