Thank Folk It’s Friday – 6th January

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– New Zealand folk duo Tattletale Saints hit Australia this week with dates in NSW and VIC. Details here

– Folk singer Kate Burke released a sad and beautiful track titled “All For Me”. Details here

– Popular Adelaide folk night The Porch Sessions is touring through SA, VIC and NSW this month with Stu Larsen, Luke Thompson and Tim Moore. Details here

– US folk rockers Thompson Springs have announced an Australian tour with Maia Marsh. Details here

– Experimental folk group Vanishing Shapes announced a January tour. Details here

– Tasmanian folk punks The Dead Maggies released their new single “She”. Details here

– This week’s Illawarra Folk Festival has an amazing lineup including Andy Irvine and Luke Plumb, FourWinds, Tattletale Saints, The Whitetop Mountaineers, Tim O’Brien, Wallis Bird, Daniel Champagne, Echo Deer, Handsome Young Strangers, Lime and Steel, Mandy Connell, Martin Pearson, Nigel Wearne, Shanty Club, The Squeezebox Trio, Tinpan Orange, Big Erle, Jane Aubourg, Joe Mungovan, Kay Proudlove, Shelley’s Murder Boys, The Lurkers and many many more. Details here

– Indie-folkers Winterbourne announced a February tour. Details here

Ryan Adams released his Neil Young-esque new single “To Be Without You”. Details here

– English big-band Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band have announced their new album Big Machine. Details here

– Banjo master Noam Pikelny has announced plans for his first official solo album Universal Favorite. Details here

– Sydney Americana singer-songwriter Katie Brianna treated us to a new track “Sticks and Stones”. Details here

Citizen of the World released their new video “In The Moment”. Details here

Releases This Week

11 Short Stories
11 Short Stories Of Pain & GloryDropkick Murphys
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

The Porch Sessions On Tour feat. Stu Larsen, Luke Thompson, Tim Moore

Porch Sessions

Adelaide’s popular folk night The Porch Sessions hits the road with shows in South Australia and Victoria this week featuring Stu Larsen, Luke Thompson and Tim Moore

Friday 6th January – The Cantina, Robe, SA
Sunday 8th January – Illowa, VIC
Wednesday 11th January – Lorne, VIC
Friday 13th January – Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Acoustics Anonymous feat. Mckenzie Kay, Jon Maratheftis
Wednesday 11th January – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Áine Tyrrell
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Friday 13th January – Rosny Barn, TAS

Alanna and Alicia
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Andy Irvine w/ Luke Plumb
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Tuesday 10th January – House Concert, TAS
Thursday 12th January – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Blue King Brown
Friday 13th January – Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale, NSW

Courtyard Sessions Presents Imogen Clark
Friday 13th January – Seymour Centre, Sydney, NSW

Cygnet Folk Festival
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet, TAS

Deadwood 76, Dave Favours & The Roadside Ashes
Friday 6th January – The Gasoline Pony, Sydney, NSW

Don McGlashan
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Wednesday 11th January – Grand Poobah, Hobart, TAS
Friday 13th January – Brookfields Shed, Margate, TAS

Dubmarine, Circle of Rhythm, Matiu Te Huki, New Venusians, Queen Porter Stomp, Deejay Bentley, Deepchild (DJ set)
Friday 6th January – The Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Folkswagon feat. Scott Rudd, Thompson Springs, Maia Marsh
Wednesday 11th January – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Fourwinds
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th January – Illawara Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

George & Noriko
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Gregory Page
Friday 7th January – The Caravan Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 8th January – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Thursday 12th January – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Heartbreakers Sessions feat. Jamie Hutchings, Ben Horder
Sunday 8th January – The Bearded Tit, Sydney, NSW

Honey
Sunday 8th January – Mudgee Brewing Co., Mudgee, NSW

Hootenanny feat. Echo Deer
Sunday 8th January – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

Illawarra Folk Festival
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Bulli, NSW

Jaron Freeman Fox & The Opposite of Everything
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Sunday 8th January – MONA, Hobart, TAS

Joe & Harmony’s Trippy Hippy Band
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Josh Pyke & Bob Evans
Friday 13th January – Esk BeerFest, Launceston, TAS

Katie Brianna
Thursday 12th January – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

Kirsty Bromley
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Lake Street Dive
Friday 6th January – Howler, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 7th January – Summer of Soul, Mossvale, VIC
Sunday 8th January – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 13th January – Sydney Festival, Sydney, NSW

Nigel Wearne
Saturday 7th January – The Witches Garden, Mitta Mitta, VIC
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Ramblin’ Nights feat. Dan Brodie, JD & The Hungermen, Gana & Scotty
Saturday 7th January – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW

Roadhouse feat. Cruisin’ Deuces
Thursday 12th January – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

Sharon Shannon
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

Summer Sets at Hither & Yon feat. Aidan ‘Jazzy’ Jones
Sunday 8th January – Hither & Yon, Willunga, SA

Tattletale Saints
Friday 6th January – Tanswell’s Pub, Beechworth, VIC
Saturday 7th January – Minya Winery, Geelong, VIC
Sunday 8th January – House On The Hill, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 10th January – Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 11th January – The Witches Garden, Mitta Mitta, VIC
Thursday 12th January – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

The Outside Track
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

The Porch Sessions On Tour feat. Stu Larsen, Luke Thompson, Tim Moore
Friday 6th January – The Cantina, Robe, SA
Sunday 8th January – Illowa, VIC
Wednesday 11th January – Lorne, VIC
Friday 13th January – Melbourne, VIC

The Saloon Daddies w/ Peasant Moon
Sunday 8th January – The Midnight Special, Sydney, NSW

The Settlement
Saturday 7th January – The Star, Port Fairy, VIC

The Spin Drifters
Wednesday 11th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW

The Whitetop Mountaineers
Friday 6th January – Smiths Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 7th January – The Metropole, Katoomba, NSW
Sunday 8th January – Petersham Bowls Club, Sydney, NSW
Monday 9th January – Quarterdeck, Narooma, NSW
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Thompson Springs w/ Maia Marsh
Wednesday 11th January – Folkswagon, Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th January – The Front, Canberra, ACT

Tim O’Brien
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Wednesday 11th January – Caravan Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 13th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Timberwolf
Saturday 7th January – Here’s To Now, McLaren Vale, SA

Vanishing Shapes
Friday 6th January – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Thursday 12th January – Byron Fine Music House Concerts, Byron Bay, NSW

Wallis Bird w/ William Crighton
Friday 6th to Sunday 8th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Wednesday 11th January – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 12th January – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Winter Wilson
Saturday 7th January – Music By The Sea Festival, Sandgate, QLD
Wednesday 11th January – Upper Lansdowne Hall, Upper Lansdowne, NSW
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Father Had A Knife/Salonika” – Lynched

If you haven’t discovered Irish band Lynched yet then prepare to meet your new favourite trad artist.

Listen to Kate Burke’s New Song “All For Me”

Kate Burke
Image Courtesy of Kate Burke

Australian folk singer Kate Burke (Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Trouble in the Kitchen) released “a new Australian folk song” right before Christmas that is too sad and beautiful not to share.

The track is titled “All For Me” and deals with Burke’s reaction to Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies. Take a listen below:

Kate Burke recently released her album with Pete Wild titled Live at St Peterscheck it out on Bandcamp here.

World Tour of Celtic Music at Cobargo Folk Festival

The East Pointers
Image Courtesy of The East Pointers

By Peter Logue

Most people, young and old, could name singers and bands they associate with what’s broadly known as Celtic music.
For the younger folk, it might be the Pogues (even though they’ve been around for decades) or hard pumping bands like Dropkick Murphys who made their name in Boston.

For older folk, it might be The Corrs, the Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains or even balladeer Daniel O’Donnell, who is still enormously popular on the Australian seniors’ concert and club circuit.

But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find there are many genres under the Celtic music banner in such places as Asturias and Galicia in Spain, parts of Portugal, Brittany in France, and Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton in Canada.

The music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Asturias provide the base from which much of the Celtic music styles emerged, though each of those has been shaped by other forms of local traditional music.

American bluegrass, old-timey and country music and Australian bush music owe their roots to the various Celtic musical styles brought from Ireland and Britain.

In modern times a whole range of Celtic fusion music – bands like the Afro-Celtic Sound System, Shooglenifty and Gaelic Storm (from the movie Titanic) have emerged.

Then there are the many Celtic dance forms and their offshoots, from Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, to the ever popular Scottish county dancing and, of course, our own bush dancing.

This year’s Cobargo Festival presents a great opportunity to take a world tour of the different styles of Celtic music and dance mentioned above.

From Canada’s Prince Edward Island come the dynamic East Pointers whose toe-tapping tunes make you want to do your own Riverdance impersonations in the aisle.

Ireland provides The Rambling Boys, four top class traditional musicians who have paid their dues over the years and who bring humour and pathos to their traditional tunes and songs.

Candelo multi-instrumentalist Kate Burke is a founder member of Trouble in the Kitchen, an Aussie quartet who are more traditional in style than many Irish bands.

