Artists for the 2013 Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival

Mustered Courage
Image Courtesy of Mustered Courage

Every year I look at the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival lineup and want to go, but every year something comes up and I don’t make it. But in 2013 I’ve made a commitment to make it to the Northern NSW festival and no matter what comes up I’ll be there.

Which is a good thing as the 2013 Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival features some of Timber and Steel’s favourite artists including Mustered Courage (above), The Company, Lucy Wise and the B’Gollies, The Mid North, Bellyache Ben and The Steamgrass Boys, The Lurkers, Oh Pep!, Rhiannon and Monique and many many more.

The Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival is held on the 25th, 26th and 27th October in Dorrigo, NSW with tickets available from the official site here. The full list of artists announced for the festival (so far) are below:

The Foghorn StringBand, Charlie Walden and Patt Plunkett, Bluegrass Parkway, Ross Nickerson, Mustered Courage, Appalachian Heaven String Band, The Company, The Hottentots – Carl & Parissa, Lucy Wise and the B’Gollies, Starboard Cannons, Ange Tackats and Band, The Mid North, Cat and Clint, Gleny Rae Virus and her Playboys, Bellyache Ben and The Steamgrass Boys, Oh Pep!, The Lurkers, Rhiannon and Monique, Don & John – Resonator Brothers, Evan Mathieson and more

Country Roads Lineup for May

Country Roads
Image Courtesy of The Steamgrass Boys

This month’s Steamgrass Boys curated night of folk, bluegrass and alt-country music in Syndey, Country Roads, has a massive lineup and is definitely shaping up to be a highlight of the May music calendar. On Thursday 16th May The Oxford Art Factory will be transformed into an old time inn with plenty of whiskey and even more bootscootin’.

On the lineup for Country Roads this month are alt-country favourites Fanny Lumsden & the Thrillseekers, Lucky Luke & His Shooting Stars and Andy Golledge. The music will kick off at 8pm with tickets only $10 on the door.

For more information make sure you head over to the official Facebook invite here.

Interview: James Daley from The Steamgrass Boys and Country Roads

Steamgrass Boys
Image Courtesy of Bellyache Ben and The Steamgrass Boys

Over the last couple of years Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys have become somewhat of an institution in Sydney. Bringing bluegrass and old timey music to the fans, heading to a Steamgrass Boys show means you’re always guaranteed a night of amazing, real music. We sat down with James Daley, mando player, singer and multi-instrumentalist for the band, about their music and their upcoming regular night Country Roads at The Oxford Arts Factory.

Gareth Hugh Evans: The first obvious question is how you got into bluegrass/old timey music to begin with? You’re family is musical right?

James Daley: Yeah I come from a very musical background, my father is responsible for that. He is an amazing piano and accordion player, as well as being a great composer of jazz and art music. My brother, sister and I all have him to thank for the musical genes. Music was everywhere when I was growing up it was hard to escape at times. I got into folk music in high school through all the usual suspects, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell etc, and from there I started to explore the less commercial American folk music, The Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon, Doc Watson, and just fell in love with that sound. I also inherited a Mandolin from our great Grandfather, also very musical, who was responsible for getting my Dad into music – he bought my Dad he’s first accordion when he was 8 years old. After getting hold of the Mandolin I began to research and learn the kind of the music it was commonly associated which ultimately led me to bluegrass and old timey, and from there I have never looked back.

GHE: What I love about The Steamgrass Boys is the Australian influence you put on music that is so typically American. While so many other Australian bluegrass bands take on faux-American themes and tales your songs are uniquely Australian. How important is injecting an Australian heart into this music for you?

JD: Well from a song writing perspective it’s the most important thing. I love the sound of American folk music, but I’m not American. All my experiences are as an Australian, so to write about anything else just wouldn’t do. I see all to often though Australian songwriters, perpetuating American clichés and avoiding writing about what’s on their doorstep. We have such rich culture and history here that is really worth looking at. As I said I love the sound of American music, so negotiating that with my own experiences to find a unique and contemporary Australian voice, is my main focus and my biggest challenge as a songwriter.

GHE: This kind of music is exploding at the moment with more and more players coming out of the woodwork every day, especially in Australia’s cities. What do you think it is about right now and this kind of music that seems to have captured the cultural zeitgeist?

