Review: Basement Birds, Bundle Two

Bundle Two
Image Courtesy of iTunes

From what I’ve been reading about the Basement Birds part of the reason they’ve decided to release their album online as three separate bundles is because they wrote and recorded it that way – over three separate sessions. And while the band will be releasing the full album on 16th July I think they made the write decision splitting it into three.

The second bundle, containing the tracks “Holly”, “Hardest Part” and “Heartache on the Radio”, has a distinctly different sound to the first. The same influences are there (all three tracks are still banjo and acoustic guitar heavy) but whereas the first bundle was a full of folk-pop goodness the second is heavy on the 70s Americana rock invoking The Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bruce Springsteen and of course Dylan.

“Holly” in particular captures this 70s sound. There’s a Billy Joel melody hiding in the chorus. “Born to Run” can be heard through the strains of Kav Temperley’s voice. And the harmonies are textbook Crosby, Stills and Nash. Beginning with a simple acoustic guitar the track builds with the addition of piano, harmonica, rhythm section and vocals unlike it turns into a rollicking love song you could imagine being played on a jukebox somewhere in middle America. The lap-steel guitar adds the final, perfect element to the track sealing it’s place as the band’s most American sounding song to date.

To me “Hardest Part” sounds like it should have been a Josh Pyke track. The opening chord progression (along with Pyke’s voice) wouldn’t sound out of place on Chimney’s Afire or Memories & Dust. The harmonies and piano arrangement (along with the second verse sung by Temperley) pull the song into Basement Birds territory but Pyke’s solo sound is all over this track. Which isn’t a bad thing considering how talented the man is. My only complaint with “Hardest Part” is the lap-steel solo: It seems a little forced and a little amateurish. But the song comes together at the end and is another strong showing for the boy.

“Heartache on the Radio” is probably the poppiest track on the bundle. I also think it’s the most lackluster of all seven songs released by the boys so far. The lyrics are a little self conscious and contrived in their irony. The production is also a little muddier than the other songs (maybe to truly capture that 70s sound?) which doesn’t really suit the band’s individual voices. But still a good song and if this is the worst the Basement Birds can do then I’m more than a little excited to see how they’re going to round out the third bundle.

All in all another strong showing from the Basement Birds. Not nearly as catchy as the first bundle but still very solid. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Led Zeppelin Sued by Folk Singer

Led Zeppelin

Looks like Led Zeppelin are in hot water again over alleged plagiarism. Folk singer Jake Holmes is suing Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page over the copyright of the band’s hit “Dazed and Confused”. Holmes claims he wrote and copyrighted the song in 1967, two full years before the version recorded by Led Zeppelin appeared. No word on why Holmes has chosen now to sue.

Listen to the Jake Holmes song “Dazed and Confused” here:

And the Led Zeppelin song “Dazed and Confused” here:

Spotlight On: Genticorum

Image Courtesy of Genticorum

If folk music is as much about the lyrics as it is about the melodies is it possible to appreciate folk music not in a language you understand? After seeing French-Canadian trio Genticorum at this year’s National Folk Festival in Canberra I would have to say the answer is decidedly yes.

Part of this probably comes down to the fact that prior to each song the band describes its story in full in English. But I bought the band’s 2008 album La Bibournoise after seeing the band and three months later, having forgotten all the English translations (there was one song about sausages?), I still have it on high rotation on my iPod – a testament to the quality of the music and the trans-cultural nature of music.

Genticorum, made up of Pascal Gemme (Fiddle, Feet Tapping, Vocals), Alex de Grosbois-Garand (Flute, Bass, Vocals) and Yann Falquet (Guitar, Jaw Harp, Vocals), hail from Montreal, Canada and are primarily French speaking (although they tend to mainly tour English speaking countries). According to the band’s official bio they began in 2000 “when Alex, Yann and Pascal discovered their common love for late night poutine and French Canadian crooked fiddle tunes”. The crooked fiddle tunes have been replaced with tunes of the much straighter variety, the poutine probably still remains on the menu and some traditional folk songs have been added to the repertoire.

