The Blue Mountains Music Festival Adds More Artists to 2018 Lineup

Vikki Thorn
Image Courtesy of Vicki Thorne

The 2018 Blue Mountains Music Festival just got a whole lot bigger with the addition of just over a dozen more artists to the lineup.

This announcement is headlined by Vicki Thorne from The Waifs and Archie Roach along with the likes of All Our Exes Live in Texas, SON (Susan O’Neill) (IRE), Steve Appel & Melanie Horsnell, Elephant Sessions (SCOT), Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (UK), Faith i Branko (SERB), Frank Burkitt Band (NZ), Linda Mizzi, Monique Clare Duo, Charm of Finches and more.

The Blue Mountains Music Festival will is held from 16th to the 18th March in Katoomba, NSW – head over to their official site for more details and how to get your hands on tickets.

The full list of announced artists are below:

Missy Higgins, Kate Miller-Heidke, Archie Roach Band, Vicki Thorne, Harry Manx, Lior & Paul Grabowsky, All Our Exes Live in Texas, The Backsliders, Peter Rowan Band, The Grigoryan Brothers & Adam Page, Brothers Comatose, SON, Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys, Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence, Flats & Sharps, While & Matthews, Steve Poltz, Blair Dunlop, Steve Appel & Melanie Horsnell, Breabach, Elephant Sessions, Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, 10 String Symphony, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Faith i Branko, Mel Parsons, Frank Burkitt Band, Hat Fitz & Cara, Malcura Band, Alana Wilkinson, Linda Mizzi, Witches Leap, Monique Clare Duo, Charm of Finches, Mission Songs Project, Heartlands Conversations, Poets Breakfasts

Port Fairy Adds Three More Artists to 2018 Lineup

Port Fairy
Image Courtesy of Port Fairy Folk Festival

The Port Fairy Folk Festival continues to drip feed additions to its 2018 lineup and with each artist announcement we’re getting more and more excited.

This time around Port Fairy has added three more artists – acclaimed singer-songwriter Archie Roach, Americana favourites Jordie Lane & The Sleepers and current indie darling Stella Donnelly.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is held in Port Fairy, Victoria from the 9th to the 12th March. For more information check out the official site here.

The full lineup announced so far is below:

Jack Broadbent (UK), Andy Irvine & Luke Plumb (IRL), The Topp Twins (NZ), The Teskey Brothers, YolanDa Brown (UK), Steve Poltz (US), Harry Manx (CAN), Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, Faith I Branko (SER/UK), The Mexicans, Sophie Koh & Her Lady Choir, The Ahern Brothers, Mental As Anything, Rebecca Barnard, Declan O’Rourke (IRL), Alan Kelly Gang (IRL), The Brothers Comatose (USA), John Spillane (IRL), Pauline Scanlon (IRL), Chris While & Julie Matthews (UK), Troy Cassar-Daley, Gordie Mackeeman & His Rhythm Boys (CAN), Nano Stern (Chile), The Band Who Knew Too Much, Amistat, Ben Waters Band with Derek Nash (UK), Black Sorrows, Blair Dunlop (UK), Davidson Brothers, Frank Burkitt Band (NZ), Lily & King, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band (USA), Rory Ellis Trio, Ted Egan, Victoriana Gaye, Archie Roach, Jordie Lane & The Sleepers, Stella Donnelly

Artists Announced so Far for WOMADelaide 2017

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

Since we went quiet for a couple of months world music festival WOMADelaide has dropped two lineup announcements and we’re pretty excited about the artists that have been announced so far.

WOMADelaide is pretty ecelectic in its genre selection given the huge umbrella that encompasses “world music” but they always offer up a bunch of great folk leaning acts to sink your teeth into.

2017 is no different with the likes of 9Bach, Archie Roach, Brushy One String, Dope Lemon, The East Pointers (above), Gawurra, Hanoi Masters, Nattali Rize, Oki Dub Ainu Band, The Waifs, Wawsaw Village Band, William Crighton and many more.

WOMADelaide takes place in the Botanic Park, Adelaide on the 10th to 13th March. For more information on the full lineup and how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

Review: 5 things we learned at Bluesfest

Kale plays at Bluesfest 2016Kaleo playing Bluesfest
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

Year after year, Bluesfest manages to bring the big names and the impressive acts to Byron Bay for the annual Easter pilgrimage. Heading to Bluesfest this year, we really didn’t know many of the acts listed on the bill and wondered just what was in store for us, Timber and Steel wise. So here’s 5 things we learned at this year’s wildly successful, ultimate music sampler opportunity that is, Bluesfest.

#1 – Peter Noble knows how to program…

One thing is for sure, Peter Noble knows how to curate an inclusive, diverse and engaging festival. The big names drew enormous crowds to all their sets. City and Colour had the crowd from the first note and Dallas Green was on form all night.  The Decemberists gave their usual charming set delving in to a fabulous back catalogue of favourites. Not to go without a bit of political comment, they also played a song they thought to offer Donald Trump as his new campaign tune, ‘The Calamity Song’. The Cat Empire delivered a solid hour and a half set jam packed with both new tracks and past hits and favourites to wow the crowd. The biggest coup was probably The Original Blues Brothers Band closing out the weekend with a stellar set of their signature blues.

The festival was dappled with big names throughout the program. Archie Roach was in fine form, weaving his musical spell over the crowd and telling the tales of the land with strength and beauty, and a focus on songs from Charcoal Lane, the title track being a particular stand out moment of the set. Jason Isbell had his one an only set up against The Original Blues Brothers Band, so splitting our time between the two was challenging but rewarding as Isbell’s enigmatic style caught watchers in it’s thrall delivering a contemporary counterpoint to the old school blues on the other stage.

Kim Churchill plays BluesfestBut one of the most notable names for me, still playing midday sets, was Kim Churchill. Getting his big break on the Bluesfest Buskers stage all those years ago, Churchill has been a staple name on the line up ever since. His absence in 2015 was noted and the crowds that gathered for this sets this year spoke strongly of his popularity for the Bluesfest crowd. Watching him command the stage, with the occasional accompaniment of a fiddle player or percussionists, was a joy to witness and testament to the following he has. It felt like he had come home, and in the process had evolved from a keen boy with a guitar to a passionate man with a solid musical career stretching before him.

#2 – It’s never just about the Blues. Folk, Country, and Americana all strongly represented in 2016

Strolling from stage to stage, the peeling licks and plucky chords of the more folky persuasion were both notable and popular with punters, letting us stumble across all kinds of gems.  LA based Lord Huron made quite the entrance with a tension building soundscape and crescendo, an upbeat strummy and infectious style, inventive percussion beneath the acoustic lead and an ability to morph between styles, from the old school feel reminiscent of the 50s and 60s summer soundtracks, through alt country and indie folk rock vibes. A particular highlight from the four-piece was ‘Hurricane’, billed as a song about “getting in trouble”, turns out it was aptly named.

Described as an Icelandic Indie pop/rock/folk band, Kaleo was a light and lyrical delight. Building from their delicate opening style to gutsy, rhythm driven choruses, through alt-country sensibilities to deep southern style blues, and a soulful cover of Bang Bang, Kaleo didn’t hesitate to transcend styles and genres to sign off with a blues rock riff and howling vocals when warranted.

The Bros Landreth, hailing from Canada, brought their alt-country and folk laden cover of Wings’ ‘Let ‘Em In’ to break the ice and then let the Americana tinged goodness flow forth. A family affair, big brother David couldn’t attend so father Wally came in his place and whipped the crowd in to a cheering craze.

The Mastersons were touring with Steve Earle & The Dukes, and made appearances both on Earle’s sets and one of their own solo shows for Bluesfest. Their lyrical country styling, featuring voices working together in diverse melodic harmony gave their day opening set a contemplative mood, transporting the crowd to simpler days. Earle’s set was one great big treat of blues soaked tunes with toe-tapping jivey bluegrass edge, all with the sweet country counterpoint of The Mastersons.

Hound mouth playing Bluesfest 2016

It seemed to be a fatherly affair this Bluesfest, with Hussy Hicks welcoming Julz’s dad Greg to their set to deliver some blistering harmonica to their upbeat tempo and at times Joplin-esque wails and passion. Indiana’s Houndmouth however had no dad’s on their line up but did have plenty of twangy blues and American drawl to open their show and unravel your soul where you stood.

#3 – Word of Mouth is King

You know when you look at a line up and you’re not really sure what acts to check out? Well Bluesfest was that way inclined for many but within the first 8 hours, gossip was abuzz with recommendations and wild tales of phenomenal shows and must see acts to catch. So here’s what we checked out based purely on word of mouth.

Steve Smyth plays at Bluesfest 2016

OK, so Steve Smyth isn’t exactly news to us, but the stir on site had his name on the tips of peoples tongues and boy did he live up to the hype. Sheer genius stood on that stage in the form of master lyricist and vibrant stage presence. Smyth’s beautiful voice and stunning vibrato was just powerful solo as with the support backing instrumentalists. His performance of ‘Southland’ blew socks off across the festival.

Shooglenifty, also known as ‘that band I can’t pronounce’, was not what you expect when you read “Celtic” on the program, but a glorious blend of traditional highland derived tunes that were heavy on the fiddle and a mandolin at the ready, intricately twined with modern rhythms, a few electric guitars and a toe tapping beat, drew punters in before they could saunter too far past the heaving tent.

Blind Boy Paxton plays at Bluesfest 2016

The was no way to walk through the site without hearing the name, Blind Boy Paxton. Listening to his set was like a walk through time, from a fiddle calling a country dance and bransles, to a lightning speed banjo frenzy, a soothing guitar tune and even a lone harmonica telling you it’s tale. All this from one man on stage – simply astonishing.

#4 – The Ladies are out in force! And you should catch all of them live

There was a lot of talk about various acts, and word of mouth certainly got us to see some great performers, but thanks to emphatic and multiple recommendations from all kinds of punters, we discovered some of the most phenomenal women who stamped their mark and left as some of the powerhouses of Bluesfest.

We caught Sahara Beck for her last set and were immediately struck by her stage presence, the smooth set up with band and back up singers added the pizazz to her swag and gave her sultry vibe a ‘pop’ on stage.

Elle King had tongues wagging as word spread that after her first, expletive laden set, her set list had to be ‘revised’. However her husky, growling vocal licks were well and truly flowing when we caught her set in a heaving tent overflowing in to the customary Bluesfest rain. Sass and attitude would be the plainest way of describing King, her vibrancy comes from her musical versatility and ability to weave country vibes and bluegrassy panache throughout her ballsy bluesy set. A chameleon of style, King bowled over crowds with big notes, fiery wit and feisty repartee.

Elle King plays at Bluesfest 2016

Hailing from Ireland, via Canada, Irish Mythen is a modern troubadour equipped with a powerhouse voice and emphatic lyrics. Mythen might have been the grittiest, most real musician seen at Bluesfest this year, armed only with her guitar and her stories, she held hundreds of people spellbound, hanging on her every word any time she took to the stage. We caught her multiple times, and laughed, cried, cheered and sung along to songs we had only heard the first time days before. She regularly had the crowd in stitches with her sense of humour and story telling capers, and woe betide any punter brave enough to heckle her! Four stand out moments stayed with me, even though I saw them all more than once. Her performance of ‘Tullamore Blues’ almost defies description, except that the crowd was with her, in that space, singing every word and feeling every sentiment. Jesus is an experience to behold, hilarious in it’s explanation and empowering in it’s performance, I sincerely hope every person gets to experience it live. Her a Capella rendition of ‘The Auld Triangle’ gives me chills and is simply astounding.  And finally ’55 Years’ had me (and most in the crowd) in tears for the beauty it captures in it’s tale. A truly moving experience. Irish Mythen is awe inspiring and we’re excited she’ll be visiting Australia again soon.

Rhiannon Giddens plays at Bluesfest 2016

And finally, probably the all-singing, all-dancing highlight of the ladies was Rhiannon Giddens. Establishing herself originally as a part of Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens’ solo work is a sight to behold and a treat to hear. Her stunning vocals are soulful yet soar high in beautiful arcs and trills of an almost Celtic style. The skill of her band melds electric with acoustic in wonderful instrumental breaks, bouncing off one another jamming to a crescendo and returning the spotlight to her lead when the time was right. Her banjo crept through tunes to pounce on you unawares, yet could alternate and become the hero of the song. Old Bob Dylan lyrics never previously turned in to songs until Giddens got her hands on them offered a treasure trove to discover. Doing a Dolly Parton cover can be tough, but Giddens’ rendition of ‘Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind’ saw her own the song completely, from every element of style through to her emotive connection with both lyrics and sentiment. From start to finish and for each and every set, she wowed the crowd with fiddle, banjo, modern takes on traditional style, soul stirring lyrics and even a step back in time to the 1920s. Her fancy footwork went down a treat and her ability to connect with the audience and tether them to her tale as the most exquisite experience to behold. She could chat to the crowd but make you feel like she spoke to you and you alone, and yet at all times Rhiannon Giddens continued to exist as her own ineffable self.

#5 – Soul is in, along with BIG bands

Now strictly speaking, Timber and Steel doesn’t really cover Soul, but the prevalence of the big band style soul injections at Bluesfest is worthy of admiration and appreciation, so it gets a gong here.

Emma Donovan & The Putbacks were a sight to behold as Donovan put her own stamp on soul, with earthy tones and a voice that rolled over the crowd, calling to them, beckoning them to hear her story. The combination of her stories and passionate, soulful delivery made for a tight set and profound performance.

I wrote down 4 words when seeing The Word, and two of them were expletives… “holy f***ing sh*t wow.” The couple of songs we caught were incredible, full of funky groves and some sweet slide guitar, all topped off with an electric organ. Very smooth and cool indeed.

Ash Grunwald plays at Bluesfest 2016Ash Grunwald hasn’t moved in to soul, but his Bluesfet setup did resemble the big backing bands of the soul acts and boy did it compliment his wailing blues. Never conforming to just one genre, Grunwald drew on bluegrass vibes, some indie rock to his blues and of course his signature commentary on Australian life. Playing River from his new album, Grunwald spoke about the anti-CSG message prevalent throughout his most recent recordings and confirmed he was among friends int he Bluesfest crowd. His set was punctuated with old favourites as highlights, crowds rollicking in his passionate performance and joining in to sing along on choruses, and the utter delight when Kasey Chambers joined him on stage for a brand new song was palpable.

Another of the tongue wagging recommendations was for Vintage Trouble, and my first impression was that lead singer Ty Taylor was sex on legs, with enough swagger stuffed in to a cravat and suit to fell an army. And when the full band kicked in, it blew the show off the Richter scale. A set full of southern blues, call and response, screaming and wailing blues breaks and enough on stage antics to warrant a lie down after watching. This was my kind of place, 1950s style jazzy blues, complete with energy and onstage charisma!

