First Artist Announcement for the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2018

Port Fairy
Image Courtesy of Port Fairy Folk Festival

With early bird tickets just about to go on sale for the 2018 Port Fairy Folk Festival, Victoria’s premiere folk even have just released a huge swathe of artists for first announcement.

Firstly the Port Fairy Folk Festival will be showcasing two very specical performances of Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia featuring performances from Troy Cassar-Daley (AUS), Declan O’Rourke (IRE), Shane Howard (AUS), Pauline Scanlon (IRE), Andy Irvine (IRE), John Spillane (IRE), Leah Flanagan (AUS), Lynnelle Moran (AUS), John McSherry (IRE) and an eight piece band of traditional musicians.

Along with the artists announced as part of Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia the Port Fairy Folk Festival has also added a bunch of other performers for 2018 including Alan Kelly Gang (IRE), The Band Who Knew Too Much, Chris While & Julie Matthews (UK), Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys (CAN), Harry Manx (CAN), Nano Stern (Chile), Rebecca Barnard, Steve Poltz (USA), The Topp Twins (NZ), The Ahern Brothers, The Brothers Comatose (USA), Faith I Branko (Serbia/UK), Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, Jack Broadbent (UK), Mental As Anything, The Mexicans, Sophie Koh & Her Lady Choir, The Teskey Brothers and YolanDa Brown (UK).

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to full Port Fairy lineup so expect a bunch more announcements over the coming months.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is held in Port Fairy, Victoria from the 9th to the 12th March. For more information check out the official site here.

Full Lineup Announced for the 2015/16 Woodford Folk Festival

Woodford
Image Courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

Over the weekend the Woodford Folk Festival revealed their 2015/16 lineup and it’s time to get excited. As usual the Woodford Folk Festival have delivered a lineup of artists taken from the best of folk, roots, rock and world music that’s bound to satisfy any music lover.

If you head to Woodford over the New Year period you’ll get a chance to see the likes of Dougie Maclean, Michael Franti, Harry Manx, The East Pointers, Irish Mythen, Marlon Williams, Kim Churchill, Lanie Lane, Josh Pyke, Katie Noonan, The Paper Kites, Tinpan Orange, Timberwolf, Jacinta Price, Tolka, Starboard Cannons, Davidson Brothers, Lucie Thorne & Hamish Stuart, Hat Fitz & Cara, Broads, Andrew Clermont, Catgut, Lime and Steel, One Up, Two Down, Kaurna Cronin, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Loren Kate, Totally Gourdgeous, The Little Stevies, Daniel Champagne and many more.

The Woodford Folk Festival takes place near Woodford, Queensland from the 27th December to 1st January. Check out the official website for the full lineup and more information.

Interview: Harry Manx on Tour in Australia

Harry Manx
Photos and Interview by Bill Quinn

Harry Manx, the ‘Mysticssippi’ blues man from Canada, a seamless blender of the East and West, has returned to Australia and is wending away around the country performing to audiences with great support from Yeshe Reiners.
Having interviewed him briefly at the National Folk Festival in Canberra in April (audio link at the end of this article), Bill Quinn managed to track Harry down on a rest break in Darwin.

Bill Quinn: Welcome back to Australia. It hasn’t been that long that you were here last. It was a surgical strike in April for Bluesfest and The National Folk Festival. Does it feel like you’ve been away for long?

Harry Manx: Well, I’m starting to really get used to Australia at this point, and feeling pretty much at home. And I’ve had some wonderful journeys on this trip.

BQ: What are some of the highlights of what you’ve done since you’ve been in the country this time?

HM: Well, I just came through Broome and Darwin for the first time. It’s very interesting to play to crowds who have never seen me before, and that went really good. The land up there is very spectacular. Before that I was in Perth, and Perth and Fremantle – that whole area – has always been good to me. We had a great crowd out at the Fly By Night there, so we’ve been having some fun.

BQ: When you go to the new areas, do you find that people are drawn to the idea of, “Here’s this Canadian blues guy coming to town”, or do they know more about you and the “East meets West”? What is it, do you think, that really sparks them?

HM: I guess there’s some people at these shows that have done some research and found out a little bit about me. It’s so easy to do that these days! It’s good, you can feel like you know the artist already by the time you get to the show. So they were pretty much into it and they were asking for songs, and I think that was a great thing that they had done some homework and knew who I was.

