iFolk 2.0 Part 1: Blogs and Web Sites

Folk Computer

While the music we listen to and rave about here at Timber and Steel may have its roots in a tradition that stretches bakes decades if not hundreds of years the way we consume that music in today is vastly different to even five years ago. High internet speeds, portable music devices and music on demand have shaped the way we discover music, share music, value music even think about music. In this series of articles we look at and recommend the best in folk music in the new media space.

Part 1: Blogs and Web Sites

While we’re sure you’re getting all the folk news, reviews and opinion you need right here on Timber and Steel we don’t mind if you occasionally have a look over the fence and see what else is out there in the online folk world. We can’t cover everything after all – just as long as you come back once in a while. So here’s a list of our favourite folk-related blogs and sites on the web:

Folk Radio UK

Striking a balance between indie, nu-folk, traditional and contemporary, Folk Radio UK is a not for profit Internet radio station broadcast out of, obviously, the UK. Surviving on donations from its supporters (similar to community radio stations in Australia) and a handful of advertisers, FRUK operates twenty four hours a day. It also is a great source of folk news, specialty mixes and reviews (plus the occasional free MP3).

In The Pines

The companion blog of the fantastic folk, alt-country and Americana show of the same name on Sydney’s FBi Radio written by presenter Emma Swift. Swift only updates In The Pines about once a week (usually a day or two after her show on Tuesday nights) but when she does it’s insightful, funny and full of gorgeous music, both classic and new.

Cover Lay Down

Stemming from the tradition in folk music of covering and reimagining music as a way keeping it alive, Cover Lay Down specialises in exploring folk covers of familiar songs, reimagined versions of folk songs and everything in between. Not only does Cover Lay Down unearth some absolute gems, it’s also so well written it makes us want to try so much harder.

For Folk's Sake

If there’s one blog we aspire to emulate it’s the UK’s For Folk’s Sake with its mix of news, reviews and artist spotlights. For Folk’s Sake leans quite heavily to the nu-folk end of the spectrum and consistently introduces us to new and exciting music from the other side of the world

Spiral Earth

Another UK folk site Spiral Earth is one of the most highly respected resources for traditional and contemporary folk on the web. You won’t find a lot of cross over into the indie scene here (although they occasionally champion Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons) but their knowledge is second to none and if you love your international folk music you’re likely to read about it here first.

A Folk Song A Day

Jon Boden’s epic A Folk Song A Day podcast may have finished (for now) but the website is still a fantastic resource for information on all of the songs performed including a new audio file each day (at the moment Jon Boden is repeating all the folk songs from the very beginning). More new material from A Folk Song A Day is promised soon – we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly that new material is.

An Australian Folk Song A Day

Taking his lead from Jon Boden, John Thompson of Cloudstreet fame is attempting the folk-song-a-day challenge but focusing only on Australian music. The thing we love most about An Australian Folk Song A Day? Every song comes with lyrics.

Rhythms Magazine

Rhythms Magazine is probably the best roots related publication in Australia and they’ve transitioned very well to the online world. They have pretty up to date news articles, blogs, reviews and coverage of most of the major festivals on the roots calendar.

Properganda Magazine

Another magazine that’s made the successful jump to the online world, Properganda is like the UK’s version of Rhythms Magazine. They get access to some of the biggest names in folk so their exclusives are usually very exclusive – well worth a regular visit.

The Johnny Cash Project

The Johnny Cash Project has to be one of the most innovative and artistic uses of the internet we’ve seen to date. Basically artists are asked to take a single frame from Johnny Cash’s final video, for the traditional track “Ain’t No Grave” and then illustrate over the top of it. All of these illustrated frames are then voted on and thrown together to create a unique animated video. As more and more artists illustrate frames and the public continues to vote on their favourites so to does the video evolve. Take a look to see exactly what we mean.

NPR Music

We’ve tried to make this list about folk specialist sites only, which NPR Music clearly isn’t. But we’ve included it just for the sheer volume of folk related content they have available – from streaming full albums to exclusive concert audio to interviews and more. We’ve been lost on NPR Music for days at a time.

Trad and Now

If you don’t manage to get to a gig or festival its quite often impossible to get your hands on an artist’s recorded music – so many folk artists self produce their CDs so they’re not readily available in stores or on iTunes. Luckily Trad & Now have a wide range of hard to get CDs in stock and if it’s not on the web site you can usually reach out to guys and they’ll be able to help you track something down. Now if only we can get them into the download business…

Folk Alliance Australia

Folk Alliance Australia is probably the best resource online for all things folk. We use it mainly for its mailing lists, festival calendar and useful links.

So hopefully we’ve managed to help you discover some corners of the web you’ve yet to explore. Next up on Timber and Steel’s iFolk 2.0 series we look at the best in folk related Phone Apps.

Harry James Angus (The Cat Empire) Announces Solo Album and Mini Tour

Harry James Angus
Image by Elvina Mae, Courtesy of Harry James Angus

When we saw Harry James Angus do his solo thing at the Storm in a Teacup gig in June we were definitely taken aback. Here was a man best known either for the funk/soul/latin/jam band work with The Cat Empire or his electro-folk/hip hop work with Jackson Jackson and he was displaying yet another side to his musical persona – the folky singer songwriter. Armed with just a guitar and his unique voice Angus wowed us with his wonderful storytelling lyrical style and skillful fingerpicking.

So it’s probably not surprising that Harry James Angus has decided to commit this latest musical project to tape with the announcement of his solo album Little Stories. Released digitally on the 16th September and in stores on the 10th October, Angus will also be showcasing Little Stories in a handful of shows in Melbourne and Sydney this September, two with Roscoe James Irwin. The full dates and some live versions of his songs (including the wonderful “The Batsman”):

Thursday 8th September – The Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 17th September – The Vanguard, Sydney NSW (with Roscoe James Irwin)
Sunday 25th September – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC (with Roscoe James Irwin)

Stream Martin Simpson’s Purpose & Grace

Martin Simpson
Image Courtesy of Martin Simpson

The legendary Martin Simpson is set to release his new record Purpose & Grace on the 5th September (that’s next week) and Folk Radio UK have uploaded an exclusive stream to Soundcloud for all to enjoy. Listen to Purpose & Grace below and head over here for the full details on the album:

Tributes Planned For Woody Guthrie’s 100th Birthday

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was born on the 14th July, 1912 and passed away in 1967 but his influence as a singer and songwriter permeate almost every facet of modern folk music. Next year (2012) would have marked the 100th birthday for the legendary folk singer and a raft of tributes are in the works to celebrate the milestone.

First up Billy Bragg and Wilco will be releasing a deluxe boxset of their two album Mermaid Avenue project from 1998 and 2000 which took the unpublished writings of Guthrie and set them to new music. The deluxe Mermaid Avenue boxset is currently set for release in March next year.

Jay Farrar, Centro-Matic‘s Will Johnson, Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James) and Anders Parker are also planning a similar project to the Bragg/Wilco pairing with New Multitudes, another album of unpublished Woody Guthrie material set to new music penned by the group. New Multitudes has a January 2012 release date attached to it.

Notes of Hope Note of Hope will see some of the music industry’s best including Van Dyke Parks, Lou Reed, Tom Morello, Michael Franti, Ani Difranco, Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne and more come together to pay tribute to Guthrie through versions of his songs, both recorded and unpublished. The record is due for release the 27th September this year and can be heard in full on the 429 Records web site.

There are a couple of other releases planned for the milestone including a The Complete Woody Guthrie in January. Check out the official Woody100 web site for details on everything that’s happening next year. No word as yet whether there’ll be a local tribute but Guthrie’s 100th birthday sounds like just the right excuse to inspire the next Festival Folk Sing compilation…

Owls of the Swamp Icelandic Tour Diary Part 3

Owls of the Swamp
Image Courtesy of Owls of the Swamp

Owls of the Swamp and Phia are currently touring Iceland and Timber and Steel is lucky enough to be presenting their exclusive tour diaries. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here of Owls of the Swamp’s tour diary.

Saturday 20th August

Lonely House It’s the morning after the accident. We’re all a little sore, exhausted, and are confronted with the riddle of how where going to make it to Akureyri (an 8 hour drive) with only one car and six troubadours. Of course it’s our local friend (and incredible tour coordinator) Svavar Knutur who comes to the rescue. After telling our dramatic story on national radio he manages to find a pilot who agrees to fly four of us in a small charter plane. It seems hospitality is always only a short call away over here. Saved! However, I end up driving with Torben. It’s a long drive, but we are treated to stops at isolated houses, spectacular skies and views of low lying clouds covering the mountains like a long white blanket. But I’m pretty sick of cars by this stage.

Cabin Tonight’s concert is in a renovated barn in Akureyri where both groups are meant to meet up and perform together. The show started at 6pm and everyone is there but we don’t arrive until 10:30pm. The second I enter the barn it’s my turn to play. It’s great to see everyone again but it’s frustrating having to immediately enter into ‘performance space’ after spending all day in transit. This tour is constantly pushing me to my limit, teaching me how to access my musical side in all possible scenarios.

Sunday 21st August – Tuesday 23rd August

After a fun catch-up and story swapping café session with the other group, we split up again and head off to Svavar’s cabin in the North of Iceland via a few scenic towns. Given the intensity and drama of the previous few days we’re all in need of a little down time, and this is the perfect place for it. We sleep, cook, pick local blueberries, have a few home made hot tubs, listen to the river and climb a mountain. It’s just what we needed to come back to earth.

