The Best Folky Christmas Songs of 2015

Christmas Boots

It’s Christmas Eve which means it’s time for Timber and Steel’s traditional wrap up of the best folky Christmas songs of the year. If you’re like us and you love Christmas songs and carols then you’re in for a treat.

We hope you have a safe and merry Christmas wherever you find yourself this year. We look forward to folking with you in the New Year!

Kaitlyn Baker – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff – “Surviving Christmas”

The Felice Brothers – “Carriage”
Why The Felice Brothers haven’t thought to do a Christmas album titled Felice Navidad before now is mind boggling. Here’s the first single from the album, “Carriage”.

Red Sky July – “Save Christmas Day for Me”

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – “Light of Christmas Day”
Alison Krauss and Robert Plant reunite for this contribution to the Christmas movie Love The Coopers. The video is peppered with movie dialogue which can get annoying but it’s still great to see Krauss and Plant together again.

Robert Pollard – “What Begins on New Years Day”

The Bandana Splits – “Silent Night”
The three part harmonies from Annie Nero, Dawn Landes and Lauren Balthrop on their The Bandana Splits are just stunning.

Phil Cunningham feat. Eddi Reader – “Santa Will Find You”
Phil Cunningham brings together some of folk music’s best for his Christmas album Phil’s Christmas Songbook. The lead single, “Santa Will Find You”, features none other than Eddi Reader

Joseph Bradshaw – “Christmas is Always”

Kyle Cox – “Don’t Make My Christmas Blue”

Kids – “In The Bleak Midwinter”

Kate Miller-Heidke ft. The Beards – “I’m Growing A Beard Downstairs For Christmas”
Probably the best comedy Christmas release of the year. Don’t listen to this one too loudly at work.

Peter Joseph Head – “Boxing Day”

Stylus Boy – “Oh Little Town”

The Leisure Society – “2000 Miles”
The Leisure Society cover The Pretenders for their Christmas single this year. I love this track!

Burrowing – “The Morn Of Christmas Day”

Smoke Fairies – “Wild Winter”

Kate Rusby – “The Frost is all Over”
The stunning Kate Rusby brings her amazing voice to this Christmas classic, taken from her Christmas album of the same name.

Lindsay Straw – “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”

Boom Forest – “The Holly & The Ivy”
I love the way this traditional Christmas song has been given a contemporary sound by Boom Forest.

Matt Costa – “Many Memories Ago”
Roots singer-songwriter Matt Costa turns up the Christmas nostalgia with his track “Many Memories Ago”.

Lily Lambert – “Carol Of The Bells”

Sufjan Stevens – “Christmas Unicorn”
It wouldn’t be a list of Christmas songs without something from Sufjan Stevens. While this track came out in 2012 it’s just been given a brand new lyric video and thus qualifies for our 2015 list.

Amy Yon – “Winter”

Loralee Jessen Nicolay – “Bring A Torch, Jeanette Isabella”

Leaf Pile – “Deck The Halls”

Tides Of Winter – “Angels”

Sivu – “The Christmas Song”

Unwaxed Raiment – “The First Noel”

Folk Uke – All I Want For Christmas”

Marika Hackman – “River”

Elouise – “Silent Night”

The Maple Trail – “Star Wars (Is Coming Out This Christmas)”
Here it is folks – the most important Christmas song of the year. Not only do we get a Christmas folk song about Star Wars, this is also the first recorded music from The Maple Trail in a long long time.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 10th October

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The JamGrass Music Festival has put the finishing touches on their 2014 lineup adding the likes of Tracy McNeil and The Goodlife, Green Mohair Suits, Parvyn and Josh Bennett (from The Bombay Royale), Willow Darling and Broads. Details here

The British Blues head back to the 70s with their new video “Girls Like You”. Details here

– Sydney duo Winterbourne released their new video “Cold”. Details here

– The amazing Liz Stringer has an new live album on the way, a new video and a national tour from the end of the month. Details here

– Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice released his new single “I Don’t Want To Change You”. Details here

– Sydney singer-songwriter Sam Newton is launching his debut album next week. Details here

Lanie Lane will be supporting the launch of her new album Night Shade with a national tour kicking off at the end of this month. Details here

The Porch Sessions in Adelaide are showcasing some fantastic music right in suburbia. Details here

– Melbourne indie-folk quartet Pepperjack have announced details of their new EP Buckles & Bruises. Details here