Harry Manx

BQ: I’ve looked at the rest of your tour schedule and it looks like a bit of a drunk wandering around the country; you’re doing a few loops, aren’t you?

HM: Yes, well, that would be my agent would be the drunk, then! He books them! People ask me where I’m playing and I say, “Well, I don’t know. I do pretty much what I’m told!”. Except when it comes to playing the guitar.

BQ: And you’re up there in Darwin taking a few days off. Are you getting to see a bit of the country?

HM: You know, when we have a day off, we don’t usually get out much and do things. It’s more like not doing much of anything and trying to catch up.
I’m working on some music for the Montreal Jazz Festival coming up in July and I’m putting together a show called ‘World Affairs’. So I have to work on music like that, and days off and beautiful places like this, they’re a real joy, so I’ve spent the day working on some of that stuff.

BQ: Now you’re up there with Yeshe [Reiners]; is he doing the full tour around Australia with you?

HM: He is, yeah, he’s been getting around the country with me and people have been enjoying him. He’s got a lovely record out, ‘Roots and Wings’, and he’s playing songs from that. But he joins me on stage and sits in for a few tunes and I like that combination of him and I; we have a lot of similarities.

BQ: I believe the next stop off for you is far northern Queensland; is that a place you’ve been to before?

Yeah, I think I’ve played in Cairns at the Tanks Art Centre maybe half a dozen times over the years, and it’s always been wonderful. I’m always fortunate to get to Cairns; it’s a lovely town. A nice bit of the tropics.

BQ: And I will ask you about Canberra where you’re coming back to; it’s a place you’ve played a few times, haven’t you?

HM: Yeah, and you know for many years I’ve played there and it seems like every time I’ve played there I’ve played a different place. I’m not sure why that is! The last occasion was great when I got to play at the National Folk Festival. That seems like a very wonderful event. And I think I’ve got a few good friends and fans around Canberra now, and I’m looking forward to getting back there.

BQ: They’ll look after you for sure at the Canberra Southern Cross Club, so we’ll look forward to seeing you there. Harry, thanks very much for your time.

HM: You too, I appreciate you doin’ this.

Harry’s remaining tour dates in Australia:
Friday 8 June – Tanks Art Centre, Cairns
Saturday 9 June – Riverway Arts Centre, Thuringowa
Tuesday 12 June – Notes, Newtown
Wednesday 13 June – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla
Thursday 14 June – Lizottes, Dee Why
Saturday 16 June – Heritage Hotel, Bulli
Sunday 17 June – Club Sapphire, Merimbula
Wednesday 20 June – Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden (ACT)
Saturday 23 June – The Palais, Hepburn Springs
Monday 25 June – Wellington Entertainment Centre, Sale
Tuesday 26 June – West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul
Wednesday 27 June –Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave
Thursday 28 June – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh
Friday 29 June – The Sound Lounge, Gold Coast
Saturday 30 June – Star Court Theatre, Lismore

Full details at harrymanx.com

Audio from interview in April at the National Folk Festival:

Review: Blue Mountains Music Festival

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

To start, an admission: I’m a terrible festival attendee. My handful of must-sees quickly gives way to a fickle drifting, distracted eyes and ears rarely attentive for a whole set. I’m also, as you’ll quickly discover, musically illiterate yet fascinated and enthralled by a language I don’t understand. Lyrically, I feel adept to make comment; instrumentally I flounder and use inappropriate and often incorrect words. You’ve been warned: what follows is a review of the beautiful Blue Mountains Folk, Roots and Blues Music Festival by a musical illiterate with a deep love and appreciation for what she hears.

Thanks to Timber and Steel’s Editor in Chief Evan Hughes plans to marry one of my oldest (very youthful) friends, the lovely Sarah Tuz, and my convenient home in the misty, mystical Blue Mountains, I’m writing my first review for Timber and Steel.

Like many fellow festival attendees, I spent the preceding week checking the weather forecast, anticipating a repeat of last year’s perpetual rain and shin-deep mud bath (not atypical in the Bluies). Yet I also knew, as you can read in Evan’s review of last year’s festival, that the residents of the Blue Mountains and those attending from afar, are resilient and undeterred by a bit of soggy trudging between venues, and well-equipped with assorted gumboots and waterproof parkas.

