Steve Parkin Releases Live Acoustic Album

Steve Parkin
Image Courtesy of Steve Parkin

Singer-songwriter Steve Parkin, best known to Timber and Steel readers as one quarter of folk-rock supergroup Basement Birds, is busy raising the funds for his next solo album. But rather than go the whole crowd funding route Parkin has instead pulled together a bunch of live acoustic material that he’s packaged together as an album you can pick up for just $12 online.

The album is Live & Solo with Guitar and Singing and includes Steve Parkin’s own material plus covers of songs by the likes of Blondie, Steve Miller Band, Nada Surf and The Fruitbats. When you purchase Live & Solo with Guitar and Singing from Bandcamp the proceeds will go towards Parkin’s next recording adventure.

Take a listen to Live & Solo with Guitar and Singing below:

Stream the New Steve Parkin Album, Steve Parkin III

Steve Parkin
Image Courtesy of Steve Parkin

Steve Parkin first came to Timber and Steel’s attention as a member of Australian “super-group” Basement Birds along with the likes of Josh Pyke, Kevin Mitchell (Bob Evans) and Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe). In 2011 he release his major label debut Mighty Big Light which definitely leant more towards pop and rock than his Basement Birds stuff and since then we haven’t heard a lot from the singer-songwriter.

At the end of May Steve Parkin released his new album Steve Parkin III which see’s him depart from his earlier solo work. Steve Parkin III is described by Parkin as an “eclectic collection of acoustic songs, live electronica collages, experimental psychedelic tracks and indie folk pop.” That’s definitely got to pique your interest right?

Take a listen to Steve Parkin’s 19 track opus below and let us know what you think. Parkin himself has recommended “Open Book”, “No Spark” and “Who Cares About The Broken Hearted” to Timber and Steel readers. If you like what you hear you can pick up the album at Bandcamp here.

Aussie Artists Plan 50th Anniversary Bob Dylan Tribute Tour

Bob Dylan

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s debut some of Australia’s top performers are getting together for a tribute tour. Already hinted at in the Splendour in the Grass lineup, the tour will see three of the Basement BirdsKav Temperley, Josh Pyke and Bob Evans – joined by Holly Throsby, Patience Hodgson (The Grates) and “an array of surprise Splendour guests”.

As well as the Splendour show the tour will take in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. Tickets go on sale next week with the full list of dates below:

Thursday 5th July – Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Friday 6th July – Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Saturday 7th July – QPAC Lyric Theatre, Brisbane
Sunday 8th July – Opera House, Sydney
Sunday 29th July – Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay

Review: Josh Pyke Fans First at GoodGod Small Club, Sydney

Josh Pyke Fans First Sydney EditionPhoto by KT Bell

Josh Pyke supported by Jackson McLaren
23 June2011, GoodGod Small Club

I’d never been to the GoodGod Small Club until Josh Pyke decided to host his Fans First Tour Sydney show there. I’d heard of it, I’d heard stories of when Mumford and Sons played at a Communion night there (backing Pete Roe). Just by the name, you would assume it’s a small room, but I hadn’t really conceived just how small, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We rocked up early to grab a bite at The Dip, the cantina style restuarant inhabiting the front bar area of GoodGod. Not a huge menu to choose from, and the meals themselves weren’t enormous, but they were interesting flavour combinations and really damn tasty. With the food being so nice, we decided we had to share a dessert, the cookies and cream, which turned out to be one of the tastiest dessert’s I’ve had in this city. Salted caramel ice cream, that’s all I’m saying. While we were waiting for our dessert to arrive, we noticed a long line of people along the wall all the way out of the club. At this point we realised these were the fans all vying for the best spot in the club, and we were not in that line.

When we finally joined the end of the queue and made our way in to the GoodGod dancetaria room (the ‘Small Club’) we were struck at just how tiny and intimate the venue actually was. There wouldn’t be more than 20m from the stage to the bar, and this night was sold out so the room was quite full of eager fans. The support act, Jackson McLaren, was a friend of Pyke‘s and took to the stage in a black western shirt, looking a little like a young Richie Valens, to woo the crowd. His style was quite relaxed and we often felt we could have been listening to an early Paul Kelly with a mixture of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and even Simon and Garfunkel thrown in there too, just to mix things up. I get the feeling McLaren is still finding his own style and voice, it’s in there, some of it emerges through his current repertoire, and I’m sure it will only further develop as time progresses.