Wednesday 24th August

Grindavik After returning to Reykjavik we head off to Grindavik in the south of Iceland for a show at a fisherman’s bar called ‘Bryggjan’. Grindavik is famous for its fishing industry, so it’s no surprise our audience tonight consists of around twelve gruff looking older men with ancient beards. And to our surprise they become one of our most attentive audiences yet, hanging onto every performer and song. Despite the small crowd, everyone delivers their most captivating performances yet. Something seems to have shifted in each of us since the accident, with each of us harnessing a deeper energy and transmitting it through our songs. Could it have been a blessing in disguise? During the show we’re also treated to a local delicacy of dried fish with butter. It’s the Icelandic version of Vegemite and toast, and it’s freaking delicious. After a midnight tour of the fish-net repair factory we drive back to Reykjavik and are treated to a very brief and faint visit from the famous northern lights; a barely visible glimmer of green shimmering across the darkening sky. Not a bad way to finish the night. Grindavik

Thursday 25th August

After a lazy day hanging around Reykjavik we head off to Eyrarbakki to play the same house concert venue Phia performed the week before. It’s a beautiful sunset concert in an inspiring living room space (complete with actual stage and PA!) to a local audience of about 20 people, and in true troubadour fashion we indulge in a post-concert spontaneous jam with our amazing hosts Unnar and Jon. We return to Reykjavik around midnight where we join Svavar at his house for a sample of local boutique beers. We toast to having performed the last show of the tour, and head off to our respective beds to get some rest before the epic three day Melodica Festival weekend ahead in Reykjavik. It’s been one hell of a music journey, and it’s not over yet!

Lanie Lane’s Video for “Ain’t Hungry”

Lanie Lane
Image Courtesy of Lanie Lane

Lanie Lane’s latest release from Jack White’s Third Man Records has been getting quite a lot of press around the place, not least of all from us. So we’re very happy to bring you the latest news on the release, that Lane has put together a video for one of the songs, “Ain’t Hungry”. Check it out below and if you’ve haven’t picked up the double single yet make sure you head over to iTunes and do just that right now:

Jack Carty Announces East Coast Café Tour

Image Courtesy of Jack Carty

Although they’re not altogether common in my hometown of Adelaide, I do really love a good café gig. The relaxed and intimate vibe of a coffee shop show presents an artist in such a gentle and coincidental way that it really enhances the experience for both the audience and the performer. After acquiring a keen taste for attentive crowds and intimate shows on his last tour, Sydney’s Jack Carty has decided to go back to basics and undertake his next tour of the east coast entirely in this stripped back, laid back, solo format.

Carty‘s tour will see him playing songs from his recently released, brilliant debut album One Thousand Origami Birds over September and October throughout Queensland, New South Wales, ACT and Victoria. Stop in for a drink.

Thursday 22nd October- Blackstar Coffee, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 25th September- The Tree House, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 29th September- Roots Records, Bellingen, NSW
Monday 3rd October- Katipo Coffee, Bondi, NSW
Tuesday 4th October- Cafe Lounge, Surrey Hills, NSW
Wednesday 5th October- Yours & Owls, Wollongong, NSW
Thursday 6th October- The Front, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 8th October- Lentil As Anything, Abbotsford, VIC
Wednesday 12th October- Coco Cafe, Fitzroy VIC

New TinPan Orange Single “Barcelona” and Mini Tour

TinPan Orange
Image Courtesy of TinPan Orange

If thinking it’s been a while since you’ve heard anything from Melbourne’s TinPan Orange you’d be right. Not that they haven’t been busy, they’ve just been busy with things other than making music. Like having a a baby.

Emily Lubitz, lead singer of TinPan Orange, welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world recently so the band has taken a much needed break. But you’ll be happy to hear that that break is not for long with the band adding a brand new drummer (Danny Farugia from The Bamboos), recording a new single and announcing a handful of in September and October.

The single, “Barcelona”, perfectly captures Tinpan’s somewhat new sound. Listen to it here:


If you head over to the band’s triple j Unearthed page you can download “Barcelona” – and don’t forget to rate the song so we can get TinPan Orange some radio play.

