New Music Monday – 16th September

The Crooked Fiddle Band
Image Courtesy of The Crooked Fiddle Band

Emma Russack & Lachlan Denton – “Love For Myself”

Indie singer-songwriters Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton have announced the return of their collaborative project with their new single “Love For Myself” and an album titled Take The Reigns which is due for release on the 18th October. “Love For Myself” is a sweet pop song with a catchy chorus and smile inducing melody.

“My songs from Take the Reigns stretch over a polar period in my life,” says Denton of the upcoming album. “The earlier were written in the midst of a new relationship. I was excited, over emotional and insecure. The others were written after the loss of my brother. The record for me is full of light and shade. I see Emma’s songs on this record as covering a similar spectrum.”

Lucas Laufen – “A Million Miles From Love”

Australian troubadour Lucas Laufen has released his gorgeous new single “A Million Miles From Love”. The track teams Laufen’s fingerpicked guitar, subtle vocal style and ambient accompaniment to build something that is beautifully melancholy.

“A Million Miles From Love” is taken from Lucas Laufen’s upcoming album I Know Where Silence Lives which is due on the 6th December.

Sarah Humphreys – “Quiet Heart”

Central Coast based singer-songwriter Sarah Humphreys released her powerful new single and video “Quiet Heart”. I’ve always loved Humphreys’ songwriting and amazing voice and it’s great to see her really using both talents to full effect here – I’m digging her alongside the full band sound. “Quiet Heart” will appear on Sarah Humphreys’ upcoming album Strange Beauty which is due in October.

The Crooked Fiddle Band – “Counter Errorism”

Oh it’s good to have The Crooked Fiddle Band back. No one does high energy, folk infused instrumental music quite like the Sydney based four piece, and their new single “Counter Errorism” does not disappoint. The track is an ecelctic, high energy mix of time signatures and tones, leaping from gypsy jazz fiddle to etherial vocals to deep bowed bass lines, all puntuated by The Crooked Fiddle Band’s crunchy, rhthmic sound.

“Counter Errorism” is taken from The Crooked Fiddle Band’s upcoming album Another Subtle Atom Bomb due this Thursday 19th September. They also have a bunch of live dates coming up – check them out here:

Friday 27th September – Bar Open, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 5th October – Rhythm Hut, Gosford, NSW
Friday 18th October – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 19th October – Steampunk and Victoriana Fair, Goulburn, NSW
Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd November – HOBOFOPO Festival, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 30th November – Baroque Room, Katoomba, NSW
Sunday 1st December – The Landsdowne, Sydney, NSW

The Maes – “Sunrise”

No one is writing contemporary Australian folk songs quite like The Maes. “Sunrise” is another example of just how talented The Maes are, from their deeply visual storytelling songwriting through to their beautiful harmonies and arrangements. They just keep going from strength to strength.

The Milk Carton Kids – “The Only Ones” & “I Meant Every Word I Said”

I can’t believe this week we got not one, but two new tracks from Americana harmony duo The Milk Carton Kids. “The Only Ones” and “I Meant Every Word I Said” are the first tasters of The Milk Carton Kids’ upcoming album The Only Ones, due on the 18th October and as expected they’re just stunning.

“The Only Ones” is an upbeat love song with a driving beat and more than a few nods to classic country, while “I Meant Every Word I Said” slows things down to the type of melancholy ballad we’ve come to expect from the duo.


Timothy Blackman – “By The River”

Wellington based singer-songwriter Timothy Blackman released his sparsely beautiful new single “By The River”. The track is a beautiful piece of indie-folk reminiscent of Bright Eyes or early Sun Kil Moon, all plucked guitar and vocal layers.

“By The River” is taken from Timothy Blackman’s new album Brightest Days which is due for release today.

New Music Monday – 26th August

Hayden Calnin
Image Courtesy of Hayden Calnin

Bear’s Den – “Hiding Bottles”

For the video for their new single “Hiding Bottles”, English indie-folk band Bear’s Den tackle the very confronting reality of living with an alcoholic parent. It’s a confronting track but tackled deftly by the band with their usual high standard of songwriting and musicianship. “Hiding Bottles” is taken from the album So That You Might Hear Me.

