Spotlight On: Olivers Army

olivers army
Image courtesy of Olivers Army

The occurrence of two family members making music together is so common now that it’s hardly worth mentioning. It just seems to make sense. The comfort, honesty and mutual understanding that underpin a close sibling relationship create the perfect environment for inspired music to be made. Musical twins, a less common but not unheard-of occurrence, could only experience similar and amplified benefits. Ryan and Todd Oliver, the twins of Olivers Army from the Barossa Valley wine region north of Adelaide seem to exemplify this assumption with their small collection of memorable, chorus driven songs which they describe as “Alternative Atmospheric Folk Rock”.

The brothers enjoyed a rich wave of hype last year, playing some great gigs in Adelaide, getting some radio airplay and having three songs in the top ten of Triple J’s unearthed charts at once. A lengthy hiatus this year has seen that hype dwindle somewhat, but as of last weekend, the guys are back on stage with a bunch of new songs and a full band with new members Adrian Plevin and James Pounsett from Jupiter Lead  and Ryan Hutcheson from The Temps.

With their new EP being launched at the Governor Hindmarsh venue next February, Olivers Army have a lot of work to do to get their names back on the lips of local punters. Boasting a sound from which parallels can be drawn to that of Coldplay (but with a distinctly Australian, Powderfinger-like structure and vibe), they have every chance of experiencing some more national exposure with the upcoming EP.

The clip below is of Ryan and Todd performing “Help Me Find My Way” live in the Radio Adelaide studio, and filmed by Ryan Polei, whose collection of live Adelaide music videos is well worth checking out.

Country of Origin: Australia (Adelaide)
Sounds Like: Coldplay, Jonathon Boulet, Bernard Fanning
File Under: Alternative Folk- Rock

Michael Franti and Spearhead Tour

Michael Franti
Image Courtesy of Michael Franti and Spearhead

Australian audiences need absolutely no introduction to the rootsy funk of Michael Franti and Spearhead. Having already been announced in the lineups of both the East and West Coast Blues and Roots Festivals Franti and co have added a few sideshows around the country. See the dates below for details:

Monday 18th April -Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Tuesday 19th April – Palace Theatre, Melbourne
Sunday 24th April – Enmore Theatre, Sydney

New Iron and Wine Song “Walking Far From Home”

Iron and Wine

Fans of Iron and Wine can get excited – the singer-songwriter has decided to stream the first song from his new album Kiss Each Other Clean on his MySpace. The song, titled “Walking Far From Home”, was originally available to fans only as a vinyl single from selected record stores. Kiss Each Other Clean will be available on the 25th January 2011. While the “Walking Far From Home” is a departure from Iron and Wine’s earlier acoustic work (it’s definitely a lot more electronic) the folk influences are still apparent. Stream it here.

2011 Blue Mountains Music Festival Lineup

The Waifs
Image Courtesy of

Probably the one festival in Australia that truly manages to bridge the gap between the contemporary, trad and indie folk worlds is the Blue Mountains Music Festival of Folk, Roots & Blues. The festival, heading into its 16th in 2011, has just announced its first round of artists including The Waifs (above), Justin Townes Earle, Luka Bloom, Katie Noonan, Mama Kin, Leah Flanagan, TinPan Orange, The Little Stevies, Spooky Men’s Chorale and Busby Marou. The Blue Mountains Music Festival of Folk, Roots & Blues is held from the 18th to the 20th March in Katoomba, NSW. The full lineup is below:

The Waifs
Justin Townes Earle
Luka Bloom
The Backsliders
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
Katie Noonan & The Captains
Mama Kin
Martin Simpson
Tim O’Brien
Crooked Still
Tony McManus
Leah Flanagan & Band
Rosie Flores Trio
The Cottars
Pacific Curls
Andy Irvine and Rens van der Zalm
TinPan Orange
The Little Stevies
Ajak Kwai & her band
Alan Kelly Quartet
Kieran Halpin
Graveyard Train
Frank Yamma
Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel
Spooky Men’s Chorale
Bob Corbett and the Roo Grass Band
Fiddlers Feast
Ange Takats
Les Chauffers A Pieds
David Bridie
Phil Manning
Fiona Scott-Norman (The Needle And The Damage Done)
Nick Charles Trio
Busby Marou
Halfway To Forth
Francesca Sidoti
Brothers Three
Buck & Deanne
Kell Taylor
5 Leaves Left
Joseph and James Tawadros
Slava and Leonard Grigoryan
Gregory Page

Belle and Sebastian Sideshow Dates

Belle and Sebastian

Scottish folk-rock band Belle and Sebastian have just announced a small list of sideshows when they are in the country for the Golden Plains Festival next March. The dates will see the band take the East coast by storm with appearances in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The full list of Belle and Sebastian sideshow dates are below:

Monday 7th March – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Thursday 10th March – Opera House, Sydney
Saturday 12th March – The Forum, Melbourne

Boy & Bear Win Unearthed J Award

Boy & Bear

It probably comes at no surprise to learn that Sydney folksters Boy & Bear have taken out this year’s Unearthed J Award. The band has gone from strength to strength after being picked up by triple j from their Unearthed web site, touring the world, releasing world class music and touring some of the best in the business.

