Certain Songs #1138: Midnight Oil – “One Country”

Album: Blue Sky Mining
Year: 1990

After having their biggest world-wide album ever with Diesel and Dust, the Oils took a couple of years off and followed it up with 1990’s Blue Sky Mining, which was nearly as good, spawning a couple of major radio songs in “Blue Sky Mine” and “Forgotten Years.”

As good as those songs were, my favorite song on the album was the slow-burning “One Country,” which I guess is the closest Midnight Oil ever got to doing a U2-style anthem.

At first, “One Country” is little more than Peter Garrett singing — uncharacteristically quietly — over an acoustic guitar. And slowly, ever so slowly, “One Country” builds and builds, until about halfway through, drummer Robert Hirst switches into a marital beat, guitarists Jim Moginie & Martin Rotsey switch to their electric guitars, and then, unexpectedly, bassist Bones Hillman sings:

Onnnnnnnnnnne country
Onnnnnnnnnnne country
Onnnnnnnnnnne country
Onnnnnnnnnnne country

It’s startling, hearing someone other than Peter Garrett take a solo vocal performance on a Midnight Oil, and at first Hillman sounds tentative, like he shouldn’t really be singing by himself, but, of course Garrett isn’t going to leave him hanging, so while Hillman continues to sing, Garrett counterpoints:

Who wants to sit around, turn it up turn it down
Only a man can be, what his life can be
One vision, one people, one landmass
We are defenseless, we have a lifeline

And it is utterly thrilling and absolutely gorgeous, even as they pile on the guitars and strings towards an utterly massive finale, marching on into the distance singing “country onnnnnnnne country” until the end of time.

Official video for “One Country”

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