Peasant Moon Canadian Music Week Tour Diary Part 2

Peasant Moon
Image Courtesy of Peasant Moon

***Read Part 1 Here***

Sydney alt-country duo Peasant Moon took their late-night folk and acoustic Americana sound to Toronto for Canadian Music (CMW) week last week. They kept some notes for us about their tour, discovering new artists and being on the road with a baby – here’s part two.

CMW Day 4.
It’s our last day playing CMW, and we are super excited to be playing the Sounds Australia Soundgallery with heaps of awesome Aussie artists. After kicking off the day with a coffee we head into the conference and attend a session on festivals – it’s interesting, but to be honest the business side of the music industry isn’t our favourite topic of conversation … we’d rather play music. We have a couple of beers at a microbrewery in town and then get ready for the Soundgallery showcase.

First up is an acoustic set from The Lazys, they’re loud, funny and so Aussie – a great way to set the scene for Soundgallery. Next is Lo Carmen, she’s rocking an awesome blue gingham dress with tambourines on her shoes. Her sexy vocals remind me of Hope Sandoval and she’s playing a set of witty songs, some written when she was a teenager. We love her.

HOWQUA is wearing the same shirt as Harvey and puts on a moving set. We’ve got 30 minutes and it’s amazing to play knowing there are heaps on industry-types in the venue.

We stick around to watch a brilliant Ella Fence from Queensland with her cinematic rock; haunting vocals and arrangements from producer Woodes; and a solid set by Demi Louise, who seems to have seriously won over the hearts of Canadians while she’s been here. It’s so cool to see so many amazing Aussie girls rocking the Supermarket! Sounds Australia do such an excellent job curating these events and we are so honoured to have been included.

[Aside: As of 11th May Sounds Australia was not funded by Catalyst which means their music export program will not be available after 31 December 2016. Please sign the following petition to let the government know how important music export is for Australian artists:
https://www.change.org/p/minister-communications-gov-au-saveoursounds-funding-for-sounds-australia?recruiter=55562947 ]

After seeing a bit of Russell Morris we make it over to the Horseshoe Tavern to watch The Sheepdogs and Diarrhea Planet as part of the Dine Alone x Sirius XM Showcase.

Post-CMW

We fly, family-style, from Toronto to Austin and arrive Saturday evening in time for Harvey to catch a captivating William Elliott Whitmore show that night at Sidewinder.

After contacting our mothers on Sunday morning (Mothers day!) we had an amazing Mexican breakfast at Lichas Cantina and discover the baby likes refried beans. The day was spent exploring South Congress and East Austin and then we did a little support for awesome local duo, The Division Men, at a cool dive bar, Hole in the Wall, that night.

On Monday we headed to Congress House Studios to record a couple of live tracks (for release in Australia later this year) which was a blast. We then head over to the Whisler’s courtyard to play a two set show in the blistering humidity.

Capped off our time in Austin with a bit of Dale Watson and His Lone Stars at the iconic Continental Club; obligatory on a Monday night in this town. Of course, Josie was asked to dance….

Peasant Moon’s next Sydney show is 22nd June, Acoustics Anonymous at Newtown Social Club with Sam Newton.

Peasant Moon Canadian Music Week Tour Diary Part 1

Peasant Moon
Image Courtesy of Peasant Moon

Sydney alt-country duo Peasant Moon took their late-night folk and acoustic Americana sound to Toronto for Canadian Music (CMW) week last week. They kept some notes for us about their tour, discovering new artists and being on the road with a baby – here’s part one.

Pre-CMW
I (Josie) arrive about a week before CMW to get over jet lag, well, to be honest it’s mostly for my 7 month old son to get over his jet lag! I’m staying in Chicago with my sister and it’s rainy and cold – isn’t is supposed to be spring? My mandolin was searched by the TSA, assumption must be musos are dodgy.

Harvey arrives in Chicago the day before our gig here – it’s a house concert in a huge basement with local Americana band, White Oak. It was great fun and a brilliant hit-out before our CMW shows next week. Harvey manages an architecture tour and to see Robbie Fulks and his band Western Swing at the iconic Hideout Inn.

CMW Day 1.
After spending way too long in customs we make it to our house in Parkdale and quickly find a solid spot in Queen Street for tacos. After registering for the conference we head to the Cameron House where we are playing tomorrow night. We catch Stonetrotter – a cool indie folk rock band with brilliant harmonies, think a cross between Head and the Heart and the Doors. Starting to get excited for our first show tomorrow night!

CMW Day 2.
Tourist day! Headed into town on the trolley to CN Tower. We had lunch up the top in the revolving restaurant- it takes 72 minutes to get a bird’s eye view of all of Toronto. Perfect for a glass of wine and a leisurely lunch. Josie puts the baby on the glass floor and he is happy as he doesn’t have any depth perception- not as easy for the rest of us at 342 meters.

Show up at Cameron House to load our gear, there’s a solid covers band playing the front room and we grab a beer and do a bit of last minute planning for our set. First up is Shawn William Clarke, a folk singer from Toronto. He’s playing as a three piece with two guys with greats beards – seems to be a thing here in Canada. We’re happy with our set, playing to a reasonably full room. There are a few photographers in the crowd which is a bit disconcerting but we get some great feedback and even sell a few EPs. People are confused by Josie’s accent given we are an Australian band!

The pick of the bands following us is The Proud Sons, one of Harvey’s favorite acts of the festival. They are channeling Wild Feathers, super tight, the type of band we’d like to play in.

CMW Day 3.
We start the day with coffee and a walk (Josie) and run (Harvey). Music journalist Ryan Akukawa invites us out for ‘poutine’, the Canadian dish consisting of french fries, cheese curd and gravy – yes, a perfect hangover cure! We attend the ‘Meet the Australians’ event put on by Sounds Australia and chat with industry types and a few of our Aussie compadres.

The Dakota Tavern is our showcase venue tonight and it’s an awesome room, fitted in old-time paraphernalia – a local ‘roots’ music institution. We had a fun night playing to a full room alongside some genuine up and coming Canadian talent including funk-rockers The Middle Coast, roots/country act Eli and The Straw Man and local indie darlings Sun K.

National Folk Festival Interview: Andrew Winton

Andrew Winton
Image Courtesy of Andrew Winton

It’s been ten years since I first walked into a random tent at The National Folk Festival and became mesmerised by WA based singer and lap guitarist Andrew Winton so it’s amazing to see him returning again this year. We sat down with Winton to chat about The National, his unique guitar and his brand new album Glorybox Mechanics.

Gareth Hugh Evans: I first saw you at The National about ten years ago. I was wandering into one of your shows knowing nothing about you and was blown away by this amazing performance. It was all slide guitars and knee slapping – just amazing. Is The National a special festival for you?

Andrew Winton: It has been. The first time might have been 2006. We were on one of my first national tours and it was just an experience. We had a caravan and an 18 month old – it was a real whirlwind. It was one of the first bigger festivals where we thought “oh, this is very interesting”. We were put in a bit last minute but we had such a response and we’ve been back a few times.

GHE: I remember you in 2006 well.

AW: Yeah, I had dreadlocks and the whole thing. That was at that point where to play that music you had to have a uniform.

GHE: You were the “other” dude from WA with the dreadlocks and the lap guitar.

AW: Yes! Mr Butler, is that the man?

GHE: And I distinctly remember your 18 month old son with Karen Winton holding him. In fact she may have gotten up on stage to sing with you while still holding him.

AW: Yeah – she’s very strong. I think we’ve been at most of the festivals either pregnant or with a young child. We’ve stopped breeding now but there was a period when we were ready to have a kid it was mid festival. It was a real lifestyle for a while.

GHE: Has having a young family informed your playing folk festivals as opposed to the big blues or rock festivals? They’re a bit more family friendly.

AW: Yeah. It’s interesting, that year or the year after we did that circuit and then got invited to SXSW which is the big rock and roll festival in Austin, Texas. And that’s when we felt like “wow this is a bit different”. At [folk] festivals people will actually listen, it’s not all about drinking. And you don’t have to go to number ten on the energy – people will listen to quieter songs, a range of material. People are actually interested in the instrument, in the playing. On the whole the folk festivals have a diverse audience interested in different things., not just stomping and drinking and hollering.

GHE: Speaking of being interested in the instrument – your guitar is called The Beast right?

AW: Now when you saw me I had a thing called the Winton Beast which was made by a Victorian luthier. Then several years after a small American company saw me and said “we want to endorse you and make weird instruments for you” and that’s still happening these days. What they make is these instruments out of the roots of cyprus trees in Alabama. So the Winton Beast morphed into this instrument that is two in one. The Winton Beast was a seven string and I introduced a six string so it’s a 13 string tree root that I play.

GHE: Do you go to the luthiers and say “this is what I want? Or do they come to you and say “what do you think of this crazy idea”?

AW: In both instances they’ve said they’ll make me anything I want. And I’ve gone a) I don’t know what I want and I don’t know much and b) I just used my limited strange creativeness to invent something and they made it happen. And with the guys in Alabama it was all over Skype. I’m a non-practical person, I can’t hammer and nail – I just said “can we try having this many strings with this type of tuning”. I didn’t know if it was going to work and it’s all very experimental. And it’s mostly paid off and I guess in my own little world I’m known as this person that plays weird instruments.

GHE: I think I saw you play at a guitarist showcase at The National and everybody was just fascinated by your instrument.

AW: That’s right! People are more intrigued by that than me. On stage everyone was looking at my groin! Some could consider that a gimmick but in a landscape where everyone plays the same instrument with the same sort of tunings it’s just something different. And as a soloist it allows you to occupy the bass area, the chordal area and the melody at the same time.

GHE: You’ve been pretty prolific over the years and you’ve just recently released your album Glorybox Mechanics. Did you self produce that album?

AW: I have a friend here who has done a lot of recording for me. I chose to go down the path of not wanting any of the gear in my house – I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of recording. But very close to me is a very good engineer and basically I just did it on my iPhone and then went and replicated with him. In some ways it’s self produced but with someone who knows the buttons and the screens and the boring bits.

GHE: It’s always tempting as a musician to become a gear junkie.

AW: I’m anti that [laughs]. Because those guys end up becoming computer engineers and their musical skills fade into the distance.

GHE: You’ve been Glorybox Mechanics quite a bit recently – how’s the reception been so far?

AW: Quite nice actually. It’s tricky because the last album Happy won a bunch of awards and was a whole different level, so there was a little bit of pressure with this one. So it’s nice that ABC Radio National and a lot of community stations, and even one or two of the bigger ones, are playing a couple of songs. It doesn’t change the universe but I was just worried if these were going to work – it’s just my nature. And I’ve been pretty pleased. Especially in a landscape where people don’t buy CDs.

GHE: Except at festivals!

AW: Exactly! It’s the last arena where you go to see an act and straight away go and talk to the person who’s just played and take a bit home with you. It’s that kind of instant performance energy. That’s why these festivals are still trucking along well. As a musician it’s a privilege to play at them because people face your way and they might buy something and you get to talk to everyone.

GHE: At The National Folk Festival this year is it just you solo? Is Karen coming?

AW: Because I’m coming over for a couple of festivals it’s just me – we’ve got too many children now. And I think we’ve got some nice spots there – we’re going to be doing a filming in The Buddawang.

GHE: The National always ends up being quite a collaborative festival anyway so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up spotting you playing with someone like Liz Frencham.

AW: That’s already been arranged! Liz and I live a long way from each other but whenever we get to the same suburb we do something.

GHE: It wouldn’t be a National Folk Festival if Liz Frencham didn’t play with every single act at some point.

AW: Exactly. I stir her about that [laughs].

GHE: Where else are you playing while you’re on the east coast.

AW: I’ve got gigs at the Django Bar in Sydney and the Union Bar in Melbourne.

GHE: Oh lovely – I’ll have to try and get down to one of those shows.

AW: Great! I haven’t been over there for a while.

GHE: Thank you so much for chatting with me. Looking forward to seeing you play again.

AW: Fantastic – thank you!

All of Andrew Winton’s upcoming dates, including his shows at The National Folk Festival, are below:

Wednesday 23rd March – House Concert, Temora, NSW.
Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 4:30pm – Budawang
– Saturday 3:15pm – Marquee (Infinite Song Contest)
– Saturday 7pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle
– Saturday 9:30pm – Flute ‘n’ Fiddle (Liz Frencham Album Launch)
– Sunday 10am – The Terrace (Lap Slide Guitar Workshop)
– Sunday 9pm – Marquee
Thursday 31st March – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 1st April – Selby Folk Club, Selby, VIC
Saturday 2nd April – Union Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 3rd April – House Concert, Mount Franklin, VIC
Friday 8th April – The Herdsman Lake Tavern, Wembley, WA
Saturday 9th April – Caves House Hotel, Yallingup, WA
Sunday 10th April – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, WA
Friday 15th to Sunday 17th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Pinjarra, WA
Sunday 24th April – The Vic Hotel, Perth, WA

World Tour of Celtic Music at Cobargo Folk Festival

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

By Peter Logue

Most people, young and old, could name singers and bands they associate with what’s broadly known as Celtic music.
For the younger folk, it might be the Pogues (even though they’ve been around for decades) or hard pumping bands like Dropkick Murphys who made their name in Boston.

For older folk, it might be The Corrs, the Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains or even balladeer Daniel O’Donnell, who is still enormously popular on the Australian seniors’ concert and club circuit.

But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find there are many genres under the Celtic music banner in such places as Asturias and Galicia in Spain, parts of Portugal, Brittany in France, and Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton in Canada.

The music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Asturias provide the base from which much of the Celtic music styles emerged, though each of those has been shaped by other forms of local traditional music.

American bluegrass, old-timey and country music and Australian bush music owe their roots to the various Celtic musical styles brought from Ireland and Britain.

In modern times a whole range of Celtic fusion music – bands like the Afro-Celtic Sound System, Shooglenifty and Gaelic Storm (from the movie Titanic) have emerged.

Then there are the many Celtic dance forms and their offshoots, from Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, to the ever popular Scottish county dancing and, of course, our own bush dancing.

This year’s Cobargo Festival presents a great opportunity to take a world tour of the different styles of Celtic music and dance mentioned above.

From Canada’s Prince Edward Island come the dynamic East Pointers whose toe-tapping tunes make you want to do your own Riverdance impersonations in the aisle.

Ireland provides The Rambling Boys, four top class traditional musicians who have paid their dues over the years and who bring humour and pathos to their traditional tunes and songs.

Candelo multi-instrumentalist Kate Burke is a founder member of Trouble in the Kitchen, an Aussie quartet who are more traditional in style than many Irish bands.

Also from Australia, Senor Cabrales play the tunes of Asturias, Galicia, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland on a range of instruments, including the Asturian pipes.

American Beth Patterson brings Celtic rhythms to her songs and tunes, played on the eight string bouzouki – taken from the Greeks and refined into a popular Irish instrument.

Finally Australian Nicola Hayes and Helene Brunet from France demonstrate the Celtic influence in Brittany as well as belting out some traditional Irish tunes.

Hang around the festival session bar and you’re sure to hear fabulous tunes and songs from all over the Celtic musical diaspora.

The Cobargo Folk Festival will be held this weekend from the 26th to 28th February in Cobargo, NSW. For more information and tickets check out the official site here.

Details of the Summer Hill Folk Festival

Summer Hill
Image Courtesy of Summer Hill Folk Festival

This March a brand new event will be bringing folk music to the inner western suburbs of Sydney and it looks pretty exciting. The brand new Summer Hill Folk Festival is set to take place at the Summer Hill Church on Saturday 5th March.

The lineup for the festival is impressive, bringing together some of Sydney’s best folkies and plenty of Timber and Steel favourites including Pat Drummond, Catgut, Brian Campeau, Fanny Lumsden, The Tawny Owl String Band and many more.

The day kicks off at 10am and along with the music program there will be artisan markets for punters to peruse. And all of this is for free.

For more information check out the official Summer Hill Folk Festival site here or the Facebook event here. The full lineup and set times are below:

10:30am History, Stories and Songs by the venerable Pat Drummond
11:30am Marie & Luke
12:30am Catgut
1:30pm MASTERCLASS: Song writing tips from the artists
2:15pm Matilda Abraham Solo
3:15pm David Thomas
4:15pm OLD INSTRUMENTS: Introduction to the Harp
5:00pm Burrows (Canberra)
6:00pm Brian Campeau Solo
7:00pm Fanny Lumsden
8:00pm Tawny Owl String Band

Ten Artists to Watch in the First Half of 2016

Bob Dylan

Following the success of last year’s “Ten Artists to Watch in the First Half of 2015” article we thought we’d try our hand again at picking which bands and singers you’re going to be hearing a lot from over the next 6 months. This list is by no means exhaustive (I had to whittle it down to just 10) but I think it’s a nice mix of artists, old and new, to keep an eye on this year. It’s 2016 – let’s get excited about new music!

All Our Exes
All Our Exes Live in Texas

While it’ll be tough to top a 2015 that included supporting The Backstreet Boys on their Australian tour I reckon All Our Exes Live in Texas are set to have a massive 2016. Having hit their crowdfunding target to record their debut album late last year the girls have been busy running between festivals, recording studios and music video locations throughout January – and they’ve just been announced as the supports for Passenger’s Australian tour. Expect All Our Exes Live in Texas to be everywhere you look this year.

Bon Iver
Bon Iver

It’s been five years since Bon Iver’s last album. It’s been four years since Bon Iver last toured Australia. In fact most people had written them off, assuming Justin Vernon was moving on to other projects, until mid last year where Bon Iver played the Eaux Claires Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Vernon told Consequence of Sound that this was the start of the band’s third cycle. Now they’re heading to Asia for shows in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan this February and March bringing them very close to our shores…

Eagle and the Wolf
Eagle & The Wolf

Two of Australia’s finest singer-songwriters, indie-pop goddess Sarah Humphreys and alt-country troubadour Kris Morris, met, fell in love and now they’re making they’re making beautiful folk music together as Eagle & The Wolf. The project is in its infancy but they’ve already secured a tour with Kasey Chambers, wowed crowds at the Tamworth Music Festival and have an album coming out in February.

Imogen Clark
Imogen Clark

If the buzz from Tamworth is anything to go by 2016 is going to be huge for Imogen Clark. Signing to the coveted Lost Highway label late last year and recording her debut album in Nashville (release date to be announced), Clark has been going from strength to strength – and it couldn’t happen to a nicer girl!

John Flanagan
John Flanagan

John Flanagan is one of those artists that manages to straddle the fine line between country and folk music and as such has been embraced by both scenes. His new solo album There’s Another Way To Where You’re Going hits stands next week and he heads off on a tour with alt-country Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel throughout February and I have a feeling that Flanagan will gain a whole new legion of fans around the country before the year is out.

Matt Corby
Matt Corby

The two songs we’ve heard from Matt Corby’s debut album Telluric so far couldn’t be more different – the gospel infused “Monday” was followed up with the psychedelic “Sooth Lady Wine”. Exactly what the rest of the album will hold remains to be seen but you can be pretty sure Matt Corby’s amazing voice and solid song writing will shine through.

Matthew and the Atlas
Matthew and the Atlas

Another artist that has been too quiet for too long UK nu-folkers Matthew and the Atlas revealed their new song “Elijah” earlier this month with the news they’d been in the studio late last year. We don’t have any more details on what will be the result of those recording sessions but if you’ve heard “Elijah” you’ll be very very excited.

Radical Face
Radical Face

After almost a decade American artist Radical Face will finally release the third album in his The Family Tree trilogy this March. Radical Face first crossed our path when “Welcome Home” was used for a Nikon commercial a few years back and I’ve devoured everything since. The one track we’ve heard from The Family Tree: Leaves is “The Road To Nowhere” which sees Radical Face up the ante production wise boding well for the rest of the record.

Rowena Wise
Rowena Wise

There was so much buzz surrounding Rowena Wise’s solo music last year which seemed to die down somewhat as she ducked into the studio to record an album. Now there are some rumblings of a return with Rowena Wise and her new band The Guys booking gigs in February. Prepare to have Rowena Wise win your heart all over again.

The Timbers
The Timbers

Adelaide’s kings of the folk-stomp The Timbers will be releasing their first true studio album Restless in February and are following up with a huge national tour. These guys have built a reputation as an amazing live band and are set to become a festival favourite as they jump from Port Fairy to The National and beyond.

Review: Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Illawarra
Image Courtesy of Illawarra Folk Festival

As the summer roles around each year I take a look at the packed folk festival calendar and try to work out which events I’ll be attending over the season. There are always a few festivals that fall into the “one day” category because of the effort required to get to them (making it down to Cygnet and Georgetown in Tasmania for instance is a two week commitment I’m yet to make). And then there’s those events that have to be a trade off – if I head to WOMADelaide it means I’m missing out on Nannup or Port Fairy.

Then there are those events that are a must – and the Illawarra Folk Festival is at the top of that list. Just an hour and a half from Sydney by train, the Illawarra Folk Festival is a no brainer, even if just for a day or two over the long weekend. The festival sits somewhere between the smaller boutique folk festivals hosted by country towns and the “big three” folk festivals of Woodford, Port Fairy and The National – it manages to attract the best and brightest of the international and Australian folk scene while maintaining a unique community vibe.

For the first time in ages I committed to heading to the Illawarra Folk Festival for the three main days this year, even if it meant commuting to and from my base in Sydney every day. I was determined to see as much music as possible without dealing with the inevitable clashes that comes from trying to see everything in one day. This year I was going to lose my weekend to the Illawarra Folk Festival.

Friday

I walked into the festival on Friday morning nursing a slight hangover courtesy of The East Pointers, The Button Collective and a few too many Guinnesses at The Gaelic Club the night before. I had decided against patronising the opening night of the Illawarra Folk Festival in favour of The East Pointers’ headline show in Sydney – I knew I was going to catch them over the weekend but the opportunity to see them in my own backyard was just too appealing.

It’s been a long while since I’ve spent a Friday at the Illawarra Folk Festival and I have to say it was the perfect way to kick the event off. The smaller Friday crowd made for a lazy day wandering around the Bulli showground taking in music at all of the venues and getting a feel for the place.

I kicked off my day getting on top of my hangover hiding out for a couple of acts in the Grandstand restaurant. I managed to catch the amazing bouzouki player Beth Patterson who is touring the country at the moment spreading her take on traditional and contemporary folk. I’d never considered the bouzouki as a solo instrument before but Patterson brought a maturity to the instrument that was just spellbinding. I hung around for Adelaide based singer-songwriter Banjo Jackson on the recommendation of Kaurna Cronin and was not disappointed – Jackson can stand tall with the new breed of folk singers coming out of Adelaide at the moment with the type of music that is instantly relatable and the perfect pairing of solo, finger-picked guitar and effects laden fiddle.

I’d drunkenly promised Rebecca Bastoli the night before that I would be at her debut programmed festival show at 2:15pm so I staked out my spot in the Nags Lounge early. Despite a couple of unavoidable technical problems (she was mortified when she broke a string halfway through the performance) Bastoli delivered a stunning set, backed by a full band of fiddle, flute, box and bass. It boggles my mind how talented Rebecca Bastoli is – in such a short time she has mastered both the guitar and mandolin and written some of the most poignant songs I’ve heard in ages.

A revelation of the festival was Irish singer O’Leary. If I’m honest I only caught his set by accident but I was mesmerised throughout. The way he brought a humility and reverence to traditional songs was amazing and the backing percussion, electric guitar and flute just enhanced his music.

It wouldn’t be an Illawarra Folk Festival without Australiana-punks Handsome Young Strangers so I made a point of catching their set at The Miners Camp before wrapping my day up and jumping on the train back to Sydney. Handsome Young Strangers are a folk music institution and they tore through their catalogue with the usual devil-may-care attitude. It’s amazing seeing Australian bush and folk music updated for a modern audience while still maintaining respect for the work.

Saturday

Saturday at the Illawarra Folk Festival is always hectic and this year was no different. Watching the crowd stream through the front doors and fill up the venues. Watching a packed festival like this fills me with joy – it proves once again that folk music is thriving and that the people behind the Illawarra Folk Festival should be so proud of the community that they’re created.

I was determined to see local singer-songwriter Kay Proudlove after I missed her set last year, and I was not disappointed. Proudlove is the consummate performer, delighting crowds between songs and delivering lyric driven music that is instantly relatable. I am now determined to see Kay Proudlove every time she ventures north to Sydney (or at least to program future Illawarra Folk Festivals around her sets).

Having heard nothing but amazing things about Irish Mythen I just had to see what all the fuss was about – and I have to say I was not disappointed. Watching one woman with a guitar command the largest stage at the Illawarra Folk Festival was astounding – her stage presence and the way she worked the audience was truly a masterclass in performance. Her version of “The Auld Triangle” is a crowd favourite for a reason and absolutely brought the house down.

The next few hours were a blur of amazing music. Shane Howard once again proved why he is Australia’s best songwriters for those people who braved the mud to venture into the Black Diamond Marquee. Out Of Abingdon added touch of jazz to the festival with their vibey folk tunes. The Redfern Shanty Club turned their performance at The Miners Camp into an all-in singalong session. The Button Collective’s impromptu blackboard session at the Tantric Turtle was the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon coffee. And The Dead Maggies rounded out a bunch of amazing music by tearing up the stage with a mostly cobbled together new lineup.

I rounded out the day by catching trad band Fresh Off The Boat at their intimate Café de Rude. Made up of some of Sydney’s best trad players (most of which you can catch at the Friday night Gaelic Club sessions) Fresh Off The Boat breathed fresh life into traditional Irish music and delighted the local crowd. The sound at the gig was not amazing, mainly owing to the fact that the entire band couldn’t fit on Café de Rude’s stage, but just watching the skill of the players was enough to overcome any issues. The perfect way to round out a hectic Saturday of music.

Sunday

On the third day the Illawarra Folk Festival became about two things – catching all the artists I hadn’t seen yet and revisiting those that had made an impression over the weekend.

I kicked off my day with Queensland based singer-songwriter Mia Wray. Alternating between guitar and piano Wray brought a maturity to her music that seemed to defy her young age. Her original songs were just stunning and she had the audience eating out of her hand with her easygoing stage presence.

I’d seen Japanese Irish trad band John John Festival a couple of years ago at the Illawarra Folk Festival a couple of years ago so I jumped at the chance to catch bodhran player Toshi Bodhran and fiddle player Mana Okubo again as part of Tim Scalan’s band – and I was not disappointed. While I loved Scalan’s masterful singing and harmonica playing it was Toshi Bodhran who stole the show – the man can turn the bodhran into a melody instrument like no one I’ve ever seen before. Special mention has to go to Mana Okubo who performed the entire set with her baby strapped to her back.

The Wish List proved that the fiddle is all you need to accompany a voice and that three fiddles with three voices is even better. This was one of the most innovative bands at the Illawarra Folk Festival – I can’t wait to see these girls live again.

In the afternoon I dragged myself up the hill to the Small Halls Concert in order to catch Liz Stringer and then The East Pointers. For too long people have been telling me that Liz Stringer is the best songwriter in Australia and watching her set at the Illawarra Folk Festival those same people may be proved right. Stringer has an intensity to her songwriting that is tempered with a warmth in her performance not matched by many. I implore you to see Liz Stringer wherever and whenever you get the chance.

Despite having seen The East Pointers in Sydney a couple of days earlier there was no way was going to miss their final set at the Illawarra Folk Festival. These guys are probably the most exciting trad band I have seen in the last 12 months and their live set is incredibly tight. Their use of foot percussion and bass effects on the guitar elevate this three piece from session band to festival headliners and the ease at which they interact with their audience makes you feel included in the experience.

The rest of Sunday evening was spent drifting from tent to tent catching whatever music was playing before idling my way to the Grandstand Restaurant for a final set from The Button Collective and then jumping on the train home.

The organisers of this year’s Illawarra Folk Festival have a lot to be proud of, building an event that caters to almost every facet of the “folk” genre all the while maintaining a community spirit. There’s a reason why performers and punters come back to the Illawarra Folk Festival every year and why it remains a must attend on my festival calendar. Bring on 2017!

Watch the New Matt Bauer Video “What The White Book Said”

Matt Bauer
Image Courtesy of Matt Bauer

American indie-folk singer-songwriter Matt Bauer released his gorgeous new album Dream’s End towards the end of last year. The album is definitely a big step forward for Bauer’s sound with the production adding a sumptuous element to his sparse folk songs.

The latest single from Dream’s End is the beautiful “What The White Book Said” – check it out here:

Review: Mudsling Festival, Mudgee

Mudsling
All Photos by Elizabeth Walton, 2016

Mudsling!!!

What a fabulous event and success! For a first time event it was great to see so many people.

The crowd just kept on coming all through the day and they were ready to enter well before kickoff time of 2.00pm. The workshops created a lot of interest with Warwick Hargreaves and Daniel Champagne giving very generously of their time and talent plus playing a few select songs to display their talent and know how. Then the action moved to the front bar with Franke Stoove from Brisbane and Garry Furlong from Kiama delighting the audience with their home spun songs and covers before local musical luminaries Nick Wall and Euripi revved up the energy meter…it was just like the Roth’s Wine Bar of old (oldest continual license in NSW circa 1923) with the standing room only space rollicking along to hearty singing.

A short rest before the big bands kicked off on the main stage with Mudgee based band Honey sending everyone into passion and delight with their delicate sounds and thunder. Look out for the imminent release of their debut album at Easter.

Honey

A very special moment was when Out of Abingdon joined Honey on stage for a set including the beautiful rendition of “Blue” by Vince Jones sung by Elizabeth Walton and a haunting stirring version of “Amazing Grace” with Tina from Out of Abingdon’s arced bass. An audience member Craig from Mudgee remarked it was the most moving part of the whole event.

Next Out of Abingdon cut swathes of cool jazz through the hot summer evening and their sassy approach had the place humming. This date is kicking off their Long Hot Summer tour and they are ready to swing. Their takes on Kylie and Bjork, where they jazzified the songs added to their cool and already apparent hip instincts. In anticipation for the main attraction the crowd was swelling and an audience member from Leura was quite taken by their interpretations of unlikely songs.

Daniel Champagne

Daniel Champagne certainly knows how to fill a room and by now the place was full. The surprise of an artist (Sam Paine) onstage painting him live while he played only added to the drama of the evening. It definitely was a sight to see and will have people talking about it for a long time to come in this little town. His dexterity and energy were light as a feather and cutting like a knife and the crowd was stunned by his show stopping virtuosity.

Showcasing new material from his American tour this is his second stop, after Woodford, on his short Australian Tour before he heads back stateside. Mudgee was very lucky to snaffle him during his quick stopover. He was like a purring engine and fully on fire after racking up 250 shows last year alone.

The raffle was huge and festival director Richard Lawson said a quick speech while he got Warwick Hargraves from Out of Abingdon to draw the lucky winning ticket who took off the 2500 dollar prize.

Saltwater Sound System

Benji and the Saltwater Sound system are formerly Southerly Change and they closed out the evening. Ben Fowler, the leader, is just back from a year in the Solomon Islands and this was their first show since their sellout show in January at Tomerong Hall on the South Coast of NSW. He rounded up his South Coast cohorts in the Saltwater bus and they headed to Mudgee to be joined on drums and percussion by former Lime Spiders drummer Richard Lawson and his best student Jacob Barnes. They filled the venue with the rousing sweet sounds of dance reggae. Sometimes it became a frenetic percussive filled African vibe with a swirling wall of rhythm. By now the crowd was well and truly sweaty and dancing up a storm.

The night finished with the crowd joining in with vocal harmonies and the lines between the audience and performer were blurred and everyone became equal…but isn’t that what the best festivals are all about!!!

POSTSCRIPT

Out of Abingdon continue their Long Hot Summer tour at the Illawarra Folk Festival this week for the rest of January before heading back to Europe in Autumn.

Daniel Champagne is also stopping in at Illawarra before finishing his short Australian Tour and heading back to the states.

Ben from Benji and the Saltwater Sound System is boarding a plane to back to the Solomons Islands.

Mudgee’s own Honey are preparing for the imminent release of their debut album at Easter

Details of the 2016 Cobargo Folk Festival

Cobargo
Image Courtesy of Cobargo Folk Festival

By Peter Logue

As it is for many things in life, for folk festivals, timing is everything. With the festival calendar now stretching from September through to late April, it becomes difficult to keep festival artistic programs fresh and exciting.

I have attended hundreds of folk festivals, here and in Europe, over the past 45 years and – I know it’s a big call and I’ll be accused of bias because I’m on the organising committee – I’ve never seen such an outstanding small festival line-up as you’ll see late in February in Cobargo.

Cobargo, in the magnificent Bega Valley, this year boasts eight world-class international acts, most of whom will go on to headline at major festivals like Port Fairy, Blue Mountains and the National in Canberra.

This includes heavy Celtic influences from the likes of Ireland’s Rambling Boys – lead by Four Men and a Dog bodhran master Gino Lupari – Canada’s exciting East Pointers, Irish bouzouki whiz Beth Patterson from the US and Nicola Hayes and Hélène Brunet, now based in Brittany.

The English tradition is also strongly represented with the multi-talented Kirsty Bromley, troubadour Alistair Brown who’s becoming a Cobargo regular, and one of my personal favourites Vin Garbutt – still making people laugh and cry at the same time.

A late and welcome inclusion from the US is the punk/bluegrass/soul duo Truckstop Honeymoon. I’d need a whole article to describe what they do – but here’s a clip that might explain them better than any words.

When you add local talents like Trouble in the Kitchen, Fred Smith and Liz Frenchman, blues legends The Backsliders (in acoustic mode), Daniel Champagne, Danny Spooner, the outrageous Old Empire Band and many, many more – it’s quite festival for such a small, but perfectly formed, village.

We’re particularly pleased to receive a grant Arts NSW’s Country Arts Support Program for Neil Murray, formerly of the Warumpi band, to run workshops in the Dhurga language with the local Yuin Community.

Back to the issue of timing. Cobargo Festival does not have deep pockets or particularly wealthy sponsors.

Most international acts tour for a month to six weeks at the most and generally time their run to take in the major festivals in March and early April.

Cobargo does well because it has a great reputation for hospitality, great scenery not far from a hundred pristine beaches, and knowledgeable audiences – many of whom have been coming to the festival for the 21 years it has been going.

It gives acts time to settle in, shake off the jet lag and get their sets in order, plus they can cover expenses and seel a lot of CDs to the 3000 plus people who attended.

Run by volunteer from the community, Cobargo spends any profits it makes wisely. Since last year it has worked closely with co-venue partners the Showground Trust to improve facilities, adding a big new shower and toilet block and improving camping areas at the Showground.

We’re expecting a bumper crowd this year and are thankful for a grant from Destination NSW to help promote the festival outside our area. Of course, we don’t want to get too big and lose that wonderful intimate atmosphere of the small festival.

Dates are February 26th-28th: so get in early and look for tickets on www.cobargofolkfestival.com

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