JD: It’s hard to pin point these types of movements, especially when you are in the middle of them. Social trends are incredibly complex with so many factors at play. Perhaps when it has passed we will be able to understand it a bit better. There are definitely a few things that have had a big impact though. A little movie called O Brother Where Art Thou might have something to do with it. If you can get George Clooney to legitimize something you’re on the right track. I think the banjo has a bit to do with it as well. It seems to be popping up everywhere in all sorts of music. Whenever an instrument has a revival, the music that is commonly associated with it, in this case bluegrass and old-timey is never far behind. I think the fiddle will be the next one, there seems to be a shortage of good young fiddle players at the moment. Also folk revivals just happen all the time not just through music either, and we are in one at the moment, which is great. People get to a point where they want to reconnect with the past and feel like they are part of a shared cultural heritage, or they want to simplify things to try and create more “authentic” experiences. It happens in pop music and culture all the time, the low-fi simplicity of 90’s grunge in response to the excess and extravagance of 80’s glam rock.

GHE: Let’s talk about Country Roads, the regular night you’re kicking off at the Oxford Art Factory. The night started as a one off concert featuring some of Sydney’s best alt-country acts, right? What inspired you to make it a regular night?

JD: There are so many great young bands popping up all over Australia playing this kind of music, so I came up with the idea to put on a concert showcasing some of Sydney’s best. I never intended for it to be regular thing but Oxford Arts had approached me about the Steamgrass Boys doing a monthly residency there. After the success of the first Country Roads show at the Vangaurd, I thought, what a great opportunity to make it a regular event, firstly, to showcase all of these amazing young country bands, and secondly to put a big spotlight on the scene. I really hope it will take off and turn into something that really galvanizes the community. It’s also a great opportunity for bands to support each other and work together.

GHE: The first one kicks off on the 18th April and features yourselves, Mustered Courage from Melbourne and 200K. That’s a pretty impressive lineup – how did you feel when you locked down these guys?

JD: Yeah it’s going to be a killer show. Those guys are all good friends of mine and they put their hands up straight away to be involved. I was always sure it was going to be a strong line up as there are just so many great bands floating around. I am really looking forward to seeing 200k, I have seen Johnny with Little Bastard and Matty with Fanny Lumsden, but not together, there is always something special about a brother duo. I’ve spent a bit of time with Mustered Courage, they are the real deal, amazing players and singers and the ultimate professionals, so great to have them on board. Comedian Luke Escombe will also be there on the night as the MC. He is a great person to have involved, ridiculously clever and very funny. Having the MC makes the show unique and more than just a gig. It almost gives it a grand Ole Opry feeling.

GHE: The bluegrass and old timey community seems pretty tight knit. How has the response been to the announcement of Country Roads? Have many of the local and national bands put there hands up to perform at upcoming nights?

JD: Yeah it is. One of the great things about playing this kind of music is the community you get to belong to. You meet so many great people and musicians. With bluegrass especially, there is this shared language among the musicians. You could be in an amazing bluegrass jam with people who you don’t even know their names and you are communicating in a very sincere and sophisticated way. It’s really special and I love that! I think you were there at Gulgong, when we were jamming with Mustered Courage and a few others from the festival. That was the perfect example – amazing! The response to putting the show together has been really positive. As I said Mustered Courage and 200k put their hands up straight away, and we have already locked in Fanny Lumsden and the Thrillseekers, The Green Mohair Suits, Lucky Luke and the Shooting Stars, Andy Golledge, The Morrisons, and British Blues for the upcoming months. I have also been in conversation with the people from Jamgrass in Melbourne about doing a joint event just prior to this years Jamgrass festival in October to help promote the festival to Sdyney siders. I think the idea at this stage is to have a small 1-day festival with about 7 or 8 bands, some Melbourne, some Sydney as ‘Country Roads presents The Road To Jamgrass 2013’. That sounds like a pretty good day out to me! So all the musicians are on board, now we just have to convince the punters.

GHE: What’s next for the Steamgrass Boys? Surely there’s an album on the way soon?

We have a few festivals coming up, a tour planned for later in the year, and obviously I’ll be running the Country Roads shows each month. There has been an album on the way for about 2 years. The songs are all there, we just need to raise the funds and assemble the right people. One thing I really don’t want to do is rush it, I am content to wait for the right time so we can produce the best album possible. Though sooner rather than later would be good.

Country Roads featuring Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys will take place at The Oxford Art Factory on the Thursday 18th April. Tickets here.

