Thank Folk It’s Friday – 23rd January


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Melbourne based chamber-folk singer Packwood released his brand new single “All Smoke Must Find Its Way Home”. Details here

– The upcoming Fringe World festival in Perth will feature three tribute nights to O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Details here

– Celebrated trad singers Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton has revealed details of their upcoming album Declaration. Details here

Ruby Boots has kicked off her 2015 signing to Lost Highway and announcing her new album Solitude. Details here

– The The National Folk Festival have announced a bunch of US artists for their 2015 lineup including Kim Richey, Joe Filisko & Eric Noden, Kipori Baby Wolf Woods New Orleans Band, Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller and Whitetop Mountaineers. Details here

The Decemberists released their new video “A Beginning Song”. Details here

– Sydney band Citizen of the World released their new video “Done”. Details here

– Melbourne’s John Flanagan has announced a massive tour beginning this February. Details here

Laura Marling revealed her new track “False Hope”. Details here

Little Georgia, the alt-country duo project from Justin Carter and Ashleigh Mannix, released their new video “Heartbreak”. Details here

– Melbourne based singer-songwriter and activist Les Thomas released his new single “Guantanamo Blues”. Details here

– Alt-country singer-songwriter Jenny Queen released her new video “Hell No”. Details here

– Six more artists have been added to the Port Fairy Folk Festival lineup including Luluc, Mike Brady, Frank Yamma, The Bearded Gypsy Band, Fiona Ross and Skipping Girl Vinegar. Details here

Punch Brothers revealed their new track “My Oh My”. Details here

The Staves went back in time for their new video “Black & White”. Details here

Trampled by Turtles released their new video “Repetition”. Details here

The April Maze announced a new album and 2015 tour dates. Details here

Bell St Delays, the duo project of singer-songwriters Tracy McNeil and Luke Sinclair (Raised By Eagles), released their new video “Not This Time”. Details here

Marlon Williams released his new video “Dark Child” and announced an Australian tour in April. Details here

Angus and Julia Stone have announced the final dates for their summer tour. Details here

Rhiannon Giddens released “She’s Got You” from her forthcoming album. Details here

– Swedish singer-songwriter José González released his new single “Leaf Off/The Cave”. Details here


“On an afternoon when frying eggs on the pavement in rural Queensland was definitely an option, Bill Quinn spoke with Ann from her sick bed in Edmonton, as she was putting the final touches on her tour, and readying to hop on a plane the following week”Ann Vriend chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here


“As we emerge from the haze of the Christmas and New Year period I can tell you right now that the future is looking bright indeed. So many of our favourite artists spent last year in the studio and the next six months is going to be thick with exciting releases. With so much good music on the way I thought I’d try and distill a list of ten artists that I’m excited to hear from in the first half of this year. This list is by no means exhaustive and I could probably spend hours talking about every release on the calendar, but hopefully this gives you a jumping off point to get as excited as I am for 2015”Gareth Hugh Evans picks his ten artists to watch in the first half of 2015. Find out who he chose and why here

“Here’s a question, though: how many have been to a small regional folk festival? … I ask this because I believe it is important for the folk movement that people younger than me – which is lot of people – get involved in the smaller festivals, either through volunteering, applying to perform, just turning up and doing a blackboard, or paying the usually small amount to attend” – guest contributor Peter Logue recounts the joy of the small folk festival. Read about it here

Releases This Week

Alanna Eileen
AbsenceAlanna Eileen

Punch Brothers
The Phosphorescent BluesPunch Brothers

The MoneyHusband

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Black Market Tune

Black Market Tune

Black Market Tune was a highlight at this year’s Illawarra Folk Festival so I urge anyone who hasn’t seen them live yet to get along to one of their shows. This week they’ll be bringing their uniquely European take on Scottish traditional music to Victoria – see them before they leave the country!

Sunday 25th January – Beav’s Bar, Geelong, VIC
Friday 30th January – Albert Park Yacht Club, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Alanna Eileen
Saturday 24th January – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 25th January – The Front Gallery and Cafe, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 29th January – The Grace Darling Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Ann Vriend
Saturday 24th January – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 29th January – The Reef Casino, Cairns, Qld
Friday 30th January – Sovereign Resort Hotel, Cooktown, Qld

April Maze
Friday 23rd January – Tomerong Hall, Shoalhaven, NSW

Australia Day at The Rocks
Monday 26th January – The Rocks, Sydney, NSW

Bell St Delays
Thursday 29th January – Three Chimneys, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 30th January – Petersham Bowls Club, Sydney, NSW

Bernard Fanning with Little May
Saturday 24th January – Leeuwin Estate Winery, Margaret River, WA
Thursday 29th January – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 30th January – Twilight At Taronga, Sydney, NSW

Black Market Tune
Sunday 25th January – Beav’s Bar, Geelong, VIC
Friday 30th January – Albert Park Yacht Club, Melbourne, VIC

Charm of Finches
Friday 23rd to Monday 26th January – Newstead Live Music Festival, VIC
Wednesday 28th January – Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne, VIC

Friday 23rd January – Mojos Bar, Fremantle, WA
Friday 30th January – The Prince of Wales Hotel, Bunbury, WA

Kim Churchill
Friday 23rd January – The Cambridge, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 24th January – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 29th January – The Beach Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 30th January – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD

Lachlan Bryan w/ Jack Henderson, Sam York, Aleyce Simmonds
Tuesday 27th January – The Glasshouse Theatre, Port Macquarie, NSW
Wednesday 28th January – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 30th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW

Mandy Connell
Tuesday 27th January – Retreat, Melbourne, VIC

Newstead Live
Friday 23rd to Monday 26th January – Castlemaine, VIC

Numberalla Folk Festival
Friday 23rd to Monday 26th January – Numberalla, NSW

Friday 23rd January – Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 25th January – Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday 27th January – Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, QLD

