Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2017

2017

The final of our traditional end of year lists sees Timber and Steel Editor-in-Chief Gareth Hugh Evans sifts through all of the amazing music that was produced this year and pick his top 25 tracks. As always he’s tried to only pick one track per artist, although as you’ll see there’s some exceptions with different artists collaborating on different projects through 2017.

But enough of our jabbering – it’s time to get to the music. Without further ado we present Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2017.

1. Emma Davis – “Danger in Me”
Emma Davis just has a way of writing a song which draws you in and never lets go. With just a finger picked guitar, understated rhythm section, muted organ and reverbed vocals, Davis has created a piece of music that I genuinely put on repeat. The fact that there’s a very relevant social message underpinning “Danger in Me” just adds a depth to my appreciation of it. Thank you Emma Davis for producing one of the most beautiful three and a half minutes of 2017.

2. The East Pointers – “82 Fires”
For a band I almost exclusively associated with fiddle tunes, The East Pointers have delivered one of the best songs of the year with “82 Fires”. Co-written with our very own Liz Stringer about fires in Tasmania, “82 Fires” may be the most Australian song written by a trio of Canadians. There’s an epic feel to the song that shouldn’t be possible from three guys playing (mostly) acoustic instruments – but I’ve seen this song live and they get pretty close to reproducing the recording on stage. Try to listen to “82 Fires” on not have it stir something inside.

3. Willie Watson – “Gallows Pole”
No one interprets traditional American music quite like Willie Watson. Here he’s managed to take the Leadbelly classic “Gallows Pole” and turn it into a thoroughly modern, haunting piece of music which is a definite standout on his latest album, Folksinger Vol. 2.

4. The Morrisons feat. Georgia Mooney – “Long Time Travelling”
It seems odd to choose an a cappella song from a band that features some of the best bluegrass musicians in the country. But I just can’t get passed how delightful it is hear James Morrison singing over the combined voices of The Morrisons plus Georgia Mooney (All Our Exes Live In Texas). The harmonies, the dynamic variations, the passion – “Long Time Travelling” is pure joy.

5. Offa Rex – “Sheepcrook and Black Dog”
As you probably know by now we have A LOT of love for the 2017 Offa Rex album The Queen of Hearts. The collaboration between The Decemberists and Olivia Chaney is full of highlights and to be honest songs like “The Old Churchyard”, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Willie o’ Winsbury” are more likely to hit this year’s best of lists. But for me “Sheepcrook and Black Dog” captures the nostalgia of the late-60s/early-70s British folk revival better than any other track on The Queen of Hearts with its Steeleye Span style arrangement, crunchy Black Sabbath style guitars and Sandy Denny style vocal performance. “Sheepcrook and Black Dog” is vintage folk-rock for the modern era.

6. Laura Marling – “Next Time”
Laura Marling goes full Nick Drake on “Next Time”. The orchestral arrangement over the top of Marling’s inventive guitar tunings and finger-picking, along with her hushed but powerful vocal performance is so reminiscent of the late English singer-songwriter it can’t not have been inspired by his work. This is definitely the highlight of Semper Femina for me and it even comes with a video directed by Laura Marling herself.

7. The Young’uns – “Be the Man”
“Be The Man” was inspired by the story of Matthew Ogston, founder of the Naz and Matt Foundation which tackles religious and cultural homophobia, following the tragic death of his fiancé (you can read the full story here). The Young’uns have written a song which is not only powerful in its message, and deeply respectful to its subject matter, but also a wonderful compliment to the rest of their harmony-driven catalogue. Check out the video featuring Matthew Ogston himself.

8. Billy Bragg – “Why We Build the Wall”
When Anaïs Mitchell wrote “Why We Build the Wall” for her 2010 folk-opera Hadestown I doubt she knew how precient it was considering the build-the-wall platform Donald Trump ran on during his 2016 presidential campaign. Billy Bragg has been singing “Why We Build the Wall” for a few years now but it’s taken until this year for him to officially release it as a single. The political singer-songwriter has purposefully politicised the track and filled it with a jarring, electric guitar to great effect. Could this be the folk anthem for the Trump era?

9. David Rawlings – “Cumberland Gap”
The genius of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch is their ability to write songs that sound like they’ve existed forever and then produce those songs in such a way that makes it sound like they’re being “modernised”. “Cumberland Gap” is the perfect example of this – the track sounds so timeless yet so fresh at exactly the same time. That’s probably why it’s been getting so many comparisons to Neil Young.

10. Stu Larsen – “Chicago Song”
“Chicago Song” is exactly the kind of song you want from a singer-songwriter like Stu Larsen. Simple, catchy and foot-tappingly joyful, “Chicago Song” captures a little piece of magic.

11. The Ahern Brothers – “Comb That River”
Whoever decided to pair singer-songwriters Josh Rennie-Hynes and Steve Grady as The Ahern Brothers deserves all of my adulation. Their self titled debut album is an homage to the close harmony singing of The Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel, with “Comb That River” exemplifying their sound. Listen to this track and be transported back to another time.

12. Charlie Fink – “Firecracker”
I’m sure I’ve printed this elsewhere on Timber and Steel but for the reader’s benefit: Noah and The Whale’s 2009 album The First Days of Spring is one of my favourite albums of all time. So when ex-Noah and The Whale lead singer Charlie Fink releases a single like “Firecracker” that sounds like it’s been ripped directly from The First Days of Spring there’s no way this song wasn’t going to make my best of 2017 list.

13. All Our Exes Live in Texas – “Boundary Road”
“What if I want to be the one to fall apart once in a while?” has somehow become one of my favourite chorus lines of 2017. All Our Exes Live in Texas have taken on the lyrical challenge of the line, as well as the fight songwriter Katie Wighton had with her mum that inspired the line, and crafted one of the best songs from one of the best albums of the year. There is All Our Exes Live in Texas magic all over this song – with a simple “ooh” and “ahh” the quartet can elevate every song they touch. Lovely stuff.

14. Nick Mulvey – “Mountain To Move”
I’m going to make a prediction: “Mountain To Move” is the song most likely to appear on the soundtrack of sweet and quirky rom coms over the 12 months. Nick Mulvey continues to impress me with the way he crafts a song over a repeating melody line or guitar rhythm, building the simplicity into something more.

15. Julia Johnson – “Melissa”
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new direction that Julia Johnson has taken with her songwriting in 2017. Moving beyond her work with Julia and The Deep Sea Sirens and working with producer Sarah Belkner, Johnson is producing some of the most interesting music of her career. I have a feeling “Melissa” is only the tip of the iceberg for what’s coming next from Julia Johnson and I can’t wait.

16. The Northern Folk – “Get On”
Despite the wealth of shows they’ve done this year I only managed to catch Melbourne folk 10 piece The Northern Folk live for the first time really recently. They manage to combine the indie folk sound of bands like The Middle East with the distinct groove that comes with having a saxophone heavy horn section. “Get On” epitomises The Northern Folk’s unique sound for me and was one of those songs that made me hit the repeat button again and again the first time I heard it.

17. Fanny Lumsden – “Roll On”
Want to know what it’s like to be an Australian artist on an endless tour of our country? Listen to the lyrics of “Roll On”. What I love about this track is its authenticity. This isn’t the Americanised version of the Australian outback full of dust kicking cowboys and pickup trucks. And this isn’t the romanticised nostalgic version of Australia either with its drovers and men-of-the-land. Instead “Roll On” is a song about about what its like to hit the road in 2017 complete with speeding fines, Gaytimes, roadtrains and small town bowlos. Keep writing songs like this Fanny Lumsden.

18. Paul Kelly – “Firewood and Candles”
After a few years of genre and experimental albums Paul Kelly announced his return to the classic Paul Kelly with the killer track “Firewood and Candles”. That rocking riff with Kelly’s vocals (ably supported by Vikka and Linda Bull) is just so damn catchy. If you wonder why everyone’s making such a fuss over Paul Kelly at the moment, why he’s winning awards and being praised at every turn, just listen to the songs on his 2017 album Life Is Fine, starting with “Firewood and Candles”.

19. Gretta Ziller – “Slaughterhouse Blues”
If someone asks you for the best voice in Australian Americana music then just show them Gretta Ziller. There may be some artists earlier in this list who you could squeeze into the genre, but as far as pure Americana music goes you can’t get much better than Ziller’s “Slaughterhouse Blues”. This is a modern track with its feet firmly in roots music. And that production! Perfection! More of this please Gretta Ziller.

20. I’m With Her – “Little Lies”
Before the release of “Little Lies” the American super-goup I’m With Her were really known for interpreting traditional music or covers of contemporary songs. But then this track comes along and solidifies the (probabaly assumed) fact that I’m With Her are a band to watch. Aoife O’Donovan has one of the best voices in Americana music, and it’s all the sweeter combined with the voices of Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz. And Watkins’ fiddle playing on this track is some of my favourite instrumental work in 2017.

21. BATTS – “Little White Lies”
I’ve been a fan of Tanya Batt’s music for some time, but it’s been her transformation into BATTS and the lo-fi, shoe-gaze, lyric driven songwriting that has come with it that has really caught my attention in 2017. “Little White Lies” is the second single released under the BATTS moniker and it’s by far my favourite, with its etherial production and confessional lyrics. I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more from BATTS in the coming months and I can’t wait.

22. Taryn La Fauci – “Winter”
When her EP Cycling came out I messaged Taryn La Fauci and told her “Just wanted to tell you that I’m in love with your track “Winter”.” Above every other song on the EP “Winter” struck me, most likely because this year I lost my cat as well and the lyrics just resonated. This song was on repeat for a lot of this year – thank you for sharing it with me Taryn La Fauci.

23. Diamond Duck – “Marry Me By The Sea”
Another collaboration (this time between The Morrisons’ Jimmy Daley and Canadian-Australian singer-songwriter Brian Campeau) that evokes the close harmony singing of The Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel, Diamond Duck have made quite an impression with their first single “Marry Me By The Sea”. What makes this stand out for me is the way the Diamond Duck boys explore unusual, almost twisted chords in their accompaniment while maintaining a sweetness in their vocal delivery. Listen to the piano “solo” in the middle of the song and you’ll see what I mean – there’s something a little off kilter in the track and it’s absolutely delicious.

24. Stella Donnelly – “Boys Will Be Boys”
In the wake of the #metoo movement and everything that’s been coming out in the media over the last few months I think Australia needed a song like “Boys Will Be Boys”. Stella Donnelly has made quite a splash this year and with her amazing voice and lyrical chops I can imagine there’s big things on the horizon for the singer-songwriter.

25. Johnny Flynn – “Wandering Aengus”
The return of Johnny Flynn to music this year was heralded by this really quirky track and promised much from his new album Sillion. All the elements of what makes a classic Johnny Flynn song are here – his amazing voice, jangly guitar and subtle horn accompaniment – but there’s also something a little twisted about the structure of this track that I really really like. Definitely up there with my favourite Johnny Flynn songs.

Timber and Steel Premiere: Watch The Morrisons’ New Video “Long Time Travelling” feat. Georgia Mooney

The Morrisons
Image Courtesy of The Morrisons

Ok, I may have just found my favourite video of 2017. Or maybe I’m just getting nostalgic for Sydney’s inner west. Either way you’re going to love “Long Time Travelling” from The Morrisons.

Shot in the back streets of Newtown and featuring the angelic harmonies of Georgia Mooney (All Our Exes Live In Texas), this a cappella track is taken from The Morrisons‘ recently released debut album.

“I love harmony singing! It’s my favourite thing to do in music,” Jimmy Daley from The Morrisons told Timber and Steel. “I wrote this song whilst traveling around China. I’m not sure where the tune came from but I’d just been humming it to myself the entire trip. The melody has a very pentatonic “asian” quality to it, perhaps it just seeped into my subconscious. We then went up to Inner Mongolia and the lyrics just poured out. It’s an incredible landscape but at the same time it’s marred by destruction and rapid urban development. Like the rest of China it’s a place of insane contrast. I remember sitting waiting for a bus and looking around me at this desolate construction site wasteland and seeing that just over the horizon cows and horses were roaming across the stunning Mongolian steppe the same way they had for centuries. The same grasslands on which Genghis Khan rode his horse. It was bizarre.”

Check out “Long Time Travelling” below:

The Morrisons are bringing their Man Of Constant Sorrow: The Music of O Brother Where Art Thou show featuring All Our Exes Live in Texas, Brian Campeau and Luke Escombe back to Sydney this month – dates are here:

Wednesday 17th May – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 18th May – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 19th May – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Laura Marling, Lisa Hannigan, Beth Orton, Bill Callahan and More Added to VIVID Sydney

Laura Marling
Image Courtesy of Laura Marling

The full music lineup for this year’s VIVID event in Sydney was just announced and it’s one of the most Timber and Steel friendly line ups to date.

Joining the previously announced Fleet Foxes this year will be a raft of international acts including indie-folk goddess Laura Marling, Irish favourite Lisa Hannigan, celebrated singer-songwriter Bill Callahan, folktronica pioneer Beth Orton and many more.

The local lineup is equally as impressive including Taasha Coates, Crooked Fiddle Band, Mick Thomas, Brian Campeau, Nic Cassey, Swamp Fat Jangles, Sarah Belkner and more.

VIVID takes place around Sydney, with the VIVID LIVE events at the Sydney Opera House, from the 26th May to the 10th June. Below is a list of the the folk-leaning shows – check out the official site for a full list of artists and dates.

107 Presents For Folk Sake feat. Brian Campeau, Nic Cassey & Friends, Swamp Fat Jangles, Sarah Belkner
Saturday 10th June – 107 Projects, Sydney, NSW

Beth Orton
Tuesday 13th June – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Bill Callahan: Smog to Dream River
Friday 2nd June – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Friday 2nd June – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 3rd June – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 3rd June – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Busby Marou
Friday 26th May – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 27th May – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

Crooked Fiddle Band
Friday 9th June – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

Fleet Foxes
Friday 26th May – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 27th May – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 28th May – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Monday 29th May – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Laura Marling
Monday 12th June – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Lisa Hannigan
Tuesday 30th May – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Mick Thomas
Friday 2nd June – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

Taasha Coates
Friday 16th June – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

The Summer Hill Folk Festival Returns for 2017

Summer Hill
Image Courtesy of Summer Hill Folk Festival

One of my most unexpected favourite gigs last year was the inaugural Summer Hill Folk Festival in Sydney. Set in the Summer Hill Church, the event featured a wide breadth of folk acts in an acoustically perfect setting – it was such a magic day.

The Summer Hill Folk Festival has announced its return in 2017 with a lineup of 13 different acts over the course of a single Saturday. Headlining this year will be local legends Brian Campeau, Timothy James Bowen and Bonniesongs who will be joined by a who’s who of Timber and Steel favourites including Whoa Mule!, Queen Porter Stomp, Fresh Off The Boat, Richard Ashby Duo, Giffen, The Squeezebox Trio, Chaika and Burrows.

The day will also feature Irish Dancing, a couple of workshops and a tribute to Simon & Garfunkel from the Summer Hill Community Choir.

Artisan markets, food and drink stalls and kids activities will be happening in and around the Summer Hill Church from 11am and best of all the whole thing is free. The event is also alcohol and smoke free.

The Summer Hill Folk Festival takes place on Saturday 4th March from 11am. For more information check out the official Facebook event here.