Gregory Alan Isakov released his brand new video “Amsterdam”. Details here

– The first round of artists for WOMADelaide were announced including Charlie Musselwhite, Lake Street Dive, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, Rufus Wainwright, The Gloaming and so much more. Details here

Pepa Knight has finally revealed details of his debut EP as well as announcing an east coast tour. Details here

– The Thompson folk dynasty have a collaborative Family album on the way featuring Richard Thompson, Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Kami Thompson, James Walbourne, Jack Thompson and Zak Hobbs. Details here

– Sydney singer-songwriter James Thomson released his new video “Can’t Go Home This Way”. Details here

Releases This Week

Fleck Washburn
Béla Fleck & Abigail WashburnBéla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
iTunes

Hozier
HozierHozier
iTunes

Little May
Little MayLittle May
iTunes

The Acfields
The AcfieldsThe Acfields
Official Site

You+Me
Rose Ave.You+Me
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Josh T Pearson

Josh T Pearson

Josh T Pearson is in the country for the first time and is playing only two shows while he’s here – one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. Don’t miss your chance to see this man live – it’s going to be amazing!

Tuesday 14th October – Foxtel Festival Hub, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 16th October – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Gigs Next Week

All Our Exes Live In Texas
Friday 10th October – Main Bar, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 11th October – Harvester Moon, Bellarine, VIC
Sunday 12th October – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA
Wednesday 15th October – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 16th October – The Courthouse, Mullumbimby, NSW
Friday 17th October – No 5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW

Busby Marou
Friday 17th October – Beach Break Bar, Agnes Waters, QLD

Cat Canteri
Friday 17th October – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Festival of Small Halls feat. Andy Brown, The Mae Trio
Friday 10th October – Sandgate, QLD
Saturday 11th October – Cambooya, QLD
Sunday 12th October – Forest Hill, QLD
Thursday 16th October – Harrisville, QLD
Friday 17th October – Mt Tamborine, QLD

Fred Smith
Saturday 11th October – The Velvet Lounge, Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Green Mohair Suits
Friday 10th October – Smith’s Alternative Bookstore, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 11th October – The Vanguard, Newtown, NSW
Sunday 12th October – Modus Operandi Brewery, Mona Vale, NSW

Jack Carty
Saturday 11th October – Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston, TAS
Sunday 12th October – The Grand Poobah, Hobart, TAS
Friday 17th October – New Globe Theatre, Brisbane, QLD

John Butler Trio w/ Mama Kin
Friday 10th October – The Venue, Townsville, QLD
Saturday 11th October – Kuranda Amphitheatre, Kuranda, QLD

Josh T Pearson
Tuesday 14th October – Foxtel Festival Hub, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 16th October – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Justin Townes Earle w/ Lindi Ortega, Marlon Williams
Saturday 11th October – The Astor Theatre, Perth, WA
Sunday 12th October – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Wednesday 15th October – The Metro, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 16th October – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th October – Kangaroo Valley, NSW

Lindi Ortega
Saturday 11th October – Astor, Perth, WA w/ Justin Townes Earle
Sunday 12th October – The Gov, Adelaide, SA w/ Justin Townes Earle
Monday 13th October – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Wednesday 15th October – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW w/ Justin Townes Earle
Thursday 16th October – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC w/ Justin Townes Earle

Missy Higgins
Saturday 11th October – Canberra Theatre, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 12th October – The Cube, Wodonga, VIC
Wednesday 15th October – Queens Park Theatre, Geraldton, WA
Thursday 16th October – Crown Theatre, Perth, WA

Oh Pep!
Thursday 16th October – Yarra Hotel, Abbotsford, VIC

Olivers Army
Friday 10th October – Jive, Adelaide, SA

Ryan Bingham with Harry Hookey and Tim Wheatley
Tuesday 14th October – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 15th October – Lizottes Kincumber, Kincumber, NSW
Friday 17th October – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Sahara Beck
Friday 10th October – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Thursday 16th October – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW
Friday 17th October – Cambridge Side Bar, Newcastle, NSW

Steve Smyth
Friday 10th October – Major Tom’s, Kyneton, VIC
Saturday 11th October – Shebeen, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 12th October – Birdhouse Bar, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Thursday 16th October – The Loft, Warrnambool, VIC
Friday 17th October – The Eastern, Ballarat, VIC