Peasant Moon
Friday 30th January – Gasoline Pony, Sydney, NSW

Roger Knox
Sunday 25th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

Tamworth Country Music Festival
Friday 16th to Sunday 25th January – Tamworth, NSW

The Melbourne Folk Club feat. Darren Hanlon, Laura Jean, Single Twin
Wednesday 28th January – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

The Wild Comforts
Saturday 24th January – The Bearded Lady, Brisbane, QLD

Tim Edey
Friday 23rd to Monday 26th January – Newstead Live, VIC
Wednesday 28th January – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 29th January – Vencia Hall, Briagalong, VIC
Friday 30th January – Harvest Moon, Bellarine, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“Shady Grove” – Crooked Still

Someone pointed out to me this week that old timey/bluegrass standard “Shady Grove” is likely derived from the English ballad “Matty Groves” and my mind was blown. How could I not have noticed this before? Now I can’t think about/sing either song without getting it mixed up with the other.

Listen to the New Single from Aoife O’Donovan, “Red & White & Blue & Gold”

Aoife O'Donovan
Image Courtesy of Aoife O’Donovan

Aoife O’Donovan has one of those voices you just want to wrap yourself in. And we’re so chuffed that she has a solo album on the way after Crooked Still announced a hiatus 18 months ago. The lastest single from Fossils, due on the 11th June, is “Red & White & Blue & Gold” and has been streaming online for the last week or so.

Take a listen to “Red & White & Blue & Gold” below:

Aoife O’Donovan Announces Debut Solo Album

Aoife O'Donovan
Image Courtesy of Aoife O’Donovan

Aoife O’Donovan, lead singer of the brilliant Crooked Still and frequent collaborator on a number of other projects, has just confirmed plans to release her debut solo album. The album, titled Fossils, is due for release on the 11th June through Yep Roc Records.

The album is produced by Tucker Martine and features 10 songs with “crazy sounds and an amazing cast of characters adding all kinds of instruments and harmonies”. That’s all the info we have at the moment – as soon as we know more we’ll fill you in.

Watch The Deadly Gentlemen Cover Vampire Weekend

The Deadly Gentlemen
Image Courtesy of The Deadly Gentlemen

A big thank you has to go to the wonderful cover-folk blog Cover Lay Down for bringing this track to our attention. The Deadly Gentlemen is a experimental jam-folk project of Crooked Still banjo player Greg Liszt (with equal input of the other five members Stash Wyslouch, Mike Barnett, Dominick Leslie and Sam Grisman) and their latest single is this incredibly sharp acoustic cover of Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”.

The video for “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” was shot at The Deadly Gentlemen’s in Brighton, MA (filmed by Liszt) and is also available to download on the band’s Bancamp here. Check out the video below:

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2011


Every music blog, website and magazine (including us) spend their December frantically trying to distill the year into a “best of list” that is ultimately redundant given the subjectiveness of the artform. But we still do it because a) people read these publications because they trust the writers’ taste and b) everyone likes a list (usually so they can disagree with them).

But we realised that very rarely does anyone ever ask the artists – the very people who are making the music – who they’ve been listening to throughout the year. So we thought we’d buck the trend and asked a bunch of the bands and solo artists we’ve been following this year for their favourite album or EP of 2011.

The most common response was “do I have to pick just one?” or “just publish this before I change my mind!”. Despite the countless sleepless nights the artists no doubt spent agonising over their decisions we think we’ve managed to amass a pretty eclectic list from a group of people we absolutely admire. A big thank you has to go to all the artists who took the time out to contribute (as well as the patience of the various press contacts we pestered) – I think you’ll agree that this is a hell of a list from the national (and international) Timber and Steel alumni.

So without further ado we give our artist albums of the year:

Wild Beasts SmotherEmmy The Great
Wild BeastsSmother
One of the biggest growers in my record collection. Took me three listens to understand it, and all of a sudden I was in love. Truly, madly, deeply wonderful. Sexy. I bought it twice. And yes, I own it on vinyl, and yes, it sounds amazing

Laura Jean A Fool Who'llJen Cloher
Laura JeanA Fool Who’ll
LJ is a great lyricist, musician and singer but what I love about her most is that she doesn’t sound like anyone else. In fact the whole album has its own identity, which is as rare as hens teeth these days. It’s a folk rock album where Laura trades in her acoustic for a Gibson electric but the band (Jen Sholakis & Biddy Connor) have their own thing going on too. Alongside Gareth Liddiard (The Drones) Laura Jean is an uncompromising artist, whether you listen to her or not, she’ll keep making some of the best albums in Australia.

Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo The CradleFred Smith
Penny Larkins and Carl PannuzzoThe Cradle
I liked this album and not just ’cause they cover one of my songs, but also for its stripped back and interesting arrangements and tender delivery of a considered collection of songs.

The Middle East  I Want That You Are Always HappyTim Hart (Boy & Bear)
The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy
Beautiful production and songwriting. A very inspiring record and a real shame that they finished up just as they were getting started.

Lanie Lane To The HorsesNikki Thorburn (ILUKA)
Lanie LaneTo The Horses
Channeling early rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and rockabilly To The Horses is one record that I found myself listening to over and over and still enjoying each time. Such catchy tunes and something refreshingly different. And oh what a voice has miss Lanie!!

The Perch Creek Family Jug Band - Tall TalesJordie Lane
The Perch Creek Family Jug BandTall Tales
A beautiful example of great bluegrass and ol’ time standards coming from this quirky Australian ‘real’ family band. With the Hodgkins kids of all different ages sharing the singing duties and some of the best players guesting. Listen out for the secret track – its a cracker!

Noah and the Whale Last Night on EarthPearl Button (Ruby for Lucy)
Noah and the WhaleLast Night on Earth
This album makes me want to write joyful songs – songs that put a spring in your step. And Charlie’s storytelling is at its best here, I think. Plus, I love a concept album. And this one was released at a time when I needed to hear that starting again is both brave and beautiful. Last Night on Earth is full of wonder. It makes me happy.

Husky Forever SoMatt Amery (Tin Sparrow):
It is a toss up between HUSKYForever So and The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy.
I think that both of these are amazing albums. They are both so organic and meticulously crafted. I see these albums as one long song or journey rather than a compilation of their songs as they flow seamlessly from one song to the other. That being said i still have favourites songs from both albums but they frequently change, which I think is another sign of a great album!

Real Estate DaysMark Piccles (Tin Sparrow)
Real EstateDays
Can’t stop listening to it. Their first album was great but this is for me the most solid, straight up pop record of the year. Some of the simplest songs you will hear all 2011, and some of the best.

Alexander AlexanderFanny Lumsden
Alexander EbertAlexander
This album makes me feel like I am sitting in the sunshine eating figs straight from a fig tree … which incidentally was what I was doing the first time I listened to this album.

Build a Rocket Boys ElbowRobin Geradts-Gill (The Little Stevies)
ElbowBuild a Rocket Boys!
Not surprising that it’s a great album, as the Manc lads have outdone themselves with every release to do date. But what’s so surprising is how stripped back, ambient and almost hypnotic the album is, with stripped back song structures that play on simple riffs and melody cycles. Yet at the end of a listen, you’re left as fulfilled as can be – it feels so much bigger than it sounds.

Eddie VedderNardi Simpson (Stiff Gins)
Eddie VedderUkulele Songs
When my sister told me Eddie Vedder did a cd of ukulele songs I thought she’d got her wires crossed or lost her marbles or something…Eddie Vedder, THE Eddie Vedder, a uke? I listened to his music, that gravelly, stony, sandpaper smooth delivery, floating over that dreamy, creamy ukulele and remembered why I got into music in the first place, not only to sing, but to find ways to be different, to challenge myself and to have fun. Eddie Vedder reminded me how to have fun with sound again, how to be playful and exposed and brave all at the same time. I had got a uke earlier in the year for my birthday but the real present was from Vedder

Manchester Orchestra Simple MathShane Graham (Holland)
Manchester OrchestraSimple Math
This was a highly anticipated record for me. After their second album Mean Everything to Nothing I was curious as to the progression … It was the perfect blend of cinematic beauty and rootsy, raw down to earth rock songs

The Middle East  I Want That You Are Always HappyJordan Wilson (Georgia Fair)
The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy
Some of the most beautiful and classic songs I’ve heard from a young band. “The Land of the Bloody Unknown” hit me straight away.

Beirut The Rip TideBrianne Curran (Takadimi)
BeirutThe Rip Tide
Enjoying the fresh new sounds and composition ideas that are present on Beirut’s new album The Rip Tide. Being a Beirut fan ever since a friend at uni put me onto them, I was keen to see what they would come up with next after listening to their previous albums way too many times!

The Harrow and the HarvestPete Uhlenbruch (Owls of the Swamp)
Gillian WelchThe Harrow & The Harvest
There’s something frustratingly undefinable about this album that grabs me from the very first note. The synergy between Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings is sublime on these recordings, crystallized as a marriage of yin-yang acoustic guitars and a celestial cascade of vocal harmonies. I love the sense of space and minimal arrangements, which give room for the hypnotizing melodies and lyrics to soar before sinking deep into your skin.

The King of LimbsDaniel Lee Kendall
RadioheadThe King of Limbs
I actually haven’t listened to that many new albums this year, I’ve been listening more to older stuff. But of what I have listened to, I quite liked King of Limbs. I really enjoyed the landscapes they created in this. Also that video where Thom is just dancing the whole time is brilliant. I want to dance in that room in slow-mo.

Noah and the Whale Last Night on EarthHelen Croome (Gossling)
Noah and the WhaleLast Night on Earth
It’s got a great mix of slower tracks that you can happily let wash over you, as well as the joyous up-beat songs like “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N” that can instantly pick up your mood. The arrangements and production are crazily addictive.

Ben Salter The CatThomas Busby (Busby Marou)
Ben SalterThe Cat
This is an intelligent, passionate and more importantly, a complete Album. It is one of the very few records that I have to listen to from beginning to end – no track skipping forward or back. The songwriting is just like Salter’s live show – fearless, melodic and real. I can’t stop listening to this Album and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it!

The Middle East  I Want That You Are Always HappyStu Larsen
The Middle EastI Want That You Are Always Happy
For the first 3 weeks I listened to the entire album every night before I slept. It’s still one I go back to constantly. Beautiful songs beautifully recorded, a real journey album for me. I’m sad that these guys are no longer a band, but I’m happy they’ve left us with some amazing music.

Bon Iver Bon IverLissa
Bon IverBon Iver
My favourite album of the year has been Bon Iver’s self-titled album. As soon as I put it on for the first time, my eyes closed and I knew I was in for an absolute treat. This second album has much greater depth and breadth with a myriad of sounds and instruments, yet still maintains that expanse and space that I love floating around in. Vernon’s melodies and lyrics are beautiful, intriguing, captivating as always. Each track being a place name merely reinforces that you have to journey through this album as a whole. When I arrive home after a hectic day, this album is the perfect antidote.