Finally the man of the hour took to the stage. Looking very chilled out and a little bit excited (or maybe that’s anxiety), Josh took to the stage with a huge grin as if greeting a bunch of old friends. It’s been a long time between drinks since the Basement Birds took him away from his solo work, but everyone had a bevvy and were ready for lots of favourites as well as a raft of new tunes. Performing solo, Pyke created the layers in each song by looping sounds from his iPhone, a tambourine, vocals and percussion played on the body of his guitar. It was evident he was having great fun on stage, f*ck-ups and all. The night was packed with many, many old favourites, some I didn’t realise I knew the words to until I was singing along with every other person in the room. He played a great cross section from his back catalogue and the smiles on every face were evident of a great show. 

Pyke was very friendly and familiar on stage, almost as if mucking around in his lounge room when some friends had popped in. He recognised fans from shows and told stories of how he knew them (one of which had been injured at two shows, hopefully a trend not to be continued). There was the “I Love You” girl who shouted out between songs and Pyke happily replied “I love you too”. We were surprised his set wasn’t peppered with more new material. Of course he played his current single “No One Wants A Lover” which we were all singing along too. Two other new tracks made it in to the set, one of which I can’t remember the name but made me think of sunshine and clouds on a summer’s day. The other, “Factory Fires”, was a really lyrically interesting story with an almost lamentful musical air. While he did occasionally struggle with the technology to create the looping tracks, it eventually turned in to a fun game where silly comments and crazy beats would come together and at one stage Pyke broke out in to a rap… but it didn’t last long.

The night was filled with many sing-along moments. To end the night, and because there isn’t really a “back stage area” at GoodGod, Pyke pretended to head off stage and we all roared for an encore, even though he’d merely stuck his head under the back curtain. He pulled out a new song for us, and promptly forgot the words. The crowd suggested he Google them on his iPhone, but the new album is so tightly under wraps that there was nowhere online he could have found them. Instead he took a request from the crowd and commented he’d need help with the words as he hadn’t played it for around five years. The night wound up with huge cheers and clapping from the room full of fans. We’d all been part of something special, an exclusive peek in to Josh’s world without all the hype and pretense of a large gig. This was Josh as our friend, and that’s why he put the fans first for this mini tour.

With two more show left tonight and tomorrow, fans in Adelaide and Melbourne are set for a real treat. For those who missed out on tickets to the Fans First Tour, the Sparrow’s Only pre-sale tickets are now available for Josh Pyke fan club members. If you haven’t signed up for the mailing list yet, you might want to do it now and get in for tickets before they go on sale to the public on 7th July.

New Steve Parkin Video for “Sun Stealer”

Steve Parkin
Image Courtesy of Steve Parkin

If you’ve heard Mighty Big Light, the new solo album from Steve Parkin, you’ll know there’s more to the man than just being the forth member of Basement Birds. Mighty Big Light is a rocky affair that still manages the occasional country lick and folky phrase, keeping true to what we’ve come to expect from Parkin so far.

The latest single from Mighty Big Light, “Sun Stealer”, is definitely on the rock side of the road. The video for the single was directed by AFI award winner Nick Matthews and is absolutely gorgeous.

According to Matthews “I wanted to tell a very simple tale that uses natural light to drive the story. I’ve always been in interested in myths and this clip is a nod to the many stories about people who become transfixed or enamoured by nymphs. The story’s very simple so it’s really driven by our lead actress Rady, whose ethereal quality creates the mystery in the story, and also by the evocative cinematography of Miles Rowland. I’m looking forward to collaborating with Steve for many more clips”

Watch Steve Parkin’s “Sun Stealer” below:

Australians Sweep International Songwriting Competition

International Songwriting Competition

With the amount of Australian artists in the finals of the prestigious International Songwriting Competition, it was almost inevitable that our country would be featured prominently among the winners. But we’ve gone one better with Kasey Chambers taking out the Grand Prize for her track “Beautiful Mess”.

The song was written about the chaotic life that comes with having young children and also features Missy Higgins on backing vocals. It was the second single from her acclaimed album Little Bird.

Kasey Chambers has also taken out first place in the Americana category and second place in the Performance category of the ISC. Other prominent folky-Aussies to win place first in ISC categories include Basement Birds (first place, AAA) and Inland Sea (first place Unsigned Only). Washington, Paul Dempsy, Children Collide, The Chemist, Kimbra, Glenn Richards, Sierra Fin, Anna Weatherup, Jonah’s Road and Hewey Eustace will all among the Australian’s who took out places across most categories. The Folk/Singer-Songwriter category was won by Canadian Tucker Finn.