Review: Blue Mountains Music Festival, Katoomba, NSW

Blue Mountains Music Festival
Image Courtesy of the Blue Mountains Music Festival

When I first moved to Sydney I found it a bit strange that the city didn’t have its own folk festival. Being the largest city in the country and home to so many talented folk musicians I assumed there must be such a thing as the Sydney Folk Festival. When I discovered there wasn’t it didn’t take me long to work out why – right on Sydney’s doorstep are some of the country’s best music festivals, tucked away in some of stunning locations. And one of the best of the best is The Blue Mountains Music Festival in Katoomba.

After a couple of years of mud-inducing torrential rain the Blue Mountains Music Festival was this year blessed with un-seasonally warm sunny days and crisp clear nights – a combination that drew some of the biggest crowds I’d ever seen at the festival. The market stalls were humming, the venues were pumping and the atmosphere was electric – and of course the music was spectacular.

I have to admit that while the lineup was solid it wasn’t one I was super excited about. A mixture of Australian artists who’ve been touring solidly for the last little while and a selection of overseas artists who are appearing at myriad other festivals this season meant the Blue Mountains lineup wasn’t unique, especially to a regular gig goer, but the quality was exceptionally high and there were still a couple of surprises to be had.

I resolved that I would spend my time at the festival catching artists that I just absolutely love to see live or that I’d been meaning to catch for a while. As a result I often found myself at gigs that were not the “must see” of any particular timeslot leading to a more intimate music festival experience and one that was perfectly suited to the laidback mountain location.

Of the bands I had seen before I was once again particularly impressed with the sets I caught from The April Maze and Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys. The former have fast become my favourite festival band thanks to their playful banter, great mix of original and covered songs and the way they interact with their audience. Even a heckler at their show in The Shed on the Saturday night couldn’t ruffle their feathers. And I have to say that The April Maze do one of the best covers of “Look at Miss Ohio” I know, completely unplugged and with the audience singing along.

The latter, Bellyache Ben and The Steamgrass Boys (who were without Ben for the festival due to illness), are simply the finest proponents of bluegrass and old-timey music in Sydney at the moment. The set I caught at the RSL Blue Room had the audience up and dancing and whooping along. I’d never thought I’d get excited about seeing the spoons played but when Seth Lakeman’s drummer Cormac Byrne jumped up on stage with the Steamgrass Boys brandishing cutlery I was mesmerised.

Speaking of Seth Lakeman, the English multi-instrumentalist and his band were at the top of my must-see bands for the Blue Mountains Music Festival and I was so happy to catch his set in the Big Top. The amount of energy in the room was amazing and Lakeman’s ability to deliver traditional and traditional leaning music in a fresh and exciting way is second to none. Just watching Lakeman sing and play the fiddle with such ferocity was amazing – and the fact that he was allowed an encore (a rarity at festivals at the best of times) shows just how popular he was with the Blue Mountains audience.

The other artist I hadn’t seen before that really blew me away was Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas. The musical journey they took us on through Europe with their fiddle and cello combination was absolutely magical and you can tell why they are considered among the best on the traditional music scene. It felt as though Fraser and Haas were elevating jigs and reels to be treated with the same reverence as classical music and I’m so happy to have caught them.

With so much fantastic music over the weekend it’s hard to squeeze a mention of every artist into one review. But what’s most important is that the Blue Mountains Music Festival has cemented itself as one of my favourite folk festivals in the country and definitely my number one recommendation to people looking for the folk festival experience. And all right on Sydney’s doorstep – I can’t wait till next year!

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 15th March

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The week kicked off with a bang with the announcement of a brand new Laura Marling album in May, titled Once I Was An Eagle, with the first single “Where Can I Go?” already streaming online. Details here

– Monthly Sydney folk night MoFo has announced its March lineup including The Underscore Orkestra, The Rusty Spring Syncopators and Godfrey Uke and his Orchestra. Details here

Mumford and Sons revealed their brand new video “Whispers in the Dark”. Details here

– Melbourne’s Sleepy Dreamers will be officially launching their brand new EP Winter Make Way at The Workers Club in April. Details here

– US folk duo The Milk Carton Kids released their latest video “Honey, Honey”. Details here

Crooked Still front-woman Aoife O’Donovan has confirmed plans to release her debut solo album Fossils this June. Details here

– UK trio The Staves released their brand new video “Facing West”. Details here

Jep and Dep celebrated the release of their new EP Through The Night with a brand new video for the track “Ain’t Coming Back”. Details here

– For the first time since 2011 the full lineup of alt-country legends Wagons will be playing at two special shows in Sydney and Melbourne. Details here

– The new project from ex-Middle East member Mark Myers, The Starry Field, has a debut album on the way and a national tour. Details here

The Steamgrass Boys are taking their Country Roads night in Sydney Monthly. The April lineup also includes Mustered Courage and 200k plus the MCing skills of Luke Escombe. Details here

– Melbourne based singer-songwriter Tim Guy has announced a brand new album (Dreaming of a Night Mango), a new video (“Many People I Know”) and dates for an April tour. Details here

The Tiger and Me finally released their brand new video for “Made it to the Harbour”. Details here

– New and classic folk collide with Joanna Newsom covering Sandy Denny’s “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens”. Details here

Interviews

“Basement Birds, you know we were just trying to make a rootsy sounding kind of folk record, you know, making four part harmonies. With Jebediah’s last record we were, you know, we had so many years between records we were really trying to recreate ourselves a bit. Do a really adventurous, for us anyway, studio album that wasn’t about trying to capture our live sound. With this Bob Evans record, I was really just trying to start all over again” – Kevin Mitchell (AKA Bob Evans) chats to Janine Estoesta. Interview here

“At the Cobargo Folk Festival in February, Kim Churchill was the recipient of my vicarious joy at this news, and we spontaneously had a chat, leaning on someone’s trailer, outside a venue, out in the open — which was a bit of a mistake because as I now know: don’t try to do these things in a flukey, swirling breeze”Kim Churchill chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“At Canberra’s One Very Big Day this week to celebrate the city’s centenary, Fun Machine played to a heaving, sweaty mess of young and old beautiful people, as the last of the fireworks fell away (some into the crowd, allegedly!) as they put a fairly massive stamp on their cross-genre and cross-market universal appeal”Fun Machine chat to Bill Quinn. Interview here

Blog

“It’s the National Folk Festival. Arrayed in a slightly different configuration this year, with some changes, tweaks and sundry twists and turns. If you were sat at home thinking, aw, might give it a miss this year, my suggestion would be this: Don’t” – Bill Quinn reminds us it’s just two weeks until The National Folk Festival. Blog here

Reviews

Recordings

“There is a precision in the way these sounds are arranged which could only have been crafted. All the elements are carefully mixed to create a unique and fascinating texture, which surprises at every listen. It’s the kind of sound you’d expect from a dozen musicians in a world-class studio” – JDX reviews The Wolves by Brighter Later. Review here

Releases This Week

Bob Evans
Familiar StrangerBob Evans
iTunes

The Stand In
The Stand-InCaitlin Rose

Deep and Down These Walls
Deep and Down These WallsDave Di Marco
iTunes

Mala
MalaDevendra Banhart
iTunes

Through the Night
Through The NightJep and Dep
Bandcamp

Rosie
RosieThelma Plum
iTunes

Timber and Steel Presents

Kaurna Cronin
Kaurna Cronin with Ben Whiting and Hamish Anderson
Sunday 17th March – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets on the Door

Gigs Next Week

Alice Springs Courtyard Sessions feat. Sally Balfour, Katie Harder & Dom Costello, Damien Armstrong and Scotty Balfour and the Diddly e’ Dees
Sunday 17th March – Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, Alice Springs, NT

Blue Mountains Music Festival
Friday 15th to Sunday 17th March – Katoomba, NSW

Bobby Alu
Friday 15th March – Indi Bar, Scarborough, WA
Saturday 16th March – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, WA
Sunday 17th March – Clancy’s Fish Pub, Dunsborough, WA

Breaking Hart Benton
Friday 15th March – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW (with Sarah Humphreys)
Saturday 16th March – Illawarra Folk Club, Wollongong, NSW
Wednesday 20th March – Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 22nd March – The Empress Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Brett Winterford
Friday 15th March – Mars Hill Cafe, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 21st March – The Ellington Jazz Club, Perth, WA

Cordial Factory with Bexley De Lion and Al Parkinson
Saturday 16th March – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

Damien Dempsey
Friday 15th March – The Bakery, Northbridge, WA
Saturday 16th March – The HI FI, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 17th March – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Dave Di Marco
Friday 15th March – The Espy, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 16th March – The Retreat, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 21st March – Cafe Le Monde, Noosa, QLD
Friday 22nd March – The Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW

Don’t Mention The Wall
15th to 16th March – Beechworth, Vic
Friday 22nd March – Springwood, NSW (house concert)

Eli Wolfe
Friday 22nd March – The Armidale Club, Armidale, NSW

Frogfest feat. The Barons of Tang, Takadimi, GrandMasterMonk and Dave Bova Band: Divina Commedia
Friday 15th March – Red Rattler Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Glen Hansard and The Frames with Lisa Hannigan
Wednesday 20th March – Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 21st March – Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, VIC