The other two J Awards announced today were Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker for Album of the Year and Washington’s “Sunday Best” for Music Video of the Year.

Review: Passenger at The Vanguard, Sydney

Image Courtesy of Passenger

Passenger supported by Busby Marou
26th November 2010, The Vanguard

While Passenger (AKA singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg) might hail from England he has become somewhat of an honourary Australian in recent months, touring the country extensively both by himself and supporting the likes of Matt Corby and Boy & Bear and releasing his album Flight of the Crow featuring collaborations with some of Australia’s best and brightest musicians. Passenger’s show at Sydney’s The Vanguard on the 26th November (supported by Busby Marou) was originally meant to be the final date in his national tour (more shows have since been added) before the festival season.

When I found out that Busby Marou would be supporting Passenger on his Sydney leg of the tour I was over the moon. I have been a fan of the North Queensland duo since I discovered them on triple j during NAIDOC Week this year (going onto feature them on Timber and Steel) and have been looking forward to catch them when next they crossed my path. Busby Marou didn’t disappoint in their support slot. The laidback acoustic-folk music heard on Busby Marou’s recordings extends to their live show with the boys delivering a cheerful, relaxed performance. While it was obvious Busby Marou were a little awed by playing a venue like The Vanguard in Sydney, they took everything in their stride, sharing with the audience stories of their travels throughout Australia. Their songs were instantly likeable, their harmonies pitch perfect and their musicianship (in particular Jeremy Marou’s lead guitar licks) a joy to watch. I just wish Busby Marou had indulged the audience with more than one song featuring the ukulele.

The applause that greeted Passenger as he made his way on stage was testament to the audience that he has managed to grow in the past couple of years. Selling out a venue like The Vanguard is a long way from busking on the streets of Sydney (where Passenger’s Australian music career began) and it would be safe to say that most people who were at the gig were Passenger fans, not just curious music lovers.

Mike Rosenberg began his set with the warning to “those that haven’t been to a Passenger show before” that the experience was not going to be a happy one. Anyone familiar with Passenger’s back catalogue will know that it is a litany of tales about heartbreak, rejection and loss. So it was a refreshing juxtaposition just how affable, funny and engaging Passenger was on stage when relating to his audience. So many of Rosenberg’s contemporaries (including artists he has toured and collaborated with) seem to spend their live sets avoiding eye contact and conversation with their audiences (letting their music do the talking) which can be alienating and frustrating. But Passenger built an immediate rapport with the crowd, opening himself up and making everyone there feel at home.

Passenger’s solo acoustic show would be one of the best I have seen all year. His ability to tell a story through his music that is both endeering and confronting is a unique gift. At several times throughout the night I turned around to see members of the audience in tears as he wove yet another tale of loss or tragedy. His simple fingerpicking style and sweet vocals evoked the likes of Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson but were also undeniably contemporary in their delivery and style.

Having just released an album of collaborations it was probably not surprising that most of Passenger’s performance consisted of songs not found on Flight of the Crow – many of the album’s tracks lean heavily on Passenger dueting with a wide variety of artists, something that is almost impossible to pull off live. Of the Flight of the Crow songs Passenger did adapt for his solo performance probably my favourite was “Golden Thread” which became a beautifully simple acoustic track removed from Matt Corby’s looping guitars and vocals.

Of course an appearance by at least one of Flight of the Crow‘s collaborators was to be expected and the audience was not disappointed when Passenger was joined by Josh Pyke for “What You’re Thinking”. Passenger introduced Pyke as one of the first Australian artists he had worked with and their camaraderie was instantly obvious. The duet was an almost note perfect rendition of the song and may well have served to sell more than one album at the merch desk later that night.

Overall the night proved to be one of the best gigs of the year. The audience was engaged from the moment Busby Marou got on stage to the point at which Passenger admitted he was planning on doing an encore and we should just play along. With Passenger constantly adding future solo dates, festival slots and support spots it looks as though the English singer-songwriter will be fully adopted by the nation before long. Get yourself along to a Passenger gig sooner rather than later and experience one of the best live contemporary folk acts in the country.