The seventeenth Blue Mountains Musical Festival was, as the program described, the usual motley affair of folk, roots, blues, latin, world, jazz, bluegrass, Indie, reggae, blessed with artists from the quirky, theatrical The Beez, to the determined and socially conscious Blue King Brown. Young local musicians such as the passionate young Claude Hay played just metres away from the iconic Judy Collins, tackling themes from the intimate to the comical to the political and everything in between.

A “favourite five” glimpse of what we saw:

Fred Smith and Liz Frencham

Fred Smith is a songwriter of 15 years. He’s also an Australian diplomat who has been posted to far corners of the earth – from Bouganville to Uruzgan. Skilfully, he combines these two personas as a master storyteller, conjuring hope, despair and laughter in his audience. I was suitably curious to see him on both Friday and Saturday evening.

Fred began his collaboration with the beautiful, cheeky, passionate Liz Frencham at the National Folk Festival in 2002. Liz on vocals and cello brought balance and intimacy to Smith’s performance on Friday night, enthralling the audience with her vivacious enjoyment of her instrument, balancing Fred’s dry humour with a distinctly feminine presence onstage. The evening mixed the political – such as “Blue Guitar”, reflecting on his time in the Solomon Islands, to the everyday and personal, such as “In My Room”.

Throughout Saturday evenings Dust of Uruzgan (the title of his new album) performance, Smith used a combination of story, song and multi-media to tell of his time posted in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan. What left the audience hopeful, despite his often tragic stories of distrust and fear, was Smith’s wry yet playful sense of humour, and his overt belief that in spite of the everyday horrors he witnessed, peace is still possible.

Liz Frencham and the rest of the band served as instruments by which Smith added life to his stories. Smith gave voice to the men and women of the armed forces in the province, describing the monotony of constant threat, the loss and death and ceaseless dust. It was not all bleak- from within the reality of war; Smith described uplifting friendships, a spot of ‘Schwafelen’ (brush up on your Dutch to translate this one) and plenty of laughter. A memorable and poignant experience.

Abigail Washburn and Kai Welch

Abigail Washburn’s sweet drawl and croaky laugh is just as compatible with Bluegrass as with traditional Chinese folk songs (hand gestures included). Vivacious, Nashville-based Washburn, complimented by co-writer and singing partner Kai Welch, blessed their Blue Mountains audience with some ramblin’ afternoon tunes, from the delicate “Dreams of Nectar” to the traditional Chinese folk song whose title (ironically for the weekend) translates ‘The Sun Has Come Out and we are so Happy’. Some soul-quietening, smile-delivering entertainment to bring in the Saturday evening.

My Friend the Chocolate Cake

Aptly described by our MC as ‘fizzy and effervescent pop’, My Friend the Chocolate Cake played us a range of tunes from their 21 years at the forefront of Australian Music.

Pianist and vocalist David Bridie started us on a melancholy note with “Strange Crumbs From the Suburban Fringe”, quickly swinging between the carnival and the cinematic in a set filled with songs you recognise but can’t quite place – probably from their presence on a plethora of Australian film and TV soundtracks.

Having never seen them before, I’m unsure if this is typical, but apart Bridie steering the show, and quirky Hope Csutoris on Violin, the rest of the band played along unobtrusively as if willing the audience to ignore the band and draw upon and use the music to conjure up their own images and memories. Bridies’ lovely shy young daughter joined the band on vocals for a rollin’ rendition of “25 Stations”, as My Friend the Chocolate Cake used suburban symbols integral to the Australian identity, music like the voice of a familiar and comfortable old friend.

Harry Manx, Judy Collins, Claude Hay

Bringing in Saturday evening, living up to my wandering tendencies our 7pm timeslot was filled with three very different artists I was very curious to see.

Firstly, a storytelling session with the diverse and bewitching Harry Manx accompanied by the extraordinarily talented and energetic virtuoso Hammond Organ musician Clayton Dooley. I sat, mesmerised as Manx minimised talk between songs, telling tale after tale, fusing eastern musical traditions with the Blues. Disappointingly, our time was cut short by the desire not to miss out on the legendary Judy Collins.