For the full list of winners and place-getters, as well as the chance to hear all their songs, check out the official ISC site. “Beautiful Mess” is embedded below:

Steve Parkin Announces Solo Album

Steve Parkin
Image Courtesy of Steve Parkin

Steve Parkin is about to shrug off his other-guy-from-Basement-Birds moniker and step into the limelight with his brand new solo album Mighty Big Light. We’ve already heard the first single “Turn It Around” which bodes well for the debut long player. Mighty Big Light‘s cover art is above and we have the full track listing:

Lost Highway
Sun Stealer
Win When You Lose
Sad Girls
City Tonight
Hold On
I Won’t Be
Turn It Around

And as an extra special treat Steve has been kind enough to share with us a cover he’s done of Nada Surf’s “Blonde on Blonde” – not available on Mighty Big Light. You can be one of the first people to listen to it below:

Brand New Single from Steve Parkin “Turn It Around”

Steve Parkin
Image Courtesy of Steve Parkin

The “other guy” from the Basement Birds, Steve Parkin, is set to release the first single from his new solo album Mighty Big Light via iTunes tomorrow. The single, “Turn It Around”, comes with an exclusive B-side which will be only available through the iTunes store. Have a listen to “Turn It Around” below and if you like it make sure you download it tomorrow.

Australian Artists Dominate International Songwriting Competition Finalists

Image courtesy of Sam Buckingham

A selection of Australian artists have done well enough to have gotten their names on the list of finalists in various categories for the International Songwriting Competition. Amongst the Timber & Steel favourites are Basement Birds (AAA, F/SS), Glenn Richards (AAA, AC, LO), Paul Dempsey (AC), Skipping Girl Vinegar (AC), Kasey Chambers (AM x2, F/SS), Matt Corby (F/SS) and Sam Buckingham (MV, UO). There are literally hoards of Australian artists on the list- most of them falling outside of Timber & Steel friendly genres, but click here for the full list. This is a great place to discover music.

Basement Birds, Glenn Richards, Paul Dempsey and Kasey Chambers are all very established artists, but you may not have heard of Skipping Girl Vinegar or Sam Buckingham before. Skipping Girl Vinegar are an alternative acoustic act from Melbourne that utilise a lot of bluegrass and folk characteristics in their songs to create something pretty rare. I discovered them around a year ago, and completely forgot about them until now. Sydney’s Sam Buckingham I came across a couple of weeks ago at a Fuse Festival showcase at The Fringe Club in Adelaide. Her songwriting and the confidence projected from her astounding voice really gripped me, and it looks as though she’s starting to get some national radio play- so she’s definitley one to follow.

Congratulations to all the finalist. We wish you all the best of luck.

The 35 hour Woodford Experience

I have wanted to go to Woodford for a few years now and finally this past year I managed it, if only for 35 hours. After a brief festive season holiday in Far North NSW, Tuesday afternoon saw me driving to Woodfordia. Arriving in the dark some time after 7.30pm QLD time, I was greeted at the gate by some thoroughly excited volunteers and their big red sniffer dog… the kind you’d win on a carnival game. After warnings to avoid the grassy bits for fear being sucked in to a swamp like mess, I carefully navigated the incredibly wet and muddy streets and managed to find a relatively non-boggy looking spot. With gumboots at the ready, I was set.

Now, I’ve been to a few festivals in the last couple of years and had heard much about Woodford and how much I would like it. I went in search of Timber and Steel’s Milady Red and as I entered the festival site, I was struck with the enormity of it all, looked at the map and wondered how on earth I would find her. I wandered the night time streets of the festival, lit up by all manner of stalls, features, displays and Marquees full of performers and delighted crowds. In spite of the drizzle – this was magical.

I traipsed past the Sedge Pond, filled with illuminated ships, to The Grande  where Milady Red was soon located with a seat saved for me in the thick of things. Much to my delight, I’d managed to arrive in time to see Felix and the Phoenix, an act I’ve been dying to see for some time but their December Sydney shows had been cancelled. We surmised that a number of people would be there in the hopes of a mini Cat Empire show, but we had figured Felix’s solo project would be more laid back and we weren’t disappointed. Felix seemed incredibly comfortable behind the bongos (they probably have another name) as we have come to see in the Cat Empire live shows, but the music of Felix and the Phoenix has a different feel to it. Certainly the style you would put on and wash away your day’s worries while your foot taps and your fingers click all on their own. There was a special guest appearance by Cat Empire band mate Harry to play trumpet on one song, but it was still a different sound and vibe. I’m certainly looking forward to Into the Rain being released in February and the tour that will no doubt follow. While we wanted to stay up and see a number of other acts, the drive had caught up with me and bed called.