Vintage Trouble plays Bluesfest 2016

Now, if you haven’t yet heard of the phenomenal popularity and praise for Bluesfest debutants St. Paul and The Broken Bones, then you haven’t been doing the internet properly. Of all the word of mouth recommendations, St Paul and The Broken Bones was THE most talked about act at Bluesfest, and not without good reason. A big band blues-laden soul outfit, oozing funk, with a big personality for a front man in Paul Janeway. Opening with an almighty wail and sliding in to a crooning style track, the crowd knew exactly where they stood and were rooted to the spot to witness the explosive show by one of the most engaging acts we’ve seen in years. Janeway, on behalf of the entire band, exclaimed that Bluesfest was the best experience they had ever had and they would definitely be coming back to Australia, to which the crowd erupted with delight. A set filled with rumbling soul, emotive ballads and big, ballsy blues, St Paul and The Broken Bones is sure to be a high rotation favourite on many punters playlists for some time to come.

St Paul and The Broken Bones plays Bluesfest 2016

Without a doubt, Bluesfest’s skillfully curated 2016 lineup was a smash hit success, sure to be spoken of for years to come. Can’t wait to see what Peter Noble comes up with for 2017!

Port Fairy Announces Second Round of Artists

Steve Earle
Image Courtesy of Steve Earle

This week the second round of artists were announced for the Port Fairy Folk Festival and once again we’re looking at some big hitters to join the already announced Ayleen O’Hanlon, Eric Bogle, Manran, Mary Black, Pierce Brothers, Ruby Boots, The Bushwackers, The East Pointers, The Young’uns and more.

On the international front Port Fairy has revealed the likes of Cedric Burnside Project (USA), Shooglenifty (Scotland), Kristina Olsen (Canada), Steve Earle & The Dukes (USA, above) Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (UK) and Spiro (UK).

Locally the aditional artists are just as strong with Archie Roach, Colin Hay, Graeme Connors, Cat Canteri, Damian Howard, Flamenco Fire, Kaurna Cronin, Marcia Howard, Oriel Glennen, Sol Nation, The Barleyshakes, The BordererS, The Furbelows, The Little Stevies, The Mae Trio, The Timbers, The Tolka Big Band and Tinpan Orange all added.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is held from the 11th to the 14th March in Port Fairy, Victoria. Tickets for 2016 are already on sale – check out the official web site for more information.

The Inaugural Murwillumbah Country Roots Fest Announces Its Lineup

Kasey Chambers
Image Courtesy of Kasey Chambers

The brand new kid on the festival block is the Murwillumbah Country Roots Fest and judging by its inaugural lineup it will be making a big splash.

The Murwillumbah Country Roots Fest will this year be headlined by Kasey Chambers (above) as well as featuring a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites including The Audreys, Shane Howard, Archie Roach, Busby Marou, Bill Chambers, Henry Wagons, Pierce Brothers, Good Oak, The Davidson Brothers, Harry Hookey, The Wilson Pickers, Melody Pool, Karl S. Williams, Lachlan Bryan, Caitlin Harnett, The Mid North, Garett Kato, Katie Brianna, Sara Tindley, The Company, Mustered Courage, Gretta Ziller and many many more.

The festival will be held at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds in Northern NSW from the 2nd to 5th October this year. To get more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official web site here.

The Joy of Small Folk Festivals

Top Half
Photo of The Top Half Folk Festival by Barry Skipsey

By Guest Contributor Peter Logue*, repurposed political journalist, festival tragic and accordion pest

It’s probably safe to assume that almost all readers of Timber and Steel have been to a music festival: most will have been to a large folk festival e.g. Woodford, Port Fairy, Blue Mountains or The National in Canberra.

Here’s a question, though: how many have been to a small regional folk festival? By small, I’m talking about the likes of Fleurieu in South Australia, Cygnet in Tasmania, Maldon in Victoria, Gulgong in NSW, The Top Half in NT (above), or the one I’m now involved in after eight years on the Board of the National – Cobargo, in the glorious Bega Valley on the NSW Far South Coast.

(There are many, many more small festivals, most of which are listed here)

I ask this because I believe it is important for the folk movement that people younger than me – which is lot of people – get involved in the smaller festivals, either through volunteering, applying to perform, just turning up and doing a blackboard, or paying the usually small amount to attend.

