Interview: The East Pointers

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

Canadian celtic trio The East Pointers have taken their sound to the next level with the release of their highly anticipated new album What We Leave Behind.

With an Australian tour on the horizon we sat down with Jake Charron from the band to chat about the album and what Australian audiences can expect when they hit our shores.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You released “82 Fires / Tanglewood” as a double A side a few months ago as a taster of the new album What We Leave Behind.

Jake Charron: That’s right. We’ve got a new album, released worldwide September 29th, called What We Leave Behind. The first two tracks we released are a sneak preview of the album – one instrumental track called “Tanglewood” and one song which we’ve been using as a single called “82 Fires”

GHE: From listening to both tracks, but I guess particularly “82 Fires”, it does sound like you have gone for a more epic sound than on your last album Sweet Victory. It sounds like there’s a lot more production behind it. Is that right?

JC: That’s definitely fair to say. There’s more production. I think “82 Fires” might be the most epic sounding song on the record but the whole thing is a bit more produced. One thing we wanted to maintain was to create tracks that we’d be able to replicate live as a trio. With the exception of a few layers here and there we should be able to get through most of it live.

GHE: I was going to ask about that. You guys have a pretty unique set up live where you’re using effects and percussion to build out your sound. How does the stage set up work to get such a big sound from just the three of you and acoustic instruments?

JC: We’re always trying to grow our sound, trying to find new ways to help us get a bigger sound. Tim (Chaisson) plays the fiddle and has a bit of foot percussion going on with the stomp box and tambourine. Koady (Chaisson) plays the banjo but also does a bit of pedal work with some effects, some bass stuff with his feet. I’ve mostly played guitar over the past couple of years but I play keyboard as well and we’ve been slowly bringing that into the show as well. We just try to see what we come up with.

GHE: I always assumed the bass lines were coming from you. I didn’t realise they were coming from Koady.

JC: You’re right – most of the bass has been coming from my guitar. I forgot to mention that! I have an octave effect on my guitar which gives it the bass lines. But some of the new album effects are triggered with Koady’s feet which we haven’t been touring live much yet. That’s part of new sound.

GHE: Going back to “82 Fires” – it’s true that song was inspired by Australia? It’s from a story you guys heard down in Tasmania, is that right?

JC: Totally. We were down in Tasmania, I guess it would be a year and a half ago now, touring with Liz Stringer who’s one of our favourite people and favourite singer-songwriters from down your way. We played a show in Chudleigh that was nearly called off because of the fires that were happening. It was pretty extreme – I think it was the most they’d seen in a while and a gentleman was telling us that there was 82 fires on the loose that night. We had a day off and we put that song together.

GHE: Over the last couple of years you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in Australia. Is there something about the place that keeps you coming back and touring extensively?

JC: We love it. A big part of it was the first impression. As a band it was one of the first tours we did, coming down to Australia, and I think because of that it’s always going to be close to us – some of the amazing festivals we got the opportunity to play just as the band was getting up and running. We’ll come back any time we can.

GHE: You’ve also built a solid fan base here as well. You sell out a lot of shows and your sets are always hard to get into at festival. It must be lovely to come halfway across the world and have a fanbase here.

JC: It’s been really nice. We’re grateful that people have welcomed us and accepted our music and just come out to dance. Australian’s seem really up for dancing and having a good time and that helps us put on a show. It’s such a great place to tour and a nice festival scene. And the weather’s great too!

GHE: I do like the fact that you don’t just stick to the traditional folk festivals when you come out. Like this time around you’ll be playing the Mullum Music Festival and the Queenscliff Music Festival which are both festivals that, while they do have a lot of folk and acoustic artists, they’re not just folk festivals. And by playing these festivals it opens you up to people who aren’t folk or trad purists but are instead just music lovers.

JC: We’re looking forward to branching out a bit this tour. We all grew up loving trad music and listening to a lot of the traditional stuff and thinking “I don’t know why more people don’t know about this music”. A lot of times they just don’t have a chance to see it. If you don’t grow up in the scene where the folk music happens it’s hard to discover certain things. It’ll be nice to play for people who don’t know what we do. And I think the new album branches out a bit too, which is maybe a nice thing as we’re doing the same circuit down there.

GHE: Is the new album mainly instrumental like Sweet Victory or is there a lot more songs this time?

JC: There’s a few more songs. I think the split is five songs, six instrumental tracks. At the core of it all we’re still an acoustic trio that’s tried to beef up our sound a little bit. There’s some new ideas, a few new influences but at the root of it is that celtic folk that we play.

GHE: I’m also getting Americana influences, in “82 Fires” in particular

JC: That’s totally fair to say. We listen to a lot of stuff that’s coming out of America. The album was recorded down in Nashville – not sure if that effected the sound much. We worked with one of our heroes Gordie Sampson who’s an amazing songwriter and producer living down in Nashville. It was dream to work with him. He has his own input to the sound as well.

GHE: Well I’m loving the album and I’m super excited about the tour. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

JC: Thanks for making this happen.

What We Leave Behind, the new album from The East Pointers is available now. The full list of dates for their upcoming Australian tour are below:

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th November – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby, NSW
Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th November – Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff, VIC
Thursday 30th November – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Sunday 3rd December – Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 6th December – Sepulchre, Hobart, TAS
Thursday 7th December – Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre, Canberra, ACT
Friday 8th December – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Saturday 9th December – Metropole, Katoomba, NSW
Thursday 14th December – Jive, Adelaide, SA
Friday 15th December – Darwin Railway Club, Darwin, NT
Saturday 16th December – Albany Entertainment Centre, Albany, WA
Sunday 17th Dec – Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, WA
Wednesday 27th December to Monday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, Woodford, QLD
Thursday 4th January – Sol Bar, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Friday 5th January – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 6th January – The Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 7th January – Lizotte’s, Newcastle, NSW

Fiona Ross and Tony McManus Announce Double Bill Concert Tour

Fiona Ross
Image Courtesy of Fiona Ross

Celebrated Scots singer Fiona Ross recently released her latest album Clyde’s Water featuring the innumerous talents of Celtic guitar virtuoso Tony McManus.

Now the two folk music legends have announced plans to head to Australia for a double bill concert series throughout June.

The performance will see Tony McManus, who is based in Canada, performing his own set before joining Fiona Ross, who is based in Melbourne, on stage. Check out the full list of dates below:

Saturday 3rd June – Beasley Auditorium, Perth, WA
Sunday 4th June – Lauriston Hall, Kyneton, VIC
Friday 9th to Monday 12th June – National Celtic Festival, Portarlington, VIC
Wednesday 14th June – Sweet Home, Cobargo, NSW
Friday 16th June – The Polish White Eagle Club, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 17th June – Magda Community Artz, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 18th June – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 21st June – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Sharon Shannon Announces Australian Tour

Sharon Shannon
Image Courtesy of Sharon Shannon

Irish music legend Sharon Shannon has announced plans to return to Australia this January with a bunch of dates on the east coast. Shannon will be joined by Jim Murray, Sean Regan and Jack Maher – check out the full list of dates below:

Friday 6th January – Mick O’Malley’s Irish Pub, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 7th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th January – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Saturday 14th January – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 15th January – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Review: 5 things we learned at Bluesfest

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

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

#1 – Peter Noble knows how to program…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hound mouth playing Bluesfest 2016

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

#3 – Word of Mouth is King

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

Steve Smyth plays at Bluesfest 2016

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

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

Blind Boy Paxton plays at Bluesfest 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Elle King plays at Bluesfest 2016

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

Rhiannon Giddens plays at Bluesfest 2016

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

#5 – Soul is in, along with BIG bands

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

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

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

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

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

Vintage Trouble plays Bluesfest 2016

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

St Paul and The Broken Bones plays Bluesfest 2016

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

St Patrick’s Day and Beyond at The Gaelic Club in Sydney

The Gaelic Club
Image Courtesy of The Gaelic Club

You may have heard the news that the annual St Patrick’s Day parade and family day in Sydney has been cancelled, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a celebration.

The Gaelic Club in Sydney has a week worth of events to help ring in St Patrick’s Day.

On the day itself, Thursday 17th March, local trad band Fresh Off The Boat will be playing tunes while you sip on a cold pint.

Friday 18th March will see the regular Gaelic Club Sessions take place along with workshops.

Timber and Steel favourites The Button Collective will be rocking The Gaelic Club on Saturday 19th March.

And then the celebrations wrap up on Sunday 20th March with a presentation of the film Older Than Ireland.

Sounds like it’s going to be a big week! For more information check out the official Gaelic Club Facebook page here.

Full Australian Dates for Black Market Tune

Black Market Tune
Image Courtesy of Black Market Tune

Last year Timber and Steel had the absolute pleasure of catching Austro-Scottish trad band Black Market Tune a couple of times while they were touring around the 2014/15 Woodford Folk Festival. It was amazing to see this young, European band inspired by the music of Scotland, the Brittish Isles and beyond.

Black Market Tune are back in the country from this week with a tour built around festival appearances at the Yackandandah Folk Festival, the Burke and Wills Folk Festival and The National Folk Festival. If you get a chance to see these guys do it – they’re amazing.

Check out the full list of dates below:

Friday 11th March – Pirates Tavern, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 12th to Monday 14th March – Bourke & Wills Folk Festival, Mia Mia, VIC
Thursday 17th March – Goldmines Hotel, Bendigo, VIC
Friday 18th to Sunday 20th March – Yacandandah Folk Festival, Yackandandah, VIC
Monday 21st – Kedron State High School Auditorium, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Tuesday 29th March – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Wednesday 30th March – The Exchange Hotel, Sydney, NSW

World Tour of Celtic Music at Cobargo Folk Festival

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

By Peter Logue

Most people, young and old, could name singers and bands they associate with what’s broadly known as Celtic music.
For the younger folk, it might be the Pogues (even though they’ve been around for decades) or hard pumping bands like Dropkick Murphys who made their name in Boston.

For older folk, it might be The Corrs, the Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains or even balladeer Daniel O’Donnell, who is still enormously popular on the Australian seniors’ concert and club circuit.

But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find there are many genres under the Celtic music banner in such places as Asturias and Galicia in Spain, parts of Portugal, Brittany in France, and Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton in Canada.

The music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Asturias provide the base from which much of the Celtic music styles emerged, though each of those has been shaped by other forms of local traditional music.

American bluegrass, old-timey and country music and Australian bush music owe their roots to the various Celtic musical styles brought from Ireland and Britain.

In modern times a whole range of Celtic fusion music – bands like the Afro-Celtic Sound System, Shooglenifty and Gaelic Storm (from the movie Titanic) have emerged.

Then there are the many Celtic dance forms and their offshoots, from Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, to the ever popular Scottish county dancing and, of course, our own bush dancing.

This year’s Cobargo Festival presents a great opportunity to take a world tour of the different styles of Celtic music and dance mentioned above.

From Canada’s Prince Edward Island come the dynamic East Pointers whose toe-tapping tunes make you want to do your own Riverdance impersonations in the aisle.

Ireland provides The Rambling Boys, four top class traditional musicians who have paid their dues over the years and who bring humour and pathos to their traditional tunes and songs.

Candelo multi-instrumentalist Kate Burke is a founder member of Trouble in the Kitchen, an Aussie quartet who are more traditional in style than many Irish bands.

Also from Australia, Senor Cabrales play the tunes of Asturias, Galicia, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland on a range of instruments, including the Asturian pipes.

American Beth Patterson brings Celtic rhythms to her songs and tunes, played on the eight string bouzouki – taken from the Greeks and refined into a popular Irish instrument.

Finally Australian Nicola Hayes and Helene Brunet from France demonstrate the Celtic influence in Brittany as well as belting out some traditional Irish tunes.

Hang around the festival session bar and you’re sure to hear fabulous tunes and songs from all over the Celtic musical diaspora.

The Cobargo Folk Festival will be held this weekend from the 26th to 28th February in Cobargo, NSW. For more information and tickets check out the official site here.

Interview: The East Pointers

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

Canadian trad trio The East Pointers made a real splash when they were in Australia last summer. Now they’re planning on returning for the upcoming folk festival season with their brand new album Secret Victory in tow. We sat down with guitarist Jake Charron to talk about the band’s experience in Australia last time and what we can expect from their shows this time around.

Gareth Hugh Evans: I saw you guys for the first time at the start of this year when you were touring Australia and doing the festival circuit here. How was that tour for you guys?

Jake Charron: It was amazing. It was our first time to Australia as a band and really our first time touring overseas. It was pretty exciting – some amazing festivals that you guys have down there. It was a real treat to be part of it.

GHE: It’s a nice time of year over the summer here – lots of amazing folk festivals happening.

JC: Especially coming from Canada. The weather alone is reason enough to get out of here. It worked out pretty well for us – we got a little bit of sunshine. We met some amazing people, made some great friends, saw some amazing music – we’re really looking forward to be coming back again this summer.

GHE: It felt like you fit in well to the folk scene when you were here. There was a real camaraderie with other bands on the circuit – how did you find the local scene here?

JC: I think in Canada we’ve met a lot of the bands who are on the festival circuit so it’s really nice to run into them. We were hanging out with The Mae Trio and bands like that along the way. It’s a community. I think Australians and Canadians have a lot in common as far as their outlook goes. We felt at home.

GHE: And there’s definitely a shared heritage when it comes to the music as well. Let’s chat about the new album Secret Victory – you wrote that while you were out here right?

JC: Yeah! We came over with just an EP, a demo disk. We had a lot of ideas on the go – Tim [Chaisson] and Koady [Chaisson] live in Prince Edward Island and myself I’m in Toronto so there’s a 15 hour drive between the two. So we don’t get a tonne of time to hang out unless we’re on the road so we took advantage of our time in Australia and did a lot of writing. We found it pretty inspirational down there. A lot of the songs and tunes on the record came about in Australia.

GHE: When you’re on the road where do you even find time to write? Was it in between sets or did you actually have some downtime while you were here?

JC: We had a few days off. We spent Christmas down there this past year so we took those days off. I think even between soundcheck at shows you can come up with little ideas. Over time we started to work on ideas, came home and jumped into the studio.

GHE: Everything on the album is originals right?

JC: It is, yeah. The three of us grew up playing a lot of traditional music, a lot of old tunes, but we sort of had the goal setting out to make this one all original tunes.

GHE: Why was that?

JC: We set out to play traditional music but put a modern spin on it. We’ve always loved listening to trad music and it started to feel like a lot of people out there would like it too if they had access to it. Maybe some of these new ideas would make it more accessible to some people. We just had a lot of new tunes on the go and decided why not make a full album.

GHE: Listening to the album you’d be forgiven for thinking that these aren’t traditional tunes. It doesn’t feel like you guys have strayed too far from the tradition. It shows the heavy influence that the Irish and Scottish and Breton music has on you guys.

JC: Absolutely. We wanted to pay respect to that tradition as well. In Canada we grew up with more than one Celtic influence. The PEI boys grew up playing predominantly Scottish tunes but there’s also in Ontario, where I’m from, the Irish tradition is very strong and also the French-Canadian tradition. So we’re sort of a blend of Celtic traditions and influences.

GHE: One question I always have to ask people who play traditional folk music is what originally drew you to that style of music? I can’t imagine that it was the coolest music in school, especially as a guitarist.

JC: You’re right, it wasn’t the coolest things at the public schools around here. But we all grew up playing music at home with our families – I have two brothers myself who play fiddle. And the Chaissons – there’s dozens of them that are playing the music. Their family goes back six or seven generations. It was this sort of underground scene in Canada – you would see a lot of kids playing the music. So there was this sort of community of people the same age playing this music. I think once you get into it it’s great – it’s feel good music, it’s upbeat, it’s challenging. It’s nice to see a resurgence of this kind of music – it seems to be gaining some sort of popularity.

GHE: Yeah, it does feel like people are trying to re-connect with this kind of music at the moment. They’re searching for authenticity.

JC: I think so. There’s so much access to every genre of music out there so people are looking for something different than what’s on the radio. It’s the type of music that’s stood the test of time – it’s been around for so long that there must be something to it.

GHE: So you guys are heading back to Australia this summer for the festival circuit and some headline shows. What can audiences expect from The East Pointers this time around?

JC: We’ve got a new full length album out – we’ve just finished up our first Canadian tour with that record and we’re pretty excited to bring it over to the UK and then Australia next year. New tunes for people if they’re into what we’re doing. It’s dance music so we’re hoping to get people up on their feet.

GHE: You definitely gained quite a few fans when you were here last time. I think a lot of people are very happy that you’re coming back this year.

JC: Well we’re glad people are liking our music. It’s a great place to be and we’re really excited to be back.

GHE: Well thank you so much for your time – can’t wait to see you over the summer!

JC: Looking forward to see everybody down there.

Secret Victory is available now. The full Australian tour dates for The East Pointers are below:

Monday 28th December to Friday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, QLD
Sunday 3rd January – Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 3rd January – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 8th to Saturday 9th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Thursday 14th January – Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th to Sunday 17th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW
Monday 18th January – Bagdad Community Hall, TAS
Tuesday 19th January – Sulphur Creek Hall, TAS
Wednesday 20th January – Wynard Wharf Hotel Theatre, TAS
Thursday 21st January – Longford Town Hall, TAS
Friday 22nd January – Chudleigh Community Hall, TAS
Saturday 23rd January – Queenstown Memorial Hall, TAS
Sunday 24th January – Southport Community Centre, TAS
Friday 26th to Sunday 28th February – Cobargo Folk Festival, NSW
Friday 4th to Sunday 6th March – Nannup Music Festival, WA
Friday 11th to 14th March – Port Fairy Folk Music Festival, VIC
Thursday 24th to Monday 27th March – National Folk Festival, ACT

The East Pointers To Release New Album in October

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

If you managed to get out to a folk festival last summer there’s a very good chance that you would have seen Canadian trad trio The East Pointers. And if you saw Canadian trad trio The East Pointers then you’re no doubt now a fan, so you’d be excited to know they plan to release their debut album in October.

Titled Secret Victory, the album is set for release on the 8th October and will frame traditional music with The East Pointers’ unique trans-continental influences.

“That’s something The East Pointers are trying to accomplish – breathe some new life into traditional music,” Fiddler Tim Chaisson explained. “People think of it as music for an older generation but we’re hoping to introduce a whole new generation of listeners to the genre.”

“We are literally the seventh generation of musicians in our family, and what we do is a little different than what our uncles might do, for example, which would be more Scottish influenced,” Banjo player Koady Chaisson added. We embrace the Scottish influence … but also Irish and French and so on.”

The East Pointers have been announced as part of the 2016 Illawarra Folk Festival lineup so it won’t be long before they grace our shores again. To get you in the mood for Secret Victory check out this live video of their tune set “The Drift”:

National Folk Festival Interview: Restless Legs

Mairead Hurley
Image Courtesy of Mairead Hurley

Gareth Hugh Evans: I think the first time I saw you guys was actually at last year’s National Folk Festival.

Mairead Hurley: Yes, last year. We had just gotten the name last year. I had just moved to Sydney last January and I already knew Louise Phelan [fiddle] and Maeve Moynihan [fiddle] from Ireland, from going up and going to fleadhs and festivals. Then we all met Ben Stephenson [guitar, flute, bodhran] in Sydney. As a group we went to Tasmania last year to their fleadh in March. That was the first time we’d performed as Restless Legs. By the time we played at The National we weren’t billed as that because the application had gone in much earlier but it was the same line up.

This year we have a couple of new additions as well. We have Louise Phelan’s husband John Cassidy performing sean-nós dancing and we also have a new arrival in Sydney, a girl named Susan Miller, who’s a multi-instrumentalist as well – she plays fiddle, button accordian and piano as well.

GHE: I feel like you had a dancer last year as well?

MH: That was John Cassidy as well. That was Louise’s partner and they just got married earlier this year.

GHE: So yourself, Louise and Maeve played together back in Ireland?

MH: We would have all met each other and played bits here and there, not on a regular basis. More just a social basis, fleadhs and sessions and stuff. We all started playing regularly together in Sydney.

GHE: I know there’s quick a big Irish community in Sydney – within that is there a lot of musicians?

MH: Yeah, and that was the reason that both Louise and myself came to Sydney originally. There’s lots of music being co-ordinated by the Irish National Association, and they’re based in the Gaelic Club. They have a program where they regularly hire an Irish person to come and teach whatever is their chosen instrument. Louise did that for a couple of years and she still teaches with them and I came over to teach with them in 2014. The people learning are a mixture of Irish people who maybe played when they were younger and have taken it back up or Irish people who bring their kids to lessons, their kids who are Irish-Australian and then often some people who have no Irish connection at all and just pick it up because they love the music. There’s a pretty vibrant scene.

GHE: There’s obviously a difference to playing in sessions and performing on stage in front of a crowd. How do you choose which tunes and sets make it into the Restless Legs set and which are kept for the sessions?

MH: As a group of musicians we all have the same focus and priority which is kind of what makes us play well together and made us want to take the set further. That focus on very traditional tunes but also quite unusual tunes. To get away from the old classics and maybe find a few more hidden treasures within the tradition. And then mixed with newer, more contemporary stuff and occasionally finding an old standard and trying to rework it or do something different with it. It’s kind of a balance between all of those. We all kind of feed off learning new tunes from one an other and finding stuff that we want to work with. Then it’s just a matter of fine tuning it, taking arrangements and working with sounds to see what combination works best. Mostly just going with what tunes we like – it’s all about enjoying the performance and you enjoy it when you’re playing stuff that you like.

GHE: Do you have a particular type of tune that you enjoy playing?

MH: Not really. For a session and for a performance, what keeps it interesting is having a variety. Nothing in particular but we probably would focus on the faster dance tunes, reels and jigs, than anything else.

GHE: I do have to ask, but why did you learn the concertina? It’s not the most glamorous instrument in the world.

MH: What! What! I’ll change your mind about that!

GHE: I’m sorry!

MH: [laughs] It had a massive resurgence in the last 15 years which is about the time that I started playing. I think it’s because I grew up in Sligo which is predominantly fiddle and flute country. My dad’s a flute player and my uncle’s a fiddle player. From the neighbourhood that I grew up in that was what was common. I learned the flute first. And then I think it’s because the concertina was so unusual and when it started becoming a bit more widespread it was completely new to me – it was a whole new sound, it was a whole new array of things that could be done with tunes that I was just not familiar with. I just felt like I had to play that instrument and then I think once I made that decision, when I was about 14 I wouldn’t put it down any time in my waking hours. My mum can verify that!

It’s like any instrument – there are so many ways to play the same tune. So many different styles. I just think it’s great. And I think it sounds really good with fiddle in particular so I guess that’s why it works well with two girls in the band.

GHE: And it’s super portable! I think that’s why it was so popular 50 years ago with singers and players. It was something that they could just carry with them.

MH: I think that’s kind of how it ended up making its way into the Irish tradition. Because they were so portable sailors used to throw them on ships and then when the ships would come into port they’d end up in every household. It was very popular in County Clare.

GHE: One question I’ve been meaning to ask you is what it’s like to play with Ben Stephenson? He’s a bit of a hero of mine. Does having him in the band bring an audience with him?

MH: I’m not sure. Possibly. Ben’s an amazing playing and we’ve all clicked really well. Like I was saying we all share tunes and he’s very open with his music, he’s really encouraging and he’s really interested in learning from everyone else. When you get that interaction from someone it’s great. He has such amazing experience as a band member with Trouble in the Kitchen and I’ve been lucky enough to perform as a guest with them at The Woodford Folk Festival and The Port Fairy Folk Festival and the Brunswick Music Festival recently. They’ve got so much experience, they’re so well polished and Ben really does bring that experience to us a as group.

GHE: Anything else we can look forward to from you guys at The National?

MH: Just that both Maeve and Louise will be giving fiddle workshops. You’ll find them in the program. There’s an intermediate and advanced fiddle workshop with them.

We’re looking forward to The National, really excited. This will be my second year – I had a massive ball last year, it’s one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. We’re looking forward to lots of music, lots of late nights at the session bar and lots of tunes from all our friends from Australia and beyond.

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