Darwin Festival Launches Program

Holly Throsby

The Darwin Festival launched its 2012 program today and there’s plenty for top end folk fans to be excited about. With a full schedule of events from dance to theatre to Comedy to visual arts and of course music The Darwin Festival is set to take place from the 9th to 26th August.

The musical lineup is headed up by the one and only Kenny Rogers with appearances from Colin Hay, Graveyard Train, Holly Throsby (above, presenting music from her children’s album See!), Lanie Lane, Ngaiire, Nicky Bomba’s Bustamento, TinPan Orange and many more.

August is the perfect time to visit the Darwin and The Darwin Festival is the perfect excuse to go. For more information including the full lineup check out the official Darwin Festival web site.

Mumford and Sons Bringing Gentlemen of the Road to Australia

Gentlemen of the Road
Image Courtesy of Mumford and Sons

One thing we forgot to mention in all the excitement that was the Mumford and Sons tour announcement yesterday was that the band will also be bringing a one-off installment of the their Gentlemen of the Road concert series.

If you’re not across Gentlemen of the Road it’s basically a mini-festival curated by and staring Mumford and Sons plus some of their favourite bands in a location that isn’t normally known for live music.

We’ve been told to wait for “another big announcement” about the Australian one-off Gentlemen of the Road in the coming weeks. In the meantime check out the official Gentlemen of the Road site for more information.

Snowy Mountains of Music Interview: Brendan Gallagher

Brendan Gallagher

Interview by Snowy Mountains of Music Blogger Amber Gardaya
Photo by Mandy Lamont

We all expect the unexpected. I personally didn’t expect to be sitting with the iconic Brendan Gallagher, conducting an interview in the snowfields at Perisher. I had just won a competition to be the Festival Blogger for the Perisher Snowy Mountains of Music, this was my first foray into interviewing and I was still a little shell-shocked. But Brendan was a real pleasure to have a chat with, and despite being one of Australia’s most formidable musicians, he put me at ease straight away.

Brendan is probably best known as singer/guitarist with Karma County who over the last fifteen years has produced five albums and toured extensively. For the past two years Brendan has also been an Ambassador for Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and is proud to have his name alongside other great APRA Ambassadors including the likes of Jimmy Little.

But it was by chance that as a boy home sick with the flu, feeling bored with nothing else to do, that he picked up the guitar. Brendan’s mother was more interested in him pursuing the violin, which he really wasn’t impressed with at all. Brendan says that his family finally got the message when he kept leaving his violin on the train on his way home from lessons. He went about teaching himself the guitar with the aid of a good ear, a great record collection and a classic Coles guitar book. This was just the beginning of his relationship with the guitar, which would take him on a worldwide journey that he is still drawing inspiration from today.

Brendan’s been in the news a lot lately due to his long working relationship with one of Australia’s top Aboriginal Artists, the late Jimmy Little. He remembers Jimmy with a high reverence “Jimmy was a very gentle sweet man, but he was ferociously determined nothing got in his way”. And Brendan would know better than most- he produced many of Jimmy’s albums including his Australian classic “Messenger”.

Another stand-out experience in Brendan’s career was recording with David Bowie. It was in the September of 1999 when Marius De Vries (producer to the likes of Bjork, Neil Finn and Madonna) invited Brendan to play guitar on his remix of David Bowie’s song ‘Survive’ from Bowie’s ‘Hours’ album. He actually didn’t meet Bowie until a year later, which Brendan describes as one of those pinch-yourself moments and one of the highlights of his career.

Another surprise to me is that Brendan is also an author and wrote ‘The Open Tuning Chord Book for the Guitar’. For all those non-players out there, an open chord is tuning your guitar to your key of choice. (By the way, Brendan’s choice of open chords are G and D). The book has been popular with a wide range of artists including the likes of Arlo Guthrie, Peter Buck (REM), Chris Cheney (Living End), and it has even found its way into the guitar case of the Red Wiggle Murray Cook. Within the last five years this book has been published worldwide, which Brendan is very proud of.

As the interview was coming to an end, Brendan was wrapping his jacket around him and contemplating leaving the warm environment of Smiggins Basement to journey out into the snow, something he expressed he wasn’t overly fond of. My last question had to be what’s next for Brendan Gallagher? He is now working ferociously on finishing off his new solo album which will be called Wine Island and is set to be released as a double vinyl album later on this year.

Review: The 42nd Top Half Folk Festival, Mary River, NT

Scott Balfour
Scott Balfour

The following review was written by Dave Evans. Evans is a regular performer at The Top Half Folk Festival, is one of the organisers of the Alice Springs leg of the festival and is also our Editor in Chief’s father.

“Tell me Dad, what is a Top Half Folk Festival?”

“Well son, it’s like this: a group of like minded musicians and friends from all over the Territory get together with another group of musicians and friends from all over Australia and they play music, and they drink, and they talk, and they recite poetry, and they play music, and they drink, and they talk, and they recite poetry, and occasionally they eat and sleep.”

“And they have been doing this for 42 years?!?!?!”

“They have, and I suspect that, livers willing, they might be doing it for some time to come.”

“Now that I have found my very first lagerphone that you made me all those years ago, can I go to the next one?”

“Only if you promise to play music, drink, talk, recite poetry, occasionally eat and sleep, and burn the lagerphone!!! Meanwhile let me tell you all about the 42nd Top Half Festival.”

The Top Half Folk Festival is held alternately in Central Australia (Glen Helen) and the Top End (Mary River) over The Queen’s Birthday weekend each June, and this year it was Darwin’s turn to be the host. The Mary River Park, roughly halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park, was the setting, and what a perfect place for a weekend of music and fun. I remember, with a touch of nostalgia, some of the earlier Top Half’s, which were held in local schools, with classrooms cleared so we could throw our swags down, and concerts held in vast concrete assembly halls. Good days, but there is no denying that the majestic ranges of Glen Helen in Central Australia and the likewise beautiful setting of the Mary River out of Darwin lend themselves more readily to one of Australia’s best small folk festivals.

This festival included as always some of the best musicians from the Territory, together with some musical mates from interstate, and guest artists, Danny Spooner and Dave Alleway with Di Gaylard. The weekend programme consisted of concerts, workshops, presentations, poetry, a folk quiz, impromptu sessions, and activities for the younger visitors. (“How to burn a lagerphone without starting a bushfire” was a suggested activity, but too many people turned up and the bushfires council wouldn’t allow it).

As is often the case with festivals, even the smaller ones, I wasn’t able to see everything, however, here are my thoughts on what I did get to, starting with some of the presentations.

Danny Spooner

Danny Spooner’s presentation on the life and music of Hamish Henderson, ably assisted by Dave Alleway and Di Gaylard, was an absolute ripper. Henderson, was a Scottish poet, a songwriter, a soldier, an intellectual, and a collector (along with American Alan Lomax) of folk songs. In many ways he was responsible for the folk revival in Scotland in the 50s and 60s and he also started a people’s festival in Edinburgh in the early 50s, where Scottish traditional music was played, a fore-runner I guess to the Edinburgh fringe festival of today. Danny sang a collection of great songs, with the standouts for me being “The D Day Dodgers” and “Banks Of Sicily” interspersed with insights into Henderson’s life. Great stuff.

A Tribute to Dave Meyers was presented by The Shiny Bum Singers and Friends. The Shiny Bums are well known in Canberra circles and have performed at the National Folk Festival down there. Dave Meyers performed with The Shiny Bums until his untimely death in 2010. A frequent visitor and performer at Top Half Festivals, this was a chance for his friends to pay tribute to his song writing skills and to remember a good man. Parodies galore about the public service, and his special song about the $5 sausage written after a memorable festival meal a few years ago. Good fun all round, a nice tribute to a nice person. Thank you to Pat and Arminel Ryan for making it happen. We’ll miss him.

Woody Guthrie: Ramblin’ Radical was presented on the Sunday by Paul Stewart and his usual cricket team of musicians. I must confess to being biased about this presentation as I was part of it, however, talking to people afterwards it was plain that it was not just me that thought this was one of Paul’s best yet. Months of research into the complicated man that was Woody Guthrie paid off, with Paul able to share insights into his life from all the research he had done, as well as using quotes, and the 20 plus songs, sung by the cricket team. Everything linked together beautifully, and although by all accounts he wasn’t a particularly nice man, his songs stand the test of time. Too many songs to mention them all, but “Do Re Me” “The Reuben James” and “Deportees” are worth following up on if you want to sample a bit of Woody Guthrie.

The folk quiz has become an integral part of Top Half’s in recent years, two panels of three face off against each other in a battle of wit(s) overseen by an irreverent MC (your’s truly) with the much sought after “winners are grinners” trophy being the ultimate prize. Musical knowhow is somehow lost amongst the mayhem that ensues, and the ultimate winners I guess are the audience, who seem to love the format, (a cross between Spicks & Specks and Rockwiz) and the humorous sparring between the panels and the MC. Judging from the comments afterwards many consider it a highlight of the weekend. Who am I to argue!!

I managed to see one of the afternoon concerts (Sat) sleep deprivation winning out on Sunday. I remember leaving at the end thinking how much I enjoyed it. There was a nice cross-section of music with The Randoms (Jabiru) Ian Kitney (Ex Katherine now Maryborough) Josh and Phil Gray (Perth) Karien, Ian and Jayne (Everywhere) and Last Minute (Darwin). There was something for everyone with both traditional and contemporary songs, tunes, and a cappella. Great to see young Josh (10 yrs. old?) upstage his Dad, together with some lovely harmonica playing. A nice version also by Last Minute (with Tony Suttor) of the Dave Oakes song “Uluru”.

The Saturday evening concert started in fine style with The Darwin Ceili Band. They are old hands at this, having been around for a long time, and they didn’t disappoint, a very polished performance.

Phil Gray from Perth minus his mates from Loaded Dog is a fine singer and song writer and it was good to see a solo performance from him. Chris Pemberton is a favourite of mine, his choice of songs, his guitar playing, and with a voice that is easy to listen to, he always comes up trumps.. Add in Tony Suttor on voice and squeezebox and you have a wonderful sound. Love it. Barry Skipsey from Alice Springs has been singing and writing great songs for many years now. It’s always a delight to see him perform and his newest song “The Green Box” about the plight facing many Aboriginal people in and around Alice Springs is both powerful and emotive. The Three Beans from Margaret River (Karien, Jenny, and George.) also played a great set, nice musical accompaniment with Jenny’s voice a stand out. What can one say about Danny Spooner that hasn’t already been said? A long time favourite of mine, a true professional on stage, a great selection of songs, “Harry was a Champion” and “The Lasses Who Dance” two standouts. A wonderful singer and musician, he is indeed a living treasure.

Ted and Caroline Burns
Ted and Caroline Burns and Dave

The Sunday concert was another great show, with some more of my favourite artists. Don Bruce from Tanunda, great voice, a beautiful guitar picking style: quality. Phil Beck from Perth, likewise a great guitar player, with a voice to match, an ability to choose good songs, and a nice easy stage presence. Ted and Caroline Burns were joined on stage by their friend Dave and his guitar playing added another level to this popular duos set. The best I have heard them sing. Top Stuff. My old mate Scotty Balfour never disappoints. I believe he is singing better now than ever, he’s comfortable on stage, his choice of songs compliments his voice, and it’s about bloody time he put out a cd. A harp and Scottish small pipes are perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea but give them to Dave Alleway and Diane Gaylord and the result can only be a selection of wonderful Celtic and English songs and tunes. “The Pearl/Jamie Raeburn” and “Drummer Question/Beeswing” were great examples of this.

So there you have it, another wonderful weekend of quality music and spoken word with friends and new acquaintances. As I said I didn’t get to everything, but talking to Jim Smith who ran the poets breakfasts whilst I slept, these were as popular as ever and a wide range of material was covered. I am contemplating writing a workshop titled “workshops I have missed” there’s plenty of material to be had. As you can imagine there were some terrific sessions, on the Friday night, and after the evening concerts on Sat. and Sun., out on the balcony of the main building, as well as another session going on each night around the campfire with Kevin McCarthy.

As a final note, I would like to congratulate the Mary River Park hosts, Rogan and Bronwyn, who provided terrific food and ensured that enough beverages were available to keep everyone happy. They even organised a special delivery of Guinness when stocks got dangerously low. My kind of people. My thanks also to the dedicated band of Top End folkies who organised the weekend’s festivities. The meaning of life is 42 and this was the 42nd Top Half Folk Festival. It couldn’t fail really could it!!?

I’m off to give my liver a rest, until the next one that is.

Dave Alloway
Dave Alleway

Mumford and Sons Announce Australian Tour

Tour

And we posted too soon! Minutes after we posted the Mumford and Sons teaser video the band announced Australian and New Zealand tour dates. Touring with Mumford and Sons will be Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Willy Mason.

General release tickets go on sale on the 9th July. The full list of Australian and New Zealand dates are below:

Sat 13th October – Belvoir Ampitheatre, Perth, Australia
Mon 15th October – Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, Australia
Wed 17th October – Riverstage, Brisbane, Australia
Thurs 18th October – Entertainment Center, Sydney, Australia
Tues 23rd October – Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart, Australia
Thurs 25th October – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia
Fri 26th October – Royal Theatre, Canberra, Australia
Sun 28th October – Kurunda Ampitheatre, Cairns, Australia
Mon 29th October – Convention Centre, Townsville, Australia
Wed 31st October – Convention Centre, Gold Coast, Australia
Fri 2nd November – Vector Arena, Auckland, New Zealand
Sun 4th November – Town Hall, Wellington, New Zealand
Tue 6th November – CBS Arena, Christchurch, New Zealand

Mumford and Sons Post Cryptic Teaser Video

Mumford and Sons
Image Courtesy of Mumford and Sons

This morning Mumford and Sons launched a very cryptic, very strange new teaser video title “The Troubled Boys School”:

There’s a lot of speculation being thrown around as to what the video is teasing – the blogosphere is alternatively reporting that it’s either to do with the redesign of their website, a tour announcement (which is in line with the US dates that were announced today) or something to do with Mumford and Sons’ much anticipated second album. We reckon it’s probably something to do with all three

There are a few clues to be had though. If you watch the video you’ll notice quite a number of nautical flags scattered throughout it. The good folks at the unofficial Mumford & Sons Blog have decoded a couple of these for us.

The flags that appear behind the band (in the screenshot above)? They spell TOUR

The flags that appear under the Mumford and Sons Gentlemen of the Road Symbol at the end of the video (below)? They spell BABEL

There are more flags seen in the video and I’m sure less obvious clues as well. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear. In the meantime – happy clue solving!

Mumford and Sons

New Angus Stone Video, “Wooden Chair”

Angus Stone
Image Courtesy of Angus Stone

Angus Stone’s new solo album Broken Brights is due for release in Australia in just over two weeks (13th July) and from what he’s released so far we think it’s going to be pretty amazing. The latest single taken from the album is “Wooden Chair”, the video of which stars Stone’s dog Inca.

Check out “Wooden Chair” below:

New Jens Lekman Video, “Erica America”

Jens Lekman
Image Courtesy of Jens Lekman

Following on from the announcement for a September release of his new album I Know What Love Isn’t Swedish singer Jens Lekman has just debut the video for it’s first single “Erica America”. Showcasing his newly shaved head “Erica America” is another foray into the dark world of heartbreak for Lekman and features vocals from Australian Sophie Brous (Brous). You can watch it below:

The Avett Brothers Announce New Album

The Avett Brothers
Image Courtesy of The Avett Brothers

The breakthrough success of The Avett Brothers’ sixth album I and Love and You firmly cemented them as major players on the US nu-folk scene, combining an old-time sensibility and instrumentation with sharp indie-pop music. Three years on and the band have finally announced a follow up in the form of The Carpenter, due for release on the 11th September. The Carpenter sees The Avett Brothers team up again with I and Love and You producer Rick Rubin.

The first track to hit the webs from the new album is “Live and Die” which is featured as part of NPR’s Summer Music Preview. Take a listen here.

Laneway Release New SIngle “Love is a Devil”

Laneway
Image Courtesy of Laneway

Queensland-via-Melbourne duo Laneway have just released their brand new single “Love is a Devil” and it’s something special. Sitting firmly in the Audreys-esque sultry and smokey end of folk and country music, “Love is a Devil” is the first single from Laneway’s album Turn Your Love Up. Take a listen to it below:

Laneway will be launching “Love is a Devil” this Friday 29th June at The Waiting Room in Brisbane. Check out their web site for more details.

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