Seeker Lover KeeperRoss James Tipper and Ash Steel (Achoo! Bless You)
Seeker Lover KeeperSeeker Lover Keeper
We can both remember quite clearly the day we first found out about the formation of the ultimate Australian folk female super group, Seeker Lover Keeper. It was as though things in the world had just become ‘right’ again. Holly Throsby, Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltman, what an absolutely perfect combination of delicate, sultry voices and sheer brilliant, sensitive songwriting talent! The sudden formation of this group had Ross secretly wishing he was a woman so he could leave Achoo! Bless You and make the Seeker, Lover, Keeper trio a quartet. What we love most about this album is the way the girls wrote the songs for each other’s voices, not their own, as per their solo material. The stand out track of the record is definitely Sally Seltman’s ‘Even Though I’m a Woman’, but it is Holly’s raw, emotive lead vocal that really brings this song into its own. And Aden Young’s performance in the accompanying video clip to this song is spot on (that little head turn at 0:11 melts Ash’s heart every time). One would expect nothing less that this brilliant, thoughtful album from three of Australia’s best singer-songwriters.

Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo The CradleLiz Frencham
Penny Larkins and Carl PannuzzoThe Cradle
I love Carl & Penny’s new album The Cradle. Such a complete experience – a piece of their lives captured in a bottle for us to share. Carl’s voice is like an ecstatic angel and blends with Penny’s so beautifully. But I’m torn. I am also really loving Lucie Thorne’s new album Bonfires in Silver City. Her voice just takes me somewhere beautiful and her songs never disappoint. Either way, Aussie indie’s all the way!

Wits EndJack Carty
Cass McCombsWit’s End
I accidentally saw Cass play whilst overseas in 2010 (I was at the show to see Lightspeed Champion who was supporting) and he blew me away. He seems to have a real enigmatic swagger (or is it an aloofness?) that allows him to deliver every single line with conviction, feeling and weight, but without sounding to sorry for himself. I still have trouble finding others that know about his music here in Australia though. This album came out in April and is beautifully and subtly put together. He uses space beautifully to create a kind of edgy longing and loneliness that lasts the whole record long in a way that comes across as both strangely creepy and strikingly beautiful. Occasional interjections by woodwind instrumentations such as bass clarinet or chalumeau help add texture sparingly and effectively and his lyrical turn of phrase is dense, melancholic and thoughtful, firmly remaining so on consecutive listens. This is no doubt a sad record, but a very very beautiful one. This guy is the real deal.

Ashes and FireCorey DiMario (Crooked Still)
Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire
I love the stripped down production of this album. It is edgy enough to be compelling but not so volatile to make it unlistenable or uncomfortable. The songwriting is sweet and low key and as always his singing is fantastic. There’s also great playing from his backup band that includes Norah Jones and Benmont Tench on keyboards.

Helplessness BluesSteven Barnard (arbori:)
Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues
It’s not often you press play on a new record and the opening line echoes your exact thoughts from earlier that week. To then find this existential empathy throughout the record is what makes Helplessness Blues my favourite of the year. Musically it took a while to sink in my skin. I found myself returning to it several times through the year as it’s resonance and relevance for me became more evident. I imagine it’s the kinda music monks would be making: deeply existential and harmonic – “monk rock”.

100 Acres of SycamoreFaith Lee
Fionn Regan100 Acres of Sycamore
If you’re a fan of Fionn’s earlier albums, you may really struggle to get into this one … I know I did. Lyrically it kills me (in the best way) and even though I was expecting a full blown folk album, what I now know as Fionn Regan is a sound that some may say is even better than before. It’s a very dark version of Fionn and a completely matured sound.

Other Lives Tamer AnimalsNick Hemming (The Leisure Society)
Other LivesTamer Animals
I was a latecomer to this band, but Tamer Animals has become a bit of an obsession. The arrangements are incredibly detailed and yet subtle, if you immerse yourself in them it’s an intensely rewarding experience. The songs are beautifully written and, although singer Jesse Tabish delivers them in quite a downbeat manner, his voice drips with pathos. If you don’t like this album then you probably don’t like music.

Lykke Li Wounded RhymesPhia
Lykke LiWounded Rhymes
It’s a darker, sexier album than her first, the production is great (she teamed up with Bjorn Yttling from Peter, Bjorn and John again) and it is an intriguing, danceable LP from an artist with fantastic pop-writing instincts and tonnes of charisma.

Laura Jean A Fool Who'llJulia Johnson (Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens)
Laura JeanA Fool Who’ll
Hearing rumours that she would be playing electric guitar and saxophone, I was unsure what to expect after Laura Jean’s distinctly folky previous album, Eden Land. Upon hearing A Fool Who’ll, it became clear to me that Laura Jean is in a rare category of artists which I haven’t added to in years in the music on my computer – Artists Who Always Release Albums Which Astound Me And Will Never Make The Same Album Twice. The only other artists I have in there are PJ Harvey and The Shins.

Three Trapped TigersJoe Gould (Crooked Fiddle Band)
Gillian WelchHarrow and the Harvest and Three Trapped TigersRoute One or Die
In true Crooked style, there are two wildly different albums that I think sum up the year perfectly. Welch’s album took a little while to grow, but once it hit me, I was floored at the way she and Dave Rawlings strip things back – two voices and two guitars is pretty much all you get – and settle you into a mood across the whole album, pure country songs that transcend the need for frills. Three Trapped Tigers played before us at a festival in the UK and I was amazed at the sheer energy this band has. Over-the-top, bombastic, brash and yet still with moments of real beauty, this has to be the best instrumental album of the year.

nullBayden Hine (Packwood)
Ólafur ArnaldsLiving Room Songs
Listening to this incredibly spacious album you would never think that it was recorded in the teeny tiny living room of Icelandic native Ólafur Arnalds. Aptly named Living Room Songs, Ólafur wrote one song a day for one week (a process he has followed previously on an earlier record, Found Songs), Ólafur encompasses all that I admire in an artist; he is incredibly creative, resourceful and the album reflects this. His spare arrangements and sombre (not in a bad way, mind you) melodies are truly spectacular to behold. Iceland really seems to be a hotbed for creativity these days!

Kurt Vile Smoke RingLeroy Lee
Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My Halo
I feel stoned just thinking about this album. I think it’s a great soundtrack for a Great Depression: sitting on a bean bag wondering whether to have Cornflakes again for dinner, “Ghost Town” streaming from an old YouTube playlist.