Specialising in traditional Québécois music Genticorum’s sound is similar to traditional Scottish and Irish music but with a particular French style. Montreal in Canada is a melting pot of European cultures and this comes through heavily in the music with the band’s celtic roots mixing well with other forms of traditional music. Alternating between fiddle tunes (with a heavy dose of foot tapping) and songs rich with harmonies, Genticorum are definitely at the top of their game when it comes to traditional music.

With the band already visiting Australia this year for the National don’t expect Genticorum to tour here again any time soon. But they have played in Australia a number of times and are firm festival favourites so don’t be surprised if they pop up on the bill somewhere next year or the year after.

Country of Origin: Canada
Sounds Like: Asterix and Obelix crash a Irish music session
File Under: Trad
Official Site:

Spotlight On: Dawn Landes

Dawn Landes
Image Courtesy of Dawn Landes

More so than any other genre folk music seems to really lend itself to strong, passionate female singers. Maybe it’s the melodies, maybe it’s the themes, but folk music really is the domain of women. Think Joni Mitchell, Joan Biaz, Maddy Prior, Sandy Denny and of course most recently Laura Marling. Well we have one more name to add to that list: Dawn Landes.

When I first started listening to Dawn Lande’s new record Sweet Rodeo I almost dismissed it after the first two tracks. Sure, it was good (really good actually) but it was also indie rock – a genre we try and cover sparingly on Timber and Steel. But then the third track on the album, “Money in the Bank” caught me by surprise with its sweet, folk sensibilities. I was intrigued enough to listen further and found an artist who manages to span all of my favourite musical styles in the space of 11 songs – folk, indie, alt-country, bluegrass and back again.

What makes Landes stand out from her contemporary female singer songwriters is the strength of her voice. In a world of Lisa Mitchell, Julia Stone and Sarah Blasko Dawn Landes has chosen to make the most of her strong, confident voice that reminds the listener of Laura Marling or Florence Welch.

Hailing from America’s deep south and based out of New York, Landes has a melting pot of influences that very obviously inform her music. She has toured with the likes of Feist, Jose Gonzales, Midlake, Suzanne Vega, Martha Wainright and The Swell Season which enviably places her firmly amongst some of the hottest nu-folk and indie acts in the world. She has toured downunder before but is currently spruiking her new album across the US and UK. For now you’ll just have to listen to Dawn Landes’ voice via your stereo, iPod or computer.

Country of Origin: USA
Sounds Like: Laura Marling singing Dolly Parton songs in a NY indie club
File Under: Alt-Country, Nu-Folk, Indie
Official Site:

Splendour Tickets Still Available

Ben Harper
Image of Ben Harper and the Relentless Seven Courtesy of Splendour in the Grass

If you missed out on Splendour in the Grass tickets but really want to go listen up: Moshtix has a very very very limited amount of “returned” tickets available from now until the end of the day. These are event tickets only (no camping available) and will cost you about $360. Click through to Moshtix now and snap them up quick!

In case you’ve been under a rock this year’s Splendour features (among others) Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Ben Harper, Florence and the Machine, Paul Kelly, Lisa Mitchell, Midlake and many many more.

Second Basement Birds Bundle Released Today

Basement Birds
Image Courtesy of Basement Birds

Fans of the Basement Birds have cause to celebrate. Not only was half the band (Kav and Josh) on Good News Week last night (see it here) but today also marks the release of their second digital bundle of songs.

The bundle includes the tracks “Holly”, “Hardest Part” and “Heartache On The Radio” and can be downloaded from iTunes. The bundle once again comes with its very own digital booklet.

And if that’s not enough, the band has two more exclusive iTunes releases. Firstly the second digital bundle, like the first, is also available in acoustic form as part of the “iTunes Sessions”. Secondly, the band has been invited to submit four individual “celebrity playlists” to iTunes to give you a better idea of what kind of music influences each Basement Birds member.The playlists will be online later today and the acoustic sessions are available now.

Exclusive Mumford and Sons UK Tour EP

Mumford and Sons
Image Courtesy of For Folk’s Sake

Mumford and Sons announced a massive October UK tour overnight taking in some pretty major venues around the British Isles. As part of this tour they are releasing a limited edition 4 track EP titled Volume 1 under the moniker The Wedding Band. This EP is only available when purchasing tickets to their UK tour and is limited to 100 per venue.

According to the band’s web site “The Wedding Band comprises of Mumford & Sons, and some musical pals, recording some tracks that get played on the road, but very rarely on stage”.

If anyone hears of a way us Australians can get their hands on this gem drop us a line. If we hear anything about its availability here we’ll let you know straight away.

Jack White to Release Laura Marling Single

Jack White
Jack White in Cold Mountain

Jack White of the White Stripes is set to release a single by Laura Marling. Marling recorded the song in Nashville during her recent US tour.

White told the BBC’s Newsbeat “It was perfect – one take. She’s gorgeous. Gorgeous voice and an incredible person. A wonderful girl”. The title and release date of the single are yet to be confirmed although Newsbeat speculates it will be part of White’s Third Man Records ‘Blue Series’. We’ll give you more details as they come to hand.

Angus and Julia Stone 3rd Sydney Show

Angus and Julia Stone
Image Courtesy of Angus and Julia Stone

Having sold out both their Sydney shows for their upcoming national tour, Angus and Julia Stone have just announced a third, all ages gig at the Enmore Theatre on the 28th August. Tickets are on sale now from Ticketek and will no doubt sell out very very fast – get in quick!

Spotlight On: Bang Bang Boss Kelly

Bang Bang Boss Kelly
Image Courtesy of Bang Bang Boss Kelly

The popularity of Mumford and Sons must be both a blessing and a curse for aspiring banjo driven nu-folk acts. A blessing because it has dragged the genre into the spotlight and everyone is looking for the next Mumford. A curse because inevitably any band that even slightly resembles the London quartet is going to be instantly compared.

Take Bang Bang Boss Kelly for instance. The band is heavy on the acoustic guitar, the banjo and the harmonies just like their English counterparts. Every article I read about them (including this one, ironically) has at least a passing reference to Mumford and Sons. But while there’s an unmistakable similarity in sound between the two groups they are, in my opinion, two very different beasts.

Rather than beginning from folk base and working through to a pop-rock sound, Bang Bang Boss Kelly’s influences are very heavily rooted in classic American rock. The band is more Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp with banjos than The Pogues or Fairport Convention. Made up of Chris Drage (banjo, lead vocals), Alex Henriksson (guitar, vocals) Nate Webb (guitar), Peter “Boz” Bosworth (drums, vocals) Rob Smith (bass), all five members are ex hard-core musicians and while Bang Bang Boss Kelly is on the softer side you can definitely hear their former genre coming through.

Bang Bang Boss Kelly’s music is very raw and raucous. The melodies are frantic and the bass drum gets a work out on all of their tracks. Lead singer Cris Drage’s voice sounds like Ben Lee has smoked too many cigarettes and had too many nights on the Jack Daniels. At times Drage’s pitch is out but the rollicking tunes pull him along and you quickly ignore the flaws in favour of the thigh-slapping goodness that comes from the band’s music.

Bang Bang Boss Kelly are currently touring, doing a bunch of dates with everyone’s favourite follicle-themed band The Beards (check out the gig guide for details). If you’re a fan of banjo driven rock check out the band’s Myspace or the clip below.

Country of Origin: Australia
Sounds Like: Ben Lee drank too much whiskey and joined Mumford and Sons
File Under: Nu-Folk

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