The Acfields
Saturday 11th October – Martian Cafe, Dean’s Marsh, VIC
Sunday 12th October – House Concert, Melbourne, VIC

The Grahams with The Morrisons
Friday 10th October – The Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Saturday 11th October – Baha Tacos, Rye, VIC

The Morrisons
Saturday 11th October – The Assembly Festival, The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC

The Perch Creek Family Jugband
Friday 10th October – Factory Floor, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 11th October – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 16th October – Sol Bar, Maroochydore, QLD
Friday 17th October – New Globe Theatre, Brisbane, QLD

The Pierce Brothers
Friday 10th October – Golden Vine Hotel, Bendigo, VIC
Saturday 11th October – Birregurra Festival, Birregurra, VIC
Thursday 16th October – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 17th October – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW

The Porch Sessions feat. Al Parkinson, Tim Moore, Juno
Sunday 12th October – House Concert, Adelaide, SA

Friday Folk Flashback

“Dimming of the Day” – Alison Krauss and Union Station

The announcement of the new Thompson Family album sent me down a Richard and Linda Thompson Youtube rabbit hole which eventually landed me on this amazing version of their classic track “Dimming of the Day”.

Richard Thompson Announces New Album in 2013

Richard Thompson
Image Courtesy of Richard Thompson

Folk and rock legend Richard Thompson has this week announced plans to release his brand new album ELECTRIC with his Electric Trio next year. ELECTRIC scheduled for release on the 11th February and features guest spots from the likes of Alison Krauss, Siobhan Maher Kennedy and fiddle player Stuart Duncan.

The album is set to be released as a Standard CD, Deluxe two–disc set and on 180 gram vinyl. We have the track listing plus a stream of the first single “Good Things Happen To Bad People” below:

1. Stony Ground
2. Salford Sunday
3. Sally B
4. Stuck on the Treadmill
5. My Enemy
6. Good Things Happen To Bad People
7. Where’s Home?
8. Another Small Thing In her Favour
9. Straight and Narrow
10. The Snow Goose
11. Saving The Good Stuff For You

Alison Krauss and Union Station Take on The Simpsons

The Simpsons

The Simpsons will be celebrating their 500th episode in the US this Sunday and to celebrate they’re going Bluegrass. Alison Krauss and Union Station have confirmed that they will be reworking The Simpsons’ theme for the episode titled “At Long Last Leave”.

If you head over to the official Alison Krauss and Union Station site you can hear the theme for yourself.

Folk, Acoustic and Country Winners at The Grammys

Alison Krauss

The Grammys are over for another year and while many of the winners are unsurprising (Adele won Album of the Year? No way!) the folk, acoustic, country and other Timber and Steel friendly genres were still very well represented. Artists like Bon Iver, The Civil Wars, Alison Krauss & Union Station (above) and Arcade Fire all scored gongs on the night and we couldn’t be prouder.

The Timber and Steel friendly winners are below. For the full list check out the official Grammy web site here.

Best New Artist – Bon Iver
Best Alternative Album – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Best Country Solo Performance – Taylor Swift, Mean
Best Country Song – Taylor Swift, Mean
Best Country Album – Lady Antebellum, Own the Night
Best World Music Album – Tinariwen, Tassili
Best Folk Album – The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
Best Bluegrass Album – Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane
Best Americana Album – Levon Helm, Ramble at the Ryman
Best Recording Package – Arcade Fire, Scenes from The Suburbs

Folk Features in the Nominees For This Year’s Grammy Awards

Alison  Krauss
Image Courtesy of Alison Krauss

It’s the end of the year and award season is just around the corner and with so many amazing folk, alt-country, acoustic and indie releases this year you can be sure a bunch of Timber and Steel’s favourite artists are going to feature heavily.

The GRAMMY award nominees were just announced and it looks as though folk has done pretty well. While this will no doubt be the year of Adele, there’s plenty of Timber and Steel alumni up for the big awards.