Bon Iver – “Naeem”

In a surprise move Bon Iver released their new album i,i digitally almost three weeks earlier than was originally announced, delighting fans worldwide. Alongside the album release was the new single and lyric video “Naeem”. The track is more vocally driven than a lot of the other music from i,i, featuring Justin Vernon’s voice driven by a soulful piano and softly strummed acoustic guitar. But of course the experimentation and glitchy instrumentation we’ve come to expect from Bon Iver isn’t far away, and the combination makes this one of my favourite songs from the new album.

D.C Cross – “Presslufthammer Catfight”

D.C Cross is the latest moniker from Sydney based singer-songwriter Darren Cross (Gerling, Jep & Dep, Darren Cross Band) covering his latest foray into instrumental folk guitar. In the single “Presslufthammer Catfight” Cross appears to have moved on from the alt-country of his recent output to embrace the type of fingerpicked folk guitar popular with practitioners of the Anglo-Celtic tradition. His playing is full of open-tuned resonance and interesting chordal and finger-picking choices that come together in a really special piece of instrumental music.

Harvey Russell – “Please Don’t Pretend”

Sydney based alt-country singer-songwriter Harvey Russell has been making quite a splash since launching his solo project – and that’s set to continue with the announcement of his debut album Liquid Damage to be released this Friday 30th August. His latest single “Please Don’t Pretend” borrows heavily from traditional country, with its heart firmly planted in the artists of yesteryear.

“Traditional country is pure in the sense that it seems to be able to tap into universal truths and themes which have always appealed to me.” Harvey Russell explained. “Although country songs can sound simple, writing quality country songs is far from easy! I guess that’s a challenge I’m attracted to; refining my songwriting in a genre to which I’ve always been drawn.”

Harvey Russell will be launching in Sydney this Saturday as well as a handful of shows through September:

Saturday 31st August – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th September – Nimbin Roots Festival, Nimbin, NSW
Sunday 22nd September – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 26th September – Midnight Special, Sydney, NSW

Hayden Calnin – “Warm with You”

“Warm With You” is the latest single and video from ambient electro-folk singer-songwriter Hayden Calnin, taken from his upcoming EP A Life You Would Choose which is due for release on the 13th September. The track is classic Hayden Calnin, combining his folk sensibilities, indie influences and production skills to build a beautiful song and an equally beautiful video.

“”Warm With You” is a song about escapism,” Calnin explains. “It’s an expression of wanting to run and get away from everything, live off of the land if you will and start a life with someone. But as life goes on, things change, and those dreams start to take a turn and sometimes it never really happens. I ended up recording 9 different versions of the song before I finally settled on a final version which I think is a record number for me. I’ve never really been that particular about a song before.”

Joe Mungovan – “Be With You”

South Coast based singer-songwriter Joe Mungovan has just released “Be With You”, an etherial indie-pop track full of deep emotions written raw all of his incredible voice.

“I had been living and recording in the bush by myself for a long time when I wrote this song,” Mungovan explained. “It came about because I was in such a beautiful place and having a wonderful time and I wanted to share the experience with another human. The natural environment that surrounded me and the sense of solitude I felt inspired me to write this song.”

Joe Mungovan has a handful of upcoming dates:

Sunday 8th September – A Day On The Hill, Gerringong, NSW
Friday 13th September – Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 15th September – Lazybones Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Lost Ragas – “Keeping Up With Yesterday”

“Keeping Up With Yesterday” is the brand new, trippy single from Melbourne four-piece Lost Ragas, taken from their upcoming album This Is Not A Dream, due on the 2nd September. The trippy chord progression and bendy slide guitar gives the track a psychedelic quality which seems to be the sound we can expect from This Is Not A Dream if their last single “Just Wastin’ Time” is anything to go on.

Pieta Brown feat. Mark Knopfler – “The Hard Way”

American singer-songwriter Pieta Brown has teamed with the legendary Mark Knopfler for her latest single “The Hard Way”. The track is taken from her upcoming S.Carey produced album Freeway, due on the 20th September, and perfectly combines Brown’s songwriting talents with the laconic guitar style that is so distinctly Mark Knopfler.