Why? Well, firstly they are just great fun, full of surprises and creators of those special memories that stay with you until you’re dribbling.

Take as an example the Cobargo Festival, in its 20th year this year.

For the pittance you pay, the program is just outstanding, musically diverse, challenging at times, international in flavour and inclusive.

That last word “inclusive” is the key to the success of the smaller festivals. Unlike some of the larger events (I exclude The National because of (a) the session bar and (b) its focus on learning and participation), smaller festivals are family, along with crazy uncles who play the banjo, daft grannies who play the one row button box, and the multi-talented kids who seem to be, and are, much better musicians than were around when I was their age.

Artists are approachable, usually do more than they’re asked to do, the sessions are diverse and sometimes really hot, and most people retire late at night to playing around a campfire, or sometimes a LED lamp.

At Cobargo this year you can meet the cream of Irish musicians, like Arty McGlynn and his wife Nollaig Casey, part of the Heart Strings Quartet. Arty started off playing covers in Showbands and spent many years as Van Morrison’s lead guitarist. (He must be a very patient man).

He wrote the book on guitar accompaniment for Irish music, though Paul Brady reckons – half jokingly – he taught has old friend Arty everything he knows.

Nollaig is an outstanding fiddler, her sister Maire NiChathasaigh is a world class harpist, and if you haven’t seen Chris Newman flat pick a guitar, you’re missing one of life’s big treats.
Cobargo will be their first festival in Eastern Australia, but you will never get as close to them as you will at this festival.

This excellent clip recorded by ABC Radio National on their short visit last year gives you a taste:

That’s the thing about small festivals; international and top level local performers love them, not because they pay well (they don’t) but because it gives them a chance to warm up before the big gigs, to perfect new material, and to see parts of the country they wouldn’t normally see.

Small festivals are also places for new or relatively inexperienced soloists or bands to get noticed. There is a formal and an informal network on the folk scene of promoters, staff and organisers from the big and small festivals and “wise heads” who spread reputations by word of mouth.

That’s how bands like The Waifs, Riogh and The Lurkers and countless others got noticed and built a name.

All of the many small festivals I go to each year have workshops, sessions, spoken word, blackboards and dancing as well as concerts.

Most have good food on site and a bar for relaxing in or singing or playing tunes.

All of them have major local involvement. In the case of Cobargo – which I’ve attended for 14 years – the community engagement is extensive.

Small festivals also build the folk community. Those locals who volunteer without any real knowledge of the folk scene, get the bug. They like that a few thousand people can get together for two or three days, have a rip roaring time, get maggotted, laugh sing and dance, and not a bad word is spoken or a punch thrown.

And they suddenly hear the quality of the music that they would never hear on their local commercial radio station or even on the ABC.

Small festivals are the modern day meeting places for our diverse folk tribes. They are also places of great learning. Ask anyone involved in the running and programming of any of our large folk festivals where they learned their skills and you’ll find a vast majority started with the small festivals.

If you haven’t been, try Cobargo from February 27th to March 1st. www.cobargofolkfestival.com

As well as the Heart Strings Quartet, you can see class acts like Archie Roach, Shellie Morris, Steeleye Span’s Ken Nichol, Chaika, Daniel Champagne, Ami Williamson, Nick Charles, Fiona Boyes and dozens more, all in a geographical setting that will take your breath away. And you can join or meet a very special family.

*Peter Logue is a member of the Cobargo Folk Festival organising committee

Folk on the 2015 Sydney Festival Program

Tiny Ruins
Image Courtesy of Tiny Ruins

The Sydney Festival program was launched last week and as usual there’s a bunch of folk, roots, traditional and world music on the program to keep Timber and Steel readers happy. We thought to save you some time and pick through the program to find you the little folky nuggets. Just make sure you get in quick as tickets are now on sale.

