Last Man Down: State House Kid
By Renee Jones
Songwriter/keyboardist Ross Mullins’ landmark 1985 album is reissued here with its 1986 successor ‘This Sporting Life’ on the one disc. I bought ‘State House Kid’ when it was first released, intrigued by Mullins’ short story-like songs, peopled with elderly uncles, urban teenagers, rugby heroes, beneficiaries and a varied cast of others. Each song is a vignette, set to slick jazz/pop arrangements. The roll-call of musicians is
impressive: Steve Garden, the late Mike Farrell, the Newton Hoons‚ Mike Russell and Chris Green, Annie Crummer – to name but a few. The music is
smooth and stylish – of its time certainly, but really not dated. Mullins’ vocals are understated and far from flashy, but lend themselves well to the
stories he spins. There are gently humourous tracks, but the strongest songs are the sombre numbers – State House Kid, Featherston and Missing are genuinely moving, as is the interpretation of James K. Baxter’s poem The
Bay. Strongly recommended to fans of NZ jazz, and those who enjoy well-crafted lyrics.