Archie Roach wins 2021 ARIAs Best Blues & Roots Album for The Songs of Charcoal Lane

Archie Roach. Picture: Morgan Hancock.
Archie Roach. Picture: Morgan Hancock.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this article contains the voice and name of a deceased person.

Gunditjmara and Bundjalung singer-songwriter Archie Roach's album, recorded at his kitchen table in Killarney in Victoria's south-west, has received the nation's top music gong.

His album The Songs Of Charcoal Lane won the 2021 ARIAs Best Blues & Roots Album award on Wednesday night.

The album was recorded last year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his debut album Charcoal Lane.

Roach was thrilled and surprised by the nomination.

"I was surprised actually, just to be nominated was a surprise," Roach told The Standard.

"We recorded the album here at my kitchen table just with two musicians - a guitarist and double bass player - so I was really surprised to be nominated and to win it. It's an honour."

Charcoal Lane is remembered as one of the first time stories of the Stolen Generation were recorded and told to the Australian and world audience.

The album broke down barriers for Indigenous Australians and Roach went on to be the first songwriter to receive an ARIA Human Rights Achievement Award in 1992, he was awarded a Member Of The Order of Australia (AM) in 2015, named Victoria's 2020 Australian of the Year and recently inducted into the ARIAs Hall of Fame.

Charcoal Lane, in Collingwood Melbourne, is where it all began.


"It was a place we used to go... a bluestone lane that led to a factory that used to bag coal, hence the name Charcoal Lane," Roach said.

"That's where we used to gather and have a drink."

The opening title track of the 1990 debut albumis in part about the day Ruby Hunter, Roach's partner in life and music for more than 35 years before her death in 2010, came to Charcoal Lane.

"The girls never came there, and then Ruby rocks up with my sisters following warily behind," Roach said with a chuckle.

"I remember one of my old drinking mates saying 'what do you want, you can't come down here', and she said 'I'm here to see Archie'.

"They were good memories and I think the songs have grown with me through the years as I've grown.

"I think it's interpreted a little differently; I think I realised how they should be sung during the remake The Songs Of Charcoal Lane and how to interpret them.

"When I first recorded them they were just new songs - 30 years later they matured and aged as I have, and became like catching up with old friends."

Archie Roach performs at St Brigids Hall, Crossley in 2009.

Archie Roach performs at St Brigids Hall, Crossley in 2009.

This story Charcoal Lane: Where the 2021 ARIA award-winning album began first appeared on The Standard.