Thursday 8th January – City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, NSW

  • Jessica Pratt – Tranquil-voiced San Franciscan singer-songwriter

Saturday 10th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

  • Archie Roach: Creation – One of Australia’s greatest singer-songwriters and storytellers revisits his first four albums

Saturday 10th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

Sunday 11th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

  • Olivia Chaney – Other-worldly traditional and contemporary folk tunes from the UK singer

Sunday 11th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Thursday 15th January – City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, NSW

  • Tiny Ruins – The buzz-worthy New Zealand alt-country singer (above) returns to Australia. Definitely a must see.

Friday 16th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

  • Far From Folsom Tex Perkins reprises the role of Johnny Cash in this tribute to the late great father of modern country and rock and roll.

Saturday 17th January – Parramatta Gaol, Parramatta, NSW

  • Iva Bittová – Traditional, classical and avant-garde music from the renowned Czech experimental violinist

Wednesday 21st January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

  • Roger Knox – The Koori King of Country brings his 2013 album Stranger in My Land to the Festival with his full band

Sunday 25th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

For more information on the Sydney Festival including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

The Woodford Folk Festival Drops 2014 Lineup

Lau
Image Courtesy of Lau

There were a ton of folk festival announcements all over the weekend but the one that everyone is talking about is the 2014 Woodford Folk Festival lineup. The full musical program dropped yesterday with the usual mix of folk, roots, trad, singer-songwriter and I-don’t-know-why-they’re-at-a-folk-festival artists.

The lineup itself is too huge to list here (you can see it for yourself here) but the highlights include the likes of Violent Femmes (USA), The Cat Empire, Archie Roach, Nahko and Medicine for the People (USA), Jeff Lang, Lau (SCOT), Tiny Ruins (NZ), We Two Thieves, Shooglenifty (SCOT), Flap!, Husky, Lior, Mama Kin, Siskin River, Andrew Clermont, The Mae Trio, Fred Smith, Lucy Wise Trio, Oh Pep!, Betty & Oswald, The Company and so so so much more.

The Woodford Folk Festival takes place from the 27th December to the 1st January. For more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

National Folk Festival Interview: Sarah Humphreys

Sarah Humphreys
Image Courtesy of Sarah Humphreys

I first fell in love with the music of Sarah Humphreys when I saw her at the 2012 National Folk Festival. Since then Humphreys has released some absolutely beautiful music and has been a mainstay on the festival circuit. Given Sarah Humphreys is returning to The National Folk Festival this year we thought it was the perfect excuse to sit down with the Central Coast singer-songwriter to chat about folk festivals, her plans to record this year and how much she loves seeing other artists perform.

Gareth Hugh Evans: The first time I ever saw you live was at The National Folk Festival so it’s kind of cool that I’ll get to see you there again this year. Is it one of those festivals that you just love to play at?

Sarah Humphreys: Yes. I love to play at it and I even just love going. There’s been a couple of years that I’ve just gone to it and played once or twice just at an open mic stage because I loved it so much. It’s just a beautiful festival, it’s really family friendly and I’ve fallen in love with so many different artists at it. And I can’t wait because Archie Roach is playing and he’s just one of my favourite songwriters – I just can’t wait to hear him sing again.

GHE: You played at another festival with Archie Roach recently. Was it Illawarra?

SH: Yeah, the Illawarra Folk Fest.

GHE: I think you posted a photo with Archie Roach at the festival online and said that you spent his entire set crying – that’s just so beautiful that he can touch you like that.

SH: I am such an emotional person and very very sensitive so when I hear stories that are so deep and so rich and so meaningful it’s like I’m right there and I’m that person for that time. I just feel the whole thing. It’s not even about me, it’s like it’s just pouring over me. His entire set, every song meant something. As a songwriter just hearing the depth in that man was overwhelming for me. It was my first time hearing and seeing him play.

