William Fitzsimmons, “Beautiful Girl” Video

William Fitzsimmons

I’m jealous of William Fitzsimmons. Not only has the man got one of the most luxurious beards in folk music but he is able to write songs like “Beautiful Girl”, putting the rest of us would-be songwriters to shame. Add to that a truly mesmerising video (below) and you wonder why any of us should even try anymore. Hats off to you Mr Fitzsimmons – may your beard continue to guide you towards perfection.

New Video From Alexander Ebert, “A Million Years”

Image Courtesy of Folk Radio UK

Last month we posted a link to download the Alexander track “A Million Years” (which we still think is very very Paul Simon-like). Now the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros front man has posted a video of the very same song and it’s absolutely awesome. Check it out below:

Bill Callahan Daytrotter Session

Bill Callahan
Image Courtesy of Daytrotter Sessions

Thanks to the release of his new album Apocalypse Bill Callahan is everywhere at the moment. And probably the most exciting places you can find him is as part of a brand new, fully-downloadable Daytrotter Session.

Rather than playing tracks from his new album Bill Callahan has chosen to dive into his back catalogue for the session performing versions of “Honeymoon Child” (from 2007’s Woke on a Whaleheart), “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” (from 2009’s Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle) and “River Guard” (from the 1999 Smog album Knock Knock).

You can listen download the Bill Callahan Daytrotter Session here

National Folk Festival Fave: Cloudstreet

Image Courtesy of Cloudstreet

It’s funny but I spend much of my National Folk Festival each year “off-program”. While there’s always a bunch of must see acts and new music to discover at the main venues I find the true gems of the National are usually hidden away in the blackboard stages (where anyone can sign up and play) and the sessions organised by The Troubadour and The Merry Muse (this year at the Bellissimo stage) which are only advertised on the day of the performance. I normally make a point of checking the blackboards at both venues each morning before planning my day.

On the Friday night of the festival The Merry Muse quietly announced that they would be showcasing the one and only performance from Queensland’s Cloudstreet. A firm favourite among festival goers, Cloudstreet are a duo consisting of Nicole Murray and John Thompson who specialise in contemporary and traditional folk music. The two part harmonies and the guitar/flute combination presented by Murray and Thompson is absolutely superb and not to be missed on any festival lineup.

Throughout The Merry Muse set Thompson kept referring to the gig as Cloudstreet’s “secret show” which in essence it was – the combination of minimal advertising (it was only because of a small poster on the outside of Bellissimo that I knew the show was on) and a clash with festival headliner Eric Bogle meant the crowd was only about half full, but this just added to the joy of the performance. It felt as though we had been treated to a very personal performance.

Anyone who follows John Thompson’s An Australian Folk Song A Day blog will know just how wonderful his voice (and knack for collecting songs) is. Cloudstreet takes the best of Thompson, combines it with the lovely Nicole Murray and delivers some of the best in Australian folk music. When Murray commented during the set that due to the breadth of music and dance available at the National that everyone experiences a different festival I felt privileged that Cloudstreet had been included in mine.

Country of Origin: Australia (Queensland)
Sounds Like: Tim Hart and Maddy Prior
File Under: Trad, Contemporary
Official: www.cloudstreet.org
Myspace: myspace.com/cloudstreetmusic

Marcus Foster Announces Debut Album

Marcus Foster
Image Courtesy of Marcus Foster

UK singer-songwriter Marcus Foster has announced his debut album to be released in the UK on 13th June (no Australian release date as yet). The album, titled Nameless Path, will be produced by Ian Grimble (Communion) and the wonderful cover art is above. That’s really all the news we have on this but we’ll let you know more as it comes to hand.

Ado Barker Releases Solo Album

Ado Barker Between Up and Down
Image Courtesy of Ado Barker

I credit Trouble in the Kitchen with reigniting my love of traditional music when I first stumbled across them at the 1999 National Folk Festival. Twelve years on and Trouble in the Kitchen are regarded as the premiere trad group in Australia and held up as the band all others are compared to.

So I was a little disappointed that Trouble in the Kitchen didn’t make an appearance at this year’s National Folk Festival (they were there last year and the Festival tends not to showcase the same bands twice in a row). Luckily the group’s fiddle player, Ado Barker, took the opportunity to launch his debut solo album Between Up and Down.

Between Up and Down is a wonderful collection of songs and fiddle tunes and sees Barker collaborating with Dublin bouzouki player Ruairi McGorman. Ado Barker has already launched the album in Melbourne and Sydney so but his show at the National has no doubt brought it to the attention of a wider audience. The cover art for Between Up and Down is above and you can listen to some of the tracks (and contact Ado to order it) via his MySpace.

National Folk Festival Fave: The Fagans/Nancy Kerr and James Fagan

The Fagans
Image Courtesy of The Fagans

This year’s National Folk Festival offered up a rare treat featuring performances from both The Fagans and duo Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. With the latter now based out of the UK (and doing very well for themselves over there) seeing these festival staples is becoming increasingly rare. With Nancy Kerr pregnant they seemed to be hinting that this would be the last time for a while that the couple would be in Australia.

I managed to catch The Fagans in full at the Marquee stage on the Friday of the festival. For the uninitiated The Fagans are a family group consisting of Bob Fagan, Nancy Kerr, Margaret Fagan, Kate Fagan and James Fagan. Focusing on traditional and contemporary music from Australia, USA and the Brittish Isles, The Fagans combine a wide variety of acoustic instruments (including violin, viola, guitar and bouzouki) with wonderful five part harmonies.

Sadly Bob Fagan had been ill prior to the National and was forced to rest his voice for the entire weekend. The rest of the group more than made up for his vocal absense but you could tell Bob was frustrated throughout the entire set, often mouthing the words along with the rest of the group or simply sitting songs out.

As usual the highlight of the set was the wonderful Kate Fagan. In both her solo work and with the rest of the family Kate really personifies the best in a female folk singer – her ability to tell a story through not only her words but through the emotions in her voice really sets her apart from her contemporaries. When combined with the talents of the rest of The Fagans (who truly are masters of vocal harmony) Kate’s voice soars. The Fagans really are a joy to watch and it’s easy to see why they are a firm festival favourite.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan
Image Courtesy of Nancy Kerr and James Fagan

The duo show I saw with Nancy Kerr and James Fagan was in my favourite National Folk Festival venue The Coorong. The sound and acoustics in the Festival’s second largest hall (after The Budawang) are just magnificent and any act that is lucky enough to play the venue should count themselves lucky.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan are simply superb. There’s a reason they are the darlings of the UK folk scene with a numerous accolades and BBC Folk Awards behind them – they really are magnificent at what they do. Nancy Kerr has this way of writing a song that makes it sound as though it has been around for 1,000 years – her way of storytelling has this timeless quality that feels as though it is continuing the tradition of hundreds of songwriters that have come before.

What impressed me most about Nancy Kerr and James Fagan’s performance was the musicianship of the duo. James’ skills with the guitar are enviable and his voice is absolutely golden. Nancy’s skills with the fiddle are some of the best I’ve ever seen – her ability to sing, play and pluck the instrument at the same time has to be seen to be believed.

Overall I was stoked to be able to see both The Fagans and Nancy Kerr and James Fagan over the weekend. These guys really are giants of modern Australian folk music and it’s a joy to be a part of their audience. Let’s hoping its not too long until we can see them all in one place again.

Spotlight On: Deer Tick

Image courtesy of Deer Tick

Deer Tick have been one of music’s best kept secrets of the last few years. I felt their debut album War Elephant was sure to propel them to fame, and when it didn’t, I was sure that their sophomore album Born On A Flag Day certainly would, and when that didn’t, there was no doubt in my mind that their latest offering Black Dirt Sessions would. Now, however, it seems as though front-man John McCauley may finally reach widespread notoriety through his new super-group Middle Brother, formed with members of Delta Spirit and Dawes.

Deer Tick are a perfectly balanced amalgamation of half a dozen musical styles that I’m not all-together fond of or savvy with in their isolation. Equal parts dirty blues, early straight-laced rock & roll, grunge and folk- I’d put them somewhere between The Black Keys, The Felice Brothers and Band Of Horses. This diversity is what drew me in all those years ago, and what keeps bringing me back, even if a long time goes by between listens.

Like most of my favourite bands, my favourite Deer Tick album was their debut. I came across it by complete accident. I remember- I only checked it out in the first place because I liked the combination of the words ‘war’ and ‘elephant’. I was pleasantly surprised by track one- “Ashamed”- which I’ve been known to actually cite as my favourite song by any artist of all time, which is certainly not true, but when people put me on the spot, this is often the first song that comes to mind. It’s a folky affair, like a decent portion of their music, but I find that their most raw and intense songs, particularly from their debut, are generally the ones I find the most convincing. “Standing At The Treshold” and “Not So Dense” being prime examples from this record. The folk lover needn’t despair, tracks like “Nevada”, “These Old Shoes” and “Art Isn’t Real” are phenomenal pieces too. Moving on in their discography, their 2009 album Born On A Flag Day and 2010 album Black Dirt Sessions are similar in that they’re just so consistent that it’s barely worth mentioning any one track over another- but I will say that “Smith Hill” and “Goodbye, Dear Friend” are personal favourites. The Deer Tick sound hardly changed at all between albums one two and three- perhaps the only major difference being an ever improving quality of production, which even then, is no real benefit to me due to the fact that I’m very fond of the charm that the rawer tracks from War Elephant bring to the table.

Middle Brother‘s debut self-titled album is a good listen. I don’t like it as much as Deer Tick, but I’m glad that there was a lot of hype around the release. Who knows, maybe Deer Tick‘s next release will be met with the same anticipation and enthusiasm. But for now, I’ll continue to be happy walking around in my faded, glow-in-the-dark Deer Tick tee-shirt- iPod blaring, and timing my steps purposefully in synch with “Standing At The Threshold”‘s pulsating guitar riff.

Country Of Origin: America (Providence, Rhode Island)

File Under: Blues, Rock, Folk, Grunge

Sounds Like: Nothing like Bright Eyes, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Band Of Horses or The Felice Brothers. But somehow if they all combined, you might get something close.

Myspace: myspace.com/deertick

Official: deertickmusic.com

National Folk Festival Find: Jimmy The Fish

Jimmy the Fish
Image Courtesy of Jimmy The Fish

If you’ve been to any folk festival in Australia, regardless of which one, you’ve probably come across Liz Frencham. She’s the go-to session bassist for everyone from Mal Webb to Andrew Winton to Martin Pearson as well as appearing as part of Jigzag, Frencham Smith, Dev’lish Mary and her own solo efforts. And if that hasn’t kept her busy enough she’s also part of the awesome acoustic/ nu-grass/folk trio Jimmy The Fish.

I went to the Jimmy The Fish Troubadour concert at this year’s National Folk Festival on the strength of Frencham’s reputation alone. What I discovered was lovely laidback show showcasing some beautiful bluegrass-tinged folk songs. Liz Frencham is joined in Jimmy The Fish by Robbie Long (Mic Conway, The Lawnmowers) and Pete Fidler (Bluestone Junction, The Somervilles, Bill Jackson) but rather than it being just a folk-festival-supergroup, the band have created a sound that will appeal to fans both new and established.

Fidler’s slide guitar is by far the most distinguishing feature of Jimmy The Fish, giving the band their bluegrass/country feel. Add to this Robbie Long’s expert guitar skills and Liz Frencham’s smooth voice and bass and the group really comes together. If you’re a fan of folk, country, bluegrass or really any style of acoustic music you should check these guys out at your next folk festival.

Country of Origin: Australia (Victoria)
Sounds Like: A fusion of all your favourite folk styles
File Under: Country, Nu-Grass, Bluegrass
Myspace: myspace.com/jimmythefishband

New Emmylou Harris Video “Six White Cadillacs”

Emmylou Harris
Image Courtesy of Emmylou Harris

With her new album Hard Bargain just days away from release Emmylou Harris has treated us to a new video for the track “Six White Cadillacs”. The video, directed by Jack Spencer, will also be available as part of a limited CD/DVD edition of Hard Bargain and can be watched below:

And if that’s enough Emmylou for you NPR are also streaming Hard Bargain right now – click here to get your fill of American folk goodness.

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: