JamGrass “On The Road” Interview: The Rusty Spring Syncopators

The Rusty Spring Syncopators
Image Courtesy of The Rusty Spring Syncopators

On Saturday 3rd August progressive bluegrass and jamband festival JamGrass is hosting its first ever “On The Road” show in Sydney at the Red Rattler Theatre. We thought we’d chat to some of the bands involved in JamGrass Sydney about the explosion of the jamband scene and the important part JamGrass plays in that scene.

Next up: J. B. Latime from eclectic Sydney band The Rusty Spring Syncopators.

Gareth Hugh Evans: JamGrass Sydney has a pretty special lineup – how are you feeling in the leadup to the event?

J. B. Latime: Gee, it’s really some lineup! We’re already big fans of The Morrisons who we always see ripping it up down at the Corridor Bar in Newtown, and The Green Mohair Suits are freaking amazing too. Haven’t heard much stuff from the other bands but it should be a really great mix

GHE: What can we expect from your set? Any special guests we can have the scoop on?

JBL: A whole bunch of freaky old songs – blues, rags, hillbilly, novelties and a lot of foot-stomping. We’re hoping to get some dancing going too – we really go nuts when there’s dancing. And we might have our friend Eirwen Skye belt out a few tunes with us too. All in all it’ll be a loose and vulgar display that will be guaranteed to loosen morals and drive honest folk to hard drugs.

GHE: What do you think it is about bluegrass/alt-country/jam music that has captured the collective consciousness of Australia’s cities? It seems to be everywhere at the moment.

JBL: I think it’s the utter simplicity and realness of this music which makes it so universal and beloved. The mainstream music scene on the other hand is really chock-full of mindlessly manufactured shit, and I think there has been (and to some degree has always been) a big reaction to this Voice/Idol fakeness. And banjos. Kids these days love them banjos.

GHE: How important do you think events like Jamgrass – where this type of music is celebrated in urban environments – are to celebrating and developing the bluegrass/alt-country/jam music scene?

JBL: Really damn important. Exposing folks to this music in a live setting is essential to keeping these scenes alive. It’s also a great chance for urban people who can’t make it to any of the annual folk festivals to see a great variety of this stuff.

GHE: After Jamgrass Sydney what’s next for the The Rusty Spring Syncopators?

JBL: After Jamgrass we’re probably going to take a little break from live shows so we can put together a record that has more then three songs on it (ie, our present CD). Following that we were thinking of finally heading down to Melbourne (and elsewhere!) for some shows … oh boy!

JamGrass “On The Road” Sydney takes place on Saturday the 3rd August at the Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville. For more information check out the official Facebook event here.

Artists For Sydney’s Folk Club This Wednesday 18th July

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens
Image Courtesy of Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens have had a whirlwind year since we first came accross them at the 2011 National Folk Festival. There’s the release of the fantastic album Family Pets (which our reviewer described as “an album that I can happily lose myself in”), their quirky video for “Little Surprises”, a bunch of national radio play and the little matter of lead singer Julia Johnson winning a triple j Unearthed competition to attend Song Summit in May and be mentored by the likes of Gotye, Adalita and, um, Joel Madden. We’re just so chuffed that things are on the up and up for these guys – they definitely deserve it!

If you live in Sydney then you’re lucky enough to be given the chance to see Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens at this Wednesday’s Folk Club. The Canberran folkies are making their way interstate just for your entertainment in a night that is not to be missed. Regulars The Falls are taking a much needed break from the stage (I’m sure they’re super busy with their EP almost ready to launch) so filling their shoes will be the remarkable one-woman-band that is Eirwen Skye. The third act is yet to be announced but given the quality acts already confirmed for the night you know it’s going to be a fantastic gig.

Folk Club kicks off around 8pm on Wednesday night at the Oxford Art Factory’s Gallery Bar in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Entry is free (although tips for the bands are greatly apprciated) and the night will be hosted by the incomparable Emma Swift (from FBi Radio’s In The Pines). For more details make sure you check out the official Facebook Event here.

Review: The Maple Trail, The Vanguard, Sydney

The Maple Trail
Image Courtesy of The Maple Trail

The Maple Trail with Hot Spoke and Eirwen Skye
3rd May 2012, The Vanguard

The first time I saw Aiden Roberts, AKA The Maple Trail, it was in the tiny upstairs room at The Hive Bar in Erskineville as part of Shut The Folk Up. For that performance Roberts was in solo acoustic mode as was befitting the room. 18 months later and I find myself at The Vanguard to see The Maple Trail, this time in full band mode, launching his amazing new album Cable Mountain Warning and I can’t believe how far he’s come.

But before we get to the main act some words have to be dedicated to the opening acts.

The beginning of the night saw the welcome return to the Sydney stage of folk pixie Eirwen Skye. Fresh from a plane from Germany and complaining of (but not exhibiting) jet lag Skye dug deep into her impressive bag of musical tricks turning the stage into her own personal play ground. The loop pedal has become a staple for the singer-songwriter of late with everyone from Matt Corby to Josh Pyke dabbling in sampling but Eirwen Skye has it down to an art, creating an orchestra of sounds – with vocal, percusive, ukulele and recorder – to create wonderfuly quirky folk songs. We’re so happy to have her back – make sure you get out to see Skye at one of her upcoming dates.

Hot Spoke are not a band I am admittedly familiar with and as a lover of new live music I was anxious to see what they were like. A departure from the one-woman-band that is Eirwen Skye the Sydney four piece entertained the audience with their brand of folk-inspired rock. For those who have never seen Hot Spoke before I think the best comparison I could make is Fleetwood Mac with lead singer Vanessa Jade channeling Stevie Nicks both in dress and in voice. One thing I wish there was more of was between song banter. Despite delivering an energetic performance during the songs the lack any engagement with the audience between songs along with the only time they mentioned their name being a mumbled comment right at the end of the set (I had to look up The Vanguard web site to make sure I’d caught it correctly) meant I felt disconnected and ultimately unsatisfied with the set. Hopefully this can be a lesson to other bands in support slots – make sure the audience at least knows who you are.

The Maple Trail, on this night a revolving cast of musicians with Aiden Roberts front and centre, began their (his?) set with a Jimmy-Page style bowed guitar and steady folk-rock jam. Taking queues from American and celtic folk as well as rock and pop The Maple Trail diligently made their way through the material on Cable Mountain Warning proving that it’s just as wonderful live as it is recorded. I did wish Roberts’ voice was a little more front and centre in the mix on the night because his Nick Drake-like delivery on the album is easily one of favourite things about it – but this is such a minor quibble and I enjoyed the performance immensely.

Cable Mountain Warning features so many amazing artists on guest duties and The Maple Trail were able to wrangle a number of these for the performance last Thursday night – both Caitlin Park and Brian Campeau (who I suspect lives at The Vanguard, I see him perform there so often) stepped up for vocal duties and Robert’s long time collaborator John Kaldor was on hand for most of the set. There was also a guest appearance from Bayden Hine (Packwood) on the final song, matching his five string banjo with the six string version played by The Maple Trail’s resident plucker as well as a viola player whose name escaped me but who added such a richness to the traditional Gaelic piece Roberts performed halfway through the set.

The influences on The Maple Trail’s music are obviously very diverse but his love of celtic music really shone through during the set. Whether it be the aforementioned song in Gaelic, the melodies of songs like “Sailors Voice” or the fact that a bodhran featured heavily towards the end of the night, Roberts wears his love of trad on his sleeve. Not to say the night was an all-Celtic affair – there was just as much (if not more) rock and roll emanating from the stage throughout the set.

Towards the end of show Aiden Roberts announced that we were “not going to see this again for some time” hinting that The Maple Trail would be put to bed while he focused on other projects. I feel blessed to have caught one of the only performances The Maple Trail have given to support Cable Mountain Warning and I encourage anyone who didn’t manage to catch him (them?) live to pick up this amazing CD. I loved The Maple Trail as a solo act when I first saw them but having the full band just took the music to another level – I can’t wait to see where else Roberts goes next on his musical journey.

Jane Aubourg and Eirwen Skye at The Gaelic Club (Upstairs)

Jane Aubourg
Image Courtesy of Jane Aubourg

Sydneysiders are probably not aware that The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills, the home of the city’s Irish National association, is home to some of most exciting folk, celtic, acoustic and contemporary music around. Not to be confused with its downstairs cousin, the famous Gaelic Hotel, The Gaelic Club has been looking beyond its regular trad sessions and dance workshops to showcase up and coming talent on Friday and Saturday nights.

This Friday is the perfect example of The Gaelic Club’s new commitment to live music with two stunning artists lining up to take the stage.

Jane Aubourg (above) is an exciting solo violinist who uses digital effects and loop pedals to create her unique sound. Taking her inspiration from all over the musical spectrum seeing Aubourg has been described as an orchestral experience.

When Eirwen Skye played Shut The Folk Up! in May our reveiwer described her performance as “thickly rich emotive music, layered skilfully like a wedding cake”. Another fan of the loop pedal, Skye combines elements of folk, classical, blues and jazz to create her own brand of the singer songwriter.

The show starts at 9pm and is just $15 at the door. And this is just a taste of what The Gaelic Club (Upstairs) has to offer over the coming months and we’ll be sure to spotlight the best on offer.

Review: Shut The Folk Up! Feat. Eirwen Skye, Billygoat and the Mongrels, The Green Mohair Suits, The Ryhmer From Ryde and Ron-G-Flex

Eirwen Skye
Image Courtesy of Eirwen Skye

Shut The Folk Up! feat. Eirwen Skye, Billygoat and the Mongrels, The Green Mohair Suits, The Ryhmer From Ryde and Ron-G-Flex
26th May 2011, Hive Bar

Strangers linked arm in arm, open throats inviting additions to the rich cacophony of “CC Rider” bellowed mellowly across the inviting yellow sooth of the Hive Bar’s second floor by The Green Mohair Suits and Billygoat and the Mongrels. Girls atop the benches with hands at a height for hallelujah, dictating the rhythm of the room with a sway lazier then a Sunday morning. The sweet harmony and melody accompanied, equally overwhelming and welcoming, flooded over the folk club like ripples in a rock pool amidst a sea of kind kisses.

Though we never saw the folk revival of the 60’s and 70’s, and were not alive to witness the end of the Vietnam War or the celebrations that sung its closure on the streets, on record and within the tightly knit folk clicks that litter history, last night we had our own momentous folk moment.

As two bands melted together, harmonies embracing like the strangers all around, mandolin, accordion, bass, banjo, harmonica and guitar casting a warm web around the crowd, allowing vocals to roar, eyes to close and bodies to sway.

Upon completion, in abundance there lay a unity and understanding of the power and potential of community and of music. Shut the Folk UP as never before as our ascending generation of folk musicians were carefully handed the blessings of folkies long gone, with the greatest gift music can bring, unity.

Pardon my hyperbole.

Let’s start from the start. For nights to end on such a high there needs to be a flow and rhythm that prepares the universe for such swell and it started with Eirwen Skye. Draping lighted flower bulbs around her mic stand, this folk pixie delivered thickly rich emotive music, layered skilfully like a wedding cake. She wove guitar loops around each other, like schoolyard braids, adding percussion to link these loops to a heartbeat of rhythm. Her vocals then took hold as feathers on the breeze, painting her narratives effortlessly, filling the dimly lit room with soaring strokes of melodies and sweetly rich, edible harmonies.

To return things back to the word and the rhyme, we then turned to the one and only Rhymer from Ryde. A well known bush poet on the circuit, The Rhymer rhymed his way through a tight set of emotive and comical narratives. Dancing around his microphone, keeping the audience primed for his couplets, The Rhymer reminded Shut the Folk UP of the craft of bush poetry and why our man from Ryde is number one. Jumping from classical, war stained verse to laconic social commentary, from empathetic retellings of natural disasters to out and out humour, The Rhymer from Ryde entertained as a true professional. Our first Bush Poet at Shut the Folk UP, but hopefully not our last.

Next up we had one of Sydney’s best bands, Billygoat and the Mongrels. Fresh from a hiatus where the group worked in the studio, the band and the front man were in blistering form. Billygoat flooded the upstairs with his heartfelt bellow, pounding through a set of classic country covers from the likes of Hank Williams and Bob Dylan as well as the tragic and the life affirming originals he is known for. The two acoustic guitars and acoustic bass traded perfectly in the warm heart of folk club, with soundman Dave “Maddog” Perram layering mindful slide guitar across Billygoat’s purposeful strumming, anchored safely in the arms of the bass. Ending with a sing along that warmly warned of things to come, Billygoat and the Mongrels allowed the crowd to open their throats widely to the music, enticing life to pour forth in audible bites of epic delight.

Ron-G-Flex, the one and only, grabbed the mic soon after. A man known on the scene for the screaming reality and honesty of his poetry, Ron took hold with poems rich in experience, delivered like a final burst of life at first light of Sunday morning, with empty pockets and wild ideas. The crowd baited him and he delivered with poetry rich in wit and wordplay. A man of vocabulary he flooded the room with the bold and brash, upfront repetition of the confrontational, making room between verses to let it wash hot and cold across the room. Daring and unapologetic, Ron-G-Flex returned to the poetry scene with the bravado of language, subject matter and execution he is lauded for.

Finally, as the crowd swelled to capacity we brought forth the feather in the folk cap, the one and only ethereal The Green Mohair Suits. Tapping back into Hank Williams the four piece, huddled tightly about the lone microphone at centre stage, opened their perfectly tuned throats to deliver their achingly pure and beautiful rendition of “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry”. The applause that followed was deafening, an applause equal in wonder and appreciation. There was something magic that surrounded the bluegrass band, as, along with the four mesmerising voices, there was an air of inclusiveness and fun throughout the set that acted as a magnet to draw band and audience closer together. As the members took turns to sing lead the crowd was exposed to each vocalist’s charms and enchantments, which, when layered atop one another became a treacle sweet sonic treat of harmonies and resonance.

As the night drew to a close Billygoat and the Mongrels jumped onto the crowded stage alongside the applauded The Green Mohair Suits for their blistering rendition of “CC Rider”. For everyone who was there, they took home a special gift of folk which they may remember forever, for those who were not there, return to the top of the page.

Shut The Folk Up! Artists for May

The Green Mohair Suits
Image Courtesy of The Green Mohair Suits

After such a successful April edition one had to wonder how Sydney’s favourite folk club Shut The Folk Up! was going to follow up this month. Well it looks like Cj Shaw and the crew have come through with yet another night of fun, folk and poetry that’s sure to please.

On the music side we have Eirwen Skye, Billygoat and the Mongrels (who we’re pretty sure features Mr Cj Shaw himself) and The Green Mohair Suits (above). The music will be deftly accompanied by poetry from Australian bush poet legend The Ryhmer From Ryde and the hard hitting Ron-G-Flex.

Shut The Folk Up! will, as always, take place at The Hive Bar in Erskineville on the final Thursday of the month (which is the 26th of May for those not mathematically or calendary inclined). Love folk? Shut The Folk Up!

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