I found the soul of Australia in her traditional ballads and poems. They range from the lighthearted and the adventurous, to dark songs written about the Australian penal colonies. Here are some examples I found on Youtube.
Waltzing Matilda – The swagman (itinerant bush worker) moved from station to station on foot with all his possessions rolled in a blanket tied over his shoulder. This ‘swag’ was often his only companion on the ‘outside track’. The swag became known as ‘Matilda’. It swayed as he walked; traveling on foot with a swag became known as ‘Waltsing Matilda.’
Click Go the Shears – itinerant sheep shearers at work and play.
Botany Bay – Convects on board ship, being transferred to an Australian penal colony to serve their sentences. It was a one-way trip.
Wild Colonial Boy – Irish-Australian gunfighter ballad (the statement at the end of this recording is not mine. I have no knowledge of its origin or its meaning.)
The Overlander – Drovers moving cattle or sheep hundreds or thousands of miles to market.
Stockman’s Dream – I love this one! The song mentions many of Australia’s common animals and birds in a bizarre setting. Stay with it, you’ll love the ending!
A darker side of the Australian ballad are the songs of the brutal life of early convicts, shipped to Australia when it was a penal colony. Here’s one: Moreton Bay
Tie me Kangaroo Down – Rolf Harris (not a ballad, just popular when I got to Australia) — and here’s another version I ran across, done with The Beatles. This one’s really a hoot — if you remember the Beatles!
Slim Dusty – favorite country music singer —
Buddy Williams —
Slim Dusty and Buddy Williams made their livings by traveling around Australia and performing road shows at cattle and sheep stations. These two showmen were authentic bush troubadours. I heard both their shows while working in the bush.
The Man from Snowy River – a poem by A. B. (Banjo) Paterson, who also wrote Waltzing Matilda. The movie of the same name is a careful rendition of this narrative ballad.
Clancy of the Overflow – another poem by Paterson about the romance of the bush.