“I kept sonically envisioning, ‘If I could just get Mark Knopfler on there…’,” Pieta Brown told Billboard, who featured the track. “Mark is a very sweet, amazing musician and has become a friend through music. So one day I just wrote him a message and asked if he would consider taking a listen to this track. I said I felt like it wasn’t quite done yet, but I wasn’t sure what it needed. I said, ‘I’m hearing the sound of you or something like what you do, and I can’t give you specifics beyond that.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, of course,’ and came up with a great part that made the song undeniable.”

The Lumineers – “Leader Of The Landslide” & “Left For Denver”

We’re now up to the fifth and sixth videos in the series from The Lumineers ahead of their new album III, due on the 13th September. The band are describing “Leader Of The Landslide” as their folk “Starway to Heaven” due to the epic quality of the track whereas “Left For Denver” is a lot more straightforward and stripped back.


Tori Forsyth – “Be Here”

For “Be Here”, the first single since her debut album, Hunter Valley based singer-songwriter Tori Forsyth has shrugged off the alt-country sound in favour of a blistering, grunge inspired track. “Be Here” is crunchy snarly and full of attitude – definitely a new and welcome side to Forsyth’s music.

“Recording this song was one of the smoothest recording sessions I’ve ever done,” Explained Forsyth. “We went in and left five hours later with the song near finished. We knew before we went, where it was going and the influences behind it, PJ Harvey, Soundgarden. It was pretty magic how it just came together so easily. I’ve never been so inspired coming away from the studio. ”

Tori Forsyth is heading out this October and November for an east coast tour:

Friday 18th October – The Milk Factory, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 19th October – The Imperial Hotel, Eumundi, QLD
Sunday 20th October – Vinnies Dive Bar, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday 25th October – The Stag & Hunter, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 26th October – The Union Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 27th October – Frank’s Wild Years, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 1st November – Workers Club, Geelong, VIC
Saturday 2nd November – Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 3rd November – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT

New Music Monday – 12th August

Alfi
Image Courtesy of Alfí

Alfí – “The Drink Song”

“The Drink Song” has featured on a couple of the folk music podcasts I listen to and now I can’t get it out of my head. Alfí, like the much lauded Lankum, are part of a new breed of Irish trad and folk bands who are embrassing the rougher, rawer side of Irish music. “The Drink Song” is taken from Alfí’s EP Wolves in the Woods which is wonderful and well worth you picking up.

Amy Vee – “Paper and Wood”

“Paper and Wood” is the latest single from award-winning singer-songwriter Amy Vee, taken from her new album Same Skin. The track is sumtuous piece of acoustic pop music, highlighting Amy Vee’s unique vocal style.

To celebrate the release of Same Skin Amy Vee is heading out on tour this October and November:

Wednesday 9th October – Memo Music Hall, St. Kilda, VIC
Sunday 13th October – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Friday 18th October – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 20th October – Royal Exchange Theatre, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 1st November – Dusty Attic Music Lounge, Lismore, NSW
Saturday 2nd November – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Devendra Banhart – “Memorial”

Freak-folk singer Devendra Banhart released “Memorial”, the latest single from his upcoming album Ma, due on the 13th September. “Memorial” is a melancholy waltz, showcasing a songwriter who is trying to grapple with the finality of death and the process of mourning.

“”Memorial” is about loss and the strangeness of feeling so numb, and yet so completely heart-broken-open,” Banhart wrote on the song. “It’s about three people I loved very much, and some of it happened just like it says in the song. Someone really did propose at one of the memorials – we all thought they would have loved how surreal, romantic, and inappropriate that was. It’s about those last moments, how painful and perfect they were, all the tears, all the tears. I don’t know what else to say, except that I wrote the song for you to tell you about it, see if maybe you know what I mean, tell you everything, see if maybe it brings us closer, makes it easier to tell each other how much we love and appreciate one another.”

Dori Freeman – “That’s How I Feel”

Alt-country singer Dori Freeman dropped a surprise new track from her upcoming album Every Single Star, due on the 27th September. “That’s How I Feel” is a syncopated gem, showcasing Freeman’s stunning voice and just how tight her band is on the upcoming album.

Phia – “Full Circle”

Indie-pop singer Phia has teamed with the Melbourne Indie Voices for her latest single “Full Circle”. This is Phia at her full powers, channelling her knack for a catchy pop arrangement into a quirky track with interesting and exciting instrumental and vocal choices. The addition of the Melbourne Indie Voices adds something special without being overpowering. Lovely stuff.