The full program for the day is below:

11:30am – Whoa Mule! (Old-timey/Appalachian)
12:00pm – Queen Porter Stomp (Gypsy Jazz)
12:30pm – Bonniesongs (New folk/songwriter)
1:00pm – Fresh Off The Boat (Traditional Irish)
1:30pm – Timothy James Bowen (Singer Songwriter)
2:00pm – Richard Ashby Duo (Gypsy Guitars)
2:30pm – Giffen (Indi Country Folk)
2:30pm – Irish Dance Workshop
3:30pm – Summer Hill Community Choir sing Simon and Garfunkel
4:15pm – Vocal workshop with Giffen Choral
5:00pm – The Squeezebox Trio (Gypsy)
6:00pm – Brian Campeau (Solo Folk/Singer Songwriter)
6:30pm – Irish Ceili Dance
7:00pm – Chaika (World)
8:00pm – Burrows (New Folk)

Folk Music on the 2016 Bello Winter Music Festival Lineup

Willie Watson
Image Courtesy of Willie Watson

After a massively successful debut last year the Bello Winter Music festival returns this July and once again the lineup is full of folky and rootsy goodness.

First of all, if you haven’t heard, the headliner this year is the fantastic Willie Watson. Watson, who was a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show, was recently in the country as part of the Dave Rawlings Machine but will return this time around in solo mode. And we’ve also heard he’ll be a part of the Gram Parsons Project event at the festival with a bunch of other artists.

Other folk leaning artists on the Bello Winter Music lineup include Jeff Lang, Jaaleekaay, Joshua Hedley, Bobby Alu, Sahara Beck, Yirrmal, The Twoks, Miss Eileen & King Lear, All Our Exes Live in Texas, William Crighton, Inga Liljestrom, Merryn Jeann, Loren Kate, Raised By Eagles, Sweet Jean, Green Mohair Suits, Aine Tyrrell, The Mid North, Brian Campeau, Claire Anne Taylor, Tullara Connors, Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells, Diamond Duck and many many more.

The Bello Winter Music festival takes place in Bellingen, NSW from the 7th to 10th July. Check out the offical web site for more details.

The full lineup is as follows:

Willie Watson (USA), Jeff Lang, Kylie Auldist, Tijuana Cartel, Mojo Juju, L-FRESH The LION, Jaaleekaay (W Afr/Aus), Joshua Hedley (USA), Jazz Party, Bullhorn, Allensworth (US), Tora, Bobby Alu (solo), Sahara Beck, Yirrmal, TEK TEK Ensemble, King Tide, Majiwa (KEN), The Twoks, Miss Eileen & King Lear, All Our Exes Live in Texas, William Crighton, Inga Liljestrom, The Seven Ups, Desmond Cheese, New Venusians, Merryn Jeann, Loren Kate, Gyan, Jo Jo Smith, Raised By Eagles, Sweet Jean, Greg Sheehan, Brian Nankervis, Liam Power, Joel Salom, Mandy Nolan, Mae Wilde, Green Mohair Suits, Aine Terrell, The Grand Magoozi, The Mid North, Ilona Harker, Bunya, Brian Campeau, Claire Anne Taylor, Tullara Connors, Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells, Diamond Duck, Baby Blue, Levingstone, Noam Blat, Drama King, Then Joelene, STAV, The Brothers, The Spangled Drongos, Kaya Boom’s Love Songs, Fish on Fire, Tim Porter, Siobhan Corcoran, Honey & Knives, Horns on Helium, Bellingen Afrobeat Ensemble, The Cassettes, How Deep is Your Love?, Bollywood Sisters, The Amazing Drumming Monkeys, Roundabout Theatre, The BlueSkillet Rover Van, Tales & Songs

Details of the Summer Hill Folk Festival

Summer Hill
Image Courtesy of Summer Hill Folk Festival

This March a brand new event will be bringing folk music to the inner western suburbs of Sydney and it looks pretty exciting. The brand new Summer Hill Folk Festival is set to take place at the Summer Hill Church on Saturday 5th March.

The lineup for the festival is impressive, bringing together some of Sydney’s best folkies and plenty of Timber and Steel favourites including Pat Drummond, Catgut, Brian Campeau, Fanny Lumsden, The Tawny Owl String Band and many more.

The day kicks off at 10am and along with the music program there will be artisan markets for punters to peruse. And all of this is for free.

For more information check out the official Summer Hill Folk Festival site here or the Facebook event here. The full lineup and set times are below:

10:30am History, Stories and Songs by the venerable Pat Drummond
11:30am Marie & Luke
12:30am Catgut
1:30pm MASTERCLASS: Song writing tips from the artists
2:15pm Matilda Abraham Solo
3:15pm David Thomas
4:15pm OLD INSTRUMENTS: Introduction to the Harp
5:00pm Burrows (Canberra)
6:00pm Brian Campeau Solo
7:00pm Fanny Lumsden
8:00pm Tawny Owl String Band

The Musical Lineup for Finders Keepers Sydney This Weekend

Julia Jacklin
Image Courtesy of Julia Jacklin

The Autumn/Winter edition of the Finders Keepers Markets hits Sydney this weekend and the good news is the event has been extended to three days – which also means three days of live music.

The Finders Keepers Markets are held in Sydney twice a year and feature some of the best in local design and art stalls. This weekend’s market will take place at Australian Technology Park on Friday 8th, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th May.

The musical lineup this time around features a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites over all three days including Direwolf, Leroy Lee, Not Good With Horses, Julia Jacklin (above), Richard Cuthbert, Jacob Pearson, Katie Wighton, Brian Campeau and many many more.

For more information on the artists and the markets check out the official site here. The full musical lineup for the three days is below:

Friday 8th May
6pm: Jake Howden
7pm: Direwolf
8pm: Leroy Lee
9pm: Not Good With Horses

Saturday 9th May
10am: Jack Shit (DJ)
12pm: Julia Jacklin
1pm: Richard Cuthbert
2pm: Echo Deer
3pm: DJ Dylabolical

Sunday 10th May
10am: Jack Shit (DJ)
12pm: Jacob Pearson
1pm: Katie Wighton
2pm: Brian Campeau

The Morrisons Return With O Brother Where Art Thou? Tribute Shows

The Morrisons
Image Courtesy of The Morrisons

Sydney pickers The Morrisons are heading to The Vanguard in Newtown in May for another round of O Brother Where Art Thou? tribute shows. The classic Coen Brothers film has inspired a generation of folk musicians and getting the chance to see iconic songs like “Man of Constant Sorrow”, “I’ll Fly Away” and “You Are My Sunshine” performed by musicians of The Morrisons’ calibre is not to be missed.

On the 6th, 7th and 8th May The Morrisons will be joined by local musicians Brian Campeau, Lucky Luke, Georgia Mooney, Hannah Crofts, Katie Wighton and Luke Escombe along with comedian Tommy Dean for Man Of Constant Sorrow: A Tribute to the Music of O Brother Where Art Thou?. If you’re keen to get to one of these shows get in quick – tickets are selling fast. Check out The Vanguard’s official site for more details.

Brian Campeau Announces Solo Album

Brian Campeau
Image Courtesy of Brian Campeau

Celebrated Sydney based folk singer-songwriter Brian Campeau (Rescue Ships, Green Mohair Suits) has announced plans to release his new solo album. Titled Don’t overthink it, overthink, overthinking the album is due for release on the 28th April. Check out the track listing here:

1. Introduction
2. So Long Angela
3. Watching You
4. Over
5. Choking Myself
6. Write Me A Song
7. High Horse
8. Interlude A
9. These Days
10. Interlude B
11. How We Knew
12. Song About Nails
13. Cutting Ties
14. Little One
15. Garden Song
16. End

The first taste of Don’t overthink it, overthink, overthinking is the beautifully off-kilter folk track “How We Knew” which you can listen to below:

The Morrisons and Goodgod Present An Evening of Country and Inner Western

The Morrisons
Image Courtesy of The Morrisons

Sydney bluegrass favourites The Morrisons and local institution The Goodgod Small Club have teamed up this week for a night of fine fine local music. Titled An Evening of Country and Inner Western, the night will take place this Wednesday 25th June and will feature music from The Morrisons along with a bunch of their friends including Emma Swift, Eddie Boyd, Matt Mason (DMA’s), Elana Stone (All Our Exes Live in Texas), Brian Campeau (The Green Mohair Suits) and The Women’s Auxiliary Choir.

The night will kick off at 7:30pm with tickets just $10 on the door. For more information check out the official Facebook event here.

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