Jack Carty and Jordan Millar
Friday 22nd March – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Jep&Dep
Sunday 17th March – The Green Room, Sydney, NSW

Jordie Lane
Friday 15th March – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC w/ Ruthie Foster
Saturday 16th March – Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan, VIC
Sunday 17th March – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC, w/ Ruthie Foster
Thursday 21st March – The Factory, Sydney, NSW w/ Ruthie Foster
Friday 22nd to Saturday 23rd March – Yackandandah Folk Festival, Yackandandah, VIC

Luka Bloom
Saturday 16th March – Blue Mountains Music Festival, Katoomba, NSW
Monday 18th March – Tilley’s, Canberra, ACT
Tuesday 19th March – Tilley’s, Canberra, ACT
Wednesday 20th March – Tilley’s, Canberra, ACT
Friday 22nd March – Wrest Point Showroom, Hobart, TAS

MoFo feat. The Underscore Orkestra and Chaika
Friday 22nd March – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Friday 15th March – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 16th March – The Hill Winery, Geelong, VIC

Nicola Hayes and Hélène Brunet
Friday 15th March – The Spotted Mallard, Brunswick Music Festival, VIC

Passenger
Thursday 21st March – Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Patrick James
Friday 15th March – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 16th March – The Waiting Room, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 21st March – Beav’s Bar, Geelong, VIC

Paul Brady
Friday 15th March – Celtic Club, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 17th March – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 21st March – Guthrie’s, Adelaide, SA
Friday 22nd March – The Fly By Night, Perth, WA

Sally Seltmann
Wednesday 20th March – The Famous Spiegeltent, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 21st March – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW

Seth Lakeman
Saturday 16th March – Blue Mountains Music Festival, Katoomba, VIC
Saturday 17th March – Blue Mountains Music Festival, Katoomba, VIC
Wednesday 20th March – Notes, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 21st March – Lizottes, Kincumber, NSW
Friday 22nd March – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW

The Tiger and Me
Friday 15th March – Elsternwick Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 21st March – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 22nd March – The Brisbane Markets, Brisbane, QLD

The Underscore Orkestra
Friday 15th March – The Upfront Club, Maleny, Qld

Two Crows
Thursday 21st March – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Friday 22nd March – Australian Celtic Studies Centre, Newcastle, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Sonny” – Mary Black, Emmylou Harris and Dolores Keane

My Mum’s birthday happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day (this Sunday) which has its pros and cons – the pro being there’s always a party with loads of music and dancing, the con being that mum is rarely the focus of those celebrations. For her birthday I thought I’d dedicate the track “Sonny” as a FFF to her – a song I know she loves. And the fact that this version features two of Irelands greatest singers, Mary Black and Dolores Keane, is a little nod to the other celebration that’s happening this weekend (despite the fact it was written by a Canadian). Happy Birthday Mum!

Country Roads Goes Monthly at The Oxford Art Factory in Sydney

Steamgrass Boys
Image Courtesy of The Steamgrass Boys

After a massive, sell-out night at The Vanguard last month Sydney’s Steamgrass Boys are taking their Country Roads night monthly. The shows will now take place at the Oxford Art Factory and will feature the best in folk, bluegrass, Americana and alt-country from around the country.

The first of the regular Country Roads nights is set to take place on Thursday 18th April. Along with The Steamgrass Boys the night will feature Melbourne Bluegrass legends Mustered Courage and local folkers 200K (brothers Johnny and Matty Took of Little Bastard fame). As with the original Country Roads the night will be MC’d by musician, comedian, pimp, and “Sydney’s sexiest man voice” Luke Escombe. Tickets are $10 and can be picked up here.

For more information on the first of these regular nights check out the official Facebook event here. And make sure you get your hands on tickets soon as the last show sold out well before the night.

Review: Gulgong Folk Festival, Gulgong, NSW

The Falls
Image of The Falls Courtesy of The Gulgong Folk Festival

As a country-wide heat wave began to take hold you’d be forgiven for thinking only a crazy man would leave the beach lined coastline of Sydney for a weekend in New South Wales’ central west. And you’re probably right except I was driving over the mountains to take part in the Gulgong Folk Festival, an event I had heard so many good reports on in 2012 and which boasted a 2013 lineup that seemed lifted straight from the pages of Timber and Steel – how could I not attend?

Gulgong, situated about 30kms north of Mudgee and about 4 hours drive from Sydney, seems like a town frozen in time, like the set of some period drama or a recreation of the 19th century, but it’s a very real place and the streets were already abuzz with visitors when we arrived early on Thursday afternoon. Checking into our motel, conveniently located behind the festival’s default main venue The Price of Wales Hotel (with direct access into the pub via a gate in the beer garden) I quickly set about on a pub crawl reconnaissance of the four pubs and one opera house that would be playing host to a myriad of musicians over the next three days.

And it wasn’t long till I was introduced to larger-than-life festival organiser Richard Lawson (with a hug no less) and I started bumping into many of the bands I knew who were on the program – The Falls, Jack Carty, Fanny Lumsden and the Thrillseekers, Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys and Mustered Courage among others – all doing the same thing I was, checking out the town and finding their feet.

I gave myself three goals at the Gulgong Folk Festival – support all the bands on the lineup that have been featured on Timber and Steel recently, discover new artists and try to catch as many impromteu sessions as possible – and over the course of the three days I was in Gulgong I think I achieved each of those goals.

I definitely wasn’t hard up for choice when it came to seeing some of Timber and Steel’s favourite bands (I know Richard Lawson is a fan of the site and I have a feeling we may have had some input into the programming of the festival). I managed to catch Fanny Lumsden and The Thrillseekers in the town’s Opera House (apparently one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Australia) for a set that, while plagued with sound issues, was as energetic and joyful as always and had me tapping my toes along with every song. The April Maze, a band I’ve been listening to for ages but had never caught live, managed to avoid the Opera House’s sound issues by doing away with microphones and plugged in instruments and making the most of the room’s natural acoustics for a stunning set. Sivan from The April Maze is such a charming and charismatic performer and together with Todd Mayhew put on one of the best performances of the festival – if you haven’t picked up their new album Two yet you should go and buy it right now.

Jack Carty was his usual charming self workshopping a number of brand new songs at the Gulgong Folk Festival after a year touring Break Your Own Heart. After seeing Jack Carty more times than I can count in 2012 it was refreshing listing to new material filling the Opera House. At one point he invited Melinda Kirwin from The Falls up on stage for a duo on “Too Many Things in Too Many Places” (Carty returned the favour the next day appearing during a Falls set) which was absolutley stunning. The Falls themselves sounded beautiful in the Opera House setting with Melinda gushing later that she only wants to play country halls from now on.

The Gulgong Folk Festival was the first time I had caught Wes Carr’s Buffalo Tales project since he stepped on stage at Sydney’s Folk Club last year. Since then Carr has fleshed out the Buffalo Tales persona complete with on stage dream catcher and western clothing, but of course it’s his voice that stands steals the show. Sorting out microphone issues right at the beginning of his Opera House set on Friday, removing any hint of reverb or effects, Wes Carr howled and growled his way through his folk set, preforming songs written throughout his career including the amazing “Blood and Bones”. Mesmerizing.

On the Bluegrass side of the equation I managed to catch Mustered Courage at the Opera House followed by Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys at the Prince of Wales Hotel. The former put on an amazing show (as always) despite being physically and mentally exhausted after weeks of touring and festivals and battling the sound at the Opera House (which seemed to get worse the more players on stage). Mustered Courage are seriously one of the tightest groups in Australia and even in the face of adversity are able to put on one of the most professional shows of the entire festival. Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys blew the head off the Prince of Wales Hotel, closing out the Friday night with some amazing jams, some of my faourite covers of theirs (in particular “Sydney From a 747” and “Hard To Love”) and even inviting local banjo maestro Jesse Grover (Gulgong Confessional Singers) up on stage to solo with them. Easily two of my favourite acts of the festival.

And then of course there were the artists I hadn’t seen before that definitely left a lasting impression. The FruiTTrees from the Hunter Valley delighted with their easy listening folk vibes. Marcus Holden (Fiddlers Feast) proved why he is one of the best fiddle players in the country wowing the crowd at the Gulgong RSL with tunes, songs and even some Elvis on a locally procured saw (contributing the to local economy via the hardware store). The bluesy roots of Two Girls Will delayed me at the Prince of Wales (I was passing through to another show at the time) and I’m sure glad they did as they were just amazing live. Singer-songwriters were also out in force at the festival and I caught wonderful sets from Suzy Connolly, Genevieve Chadwick and the absolutely stunning Melody Pool whose music so captured me I had to spotlight on Timber and Steel almost as soon as I returned home.