Pieta Brown – “Ask For More”

American singer-songwriter Pieta Brown has released the tender new single and video “Ask For More”. The singer is a favourite with Australian audiences and its easy to why – there’s a fragility to her songwriting which draws the listener in and the music is simply beautiful.

“Ask For More” is taken from the upcoming album Freeway, co-produced by S. Carey (Bon Iver) and due for release on the 20th September.

Sam Shinazzi – “I Wrote A Book For You”

Sydney based singer-songwriter Sam Shinazzi released his brand new single “I Wrote A Book For You”, a straight forward love song accentuated by some amazing slide guitar from Michael Carpenter. The track also featured in the recent film Book Week.

“Writer/director Heath Davis asked me to write a song for the closing credits to his film Book Week – a brand new song about a film I was yet to see,” Shinazzi explained. “He gave me the movie title and some genre direction, which ended up being SAM-like anyway. The song came easily enough to me, and thankfully all those involved with the film loved it too. I then asked Michael Carpenter to put his touch on it, which he did brilliantly at Love HZ Studios. The song fits directly with the other new songs and works in progress for the next album, both musically and thematically. This is a special song for me with a tonne of meaning; I hope others get some feelings out of it too.”

New Music Monday – 1st July

The Weeping Willows
Image Courtesy of The Weeping Willows

Chaika – “Arrow”

Listening to Arrow, the new album from Sydney based world and folk band Chaika, I was absolutely taken by the title track. A little bit of Googling turned up tis video for “Arrow” which I just had to share. This is Chaika at their best – incorporating the world of rhythms and sounds of traditional music and channeling them into something beautiful. The fiddle and piano riff that plays over the song, the jazzy clarinet solo, the syncopated rythms, the harmonic backing vocals – all of these pieces come together to create a really fun and completely danceable song.

Hayden Calnin – “Fuck Collingwood”/”Late”

We have two beautiful new singles from indie-folk favourite Hayden Calnin, “Fuck Collingwood” and “Late”. These tracks are just stunning – “Fuck Collingwood” is a paired back track that builds to a crescendo rife with emotion while “Late” shows Calnin at his most atmospheric and experimental.

“I’d been living in and around Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne, for the last 10 years,” Hayden Calnin explained. “I’ve loved it, I’ve hated it, and finally I’d left it. “Fuck Collingwood” is a reflection on my time living there, and about me realising that I had to get out of the city and find some space for a while, and go live near the ocean. At least for a little bit.”

JEFFE feat. Ro, Didirri, Washington – “Road to Nowhere”

Indie pop artist JEFFE teams with some of our favourite singer songwriters – Ro, Didirri and Washington – to cover The Talking Heads. This modern take on the classic “Road to Nowhere” pulls in elements of modern pop and indie-folk (think Bon Iver in his more glitchy moments) to create a track which elevates the original.

“When I think ‘road trip’ I think of a group of mates driving down the highway singing along to their favourite tunes,” JEFFE explained. “The idea of bringing a few friends on board with this song comes exactly from that image so as the idea grew, I decided to reach out to a bunch of my friends in music and asked them to get on board which they all jumped on the idea!”

JEFFE will be taking on the Listen Out shows in September and October and Didirri is on tour with Ro this August – full dates here:

JEFFE
Friday 27th September – Listen Out, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 28th September – Listen Out, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 29th September – Listen Out, Perth, WA
Saturday 5th October – Listen Out, Sydney, NSW

Didirri w/ Ro
Thursday 22nd August – Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney, NSW
Friday 23rd August – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 30th August – 170 Russell, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 31st August – UC Hub, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 7th September – Lions Arts Factory, Adelaide, SA

Seeker Lover Keeper – “Wild Seeds”

More new music from Seeker Lover Keeper? How good is this! The Australian supergroup follow up their return to the spotlight with the announcement of their new album (Wild Seeds, due on the 9th August), a bunch of tour dates this September and their new video “Wild Seeds” staring acclaimed actor Yael Stone.

The track is somewhat of a departure from Seeker Lover Keeper’s indie folk roots, instead embracing 70s rock while still maintaining focus on their gorgeous three part harmonies.