We skilfully edged into the jam-packed Big Top tent for a glimpse of Judy Collins, looking radiant, relaxed and all decked out in glitter and grin. At 71, Judy’s career spans more that half a century, and judging by the composition of the audience, attracts fans spanning many generations and backgrounds. The air was thick with nostalgia, and the voices of hundreds of festival attendees reminiscing in unison. The lyrics of Bob Dylans’ “Mr Tamborine Man” could no doubt be heard halfway up Katoomba St, Judy leading the crowd. Unfortunately, due my partner’s sore foot (see below paragraph), we hobbled across to the RSL stage where we discovered a whole generation perhaps untouched by Judy Collins.

Claude Hay had a collection of Blue Mountains youth dancing furiously to his Blue and Roots tunes. Feeling strangely old (especially compared to the rest of our time at the festival), we sat and watched the ‘young people’ shake and groove and chant along to defiant lyrics, while we polished our dentures and moaned about our arthritis.

Eric Bibb

A beautiful conclusion to my second Blue Mountains Music Festival. Eric Bibb, accompanied by Swedish guitarist Staffan Astner, bestowed upon the audience an exceptional set of traditional and contemporary folk-blues tunes. It was Erics’ fourth Blue Mountains Festival, and second time visiting the Mountains in the space of a year- he played at Blackheath Community Centre in April 2011.

Everything about Eric contrasted with the pervasive fog outside the tent, from his bright orange shirt to his infectious and radiant smile. Staffan, dressed in black, hat obscuring his eyes and occasionally bemused smile, was Eric’s quiet yet brilliant shadow. From “Stagger Lee”, “Floodwater”, “Troubadour”, “Tell my Baby” and “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”, Eric played a mixture of covers and originals which created a warm and contented audience, pleased to be sharing the moment and the music with hundreds of others in the Big Top, rather than outside in Katoomba’s best mist and drizzle.

Full Second Lineup Announcement for Bluesfest 2012

Bluesfest
Image Courtesy of Bluesfest

This morning saw the second lineup announcement for next year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest and as expected it’s pretty amazing. Check out the big names below:

Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Specials, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt & The Combo, Donovan, Angelique Kidjo, Seasick Steve, Keb Mo, Nick Lowe, Rosie Ledet, Seth Lakeman, Harry Manx, Fabulous Thunderbirds and Alabama 3.

You’ve gotta be excited about that. These fine artists join an already impressive lineup (see it here). Single day and a limited amount of early bird tickets are available from the official website.

Blue Mountains Music Festival Announces First Artist Lineup

Beoga
Image Courtesy of Beoga

The Blue Mountains Music Festival was by far one of our favourite events on this year’s music calendar (despite the torrential rain – check out our review here) so we got pretty excited this morning when the first round of artists for next years event landed in our inbox. The Blue Mountains Music Festival celebrates music from a variety of genres but it definitely always has a strong folk, roots, blues and bluegrass contingent on its roster and next year is no different.

Rather than try and single out our favourites from the first announcement we though we’d just give it to you in one hit and let you see just how good it is. Ready? Here we go:

Judy Collins (USA), Abigail Washburn (USA), Harry Manx (UK/Canada), Pierre Bensusan (French Algeria), Staffan Astner (Sweden), Krystle Warren (USA), Ben Sollee (USA), Blue King Brown, The Shane Howard Band, Fred Smith, Eddi Reader (Scotland), April Verch (Canada), Noriana Kennedy (Ireland), Truckstop Honeymoon (USA) While and Matthews (UK), My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band (USA), The Beez (Germany), Frigg (Finland), Beoga (above – Ireland), ahab (UK), Afro Mandinko, The Buddy Knox Blues Band, Alwan, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, Chris Wilson, Fiona Boyes, Rescue Ships, Claude Hay, George Kamikawa and Noriko Tadano, Cass Eager, Phil Davidson, Daniel Champagne, Tonks Green, The Simpson 3 and more.

Pretty impressive eh? The Blue Mountains Music Festival is held in Katoomba, NSW from the 16th to the 18th March. Earlybird tickets are available from now until the 31st December. Check out the official site for more information.

%d bloggers like this: