Bluesfest Announces First Round of Artists for 2017

Bluesfest
Image Courtesy of The Lumineers

It may only be August but that doesn’t mean it isn’t time to start thinking about the 2017 festival season. This morning Bluesfest launched their first round of artists for next years festival and it’s huge.

This morning’s announcement includes Zac Brown Band, Patti Smith, The Lumineers (above), Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Billy Bragg, Jethro Tull, Trombone Shorty, Gregory Porter, Snarky Puppy, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Beth Hart, Laura Mvula, Roy Ayers, Booker T Jones Presents The Stax Records Revue, Andrew Bird, Rickie Lee Jones, Joan Osborne, Turin Brakes, The Strumbellas, Jake Shimabukuro, Dumpstaphunk, Nikki Hill and Irish Mythen with more to be announced.

Bluesfest takes place over the Easter long weekend for the 13th to 17th April. For more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

Paul Brady Announces New Collaborative Live Album Paul Brady: The Vicar Street Sessions Volume 1

Paul Brady
Image Courtesy of Paul Brady

Paul Brady is well and truly a legend of the Irish music scene having performed his music at home and all over the world since the late 60s. In 2001 Brady put on a series of 23 concerts at the legendary Dublin venue Vicar Street where he asked artists who has sung his songs over the years to come and play with him including Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler, Sinead O’Connor and many more.

“At times I was a spectator in my own show as my guests, my friends, took the roof off Vicar Street,” Paul Brady says of the shows. “I knew then we’d captured something special.”

On the 27th April Paul Brady will be releasing Paul Brady: The Vicar Street Sessions Volume 1 featuring performances from the 2001 shows. Check out the full track listing below:

1. I Want You To Want Me
2. Baloney Again (feat. Mark Knopfler)
3. The Soul Commotion
4. Nobody Knows (feat. Gavin Friday and Maurice Seltzer)
5. Believe In Me
6. In This Heart (feat. Sinead O’Connor)
7. Irish Heartbeat (feat. Van Morrison)
8. Not The Only One (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
9. Don’t Go Far (feat. Curtis Stigers)
10. The Long Goodbye (feat. Ronan Keating)
11. Last Seen October 9th (feat. Eleanor McEvoy)
12. The World Is What You Make It (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
13. Forever Young

Review: Byron Bay Bluesfest 2013

Bonnie Raitt
Image Courtesy of Bluesfest

To all the devout fans and readers of Timber and Steel, let me first take the opportunity to apologise for the prolonged amount of time it took to publish this. Please understand the love this article contains and the arduous task of having to coherently put it down on paper.

It was difficult to come down from falling into the rabbit hole and immersing myself in five days of being lost in Wonderland. Accompanying me were two filmmakers, one photographer, a Byron local and two actors. Each set that finished and each tent that we walked out of incited a collective sigh and exhausting swoon. Bluesfest, to me, is the only festival we have that comes even an inch in resemblance to Woodstock – obviously, the air had a tinge of green to it. We came to be time travellers and kids with rampant obsessions being let loose in Tyagarah. From being stuck between men and women of all ages sharing this one experience but in different ways, to being stuck in the car park for two hours. Together, we were all big players in moments that ranged from chaotically erratic to life affirming. Being in the same vicinity as the legends we all grew up with is something that can never justly be put into words. But, here goes – our shared experience, fifteen minutes in our shoes.

Our first taste of Bluesfest, 2013 was of Leonardo’s Bride. Abby Dobson wearing red feather earrings and a tight white dress – ageless. In the midst of their set, Dobson announced that this would be their last ever show and they certainly ended their reign on top. With each song, Dobson would stare intently and intensely into the crowd, as if to look into each individual’s eyes. Being led astray momentarily, I heard “Even When I’m Sleeping” from outside of the tent and ran back to the front to hear Dobson’s flawless vocals accompanied with Dean Manning’s rusty and robust harmony. At one point, they confessed to drinking since 10am and then proceeding to play “Sleepyhead” as though they had just finished writing it and played it to a new audience for the ninth time. Although, admittedly I could listen to Dobson talk all day and night, after seeing and hearing this live, I would much prefer her to lull me to sweet slumber with this voice of unwavering fervour.

Staying in the main tent, Mojo, we caught Skipping Girl Vinegar who were probably one of my favourite bands to catch. Their stage plan was the first thing to note, as they stood side-by-side at the front of the stage. One would think that the drummer, Chris Helm, being placed beside frontman, Mark Lang, would cause some sort of audio chaos, however I feel as though the band are very familiar with this setup. Having never seen Skipping Girl Vinegar live before made this set a real treat, being able to clearly hear the 80’s influence with the obvious variations between male and female vocals. My first impression of the band was, ‘wow, they are so cute,’ and my last impression was, ‘amaze. This is a band full of angsty babes.’ The most standout thing about them was the sheer enthusiasm of Helm, keeping a solid beat whilst having a smile that reminded you of untainted pleasure. Concluding their set, was their “bogan anthem” which had the entire crowd fist pumping the air like true Aussie bogans.