The full dates for the upcoming tour are below:

Thursday 5th September – Blue Mountains Theatre, Springwood, NSW
Friday 6th September – Canberra Theatre, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 7th September – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 13th September – Narrabeen RSL, Narrabeen, NSW
Saturday 14th September – The Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW
Friday 27th September – The Altar Bar, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 28th September – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 29th September – Freo Social, Fremantle, WA
Thursday 3rd October – The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 4th October – Caloundra Music Festival, Caloundra, QLD
Saturday 5th October – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns, QLD
Thursday 17th October – Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Friday 18th October – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 19th October – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Sunday 20th October – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave, VIC

The Morrisons feat. William Barton – “Poor Spine Me”

Sydney based bluegrass favourites The Morrisons have teamed with didgeridoo master William Barton on their amazing new single “Poor Spine Me”. This is The Morrisons doing what they do best – presenting bluegrass music in the Australian context – and dialling it up with the inclusion of Barton and the wonderfully evocative lyrics writer Gareth Hipwell.

The Weeping Willows – “Devil’s Road”

The final single and video from their amazing second album Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’, “Devil’s Road” is bluegrass and Americana duo The Weeping Willows at their very best. The bluesy, dark track is simply The Weeping Willows’ harmonies alongside Andrew Wrigglesworth’s masterful guitar, with some background instrumentation and production to accentuate but never overpower.

The Weeping Willows are taking the new single on the road from this weekend – full dates are here:

Saturday 6th July – Union Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 7th July – House Concert, Sassafras, VIC
Tuesday 9th July – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Wednesday 10th July – FolkSwagon, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 11th July – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 12th July – House Concert, Sawtell, NSW
Saturday 13th July – City Sider, Tamworth, NSW
Friday 19th July – Burrinja, Melbourne, VIC

New Music Monday – 20th May

Kate Miller Heidke
Image Courtesy of Kate Miller-Heidke

Elephant Sessions – “Colours”

If you’ve managed to catch Scottish trad-fusion band Elephant Sessions on one of their trips to Australia, most recently for this year’s Bluesfest, you’ll know that you’re no doubt already a fan. The band released their sophomore album What Makes You last week and have also given us their latest single “Colours”, a driving instrumental which perfectly captures their unique sound.

Rumours are that Elephant Sessions will be returning to our shores in 2020 so keep an eye out for more news soon!

Harmony Byrne – “Smoke Inside”

“Smoke Inside”, the crunchy blues waltz from Australian singer-songwriter Harmony Byrne, is definitely worth a listen this week. The track is taken from Byrne’s upcoming album Heavy Doors and features her amazing voice alongside some really slick production.

“As a child I was told that I was a drama queen,” Harmony Byrne says of the track. “Initially, I mistook this as being a negative aspect of my personality and struggled to express myself. But thankfully, I was also taught to have self-worth, honesty, integrity, and that I only ever need be myself in a world full of frauds. “Smoke Inside” is all about valuing who you are, no matter how wild or tame, and that if someone you love doesn’t let you light up inside, then they are not the match for you.”

Kate Miller-Heidke – “Ernie”

If you’ve been devouring all the media surrounding Kate Miller-Heidke and the Eurovision Song Contest you may have caught her on the ABC’s Australian Story program last week. Which means you probably also heard her gorgeous new song “Ernie”.

The track, which is dedicated to Miller-Heidke’s son, is the singer-songwriter at her stripped back best. “Ernie” stands in stark contrast to the bombast of her Eurovision song “Zero Gravity” but the thread that ties the two together is just how intensely personal and vulnerable Kate Miller-Heidke’s songwriting can be.

Kaurna Cronin – “Gotta Get Outta This Place”

Singer-songwriter and Timber and Steel favourite Kaurna Cronin has just released his gorgeous new single “Gotta Get Outta This Place”. The track is the perfrect example of Cronin’s trademark emotive songwriting and also features a groove that definitely sucked me in.

“This song is one I’ve been wanting to write for a long time but had never really managed to get the tone quite right,” Kaurna Cronin explained. “It’s a song about internal battles of a sense of belonging and love for the idea of ‘ones home’ and the ongoing feeling of needing to get away from home to experience the unknown to be inspired by different places, people and ideas. It was important for me to try and capture the sense of passion and inspiration in ones home and not dismiss that – it’s about the conflict of urges that one can associate with not wanting to feel ‘comfort’ anymore.”

