Kiss the Earth...One more for the heart...

The song has epic proportions and your rendition shows iconic sensitivities. One more for the heart. A song for the times. I'd have to think hard of cultural transitions. In this iteration it is quintessentially Australian. Not a bad thing. You sound fabulous. 

Phil Cullen, Cullen Media

Former broadcaster and music programmer, 

ABC Local Radio


...songs of individual introspection...


Kiss The Earth


Jazz, it seems, has taken root in the soil of eastern Australia. A jazz singer in the country’s clubs and piano bars as well as a familiar face on the streets of Sydney where she busks, Catherine O’Brien fashions light, airy, folk-tinged jazz songs with a sparse but pretty guitar accompaniment, to which she sings songs of individual introspection and sometimes political protest...

...Wrapping her barbs in the sweetest of musical garments, O’Brien delivers lyrics that belie her songs’ understated and wistful tone. See for details or to purchase the album.

Metropolis Magazine, Japan

CD Reviews May 2, 2003 expressive cool voice she uses well...

Cathie O'Brien

Kiss the Earth and LA or Busk

When I first listened to Kiss the Earth, I wondered why the heck it was in my review package.  A 4-song EP of bright neo-folk songs done with voice and guitar, it was pleasant enough but didn't have the slightest hint of Jazz influence. 

Things made more sense upon listening to LA or Busk, the same singer, Catherine O'Brien, in the same sparse setting but this time mostly vocalizing Jazz compositions. Most come from Australian saxophonist Bernie McGann, but a couple are familiar tunes by Bob Haggart. 

O'Brien has an expressive cool voice she uses well in maneuvering around twisty lines like "Spirit Song" and "Lady's Choice". She exudes an attractive innocence and makes the songs' sentiments convincing. 

She's really nice on the two Haggart songs, "My Inspiration" and "I'm Free", which is really the familiar "What's New" with new lyrics written by O'Brien and is the most haunting piece on the set. 

The time here is unusually short. The songs are so bare-bones that even if EP was added to the CD, the total time would still run under a half hour. A longer set would have been welcome here.

Jerome Wilson

Cadence Magazine

New York USA

February 2003

...gentle CD with a message...

KISS THE EARTH - Cathie O'Brien

Cathie O'Brien's first CD - LA or Busk - was reviewed in these pages last April. She has quickly released a follow-up morsel containing four short tracks totalling 13 minutes.

Last time she sang a mixture of ballads, composed by other people but with her own lyrics, and I described her voice as 'wistful, understated, vibrato-less and subdued'.

This time she again has a guitar accompanist (Nick Hart). She composed all the music on the CD herself, plus wrote the lyrics.

There's a love song ('Well I'm tired of being Stoic, I'm not having any fun') and an urban dweller's yearning for the bush: 'Well I live in the city, where the air's always gritty'. There's also political comment: ABC is a cute song with a 'This is your ABC' message and another song defends the downtrodden Tasmanians against the justice system.

Recorded in the ABC Hobart studios, this is a pleasant, gentle CD with a message - more folk music than jazz. Available from PO Box 28, St Pauls, NSW 2031. 

Derrick Davey

2MBS-FM Fine Music

February 2002's a pleasant. relaxing opus...

Catherine O'Brien 

LA or Busk

Here's a pleasant, relaxing opus to go with an early-evening glass of something. O'Brien is a modest singer and better lyricist, who has set words to three of Bernie McGann's tunes, among others. Keith Hounslow's Kiama Sunrise is a lifting highlight. She is accompanied by the supremely tasteful guitar of Doug De Vries. It's just EP length.

John Shand 

Metro, Sydney Morning Herald 

May 25-31 2001

...despite the busking connotations, this is no second-rate street singer...

Catherine O'Brien

Catherine O'Brien is the singer about whom I wrote in the January issue of Stereo FM Radio. She makes most of her living busking in Kings Cross. This is her first CD.

Despite the busking connotations, this is no second-rate street singer. Her voice reminds me of Astrud Gilberto: wistful, understated, vibrato-less and subdued. This mood is emphasised by her choice of songs, all but one of which are slow, romantic ballads.

Two of the compositions - My Inspiration and I'm Free (What's New) - are by Bob Haggart, while Bernie McGann and Keith Hounslow wrote most of the others. I found Without You Alone, composed by O'Brien's sister Rosaleen, the most attractive of all, with a haunting melody that should be recorded by others. Catherine wrote all the lyrics

Guitarist Doug de Vries and Rosaleen O'Brien on keyboards provide sympathetic support.

Derrick Davey
2MBS-FM Stereo FM Radio
March 2001

...she enjoys the creative and communicative aspects of lyric writing...

LA via the Cross

Jazz singer Catherine O'Brien was working her way up and down the East Coast when opportunity knocked. Invited to visit composer Bob Haggart in LA, she was left to finance the expedition herself. DERRICK DAVEY got the story.

Until 1996, Catherine O'Brien had been a singer of popular jazz standards and ballads around the clubs and piano lounges of eastern Australia.

But her career took a dramatic turn in 1994 when, by chance, she met 2MBS broadcaster Dick Hughes, who was playing piano at the Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills. This was the spark that led to a trip to the US and a meeting with Bob Haggart, the old Bob Crosby bass player, with whom she subsequently corresponded for the rest of his life.

Catherine O'Brien grew up in the Ovens Valley, Victoria, as the fourth in a family of six girls. Music was an important part of the O'Brien family and all the girls were taught to play the piano. Catherine studied classical piano from seven to fourteen, had various vocal coaches and taught herself to play guitar.

A series of accidents affected her ability to gain mainstream employment, but she had already developed an interest in jazz (trumpeter Clifford Brown was a particular favourite) and her introduction to the music business came when she got a one-off gig in the piano bar of the Hyatt Kingsgate in Sydney.

Since that night, years ago, she has sung and played the piano or guitar in restaurants and piano bars up and down the East Coast from Hobart to Cairns.

Until 1994 O'Brien had always sung other people's songs, but a visit to the Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills changed all that. The piano player was Dick Hughes, journalist, pianist and 2MBS broadcaster, who played two Bob Haggart compositions, 'I'm Free' (later with lyrics by Johnny Burke and retitled 'What's New') and 'My Inspiration'. The Bob Crosby Orchestra had recorded both in 1938.

O'Brien was intrigued by the music and, encouraged by Dick, put words to both tunes. She was given Bob Haggart's phone number, rang him and sang her lyrics to his music to him. He was delighted and invited her to visit him in Los Angeles.

This was the easy part.

With very little money, it took her two years busking in Kings Cross to earn sufficient to cover the trip's expenses. She wrote a sign on her guitar case: 'LA or BUST', later changed to 'LA or BUSK', which was to become the tide of her first CD (to be reviewed in Stereo FM Radio next month).

The trip to the US was successful. O'Brien met Bob Haggart and his music publishers and persuaded them to give her permission to use his music. She has sung and recorded her lyrics to Bob Haggart's songs, together with others by Bernie McCann, Keith Hounslow, Grahame Conlon and her sister Rosaleen.

These days busking is part of earning a living. It's still a challenge, though 'Some nights just bubble along nicely and everyone is happy. But mostly the evening is a cocktail of changing emotions,' she says. 'One has to be alert to danger. Then there are the physical demands of the weather. There is a certain amount of dehydration, exposure to rain, damp, humidity and cold. Though the nights are long and exhausting, I am thankful for the generosity and goodwill I have encountered.'

She confirms what many other jazz musicians say: that since the depression of 1987, the abolition of the expense-account rorts and the cancerous spread of poker machines, piano bar and restaurant jobs are harder to find and pay less.

But she enjoys the creative and communicative aspects of lyric writing and has written some 'social comment' songs that are yet to be recorded.

Derrick Davey
2MBS-FM Stereo FM Radio
January 2001

...well known late night busker in 'the cross'...

Kings Cross Arts Guild - Newsletters 



Catherine O'Brien - well known late night busker in The Cross - has recorded some of her music on CD. 'LA or Busk' reflects her many talents and features 2 songs written in association with American Jazz Great Bob Haggart. Also on the recording is her fabulous 'Kings Cross Blues'. Catherine is currently compiling a CD of songs written in and around The Cross by various artists and about The Cross by various artists to be called 'Cross Cut'.

We can help Catherine get to LA by phoning our favourite radio station and asking to hear songs from 'LA or Busk'.

Phone 9398 6631 for copies of the CD (very much recommended).

The 'Cross Cut' CD will be released as part of the CrossCulture Festival celebrations.

All the best, Catherine!

...aunty's anthem...

Aunty's Anthem

In the Budget wash up, we thought we'd leave you with, This Is Our ABC written by Catherine O'Brien, She sent it to Balding last week. 

"Pollies please let it be

It must be commerce free

For it's integrity

It's the only source of information

That isn't dollar driven don't you see?

And how about the future generations

No alternative to pay TV".

Amanda Meade

The Australian

May 2003

"..the most beautiful field mouse silver tongue accompanying innocent guitar.."

Rigo Dittmann
Franz-Ludwig-Str. 11
97072 Würzburg

CATHERINE (CATHIE) O'BRIEN Kiss The Earth / LA Or Busk (self published)


Four songs with their folksy and eight with their jazzy facets, together under thirty minutes, yet still two calling cards of a singer, that for years travelled along Australia's east coast between Hobart and Cairns playing restaurants and piano bars. 

If "Australian search for a Superstar" her vibratoless natural voice would at best have caused a bewildering shaking of the head. 

Why the most beautiful field mouse silver tongue accompanying innocent guitar play when nobody is greedy enough to howl with wolves? 

More urban are the jazz miniatures with her own lyrics, three of these composed by fellow Australian saxophonist Bernie McGann, two others are older by swing-bassist Bob Haggart, who played with the Bob Crosby Orchestra in 1938. 

O'Brien doesn't turn the clock back quite as far.

When she sings "Gentle mercy rain" and "Dreams and memories are no comfort zone" or when she rhymes "old enough to know the score" with "I won't bother you no more" a dark feeling settles on Astrud Gilbertos post-bossa-nova-easyness with flour-dew on the hope promising 60ties.

The woman behind these songs is going her own way between 'Sadness' and 'Madness' and sings the 'Kings Cross Blues' so self assured as the tough present demands. [rbd]

With bad alchemystic wishes

Bad Alchemy
Rigo Dittmann
Franz-Ludwig-Str. 11
97072 Würzburg

(Review from BA 42)

Vier Songs mit ihren folkigen und acht mit ihren jazzigen Facetten, zusammen unter dreißig Minuten, aber immerhin zwei Visitenkarten einer Sängerin, die jahrelang an der australischen Ostküste zwischen Hobart und Cairns durch Restaurants und Pianobars tingelte. Bei 'Australien sucht den Superstar' hätte ihre vibratolose Naturstimme allenfalls befremdetes Kopfschütteln ausgelöst. Wozu die schönste Feldmaus-Silberzunge zu unschuldigem Gitarrengeklampfe, wenn man nicht danach giert, mit den Wölfen zu heulen? Urbaner sind die Jazzminiaturen mit eigenen Lyrics, drei davon komponiert von ihrem Landsmann, dem Saxophonisten Bernie McGann, zwei weitere sind Oldies des Swing-Bassisten Bob Haggart, die er 1938 mit dem Bob Crosby Orchestra eingespielt hatte. O'Brien dreht die Uhr nicht ganz so weit zurück. Wenn sie von "Gentle mercy rain" singt, davon, dass "Dreams and memories are no comfort zone" oder wenn sie "Old enough to know the score" auf "I won't bother you no more" reimt, senkt sich ein Noir-Feeling auf Astrud Gilbertos Post-Bossa-Nova-Easyness und Mehltau auf die hoffnungsvollen 60ies. Die Frau hinter diesen Songs geht ihren eigen Weg zwischen 'Sadness' und 'Madness' und singt den 'Kings Cross Blues' so selbstbewusst, wie es die rauhe Gegenwart verlangt. [rbd]

With bad alchemystic wishes

Bad Alchemy
Rigo Dittmann
Franz-Ludwig-Str. 11
97072 Würzburg