It bewildered me as to how people had time to meander about and it impressed me that they would give up their spots to go to the toilet. We, on the other hand, destroyed our knees, bladders and livers over the course of the five days. When the likes of Glen Hansard and The Frames are due to come on stage, there really is not time for anything else other than the music. With playful banter here and there too – we have a little bit of time for that. As was exemplified by Hansard as he took the stage and brought the Irish sardonic humour to Byron. Backed by a full string section and his busted guitar, the Mojo tent instantly filled up and was teeming with people by the end of his first song. Although Hansard’s humour was a welcome comic relief, it was such a blaring contrast from his music that at times it was difficult to engross myself in his music. All-in-all though, Hansard finishing his set with “Falling Slowly” had the entire crowd forgetting his obscenities and hearing what they all came there for. Outside the tent, inside the tent, every mouth sung along and all eyes remained centre stage.

The humidity and heat were starting to take effect on us, all of us; people were getting restless and aggressive as they weaselled their way to the front of each stage. Admittedly, my friends and I partook in said weaselling. We wanted to have some play in the “search for sugar man,” so many crossed arms were attentively pushed and every small space was utilized as a walkway. The entirety of Bluesfest was one surreal stupor for us all. It was hard to even fathom that Rodriguez was about to come on stage and play for us the songs we did not understand as children and later came to fall in love with as adults.

Initially, it seemed as though he would inanimately play and have no strength to talk as he was escorted on and off the stage. This theory was soon thrown out the window when he began his set. Rodriguez embodied more a worldly man who is an old soul. Between songs, he would come out of nowhere with empowered two to five minute speeches about stopping violence against women – which brought on a bellowing roar from the crowd. He would change between this and something a little more light-hearted.

Rodriguez: I’ll tell you guys a joke. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse went to a marriage counsellor because Mickey wanted a divorce. The counsellor says, ‘Mickey, you can’t just leave your wife because she’s stupid.’

Mickey replies, ‘I’m not calling her stupid, I said she’s fucking Goofy.’

As what was expected, he started to play “Sugar Man” and the crowd lost all sense of propriety. As most were well aware of the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” I feel this had a huge play in the number of those in the audience. All together those who came out of curiosity and intrigue alone along with his fans from the seventies and all who came to be in between. Included in his set was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” which even though was not completely true to how it was originally played, was still worthy of the applause it received.

Now, as you may have noticed, I have not made any indication as to which days anyone has played. When the lack of phone reception or battery became an obvious factor to us from day one, the only thing that we came to take note of was our meeting spot of ‘M9.’ My friends had carved this into my memory and days and time were unnoticed. For all of the instances we have ever said, ‘man, I wish I had a soundtrack to my life,’ this came true when we would take minutes out of the day to gorge on the surprisingly delicious festival food provided to us. Included in these moments away was even a spontaneous morning we spent in Byron having pints and conversations with locals and fellow festival goers. By this point, it was hard to imagine the world outside of Byron Bay existing and moving onward.

Back to Wonderland, being the incredibly vertically challenged person that I am, getting into the tent away from the pelleting rain was not on the cards for me. Although at the time, it seemed like a great idea, I disbanded from my friends to find a better spot to watch Santana. There was no chance of this. Instead, I chose to join the other devoted fans in the rain that were just as naive as me in not bringing any form of protection to thwart it. This became irrelevant as soon as he started playing. Santana’s lead vocalists, Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, were a brilliant treat filling in the shoes of legendary voices like Rob Thomas and Wyclef Jean during the show. We came to know and take for granted this large and varied band setup then, here, seeing each expression of love and passion on their faces. The kind of musicians that now seem so rare, I eventually welcomed the pouring rain just to see those eyes. Inside the tent and definitely outside of it, I heard Santana all around me with fans singing along in unison and devouring his signature complex and endless riffs.

Unfortunately, due to so many inevitable clashes, we caught only a small part of Iggy and The Stooges. However, we made it just in time for Iggy Pop telling the audience to ‘get on stage and dance with The Stooges’ – oh, excellent. This drove those on stage and those in the audience wild. This was a fairly standard show for The Stooges as they paraded a shirtless Pop and gave the crowd what they wanted, plain dirty rock.