Tell MeEmma Swift (49 Goodbyes, In The Pines)
Jessica Lea MayfieldTell Me
There’s no doubt 2011 has been a great year for twang. Emmylou Harris’ Hard Bargain and Lucinda Williams’ Blessed both made high rotation on the Swift Stereo early in the year. Jim Lauderdale’s Reason & Rhyme and Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive – I yearn to give you a bunch of gushing superlatives but we just don’t have enough word count. And Gillian Welch! If I owned Harrow & The Harvest on vinyl I would have worn out the grooves by now. Of course, looking at this little list thus far, it would seem that the life assessment I said/slurred to my pal Dobe over a few white wines last week still rings true – “Musically, I’m just a middle-aged man trapped in the body of an almost 30 year old woman.” However, if I’m wanting to fight this … Am I wanting to fight this? No, I don’t give a damn at all really. But if I’m looking to give Timber and Steel readers a heads up on something that’s younger, cooler and still blowing my tiny mind after almost ten months of non-stop play, Jessica Lea Mayfield’s Tell Me is brilliant, assured, sexy as fuck and has been criminally overlooked in Australia. If I were Santa, I’d be putting it in Christmas stockings the world over.

Yo-Yo Ma Takes on Bluegrass

Yo-Yo Ma
Image Courtesy of Yo-Yo Ma

Acclaimed classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma has decided to dip his toe into the folk pond with his latest release The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Described as “genre-defying” The Goat Rodeo Sessions teams Yo-Yo Ma with a pretty impressive group of musicians – classical bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolinist from the Punch Brothers Chris Thile and Bluegrass fiddle legend Stuart Duncan – and the result is something pretty unique. Check out the track “Attaboy” below:

Not quite bluegrass, not quite celtic, not quite classical, The Goat Rodeo Sessions is all about musicians who love playing music together. A couple of tracks also feature the divine Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still) on vocals making this a pretty all-star recording. Yo-Yo Ma and co have already put a bunch of “behind the scenes” videos online (including the one below) and have been all over late night US TV.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions is available now. For more information check out Yo-Yo Ma’s official website.

Timber and Steel First: 2011/12 Woodford Folk Festival Lineup

Image Courtesy of the Woodford Folk Festival

Timber and Steel is proud (and just a little bit excited) to be among the first to bring you the 2011/12 Lineup for the Woodford Folk Festival.

The theme for this year’s Woodford Folk Festival – held from the 27th December to the 1st January in Woodfordia, QLD – is “Pieces of the Puzzle” which focuses on the idea that we all contribute to making this world a better place. And with a lineup like this, it looks like Woodford are doing just that. So let’s get into it shall we:

De Pedro
Cloud Control
Xavier Rudd
Tinpan Orange
Eagle and the Worm
Owl Eyes
The Herd
Jesca Hoop (USA)
Andy Bull
Daily Meds
Jordie Lane
The Red Eyes
Graveyard Train
Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro
Sticky Fingers
Band of Frequencies
Buffy Sainte-Marie
Busby Marou
The Bakery
The Ninth Chapter
Charlie Mayfair
Tuba Skinny (USA)
The Medics
Crooked Still (USA)
Daniel Champagne
Danny Widdicombe
Die Roten Punkte
Skipping Girl Vinegar
Faux Pas
Frank Yamma
Swamp Thing (NZ)
Haitus Koiyote
Hugo and Treats
Jack Carty
Jamie MacDowell & Tom Thum
The Sunshine Brothers
Jess Beck
John Flanagan and The Begin Agains
Lola the Vamp, Rita Fontaine, Flavella L’Amour,
Lucy Wise and The B’Gollies
Sol Nation
Sue Ray
Dougie Maclean (SCOT)
Tim Edey & Brendan Power (IRE/NZ)
More Fiddles Than Frocks
Andre Soler
Amelia Curran (CAN)
David Myles (CAN)
DJ Mike Ford
Elixer (feat. Katie Noonan)
Dachambo (JAP)
Monsieur Camembert
Kira Puru & The Bruise
My Friend The Chocolate Cake
Sherman Downey & The Silver Lining
The Transylvaniacs
Brothers Grim
Charlie A’Court (CAN)
Genevieve Chadwick
Joe Robinson
Pugsley Buzzard
Invisible Friend
The Old Spice Boys
The Re-Mains
Benny Walker

Pretty impressive right? There are far too many names there that we’re excited about to list each individually but lets just say that we can’t wait for New Year!

Crooked Still Celebrate 10 Year Anniversary with New EP

Crooked Still
Image Courtesy of Crooked Still

It’s amazing to think that new-grass pioneers Crooked Still have been playing together for a decade considering how fresh their sound still is. But it was in the latter half of 2001 when the band first took to the stage (with their version of “Darling Corey”) and they haven’t looked back since.

To celebrate the milestone Crooked Still will be releasing a 7-song EP on the 25th October titled Friends of Fall. The EP will feature the band’s take on songs by the Beatles, Paul Simon and John Hartford as well as original pieces and a musical adaptation of a Wendell Berry poem. If you head over to Cover Lay Down they’re lucky enough to have a stream of the band’s version of “We Can Work It Out” from Friends of Fall.

Crooked Still will also be touring through the US until the end of the year, after which they’ll be taking a year off touring in 2012 – an announcement that doesn’t quite rule out the rumours we’ve been hearing of a second 2011 Australian visit by the band to play at a certain end of year festival. More news as it comes to hand.