TinPan Orange will be playing gigs in Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle to support “Barcelona”. Check out the full dates below:

Thursday 22nd September – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 24th September – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 15th October – Fly By Night, Fremantle, WA

Lachlan Bryan’s (The Wildes) First Solo Single “Fly By Night” and Tour Dates

Lachlan Bryan
Image Courtesy of Lachlan Bryan

Lachlan Bryan, front man of Melbourne alt-country band The Wildes, recently took the plunge and recorded material he’d been writing for the last few months for his debut solo album, Shadow of the Gun, to be released by Core Music at next year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival. The first single from the album, “Fly By Night”, has just had a pretty spiffy video released, directed by Sean Genders. Watch it below:

To support the release of “Fly By Night” Bryan has announced a bunch of dates around the country which we’ve posted below. And don’t worry – just because Bryan is releasing a solo album doesn’t mean The Wildes are taking a break. The boys will be joining Bryan on tour and performing The Wilde’s “hits” along the way.

1st September – The Empress Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
26th October – X & Y Bar, Brisbane, QLD
28th October – Joe’s Waterhole, Eumundi, QLD
29th October – Upfront Club, Maleny, QLD
30th October- The Hi-Fi Bar, Brisbane, QLD
10th November – Sandringham Hotel, Sydney, NSW
11th November – The Heritage, Bulli, NSW
12th November – The Vault, Windsor, NSW
13th November – Newtown Festival, Newtown (Sydney), NSW
13th November – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
19th November – Canberra Country Music Festival, Canberra, ACT
19th November – Front Gallery, Lyneham (Canberra), ACT
24th November – Clancy’s, Fremantle, WA
25th November – Indie Bar, Scarborough, WA
26th November – Birthday Beats Festival, Gin Gin, WA
27th November – Red Cliffe on the Murray, Pinjarra, WA
30th November – The Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC
4th December – Ba Ba Lu Bar, Lorne, VIC

Phia Icelandic Tour Diary Part 3

Image Courtesy of Phia

Owls of the Swamp and Phia are currently touring Iceland and Timber and Steel is lucky enough to be presenting their exclusive tour diaries. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here of Phia’s Tour diary.

22nd – 25th August

Over the next few days we did a lot of driving around the Westfjords (a fjord is where the ocean eats into the island). Driving around Iceland has plenty of beautiful, relaxing moments (seeing wild seals in the ocean, listening to great Icelandic music while checking out the scenery (check out Mugison, he is awesome) but also some rather exhilarating moments (breaking down on what we dubbed the “death roads” – gravel roads about a car and a half wide with no barrier between road and cliff face, and driving through mountains in one-lane tunnels where if you see an oncoming car, one of you needs to pull into one of the small alcoves spaced along the tunnel! We dubbed this “nooking”).

Finally at 8pm we arrived in Djúpavík, a tiny little place nestled on one of the fjords surrounded by huge mountains and a beautiful waterfall. We stayed in the cosy little hotel there, where we were fed paprika soup and fresh cod on arrival, and played after our meal, all warm from the food and reception we received.

In the late morning we headed over to the abandoned tank. The story goes that in the 1940s people built a house on the rock which was the home of Djúpavík’s “hidden people” (fairy-like people part of Iceland’s mythology) despite a lot of people thinking it was a bad idea. And disaster struck – the herring catchments (which the factory relied on) dried up and never came back. You don’t want to piss off the hidden people. So now there is this beautiful big old disused tank, which you have to enter through a pipe. Check out the video of when Sigur Ros’ performed there. The natural reverb inside is amazing, you sing one note and a 100 voices bounce around and back at you. We all recorded one song inside, it was a magical experience. Will be uploading on YouTube very soon!

We are always running late for things and today was no different as we decided to stop and swim in one of Iceland’s natural “hot pots” (hot waterholes in the rock). So we were running late for our gig at the Museum for Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík, a little worried as our contact person is listed as Sigurður the Warlock… But in fact the gig went very well and he even conjured up (see what I did there) a place for us to stay that night to save us a 3 hour drive to the next place!

The next day we had a lengthy brunch and discussed how the tour had changed us. It has made me a lot more aware of all the different ways of making a living from performing – if you can build up a good network, getting out of the cities is a great idea – people really want to hear original music! I’m really pumped to book some more DIY tours through Germany now. All of us remarked on how the love of performing originally brought us to music, and playing gigs in small towns where not many gigs happen (as opposed to playing in bigger cities competing with 100 other gigs on the same night), has let us just focus on the performing side and not on the stresses of trying to pull audiences etc. Such fun.

That night in Suðureyri it was the last gig of the tour, and as such we were all infused with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and affection, though it could have also have been the very generous glasses of red wine we were given before the show. As usual it was such a pleasure playing with the crew – we had Josh [VideoDay] winning the audience over with his wry humour and enigmatic, pop anthems; Kendy [Gable] and Dave [Keane] with their beautiful heartfelt country/folk tunes, and Daniel [Jonsson]’s bittersweet alt-folk melodies.

Now all that is left is the 3 day Melodica Festival in Reykjavik – over 40 acts, 4 venues, bring it on!

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