Also from Australia, Senor Cabrales play the tunes of Asturias, Galicia, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland on a range of instruments, including the Asturian pipes.

American Beth Patterson brings Celtic rhythms to her songs and tunes, played on the eight string bouzouki – taken from the Greeks and refined into a popular Irish instrument.

Finally Australian Nicola Hayes and Helene Brunet from France demonstrate the Celtic influence in Brittany as well as belting out some traditional Irish tunes.

Hang around the festival session bar and you’re sure to hear fabulous tunes and songs from all over the Celtic musical diaspora.

The Cobargo Folk Festival will be held this weekend from the 26th to 28th February in Cobargo, NSW. For more information and tickets check out the official site here.

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2015

Record Collecting

So you’ve read what we think the top 25 albums of 2015 are but here’s what you’re really waiting for – the article where we ask our favourite artists to pick their favourite recordings of the year.

Every year we reach out to artists across the Timber and Steel genre spectrum to pick their number one album or EP of the year and the results are always surprising. So get yourself a cold drink, find somewhere comfortable to site down and enjoy Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2015:

Postcards From Ursa MinorFrank Turner
Will VarleyPostcards From Ursa Minor
I stumbled across Will a few years back and instantly fell in love. He’s currently my favourite songwriter, and I think this album is little short of a masterpiece.

The DeslondesJimmy Daley (The Morrisons, The Tawny Owl Stringband)
The DeslondesThe Deslondes
Heard the song “Louise” on a live music series on YouTube called Jammin In The Van and was immediately bowled over. Went and bought the album (yes I bought it) and was not disappointed. Killer songs, retro production that sounds modern at the same time, great playing and awesome singing/harmonies. I’ll be knocking back many tins over summer while listening to this album.

The Phosphorescent BluesMichael O’Donnell (The Squeezebox Trio)
Punch BrothersThe Phosphorescent Blues
Stop reading this review right now and go listen to this album. Its just perfect. From the 10 minute opener to Debussy to one hell of an ending, this album is a game changer. There is only one (10 second) instrumental solo on the whole album, opting for lush orchestrations instead. It was a HUGE influence on us.

Paradise is ThereTaryn La Fauci
Natalie MerchantParadise is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings
To be able to re-release a complete new version of a record first released 20 years ago in 1995 is an incredible artstic achievement. Karl Broadie introduced me to her music and since then I have drank up her journey and past records. Her voice holds this piercing warmth and wisdom that coos you in and wraps you up like a child in its mothers arms. Getting to devour this rediscovery of Tigerlily and how she has evolved with it is why this record is my favourite release of 2015.

Wilder MindGerrit Gmel (Citizen of the World)
Mumford & SonsWilder Mind
This is really a no brainer for me, I absolutely adore these guys and without them I probably wouldn’t write the music I write today. This being said, their new sound took me a while to get used to and I went from loving 95% of the songs to loving 70% on this new album. Still, it shows how even a genre-defining band can have the guts and skill to reinvent their sound and write powerful songs independently of the instrumental setup.

Diamonds in the BloodstreamJosh Rennie-Hynes
Raised by EaglesDiamonds in the Bloodstream
A great collection of songs. Honest and thoughtful and the production is spot on. One of my favourite Australian bands.

But For All These Shrinking HeartsWoody Pitney
Josh PykeBut For All These Shrinking Hearts
Josh Pyke delivered again with this new gem of an album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts. Staying true to his iconic style and sound, this tightly produced record is a great listen. Despite not having any stand-out hits like previous albums, it still has plenty of sparkle and charm. My personal favourites are “Hollering Hearts” and “Book of Revelations”.

Carrie & LowellCaitlin Park
Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
There is no-one quite like Sufjan Stevens. It is hard to put your finger on the power of his story-telling, what it is that drags us in so. For me, it is the way he paints the picture; he writes about the little things, the smaller moments between two people. A whole album dedicated to the memory of his mother and descriptions of her passing, we are left to fill in the the rest of the story. Where they lived, their age – these things don’t matter as long as you are privy to their quiet moments alone. And then in one foul swoop, he wraps up the meaning of the song in one sentence, and your heart breaks into a thousand pieces **we’re all gonna’ die**. A lyric that will stay with me forever, a lyric i will always remember from the year 2015: “What could I have said to raise you from the dead, oh could I be the sky on the fourth of July?”

Strange New PastSteven Barnard (Arbori)
Seth SentryStrange New Past
I know this puts me at risk of losing my indie folk privileges but Seth Sentry’s second LP was simply outstanding. Kendrick Lamars to pimp a butterfly was musically more brilliant but topically from another world. His harmonic nostalgia tethered by trap beats rap ego and existential early 30’s humility is seamless. The record plays from start to finish effortlessly and voids of any Aus hip hop cringe worthy cleches that we have blushed at when measured against the likes of Kings Kunta and Kick Push. I’m a hip hop dancer and this is hands down the best Aussie rap release for getting down to ever. If you dig emotional depth, impressive musicality and need a reason to shake your ass, this record is all that and more.

sound and colorRosie Jackson-Taylor (Liam Gale & The Ponytails)
Alabama ShakesSound & Color
I have been completely obsessed with every single track on the album since the first time I heard it and it was on welcomed high rotation for the entire drive of our East Coast tour earlier this year. Brittany Howard’s voice is unbelievable and every song is captivating in its own right. The whole experience of the album is kind of like listening to futuristic funk blues in space, naked.

Sol InvictusClaude Hay
Faith No MoreSol Invictus
I had been waiting for this album for years. Singer Mike Patton can put an unique infectious melody to anything he touches, melodies that stick. There’s always something different that comes from these guys that is so refreshing to my ears, the complete opposite of commercial radio.

Carrie & LowellSam Newton
The Milk Carton KidsMonterey
This is one of the most ‘pure’ sounding records that I’ve ever heard. I know that this could be said of just about all of the releases by these guys but I feel that with Monterey, they have reached all new heights in lyricism, vocal unity and the art of subtle lead/guitar fills. It says something special about the songwriting of a group when every track on an album contains a maximum of 2 voices and 2 guitars but can still hold its own from start to finish. I bought the vinyl when I saw them live earlier in the year and it has easily been one of my favourite purchases of 2015.

LoyaltyMatt Bauer
The Weather StationLoyalty
I haven’t connected with a record this strongly in a very long time. From the first lines of “The Way It Is And The Way It Could Be” I was just – there. It took me several attempts to get to the end of the record because I was so moved I kept having to turn it off.

Key ChangeMatt Corby
MockyKey Change
This album is full of songs to live life to, songs you can put on at any moment and jam out to.

Carrie & LowellDan Flynn
Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
How many gobsmackingly good folk songs can you fit into one album? Eleven it seems. This album is unbelievably melancholy but also curiously uplifting and indeed healing. The vocal melodies are outrageously good, the instrumentation is pitch perfect and the production is stunning despite the fact that part of the album was recorded on his iPhone. I will be listening to this for years to come.

Darling ArithmeticKim Churchill
VillagersDarling Arithmetic
I have ogled at the songwriting abilities of Conor J O’Brien since we played a small gig in an odd venue called the Duncan Garage Showroom on Vancouver Island years ago. In the past his lyrics have portrayed a depth and insight that guided me as a person much further into myself and my unconscious emotional processes. Again he helps me make those journeys on this album but with a simplicity and vulnerability that is just profound! He has clearly had some pain and rebirth in his life and he puts it out on the table in an incredible honest way. He reaches further inside himself than many of us ever will and gives us songs that allow us to take the same journey’s into ourselves. It’s kind of creepy how he does it. But he’s always flirted with being a bit creepy. Watch the video clip to his first single off the album, “Courage”, and you’ll see what I mean. In many ways its the essence of psychedelic folk; Spooky, insightful, melodically stunning and at its core undeniably beautiful and honest.

Phosphorescent BluesBlair Dunlop
Punch BrothersPhosphorescent Blues
Whilst it’s an incredibly impressive body of work from a technical standpoint, it never strays into grandstanding or over-indulgence. Beautiful arrangements, soaring harmonies and songs that keep me guessing – a gem!

Soft Faces to HoldAlanna Eileen
Toby GrahamSoft Faces to Hold
Beautiful, surreal alternative folk music with incredible vocals, lyrically inventive and delicate in all the right places. It got me through the year.

When The Storms Would ComeBronte
Holy HolyWhen The Storms Would Come
I have been a fan of Holy Holy since they released their first EP. Their album When The Storms Would Come, which was released in July this year, has been a stand out album in my opinion. I enjoy the lyrics and the melodies that flow throughout their music which continues to improve with each release. I think the next few years for Holy Holy will be huge and they are starting to enjoy a great deal of success from overseas audiences. Stand out track is “History” but “You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog” just makes me want to crank up the dial and drive around all night, it is such a cruising tuneeee.

Nathaniel RateliffJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night SweatsNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Only released recently this album is straight out of the 70’s!! Full of now Motown and soul, it’s 2015’s ultimate road trip album.