Wednesday was a bright, if not drizzley day. Although the rain continued, I had missed the worst of the week’s weather. We started the day with Mr Percival’s Vocalous Ensembleous, Spontaneous – A pavillion full of people making music together, exploring rhythm, harmonies and positive mantras for the day. Sounds hippy, I know, but it’s a blast of looping, beats and fun. After singing a bit of Stand By Me, Milady Red and I ventured forward into the Woodford landscape for some much needed breakfast! Milady Red also works at the Dive Bar, next to the Duck. So while I left her to her shift, I set to work deciding what acts I was going to try and cram in to my only day at Woodford. To say my schedule was ambitious would be an understatement – it was downright huge!

12pm @ Trailer Trash – The Good Ship
The Good Ship had been recommended to me by a good friend in Canberra, and happily they were first on my whirlwind Woodford experience. I do like a stage full of characters and these guys do not dissappoint! With a piratical theme and vigour abound, this 8 piece had the place pumping. Hugely upbeat with plenty of fiddle, it was a high energy, crowd pumping set. All kinds of instruments graced the stage, from acordians to canastas and even a ships’ bell by the looks of it. With nautical songs like “Sea Monster” and “Ghost Ship”, there was no shortage of toe-tapping, mud splashing good times. I particularly liked their way of weaving popular songs, like R.E.M’s “End of the World”, into their own renditions. It was quite obvious they were having a good time on stage, I’ll certainly track them down again.

1pm @ The Grande – The Gadflys
My interest in the Gadflys stemmed purely from their exposure years ago on the TV Show Good News Week where Paul McDermott regularly sang with them. I caught only a portion of their set, their sound was as I remembered but sans Paul. While they were jazzy and full with sound, I didn’t find their performance hugely engaging, which was a shame. I’m not 100% sure they’re a band for a big stage, they always had more impact with a more intimate setting, if you can call national television to millions of viewers intimate, but I found on stage they were either lost or perhaps only focussed with what was happening on stage.

3.20pm @ The Grande – Kim Churchill
Kim Churchill was recommended to me for a festival line up nearly 2 years ago but the stars didn’t align and I’ve been waiting ever since to actually see him live. To watch him on stage, you would never imagine he’s only 19. With bags of talent and a real presence to him on stage, he’s quite the captivating performance to see. Playing acoustic guitar and harmonica with a kick drum at his disposal, he manages to create some really rich pieces of music. For his second ever Woodford, Kim expressed great humility and gratefulness for both the crowds and the many people involved in producing the festival. As a treat for the crowd, Kim invited good friend Tom Richardson on stage to join him for a song. Tom’s guitar and sliding added a wholle new depth to the sound and there really was a party going on onstage in front of our very eyes. Kim presents rich, mature vocals and sounds like a seasoned performer – not surprising given how much travelling and gigging he’s done over the last couple of years. He manages to weave together moments of pause and stillness, together with wild harmonica howls and high energy breaks to have the entire crowd on edge. I’ll certainly make the effort to see Kim again some time soon.

4.10pm @ The Grande – Jeff Lang
Having not seen or heard much of Jeff Lang except for Milady Red’s enthusiastic endorsement, I quite enjoyed being up close to watch him perform. Being a Woodford veteran, he commented that he felt bad for not playing every day of this year’s festival in order to make it to another festival. He was so at home on the Woodford stage, it was clear to see why he is a favourite. His selection of guitars is impressive and makes every song different and a joy to watch him deliver. His interaction with both the crowd and this band made the performance feel very intimate.

5.15pm @ The Grande – Passenger
Another act I have been meaning to see for some time, and having had Steve Parkin of the Basement Birds tell me Passenger is not to be missed, I made sure I was there. Mike Rosenberg (aka Passenger) has a very comfortable presence on stage and really takes the entire audience along for the ride. I loved his sense of humour, given the inclement weather, he played “Rain”, a fun filled song lamenting the rain and had us all laughing. With the new album Flight of the Crow released last September, there was much anticipation to hear the new tracks, however, he pointed out it’s much harder to do those tracks on the road given the number of collaborating artists on the album. He performed a stripped back, solo version of “Golden Thread”, the track originally recorded with Matt Corby, which was a soft and beautiful rendition. He commented that he was impressed with an audicen that listens, it’s a rarity. To round out the set, he chose to play “Rivers”, and to perform it properly, he invited Lior to the stage (to much applause) to perform it as it was recorded. The two of them created magical and beautiful harmonies that had the audience transfixed.

