While collaborating on their duet projects, Leah and Helen were also members of the country music band, 18 Wheels, which had a long-running residency at iconic Brisbane venue, The Zoo. The band covered classic country tunes from Hank Williams to Jerry Jeff Walker, before beginning to compose original music. In the time-honoured tradition, the band broke up soon after recording their eponymous album.
Pray for Rain: “18 Wheels was my first steady experience of playing in a pop (country pop) band; arising from that, “Pray For Rain” was my first real stab at writing a pop song.” —HR
18 Wheels began in 1997 with a year of Sundays at The Zoo. The first shows mixed hard-truckin’ hillbilly hymns with southern gospel, Gene Pitney with Buffy Saint Marie, From a Jack to a King with Wichita Lineman. In an age where most boast 22 or more wheels on the highway, 18 Wheels presented a tribute to twangy guitar, catchy songs and a troubled mind – classic country, folk and gospel.
This proved to be light pleasant work, so after a time the Wheels set themselves to writing something catchy, twangy and troubled. The result is the 18 Wheels debut album Country Gospel Deluxe. Here are seven new songs with classic lines, and four foot-to-the-floor covers. There’s some swampy, groove-y stuff, frilly picking duels, lovely vocal harmonies and some real dark pop.
It’s not just nostalgia, ‘though Jamie grew up on Grady Martin (with Willie Nelson) and Luther Perkins (with Johnny Cash). It certainly is a worship of good song writing, and Helen has a memory like steel trap for pop music of the 60’s and 70’s. This isn’t a carbon copy of twee Americana. Leah spent too long digesting the stylistic glories of Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis to try to be anything but herself. It’s a modest approach to simple music and drummer Kym is a patient fellow. It is not exactly what you are expecting, and that’s Toby out there in left field.