Ten Artists to Watch in the First Half of 2017

Bob Dylan

With the new year upon us it’s time to look ahead at some of the great folk, roots and acoustic music that will be coming our way in 2017. And it’s already shaping up to be an amazing year with a bunch of very exciting albums already announced (see the list at the bottom of this piece) and even more in the works. We had a stab at picking 10 artists we think you should be keeping an eye on in the coming months but as always this is far from exhaustive. We hope you enjoy and a happy 2017!

All Our Exes All Our Exes Live in Texas

A perennial for this yearly article it would seem. Somewhere in between tour commitments last year All Our Exes Live in Texas found time to get into the studio and record their debut album When We Fall. The album was produced and engineered by Wayne Connolly (Sarah Blasko, Silverchair, You Am I) and will likely hit stores around March. Expect to see a lot of All Our Exes Live in Texas in the coming months – they’re set to explode.

Davidson Brothers Davidson Brothers

Late last year Australian bluegrass duo Davidson Brothers headed to Nashville to record with Larry Marrs at Mark Thornton for an upcoming album. The Davidson Brothers released their last album Wanderlust back in 2014 so a new record is very much anticipated and if you’ve managed to catch them live yet this year you’ll know they continue to be one of the most exciting live acts in the country. Stay tuned for news of their new album soon!

Fleet Foxes

While there’s been no official announcement of a new Fleet Foxes album this year, their first since 2011’s Helplessness Blues, all signs are pointing toward a release very soon. Frontman Robin Pecknold has been hinting at a new Fleet Foxes long player (plus a solo album) over the last couple of months and the band also reassured fans via social media that they wouldn’t have to fly to an announced show in Ireland in July because “we’ll be doing a full world tour in 2017-18 so no need to spend a lot on travel”. Watch this space for more information when it’s announced!

Husky Husky

Don’t be surprised if Husky’s 2016 single “Late Night Store” makes an appearance in this year’s triple j Hottest 100 – the national youth broadcaster has been hammering it of late. The track is the first taster from the Melbourne indie-folk duo’s third album which is due for release at “some point” in 2017. That’s all the information we have now but expect some more news to drop soon.

Jordan Jordan Ireland

The ex-member of The Middle East announced plans to release his new album Jordan Ireland With Purple Orchestra on the 20th January. The first track from the album “East Coaster” is a lot more acoustically driven than Ireland’s previous project Stolen Violin, but that’s not to say the rest of Jordan Ireland With Purple Orchestra will follow suit. We’ll have to wait and see what the album brings but I have a feeling it’s going to be something special.

Laura marling Laura Marling

A new album from Laura Marling in 2017 – Semper Femina due on the 10th March – is in itself not a surprise. The prolific singer-songwriter has released five albums over the last nine years with Semper Femina marking her sixth long player. But on hearing the first single “Soothing” it’s clear that Marling is experimenting with her sound and Semper Femina may not be as “folk” as we’re used to from her. The album will apparently focus heavily on female characters and creativity, a theme Laura Marling explored in her excellent 2016 podcast Reversal of the Muse which we highly recommend you download.

Punch Brothers Punch Brothers Side Projects

While things are pretty quiet on the Punch Brothers front the various members are keeping themselves very very busy. As well as hosting the new season of A Prairie Home Companion mandolinist and singer Chris Thile will release his album with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau, on the 27th January. Banjo player Noam Pikelny’s new solo album Universal Favorite is due for release in March this year and was produced by Punch Brothers fiddle player Gabe Witcher. Witcher has also produced a solo album for guitarist Chris “Critter” Eldridge which will hopefully come out this year. Bassist Paul Kowert is prepping a new album as well with his trio Haas Kowert Tice (featuring Brittany Haas and Jordan Tice). All in all this might be the biggest year ever for fans of Punch Brothers.


Rhiannon Giddens Rhiannon Giddens

With her new album Freedom Highway due on the 24th February and an Australian tour this April (including an appearance at Bluesfest), 2017 could well be the year Rhiannon Giddens solidifies her Australian fanbase. Freedom Highway delves deep into black American history with songs based on slave narratives of the 19th century through to the civil rights movements of the 1960s. This may be Giddens’s most powerful work to date.

The Morrisons The Morrisons

There was a time when you couldn’t move in Sydney without bumping into a gig from The Morrisons. But over the last 18 months or so The Morrisons have become a little more scarce as the members focus on their side projects, although they continue to shine with their Paul Kelly and O Brother Where Art Thou? theme shows. In recent months the band have started posting photos from the studio and as we write this it looks like The Morrisons are on the verge of announcing the release of their debut album and a bunch of tour dates – 2017 is going to be the year The Morrisons come back in a big bad way.

Timberwolf Timberwolf

Adelaide based indie-folk singer-songwriter Timberwolf has been quietly plugging away at the scene for a while now and I feel as though 2017 will be his year. Having already garnered attention from triple j for his new single “Washed Out” Timberwolf is about to release his debut album and has a bunch of tour dates through the end of January and the start of February. Once the album is announced expect to see Timberwolf through 2017.

2017 Album Release Schedule

6th January: 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory – Dropkick Murphys
13th January: Gentlewoman, Ruby Man – Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White
13th January: Laws of Gravity – The Infamous Stringdusters
13th January: Endless – The McClymonts
20th January: Jordan Ireland With Purple Orchestra – Jordan Ireland With Purple Orchestra
20th January: Dragonfly – Kasey Chambers
27th January: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau – Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
27th January: Seven Long Years – Musketeer
27th January: Stitch of the World – Tift Merritt
3rd February: Big Machine – Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band
10th February: Memories Are Now – Jesca Hoop
10th February: Best Of – Old Crow Medicine Show
17th February: Windy City – Alison Krauss
17th February: Postcards From The Shell House – Busby Marou
17th February: Life Will See You Now – Jens Lekman
17th February: Highway Queen – Nikki Lane
17th February: Prisoner – Ryan Adams
24th February: Freedom Highway – Rhiannon Giddens
27th February: Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood – Sun Kil Moon
March – Universal Favorite – Noam Pikelny
3rd March: When We Fall – All Our Exes Live In Texas
3rd March: Ironbark – The Waifs
10th March: Semper Femina – Laura Marling
16th March: The Order of Time – Valerie June
31st March: Life Love Flesh Blood – Imelda May

The Best Folky Christmas Songs of 2016

Little Drummer Boy

It’s Christmas Eve which means its time to publish our favourite Christmas tracks released this year with a folky flavour.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! Looking forward to folking with you in 2017

The Lumineers – “Blue Christmas”
This year we were treated to a couple of versions of the Elvis Presley track “Blue Christmas” – a stripped back version from The Lumineers and an indie version from Builder of the House & Robyn Adele Anderson. We like ’em both!

Builder of the House (ft. Robyn Adele Anderson) – “Blue Christmas”

Trampled by Turtles – “Christmas in Prison”
Jone Prine’s “Christmas in Prison” is a go to cover for Americana, country and bluegrass bands each year – we like this version from Trampled by Turtles

Bonnie & The Barrows – “Christmas Brand New”

Sara Watkins – “The Holidays With You”
Sara Watkins adds a touch of ukulele to Christmas with her track “The Holidays With You”.

David Brent & Foregone Conclusion – “Don’t Cry It’s Christmas”
Ok, this isn’t folk. But you have to agree that Ricky Gervais’ David Brent owns the Christmas number one with “Don’t Cry It’s Christmas”

Brooke Annibale – “This Holiday”

Caroline Pennell Feat. Aaron Espe – “This Year”

Miranda Dodson – “Christmas Glow”

Jessica Martindale & Tyler Huston – “Angels We Have Heard”

She & Him – “Christmas Memories”
She & Him are determined to corner the indie market each and every year and their 2016 track “Christmas Memories” is another gem.

Freedom Fry – “Oh Santa (Bad World)”

Woodsy Pride – “It’s Merry Christmas”

Marié Digby – “Venice Beach Christmas”

Cara Dillon – “Upon a Winter’s Night”
A truly wonderful piece of Christmas folk music – what more would you expect from Cara Dillon?

Low – “Some Hearts (at Christmas Time)”

Jack Skuller – “Stuck In This Holiday”

The Washington Squares – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”
“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” gets a 60s folk makeover care of The Washington Squares.

Loretta Lynn – “To Heck with Ole Santa Claus”

Skinner and T’witch – “The Winter Song”

Jethro Tull – “Pass The Bottle (A Christmas Song)”

The Changing Room – “There’s Magic In Christmas Eve”

Ange Hardy – “Mary’s Robin”
Ange Hardy released a double A side for Christmas and both tracks – “The Quantock Carol” and “Mary’s Robin” – are magnificent. We chose “Mary’s Robin” because most other outlets are chosing the former.

The Gothard Sisters – “Christmas Flower”
Tightly polished Irish folk music at its best.

Jennifer Licko – “The Holly and the Ivy”

Cherish the Ladies – “Ding Dong! Merrily On High/The Cordal Jig/Old Apples In Winter/Con Cassidy’s”

Ben Abraham and Missy Higgins – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
A wonderful slice of Australian Christmas. Ben Abraham, Missy Higgins, a kiddy pool and a dog are all you need.

The Secret Sisters – “The Little Drummer Boy”

Hattie Briggs & Natalie Holmes – “Christmas Bells”

Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2016

2016

To round out our week of “best of” lists our illustrious Editor in Chief Gareth Hugh Evans once again whittles down the ton of releases that crossed his ears this year to pick his 25 favourite tracks of 2016.

We’re going to get out of the way and let Gareth throw some music your way – enjoy!

1. Foy Vance – “She Burns”
Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance has always been on my radar but when he released his album The Wild Swan earlier this year I was floored. The standout track, I think most people would agree, is the wonderful “She Burns”, with its pizzicato guitar, slow build percussion and choral backing vocals. Foy Vance is a singer-songwriter at the top of his game.

2. One Up, Two Down – “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie”
It seems almost unfair that I would choose a traditional song as my favourite from a band that are not only accomplished songwriters in their own right but also amazing musicians whose instrumental tracks are incredibly special. But I challenge you to listen to Dan Watkins singing “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” and not melt into a puddle. His voice and guitar, combined with George Jackson and Andrew Small’s long bowed fiddle and bass, turn this cowboy ballad into something more. Simply beautiful.

3. Burrows – “Falling Apart”
When I saw Burrows play at this year’s Summer Hill Folk Festival I was floored. Every song they played was a piece of harmonic brilliance, enhanced by the acoustics of the Summer Hill Church. When they came around to “Falling Apart” I murmured “that’s the song” – and I still maintain that this track is near perfect. I love Sam King’s understated vocals and the harmonies in the chorus are just divine.

4. Eagle & The Wolf – “Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost”
The pairing of Kris Morris’ dirty blues and roots with Sarah Humphreys’ big folk voice, “Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost” was the perfect introduction to Eagle & The Wolf. Individually Kris Morris and Sarah Humphreys are firm favourites of Timber and Steel but Eagle & The Wolf is greater than the sum of its parts and “Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost” is the epitome of their collaboration. This is rootsy blues done right – all crunchy guitars, clipped percussion and keyboard and big, bluesy voices.

5. Bon Iver – “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”
With its glitchy opening, distorted Mahalia Jackson samples, saxaphone solos and weird lyrics it would appear on the surface that Justin Vernon has well and truly moved on from the acoustic folk of For Emma, Forever Ago and embraced the more electronic elements of the self-titled Bon Iver. But at its core “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” is still classic Bon Iver with Vernon’s double-tracked, falsetto voice coming through loud and clear. Strip back all the beeps and bops and “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” could sit alongside any of the classic Bon Iver folk tracks.

6. Melody Pool – “Love, She Loves Me”
Since first seeing Melody Pool perform at the Gulgong Folk Festival back in 2013 I’ve been predicting big things for her. To say that her new album Deep Dark Savage Heart was highly anticipated in the Timber and Steel bullpen is an understatement and when it dropped earlier this year it was on solid repeat for ages. “Love, She Loves Me” is definitely a standout track on the album (although “Black Dog” is a close second), perfectly demonstrating Pool’s skill as a songwriter and singer. What a voice!

7. Rowena Wise – “Then We Met”
Rowena Wise owns the quirky indie-folk genre this year this this wonderfully catchy track from her 2016 self titled album. I love the twisted, bluesy finger-picked riff throughout this track and that chorus is a definite ear worm. I’ve been watching Rowena Wise cloesly since she launched a serious solo career and it’s songs like “Then We Met” that will see her successfully straddle the folk and indie worlds in the coming years

8. Matthew and the Atlas – “Elijah”
I love Matt Hegarty’s voice. “Elijah” is probably the most stripped back, acoustic track on Matthew and the Atlas’ latest album Temple and is easily my favourite as well. I love the finger-picked guitar over the swelling piano and orchestral elements and the subtle backing vocals. But most of all I love Matt Hegarty’s voice – I just can’t get passed that.

9. Paul Kelly feat. Alice Keath – “Sonnet 73”
To be honest I could have chosen any of the tracks from Paul Kelly’s marvelous album Shakespeare inspired Seven Sonnets And A Song. The reason I finally settled on “Sonnet 73” is two fold: Firstly it has a wonderful, folk-country feel with Kelly’s strummed acoustic guitar over a plucked pedal steel; And second the backing vocals from Alice Keath (Sweet Jean) are pitch perfect. Who knew you could improve on The Bard?

10. Seth Lakeman feat. Wildwood Kin – “Meet Me In The Twilight”
More than any other song on this list “Meet Me In The Twilight” gets lodged in my head and refuses to leave. Lakeman’s percussive guitar work coupled with an instantly singable (or yellable) chorus are what makes this song so catchy. Wildwood Kin add an extra level of sophistication to this track as well as the rest of Lakeman’s album Ballads of the Broken Few. I have a feeling that this track would be amazing to see live and have the crowd foot stomping and singing along.

11. Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best, Beatenberg – “Wona”
This collaboration between Mumford & Sons, Senegalese musician Baaba Maal, Swedish-Malawian electronic band The Very Best and South African afro-beat masters Beatenberg is just pure joy. All afro-beat goodness and nu-folk bombast, you can’t help but smile when listening to “Wona”, it’s such a breath of fresh air. I know that liking Mumford & Sons is definitely no longer “cool” but when they’re collaborating and producing music like this then you’ll still find me first in line for their next release.

12. James Kenyon – “The Motorbike Song”
I feel like James Kenyon might be one of the most underrated singer-songwriters in Australia right now. Songs like “The Motorbike Song”, with its rootsy groove and Paul Kelly-esque lyrical style, should see Kenyon a firm favourite amongst music lovers everywhere. I also have to give props to the wonderful video from Ed Bracey – it even makes Melbourne’s Docklands look stunning.

13. Michael Kiwanuka – “Black Man In A White World”
Michael Kiwanuka has always deftly woven together elements of folk, gospel, blues and old-school R&B and his single “Black Man In A White World” is the epitome of that sound. I love the gospel clapping accompanying the disco-like string stabs and R&B guitar. This could well have come straight out of the 70s – one of those songs that sound immediately timeless.

14. Fanny Lumsden – “Land of Gold”
At the time of writing Fanny Lumsden had been nominated for an ARIA award, has 4 Golden Guitar nominations and has gone to number one on the Country Music Channel charts twice. Incredible work for a singer-songwriter from the Riverina. One of those top charting songs is the nostalgic “Land of Gold”, a deceptively simple storytelling song with a big heart that has quickly become one of my favourite Fanny tracks ever. Whether she’s playing with a full band or with just her bassist Dan, “Land of Gold” always pops live. I really love this song.

15. Passenger feat. All Our Exes Live in Texas & Luke Thompson – “Caravan (Live)”
It’s a bit cheeky choosing a live version of a track that’s seven years old as one of my favourites of 2016 but this video has been on serious high rotation since it was posted earlier this year. When you take possibly my favourite Passenger track of all time and throw a collaboration between All Our Exes Live in Texas and Luke Thompson into the mix you strike pure gold. Just listen to those harmonies on the choruses – magic stuff.

16. Imogen Clark – “You’ll only Break My Heart”
Imogen Clark has had a pretty big year built on the bedrock of her debut album Love & Lovely Lies and its two lead singles “Take Me For A Ride” and “You’ll only Break My Heart”. The latter is Clark’s most mature offering to date, making the most of her big voice and lyric driven song writing. I’m not sure why Imogen Clark gets lumped into the Country crowd – to my ears her music is straight up acoustic pop – but regardless of the genre “You’ll only Break My Heart” heralds big things to come from the Sydney singer-songwriter.

17. Ariela Jacobs – “Lost”
The way that Ariela Jacobs plays with melody and syncopation on “Lost” is so intriguing. The rhythmic, unpredictable verses give way to simple 4/4 choruses and then a middle eight that just launches itself at you and takes you by surprise. This song is all about Jacobs’ voice with the accompaniment – simple piano chords for the most part – taking a back seat to her lyrics. This track is powerful and vulnerable all at the same time.

18. Sian Evans – “Cold Feet”
I got to meet Sian Evans at the National Folk Festival this year where she got me to act as roadie for her as she rushed to one of her gigs. She’s spent much of 2016 carving out a solo career for herself after her work with The Rusty Datsuns and part of that has involved developing her own distinct sound. The result is the single “Cold Feat” which has a pop sensibility with a heart of folk.

19. The Weeping Willows – “River of Gold”
The Weeping Willows embrace their bluegrass side with their huge single “River of Gold”. I love Andrew Wrigglesworth flat picking guitar on this song, accentuated with a subtle banjo over the entire track. And then of course there’s the harmonies between Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates which The Weeping Willows are renowned for.

20. Gretta Ray – “Unexpected Feeling”
Triple J Unearthed High winner Gretta Ray has quite rightly had a massive year with high rotation on the national broadcaster and lots of love from the music press. Her track “Unexpected Feeling” is such a joy to listen to – and to be honest when I first heard it I had no idea that Ray was still in high school. There’s a definite maturity in her songwriting and I just love her guitar work on this track.

21. Sam Newton – “Hold You Down”
The Americana vibes of “Hold You Down” coupled with Sam Newton’s sweet, unassuming voice make this track instantly attractive. I love the way you can’t help but tap your toe along with the brushed snare drum and thumping bass. The production on this track really pulls it all together – it could well have been a straight up acoustic song but the addition of drums, bass and trembling electric guitar turn the song into something more.

22. William Fitzsimmons – “Hear Your Heart”
I was so happy that William Fitzsimmons released his mini album Charleroi: Pittsburgh Vol. 2 this year (as well as a live album) because it meant more songs like “Hear Your Heart” out in the world. Rolling fingerpicking, hushed vocals, sad subject matter – this is William Fitzsimmons in a nutshell and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

23. Laura Marling – “Soothing”
I don’t know why I was surprised when we got a new Laura Marling song this year – she’s been insanely prolific throughout her relatively short career having released five albums in the last eight years. “Soothing” is the first taste from her upcoming seventh album Semper Femina and it sees Marling depart from her usual acoustic guitar driven songwriting with a bass and percussion loop that wouldn’t be out of place on a Radiohead release. This track also sees Marling’s first foray into directing on the accompanying video (that is borderline NSFW so maybe wait until you get home to play this one).

24. The Campervan Dancers – “Slow Down Butterfly”
From what I understand “Slow Down Butterfly” was gestating for quite a while before Sydney duo The Campervan Dancers launched it at the beginning of the year. This is a track that tumbles over itself with vocals, samples, instrumentation popping up all over the place. I love the injection of chaos into what could have just been a standard piece of indie-folk pop. Let’s hope there’s more gestating where this came from.

25. Emmy The Great – “Algorithm”
My need to squeeze Emmy The Great’s recent output into the genre of “folk” so that I can justify posting it on Timber and Steel continues with “Algorithm”. The first Emmy The Great song in a while to contain a decent amount of acoustic guitar, “Algorithm” is a lovely example of the direction Emmy The Great’s songwriting has taken recently – more obscure, more pop but still with her fragile voice front and centre.

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016

Child Records

You’ve heard what we think the top albums of 2016 were, but lets be honest this is the piece you’ve really been waiting for.

Every year we reach out to the community of folk and acoustic musicians in Australia and around the world to ask them to pick their favourite album or EP of the year, and this year they came through in spades.

So without further waffle may we present to you this year’s Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016.

Bill ChambersEagle & The Wolf
Bill ChambersCold Trail
What a record. Bill just turns up when he feels like it and shows us all how it’s done. The title track is one of the best driving songs ever written and we’ve done A LOT of driving this year! This record has been with us on every trip and inspires us as artists of the alt. country genre to dig deep and keep being real, in life and in music. He’s the baddest and the best.

James KenyonAnna Cordell
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
This album takes me into such a beautiful space, it is so beautifully written and produced, I find myself smiling every time I listen to it – I’m entranced and inspired.

Joe MungovanImogen Clark
Joe MungovanWay Down South
Joe totally embodies the Joni Mitchell quote about songwriting, “The closer you get to your heart is the closer you get to everyone else’s”. This EP is an evolution for him, the production is so sparse and spacey, almost Bon Iver-ish, and very different from the folky style of his first EP. But what remains is Joe’s amazing ability to capture so perfectly the melancholy of the human condition with his beautiful melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics. A big 5 stars from me. Love ya, Joe!

Piers FacciniSam Lee
Piers FacciniI Dreamed An Island
This album only came out a couple of weeks ago but I think needs mentioning in this years crop. Piers is one of the finest male singers and his musicianship is exquisite. It’s an album of great sensitivity with deep thought and poetry inside. The songs are so well formed, he has a knack at creation of timeless soundings orgs.

DD DumboDan Flynn
D.D DumboUtopia Defeated
Oliver has really found his own unique sound while incorporating some diverse influences including folk, electronic and world music. I was really impressed with his songwriting and his ability to draw you in to his strange little world. I also love the production with all those sonic layers that reveal themselves over repeated listens. Amazing debut.

Michael KiwanukaSkyscraper Stan
Michael KiwanukaLove and Hate
I got hooked on this album while touring around New Zealand. The songwriting is melodic, the dynamics are masterful and the closing track, “Final Frame”, kicks me in the guts.

William CrightonJosh Rennie-Hynes
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
I first heard William at Nannup at the start of this year and loved it. He’s a great performer and his songs are top notch. This album captures all of that perfectly. The production is spot on and is a testament to the benefits of what a more DIY approach to recording can achieve.

Bon IverTanya Batt (BATTS)
Bon Iver22, A Million
There have been a lot of amazing releases this year, Canary, Braille Face and Hayden Calnin were three I wanted to choose too. However, it had to be Bon Iver. The most highly anticipated album in my life, it did not disappoint. This album means so much to me, It’s an extremely innovative album within soundscapes and also so raw, filled with emotion. Many tears were shed when I first listened.

MoulettesClaude Hay
MoulettesPreternatural
Moulettes new album Preternatural really grabed me from the first second, Distorted Cello, Oboe, guitar bass drums and they all sing insane harmonies perfectly live….Audio candy

Bill HuntLiam Gale (Liam Gale & the Ponytails)
Bill HuntUpwey
Conversational, melodic, witty and hooky songwriting flood through the beautiful ebb and flow of Upwey, Hunt’s first of many offerings. The songs are hued by a consistent arrangement of drums, bass, violin and Hunt’s subtle and precise guitar style. But they don’t rely on these arrangements; each song a story, assisted by the swell of instrumentation to convey the tales that swing from the near Latin grooves of “Odalik” to the slow sexy grind of “Sea of Love”. At six tracks long, it leaves you wanting more. Perfect.

Childish GambinoSahara Beck
Childish GambinoAwaken, My Love!
Listening to this album is like switching off the real world and stepping into an original and new world. I find it very inspiring.

Oh PepThe Little Stevies
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
I think the songwriting on Stadium Cake is really interesting. The songs take me to a place that I’m not expecting both lyrically and musically when I begin listening to them and they keep me guessing, which I absolutely love. The arrangements and production are also super cool, and I’m simply just a big fan of talented women and female partnerships doing great things in the arts.

Side PonyFanny Lumsden
Lake Street DiveSide Pony
It seriously makes me the most joy filled human ever. Side Pony is possibly my biggest songwriting envy of late and they just really nail that motown meets pop retro good times.

Nick CaveMiles O’Neil (Miles and Simone)
Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
I was scared to listen to this album due to the tragic circumstances surrounding it. Finally
mustering the courage one bright morning I listened to it through while walking beside the sea.
I stopped many times during that walk to sit and, floored, marvel at the breathtakingly
sadness and beauty captured in what is, to me and I’m sure many others, a masterpiece.

Hayden CalninForest Falls
Hayden CalninCut Love Pt 1/2
Hayden is an absolute stayer of the Melbourne music scene, but it’s for good reason. This record is world-class. Sparse, rich, cinematic, and desperate in its feel, it holds on to you long after the first listen.

Button CollectiveThe Bottlers
The Button CollectiveThe Lonesome Sea
As a softly lilting mandolin emerges from the silence of the opening track, Brodie’s haunting lyrical ballad begins to unravel the story of the heartbreak of a man, torn between travelling the lonesome sea and those who he has left behind. This beautiful yet bittersweet combination of well-travelled wordsmithing and an instrumental palate carrying a nostalgically truthful warmth, could be heard in any far-flung tavern in the dead of night, as tired candles flicker. Finishing with a raucous fling titled “Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy”, the Button Collective’s release concludes on a stirring high, twisting your arm to crave another ale. The EP’s recording, mixing and mastering add a special flair, as you hear the charismatic live-elements that give you a heart-swelling, beer-swilling singalong that you can partake in at any time. Well done fellas!

The Dreaming RoomPhia
Laura MvulaThe Dreaming Room
Her lyrics explore feminism, faith, self-worth, race, and her harmonies, arrangements and production are deep and multi-hued. One of the most exciting songwriters around, unafraid to experiment with multi-genre collaborations, like the London Symphony Orchestra and Nile Rodgers.

JoyGordon Wallace (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
The Peep TempelJoy
This is a great third album by the Melbourne based three piece that has initial flavours of 90s Aussie pub punk/bloke rock (like Cosmic Psychos) but that is just the beginning – the album is musically quite varied, with intelligent, dark, caustically humorous and often political lyrics with moments of honest beauty.

Wartime SweetheartsJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Wartime SweetheartsSo Long Sparta
It’s always great when a local artist drops something as fully formed and self-assured as Louise Nutting’s second album under the Wartime Sweethearts moniker. Experimental without forgetting the songcraft, it deserves its rightful place amongst the St Vincents, Dirty Projectors and My Brightest Diamonds of the art pop world. Props to local label Art As Catharsis, whose releases in October alone spanned from Wartime Sweethearts to Hashashin’s eastern mathrock and No Haven’s dark hardcore. Eclecticism rules the day!

BeyonceTaryn La Fauci
BeyoncéLemonade
To create and release a piece of work that is so intricately linked and ordered, one you must listen to from start to finish to understand the whole was really refreshing! The film that accompanied the album was also richly interesting, deep and powerful. To address themes such as infidelity and race and then to weave them powerfully into a full album, which on release caused so much controversy and started a conversation world wide, I thought was really great.

Melody PoolKevin Mitchell (Bob Evans)
Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
Another beautiful record from the most under-rated songwriter in Australia. “Love, She Loves Me” gives me goose bumps every time.

Winter WheatFrank Turner
John K SamsonWinter Wheat
I am a long term partisan of John’s work, so it’s not surprising that I liked this record. But god-DAMN, the man just keeps delivering. This record had me in tears three times on my first listen through, and it gets better with age.

David BowieWilliam Crighton
David BowieBlackstar
My favourite album from 2016 is Blackstar from David Bowie. There were a lot of great albums but I listened to it the most.

TigallerroSteven Barnard (Arbori, Jon Cotton)
Phonte and Eric RobersonTigallerro
Smooth grooves, dope rhymes, sweet melodies. You’d be hard pressed to find another 2016 record his year that has this flow, though Anderson Paaks’ Malibu is a close second. It rolls effortlessly from track to track and the inevitable ass shaking comes with a no “slutty table top twerking” guarantee. It’s rare that a hip hop record explores what it means to be a man of sexual fidelity, a family man, and even man of faith in higher power. Getting hype or turning down, my morning wake up or my party starter, this record has been a solid find.

Julia JacklinJesse Lubitz (TinPan Orange)
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
This album is a gem. The more I listen to this record, the more the songs shimmer and shine with a beautiful honesty. Jacklin’s songwriting is earnest and her voice perfect – it feels like an important voice which dances delicately on a wire between mundanity and profundity.

Bon IverOliver’s Army
Bon Iver22, A Million
Although becoming more and more electronic heavy, Justin Vernon’s signature haunting melodies and dynamic vocals remain consistently endearing. I found the production to be quite bold and experimental, and I love that they’re continuing to explore their sound and push it in new directions. Sonically, it’s spacious and beautiful.

RadioheadKim Churchill
RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
My top album of 2016 has probably got to go to A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. It really hit me at the perfect moment. I was deep in the studio and sometimes getting a bit overly flustered by how complex the process of recording can be. I think Radiohead have done something incredible in the way this album is so relaxed, so subtle, but so powerful. There is this beautiful calm confidence that I am completely in awe of. To be alive whilst their legacy is still being added to is a real treat!

Conor OberstThomas Busby (Busby Marou)
Conor OberstRuminations
Brave, personal and heart achingly real. It feels like you’re in the room with him as he’s pouring his heart out.

Iggy PopEm George
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
It would be a total lie for me to say that I have been patiently and politely waiting for a new Iggy Pop record because I’ve been extremely impatient and downright rude, mouthing off to my vinyl copy of Lust for Life, begging to the Iggy Pop gods for a new release and then Post Pop Depression hit in March this year. Produced by Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), the entire album is gritty and dark, sharp and tight with that small hint of sadness that lies just under the surface of Iggy Pop’s music. However in true Iggy fashion, the melodies and heavy drums lift the album into something that is hard to define, taking you to another place. My pick for 2016!

KaleoGerrit Gmel (Citizen of the World)
KaleoA/B
I came across these guys on Spotify a few months ago as they were our number one associated artist then. I had never heard of them before but their album has been on repeat ever since. Their album is incredibly varied, with high-energy songs like “Way Down We Go” and soft ballads like “Save Yourself”. An emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

Gregory PorterJoe Glover (Shelley’s Murder Boys, Backsliders)
Gregory PorterTake me to the Alley
I watched a YouTube clip of Gregory Porter performing on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and watched it several times over, absolutely mesmerised. The album is just as mesmerising; full of soul, jazz and RnB, beautiful arrangements and Porter’s effortless delivery; just enough grit and soul to keep the jazz interesting! I listen to this album when I want something that will absolutely zone me out of where I am and what I am doing, Porter’s soothing voice is like being wrapped up in blanket and given a cup of hot cocoa.

Bruce MolskyShell Eves (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
Bruce MolskyCan’t Stay Here This a-Way
Bruce Molsky always manages to bring such a rich, unique sound to the old-time classics. His latest album is no exception. His fiddle-singin’ gives me warm fuzzies akin to sitting by a campfire under a starry sky.

David BowieJimmy Murray (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
David BowieBlackstar
It was hot, humid January afternoon driving through a sun-shower when I first listened to David Bowie’s Blackstar album. Released just 2 days after his death aged 69 this is an amazing final piece of work from this incredible artist. The hauntingly beautiful voice and instrumentation echos with songs about finality and death. Listening to this I was filled pure joy, sadness and reflection of this artist’s inspirational legacy.

Black Mountain String bandThe Plough
Black Mountain String BandTime Traveller
This year The Plough discovered the Canberra based Black Mountain String Band and can’t get enough of them. The exuberance and variety they bring to a live show is showcased beautifully in their recording. Their mix of traditional and original songs and instrumentals take the listener back in time through a landscape of high energy Old Time, Western Swing, triangle pumping Cajun and plucky Fiddle polkas. This CD’s been on high rotation in the Lancer’s CD stacker ever since it was launched in the bush capital on a chilly winters night.

TyrannamenFraser A Gorman
TyrannamenTyrannamen
A brilliant, gruff mixture of Memphis Garage-soul blended deep in a gravel filled, VB bottle of Australian 70’s pub rock. Eight tracks long, all killer no filler.

Margo PriceNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Margo PriceMidwest Farmer’s Daughter
Margo is one of the first of a new breed of Americana artists to come out of the new epicentre of country music in East Nashville. Alongside Cale Tyson, Michaela Anne, Erin Rae, et al., these guys are playing authentic honky-tonk reminiscent of 1970s outlaw country, yet with their own fresh take. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter reminds me of the edgiest tracks from Dolly Parton, and the fact she is the first country act signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records is a testament to the quality of this album.

Oh PepJames Kenyon
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
Stadium Cake is a brilliant album – brave arrangements, tight pop writing, great lyrics and Liv’s voice is a pleasure. I love the ambition of the album, and the assuredness the result. It’s an inspiring record

Julia JacklinAinsley Farrell
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
I’ve had the chance to see Julia perform these songs over the past couple years so I’ve been very excited for her album. She has an incredible songwriting talent topped by this powerful yet vulnerable voice that’ll break your heart and put it back together again all in one go. If you get the chance to see her and her band live I wouldn’t miss it.

Liz StringerMel Parsons
Liz StringerAll The Bridges
I have been a fan of Liz for a good few years now, I’m completely smitten with her voice – all husk, beauty and pain. I had high expectations for her new album, and All The Bridges delivers and then some, it’s been on repeat in my house since it arrived.

CanaryKathleen Mary Lee
CanaryI Am Lion
I like this because it is a celebration of very big, very beautiful feelings that I reckon have no other way of being celebrated other than through this kind of emotionally epic music. The lyrics are attempts at honesty and the music is always their non verbal emotional equivalent, making the album a very cathartic experience. If you want it to be. A bit of a masterpiece

Eagle and the WolfSam Buckingham
Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf
Sarah brings out Kris’s sweetness and Kris brings out Sarah’s no bullshit strength – making this album the perfect balance of heart and “fuck you”. It just sounds like two musicians being real and having a ball. Awesome songwriting, perfect harmonies – it’s golden.

Sian EvansTori Forsyth
Sian EvansHow Time Has Treated Thee
This EP has only swept across my table recently but it is hands down a stand out. It makes me feel happy, sad and inspired all in one hit!

Songs From DanLucie Thorne
Dan TuffySongs From Dan
Aussie expat (now Dutch resident) and legend Dan Tuffy (Big Low, Wild Pumpkins at Midnight) has made one of my favourite albums not just of 2016 but of all time (seriously!). Co-produced by Melbourne’s Matt Walker, and recorded partly here in Melbourne, and partly in Holland, this album is an extraordinary collection from a true poet who sings straight to the heart of it all. Check it out folks!

Sian EvansHusky Gawenda (Husky)
Damien JuradoVisions Of Us On The Land
While this is Damien Jurado’s twelth album, it is the first I heard of him. Visions is a psychedelic, mystical odyssey, one that takes place within and without. The internal wanderings, the struggles and revelations, mirror an external landscape that is both beautiful and haunting. Each listen draws you further into these mirror worlds and all the while Jurado’s songs and sounds are immediately and undeniably striking.

Tracy McNeilLeah Flanagan
Tracy McNeil and the Good LifeThieves
Thieves is such an enjoyable record to listen to. It’s poppy and catchy yet underneath the veneer of fun singalong good times the songs themselves incredibly well crafted and arranged. Tracey writes a damn good song and if you’re lucky enough to see her band live, you’ll see them play those songs damn well too.

Adora EyeMusketeer
Adora EyeIf You Need A King, I’ve Been Prepared All My Life
This is probably the most raw and enduring folk album I have listened to all year. I am sure that this Swedish singer-songwriter was up all night writing this album in a smokey boat in the Stockholm harbour somewhere. You can almost see him clutching that ink pen with a red right hand, as his pet raven swings in a cage above his head eating dead beetles.

Hiss Golden MessengerDave Powys (The Paper Kites)
Hiss Golden MessengerHeart Like A Levee
I heard this album playing in a record store in London, and as I flicked through racks of vinyl I was drawn into the melodies and depth of his song writing. Every now and then you come across an artist who really moves you, or scratches an itch you never knew you had – this album has done both for me.

The Kill Devil HillsCatherine Traicos
The Kill Devil HillsIn On Under Near Water
This album encapsulates all that I love about the The Kill Devil Hills. A mad racket of noise, it pulses with life and is as ripe with heartfelt ballads as it is with sexy, sinister, badass, guitar driven numbers. Enjoy with whiskey.

Robert Ellis10 String Symphony
Robert EllisRobert Ellis
His first self-produced effort combines thoughtfully crafted songs with unique and interesting arrangements, expertly performed by him and his killer band. It’s the full package real deal and we love it so much.

The Dead MaggiesThe Dead Maggies
The Cloves and The TobaccoAcross The Horizon
TCATT are one of many celt-punk bands making great music in Java, and this album is a standout. It’s straight up driving celtic punk, with big powerful singalong choruses that tug the heartstrings. Good arrangements and musicianship help make this album great. We played with them in their hometown of JogJakarta, in the attic of a vegetarian cafe. The power cut out just before the gig, so the bands went ahead and played unplugged, it was a great moment of sweaty singalongs.

Howe GelbMark Moldre
Howe GelbFuture Standards
Late night meanderings. Laid back, whisky infused jazz piano. Wordplay and lyrical twists that stand alongside the wit of Ira Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael with the quiet phrasing of Chet Baker. Gelb continues to walk to his own beat – confounding expectations whilst smashing and recreating genres. His history has always hinted towards a love of jazz and occasionally detoured into Monk style musings – here Gelb embraces it wholeheartedly.

TullaraSian Evans
TullaraBetter Hold On
Earthy folk and roots with a dash of dirty grunge, Tullara presents her debut EP Better Hold On. Featuring her superb guitar slinging and percussive finger tapping wizardry, genius pop-roots arrangements and powdery vocals; it’s as if an Aussie Taylor Swift, John Butler and Andy Mckee were entrapped in a love triangle and spawned gold threads of wild honesty weaving together this admirable little Roots record. It’ll jerk a tear and invoke a bit of primal badass equally.

TaliskJake Pember (The Button Collective)
TaliskAbyss
Ever since first hearing Mohsen Amini’s amazing concertina playing earlier this year I have been a little bit obsessed with this band. They have the perfect blend of traditional and modern styles, and each member has such command of their instruments that every track feels as natural and flowing as a conversation.

Max SavageKaurna Cronin
Max SavageTrue Believers
Max has a brilliant ability to invite his audiences into the narrative of his works. With brilliant imagery and musicianship True Believers captures a great snapshot of true Australian culture, while also creating a great sense of nostalgia by grasping that 80’s Australian rock sound perfectly. The perfect soundtrack for an Australian road trip or any suburban household.

Nick CaveAlex L’Estrange
Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
Amongst all the huge artists that dropped albums in 2016, and the loads of Australian artists that arguably dropped career highlights (Ball Park Music, These Guy, D.D Dumbo), there was one album that I found myself frequently listening to, uninterrupted, alone on the hi-fi, and that was Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. It’s not necessarily my favourite, I think it’s an impossible task to name a favourite, but it was the first album that came to mind for this list, and that means more than anything. Hearing it coupled with the film One More Time With Feeling was challenging, given its subject matter. But its atmosphere was expertly executed; dynamic, fluid, smooth and heartbreaking. The rooms of Air, La Frette and Retreat studios are beautifully on display in songs like “Girl in Amber”, where the wispy backing vocals of The Bad Seeds hauntingly resonate across the walls. These contrast the desperate and almost maddening mantras of “I Need You”. What makes it a truly extraordinary album, is that it isn’t just doom and gloom. ‘Skeleton Tree’ doesn’t dwell on tragedy, it addresses it as part of the human condition, and there is an underlying beauty in that.

William CrightonClaire Ann Taylor
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
The storytelling and the whole atmosphere created by Crighton on this album is incredible. His dark, brooding voice and emotive style of delivery, commanded my attention from the first moment I heard it.

Andy ShaufWilliam Fitzsimmons
Andy ShaufThe Party
This was my favorite album of the year for one simple reason: MELODY!!! Andy is everything that’s right about classic “pop” music; never playing a note without a damn good reason for doing so, and songwriting that makes you feel something deep in your gut. He’s the worthy musical son of Harry Nilsson that we’ve longingly been waiting for.

LuciusRuby Boots
LuciusGood Grief
I have to choose this album because I’m still, since its release, pulling away the layers on it. Although it’s a predominantly pop record, the lyrical content and melodic arrangements are so intelligent and accessible all at once – a fine line that is hard to walk. The girls’ voices are otherworldly and tend to make me forget where I am and what I’m doing every time I put this album on. I still can’t get enough of it.

WetLacey Cole (Lazy Colts)
WetDon’t You
If you have a soft spot for B-grade pop ballads/R&B this Brooklyn-based three piece may just have written the soundtrack of your 90s-nostalgia drenched dreams. Their latest album Don’t You is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. Helmed by the stunning front-woman Kelly Zutrau, her unusual vocal inflections and impassioned delivery suggest an emotional complexity in what may otherwise be confused as banal sentiments (one song is called “Baby, You’re The Best”). Once combined with the lush production and rhythms of the band – assigned with the noble task of turning tears into toe-tappers – these songs are wonderfully earnest, rarely overwrought and exactly what you need right now.

James KenyonJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
I have been lucky enough to see James play a couple of times. His beautifully crafted songs are reminiscent of great songwriters like Paul Kelly. The album is a stunning representation of his work.

JRHMabel Windred-Wornes (Charm of Finches)
Josh Rennie-HynesFurthermore
I love this album. It’s got so much warmth, it’s spacious. I listen to it late at night doing my homework and it’s so calming. It’s like the energy he captured recording it in the hills of Woodford transmits. We met him at Bendigo Blues and Roots Fest this year and felt we’d discovered a rare gem. He’s an amazing songwriter.

Tom BrosseauMatt Bauer
Tom BrosseauNorth Dakota Impressions
Beautiful storytelling, vivid imagery, and an incredible sense of place. I’ve always loved Tom’s records and he’s at the top of his game here writing about his native North Dakota.

Jim JamesTimberwolf
Jim JamesEternally Even
It’s a pretty passionate political plea and America needed a timely voice. He even released it the day before election day. I think his voice is very much from another world, so that’s an important “third person” kind of perspective. It’s a well sequenced collection of songs, and I really love the warm psych and soul inspired production/composition. Maybe I’m just biased because I know that Jim James and Blake Mills would make up my sonic dream-team.

Nigel WearneJustin Bernasconi (The Stillsons)
Nigel WearneDrawing Circles
Nigel has really forged his own fingerpicking techniques on both the banjo and guitar on this album, and his voice tenderly delivers every song with intense concern and passion. Just check out the live version of the title track.

The Kill Devil HillsMark ‘Looch’ Lewis – (Wifey/Handsome Young Strangers)
The Kill Devil HillsIn On Under Near Water
I have always loved this band. In all their incarnations and styles whether that is folk, country, gospel, rock or what I call the “WA dirge” (Kim Salmon, Drones type bass driven tunes). Hard to believe it is now 12 years since the release of their debut Heathen Songs when that “Drinkin’ Too Much” song first got my attention. And while it has been 7 years since the last studio album Man You Should Explode, the good news is that I reckon this is the most cohesive album yet. Cracking harmonies, great playing and strong tunes. Tracks like “The Nets”, “Chinese Burns” and notably “The Kid” are 3 of the best tunes they have released. Let’s hope there is more output and touring to come.

Austin LucasMatt Golotta (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Austin LucasBetween the Moon & the Midwest
I spend a fair bit of time on the road traveling to see my partner and this record became the perfect traveling companion for me. Took a few listens to get into and also realise it’s a concept album which draws from Lucas’ own past experiences. Without spoiling the outcome, it follows the luckless musician Richard, his partner Kristie Rae and his best friend William. It features killer song writing with pedal steel, twangy tele, country influences with punk rock subtlety, numerous guest vocals from the likes of John Moreland and Corey Brannan, and a cracker duet with Lydia Loveless “Wrong Side of the Dream”, dealing with the struggles and plights that many musicians face. My song of the record is “William”, the solo acoustic number at the end that makes you feel like you’ve just been kicked in the guts. Songwriting at its finest.

Cody JinksAndrew Cavalieri (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Cody JinksI’m Not the Devil
Raw, honest and heartache. That is this album! The first track really sets the mood for the rest of the album, but is broken up by “Chase This Song” which is a damn banger of a driving song! The outlaw vibe flowing from Junks’ music really prepares you for some hard times and disappointment in life. Bloody hell I love this album! Honorable mentions: Murlocs – Young Blindness, Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep and Mudcrutch – 2.

Wartime SweetheartsLaura Bishop (Chaika)
Wartime SweetheartsSo Long Sparta
A killer voice, some super awesome writing skills, and an obsession with bodybuilders (hello Ms Olympia!) make this my favourite album of 2016. Wartime Sweethearts, aka singer-keyboardist-loop artist-songwriter Louise Nutting, signed to Art As Catharsis Records this year and released an album full of all the beats and electric piano and vocal harmony sounds that I like to hear (and I wish I could make) – and my favourite track “Figure It In, Figure It Out” has all the unexpected twistings and turnings of chord progressions that I wish I could write. One day Chaika will make sounds like this! One day…

Neil YoungTristan Goodall (The Audreys)
Neil YoungPeace Trail
Well with everyone saying we should just put 2016 behind us (although to be honest we should probably be approaching 2017 with a little trepidation too) I’ve decided not to dig too deeply into the past when thinking of my favorite record release of the year. I’ve loved many, but my recent love is the just-released 37th album by Neil Young. Peace Trail is short, musically experimental within its tight three piece band approach, and lyrically angry and poignant. I love it for the drummer’s drummer Jim Keltner and the way his delicate touch chases Neil’s quirky phrasing around the songs. I love it because it captures another freeze frame moment from a restless and undaunted songwriter, and I love it, of course, for those mighty guitar tones.

Davey CraddockLachlan Bryan
Davey CraddockCity West
2016 was a great year for my friends releasing good music. Melody Pool comes to mind, as do The Weeping Willows, Henry Wagons, Ange Boxall and Bill Jackson. It’s actually really hard to contribute to a “best of” list when you’re close to many of the artists – it’s hard to be objective – even after I rule out the records I was actually involved in making. Actually – it’s always hard to be objective, whether you know the artists or not. Furthermore, judging a whole body of work is hard – and for me, more than ever, 2016 was the year of the song (as opposed to the album or EP). And as songs go, the one that’s really stuck with me this year is the song “Number 9” by Davey Craddock. I love the cricket references. I asked Davey if he was a diehard cricket fan like me. He’s not. I was bitterly disappointed.

The Stray BirdsThe Mae Trio
The Stray BirdsMagic Fire
The Stray Birds made our fave album of 2014 and they’ve done it again in spectacular style with Magic Fire. It’s everything about this album and this band, the playing, the three part harmony and songs that are unabashed, true and unadorned. Magic Fire is a reminder of the things that matter, it’s definitely a fire and maybe a little bit magic.

Tori ForsythAndrew Swift
Tori ForsythBlack Bird
This EP is right up there as one of my favourite releases of 2016. From the moment I heard the opening title track, “Black Bird”, I knew that I was in for a treat. The diversity on display within the 5 tracks of Tori Forsyth’s debut release excites me. The songs are so well crafted and presented with such a mature sound, especially for someone so young. I’m eagerly awaiting the next release from one of Australia’s most promising young songwriters.

Hayden CalninRoscoe James Irwin
Hayden CalninCut Love Pt 1
A beautiful album from Melbourne artist Hayden Calnin. Drenched in melancholy and ambient awesomeness, this album had me at hello. (One of my favourite live shows of 2016 as well).

Jordie LaneNadine Budge (The Stetson Family)
Jordie Lane & The SleepersGLASSELLLAND
Have to say I’ve been particularly digging Jordie Lane’s GLASSELLLAND this last couple of months – with mighty input from the multi-talented Clare Reynolds. Let’s face it, Jordie’s a bit of an all-round talented guy!

Melody PoolDavey Craddock
Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
One of my fave local album’s of the year was Melody Pool’s Deep Dark Savage Heart. I’m a sucker for strings and a massive chorus and I love the way the songs build from really intimate, delicate and ornate passages into full-blown, wailing-on-a-mountain top with Stevie Nicks, 100 soaring bats and a thunderstorm moments. I saw her launch it at the Abbotsford Convent earlier this year and it was a really powerful and affecting show for me.

Methyl EthylTim Guy
Methyl Ethel – “No.28”
I know it’s not an album, but I’ve listened to this song more than any other this year, and it only came out a little while back. It has a lot going for it – great rhythm behind a smart piece of songwriting and then the whole thing is bathed in a deep silver mercury type thing. An Australian classic I swear.

DocksThe Staves
Amanda BergmanDocks
Our favourite album of 2016 is Docks by Amanda Bergman. Her voice is utterly sublime. You want to listen to every word she says. The music is dreamy, deep, soft, moody with melodies that whirr deliciously around your mind for days and weeks on end.

Katie BriannaRaechel Whitchurch
Katie BriannaVictim or the Heroine
I picked this album up when Katie and I did a songwriters showcase together. Sitting beside her listening to her songs was so magical – her voice is one of the most enchanting I have ever heard and her lyrics hit you right in the feels every time. Reminds me of a young Lucinda!

James KenyonMandy Connell (Stray Hens)
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
James’ lyrics have that magic of time and place usually associated with voices like Paul Kelly or Bruce Springsteen. You can practically smell his scenes. You’re there. This album captures the voice but better than that, like a Tim Winton book, its a record that makes you present in Kenyon’s stories.

Jordie LaneLiz Stringer
Jordie Lane & The SleepersGLASSELLLAND
It’s no secret that Jordie Lane and I are good mates. We grew up together, musically speaking, and I am more familiar with his work than with most other artist’s. His new album, his first full-length release in five years, is called GLASSELLLAND, recorded by Jordie himself in various make-shift recording spaces in North Los Angeles and co-produced by his fiercely talented partner, Clare Reynolds, who also co-wrote half of the songs and sings and plays a heap of instruments on the record. Jordie’s songwriting and musicianship continue to evolve and stretch out with the years and these songs, and the way they’re recorded, ache with longing while driving forward with a swagger and a playful showmanship, melodically rich and hooky as fuck. I always become a bit weepy listening to Jordie sing. And, now, the combination of him and Clare ruins me every time. Beautiful.

David BowieColin Jones (Colin Jones & The Delta Review)
David BowieBlackstar
An exceptional reflection on final days and the unknown. Every note by Bowie, McCaslin and the band emphasize the chaos and fragility of life. There is no better swansong for an artist.

A Moon Shaped PoolEmma Anglesey
RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
A Moon Shaped Pool completely surrenders to simple truths that both lie in plain sight and in the messy tangled, kicking and screaming realities of life. The epic levels of angst in the opening track “Burn the Witch” are like an exorcism – Jonny Greenwood’s sharp string arrangement take you right to the edge – and then from there it’s like Alice falling through the rabbit hole of raw emotion and you go deeper and deeper.

DawesTim Hart (Boy & Bear)
DawesWe’re All Gonna Die
Some of the best lyric writing welded on to some pretty simple, but catchy, pop songs. Produced by Blake Mills (Alabama shakes, Laura Marling), this is a great record start to finish if you can forgive some slightly John Mayer sounding guitars that pop their head up from time to time. This I the record I keep coming back to this year

Oh PepRebecca Bastoli
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
I don’t think I have ever been so entranced, excited or exhausted by the journey of listening to an album start to finish.

Bon IverDustin Tebbutt
Bon Iver22, A Million
Bon Iver has once again exceeded expectations on this release. It’s both familiar and foreign, delicately coloured, softly focused yet angular and stark. It’s brave, honest and all the things that I loved about Justin’s earlier works, without coming close to formulaic. It’s colloquial and conversational, yet inherently profound. Incredible stuff both musically and sonically.

Margo PriceJosie Rothwell (Peasant Moon)
Margo PriceMidwest Farmer’s Daughter
There’s something comforting about Margo Price’s debut album, almost like I’d listened to it before, but not in an overly familiar sort of way. Perhaps there’s something in her glorious voice that reminds me of my parent’s Dolly Parton records. She’s a great story teller, and I want to know more about her heartaches and headaches, particularly when accompanied by her crack band. I’m also proud to say my 4 year daughter keeps calling for “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)” when we’re in the car – and I can’t think of anything else I’d want her to be listening to right now.

BJ BarthamHarvey Russell (Peasant Moon)
BJ BarhamRockingham
It pains me to say this but BJ Barham’s new-found sobriety has coincided with a serious coming of age as a songwriter. Taking a (very) short break from American Aquarium duties, BJ’s solo release (a genuine side-project) is seriously hard-hitting stuff. It rivals Aquarium’s 2012 release Burn. Flicker. Die. for intensity, but of a completely different nature. With sparse arrangements (often acoustic) Barham, as storyteller, gives you an uncensored and unashamed glimpse into how rural America has been left behind. Not for the faint hearted.

William CrightonSam Newton
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
I’d caught Crighton perform a bunch of times at local venues around Sydney and really dug his tune (and especially the music video) “Woman Like You” prior to this album’s release. So I was anticipating this release. Really excited for it. I was stoked when I heard that he and producer Matt Sherrod came through with the goods. Big time. Highlights for me are “Riverina Kid”, “Priest” and “2000 Clicks”. In my mind, this one is about as strong as debut albums get.

Chaim TannenbaumEliza Carthy
Chaim TannenbaumChaim Tannenbaum
The album that I have most enjoyed and most visited this year is the debut of the kind, quiet genius Chaim Tannenbaum (Storysound Records). I’ve had the privilege of working with Chaim over the years but it was only recently I realised that I have lived with his distinctive voice and gorgeous humility since I first began to love music. It’s his voice that forms the third harmony in “Complainte pour St Catherine” on the first McGarrigle sisters’ album, a song I played over and over as a child until you could almost see through the record, and he has been quiet companion and producer to theirs and their extended family’s work ever since. It’s somewhat typical of his humility that he has waited this long to make an album, produced by his dear longtime friend and collaborator Loudon Wainwright III. It’s a collection of avuncular stories told in his gorgeously expressive voice with beautiful, minimal production. Some trad, some conversational originals covering everything from the fate of the baseball stadium Ebbets Field to living in a depressing grey London in the endless rain in the 1960s. An album to listen to with your eyes closed by the fire. Again and again, and again.

PinegroveQuinton Trembath
PinegroveCardinal
The lyrics on this album read like the private diary of a well spoken (and well read) guy filled with both anxiety and excitement for life. The musicianship and dynamics complement this introspectiveness well, making it perfectly suited for intense solo listening as well as for being cranked on road trips with friends.

Sean McMahonAlison Ferrier
Sean McMahon and the MoonMenShiner
Sean McMahon’s laid back yet somehow intense vocal brings this fantastic collection of songs to life in my living room. Shiner’s ragged elegance is full of the sort of raunchy country rock I can’t get enough of. Stand out tracks for me: “Shiner” and “Here Comes the Night Again”.

WhitneyEddie Boyd
WhitneyLight Upon the Lake
This album just grew and grew on me since my first listen. Simple, catchy tunes that make me wanna dance or go driving for a long time. I think Whitney nailed everything about this album – the instrumentation, the production, obviously the songs. Also, they’re heaps good live.

Secret PathThe Once
Gord DownieSecret Path
The Tragically HipMan Machine Poem
This year was a hard year in Canadian Music. We have a fella here by the name of Gord Downie. He is a legend. He has helped raise Canadians to be more real with his music. He is the frontman for the band The Tragically Hip. There are not many people in Canada who don’t know who The Hip are. Their music has become part of our DNA. Gord, this year, made a statement saying he has terminal brain cancer so he obviously fighting for the men and women of the north. The folks that have needed a voice for far too long. He is being that voice. He is showing us how to be Canadian and that we can’t be without acknowledging the needs of all of our people, without respecting all of our people. This year, instead of succumbing to his illness, he put out two albums. One with The Hip and one solo. Here they are. They are magic and will go down in history in our great nation. It’s amazing to watch one man build his second legacy.

Cash SavageJessica Cassar (Jep and Dep)
Cash Savage & The Last DrinksOne Of Us
This has everything you want from a record. It’s dirty and beautiful, and dark as hell. Cash sings with a thunderous anguish that cracks, rumbles and echoes so perfectly any sorrow you might have ever had. And like any good storm, the album’s darkness reveals a little light, one that roars some sort of painful end, or much needed beginning. I love this record!

Tracy McNeilGretta Ziller
Tracy McNeil & The GoodlifeThieves
I’ll be the first to admit I’m late to the game when it comes to Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife. I caught their set at Out on the Weekend and was captivated! Their 2016 album Thieves is just so dang easy to listen to, I will confess it is turning into a “chilling on the deck summer favourite” of mine! Please, if you haven’t already, pick up or download a copy of this album and chill!!

Bill JacksonRosie McDonald (RAPT, Trippy Hippy Band, Seanchas)
Bill JacksonThe Wayside Ballads Vol. 2
Bills’ reputation had preceded him before I heard him at Fairlight folk with Ruth Hazelton and Pete Fiddler. I grabbed the opportunity to contribute to his The Wayside Ballads Vol. 2 crowd funding campaign to get Bill and Pete over to Nashville to record with some very fine session players. Bill kept me updated with postcards and messages so I felt like a sideline cheerer in this whole project. Then the CD arrived! Magnificent songs, co-written with Bills’ brother Ross. Bills’ time worn voice, rich and mellow, rootsy, Americana-ish but very very homegrown, local accent, stories big and small, tender and big hearted. Pete’s playing shines in amongst the session guys, a great listen. Music for travel, the cabin, the verandah, anywhere.

Kate Burke and Pete WildMelanie Horsnell
Kate Burke and Pete WildLive at St Peters
In my small town we have the most marvellous artists touring through, but I also love our sweet locals, and I adore this live record by Kate Burke and Pete Wild. Pete Wild’s “Mars 1” is a love song about a person who goes on the Mars mission leaving his forever love behind, the Martin-Martin song is an old village favourite and the last love song between Doris and Arthur makes me giggle and lament at the same time. And I adore playing Kate Burkes version of Frozen Man on repeat when everything in life gets a bit much.

MontaigneGretta Ray
MontaigneGlorious Heights
My favourite record that was released in 2016 is without a doubt, Montaigne’s Glorious Heights. What impresses me most about this record is the fact that it is rather evident that the artist went into this project with the intention of experimenting with her sound and taking risks, drawing inspiration from a range of her influences and assuring that each song conveyed a slightly different emotion from the previous track. I believe it was this approach of 20-year-old Jess Sero’s (Montainge) that resulted in the production of what I perceive to be a very imaginative and bold debut album. This record showcases the fact that Jess has, unquestionably, one of the strongest and most commanding voices in the Australian music industry, this being exemplified through the outstanding production and arrangements of the songs that make up Glorious Heights. As well as this, each song is demonstrative of Jess’ incredibly clever and unique songwriting, which I cannot wait to hear more of in years to come; the simplicity yet complexity and quirkiness of a lyric such as “when you touch my skin, I think ‘this isn’t boring'” makes one ponder on such a line, as Jess’ way of writing is different, daring and something that never fails to make me smile. Glorious Heights made me so very excited about how extravagant pop music is becoming in this day and age, and on the whole made me very proud to be a young woman in the Australian music scene.

WhitneyTreetop Flyers
WhitneyLight Upon the Lake
I first started hearing about this band online, so was waiting for the album with anticipation. When it dropped I must have played it back to back straight away, which rarely happens. They are hard to put in a genre, which is really great. No Woman is one of our faves of the year. They are great live and do a version’s of NRBQ’s Magnet, so happy campers over here.

Drive By TruckersShane Nicholson
Drive-By TruckersAmerican Band
In a year of many great records, this stands tall above the crowd. It’s everything I love about the Truckers: gutsy and raw, clever and thoughtful, sometimes irreverent and full of attitude, and sometimes tender and restrained. Imagine a bastard-child born to Son Volt, Matthew Ryan and Uncle Tupelo, but all dressed up in those well-worn and unmistakable Drive-By Truckers clothes. How could that not make for the coolest kid on the block this year?

Conor OberstJack Carty
Conor OberstRuminations
It’s bloody beautiful in its simplicity. Gorgeous songs performed honestly. It seems like every track is a complete performance and any imperfections only enhance the sincerity of it all for me. Such an incredibly good songwriter.

Hayes CarllThe Weeping Willows
Hayes CarllLovers and Leavers
Lovers and Leavers is Hayes Carll’s most personal, introspective and “exposed” album to date, both in terms of the intimate, confessional songwriting and the stripped back arrangements, reminiscent of Heartbreaker era Ryan Adams, never saying too much – or too little. This intimacy draws you in, while Carll’s vulnerability captures you and takes you on a journey through heartache and reflection. Hayes was always in good hands with dynamic duo Joe Henry (producer) and Ryan Freeland (engineer) at the wheel, steering gently towards a common, graceful goal. Henry’s arrangements are characteristically unique yet elegant and tasteful, while Freeland brings his trademark clarity and warmth. Check it out if you’re fans of the late, great Guy Clark and/or Townes Van Zandt or fellow Texans, Steve Earle and Kevin Welch. Stand out tracks: “Sake of The Song”, “The Magic Kid” and “Drive”.

Iggy PopKelly Day (Broads)
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
Sometimes you’ll find a record that makes you feel high from the moment it begins. Iggy’s new album, channelled through the hooky sounds of Josh Homme and given a Bowie-esque lean, made me grin like a mad person. And then immediately take it for another spin.

Robert EllisMegan Cooper
Robert EllisRobert Ellis
I was waiting to go on air for an interview. While we were pfaffing around getting ready “The High Road” came on. I pretended I knew who Robert Ellis was when I was advised who the artist was that had pretty much hypnotised me in 30 seconds flat. I went out and paid cash money for the album the next day. Every song got me on first listen. Cinematic moments. Super personal bits. Non-standard approaches. Aspirational.

PassengerSam Brittain
PassengerYoung As The Morning, Old As The Sea
Mike has always had a wonderful way of crafting simple and memorable melodies. Combine this with his always captivating lyrics and you have a master songwriter who’s tunes that sneak their way into your day. Songs that sooner or later without realising you find yourself humming whilst waiting in line for your morning coffee. Although often his storytelling veers on on the darker side of heartbreak and loss this latest album has a lighter touch, proving Passenger is and a yard stick for the aspiring modern folk troubadour. A dynamic artist who’s albums have been true to his own brand since day one. Additionally his band on this record are also fantastic live. I recently caught his show to a sold out Vicar Street in Dublin, it was one I won’t soon forget.

Bon IverAde Vincent (The Tiger and Me)
Bon Iver22, A Million
Another great record from Bon Iver – I have loved all three so far. I like how it also pushes into some new and interesting territory with the production. The auto-tuned a cappella of “715 – CR∑∑KS” is a particular highlight

Margaret GlaspyMaia Marsh
Margaret GlaspyEmotions and Math
It makes me feel really empowered whenever I listen to it, as a woman myself playing music. The songs are strong, guitar tone is great and her voice has this amazing growl that cuts through a sincere sensitivy at the same time.

BlondDirewolf
Frank OceanBlond
My hat is profusely off to an artist who can seamlessly bridge so many facets of musical integrity. What I mean by that nonsensical shit is that the entire record is some kind of highly strung soundboard (literally) which either sends you flying high just to get high, or high because you’re just too fucking upset. “Skyline To” and “Seigfried” are perfect examples. The whole collective arrangement kills me too, it’s like listening to recent Bon Iver whilst playing Sega in a radio store – the musicality is superb. I could say a lot more, but I’ll safely surrender by saying it definitely influenced the direction of my mind in doing another record.

Bon IverWildwood Kin
Bon Iver22, A Million
Easily. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. It’s just genius.

Tattletale SaintsGeorge Jackson (The Company, Buffalo Nickel, One Up, Two Down)
Tattletale SaintsTattletale Saints
Nashville based, New Zealand duo Tattletale Saints released their self-titled, second album this year, and it’s beautiful. Cy Winstanley (Guitars, Vocals) can pen songs with the best of them, his offerings on this album range from self-reflective and insightful, to sometimes cynical and cutting but always with a masterful craftsmanship. Vanessa McGown (Double Bass, Vocals) provides both solid and virtuosic Double Bass playing and vintage tinged country vocals. The new album is definitely a departure from their earlier acoustic recordings – but for a new fan, like me coming along, this is a bold and engaging listen complete with a production dripping in vintage tones and depth. Listen, and enjoy!

Genni KaneBill Jackson
Genni KaneSelfies
Ex-member of seminal Australian band, The Flying Emus, Genni Kane has a voice that can’t be denied. This long awaited record shows she is also a very gifted songwriter and the opening track “Little White Dog” is the beginning of a beautiful journey that deserves your attention.

Nancy KerrRuth Hazleton (http://www.billjacksonmusic.com/, Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton)
Nancy KerrInstar
A heady mix of poetry, politics and social commentary, Nancy Kerr’s Instar is an achingly beautiful collection of original songs framed within the landscape of traditional folk music. Beautifully performed and produced, Instar is, without doubt, one of the masterpieces of folk from 2016 and a work that will inform the tradition for a long time to come.

Fanny LumsdenThe Pigs
Fanny LumsdenSmall Town Big Shot
This album is full of great songs written from Fanny’s heart. She’s the real McCoy. Whenever we see her play live her songs get stuck in our head for weeks after. “Bravest Of Hearts”, “Soapbox” and “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” are just a few of the crackers on this rekid. This is a breath of fresh air for Australian Country Music. We love Fanny! More… More…

Side PonyHannah Acfield (The Acfields)
Lake Street DiveSide Pony
Give me a bit of 60’s sounding soul any day of the week! The songs are catchy, nice melodies and make you wanna move. I’m a sucker for a sterling vocalist. This was fav album for me.

Julia JacklinWillowy
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
An album about the little things in life that somehow manages to sum up the bigger things as well, cutting right through the mess to the heart of it all. Beautifully written and perfectly executed. It’s lovely to see an artist from the Sydney folk music family reaching great heights with an exceptional debut album.

John FlanaganSal Kimber (Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel)
John FlanaganThere’s Another Way To Where You’re Going

Bill ChambersRicky Pann (The Willing Ponies)
Bill ChambersCold Trail
Jen MizeWarnings and Wisdom
Sam BushStoryman
Bill Chambers is an Australian Journeyman troubadour. Songwriter, producer, sideman and front man, Bills live shows have influenced many and earned him a legion of devoted fans. Cold trail is Bills first studio album in four years and reminds the rock pop acts infiltrating modern country of where the heart of country lies. Cold Trail is a collection of honky-tonk “life lived” country that is the real deal. Produced by Bill and Recorded at his son Nash Chambers foggy mountain studios, Cold Trail is a world class record that draws on many influences to deliver country authenticity with Aussie perspective. A cracker record.
It’s a long way from Jen Mize roots in the Appliacian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina as a decedent of Lumbee Tribe of native Americans to the Sunshine coast of Queensland. Jen Mize is the real deal in every respect. An American songwriter with an incredible voice delivering an album packed with dynamic, well-crafted songs that’s all killer no filler. Shane Nicholson’s earthy production, arrangments and playing provide a tastefully rich sonic pallet that does this fine singer justice. The album glides from old-timey to traditional country and honky tonk, setting a very high bar of authenticity. An absolute stand out record.
Sixty-four-year-old Sam Bush has many stories to tell as a musician, innovator, writer and singer. One of my favourite musicians on the planet, Sam is a bluegrass master and the father of newgrass music spawned from his groundbreaking band the New Grass Revival. Sam is arguably one of the most influential mandolin players in history having played with just about everyone from Bill Monroe to Leon Russell. This record is a collection of finely crafted songs with a crack band featuring vocals from Emmylou Harris and Alison Kraus. A masterful record.

Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2016

Vintage Recording

For me 2016 was the year where the singer-songwriter reigned supreme and where the more experimental edges of the folk genres got my attention. I’m actually surprised there’s not a lot more bluegrass and Americana music on this list given that’s been my focus over the last few years, but I think this is a pretty nice collection of what’s been on high rotation in the Timber and Steel bullpen throughout 2016.

As always it’s hard to pick just 25 albums and no doubt your favourite hasn’t made this list. But as always there’s a few more “best of” lists to come this week so stay tunes.

So without further ado here are Timber and Steel’s top albums of 2016.

Foy Vance
1. Foy VanceThe Wild Swan
From the opening blues of “Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution” through the rootsy folk of “She Burns” to the sixties folk of “Fire It Up (The Silver Spear)” The Wild Swan is a simply cracking album from Northern Irish troubadour Foy Vance.

Never one to be confined by expectation The Wild Swan takes you on a journey through blues, soul, Americana, folk and more, with Vance deftly weaving everything together in a single coherent piece of joy. I love how individual each and every song is while still having enough of a through line that the album is utterly listenable from start to finish.

I’ve been across Foy Vance for some time now but the lead single from this album, “She Burns”, was my way into his music. The Wild Swan was the perfect soundtrack for a driving holiday I took in New Zealand earlier in the year, rolling with the landscape and sinking deep into my bones.

Almost every track is a standout but “She Burns” and “Bangor Town” are the tracks I keep coming back to. The Wild Swan has turned me into a life-long Foy Vance fan – I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Burrows
2. BurrowsBurrows
I didn’t realise this when I first heard it but I’ve been waiting for Burrows’ self titled album for about three years. I saw Sam King perform at the 2013 National Folk Festival and fell in love with his delicate folk music. Little did I know that that appearance would be the beginning of the Burrows project and that their debut album would become a firm favourite this year. King’s voice, the beautiful harmonies from the rest of the band, the understated instrumentation all come together to build an amazing piece of art. Standout track is without a doubt “Falling Apart”.

The Company
3. The CompanySix & Five
Six & Five is a thoroughly modern bluegrass album from a local band at the top of their game. This is bluegrass without the play-as-fast-as-you-can gimmickry so many modern bluegrassers rely on. Instead this is solid songwriting backed by some of the best musicians in the country. “Another Season”, “Six and Five” and “Androids” are all standout tracks but to be honest my list of favourites changes on every listen. And can I just say that I think Michael Patrick has my favourite bluegrass voice in Australia.

Bon Iver
4. Bon Iver22, A Million
Part of me expected the new Bon Iver album would be an extension of the cinematic indie-folk of 2011’s self-titled opus. So when 22, A Million landed I was more than a little blindsided – but in a wonderful way. All glitches, samples, electronics and overdubs, the album is completely immersive and a giant leap forward for Justin Vernon. At the heart of it all is Vernon’s unique voice and some pretty amazing songwriting which stands up regardless of the beeps and bops.

Melody Pool
5. Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
Melody Pool delivers an amazingly red raw new album dealing with her own experiences of depression and mental illness. The songwriting is mature and complex and requires the listener to engage, not passively sit by as the music washes over you. I’ve picked Pool as an artist to watch for many years now and I feel with Deep Dark Savage Heart she’s delivering completely on her potential. Just listen to “Black Dog” or “Love, She Loves Me” and try not to fall for Melody Pool.

William Fitz
6. William FitzsimmonsCharleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2
Pittsburgh was easily one of my favourite albums of 2015 so when William Fitzsimmonsfollowed it up with a mini-album featuring a bunch of unreleased tracks from the same recording session earlier this year I was a very happy man. Fitzsimmons’ beautiful, melancholic songs draw you in and keep you captivated. I love his hushed vocal style – this is definitely lean in music.

One Up Two Down
7. One Up, Two DownA Day On The Quay
Two of Australia’s most talented folk musicians – George Jackson and Daniel Watkins – join forces with American bassist Andrew Small for this wonderful mini album from the beginning of this year. Stuffed full of amazing instrumentals like “Kansas City Railroad Blues” and “The Ways Of The World”, it’s actually the traditional song “Bury Me Not On The Lone Praire” that keeps me returning to A Day On The Quay
again and again.

Radical Face
8. Radical FaceThe Family Tree: The Leaves
The final chapter of Radical Face’s The Family Tree series is a triumphant bookend to an amazing project. The album is full to the brim with Radical Face’s trademark layered vocals, finger-picked guitars and soundscapes making this a unique indie-folk experience. The rumour is that Radical Face will be changing stylistic direction now that The Family Tree is done so I can recommend immersing yourself in this album before getting ready for his next adventure.

Paul Kelly
9. Paul KellySeven Sonnets & A Song
Pairing Paul Kelly with The Bard is absolutely inspired. For the most part Seven Sonnets & A Song sees Kelly flex is folk muscles when adapting the sonnets into songs and the results are lovely. The two singles – “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 73” – are by far my favourite tracks on the album with the latter featuring beautiful backing vocals from Sweet Jean’s Alice Keath. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this album is pure magic.

Seth Lakeman
10. Seth Lakeman feat. Wildwood KinBallads Of The Broken Few
Teaming with up-and-coming trio Wildwood Kin was a stroke of genius for Seth Lakeman’s new album Ballads Of The Broken Few. Their three-part harmonies elevate Lakeman’s classic folk sound to something more. I’ve been a fan of Seth Lakeman since I saw him on his last Australian tour and I can honestly say this is my favourite album of his to date – and that is one 100% down to the collaboration with Wildwood Kin. As always Lakeman is able to draw on the tradition to inspire his music while still creating something that is wonderfully modern.

Eagle and the Wolf
11. Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf
The crunchy blues of Kris Morris and the indie-folk of Sarah Humphreys come together for a project that is greater than the sum of its parts

Mumford
12. Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & BeatenbergJohannesburg
The combination of Mumford & Sons’ big nu-folk sound with afro-beats and electronic music makes this one of the most joyful releases of the year.

GAI
13. Gregory Alan IsakovGregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony
While the songs may not be new, the arrangements with the Colorado Symphony give Gregory Alan Isakov’s beautiful music a wonderful depth.

Oh Pep
14. Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
Oh Pep! shake off the shackles of straight up indie-folk and embrace all out pop on their debut album.

Billy Bragg
15. Billy Bragg and Joe HenryShine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad
Billy Bragg and Joe Henry dive into the American songbook for their Railway themed album – I especially love their version of “Midnight Special”.

Passenger
16. PassengerYoung As The Morning Old As The Sea
Passenger once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best folk singer-songwriters in the world with the release of Young As The Morning Old As The Sea.

Michael Kiwanuka
17. Michael KiwanukaLove & Hate
Michael Kiwanuka’s melting pot of influences – folk, blues, jazz, soul and R&B – come together on an album that is instantly timeless.

Rowena Wise
18. Rowena WiseRowena Wise
The new queen of quirky indie-folk Rowena Wise delights with her stunning debut.

Matt Corby
19. Matt CorbyTelluric
The long-awaited debut from Matt Corby sees him refusing to be boxed in by genre or convention and creating some stunning music in the process.

Imogen Clark
20. Imogen ClarkLove & Lovely Lies
One of the hardest working singer-songwriters in Sydney releases a debut to be proud of, paving the way for bigger things to come.

Home State
21. Jack CartyHome State
Another solid, positive outing from Jack Carty following a big year of touring (and marrying!) for the singer-songwriter.

Applewood Road
22. Applewood RoadApplewood Road
Singer-songwriters Emily Barker, Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace come together to celebrate their love of classic country music in this wonderful side project.

Weeping Willows
23. The Weeping WillowsBefore Darkness Comes A-Callin’
The Melbourne based duo deliver a heady mix of folk, bluegrass and classic country in their best release yet – no wonder they’ve been nominated for four Golden Guitars

James Kenyon
24. James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
Australia’s most under-rated singer-songwriter delivers a stunning new album that is making the local industry sit up and take notice.

The Staves
25. The StavesSleeping In A Car
The Staves follow up their 2015 debut with a three track EP that continues to prove they are one of the most exciting voices coming out of the UK indie-folk scene.

Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of 2016 You Should Own

Couple With Records

As Sandy Denny once sang, who knows where the time goes? It’s the beginning of July which means we’re already halfway through 2016 without really breaking a sweat. And already this year has proven to be filled a treasure trove of music with some excellent albums and EPs released over the last 6 months.

In fact I had a lot of trouble coming up with my usual Top Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of The Year list because of all the amazing records released so far in 2016. The following ten albums are just the tip iceberg and if you want to dive deep into all the releases we’ve covered this year check out the Album News category tag here.

So without further ado here’s our Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of 2016 You Should Own:

Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf

Eagle and the Wolf

Eagle & The Wolf is the perfect example of a coming together of artists whose sum is greater than its parts. Alt-country singer-songwriter Kris Morris and indie-folk chanteuse Sarah Humphreys are both celebrated artists in their own right (as well as Timber and Steel favourites) but Eagle & The Wolf has elevated them to a new level. Humphreys’ voice seems to have been unshackled and is out in full force. Morris’ guitar work is pitch perfect – blistering in the bluesier numbers and restrained in the ballads. At only 5 tracks the self titled Eagle & The Wolf is the perfect taster for a partnership that has a big future ahead of it.

The Wild SwanFoy Vance

Foy Vance

I feel like Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance has been the quiet achiever of the folk scene in recent years. But with the release of his latest album The Wild Swan, the massive success of its lead single “She Burns” and his association with Ed Sheran, Foy Vance is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The Wild Swan is a melting pot of tone and style – anyone expecting 12 songs all like “She Burns” might be a bit shocked with the blues of “Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution” or the Bryan-Adams-like balladry of “Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye”. This is an album that deserves to be listened to from start to finish.

Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado SymphonyGregory Alan Isakov

GAI

Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony doesn’t really feature any new music from the US based South African singer-songwriter, but the inclusion of the orchestra just takes Gregory Alan Isakov’s music to the next level. In most cases the Symphony is actually pretty understated on the album with Isakov’s vocals and finger-picked guitar well and truly at the front of the mix. The result is a lush experience that still feels intimate.

Love & Lovely LiesImogen Clark

Imogen Clark

Imogen Clark has come of age with the release of her debut album Love & Lovely Lies. Her EPs to date have all been pretty strong but it feels like Love & Lovely Lies realises Clark’s potential as a singer and a songwriter – which is not at all hurt by the slick production and fantastic band she has behind her. Imogen Clark is touted as an alt-country singer (and we’ve been known to use that label as well) but I feel there’s a pop sensibility to her music that’s had a country sheen added to it courtesy of her band. Imogen Clark has a big future ahead of her and Love & Lovely Lies is a fantastic foundation.

Deep Dark Savage HeartMelody Pool

Melody Pool

I feel like I’ve been waiting for a new Melody Pool album for too long. But do you know what? Now that I have Deep Dark Savage Heart I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Melody Pool is seriously one of the finest young songwriters in Australia – her melodies are complex, her lyrics are layered and each song is just so perfectly crafted and presented. If you listen to Deep Dark Savage Heart from start to finish – and trust us, you should – prepare to be transported by Pool’s liquid velvet voice. “Black Dog” is the standout track but it’s a highlight in an album full of highlights – every song is worth revisiting over and over again.

JohannesburgMumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & Beatenberg

Mumford

I don’t think anyone expected a new Mumford & Sons record this year, but after traveling to South Africa earlier in 2016 and a collaboration with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, London/Malawi DJ duo The Very Best and South African pop band Beatenberg the EP Johannesburg was born. This record brings together the best of each band – epic choruses, groovy afro-beats and passionate vocals. The project is reminiscent of Mumford & Sons’ 2010 collaboration with Laura Marling and India’s Dharohar Project, but this time around with a focus on creating new music rather than recording new versions of existing songs. I think what I love most about Johannesburg is just how joyous it is – the EP has become a go to should I need a pick me up. Wonderful stuff.

A Day On The QuayOne Up, Two Down

OUTD

George Jackson and Daniel Watkins are some of the best musicians coming out of the Australian bluegrass and old-time scene at the moment. Their pairing with American bassist Andrew Small for the One Up, Two Down project is inspired and the release of their A Day On The Quay mini-album in January was the perfect way to kick off 2016. Each track is a delight from instrumentals like “Kansas City Railroad Blues” and “The Ways Of The World” to songs like “Ginseng Sullivan”. But the absolute highlight is One Up, Two Down’s version of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Praire” – the song seems to have been written for Dan Watkins’ voice.

Seven Sonnets & A SongPaul Kelly

Paul Kelly

Whoever came up with the idea of Paul Kelly putting music to the sonnets and songs of William Shakespeare should be commended. Here you have Australia’s greatest songwriter elevating some of the greatest writing in the English language. And the best thing is that for the most part we’re treated to Paul Kelly the folk singer (as opposed to his rock or soul incarnations) which means plenty of acoustic guitar, pedal steel and fiddle throughout the tracks. This is pure magic.

The Family Tree: The LeavesRadical Face

Radical Face

Five years in the making, Radical Face finally puts his The Family Tree trilogy of albums to rest with the release of the highly anticipated The Family Tree: The Leaves. With this album we’re once again treated to Radical Face’s unique brand of indie-folk – all layered vocals, finger-picked guitar, piano and floor-tom. Radical Face has kept a consistent sound through The Family Tree trilogy and The Family Tree: The Leaves is a fitting way to wrap everything up. I wonder what’s in store next for Radical Face – whether this album will be the closing of a chapter in his musical career and the next we hear from he will completely redefine his sound. Who knows? I’m just so glad that The Family Tree: The Leaves, along with The Family Tree: The Roots and The Family Tree: The Branches, exist in this world

Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2William Fitzsimmons

William Fitz

My fondness for Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2 stems from the fact William Fitzsimmons released it a couple of days after his first ever show in Sydney. Made up of tracks left off his 2015 album Pittsburgh, the Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2 EP is delicate, sad and brilliant. By allowing these additional songs to see the light of day William Fitzsimmons has gifted the world more of his amazing songwriting.

And of course special mention also has to go to the following albums and EPs:

Applewood RoadApplewood Road
YesteryearAriela Jacobs
Wayside Ballads Vol 2Bill Jackson
Second LoveEmmy The Great
ElsewhereGretta Ray
TelluricMatt Corby
case/lang/veirsNeko Case, K.D. lang, Laura Veirs
Stadium CakeOh Pep!
Love Letter For FireSam Beam and Jesca Hoop
The Lonesome SeaThe Button Collective
Sleeping In A CarThe Staves
Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’The Weeping Willows
Golden FleecesTom West

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.

Happy 6th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Bob Dylan

Running from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old time string band
My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now

– “Wagon Wheel” Old Crow Medicine Show

Like many music writers I’m a frustrated musician. I play a decent fiddle and mandolin (and mediocre guitar) but my lack of commitment when it comes to practicing coupled with how intimidated I get with the amount of talent that’s out there has meant I’ve never really taken it further than backyard jams and open mics.

The truth is that Timber and Steel didn’t start life as a blog. The first incarnation of Timber and Steel was a band playing covers of artists that we’d discovered through Laura Marling and the burgeoning UK nu-folk scene – bands and artists like Mumford & Sons, Johnny Flynn, Noah and the Whale, Emmy The Great, Pete Roe, Jay Jay Pistolet and more. Most of these bands went on to make a mark on the international music scene in some way or another but at the time we saw our band Timber and Steel as a vehicle to bringing these unknown artists and songs to an Australian audience, essentially continuing the folk process of sharing songs that has been happening for centuries.

Timber and Steel the blog was born during the band’s jam sessions from comments like “surely there’s music like this emerging in Australia as well” or “why isn’t anyone in Australia writing about this music?”. The blog was born out of the desire to share the music we were uncovering from Australia and around the world outside of what we were able to share on the stage. The rest, as they say, is history.

What I love most about the folk scene is its inclusiveness. My musical exploits may be purely amateur but if I go to a folk festival I will always arrive with at least one instrument in tow. My favourite regular nights in my home town of Sydney are the ones that involve a participation element like a jam session. My fondest memories from gigs are the ones that have ended back stage or at a local bar with a couple of guitars and a group of people keen to continue the music. My entire monthly gig and festival going experience is built around where I can pull out my fiddle or mando and have a play. Over the last six years I have jammed with some of the best in the business.

In what other genre of music can you participate to this degree? This is why I love folk music.

Timber and Steel the band still exists and still performs occasionally at low key nights and small festivals. Coming up we have shows at FolksWagon in Sydney on the 25th May and at the Top Half Folk Festival in Darwin over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June. The blog is still a reflection of the music we’re discovering and want to share as well as helping us discover and connect with shows and festivals we may want to play.

Seeing Timber and Steel moving into its sixth year is surreal. The blog that was conceived my lounge room between working out Laura Marling songs was only ever going to be an outlet for sharing music, little did we know where it would take us. I’m incredibly proud of Timber and Steel and constantly humbled by how much we’ve been welcomed into the folk scene in Australia. I’m looking forward to many more years of watching, playing and even occasionally writing about folk music.

Happy 6th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Gareth Hugh Evans
Editor in Chief

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.

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