6.20pm @ The Grande – Basement Birds
I had been waiting for this for some time and was eagerly anticipating their second last performance together. A crowd of all ages had gathered, the front of the stage was swamped with keen fans and as the foursome took to the stage, the masses cheered with delight. An energetic and jovial performance took the boys through all the favourites including “Waiting for You” and “Cinnamon and Smoke”. Mid set, Kav commented that normally the next song would not be played at your usual rock festival, but upon discussion with the Birds, they had decided that it might work for Woodford, and broke out into a heartfelt rendition of “Ghosts” which had the whole crowd swaying and singing along. On stage they boys were clearly having a fantastic time, joking with each other, switching happily between instruments and songs all the while keeping up the witty banter. Poor Josh Pyke had a moment mid song as a huge moth dive bombed him and took up residence on his guitar, it turns out he’s not so great with bugs and very cautiously blew it off before continuing with the song. As has become tradition, Julia Stone was not available to help out with their hit “Bus Stop” so two lucky girls were plucked from the audience to sing her part, which they both did very well, in fact I do believe at least one of them had done it before at a previous gig. To round out what what a hugely popular and enjoyable set, they finished on their Like a Version cover of “My People” which can also be viewed on their home page! It was sad to see their set end, but also incredibly satisfying to see them one last time before they head back to their own bands. An all round fantastic set and a wonderful farewell.

8.45pm @ Blues n Roots – Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band came together, reached the height of their success and disbanded all before I was born. However, I have seen and enjoyed both Mic Conway‘s National Junk Band and Jim Conway‘s Big Wheel over the last few years and enjoyed them immensely, so it is fair to say that the Whoopee Band would likely impress me too. The Blues n Roots Pavilion was full, people were on the dance floor and the stage was full of crazily dressed band members having a great old time. Mic Conway took centre stage complete with his bag of tricks and rack of silly noise-makers. Jim Conway directly to his right and read to treat us with his brilliant harmonica stylings. With a cast of both familiar and new faces, the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band was off to a great start. The music was upbeat and happy, on stage gags from the good old days were still present with witty thought and speech bubbles being held over band member’s heads and the infamous megaphone making an appearance. The performance was full of energy and delight while the crowds danced, sung, and clapped along to each song. Mic’s magic tricks featured along with solos from each band member. For a band that hasn’t performed together for some decades, the cohesion and frivolity from the band was brilliant, the reception was fantastic and the applause well worth it. Hopefully this is not the only reunion of the band. True it’s not in it’s original form, however, it is certainly an excellent meld of old faces and new talent to create some terrific nostalgia and a rollicking good time.

The rain and mud was just a part of the experience, everyone seemed to cope well with a mixture of gumboots, crocs, thongs and once recognisable shoes making the rounds along with umbrellas, parasols, raincoats and ponchos. Happily on Wednesday night the rain had eased for long enough and the ground firmed up to allow the roving performers take to the streets of the festival. With a huge cart being pulled through the site and stilt walking, storytelling delights entertaining the wandering crowds, the night time became a magical place of discovery. Milady Red and I sat in a cosy cafe for a short while taking in all that is the hustle and bustle of Woodford.Sadly, the long day and time had caught up with me, and I took my exhausted, muddy, damp, gum-booted self to bed. I stopped at the Festival Store and bought a huge stack of CDs of performers I had seen and will slowly get through them all. In my time at Woodford, it became clear that a person could turn up to festival with nothing but the clothes on their back and perhaps a sleeping bag and be set for the entire week – everything you need could be found on site and there was no end of delicious food to indulge in, you could eat from a different nation at almost every meal. Staying in Tent Hotel was absolutely brilliant, took all the hassle out of camping. They supply the tent already assembled, a bed, a chair and in spite of the sogginess underfoot, the stay was quite dry and pleasant. Bright and early Thursday morning the sun appeared from behind the clouds assuring all of Woodford they would have their first sunny day, and I hit the road bound for Sydney in time for New Years Eve celebrations. Perhaps my next Woodford experience will allow me more time and include the great Fire Event of New Year’s Eve.

But one thing is for sure – Woodford is one of the most intense and amazing festivals in Australia and every music lover should make an effort to experience it in their life time.

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