The most notable nominees are:

  • Bon Iver – 4 Nominations (Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best New Artist, Best Alternative Music Album)
  • Mumford and Sons – 4 Nominations (Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song)
  • The Decemberists – 2 Nominations (Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song)
  • Wilco – 1 Nomination (Best Rock Album)
  • The Civil Wars – 2 Nominations (Best Country Duo/Group Performance, Best Folk Album)
  • Emmylou Harris – 1 Nomination (Best Americana Album)
  • Lucinda Williams – 1 Nomination (Best Americana Album)
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station (above) – 2 Nominations (Best Bluegrass Album, Best Engineered Album Non-Classical)
  • Steve Earle – 1 Nomination (Best Folk Album)
  • Fleet Foxes – 1 Nomination (Best Folk Album)
  • Eddie Vedder – 1 Nomination (Best Folk Album)
  • Gillian Welch – 2 Nominations (Best Folk Album, Best Engineered Album Non-Classical)
  • Béla Fleck & The Flecktones – 1 Nomination (Best Instrumental Composition)

The winners of the 54th GRAMMY Awards will be announced on the 12th February. For the full list of nominees check out the official GRAMMY web site.

Bluegrass: A Tribute to Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe, the undisputed father of bluegrass music, was born 100 years ago last week in rural Kentucky. Monroe’s influence on modern music has been incredible with generations of bluegrass, country, folk and rock and roll artists citing him as an influence. To celebrate his centenary milestone and the music Monroe created we asked local bluegrass duo the Davidson Brothers to come up with ten of their favourite songs in the genre. “I could list 100 songs,” Lachie Davidson told Timber and Steel, “but by hands would get worn out typing about them all!”. I think we’ll keep it to ten and save Lachie’s fingers for the mandolin.

“Roving Gambler” – The Stanley Brothers
Classic bluegrass at it’s best. When we hear this song it’s usually right in the centre of a bluegrass festival in the deep south.

“Old Home Place” – Tony Rice
This song is well played and is so true to working people’s living in the country where bluegrass rose from. This is a classic line of JD Crowe and the new south. Featuring Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice and Jerry Douglas. This line was a huge influence on so many of today’s greats. Just like when the formation of The Bluegrass Boys included Flatt & Scruggs.

“Train 45” – Jim VanCleve
This is a banjo tune which always grabs attention! Usually heard at 3am in a stand-up jam session circle! I’m getting pumped up listening to it while talking about it! WHOO! Some of the fellas on this recording are from Mountain Heart who are a powerhouse of young pickers. We’ve also recorded with a few of them on our records.

“Graveyard Shift” – Steve Earle and The Del McCoury Band
This is when Steve Earle paired up with 9 time IBMA Entertainers of the Year, The Del McCoury Band. A huge boost for bluegrass in our lifetime shortly before the “O Brother…” era.

“Blue Trail of Sorrow” – Vince Gill with Alison Krauss & Union Station
One of our favourite modern lonesome bluegrass songs! What a line up. Vince grew up on the music and on his first two and only trips to Australia were playing bluegrass when he was a teenager we were only just born. We now get to see these guys in person every year in Nashville!

“Long Gone” – Lonesome River Band
This is one of the first songs we learned and this band is one of our biggest influences! Dan Tyminksi on mando well before he joined AKUS. We travelled with an elecric bass for many years after seeing these guys perform back in 1997 in northern Kentucky.

“Close By” – Bill Monroe
Great Monroe original about heartbreak with triple fiddles!! Had to include a performance from his ‘hey-day’. TV was rare in 1945 when they first took the ORPY.

“Freeborn Man” – Tony Rice, Béla Fleck and more
All-star line up on this Jimmy Martin hit. Once again leaving home looking for love and a better life.

“Rye Whiskey” – Punch Brothers
Punch Brothers – some elite bluegrass musicians at the head of today’s acoustic revival front.

“I Miss The Sound Of Rain” – Davidson Brothers
Had to include a Davidson Brothers track. This did well in the Aussie scene and got a bunch of airplay in the US and still gets requested at our shows. We wrote and recorded it in September 2007, which shows our influences throughout the years as we evolve through our music career.

A lovely tribute to the late great Bill Monroe can be found over at NPR.com. The Davidson Brothers’ latest album Here to Stay is available now.