Now, Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters was a definite highlight. For all of you who were there for Bluesfest or caught one of his sideshows, I know you would agree with me here. You are conditioned and familiar with Robert Plant as the voice of Led Zeppelin and having this sound in your head that seems irrevocable. Though, you also deeply love the band, so you should know better. True to form, Plant delivered. The Sensational Space Shifters having quite a psychedelic feel to them combined with Plant driving the whole thing brought old classics like “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker” back to life, but reincarnated. Forty years on and he still manages to bring people to their knees in awe with inscrutable innovation. With lights coming from the stage and places beyond it, amplified by the crowd losing all inhibition, I felt tears well up in my eyes.

Almost ashamedly, Bluesfest was the first time that I had heard of Blind Boys of Alabama and I shudder to think of what I would be had I not seen them. Being around since the 1930’s and being the brand of Gospel Blues that I delight in, their set proved to be one very unforgettable hour of splendour. Setting the whole tent off in uplifted, unrestrained and exalted dancing, blind “boys” Jimmy Carter, Ben Moore, Eric McKinnie with dashingly charming guitarist Joey Williams proved that blues is not a dead musical variety.

When we came around to see Roger Hodgson, I had met an older couple in the mosh and judging by their expression of elation and the way they held each other you just knew – they were there from the beginning. We talked about this deep love for Supertramp and could barely contain ourselves with anticipation. Post this discussion and close to the lead up to Hodgson getting on stage, they assured me that they would be a barricade around me so that no more of these ten-foot giant fans could stand in front of me.

As incredibly cliché as it may sound, “Breakfast In America” and “Dreamer” were definitely the highlight of his set. Not just because they were the most famous Supertramp songs, but they had the entire crowd dancing their own dance, jumping, screaming, being taken somewhere they only knew. Spending a good portion of the set with my eyes closed, there was still the feeling of this veil of pure love over the entire tent. Since my friends were amazing enough to let me stand in front of them for most of the festival, I looked back during “Breakfast In America” to see them losing it all, I looked back at the older couple and the woman and I grabbed each other’s arms, almost in fear of losing ourselves. Hodgson on stage brought me to the realisation of what distinguishes this era of rock to ours now. Forty years on and his integrity is still intact, that charismatic smile of his as he oversees the sea of people he has connected with for decades.

Bonnie Raitt was probably who I was most excited about. From the line-up, it may have seemed odd but, the way she is live and the way that she connects with her audience is just phenomenal. I left my friends to eat outside the tent as I tried to weasel my way through to the front, however, it proved that most people had the same idea and created a kind of blockade with no space for even me to push through. For a woman in her early sixties, Raitt sure knows how to pull a crowd and keep them there. Among most of the other musical legends alongside her at this festival, Raitt has been performing for more years than I have been in existence, so you come to expect a certain ease and comfort she has on stage. You would hear these constant bouts of fevered exclamations, like ‘I love you, Bonnie!’ or ‘Yeah, Bonnie!’ And, upon her encore, she took a seat and expectations came to fruition when she spoke of the beauty of the next ballad – queue “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The entire tent stood still, which was appropriate for the intensity of the crowds’ fixated attention on one spot.

Paul Simon – what a God. Ruining the punch line, a man who plays a full set and receives three encores is a man to commend. Simon had a somewhat melancholic and earnest demeanour, which we soon found out had been caused by the passing of good friend and co-producer, Phil Ramone. Quite apropos was Simon’s tribute to his friend in playing “Slip Slidin’ Away” (Of which Ramone had co-produced). At this point, I turned around to my own friend, held her and said, ‘this is happening.’

Though, with this in mind, Simon still made a point to mention that he wanted everyone to be dancing. A mixture of classics and songs from his Graceland album set the audience on fire. As I earlier mentioned, he incited three encores and seemingly perpetual cheering. One of my favourite things about Bluesfest is the intergenerational mix, which was clear on the final night where the Mojo tent played host to the likes of Paul Simon. Backed by a full band of skilful and multi-instrumentalist musicians, Simon’s poetry not only came to life but came to us all individually and embraced us. There was a particular spot that we kept to in the Mojo tent where we had a glimmer of phone reception and I immediately texted my Mother and Father who were the reason for my Simon and Garfunkel adoration. Simon playing tracks like “Still Crazy After All These Years” and “The Sound of Silence” and closing with “The Boxer” in a way completed my life. In contrast to some of the other sets we caught, there was a surprisingly large amount of room to dance and loudly sing along.

This was the only way to end Bluesfest for me. When we had left the tent after Simon’s epic set, we trailed out flustered and speechless.

Festival Director, Peter Noble, has something to be proud of, indeed. This was a great year and having a fully sold out festival with satisfied faces made the insufferable portaloos and broken shoes worth every second.