Cronin has managed to find some time this June for some Australian shows before he heads out on a national tour – the full list of dates are below:

Thursday 6th June – The Toff In Town, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 8th June – Low 302, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 14th June – Chateau Apollo, Adelaide, SA

Little May – “As Loving Should”

Having just released their new album Blame My Body, indie-pop duo Little May have treated us to their latest single “As Loving Should”. The folk and acoustic influences on Little May’s music are still very much a part of the sound of this new track and I’m loving the retro aesthetic of the video.

Missy Higgins – “Song For Sammy”

For Mother’s Day last week Missy Higgins released her beautiful new song “Song For Sammy”. Written for her son Sammy, the ukulele driven track is classic Missy Higgins, stripped back to basics and lyrically driven. Beautiful stuff.

Neil & Liam Finn – “Meet Me In The Air”

Father-son duo Neil & Liam Finn have released the dreamy new single “Meet Me In The Air”. The video takes the family band vibe even further feating appearances from Sharon Finn and Elroy Finn and was shot after soundcheck at a show in London. If you’re after some transcendent pop music today this could be your jam.

Simon Imrei – “Stand Still”

Melbourne based Americana singer-songwriter Simon Imrei has just released the new single from EP due later this year, the very catchy “Stand Still”. I’m particularly loving the subtle pedal steel spread throughout this track and I can definitely see it making its way onto a bunch of driving playlists with its laidback grove.

Georgia Fields and Phia Announce Sky and Sea Co-Headline Tour

Phia
Image Courtesy of Phia

Celebrated Melbourne based singer-songwriters Georgia Fields and Phia have just announced plans for a huge, co-headlined national tour kicking off next week.

The duo will be combining the indie-pop of Georgia Fields’ music with the electro-folk looping of Phia, with both artists joining each other on stage.

Check out the full list of dates below:

Thursday 6th July – Suttons House Of Music, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 8th July – Major Tom’s, Kyneton, VIC
Thursday 13th July – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Friday 14th July – Candelo General Store, Candelo, NSW
Saturday 15th July – Tomerong Hall, Tomerong, NSW
Friday 21st July – The Milk Factory, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 22nd July – NightQuarter, Gold Coast, QLD
Sunday 23rd July – Brunswick Picture House, Brunswick Heads, NSW
Thursday 27th July – OAF Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Friday 28th July – The Unorthodox Church of Groove, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 30th July – Point Lonsdale, VIC
Thursday 3rd August – The Toff In Town, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 5th August – Baby Black Espresso Bar, Bacchus Marsh, VIC
Sunday 6th August – Old Castlemaine Gaol, Castlemaine, VIC
Friday 11th August – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 12th August – Glen Helen Homestead Lodge, Alice Springs, NT

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!

Watch the New Jenny Lewis Video “She’s Not Me”

Jenny Lewis
Image Courtesy of Jenny Lewis

American indie-folk-pop singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis has just girted us with the very funny new clip for her new track “She’s Not Me”. Parodying a number of classic movies and TV shows the clip features red Armisen, Zosia Mamet, Leo Fitzpatrick, Feist and Vanessa Bayer.

Check out “She’s Not Me” below:

Jenny Lewis will be in the country this July for Splendour in the Grass and sideshows with Ryan Adams. The full list of dates are here:

Sunday 19th July – Forum Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 23rd July – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July – Splendour in the Grass, NSW

Watch the New Jinja Safari Video “Find My Way”

Jinja Safari
Image Courtesy of Jinja Safari

Melbourne’s indie-folk-pop band Jinja Safari are back with their brand new single and video “Find My Way”. Infused with their usual sunny world-music rhythms, “Find My Way” is the first taste of an upcoming album being put together by Jinja Safari.

Check out “Find My Way” below:

Listen to the New Yuko Nishiyama Track “Heart of Daisies”

Yuko
Image Courtesy of Yuko Nishiyama

Yuko Nishiyama started her life in Tokyo before moving to regional Australia at the tender age of nine. Nishiyama draws on these contrasting experience to create some pretty unique pop music. I caught Yuko Nishiyama recently in Sydney when she supported Packwood and I would have to say she was pretty captivating live.

The latest single from Yuko Nishiyama is “Heart of Daisies” which was written as a response to a close friend’s struggle to find love. Take a listen to “Heart of Daisies” below:

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