As for impromptu sessions I only managed to catch one – but what a session! In the beer garden of the Prince of Wales over lunch on Friday members of Mustered Courage, Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys, Fanny Lumsden and the Thrillseekers along with Marcus Holden, Jack Carty and more had set up a bluegrass session that was attracting a bigger audience than the official program inside the pub. The session was frantic, loose and fueled by beers and is exactly why I like to come to folk festivals. I could have sat their for hours.

Along with the aforementioned persistent sound issues at the Opera House the Gulgong Folk Festival did face some other niggling issues – too many venues leading to smaller audiences at each show, inconsistent ticket checks, early closing hours at the pubs and general festival fatigue from the New Year season – but truth be told none of that mattered because the event itself was absolutely charming from the historic town (and venues) to the super friendly volunteers and locals and of course the sheer calibre of the bands that played there. Richard Lawson took on the organisation of the Gulgong Folk Festival only two years ago and it’s quickly become something very special. I sure am glad I was part of it.

Waking up bleary eyed on Saturday morning after a late night drinking session with many of the festival’s artists (the account of which will have to be left for another time – let’s just say for now that you had to be there) I grabbed some breakfast at The Butcher’s Shop Cafe and then jumped in the car to head back over the mountains. There was still a day’s worth of festival, including the famous street party, to go but I was needed back in Sydney and regrettably had to leave. But for two days and two nights I had become enchanted by this central western town and its festival and I know one thing for sure – I’ll be back! Thank you Gulgong Folk Festival.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 11th January

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Timber and Steel are proud to be presenting the upcoming tour from Melbourne trio Little Wise. Details here

Anaïs Mitchell and collaborator Jefferson Hamer will be releasing an album of traditional ballads taken from the Francis James Child collection, due this March. Details here

– Sydney singer-songwriter Sam Buckingham shot the video for her track “Let’s Go Home” on a phone while she was at the Peats Ridge Festival over new year. Details here

– Adelaide singer-songwriter Kaurna Cronin has revealed a brand new track, “Run Boy”, via a video shot live in the secret underground tunnels under Victoria Square. Details here

– Aussie-Swedish folk duo Nick and Liesl have announced plans to release a brand new EP, Friend and Lover, and have a bunch of East Coast tour dates through February and March. Details here

Matt Walters continues the trend of indie-folk videos of the artist walking through the woods with his latest single “I Would Die For You”. Details here

– The 2013 Port Fairy Folk Festival has added a bunch more artists including Xavier Rudd, Mustered Courage and The Stillsons. Details here

– Intimate Sydney venue The Newsagency is presenting a very special songwriting workshop in February featuring Sarah Humphreys, Jack Carty and Alison Avron. Details here

– On the 1st February Country Roads hits the Vanguard in Sydney for a night of folk, country and bluegrass featuring Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys, The Green Mohair Suits, The River and the Road and All Our Exes Live In Texas. Details here

Luka Bloom will be touring the country in March after already being confirmed for the Blue Mountains Music Festival and Bluesfest. Details here

– The Northern Beaches Music Festival will be holding a pop-up fundraiser this Sunday in Sydney featuring RAPT trio feat. Ben Palumbo, Spasm Band, Renny Field and Ryan Collings. Details here

Crooked Still banjo player Greg Liszt also plays with experimental jam-folk five piece The Deadly Gentlemen who have just released their new single – a cover of Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance”. Details here

– Sydney indie-folk quartet Tin Sparrow have released their first ever official music video, the zombie film inspire “The Beast”. Details here

The Lumineers treated us to a live video covering Bob Dylan’s classic “Boots of Spanish Leather”. Details here

– The Cobargo Folk Festival has a pretty exciting lineup this year including David Ross Macdonald, Don’t Mention The Wall, Kim Churchill, Martin Pearson, Modhan, The Bon Scotts, The Perch Creek Family Jug Band (above), Vin Garbutt and many many more. Details here

– Nashville based singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose has released another track from her forthcoming album The Stand-In titled “I Was Cruel”. Details here

Interviews

“I’ve been playing music my whole life. I really started taking it serious a few years ago. I put out an album called False Alarm. I had a lot of success with that; had it featured in a big show that was all over the world, and went to number one iTunes”Andy Brown chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“The festival! Wonderful! We’ve got our program up, and we’re just doing our last scheduling with the last few volunteers, trying to fill in a few gaps. But looking absolutely fantastic. I’ve got a taste of a few of the artists at Woodford Folk Festival when I was there — it’s looking absolutely magnificent.”Illawarra Folk Festival Artistic Director David de Santi chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