Folk Wins Big at The Grammys

Mumford Grammys
Image Courtesy of Mumford and Sons

With the nation a-buzz about Gotye’s triple Grammy win we thought we’d steer some of that attention toward the fact that folk and acoustic music also had a massive night. The big winner of course were Mumford and Sons who managed to snatch the Album of The Year title from the likes of The Black Keys and Jack White. Mumford and Sons, along with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show, also took out the Best Long Form Music Video for their Big Easy Express documentary.

Other Timber and Steel favourites who received a nod included Bonnie Raitt (Best Americana Album), Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile’s excellent Goat Rodeo Sessions project (Best Folk Album, Best Engineered Album Non Classical) and Taylor Swift (hear us out) with The Civil Wars and T Bone Burnett (Best Song Written for Visual Media).

The full list of Grammy winners we think Timber and Steel readers will be interested in are below. All the winners can be found at the official Grammy site here.

Album of the Year
Babel – Mumford and Sons

Best Country Solo Performance
“Blown Away” – Carrie Underwood

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Pontoon” – Little Big Town

Best Country Song
“Blown Away” – Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins, songwriters (Carrie Underwood)

Best Country Album
Uncaged – Zac Brown Band

Best Americana Album
Slipstream – Bonnie Raitt

Best Bluegrass Album
Nobody Knows You – Steep Canyon Rangers

Best Blues Album
Locked Down – Dr. John

Best Folk Album
The Goat Rodeo Sessions – Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile

Best Regional Roots Music Album
The Band Courtbouillon – Wayne Toups, Steve Riley & Wilson Savoy

Best World Music Album
The Living Room Sessions Part 1 – Ravi Shankar

Best Song Written for Visual Media
“Safe & Sound (From The Hunger Games)” – T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White & Joy Williams, songwriters

Best Engineered Album, Non Classical
The Goat Rodeo Sessions – Richard King, engineer; Richard King, mastering engineer (Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile)

Best Long Form Music Video
Big Easy Express – Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros & Old Crow Medicine Show

First Artists for Bluesfest 2013 Announced

Bluesfest Byron Bay
Image Courtesy of Bluesfest

This year Bluesfest are doing things slightly differently with their artist announcements – going early (six weeks earlier than last year) and announcing the lineup in four installments over the coming weeks.

The first of those artist announcements was late last night and includes some super exciting names incluing Ben Harper, Wilco, Bonnie Raitt, Dropkick Murphys, Glen Hansard with The Frames, William Elliott Whitmore, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls and more!

Bluesfest will take place between Thursday 28th March and Monday 1st April 2013 at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm just outside of Byron Bay. For more details check out the official web site. The full list of artists is below:

Ben Harper
Santana
Iggy & The Stooges
Steve Miller Band
Chris Isaak
Wilco
Bonnie Raitt
Dropkick Murphys
Glen Hansard with The Frames
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Newton Faulkner
William Elliott Whitmore
Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls
Grace Potter
Playing For Change
Ben Caplan

Americana Honors and Awards Winners

Americana 2012
Richard Thompson and Bonnie Raitt

At a ceremony at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on the 12th September the Americana Music Association awarded their annual and prestigious Americana Honors & Awards Show. The big winners of the night included Gillian Welch (Artist of the Year), her partner Dave Rawlings (Instrumentalist of the Year), Jason Isbell (Song of the Year), The Civil Wars (Duo/group of the Year) and Alabama Shakes (Emerging Artist of The Year). Also honoured on the night with Lifetime Achievement awards were Bonnie Raitt (Performance), Booker T. Jones (Instrumentalist), Richard Thompson (Songwriting) and Dannis Lord (Executive).

The full list of awards are below:

Instrumentalist of the Year: Dave Rawlings
Album of the Year: This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark; produced by Tamara Saviano and Shawn Camp
Song Of The Year Award: “Alabama Pines” Written by Jason Isbell and performed by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Emerging Artist of the Year: Alabama Shakes
Artist of the Year: Gillian Welch
Duo/group of the Year: The Civil Wars
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Bonnie Raitt
Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist: Booker T. Jones
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting: Richard Thompson
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Dennis Lord

The entire ceremony can be listened to over at NPR Music here.

Bon Iver’s Bonnie Raitt Cover “I Can’t Make You Love Me / Nick of Time”

Bon Iver
Image Courtesy of Picthfork

If you’ve been following Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) recent live appearances you’ll have noticed that he is wheeling out his cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (With a little “Nick of Time” tagged onto the end for good measure) just as often as one of his originals. The cover actually featured as the B side to Bon Iver’s “Calgary” single and is being widely praised by the music community (as is everything Vernon touches at the moment).

A wonderful video of Bon Iver performing “I Can’t Make You Love Me / Nick of Time” live in the studio has surfaced so we thought we’d share it with those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to hear it yet. And who knows, maybe Vernon will convert a whole lot of new fans to Bonnie Raitt – that can’t be a bad thing, right?

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