NinaThe Campervan Dancers
Daniel MarchNina
So much groove! It’s really tight, shows a wonderful depth of stylistic influences. Great production and musicianship – just the whole package. These have been our chosen cruisin’ tunes in Candice-the-Campervan-Dancer-van this springtime.

If I WasJoel Barker
The StavesIf I Was
It was hard to chose against Glen Hansard’s Didn’t He Ramble but after seeing The Staves at The Beautiful Days Festival in Devon, UK a couple of years ago I had to go with their 2015 release If I Was. Hearing three sisters sing together in perfect harmony make it seems so damn easy. The addition of Justin Vernon as producer takes the intimacy of their past work and elevates it into a more accessible market. Theres a new dynamic and consideration to the recording process that really hits a note with me. Songs such as “Make It Holy” and “Steady” have magnificent vocal loops and hooks that keep you wanting more of those voices made to sing together. It’s got a lot of texture, as much intimacy of their previous releases, but additional drive which undoubtedly has introduced them to a whole new fan base. Makes we want to prop myself up against a tree, close my eyes and listen to it on repeat, over and over again.

These WallsRose Wintergreen
Anna CordellThese Walls
Sometimes, very rarely, new songs come to me in my dreams. I wake up with the melody in my bones, I sleepily reach for my phone to record it before it disappears forever. It’s happened several times recently, and I’ve been ecstatic with the deep, haunting quality of the melodies, the pleasing way they meander effortlessly like a creek rambling unselfconsciously in bushland so remote that no one will pass through for decades at a time. Unfortunately for me, I’ve realised that these melodies are actually Anna Cordell’s, from her stunning debut record, These Walls! Arresting and deeply affecting.

EPTim Guy
BumspaEP
A force of nature in the very northern parts of NSW. They made an EP this year and squeezed 5 songs onto a little ’45. The last track comes from the view of a Bushranger being in his cell while awaiting hanging. It’s really rare and really wonderful. Great songwriting with ragged attitude to the musical accompaniment.

FourwindsThe East Pointers
FourWindsFourWinds
After chatting about our many favourite records from this past year, the 3 of us decided that FourWinds deserve the top spot with their self-titled album. This crew from Ireland is tearing up the traditional music scene with their authentic sound and top-notch musicianship. Check ‘em out live if you can!

Modern VintageSian Evans
Cheap FakesModern Vintage
If its not for the super smooth vocals of Kiwi front man Hayden Andrews alone, it’s the funk, the phat base, totally hot horn lines and syncopated silences. Production instrumentation ties cleverly a carnival dub vintage rock’n’roll infused surf style funk and soul variety. Consistent. Solid. It dribbles dizziness, you can’t sit still!

The Woodshed SessionsScott Collins (The Mid-North)
Wood and WireThe Woodshed Sessions Vol. 1
Six tracks recorded in one take around one microphone. It is an exciting display of musicianship and energy. Very fun and awe inspiring.

Sound and ColorAlison Ferrier
Alabama ShakesSound & Color
An exciting, innovative and uplifting second release from the rock band with soul. Singer/guitarist Brittany Howard’s performance is utterly inspiring: she gives it everything she’s got. I sing along with this in the car quite a lot!

The PositionsCastlecomer
Gang of YouthsThe Positions
We love that the album is so dark in theme yet the melodies could be on any pop album. It’s an impressive body of work. Our runners up are Holy Holy’s When the Storms Would Come and Tame Impala’s Currents.

AngelenoNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Sam OutlawAngeleno
California has always been a source of great country music – first with the Bakersfield Sound and then later from Los Angeles. This year Californian Sam Outlaw refused to move to Nashville to record his debut album Angeleno and instead insisted on recording in Los Angeles with the help of Ry Cooder as producer. The album is both genuine country in its sound and also its stories. This album takes me back to an earlier time in country music whilst still sounding fresh and un-clichéd.

All Your Favourite BandsTracy McNeil (Tracy McNeil, Bell St Delays)
DawesAll Your Favourite Bands
From the first drop of the needle your ears are hit with six single, drawn out notes played on one guitar against a spattering of drumrolls from off in the distance – this is the hook, the earworm of the song painted thinly as a foreshadowing of what’s to come. And what is to come? Like the sun bursting through a dark cloud, the soundscape breaks wide open as the band punches in with that very same hook – this time fully realised. Dawes always create a sound that is purposeful, epic and at times slightly over-worked in terms of lyrics, but their latest release All You’re Favorite Bands gets the balance just right. Produced by David Rawlings, Dawes will find it hard to top this collection of world-class songs, played and captured live in a room by a band at the height of their career.

Trans Arlantic HighwayLuke Sinclair (Raised By Eagles, Bell St Delays)
Lost RagasTrans Atlantic Highway
The most soul shaking cosmic country experience I’ve had since Beck tried his hand at the genre. It’s more traditional than that of course and has all the essential ingredients you need to make a good country album – pedal steel, guitars, drums, bass, great song writing – but there’s an indescribable magic to it. Something deep that runs right to the heart. Matt Walker, Shane Reilly, Roger Bergodaz and Simon Burke are like the components of a beautifully engineered vintage engine, each part absolutely essential to the whole, the art of what happens when things are put together in the right way. Buy this album – it runs like a dream.

The Stars My DestinationNick O’Mara (Raised By Eagles)
Ben SalterThe Stars My Destination
There’s a sense of humour and a sense of dread in varying degrees throughout this album. Track 4 scares the shit out of me. Salter’s an incredible lyricist, his guitar playing’s tidy as fuck and his voice – sheesh, forget about it. This album is more than the sum of those wonderful parts I reckon. It’s just funny, thoughtful, sometimes rockin’, soulful – hope he hasn’t read this the next time I run into him at the pub. “We’ll have all the time in the world, An endless afternoon, When we’re bones under the dunes”.

Choose Your Weapon
Luke Richardson (Raised By Eagles)
Hiatus KaiyoteChoose Your Weapon
It’s complicated and tricky-clever but with grooves that are solid and so grounded. I think my favourite thing about this band is that each part – drums, keys, vocals, etc – are given their own separate sonic space so even when individually there are some pretty dense rhythmic and harmonic things going on the overall sound is still really open.

TravellerGretta Ziller
Chris StapletonTraveller
I was really excited when Gareth emailed me asking for my favourite album of 2015! Determined to do my due diligence, I got straight onto my 2015 Soundtrack on Spotify (where I put all the new music I find) and went round and round. The one album I just could not go past was Chris Stapleton’s Traveller – it’s just so dang good!!! This album came out and it was like he was holding a hand full of ace’s around a table full of jokers in the poker game they call country music! If you’ve heard of The SteelDrivers you would instantly recognise Stapleton’s voice, its a lonely shot of whiskey in an empty bar, it’s singing to Jesus on Sunday morning, it’s whispering to your lover in the dark of night and it crying over a broken heart, and of course his songs cover all this and more! On a side note, I do recommend googling Stapleton, he is no newcomer to Country music, having been involved with the aforementioned SteelDrivers, but he has also been in the background writing hit songs for major country music artists for years! I could keep gushing about this album for days, but, in short, Traveller is a return to good honest heartfelt country music – and we all say Amen!

Echolocations CanyonAinsley Farrell
Andrew BirdEcholocations: Canyon
This entire album was recorded in the Coyote Gulch Canyons in Utah. It’s the first of a series where Bird uses different components of the environment to stretch, bend and explore sound. I think it’s important to give credit to your surroundings and appreciate that the environment you’re in has a huge influence on the sound you put out.

OutsidersKate Burke (Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Trouble In The Kitchen)
Heath CullenOutsiders
The fact that I love this album has only a little to do with the fact that Heath lives up the road from me. This album, where Heath is joined by Elvis Costello’s Impostors, has fantastic songs that range from the danceable “Two Left Feet” to the gorgeously Daniel Lanois-esque “Who’ll Rock the Cradle” and anthemic “One for the Road”, all lush and powerful and featuring mad, crazy, wonderful keys and piano at almost every turn. I love it more with every listen.

Mother's Not Feeling Herself TodayRuth Hazleton (Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton)
Suzannah EspieMother’s Not Feeling Herself Today
A brave, bold, powerful and honest collection of songs that successfully destroys taboos and exposes truths; a very rare thing. Beautifully performed and produced, this album is laden with artistic integrity from a songwriter who’s driven from a deeply personal space and sings like a rising angel.

Carrie & LowellWilliam Fitzsimmons
Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
Sufjan + return to acoustic music. What’s not to love!?!! Truth be told, even though I love and respect Sufjan’s art more than just about anybody else alive (Sorry Selena Gomez!) I was kind of bummed when I heard that he’d be returning to an “acoustic” sound for this record. Don’t get me wrong, I love acoustic music. I make acoustic music. But I cherish the fact that Sufjan has always been willing to do something kind of, well, different … and still make you hum along (e.g. that ghastly solo in “Springfield!!!”). And I snobbishly loved being one of the people who really, really loved the Adz project and his increasingly left of center writing. But once I got past the hype of Carrie & Lowell (the unopened vinyl sat in my studio for about 2 months) and actually listened, I was overjoyed. I recently lost someone very important to me, so certainly the subject matter of Carrie & Lowell hit close to home. But, moreover, it was the record’s ability to wrap these difficult ideas into such simple, small, understated songs. Nobody messes with the idea of subtlety and histrionics like Suf. And to perfect that tricky dance and sing about death at the same time is tantamount to a masterpiece.