Spotlight On

Melody Pool

Melody Pool

“Hailing from the Hunter Valley in NSW Melody Pool’s music is equal parts country and folk and she has one of those voices you just want to listen to for hours. My first reaction to Pool’s music was how strongly it resembled that of Laura Marling (a fact not lost on the reviewers on her Unearthed Page) but upon listening to her Awake, You’re All Around Me EP more closely it’s clear that she is more than a Marling clone weaving elements of country and indie music throughout her songs”Spotlight on Melody Pool here

Releases This Week

Dropkick Murphys
Signed and Sealed in BloodDropkick Murphys
iTunes

Gigs Next Week

Davidson Brothers and Mustered Courage
Friday 11th January – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC

Don’t Mention The Wall
Thursday 17th January – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
18th to 20th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

East Coast Canadian Showcase feat. Andy Brown, Dave Gunning
Friday 11th January – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC

Illawarra Folk Festival
Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th Januray – Bulli, NSW

Kim Churchill
Friday 11th January – Heritage Hotel, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 12th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 18th January – Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle, WA

Lachlan Bryan
Wednesday 16th January – The Retreat Hotel, Melbounre, VIC

Lianne La Havas
Friday 18th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Northern Beaches Music Festival Pop-Up Fundraiser feat. RAPT Trio feat. Ben Palumbo, Spasm Band, Renny Field and Ryan Collings
Saturday 12th January – William Street Studios, Sydney, NSW

Sam Buckingham
Friday 11th January – Moree Plains Gallery, Moree, NSW

Sharon Shannon
Friday 11th January – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 12th January – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

The April Maze
Saturday 12th January – The Glass Onion Society, Longjety, NSW

The Mouldy Lovers
Friday 11th January – Notes Live, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 12th January – Phoenix Bar, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 13th January – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 17th January – Bon Amici’s, Toowoomba, QLD
Friday 18th January – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD

Tin Sparrow
Friday 11th January – Front Gallery Cafe, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 12th January – Yours and Owls, Wollongong, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“No Gods (and Precious Few Heroes)” – Dick Gaughan

This week’s FFF is dedicated to sometime Timber and Steel contributor MackaJay who was obsessed with this song for some time. Originally written by Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band), I’ve chosen Dick Gaughan’s version for the man’s amazing voice (and the fact it was featured on the very first podcast from The Mike Harding Folk Show).

Sydney’s Finest Bluegrass, Folk and Country For One Night At The Vanguard

Bellyache Ben
Image Courtesy of Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys

On the 1st February some of Sydney’s finest bluegrass, folk and country bands will be pickin’ and pluckin’ their way to The Vanguard for the Country Roads. Dusting off their boots and slinging themselves on stage will be bluegrass masters Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys (above), country, folk and bluegrass extraordinaires The Green Mohair Suits, Canadian jungle folk band The River and the Road and Elana Stone’s new all girl country outfit All Our Exes Live In Texas featuring Georgia Mooney, Katie Wighton and Hannah Crofts.

Tickets for the Country Roads are a mere $18.80 (so much music for so little money!) with the show kicking off at 8pm. For more information check out the official Facebook invite here or head over to the Vanguard website here.

Grant Arthur (Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys) to Launch Chirstmas Album

Grant Arthur
Image Courtesy of Grant Arthur

It’s well known that we’re fans of Christmas songs, especially folky Christmas songs, so when a full said songs hits the internet we stand up and take notice. Sydney musician Grant Arthur, probably best known to Timber and Steel readers as the overall wearing banjo player with Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys, is set to release his very own Christmas album with a massive Christmas show at The Vanguard, Newtown this Saturday 22nd December.

Titled A Very Grant Arthur Christmas the album features 13 original tracks with appearances from the likes of Bellyache Ben, Elana Stone, Geoff Bull, The Cope Street Parade and more. The album is available to download digitally via Grant Arthur’s Bandcamp here.

The show to launch the album this Saturday at The Vanguard, titled Grant Arthur’s Big Swingin’ Christmas Extravaganza, brings together The Pretty Big Band, Grant Arthur and The Baubles, The Cope Street Parade, Geoff Bull And The Finer Cuts, Bellyache Ben and The Daley Brothers and there promises to be “singing, dancing and a whole lot of mirth”. Tickets for the show are $23.80 and can be picked up at the official Vaguard Web Site.

Stream A Very Grant Arthur Christmas below:

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