Communion Presents Cloud Control Video

Cloud Control
Image Courtesy of Cloud Control

The folks at Babysweet Sessions have released the final installment in their Communion videos with a piece focusing on Australian up and comers Cloud Control. The video was shot at the November 2010 Communion in Notting Hill, London which saw Cloud Control headlining. Watch it below:

2011 Illawarra Folk Festival Lineup

The Tealeaves
Image Courtesy of The Tealeaves

The Illawarra Folk Festival has the unique drawing card of being within spitting distance of both Sydney and Canberra while being set in the beautiful surrounds of historic Bulli. As a result the festival has the intimacy of a community run event only with some of the best international, national and local folk artists on the circuit. This year’s Illawarra Folk Festival is no different with acts such as Eric Bogle, Ted Egan, Cj Shaw, Dave De Hugard, Get Folked, Martin Pearson, The Handsome Young Strangers, The Tealeaves (above) and of course the festival darlings Wongawilli.

The full list of performers can be found here. The Illawarra Folk Festival is held at the Bulli Showground, Bulli, NSW from the 13th to the 16th January. More information and tickets can be found on the official web site.

Review: Kaki King at Jive, Adelaide

kaki king
Image Courtesy of Kaki King

Kaki King supported by Vorn Doolette
25th November 2010, Jive

Those familiar with the music of Kaki King would be aware that her new album Junior moves surprisingly far away from the style by which she made her name. Most readers of this site, whether fans of Kaki King or not, would be familiar with her seemingly freakish and pioneering percussive slap-pick acoustic technique, which, on the new album, takes a back-seat to a sound which is probably best described as alternative rock. One can expect to encounter mixed feelings and opinions when an artist’s stylistic direction changes suddenly. Cast your minds back to the outrage that surrounded Bob Dylan’s decision to explore writing and performing with electric instruments. Breaking from Dylan’s precedent, there was nothing but positivity and eager anticipation waiting to greet King back to the Jive venue in Adelaide, which was thankfully blessed with her presence for the second time within a year.

On an evening where I experienced the horror of realizing the queasy feeling in my stomach was going to require urgent access to a toilet on a completely toiletless 30 minute train journey, to then unsuccessfully attempt to change my girlfriend’s flat tire instead of having a nice, pre-gig Vietnamese dinner, I was really needing a reason to live by the time I got to the show. Enter stage left: Vorn Doolette. A recent near fatal car accident left the charming performer in hospital for quite a few weeks, but Vorn has since returned to the stage in a big way – minus a piece of his spleen, and plus a few cool scars. Having supported Andy Bull for his comeback gig earlier this month, and with support shows for Jeff Martin (the Tea Party) & Terepai Richmond (The Whitlams) lined up for December, as well as a place at Woodford Folk Festival, Vorn will have no trouble returning to full confidence and picking up where he left off, which was the benchmark for all emerging Australian singer-songwriters to be measured against (the scale of one-to-Vorn Doolette).

The attentive and well-primed audience then condensed stagewards to welcome Kaki King along with her band, which consisted of drummer Jordan Perlson and multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan. The performance kicked off with the hard-rocking number “Falling Day”, from the new album. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about King’s musical diversification, so I decided to reserve judgement until I saw it live, and I must say, rock music is definitely something that flows in her veins. Biting her bottom lip and flaring nostrils with intensity, King moved about the stage like a woman possessed, feeding off the energy in the room and from her band. When you see her enjoying her art like this you cease to wonder what prompted her change in direction. Her new music isn’t just rock music; it’s emotive, technical, and complex rock music. With her two-man band, she explores irregular timings and complex time signatures which further highlight her versatility and capability as a songwriter and musician.

The second song on the menu was “Bone Chaos in the Castle”, a crowd favourite from her 2008 album Dreaming of Revenge. The song fully exhibits King’s percussive acoustic technique which had the audience behaving like meerkats, standing as tall as they could on the tip of their toes hoping to get a good view of what her hands could possibly be doing to make an acoustic guitar sound like that.

The rest of the set continued in this manner; well balanced between songs off the new album, and older pieces of acoustic instrumentalism where the rest of the band disappeared back-stage and let her do her thing. During these times, King had fond words of banter with the audience and discussed all things in-between American Thanksgiving, to the unexpected present her band members had arranged: porn taped to the top of her guitar. Australia has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Kaki King, and it’s fair to assume that in Adelaide at least, fans will continue to support her musical endeavours no matter which direction they lead in.

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