The 35 Hour Blue Mountains Music Festival Experience

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

The Blue Mountains Music Festival proved to be a wonderfully muddy, musical and maniacal affair, distilling the best of the recent spate of touring artists and presenting the crème de la crème in a perfectly rainy setting. Timber and Steel ventured through the mist to Katoomba on Saturday morning to catch 48 hours of the festival. What ensued was the most rain and most music we’d ever seen in such a short space. Welcome to our Blue-Mountains-Music-Festival-in-35-hours review. Enjoy!


11:30am @ The Big Top – Fiddlers Feast
Fiddlers Feast
The weekend started at the Big Top. The rain at this point was a light drizzle and everyone’s spirits were high. Fiddlers Feast were a band we’d heard a lot about but hadn’t had the chance to see before. We were pleasantly surprised by their folk-jazz fusion and wonderful stage presence.
Fiddlers Feast are the perfect festival band. Their collection of fiddle tunes, folk-jazz improvisations and reconstructed pop tunes is exactly what an audience is looking for on a Saturday morning. We were particularly impressed with the way Fiddlers Feast managed to utilise their three violinists in a way that was complimentary without being overpowering. The highlight of the set would have been their jazz-folk cover of “Downunder” by Men at Work, proving the song still has legs after its high rotation on the playlists of “classic hits” radio stations

1:30pm @ The Blue Room – The Little Stevies
Regular readers of Timber and Steel would know that The Little Stevies are a band dear to our heart. After grabbing a quick lunch we ran over to the Blue Room at Katoomba’s RSL club only to be confronted with a massive line. We dutifully stood behind the last hopeful punter when word came down that the gig was full and they were only letting people in on a one-out-one-in basis. Considering we’d seen the guys before and that they were playing two more times at the festival we decided to try our luck in a different venue.

1:30pm @ The RSL Pavilion – Alan Kelly Quartet
The first stage we stumbled upon after missing out on The Little Stevies gig was the RSL Pavilion where the wonderful Alan Kelly Quartet were displaying their mastery of traditional Irish music. We’d previously caught Kelly and co at WOMADelaide and their set here was very similar to what we’d heard before – which is not a bad thing considering just how good the band are.
What was a lovely change from WOMADelaide was to see people dancing to Kelly’s music. Traditional Irish music is, at its heart, dance music and that was a little lost in Adelaide due to the “sit down stage” policy. There were no such restrictions at the Blue Mountains Music Festival and the audience took full advantage of the fact, leaping and jumping to the music.
While we had seen Kelly’s set a few times before we were particularly impressed with his last set of tunes which he announced as the “Galway Reels” – they just seemed to zing in the surroundings of the Pavilion Stage.

2:15pm @ The Guinness Stage – Graveyard Train
Graveyard Train
From Alan Kelly it was over to the Guinness Stage (ironically set in the middle of a school) to catch the horror-country stylings of Melbourne’s Graveyard Train. We’ve been recommended Graveyard Train several times before as a possible Timber and Steel feature artist but from their recorded work we could never tell whether they were a serious artist or not. After seeing them live we’re still not sure.
The MC announced Graveyard Train as a band who like to sing “songs about death” which was probably the prefect description. With a collection of instruments including a coffin shaped washboard and chains hit with a hammer as percussion (seriously), Graveyard Train had both the “horror” and “country” elements of their bio covered. Their vocals were embedded permanently in the lower register and the themes running through their songs were decidedly morbid – the entire performance felt a little like the sound track to a really depressing Western.
We walked away a little confused, very entertained and unexplainably sad. Graveyard Train definitely need further examination

3:45pm @ The Guinness Stage – The Cottars
Canada and Australia share a very similar history so it’s no surprise that both countries produce some really fine traditional music. The Cottars are a four piece hailing from the Cape Breton region in Nova Scotia, an area steeped in the Celtic tradition.
The Cottars had a lovely dynamic on stage, deftly moving from sets of tunes to Gaelic ballads to original compositions and back again with ease. Their relative youth (normally when you think of traditional music you think of elderly men in pubs pumping out the same old tunes on squeeze boxes and fiddles) did nothing to diminish their obvious affection for the music. Fiona MacGillivray on whistle, bodhran, keys and vocals was a particular standout in what was a group of standouts – the way she lost herself in the music was amazing.
The standout tune from The Cottars’ set would have been their version of “The Rights of Man”, a very common piece among lovers of trad given a new lease of life in the hands of these young performers

4:15pm @ The RSL Pavilion – Leah Flanagan
Racing from the Guinness Stage where The Cottars were playing we made a quick stop at the Pavilion Stage to catch a few songs from our favourite Territorian Leah Flanagan.
The wonderful thing about the way that Leah sings is just how much warmth and love she brings to her audience. Even with cold rain falling around us we were transported to the warmth of Mindle Beach Markets during her gorgeous track “September Song”, giving us strength to battle the weather onto our favourite venue of the entire festival, the Cabaret Room at The Clarendon Guesthouse.

4:30pm @ The Cabaret Room at The Clarendon Guesthouse – Busby Marou
Busby Marou
When we got to the Clarendon to hear Rockhampton locals Busby Marou we were greeted with a massive line and a “full house” sign. Luckily, being the canny operators we are, we managed to snaffle a couple of comfy seats right outside the door so at least we were able to listen to the boys do their thing.
About halfway through the set a couple of seats in the Cabaret Room became free and we managed to sneak in and sit down. Busby Marou had been touring for so long they had decided to let their road manager and “merch guy” pick the set list at risk of it becoming “boring”. The result was a lovely mix of songs from their album and EPs as well as a few cracking covers (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “My Island Home” included) and unrecorded songs which had a real sense of fun and spontaneity.
What I loved most about this gig was just how relaxed it was. Towards the end of the show Jeremy Marou’s guitar pickup batteries started to give way which saw the boys deftly swapping instruments mid song (so Marou could solo) without missing a beat and even meant the audience was treated to a purely acoustic version of their track “Konomie”.

5:45pm @ The Big Top – Tony McManus
We’d heard so many good things about celtic guitarist Tony McManus that we just had to see him to believe the hype. We definitely weren’t disappointed after being presented with a musician who is not only a master guitarist but also a consummate performer.
Watching McManus move over his guitar was like watching water move over rapids. His affinity with the instrument was absolutely amazing with McManus being equally adept at instrumental works and vocal-guitar songs. When he broke into a Celtic cover of “What a Wonderful World” we were absolutely lost in his talent.

7pm @ The Guinness Stage – The Little Stevies
After seeing Tony McManus we had every plan on seeing The Little Stevies at the Guinness tent. But the rain had decided to pick up and we thought it was wise to use this time to duck back to where we were staying, grab some warmer, more waterproof clothes before heading back to the festival for the rest of the night. Besides, we’d no doubt catch The Little Stevies at their Clarendon gig on Sunday.

9pm @ The Big Top – Katie Noonan
A happy coincidence saw us get back to the festival, freshly rugged up and water proofed, to catch one of the last performances of Katie Noonan with her band The Captains. All the rain had seen a speaker blow at the Big Top Stage pushing all the acts there out by half an hour and allowing us to find a seat, get cosy and catch the majority of Noonan’s gig.
If you’ve been unlucky enough to not catch Katie Noonan in one of her various incarnations over the years then that’s a real shame. Her music has this wonderfully intelligent, haunting quality that you really don’t see with any other contemporary acts. The Captains were just the perfect backing band, matching Noonan perfectly as she moved through a repertoire of newer and older tracks. We were particularly impressed when Noonan whipped out an iPod full of notes so she could sing a song she had written just five days prior. The Captains may be going on hiatus but Katie Noonan shows no signs of slowing down.

10:30pm @ The Guinness Stage – The Waifs
The Waifs
Finishing up Saturday night was Australia’s favourite folk trio (Quartet? Quintet?) The Waifs. Rather than bombard the crowd with new music The Waifs had decided treat us to a selection of their “greatest hits”. Starting with the one-two punch of “Bridal Train” and “London Still” the audience were in full voice as the band made their way through their back catalogue,
After the first couple of songs Donna admitted to the crowd that “this is a folky set – sorry if you felt like dancing”, a sentiment that was completely ignored by the audience as they jumped up and down to every recognisable chord. Even the slower songs (like “Sun, Dirt, Water”) were greeted with shrills of recognition and the appreciative movement of dancing bodies.
This is exactly what we love about The Waifs. Despite having a raft of new material that they’re been spruiking to crowds as part of their current national tour they knew the audience at the Blue Mountains Music Festival perfectly and catered to their every whim. By the time they launched into “Crazy Train” about two thirds of the way into the set we knew that there was no better way to end our Saturday night.


9:30am @ The Guinness Stage – Poets Breakfast
The traditional way to start Sunday morning at any folk festival is, of course, the poets breakfast. The traditional way for Timber and Steel to start a Sunday morning is with a strong coffee and a bacon and roll. So we decided to mash up both traditions and catch the early risers at the Guinness Stage for some poetry, breakfast and coffee in hand.
We won’t pretend to know any of the poets (so we won’t try and name them here) but we did recognise quite a number of the poems. There’s something wonderful about a Poets Breakfast that reminds you just how much poetry is a part of the folk tradition and it’s alive and well within the scene.

11:30am @ The Blue Room – Busby Marou
Obviously we’d seen half of Busby Marou’s set the day before but we love these guys so much that we thought they were worth not only a second look but a review of an entire set.
Looking a little worse for wear after a late night session in The Clarendon the night before, Thomas and Jeremy ambled on stage in their usual laidback manner. We’d made sure we’d gotten to the Blue Room nice and early so that we didn’t miss out and we weren’t disappointed nabbing a spot right at the front.
Despite the hangovers (and with morning beer in hand) Busby Marou delivered yet another amazing set. Jeremy Marou was experiencing the same guitar issues as the day before (despite replacing his pick-up batteries) but was saved by the lovely Leah Flanagan who offered up her instrument instead.
Jeremy Marou is without a doubt one of the best guitarists we have ever seen. Watching his control and ability over the instrument we felt overly apologetic for ever assuming the man was just a ukulele player. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see Marou popping up in master-guitarist workshops in future festivals – he’s that good.
Obviously we’ve spent more than a few words gushing over Busby Marou in this review but they were seriously the highlight of the festival. If you haven’t seen them you have to – their track “Underlying Message” is worth the price of admission alone.

12:30pm @ The RSL Pavilion – Band of Brothers
Band of Brothers consists of two sets of brothers: Slava and Leonard Grigoryan and Joseph and James Tawadros. And they’re in a band. Hence the name. But that’s where the simplicity ends because these guys are truly masters at what they do.
The performance at the Pavilion Stage began with just the Tawadros boys on oud and req’, filling the tent with a dazzling array of Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms. As the audience delivered a thunderous applause at the end of the first piece we knew that the boys were already a hit. But when they were joined by classical guitar virtuosos the Grigoryan brothers the performance was taken to a new level.
Swapping between a quartet and various duet incarnations Band of Brothers were an education in musical mastery. The only tune of theirs I recognised was wonderfully twisted version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” but that didn’t matter – the music was so wonderfully enchanting it had us jumping to our feet in spontaneous applause after each tune.

2pm @ The RSL Pavilion – Crooked Still
Crooked Still
Crooked Still were probably the band we most anticipated seeing at The Blue Mountains Music Festival. We’d discovered them only recently thanks to a combination of their Australian tour announcement and their version of “Ain’t No Grave” appearing on the True Blood soundtrack so we were keen to see how their brand of strings-based bluegrass translated to the live arena.
All of Crooked Still’s press billed them as “nu-folk” or even “nu-bluegrass” but after seeing them perform we would have to say that they’re just pure out and out bluegrass. The “nu” tag probably comes from their unconventional instrumentation (in particular the cello) but their sound is very much rooted in the tradition.
The performance delivered by Crooked Still was an absolute joy. Mixing originals, traditionals and a heavy dose of bluegrass-ified covers (including the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” sounding like it was born in the Appalachians) Crooked Still’s was instantly appealing to everyone in the audience no matter what their age. We’re really glad we managed to catch the band although after the response they got they’ll no doubt be back in the country sooner rather than later.

4:30pm @ The Cabaret Room at The Clarendon Guesthouse – The Little Stevies
Having missed out on two Little Stevies shows at the festival so far we were determined to catch the band in their final slot at the Clarendon. We did everything in our power to do so getting their over half an hour early to secure a seat. But upon arrival we were greeted with yet another line and yet another full house sign. It appeared that the crowd from the band before (Pacific Curls) had decided to stay put for The Little Stevies meaning no one else could get in.
While it was disappointing for us the full festival shows can only be good for a band like The Little Stevies. Maybe next year we’ll see them exclusively on the bigger stages.

4:45pm @ The Blue Room – TinPan Orange
Missing out on The Little Stevies did mean that we managed to catch the whole performance from fellow Melbourne act TinPan Orange. TinPan are a band we’ve been following for a long time on Timber and Steel but, surprisingly, one we’ve never seen before. Talking to guitarist Jesse Lubitz in the bar the night before we were promised a show very different to what we’d heard on their recorded material and it appears that we were rewarded with just that.
The TinPan Orange is wonderfully stripped back and organic in comparison to the band’s recordings. The addition of keys (performed by Gideon Preiss of Husky fame) filled out the trio’s sound wonderfully without overpowering their understated, folky sound.
TinPan Orange may be officially a “band” but this is really the Emily Lubitz show. Lubitz is the perfect front woman – charming, disarming and beautiful. When introducing one song she admitted “I can be moody. It’s good for song writing, a dynamic life. It’s ok though, I’m in a good mood today” instantly getting the audience onside while giving us a window into her life. Jesse, Alex and Gideon did a wonderful job of supporting Emily (although at times Alex’s violin and electric mandolin were a little too muted in the mix) proving why TinPan Orange captured our attention in the first place.

5:45pm @ The Guinness Stage – Mama Kin
Mama Kin was probably the act getting the most buzz around the festival all weekend and rightly so. Their brand of bluesy folk connected with the audience at The Guinness stage as the rain pelted down and we warmed ourselves with cups of hot chocolate and mulled wine. Danielle Caruana’s onstage presence is a force to be reckoned with and I think we enjoyed the stories between the songs just as much as the music itself.
The rise to prominence for Mama Kin over the last year or so has been pretty fast and now we can see why they are the band of choice for festivals and support slots around the country. Mama Kin are a highly polished live act that have perfected the art of on stage effortlessness – we’re really looking forward to seeing where they take their sound from here.

6:30pm @ The RSL Pavilion – Justin Townes Earl
Justin Townes Earl
Ok, now we get it. The last artist on Blue Mountains Music Festival was Justin Townes Earl, a favourite among the Timber and Steel team but someone this reviewer hadn’t spent much time investigating. But that’s all changed now after this performance. Justin Townes Earl was quite simply amazing.
Loping on stage with fiddle player in tow Earl bent into his mic and announced “It’s early” in his southern drawl before launching into a set of pitch perfect American folk. If ever a man was the true bearer of Woody Guthrie’s legacy then Justin Townes Earl is it. Somehow he has taken this old folk singing form and made it modern and relevant without changing a single thing.
We sat enraptured for the entire performance, hanging on Earl’s every word and really feeling his music deep down inside. He admitted about halfway through the set he was struggling to rein in his language as there were children in the audience and even quipped “I don’t know why I’m tuning this, it’s the blues” after taking some time out to adjust his guitar.
Our highlight would have been his rendition of “Christchurch Woman”, a song he said he normally dedicates to the woman in the song but would instead dedicate it to the people of Christchurch. As the rain had well and truly set in outside the Pavilion tent we couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up what had been an awesome festival.

Overall a fantastic affair. It was frustrating not being able to get into every band we wanted to (The Little Stevies know we still love them) but we should take comfort in the fact that so many people were willing to brave the weather to catch some wonderful folk music. The festival grounds were a mud ball by the end of the weekend but no one seemed to mind – we were there for the music and it was the music we’ll remember.

Here’s to another fantastic Blue Mountains Music Festival in 2012.

Brunswick Music Festival This March

Lolo Lovina
Image Courtesy of Lolo Lovina

When you think about a folk festival you usually imagine driving to a normally sleepy country or coastal town, setting up a tent on a field somewhere and joining a temporary community of people who are all in the same place for one thing – fantastic live music. All of the major folk festivals, from Woodford to Port Fairy to Blue Mountains, are regional affairs. Even the National Folk Festival is held north of Canberra and one doesn’t have to venture into the urban environment at all to be part of it.

And this is what makes the Brunswick Music Festival different. Set up on Sydney Road in Melbourne’s Brunswick, the Brunswick Music Festival truly is an urban affair, making it one of the biggest (if not the biggest) city-based folk festivals in Australia.

This year the festival, now in it’s 23rd year, will be held from the 16th to the 27th March. The list of artists is pretty impressive and includes the likes of Crooked Still, Tony McManus, Andy Irvine, The Alan Kelly Quartet, Lolo Lovina, Flap!, Eric Bogle, Judy Small, Leah Flanagan, Shane Nicholson, Ted Egan, Vika and Linda Bull and the WooHoo Revue, just to name a few.

Details on the full lineup, playing times and tickets to the various shows can be found on the official Brunswick Music Festival web site. If you’re in Victoria or can get to Melbourne while the festival is on we think it will be well worth a look.

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