GHE: It’s great that you’re going to get a chance to see him again at The National.

SH: I know! I was so excited when I saw that he was on the bill. That’s one of the best things about playing at festivals – you do your set and then you’re free to roam around and discover new artists or go and see artists that you’ve seen at other festivals. They’re my favourite gigs, folk festivals.

GHE: And as you said it’s a very family friendly vibe at The National and other folk festivals. I love the fact that you have kids running around and emersing themselves in the music. When I saw you a few years ago you even had your son up on stage at one point because he was being a bit restless in the crowd. I don’t know any other musical environment or performance space where you could do that.

SH: I know! And that’s why I love it so much because I’m free to be a mum, I’m free to be a human being. I think the folk audience really appreciate that the artists are also people and they’re human and there’s none of that “oh wow, there’s a famous person”. People just come up and they talk to you like a human being. They don’t mind if your kid’s on stage with you because they’re upset – everyone’s camping together and everyone’s on the same page. You don’t really feel that it’s a show I better look my best and worry about what everyone’s thinking. I try not to do that too much anyway – I just sort of rock up and do my thing just as myself. The folk crowd really get that and enjoy people that are more honest anyway.

GHE: Did I read that you’re bringing your band with you this time?

SH: I am! I’m so lucky! I’m bringing a banjo player, a snare and brushes player and Loren Kate’s going to be singing backing vocals for me. It’s going to be beautiful up there with my friends and my partner Paul. It’s going to be really cool. We’re going to be doing a lot of songs from the upcoming record which we’re going to record this year with Kasey Chambers at Bill Chambers’ place up on the Central Coast.

GHE: Nice. Very nice.

SH: We’re just going to go for that real earthy, live, mountain music sound that’s definitely a representation of what I do on stage.

GHE: Is Kasey Chambers producing?

SH: Yeah, she’s producing it. It’s great. And Liz Frencham’s going to be playing double bass, she’s going to be flying over to do that. It’s just awesome to work with these amazing women who I’ve looked up to for so many years. I’ve only just in the last five years fallen in love with Liz Frencham – I used to get starstruck by her at festivals and I couldn’t talk. I was like “oh my god, there’s Liz Frencham, she’s so beautiful!”. It’s funny, now they’re going to be a part of my record and we work together on different things all the time. It’s so nice – as a musician and a songwriter you can get insecure at times and when you’ve got these beautiful women who just think the world of you, if you’re having a bad day you can at least say to yourself “Kasey Chambers and Liz Frencham think I’ve got something so I must be doing ok”.

GHE: Going back to The National – I’m really excited to hear you’ve got Loren Kate along too. Her album came out last year and I listened to that a lot.

SH: She’s been doing some beautiful festivals. We both just love it because she’s got a little one as well, a little girl about the same as [my son] Jude so it’s really lovely for us as mothers. It’s really easy. Easier – not easy – than pubs and venues and stuff.

GHE: So on the new album, when are we likely to see it?

SH: Well that’s a wonderful question! We’re still deciding. Because all of these people and forces and money has to come together to make it. We’ll record it some time this year and it might just sneak in at the end of this year or it might be next year that it’s actually released. It depends on a lot of factors.

GHE: I’m looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to seeing you live at the festival.

SH: I can’t wait to play. Our set’s looking really lovely. It’s sounding good – Paul’s learning banjo so everyone be gentle on him, he’s trying his best.

GHE: I think most people are gentle on banjo players anyway.

SH: I think so, they kind of have to be.

GHE: Thank you so much for chatting with me!

SH: Ok! That’s fine! See you Gareth!

The National Folk Festival takes place in Canberra from the 17th to 21st April. Sarah Humphreys’ set times for the festival are below:

Saturday 19th April – 11:40am Flute and Fiddle
Sunday 20th April – 10:50am Scrumpy
Sunday 20th April – 1:30pm Carnival Stage
Monday 21st April – 12:30pm Scrumpy

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