Roll Away Your Stone: An Easter Playlist

Easter

Music and spirituality have been tied together from the beginnings of civilisation so it’s probably no surprise that many of today’s folk musicians not only hold strong religious beliefs but also weave these into the very fabric of their songs. Oft times these religious or spiritual overtones are blatant and other times they take a more subtle form but there’s no denying that spirituality plays a big part in the music we listen to and enjoy

The contributors here at Timber and Steel are quite eclectic in their personal beliefs but there is one thing we can all agree on – spirituality and religion have inspired (and will continue to inspire) some of the best folk music out there. We thought in honour of the weekend, whether for its pagan and Jewish origins or its important Christian message, we’d bring you some of our favourite spiritual and religious traditional and original folk songs. Obviously “spiritual” and “gospel” are sub-genres of folk with very very deep wells, even without including religiously-themed contemporary music, so there’s so many songs we’ve missed out here. But we hope the playlist we’ve put together will provide the perfect soundtrack for Easter egg eating, getting ready for church, dancing around the maypole or however you choose to recognise the day.

So here it is: Timber and Steel’s Easter playlist – Roll Away Your Stone. And what better way to kick things off than with one of the greatest tributes to spiritual love ever written, “To Be Alone With You” by Sufjan Stevens.

“To Be Alone With You” – Sufjan Stevens

“Timshel” – Mumford and Sons
Timshel is a Hebrew word from Genesis that roughly translates to “the choice” (as in the choice between good and evil). Mumford and Sons’ lyrics are strewn with religious references, some overt and others more subtle, probably stemming from Marcus Mumford’s deep Christian faith (his parents head up the Vineyard Churches in the UK). We probably could have chosen any one of their songs (the title of this piece is taken from a different Mumford and Sons track) but we’ve gone with “Timshel” because of its uplifting, hopeful lyrics.

“I’ll Be Glad’ – Bonnie “Prince” Billy

“Two Hands of a Prayer” – Ben Harper

“But For You Who Fear My Name” – The Welcome Wagon
Welcome Wagon are the Pastor and pastor’s wife duo from Sufjan Steven’s Asthamtic Kitty label. Produced by Sufjan, it also appears he featuring on backing vocals in this, a classic country gospel version of a bible verse from the book of Malachi put into song.

“Fortune” – Midlake
In just two verses and a chorus Midlake manage to cover the religious themes of temptation, the imperfection of humans in comparison to God and the value of hard work as a path to salvation. Combine with this the fact that on the surface the song doesn’t seem overtly spiritual and the genius of Midlake’s songwriting is truly revealed.

“Tomorrow On The Runway” – The Innocence Mission

“Middle of the Air” – Paul Kelly (Tripod and Eddie Perfect)
Given that Paul Kelly is about to embark on a tour of his spiritual songs we just had to include at least one. The obvious choice is the gorgeous “Middle of The Air” – a video of which doesn’t seem to exist so we’ve posted the version performed by Tripod and Eddie Perfect on Good News Week (trust us, it’s almost as good as the original)

“Redemption” – Johnny Cash
The most Easter themed song we could think of for Timber and Steel, “Redemption” was written by Cash as a very real and raw look at the images of Jesus’ crucifiction. A sombre, yet powerful and beautiful song that describes in bloody detail the significance of the event to Cash, and Christianity. We’re surprised Nick Cave didn’t cover this one in his own gospel period

“Where The Soul of Man Never Dies” – Hank Williams

“Down to the River to Pray” – Alison Krauss
Put together for the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? this is Krauss in southern gospel mode. In a film full of spiritual music “Down to the River to Pray” (along with accompanying clip) is probably the most straight up religious experience of O Brother, Where Art Thou.

“Keep On the Sunny Side” – The Whites

“Dear God” – Monsters of Folk
The opening track from the epic collaboration between Jim James (My Morning Jacket), M Ward, with Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes, recently sampled by The Roots. This song takes the form of a letter to God, filled with questions of distance, suffering, and longing for answers. I threw this one in for Easter, as it’s about a desire to place faith in something, someone, but with a desperate appeal for proof.

“Christian & the Sinner” – Vorn Doolette
Because this list needed a little more local action we’ve included Vorn Doolette’s parable on what it means to be a Christian or a sinner.

“Wartime Prayer” – Paul Simon

“Lord Lord Lord” – The Kahn Brothers
The main songwriters/brothers of Sydney’s Gelbison, recording under their own name, have written a song which I liken to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, a song about faith, spirituality, and turning to someone in times of need. The brothers themselves straddling the relm of their Jewish heritage, and new age spirituality have written an upbeat song that may translate into any faith.

“Bartender” – Dave Matthews
I can’t think of a better way to end this list: “Bartender please fill my glass for me, with the wine you gave Jesus that set him free after three days in the ground”.

Happy Easter!

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