When originally released in 2007, Cannot Buy My Soul featured some of Kev Carmody’s most enduring songs, as well as reinterpretations by prominent Australian artists. In 2020 it’s been expanded to feature six more tunes by the Indigenous singer-songwriter, as well as covers of those tracks by other high-profile Australian musicians. Courtney Barnett’s take on the love song “Just for You” is striking in its minimalism, while the pairing of Jimmy Barnes and Kasey Chambers on “Black Bess”–a song about three tragic characters, including the titular Indigenous woman who becomes addicted to cocaine and a man who was killed in the Vietnam War–unites two of Australia’s most distinctive voices. Mo’Ju and Birdz’s cover of “Rider in the Rain” (produced by Trials) takes the folk blueprint of the original and reinvents it as a soul, hip-hop, and electronica mash-up, while Kate Miller-Heidke transforms the simple acoustic fingerpicking of “Blood Red Rose” into a haunting, atmospheric number befitting its poetic lyrics (“She’s like the morning dew left to melt on a blood-red rose”).
Carmody’s plaintive acoustic songwriting charts the expanse of the human experience, from both an Indigenous perspective (“This Land Is Mine”) and one informed by his days as a young man on droving runs through Outback Australia (“Droving Woman,” “I’ve Been Moved”). The centerpiece, of course, remains “From Little Things Big Things Grow,” his tribute to Vincent Lingiari and the 1966 Gurindji strike, in which 200 Gurindji stockmen, domestic workers, and their families walked off Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory. Represented here in three different ways–the bare-bones folk interpretation by The Waifs; Carmody’s version with co-writer Paul Kelly and Tiddas; Electric Fields’ grandiose, soulful electro-synth rendition, partly in language–it’s a potent reminder of Carmody’s rare skill as a storyteller.