A Tamworth-raised hardcore troubadour who cut his teeth in Sydney’s heaving punk scene, Brisbane-based Paddy McHugh is a musical traveller with a gift for weaving a penetrating yarn. McHugh’s Sydney-inspired follow-up to Trials & Cape Tribulation (2014) is an unflinching storytelling masterwork enveloped in the grittier, seamier textures of Sydney – courtesy of so many loping country-punk rhythms and low-slung guitars. Traversing the human condition, McHugh’s narrators kick against the pricks of Australia’s first city: the bitter sting of poverty amid the hardscrabble contest for living space (‘City Bound Trains’); the shameful systemic disadvantage and neglect endured by Indigenous Australia (‘Meanwhile In Wilcannia’), and hangovers and come-downs of all kinds (‘Held Back Your Hair’). From the fatalism of ‘Down to Sydney’ to the note of proud defiance struck by roots jaunt ‘Sean McDonough’ – the tale of an Irish convict bolter finding accommodation with local Indigenous peoples – it’s an album of engrossing vitality, raw immediacy, and rare insight. Gareth Hipwell