SLIM & I: Musical Memories

There’s no wonder that Australians remain in awe of the iconic work of country music legend and cultural touchstone Slim Dusty; every aspect of his storied career, from his cow-punching stage name to his leisurely ‘Chips Rafferty‘ swagger and way of weaving bush ballads into our national identity, perfectly embodied the classic Australian story, the chronicle of the humble farm-hand who made a name for himself through his own dedicated vocations.

With such a legendary discography left behind after his death in 2003, it’s not surprising that, similar to other Aussie icons like Peter Brock or Steve Irwin, that his story has once again been reiterated for the screen, but Slim & I, one of the rare Australian features to sneak back into cinemas post-quarantine, arrives with a little cunning twist.

The Ballad of Slim and Joy

In Kriv Stenders‘ wisely calibrated Slim & I, the former’s story is not told alone; Joy McKean, Slim Dusty‘s wife, manager, and prolific songwriter behind most of her husband’s biggest hits, not only gets to share the spotlight with her late partner but gets to relay her side of the story herself. Reflecting the rolling roadshows where David Gordon Kirkpatrick became the eponymous Slim Dusty, Stenders tours across Australia interviewing contemporary musicians who have followed the path that Dusty and Joy ripped up in the ’50s, illuminating the influence that the couple’s work has had upon both country music and Australian history as a whole.

SLIM & I: Musical Memories
source: Universal Pictures

McKean‘s recollections tie together a patchwork of praise, clips, interviews, and Super-8 archival film, an abundance of which is sourced from the 1984 concert film, The Slim Dusty Movie, whose own nostalgic excerpts deflect the need for any dreaded dramatisations and provide a much-needed backbone to the proceedings. Stenders, whose made his bones off encapsulating the different facets of the modern Australian personality, whether it be its rocker charms in the Red Dog series or it’s ugly, unspoken racism in Australia Day, has come off consecutive profiles of Peter Brock and The Go-Betweens, and seems to found a fairly formulaic, but respectable blueprint to package these memoirs into digestible, easy-to-track parcels that service both newcomers and long-term fans of their subjects.

The Road to Success

Kicking off with Slim Dusty selecting his emblematic label at just age 11, to his courtship of McKean and their subsequent travelling country and rodeo shows that were highly popular in rural Australia from the 1950s which helped propel the pair into their first international break-out hit, “The Pub With No Name”, each significant cultural and historic touchstone is specified with enough contextual and critical import that appraises the implications and importance of what Slim and McKean’s accomplishments meant to them and the industry.

SLIM & I: Musical Memories
source: Universal Pictures

As the various talking heads, including Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Keith Urban and Kasey and Bill Chambers punctuate the proceedings with brief covers of their favourite Dusty tracks, a quiet emphasis is implanted towards McKean’s deceptively simple song-writing, an arrangement of chords that, paired with Dusty‘s laidback, larrikin vocal work that epitomised the idea of the Australian country song, were enough to compose a grand total of over 1,000 songs spread across 100 albums, another notch in the duo’s backlog of self-realised triumphs.


“There was Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson, but it was Slim who came along and showed us how to build a following singing Australian songs” is how John Williamson – the Australian country singer-songwriter, not the beloved film composer – introduced fellow music icon Slim Dusty in his 2000 taping of “This is Your Life”, a warm sentiment that succinctly summarises the Akubra-adorned country music legend. This latest feature-length melodic tribute, Slim & I, could be best described as an updated, brightly polished “This Is Your Life” episode for Joy McKean, whose game-changing life has been shaped into the feel-good snapshot of beloved memories and memorable tunes, coalescing into a commendation worthy of Australia’s rural Royal couple.

Slim & I is will open in Australian cinemas September 10 including selected Ace, Grand, Hoyts, Luna, Event, Palace, Reading metro locations and Orana regional locations.

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