Die Lemme are more of project than a band. Forty musicians play on this album. There are nine producers. The thread that holds everything together is Gary Herselman, one of the ou manne of the local rock scene (he played bass in Johannes Kerkorrel’s Gereformeerde Blue Band on the Voelvry tour) who wrote all but two of the songs here and who steered much of it even when he wasn’t actually producing or performing.
Herselman has been sitting on some of these songs for years, so he had plenty of material at hand, and his long career in the music industry, as a player, songwriter and owner of a distribution company meant that he knew a lot of people and a lot of people knew him or about him. All of this came together to produce a remarkably good record with distinctly South African charm to it. This is especially prominent in many of the vocals as well as the songs themselves. Herselman sings in an unshamed white South African voice, and several of the other vocalists follow suit. This is a record with a South African accent.
And if you’re bothered by or despondent about the state of South African rock music then here’s an album with a South African vibe to it that you can get behind. Especially if you’re embarrassed by the state of Afrikaans popular music. Herselman always wrote in two languages a and there’s a sequence of Afrikaans songs here with remind us that as a member of the Gereformeerde Blues Band and a participant in the Voelvery tour all those years ago he was was part of a movement that allowed Afrikaans and rock to embrace each other. One of those songs is Johannes Kerkorrel’s “Liefde” with a well judged vocal from Arno Carstens and a dark, throbbing arrangement that includes all the surviving members of the Gereformeerde Blues Band.
The other cover is the Radio Rats “ZX-Dan” with original Rats Jon Handley and Dave Davies performing, and a witty brass re-arrangment tacked onto the end.
I’m a soft touch for this record. The guys like Herselman who kept South African rock unbowed (despite being bloodied) in the 80s are perhaps the only musical heroes that I have. Herselman and his supporting cast of veterans and interesting unknowns was hard for me to resist. But this is a record with depth and staying power – it stayed interesting and entertaining after that initial thrill wore off. It’s more than just a late chance to get to grips with a veteran of the local music scene. There’s real quality in the songs, and the performances all are sympathetic towards the songs (or the songs are strong enough for their character and characters to shine through). And sustained quality like this over the length of an album (actually quite a bit more in this case) is a true test of music and makes for a satisfying listening experience.