Trioc Announces Melbourne Album Launch

Trioc
Image Courtesy of Trioc

If you were at the National Folk Festival this year then you’d know that Melbourne based trad trio Trioc were one of the stand out highlights.

Made up of Allan Evans (harp, whistles), Cameron Hibbs (fiddle) and Matt Horsley (uilleann pipes), Trioc first formed at The National a few years ago and spent this year’s festival launching their new album A Fair Wind.

And now Trioc are bringing A Fair Wind to their home town of Melbourne with plans for a launch at iconic Irish venue The Last Jar on Sunday 4th June. If you want to hear some sweet Irish tunes make sure you get down – the full details are on the Facebook event here.

National Folk Festival Interview: Aoife Scott

Aoife Scott
Image Courtesy of Aoife Scott

Irish folk singer Aoife Scott and her band have spent the last month touring Australia and wowing audiences everywhere they go. They finish up their tour this weekend with a performance at The National Folk Festival so we sat down with Aoife Scott to get the low down on her first visit to our shores.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You’ve been in Australia over the last month or so, at peak folk festival time. How have you enjoyed your first tour here?

Aoife Scott: It’s been incredible. We landed the first week in March, and have been on the road since. Our first stop was Adelaide and we made it all along the coast as far north up to Mooloolaba in QLD. We’re just returning from a week in Byron Bay. What a place! The whole trip was incredible – we don’t want to go home! We’ve made some incredible friends, and were treated like family everywhere we went.

GHE: What can audiences expect from your sets are The National Folk Festival?

AS: Well I guess I’m a folk/traditional singer and songwriter but we also play traditional tunes – I ask people to dance if they want to, and get a dance competition going! The best dancer wins the grand prize of our CD! You’d be surprised how competitive the Australians have been getting [laughs] – they are incredible dancers! But I tell a lot of stories with the songs, I explain why they were written or why I sing them which gives a bit of a background to the songs, I feel like the audience understand where I’m coming from and can connect more with the songs.

GHE: How do you find festivals compared with gigs you’re headlining yourself? Are the audiences different? Is there a different atmosphere?

AS: Festivals are brilliant! People are less inhibited and are there to listen, but also to enjoy themselves. They are not afraid to get up and dance and hopefully at The National Folk Festival it will be the same! You get a chance to perform for people who may not ever hear about you, or see you, so the opportunity to meet all the lovely audience members is incredible. The atmosphere is definitely more sparkly – like a fizz in the air. It’s my favourite place to play.

GHE: It’s been a year since you released your debut album Carry the Day. How are you feeling one year on? Are you still in love with the album or are you ready to get back into the studio?

AS: I am just about still in love with my songs – if I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t sing them! It’s like a relationship, if you don’t have the love you have to leave it behind! I have a lot of love for my songs (I’m not sure how my lovely band members feel about them though after touring for a year with them!) – Although I am itching to get back. I find writing on tour difficult, it needs some time and space, but being on tour just doesn’t give me the chance to write. So I’m looking forward to getting home and getting new songs.

GHE: I’m always fascinated to know, when talking to artists who play and sing traditional music, is how you choose what songs and tunes to bring to the stage or record and what to leave at the sessions? What is it about a song or tune that inspires you to polish it up and perform it in a concert setting?

AS: Gosh, that’s a hard one! I can only give you what way I do when I pick traditional songs. I guess they have to speak to me somehow. When I hear a song, and I know and read it’s background and history and meaning, and if it sings to my heart then I need to sing it. So the rule is: If i hear a song, and I’m still singing it 4 days later then I need to sing it. Thats a general rule I have! If my heart is still in it and if I’m thinking of it days later then that’s the connection made. I also like the songs to have background stories, as I’m such a storyteller. Ones that connect with my life in some way. Thats really important. One of the songs I do is a song that my gran taught me so I like to tell that story to the audience, hoping they don’t get bored!

GHE: What’s next on your plate after you wrap up in Australia?

Ah, we don’t want to go home! Well after The National Folk Festival we head to to New Zealand for two weeks so that will be amazing! We’re threatening to do a band skydive, band bungee, or get a band tattoo (I think the tattoo is not going to happen!). After then we have shows in Dublin, Sligo and all around Ireland for the next few months. I’m hoping to get into the studio and see if I can make an EP (Although if it takes as long as the last album, it won’t be released until 2019). And then in the summer, we go to the USA for two months! So a busy time coming next, we’re really looking forward to it, but we can’t wait to come back to Oz!

The Aoife Scott Band are performing at The National Folk Festival this weekend. Check out their dates below:

Thursday 13th to Monday 17th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Friday 8:00pm – Marquee
– Saturday 5:40pm – Buddawang
– Sunday 11:00pm – Buddawang

Ed Sheeran and Beoga: Pop’s Latest Flirtation with Trad Music

Ed Sheeran
Image Courtesy of Ed Sheeran

A couple of weeks ago Ed Sheeran cemented his status as the biggest male popstar on the planet with the release of his smash hit new album ÷ (pronounced Divide).

If you follow the trad music or Irish music press you’ll know that for at least two of the tracks on ÷ Sheeran collaborated with Northern Irish trad group Beoga.

The first of these tracks, “Galway Girl” (not the Steve Earle track of the same name), was actually inspired by Beoga’s fiddle player Niamh Dunne and features their tune “Minute 5” over the chorus. The lyrics of “Galway Girl” are peppered with trad references (this may be the first number one track to reference Irish song “Carrickfergus”) and Dunne gushed about Sheeran’s love of “Planxty, The Chiefains and … Irish music” in recent interviews.

The second track on ÷ with a piece of Beoga trad is “Nancy Mulligan”, inspired by the story of Sheeran’s Irish grandparents. The track has more trad feel than “Galway Girl” and even features a bit of an Irish-pub-like-singalong during the lead break.

“Galway Girl” was released as a single on St Patrick’s Day and hit the top 10 in a bunch of countries. In an interview with The Guardian Sheeran said that he had to fight to keep the “folk” songs on the album.

“They were really, really against “Galway Girl”, because apparently folk music isn’t cool,” Ed Sheeran explained. “But there’s 400 million people in the world that say they’re Irish, even if they’re not Irish. You meet them in America all the time: “I’m a quarter Irish and I’m from Donegal.” And those type of people are going to fucking love it. My argument was always: well, the Corrs sold 20 million records. The label would say, “Oh the Corrs, that was years ago,” but who’s tried it since the Corrs? There’s a huge gap in the market, and I promise you that in two years’ time there will be a big folk band that comes up that’s pop, and that will happen as a result of labels being like: “Oh shit, if he can put a fiddle and uilleann pipe on it, then we can try it as well”.”

As Sheeran points out trad music in pop music isn’t new. The Corrs practically owned the folk-pop genre in the late 90s and early 2000s. B*Witched 1998 hit “C’est la Vie” was has an Irish whistle solo played over DJ scratching. Even the oft-criticised-for-not-being-real-folk-music Mumford and Sons kick off their track “Roll Away Your Stone” with the Irish trad fiddle tune “Merrily Kissed the Quaker”.

Trad purists will no doubt look down there nose at Ed Sheeran’s folky offerings on ÷, the same way they have with other pop crossover songs over the years. Some of that will be justified – in reality “Galway Girl” is not a great song despite Beoga’s influence – but much of this will be a knee jerk reaction to a perceived popularisation of the tradition.

In truth having an artist of Ed Sheeran’s stature declare his love for Irish trad music can only have upside for the genre.

Think of Sheeran as a trad gateway drug. For many of his fans “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” will be their first exposure to this kind of music and even if only a small percentage follow the influences of the songs back to Planxty, The Dubliners, The Chieftains and beyond, that’s still a bunch of music fans that may never have discovered this music otherwise.

While trad may have a reputation in the wider community as twee or old fashioned those “in the know” know it’s a vibrant genre with a bunch of really exciting young artists coming up through the ranks. If you’ve ever caught a set from Trouble In The Kitchen, Tolka, Sásta or any of the other amazing local trad bands around the country you’ll know how much their music can capture your attention, can fill you up and most importantly can make you want to dance.

The best case scenario is the local and international trad scene will see a spike in activity and interest thanks to Sheeran’s flirtation with the genre and that can only be positive. Every fan who clicks a “like” button on social media, watches a Youtube video, comes to a gig or session featuring traditional music because they’re new favourite song is “Galway Girl” is a new part of our community.

So when you hear “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” blaring on a pop radio station or out of your kid’s Spotify account take a moment to recognise that this could be the first step on the trad music journey for a new fan. That’s got to make you happy.

The Séamus Begley Trio Announces Australian Tour

Seamus Begley
Image Courtesy of The Séamus Begley Trio

Celebrated Irish trad group The Séamus Begley Trio, featuring Seamus Begley (Accordion & Vocals), Dezi Donnelly (Fiddle) and Matt Griffin (Guitar), will be heading to Australia this March for a bunch of dates around the country.

The Séamus Begley Trio will be making appearances at the Port Fairy Folk Festival and the Blue Mountains Music Festival as well as shows in cities and regional centres across Australia. Check out the full list of dates below:

Wednesday 1st March – Jack Duggan’s Irish Pub, Bathurst, NSW
Thursday 2nd March – Ainslie Arts Centre, Canberra, ACT
Friday 3rd March – Illawarra Folk Club, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 4th March – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 9th March – The Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 10th to Monday 13th March – Port Fairy Festival, Port Fairy, VIC
Wednesday 15th March – The Spotted Mallard, Brunswick, VIC
Saturday 18th to Sunday 19th March – The Blue Mountains Music Festival, Katoomba, NSW
Saturday 25th March – The Fly By Night Club, Fremantle, WA

Sharon Shannon Announces Australian Tour

Sharon Shannon
Image Courtesy of Sharon Shannon

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

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

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

The Gaelic Club
Image Courtesy of The Gaelic Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falls Festival Review: Timber and Steel Highlights

The Valley Stage at Falls Festival Byron BayFestival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Feature Artists: Courtney Barnett, Little May, The Button Collective, Gary Clark Jr.
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

The line up was a great collection of many talented musicians from a vast array of genres. In terms of Timber and Steel acts, there were four main highlight acts to catch at Falls.

Courtney BarnettIt’s been a big year for Courtney Barnett, 2015 has seen her juggernaut debut grow in to dominance of the charts and the hearts of Australians of almost all musical persuasions. Clad in desert boots, jeans and a hat that only lasted a song and a half, Barnett didn’t hesitate to launch with full energy in to her huge set on the Valley Stage for the first day of the new year. The audience sprawled across the lawns, from the raptured fans at the front, to the chilled punters on the grassy slopes at the back, all completely fixated on the multi award winning yet demure figure. Highlights from her set include that rare quiet moment as the entire Valley hushed for the opening notes of Depreston only to then have every voice heard singing along in unison, and her huge hit Pedestrian at best close her set in full rock-goddess energy while the crowd reached the peak of their high spirited, dancing frenzy.

Little May on the Forest Stage at Falls Festival Byron Little May is an act I’ve seen popping up time and time again on my social media feeds and have been keen to catch. The trio took to the Forest Stage on the last day of the festival, with their backing band at the ready and strong audience numbers eagerly anticipating their set. And the ladies did not disappoint. With honey golden vocals trickling through the all encompassing tones of the full band’s live act festival sound, Little May treated the crowd to a full course of sweet temptations. With highlights including a beautiful rendition of the ballad, Seven Hours, to the new track Cease, the trio gave a consistent, high quality musical spectrum for the crowd to relax too, from the folk tinged to the indie pop and alternative sounds. Their repertoire allowed them range from their silky, harmonised ballads to bold, anthemic tones of Dust, through the tale telling of Hide and finishing off the performance with a stellar performance of their Great Southern Land Like a Version cover. I can only hope that Paul Kelly himself caught even a glimpse of this up tempo take on his classic track with  their clever use of vocal layering as it’s the last time they will be playing it for a while.

Button collectiveOver in Lola’s Bar, on New Years Eve, we stumbled upon a likely scene of rag-tag musicians and a tent full of eager punters. It was 2pm but the Button Collective soon had the dance floor packed with joyful revelry. Appearing as a 6-piece line up each day of the Byron stint, the sheer energy and cheer emanating from the stage was infectious. With everything from the traditional folk, to country-tinged tracks that invoke foot stomping, the Collective had a winning combination on their set list. With Barn-dance like hoedowns springing up on the dance floor, and multiple Irish tunes mashed-up to treat the crowd, Lola’s Bar was the scene of frivolity for their entire set. The Button Collective brought sea shanties, bluegrass, folk and an array of short, punchy, fast paced tracks and still bowed to the whim of the crowd, playing more dance tracks whenever the crowd demanded. So spirited was the audience, that a conga-line formed and snaked its way around the dance floor until every punter was a part of the line, and then spontaneously erupted in to a mass hoedown. To say The Button Collective put on a good show would be an understatement… I’m sure the word ‘rollicking’ should be used.

garyclarkjr_20160101-3Finally, on the last night of the festival, I had the pleasure of witnessing the sheer ‘cool’ of Gary Clark Jr. His live sound reminds me of Ash Grunwald sans distortion, they both clearly dig a similar edgy blues style. Clark Jr. weaves effortlessly between styles, from a Lenny Kravitz swagger, to an occasional Hendrix vibe and all while navigating through blues soaked solos. The crowd grew steadily as his wavering wails swept the Valley. Dipping now and then in to old school rock, and then rolling through the blues to keep the audience on edge, it was like watching a master at work. Clark Jr. saturated the audience with electric riffs and transcended into another world onstage, so steeped in the moment and the music. He seamlessly melds his music on stage, from cool blues to upbeat jump around funk blues. Gary Clark Jr. is worth every moment you can fit on your festival planner.

While these four were some of the main focuses of us Timber and Steelers, there was a wealth of talent throughout the Falls line up to whet the appetite.

Read our Overview of the entire Falls Festival Byron Bay event.

Unmissable Falls Acts

Falls Festival Finds

Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

Exile
Image Courtesy of Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

This February acclaimed singer-songwriter Shane Howard is bringing together some of Australia and Ireland’s finest artists for a series of concerts celebrating the influence of Irish exiles on Australian life titled Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

The concert series, set to take place in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, will feature the likes of Paul Kelly (AUS), Declan O’Rourke (IRE), Pauline Scanlon (IRE), Sean Tyrrell (IRE), John Spillane (IRE), Leah Flanagan (AUS), Steve Cooney (IRE), Aine Tyrrell (AUS/IRE), Lynnelle Moran (AUS) and of course Shane Howard himself.

The full list of dates for Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia are below – check out the official website for more information:

Saturday 20th February – Hamer Hall, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 21st February – Festival Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Monday 29th February – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane, QLD

Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson Set to Release The Freewheeler

The Freewheeler
Image Courtesy of Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson

This Saturday three of Australian Irish music’s best, Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson, will officially release their brand new album The Freewheeler.

Barker and Stephenson are well known to folk and trad fans as half of Trouble in the Kitchen, with master Irish flute player Dougal Adams joining them to round out the trio.

“Anyone who’s been caught by this music will know the feeling, when it’s really flowing, of the tunes somehow playing themselves,” the trio explained. “Perhaps it’s the combination of time and shared experience that does it, but often when we sit down to play it feels like the music just sets itself loose. Recorded live over a chilly Melbourne weekend, this album is an effort to capture a few of those fleeting moments, to catch the elusive sound of the music rolling free.”

The album features some amazing tunes collected by Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson over many years of playing in Australia, Ireland and abroad. You can listen to the album below and then pick it up via Bandcamp here.

Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson will be launching The Freewheeler at the Golden Glory Studio in Melbourne on Saturday 17th October – for more information check out the official site here.

National Folk Festival Interview: Restless Legs

Mairead Hurley
Image Courtesy of Mairead Hurley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GHE: I’m sorry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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