CurrentsAnnie Hamilton (Little May)
Tame ImpalaCurrents
Tame Impala have seriously nailed it with this album, there are some excellent musical moments in there. It’s really cool to see a band evolve and grow over the course of a few albums while still maintaining their own sound and style.

Sound and ColorOlivia Hally (Oh Pep!)
Alabama ShakesSound & Color
There’s only one way to listen to this album: from top to bottom and on repeat. It was already my favourite album this year and then I later discovered a bonus track called “Joe” on a TV show and I cried a little bit. It’s too good.

Ryan BinghamRuby Boots
Ryan BinghamFear and Saturday Night
I love the balance between emotive songs/story telling and grit. I am a sucker for good Americana music with raw delivery and grunt behind it and this album fulfils all of that and more. Every track on there is A grade songwriting with classy melody hooks that are not too obvious until you turn it off and they are running through your head for the rest of the day. These songs that make me a little sad but fill me full of hope at the same time, also another soft spot for me. I love this artist, and this album is my favourite album of 2015.

ShipsOscar Lush
Water MusicShips
“Four weeks after the devastating suicide of my sister, I locked myself in my shed for four days and wrote and recorded these songs on my 8-track as both tribute and therapy. I’ve had death close to me before and here I was again.” – This record absolutely broke my heart and still continues to do so. Every time I listen it brings me to tears. Mathew is such a powerful and unique songwriter. Nothing I listened to this year came close in depth and heartache to this record.

DeclarationAnna Cordell
Kate Burke & Ruth HazletonDeclaration
This is REAL folk music. And these are REAL women. This music has purpose beyond the artists own egos. I am completely inspired by this album and these two women – and, well, the music is just so beautiful!

Ron BlockHamish Davidson (Davidson Brothers)
Ron BlockHogan’s House of Music
So many of my favourite contemporary bluegrass musicians are giving it their all on this creative instrumental album. Best of all, there are so many “you can’t do that on a banjo” moments!

Small Town BigshotLachlan Davidson (Davidson Brothers)
Fanny LumsdenSmall Town Big Shot
Fanny is a great artist and natural entertainer, her hard work and real songs have been fantastically produced on her debut record. Catchy, easy listening and a great voice makes you wanna hit repeat every time.

Don't Lose ThisSkyscraper Stan
Pops StaplesDon’t Lose This
I’ve never had much of a hard-on for Jeff Tweedy so I was skeptical when I heard he was collaborating with Mavis Staples on the final, posthumous release of her father’s music. As it turns out, both Jeff and Mavis have done an amazing job fleshing out the bare-bones recordings Pops made in 1999, a year before his death. It’s all here; tremolo guitar, reverby drum sounds and beautiful group vocals from the Staples sisters. Plus some unexpectedly clever lyricism.

The Stars My DestinationMark “Looch” Lewis (Handsome Young Strangers, Wifey)
Ben SalterThe Stars My Destination
Well I have to admit in the 4 years I have been doing this for you lovely folk at Timber And Steel I have had the hardest time choosing. Kudos to Buddy Glass and Bad Dreems for almost getting there. It took me a week but I’m giving my gong to Ben Salter for My Stars The Destination. The thing that kills me about this guy is that he just improves artistically and vocally with every release. His debut The Cat was a magnificent effort but he has raised the bar again here. As a songwriter he is up there in my book with Gareth Lilliard, Tim Rogers, Mick Thomas and Paul Kelly. I don’t think it would be overselling to say he is possibly the best vocalist in the land right now. Listen to the title track when the vocals beef up half way through. If that doesn’t make your neck hairs stand up I don’t know what will. Usual story: should be huge, probably wont be. Travesty.

1989Ryan Oliver (Oliver’s Army)
Ryan Adams1989
I’ve always been a fan of Ryan’s ability to take a song and completely own it, especially in cover songs (We all remember his haunting version of ‘Wonderwall’ don’t we?). He took probably the most commercial and poppy sounding album and turned it into a very solid folk rock album that you wouldn’t know wasn’t if they didn’t happen to be mega-hits that he was covering. The production is great and I think maybe most noteworthy is his ability to spin somewhat jovial adolescent lyrics and somehow add that signature Ryan Adams melancholy. Respect.

HighRoland Kay-Smith
Royal HeadacheHigh
The formula these guys have is irresistible. I’m not much of a heavy rock guy, traditionally favouring more Timber-and-Steel-esque tunes, but the whole blue-eyed garage soul thing just gets me. Some of it’s silly, some of it’s naff, but there are enough great tunes here to keep me coming back again and again.

ValleywoodNad Budge (The Stetson Family)
Dan ParsonsValleywood
I first heard Dan Parson’s new album Valleywood whilst driving around Nashville in a crappy rental car with a really crappy sound system, and it blew me away – Valleywood, that is, not the car! I was first struck by how great the production came across, full, rich and really well balanced – then I was drawn into Dan’s songs, each one wanting me to listen to what he had to say, and giving me a sense of nostalgia as well as excitement for this next generation of great songwriters.

CurrentsDustin Tebbutt
Tame ImpalaCurrents
This was my favourite release this year. I hadn’t really listened to the band before this album, and it was an incredible introduction. For me, it’s the beautiful combination of genres in here that gives this record so much depth. A lot of the song structures and mixing techniques borrow heavily from house music (the extensive use of filters for example), and a lot of the beats are a mix of old school soul and breaks. These fundamentals are then built upon with psychedelic guitar parts and raw, dreamy vocals. The record has attitude, vibe, heart and a real overarching journey. I just love it.

The Phosphorescent BluesJon Boden (Bellowhead, Spiers & Boden)
Punch BrothersThe Phosphorescent Blues
I was a bit late to the Punch Brothers party, but what a sound! It’s not really bluegrass, more experimental art-pop with bluegrass instrumentation. Beachboys-esque vocals, mandolin funk workouts, beautiful style and tone throughout by five masters of their instruments.

Carrie & LowellSam Sweeney (Bellowhead)
Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
This is such a beautiful and poignant record. It’s hard to listen all the way through without shedding a tear. After The Age Of Adz, this a welcome return to Sufjan’s folkier side. It’s a heart breaking album about his relationship with his mother who died of cancer in 2012 after a long history of substance abuse and mental health issues. It’s a painful listen and yet so perfect.

Mellow DramaMark Lucas
James McMurtryComplicated Game
It’s the narrative, those fragile vignettes that come alive with truth and a sheer humanity that doesn’t preclude a little bitterness but is always tempered by a dry humour. As he says himself, like his American literary giant father, Larry McMurtry (“The Last Picture Show”, “Lonesome Dove” etc.), James is a fiction writer. His dad was an inspiration to me before I stumbled across his son’s work on a drive across Texas in ‘89. It’s been a heck of a journey in song and, to my way of thinking, that’s what it’s all about – a Complicated Game indeed and I still “miss my dog from years ago” too.

TrackerBob Barford (Bloodwood)
Mark KnopflerTracker
Mr Laidback personified. I reckon he put this album together for his own amusement and just because he could. While not overly impresive on the first few listens, like any good album it grows on you. It’s an insight into what he is up to at this point in time.

Shadows In The NightMark Moldre
Bob DylanShadows In The Night
So many iconic artists have tried the “American Songbook” album and have dismally failed. This is Dylan at his most intimate and unguarded. We hear every drawn breath from Dylan at microphone, every finger touching a string, the slow drag of a bow across a double bass string, a quiet movement or shifting of feet in the room – nothing is hidden from the listeners ear. No careful ProTools editing. A band in a hushed room. Guitars are caressed, sweeping pedal steel is syrupy and lush, drums are ever so softly brushed, tempos remain languid and dreamy while Dylan growls and croons his way through the mist. Lyrics written decades ago seem timeless, ironic and strangely poignant in Dylan’s gentle phrasing. Imagine granddad at the family reunion recalling songs of his younger days at the upright piano in the corner of your lounge room as the warm glow of an open fire crackles and pops. Nostalgia, sadness, wry humour and regret all seep and melt into one another until you feel you’re drifting in a grainy sepia haze. Perfect.

The Hedge SchoolsColm Mac Con Iomaire (Colm Mac Con Iomaire, The Frames)
The Hedge SchoolsAt the End of a Winding Day
My favourite albums involve time and space travel. They bring you places. This album At the End of a Winding Day by Dublin songwriter Patrick Barrett and Producer and co-conspirator Joe Chester AKA The Hedge Schools is a warm, golden, sonic-embrace. Visit this place and be well.

WindfallBrad Butcher
Joe PugWindfall
As much as I loved Rodney & Emmylou’s Traveling Kind or Isbell, Stapleton, or Oz’s very own songsmith Shane Nicholson’s great albums of 2015 Windfall speaks to me the most from an artistic point of view and holds the elements of music I love dearly; great songwriting recorded in a moving an honest way.

Kill It YourselfJesse Lubitz (TinPan Orange)
Jess RibeiroKill It Yourself
The latest album from Jess Ribeiro creates an entire world. It’s a fully cohesive album with songs that draw you in and make you want to listen harder – it feels as though you might miss something important if you’re not paying full attention. Each song is beautiful and the production is perfect.

TelegraphCara Robinson (Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson)
Kevin DohertyTelegraph
I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Doherty’s live set while in a play in Dublin, Ireland. I fell in love with the stories that he made into song about his insight into the world today, the world that has passed and indeed the world too set before us. His own stories in song take on the heroism, evil, love, madness all words and more that is more than the story itself he quotes. The album itself is personal and inviting and welcomes you in with the warmth and depth that he has in his voice to listen with intent as the album unfolds. There is a sense of awareness that is brought forward from a time long forgotten in the music and it is so important in song writing today that these stories of historical changes are kept alive as it seems a lot of the modern day writing is about surface subjects only a few dare to reiterate in a whole album. Recorded by a mighty line up of artists indeed within their own right, Liam Bradley, James Delaney, Paul Moore, Paul Rodden, Nicky Scott, Enda Walsh and Kevin Doherty set the tempo aptly. Favorite tracks “Camden Street” and “Tug Boat” The story and historical references are poetical and strong and is indeed offered beautifully and honestly to the listener. Inspiring writing.

Marlon WilliamsPatrick James
Marlon WilliamsMarlon Williams
Although I’m in a library, listening with headphones and writing about this, it’s almost as if I am sitting in a tin shed listening on a half broken record player with a glass of aged scotch delving into something from my mum and dad’s music collection. Obviously this guy has such an incredible vocal ability, but sometimes that’s hard to capture and draw an intimate focus to on record. He and his team have nailed that and the band compliments it so well. I tend to be drawn to albums that inspire my own writing or change the way I think for a minute about music. This album does that for me. Not because the production is over the top or revolutionary but because it’s raw and honest and it takes me to a specific setting. It’s also performed in a refined way that almost seems theatrical, I think that’s what gets in me in from the start.

Hell Breaks LooseImogen Clark
Shane NicholsonHell Breaks Loose
Hell Breaks Loose is like a glass of whisky you want to drink, and love to drink, even though you know that when you ingest it, it’s going to bring to the forefront of your mind some of the most heartbreaking truths you’ve ever known and expose things you didn’t even know you felt or thought. Gut-wrenching lyrics and beautiful melancholic melodies, and more honesty than even whisky could bring.

BloodPhia
Lianne La HavasBlood
Lianne’s voice is so velvety and intoxicating and enveloping, and the songs she writes are deep and powerful. She writes a killer pre-chorus too. The production is also fantastic, highlighting the light and shade and rough and smooth of her voice and songs. I can’t stop listening to it!

One Song RomanceNick Keeling (Mustered Courage)
Michael BarnettOne Song Romance
This album is a precision powered product of over 50 years of stringband music in America. Michael is a champion of the newest ilk in bluegrass and old-timey, and can play the fiddle like you wouldn’t believe. The front porch isn’t enough these days and folk musicians that were inspired by the likes of Bela Fleck and Chris Thile a decade ago are now taking to advanced tertiary institutions like Berklee and Juliard to hone their craft. If you like Punch Brothers, Crooked Still, or The Deadly Gentlemen, then rosin up to One Song Romance.

GoonJon O’Neill (Forest Falls)
Tobias Jesso JrGoon
It’s been hard as of late to find music that gives me a comforting chill down my spine, but this album did. Every one of Jesso’s masterpieces is straight from the heart and has an overwhelming sense of home and familiarity. I love this album because it doesn’t rely on production to make the songs “better” – rather, they are simple, beautiful and raw.

10Bill Jackson
Darrell Scott10: Songs of Ben Bullington
Darrell Scott met Ben Bullington during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with his children. Bullington was a small town Montana doctor who happened to write songs in his spare time and a mutual friend thought they might enjoy each other’s company – two single dads on vacation in the wilderness with their offspring. In fact, they wound up good friends with more in common than they probably thought at first. Bullington, it turned out, was fighting a cancer diagnosis that wound up taking his life. But, before he passed, he wanted to play a songwriters-in-the-round show in Nashville, and the date was set at the Station Inn. According to the liner notes on Scott’s new album, 10: Songs of Ben Bullington, that was the first time that he’d heard Bullington’s songs. And, as we can hear on the disc, Bullington was a remarkable songwriter. His lyrics have a natural musicality, and the nuance of his stories is bowl-you-over good in places. Scott’s treatment of the songs is pure and arresting. Here’s one of the most versatile artists in the Americana/roots world, whose instrumental prowess is well documented, giving one strum per measure in some cases, leaving room for the songs to create their own life. Not a lot of songs could stand up when stripped back to such simplicity. On the one hand, it’s a shame that a songwriter the calibre of Ben Bullington lived most of his whole life without his songs getting much further than his own guitar. On the other hand, it’s a blessing that his friend Darrell Scott picked up that very guitar and immortalized them. Favourite tracks: “I’ve Gotta Leave You Now”, “Born in 55”.

Mellow DramaAriela Jacobs
Kevin GarrettMellow Drama
Colouring was the first track I heard off Garrett’s debut EP and I immediately fell in love with the rest of the compilation. Similar to the James Blake aesthetic, his songs are punctuated with electronic beats but they are used gently and sparingly. Lyrically, he grabs your attention from the get go and although simplistic in narrative, he reels you in with unheard of metaphors to symbolise a broken relationship. Kevin may make you weep your eyes out, but I’m telling you it’s worth the sob and the copious amounts of ice cream afterwards.

Dogs at BayThom Lion
Bad DreemsDogs At Bay
I haven’t heard rock this real in a while. The songs and sound are unashamedly Australian. A raw record that hits you right in the face!

Daniel RomanoHarvey Russell (Peasant Moon)
Daniel RomanoIf I’ve Only One Time Askin’
Canadians do country well and Daniel Romano is no exception. On his fourth solo album the Ontarian moves away from the country folk of early material and beyond the twangy honky tonk of his 2013 release. This time it’s a modern interpretation of the countrypolitan sound which emerged in the 1960s. Some will accuse him of pastiche, and this is tempting if only the songwriting, instrumentation and vocal phrasings weren’t so damned good. George, Merle, Willie and even Charlie Rich would be happy to have written these songs. Romano knows he’s writing classics too, his brashness is evident through the use of rich synth-strings and drum machines. This was album of the year before I’d reached the end of my first listen.

Daniel KnoxJosie Rothwell (Peasant Moon)
Daniel KnoxDaniel Knox
The 2015 release from Chicago troubadour Daniel Knox is my fave album of the year – the top of a very long short list. The album is rich with gorgeous instrumentation, surprising given the stark piano and vocal package of his earlier releases. The arrangements complement the sharpness of his songwriting and his utterly enchanting voice. I love the breadth of the album – Knox gives us hazy dream trance on “Blue Car”, sharp and catchy on “Don’t Touch Me” and even a hypnotic choir in 14 15 111. Lyrically, Knox’s observations of the sometimes mundane imbue the entire album with an undercurrent of creepy menace

Imaginary ManAshleigh Mannix (Ashleigh Mannix, Little Georgia)
Rayland BaxterImaginary Man
I was hooked on the first listen. The first track “Mr. Rodriguez” had me bopping from the intro, and by the time the second verse had kicked in, I was swinging my hair and red wine around the kitchen like no tomorrow. My favourite song is “My Captain”, followed closely by “Rugged Lovers”. Both songs make me stop whatever I’m doing, and just listen. He makes me want to be a better songwriter. It’s just such a friken great album.

Imaginary ManJustin Carter (Justin Carter, Little Georgia)
Rayland BaxterImaginary Man
A lyrically inspiring album from start to finish.

Multi-LoveSahara Beck
Unknown Mortal OrchestraMulti-Love
Every song makes me fall in love again and again, not only with its extremely catchy melodies which dance through every instrument but also the lyrics that call you in with their familiar and relatable subject of thought. Unknown Mortal Orchestra have been on repeat in my mind all year long, this album is a wise old ear worm that I welcome into my mind with a warm accommodating smile

Chaos and the CalmMark Wilkinson
James BayChaos and the Calm
This record is really strong from top to bottom. It has a fantastic energy about it and the production hasn’t been overdone which really allows Bay’s voice to shine. The songs are catchy and accessible without being soulless and Bay’s vocals can stretch from intimate to powerful giving the album space for light and shade.

Sam AmidonCatgut
Sam AmidonHome Alone Inside My Head
Sam Amidon can go from quietly beautiful to shockingly abrasive in seconds. For Home Alone Inside My Head he put together a bunch of field recordings captured in 2002 after studying with old time fiddler Bruce Greene and free jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins. It’s not easy listening but it’s a glimpse inside the musical mind of someone we find very inspiring.

CurrentsTom Stephens
Tame ImpalaCurrents
Couldn’t deny Kev the props he deserves. The tunes are written, recorded, performed and produced all by the man himself, on his lonesome. There wasn’t even a dude around to get him a coffee when he was feeling flat. When it dropped the band and I listened to it five times in a row driving back from Melbourne. Everything is perfectly placed. The man is a master.

Yours DreamilyEddie Boyd (Eddie Boyd and the Phatapillars)
The ArcsYours, Dreamily,
The album is just filled with bangers from start to finish. Really great songwriting, catchy as f*@k and really interesting production. I would best describe it as soul/motown rock meets wild wild west. Super cool.

Ben MastwykJustin Bernasconi (Justin Bernasconi, The Stillsons)
Ben MastwykMornin’ Evenin’
Mastwyk’s beautifully crafted debut album is full of gems, the songs gently pushes and pulls you all the way from Texas to Melbourne inner north in one long dance.

The GleanerJordie Lane
Brendan WelchThe Gleaner
Thanks to local new Ballarat label, Heart Of The Rat Records, this brilliant album was given new life in October. Undoubtedly my favorite Australian voice, Brendan’s epic songs are matched by Paul Dempsey (Something For Kate) with the producer hat on! I know already it’s gonna be one of my favorite records of all time!

Coming HomeBroads
Leon BridgesComing Home
Our pick for 2015’s top album was the debut album from Texan soul singer Leon Bridges. Co-written with members of Texan band White Denim, the album perfectly pays homage to that moment in history when gospel music bled into the world of soul. Particularly reminiscent of the velvet tones of Sam Cooke, the charismatic charm of this album had us absolutely bowled over, and has been played on high rotation since its release mid way through the year. Check out the single “Lisa Sawyer” – absolute retro gold.

Father John MistyTanya Batt
Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
I can’t even express what this album did to me the first time I heard it. It’s no hidden secret that Joshua Tillman is one of the best singer/songwriters of our generation/ever. His lyrical ability to tell a story is like no other. Then throw in the incredible voice and arrangements within his work and you just die a little inside with the pain he shares with you. I am a bit of a sucker for a concept album also so this is why this ended up being the winner. It’s such an honest album, so honest that he found it incredibly hard playing these songs in front of those close to him, and I feel that’s something I can relate to. I love you, Father John Misty. Thank you for sharing this with us all.

Such JubileePaddy Connor (Lime and Steel)
Mandolin OrangeSuch Jubilee
This duo have a magic touch of writing and playing songs that seem deceptively simple: and sometimes just that little extra beat or chord that grabs you. That can really play, but it’s never flashy: feels like you’re around a kitchen table at 2am with old friends singing that one song that opens their heart.

Jason IsbellAndrew Swift
Jason IsbellSomething More Than Free
A lot of my friends ok the music industry were raving about Jason Isbell, especially the women. If his name got mentioned on social media it was often followed by “swoon” or “my future husband” but it was actually my Dad that handed me his album and upon first listen I didn’t understand the fuss. As I’m lazy when it comes to changing CDs in my car it stayed in there for a while and played through several times and I came to realise just how impressive this man is. Something More Than Free is an album of songs I wish I had written. They’re not catchy when you first hear them but they grow on you, become a part of you, draw you in so you want to listen to the lyrics and thank god they do, the man is a wordsmith! This is one of those album where you don’t skip a song from start to finish.

Hell Breaks LooseTristan Goodall (The Audreys)
Shane NicholsonHell Breaks Loose
We don’t always agree on things like this, but in the case of the best album of 2015, my band-mate Taasha and I are in complete agreement. Shane Nicholson’s Hell Breaks Loose is a killer record. A break-up album for the educated country set (I think that’s us) that hums with vibrant melodies, deadly hooks and stinging lyrics, it sets a new bar for roots acts in our neck of the woods. Gently driving acoustic guitars and shuffling drums support a singer in search of a new start – confident, melancholy and yet tuned to hope.

Be ItThe April Maze
Jesse WitneyBe It
Four tracks of gold. The musicianship, arrangements and production are off-hook. Track 2, “Higher”, really takes you higher, it is so uplifting. But track 4, “Australia”, Jesse does something really special – it is very beautiful and captures the true essence of Australia. The perfect soundtrack for a roadtrip.

Glass FoolTodd Sibbin
Kaurna CroninGlass Fool
I’ve watched Kaurna’s development through four releases and on every level Glass Fool marks a significant step up. The songwriting, both lyrically and melodically, arrangement, production and his band’s cohesion (particularly Chris Panousakis’ lead guitar work) combine for a very tidy release indeed.

PondBetty & Oswald
PondMan It Feels Like Space Again
Oh boy the new Pond album has been round the block a few times at our place. Sonically arousing and drenched in all that bowie-esque glamour, these guys are right on!

Glass FoolBeth Stephen (The Little Stevies)
Tim GuyChords
The first thing that stood out to me hearing Chords for the first time was the song arrangements. I suspected from the moment I heard them that a lot of thought had gone into the structure of the songs and the lengths of the sections in each song. None of the songs are too over played, it’s full of great guitar licks and vocal hooks, the melodies and chord progressions are really interesting and unexpected, and Tim has given great vocal performances on all tracks. He’s used his whole vocal range and included stacks of killer harmonies. The album covers a range of genres which I think can be risky sometimes in terms of keeping a natural flow. But Tim pulled it off. My fav’s are “Footsteps” and “It’s The Weekend”. Chords is a strong collection of strong stand alone songs.

Kendrick LamarHayden Calnin
Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A Butterfly
This is a piece of art. Kendrick has made what I consider to be one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. He’s doing wonders for an ever-rising genre of music and delivers an intelligent, modern, original, political and poetic masterpiece with this LP. Fav track: “Alright”

Glass FoolWillowy
The Weather StationLoyalty
Beginning with a stumbling fast paced picking of the guitar and warped percussion – the mood of this album is immediately established, taking the listener on a somber yet hopeful sonic journey. Even with upbeat songs like the title track “Way it is, Way it Could Be” there lies a weight in expectation. Noticing this year a pull towards a fuller and often more electric centered production, each track on this album unashamedly bares it soul with a stripped back, predominantly acoustic, yet thoughtful layering of instruments that builds when needed. The album highlights Tamara Lindeman’s emotional and warmly experimental vocals that compliment her soul bearing songwriting.

Jason IsbellEmily Barker
Jason IsbellSomething More Than Free
Like many, I adore Jason’s record, Southeastern, so it was always going to be a difficult album to follow up. I bought Something More Than Free at Grimey’s record shop in Nashville and it was the only CD I had in my hire car for the week I was there. It is fantastic. As always, his raw lyrics and vocal delivery are arresting. Dave Cobb’s production is also killer. My favourite track is “Children of Children” because it reminds me of the beautiful, haunting Dillard and Clark record, Through the Morning, Through the Night.

TravellerTimothy James Bowen
Chris StapletonTraveller
He’s got a voice that will leave you mouth-gapingly speechless and a beard/hat combo to match. Do your ears a favour and get into it as fast as humanly possible. In particular, listen out for the track, “Tennessee Whiskey”. Good Lord.

Mother's Not Feeling Herself TodayLiz Stringer
Suzannah EspieMother’s Not Feeling Herself Today
Suzannah has always been one of my favourites. As a writer and performer. This new collection of songs, recorded with Jeff Lang at his studio and a stellar band, is another heartbreakingly beautiful one. One of the few artists that consistently brings me to tears, Espie has trawled some depths lyrically throughout this album that few would be brave enough to attempt and, in doing so, has cracked open a vein of shining gold. It’s stunning.

Songs to PlayJulia Jacklin
Robert ForsterSongs to Play
I hadn’t heard of Robert Forster until I listened to him being interviewed by Richard Fidler about story songs from the 1970s. I liked his talking voice and his passion for Carly Simons “You’re So Vain”, I’d never really listened closely to the lyrics. So I looked up his record and it made me really happy! His wobbly vocals, Australian accent, the Christmas bells in “And I Knew”. Listen to “A Poet Walks” if you need a confidence boost over the Christmas socialising period.

Dorsal FinsRoscoe James Irwin
Dorsal FinsMind Renovation
An absolute cracker of a record from some of the best dudes in Melbourne. With Ella Thompson (GL), Jarrad Brown (Eagle and The Worm) and Liam McGorry (Saskwatch) at the helm, there was no chance this record wasn’t going to rule. Sweet 90s garage vibes and some great electro boogie, all without actually sounding like a retro throwback record. “Nothing Left to Hide” with its Iggy-ness, and “Heart On The Floor” are standouts. One of the best live bands kicking around as well.

MotorheadShane Nicholson
MotorheadBad Magic
After 40 years in the game, they have just released one of their best records ever. The songs, the execution, the sheer power, the consistent disregard for trends. Best band that ever was.

Hell Breaks LooseThe Weeping Willows
Shane NicholsonHell Breaks Loose
The combination of skilfully crafted songs and his soul-soothing voice place Shane Nicholson in the world-class league of singer-songwriters. To us, “Hell Breaks Loose” is Song of the Year and we challenge you to stay dry-eyed throughout “Single Fathers”, “Secondhand Man” and “Hermannsburg”.

PassengerThe Once
PassengerWhispers II
Passenger is a songwriting king. There are songs on this record that will kick you in the guts, make you question your very own choices of the heart, make you remember all the feelings that you stopped allowing yourself and all in the most positive way. AND he is donating ALL of the album sales to UNICEF in a quest to help end painful hunger in Liberia. What? He’s unreal. Just sayin’.

RadiusThe Brouhaha
Allen StoneRadius
The lead single “Freedom” hooked me in. Live video on top of Capitol records, so much soul, so much vibe. Love love love 🙂

The MiraculousMusketeer
Anna Von HausswolffThe Miraculous
I had the pleasure of watching Anna play the pipe organ at the Town Hall in Sydney early in the year. I also had the pleasure of exploring and playing music in her home country of Sweden, in their summer months. So, when she dropped this album I couldn’t help but fall back into that vivid northern world. I guess that makes me a little biased, but The Miraculous is probably the most well crafted piece of music I have heard all year. I would call it gothic folk rock. It is unique and moving and Anna’s voice will open your soul.

Deeper SouthRosie McDonald (RAPT, Folklore)
Shane HowardDeeper South
So many great albums out this year, but the one that stays with me, like a prayer shawl, is Deeper South by Shane Howard with Ewan Baker and John Hudson. I have huge respect for Shane. His music, poetry, philosophy and voice now seem to have been honed by the elements, love and love lost, empathy with others and his own life struggles. There is no preaching, no soap box, just wry observations of love, despite the struggles and realities of living. The first track, the windswept evocative “Deeper South”, got under my skin and recently when all the news was so dire, I’ve played it like a psalm. I can come back and back to it and each time is moves and calms me. The album has celtic, jazz and folk influences and the other musicians, Ewan on fiddle and mando, and John on beautifully played guitar, complement the songs exquisitely along with guest performers. Live, the experience is just as meaningful but this crowd sourced and lovingly packaged album, like a small hard cover book, is a true work of brilliance and worthy of a place in any collection.

Kendrick LamarMatthew Black (The Bottlers)
Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar takes to his expansive african-americana scrapbook with a cleverly glinted and winking poet’s eye view of everyday life based subject matter with 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly. 

Swaggering back into beat poetesque lyricism mixed with gritty urban, jazz draped drawls he looks at today’s America and further into tommorow’s American influenced world from the perspective of a young black man still fighting the battles his radical forebearers fought. Casting aside industry pushed gangster rap stereotypes this illuminating stew all cooks down into what very well could be classified as the next leap in the evolution of hip hop music.

Universal ThemesGeorgia Fair
Sun Kil MoonUniversal Themes
Because my girlfriend hates it and “Birds of Films” is so beautiful.

courtney barnettLauren Moore (Pepperjack)
Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think And Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett is undeniably a force in the Australian music industry. She has the complexity and aloofness of an aging rock star but with the level headed intellect of a philosopher. The elaborately titled Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit showcases her signature lyrical witticisms and deadpan vocal style but also brings some unexpected angst. It’s refreshing and relatable. Barnett has something to say and the world is listening. I can’t wait to hear more.

Bird Under WaterTom West
Arooj AftabBird Under Water
Bird Under Water is a beautifully serene and lush record by Brooklyn Based Arooj Aftab. I have found myself getting lost time and time again in her complex, haunting melodies and flawless vocals, often splendidly layered and harmonised. The songs feel skilfully composed and even after repeated listens I still get a thrill out of the many unexpected turns and instrumental surprises. I can’t recommend this record highly enough.

Weight of the WorldGeorge Jackson (One Up, Two Down, The Company, Chris Henry & The Hardcore Grass, Buffalo Nickel)
10 String SymphonyWeight Of The World
Nashville based 10 String Symphony released a great full length album this October which has been on high rotation for me since. The 5-string fiddle/banjo duo consists of Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer who are both fantastic and acclaimed fiddlers, though interestingly this album is strongly song-centric. The minimal instrumentation and vocal arrangements are super interesting to listen to, they’ve come up with some really interesting solutions to creating a full sound with just the two voices and two fiddles (or one fiddle and one banjo) to work with.

Carly Rae JepsonImogen Bel
Carly Rae JepsenE-mo-tion
I was definitely a sucker for Jepsen’s huge hit “Call Me Maybe” but it seemed as though she was headed for one hit wonder territory after that. Not the case! This album is full of fun and catchy hook-filled tunes with production that makes me feel like I’m dancing under a mirror ball on prom night in 1985. It’s full of the energy and naivety of a first crush, and it’s a lot of fun to get swept away in the drama of it all. Best tracks: “E-mo-tion”, “All That”, “Run Away With Me”.

Cold SummersFraser A Gorman
CrepesCold Summers
Tim Karmouche’s songwriting is some of the most exciting music I’ve heard lately. He retains a classic style akin to the Beatles/John Lennon but it’s contemporary, exciting, lyrically interesting pop music at its best.

Loren KateKris Morris
Loren KateTil Night Meet’s The Sun.
Loren is an amazing story teller and the EP captures the honesty and fragility of what she does perfectly. It’s a heartbreaker but there’s hope and love in there. It’s really something.

Blessing and CursingMandy Connell (Mandy Connell, Stray Hens)
Jimmy DowlingBlessing and Cursing
Co-produced by Matt Walker, with harmonies from Lucie Thorne. Simple instrumentation, very Aussie writing style, with stark images of our industrial landscape mixed with the light and space of the countryside. His best realisation yet.

Mother's Not Feeling Herself TodayLes Thomas
Suzannah EspieMother’s Not Feeling Herself Today
Suzannah Espie’s courageous album Mother’s Not Feeling Herself Today tops my list because it shows how music and songwriting can express topics that are usually too taboo to speak about. The honesty and generosity she shares about getting through post-natal depression and early motherhood is extremely rare and beautiful, and for that reason I hope these songs can be heard everywhere. Yes, it’s pretty heavy, but it’s also done in a supremely artful and moving way that would no doubt help countless people to process these under-acknowledged challenges and hardships.

Dick DiverDarren Hanlon
Dick DiverMelbourne, Florida
Boisterous, erudite, effortlessly nostalgic. All four songwriters share an aesthetic of detailed suburban minutiae and find poetry, humour and melancholy in the commonplace. This album feels like such an important beacon of light in Australian music at the moment, so therefore it’s criminal that they don’t play live more.

Tomorrow is my TurnSam Lee
Rhiannon GiddensTomorrow Is My Turn
This is more than a covers album – Rhiannon has taken some classic American song book standards and also lesser known blues and old time songs and crafted the most elegant dynamic and rich album that keeps so much of the original’s flare but represents these songs as though they were brand new and freshly forged. A true pioneer and gifted singer and musician coming into her own.

Brandie carlileFanny Lumsden
Brandi CarlileFirewatcher’s Daughter and Kacey MusgravesPageant Material
Just bloody great music. Purely honest to themselves in their songwriting and production and vocal delivery. Sassy, Classy and smart assy.

Skull n BonesThe Dead Maggies
So we marched through the woodlands to meet up ’round a campfire, and decide on the best album of 2015. After a few gallons of rum we decided that there was nothing good released in 2015. In fact we draw our inspiration from 1830s Tasmanian bushranger music, so we don’t listen to modern stuff. We can however give you a couple of tips for 2016… The Australian Beefweek Show (Newcastle pub-rock-cow-punk yobs) and Dominic Francis Grief Ensemble (Hobart, deep-intelligent-folk-rock), check them both out when they release albums next year. Now, where did I leave that rum…

National Folk Festival Interview: Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton

Kate and Ruth
Image Courtesy of Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton

Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton are one of the reasons I got back into folk music in a big way as an adult – their albums from the late 90s and early 2000s proved to me that folk music could be for young people as well. After taking a break to start families and explore other musical projects Kate & Ruth return in 2015 with a brand new album – Declaration – and an appearance at this year’s National Folk Festival. I sat down with Ruth Hazleton to chat about the album and get her take on how her festival experience has changed over the years.

Gareth Hugh Evans: So congratulations on the new album Declaration. I’ve been listening non-stop since I got it and I absolutely love it. I think it’s up there with everything else you’ve produced. Congratulations!

Ruth Hazleton: Thank you!

GHE: For Declaration you’ve collaborated again with Luke Plumb as producer. What was it like working with him?

RH: We all met in the early early days, in the late 90s. He was playing music in Tasmania. We’ve always gotten along and always been aware of each other and then of course Shooglenifty stole hime for a long time. I think Kate and I decided about 18 months ago that we would like to do another album as it’s been such a long time in between. And we immediately thought of Luke because we knew that he was starting to do some production work. From the word go he had input – we’d narrowed down a list from about 60 songs to 15 and got it to where it was. He’s been a bit of a silent third member of the band actually. I don’t think the album would have been anywhere near as successful without his input. It’s been an absolute joy actually, not just from a production level but his playing on it is fabulous and also he engineered it as well. He’s just a really lovely person to work with in the actual recording studio situation. Kate and I both with kids and being mums we needed somebody who was level headed to keep us all together.

GHE: I love his production work. And the fact that he’s such an amazing musician as well adds to the production that he does.

RH: I think one of the specialties of Luke is even though he doesn’t sing he’s intensely good with song and finding the meaning in a song and finding the lyrics. He’s a bit of a super-head and we’re a bit proud to have been working with him.

GHE: You said you had to whittle the song choices down from about 60 songs, most of which I assume were traditional. Where do you source your trad songs from? Are you just flicking through the The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs and pulling songs out?

RH: We’ve done it that way in the past. All of us have houses full of Australian Folklore Volume 1 and 2 and the Cecil Sharpe Collections and all of that sort of stuff. We’re also very influenced by contemporary singers. Like “The Queen of Hearts” on the album for example, there’s been a lot of versions of that done very recently. When you play traditional songs you kind of go “does the world need another version of that?”. I think ultimately we just listen really widely and a good part of that process is the three of us all put in 20 odd songs each from all over the place. We basically did this from recordings as opposed to sheet music and books this time around. And it was good because we were challenged by Luke particularly from the word go with what it was about that song – was it the feel, was it the lyrics, was it the story. It made us really think about what we were trying to say. Sometimes you stumble into doing an album and it’s all about enthusiasm and you lose site of what the bigger picture is. And also quite often at festivals you’re sitting down listening to other people singing and you go “I want that song!”. A good song is a good song, however you find it.

GHE: I feel like when you’ve talked about your song choices on stage before you very rarely talk about getting the songs directly from “the source”. More often than not your story behind where you found the song involves you hearing someone’s version first.

RH: Yeah but also I studied post graduate folklore – we’ll start at that point but I always make a point, and so does Kate, of going back and finding the source. So even if we’ve fallen in love with say Linda Thompson’s version of “Bleezin’ Blind Drunk”, I’ll get back in there and do as much research to try and find exactly where that came from. And sometimes that takes an awful amount of time but sometimes it informs the way you sing it, knowing its history.

GHE: Do you ever then find the original version is so different that you’re torn by how to interpret it?

RH: Actually more so on this album. Kate and I took a very different approach to traditional music. When we were younger and we were being called “bearers of the tradition” there was a weight with that. We felt like we couldn’t touch the traditional song much. With this album we’ve really rearranged the songs to suit our purposes. Not to the point of not being recognisable of course! I probably call it the Andy Irvine approach – a song is a song that needs to be sung in its context. To put your own musical input into it you’ve got to be more and more prepared to muck around with the lyrics and muck around with the tune so it suits your purposes better. As I said I think that’s all fine as long as it comes with the respect and the knowledge of the source. I think songs don’t exist if you sing them the same way over and over again for ever.

GHE: I really like it when artists take traditional music and make it their own. The songs are not unrecognisable but you’re singing them from your own context.

RH: Absolutely. I think when you’re young you get so excited by the music that you do tend to cover it as opposed to interpret it. I agree with you, interpretation is the key to singing traditional songs. I’m not a great songwriter – Kate writes more songs than I do – but there’s a similar craft to that reinterpretation as exists to songwriting.

GHE: I’m glad that you’ve got a couple of your own songs on here as well. You’ve got one each on the album. The song you wrote is “Hearts Of Sorrow” which is beautiful, it has lots of contemporary themes running through it. Why that song in particular?

RH: I think it fitted topically. The album is a bit darker in terms of topic. Certainly one of the things that comes through [the album] is women’s stories – domestic abuse and that sort of stuff. I don’t write that many songs so it was a terrifying thing to actually include one on a Kate and Ruth Album. I’ve sung them live but I’ve very rarely released a song of my own. I think both of us are politically charged and politically aware and politically extremely disappointed at the moment. I think we felt like we wanted to make that statement and it just so happens that I had that song sitting on the sideline and it kind of works within the context of the album as a whole. I’m pleased it got on there!

GHE: Do you guys have a rule that you have to have a Bob Dylan song on every single album?

RH: No, but we always come to an album wanting to put a Dylan one on there. It turned out the way that it has.

GHE: I don’t think there’s a Dylan song on every album, that was a bit cheeky of me.

RH: But there pretty much is! I think we do actually go “is there a Dylan song that will fit?”. “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” – Bob Dylan wrote it as is departure from wanting to be a political singer but it’s also got that kind of sentiment that anyone who’s into politics has at the moment, a kind of resignation for the status of bad things that are going on. It’s a reflection of that sort of thing.

GHE: And again it’s the way that you interpret those songs as well. I came to Dylan quite late so I heard your version of “Let Me Die in My Footsteps” before I heard his version, and when I sort his out I thought “this isn’t anywhere near as good as Kate & Ruth’s“.

RH: What a compliment! But if you wanted to compliment the real taker there that would be a musician named Tim Scalan who we pinched that particular feel from. But there you go, there’s the folk process in action.

GHE: You guys are going to be at The National Folk Festival this year which is very exciting. I first saw you guys at The National way back in the late 90s. Does it feel like a bit of a homecoming for you guys?

RH: Absolutely. We met when we were in Canberra, I went to university in Canberra and Kate did her later schooling in Canberra. We learnt and met a lot of people in our folk family in Canberra. So it’s exciting and also slightly nerve wracking after such a long break, going back to it. But it’s definitely home territory and I think it’s the festival we’re the most fond of given our history and how long we’ve been going.

GHE: Has The National changed for you now that you have kids? Does the way you experience the festival differ now that you’ve started a family.

RH: Yeah, it’s a totally different cup of tea. You kind of still think you’re 21 in your head half the time. I’d love to be in the session bar until five o’clock every morning but I’ve got a child who gets up at five thirty [laughs]. It’s a lot harder traveling and being able to get out there, as well because Kate and I live in different states. It’s different at the festival but it’s nice because more people our age are having kids now so there’s an assemblage all of us who were once young now dragging around little kids and changing nappies in odd spots. It’s lovely to expose your kids to the same stuff that you grew up with in a way – it’s really funny watching them pick out instruments and dancing along and knowing all these kooky songs that are very not mainsteam.

GHE: So after The National are you guys taking Declaration out on tour or to any other festivals?

RH: We’re only just getting around to sorting that out. We’re doing the St Albans Folk Festival. It’s been really lovely, people have been inviting us to play a fair bit which is wonderful, but logistically it’s really different to organise all of that stuff. But I think we’re going to sit down after Easter and do some Melbourne launches, try and get up to the Sydney/Newcastle region for a weekend. Kate’s just started post-graduate studies so a lot that revolves around her at the moment. We will launch it but I think we’ll launch it slowly and I think that’s part of what happens realistically when you have kids and you try to get back into the game. We’ll be flogging it for a long time!

GHE: I’m really happy that you’ve chosen to launch it at The National. It will be great to see you guys live. I hope I can actually get into one of your gigs because I imagine they’ll be very popular!

RH: You never know! We’re really looking forward to it.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 23rd January

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviews

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

Blog

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

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

Releases This Week

Alanna Eileen
AbsenceAlanna Eileen
Bandcamp

Punch Brothers
The Phosphorescent BluesPunch Brothers
iTunes

Husband
The MoneyHusband
Bandcamp

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Black Market Tune

Black Market Tune

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

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

Gigs Next Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Folk Flashback

“Shady Grove” – Crooked Still

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

Ten Artists to Watch in the First Half of 2015

Bob Dylan

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

Fanny Lumsden
Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers

After smashing her Pozible campaign goal in 2014 Sydney’s Fanny Lumsden has headed into the studio with her band The Thrillseekers and producer Matt Fell to record her debut album. Details of the album are still few and far between but expect to hear Lumsden’s trademark big vocals. And if 2014 was anything to go by Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers will be performing all over the country and gaining fans everywhere they go.

Kate and Ruth
Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton

When I interviewed Kate Burke as part of Trouble in the Kitchen before last year’s National Folk Festival she confirmed that after some time off to raise a family she’d be heading back into the studio with Ruth Hazleton to record the duo’s fifth album. Since then a slow trickle of photos and status updates have emerged via Kate and Ruth’s previously quiet Facebook page from their recording sessions with producer Luke Plumb. The album, titled Declaration, is due for release in April this year and will feature a collection of traditional and original songs. Expect the see Kate Burke and Ruth Hazelton popping up on the live circuit in the coming months as well – can’t wait!

Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons

When Mumford and Sons went on hiatus in 2013 many assumed that was it for the English nu-folk superstars. But then rumours began to emerge in October last year that the band had headed back into the studio with producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Haim). And now that they’ve been named as the headliners of the 2015 Bonnaroo festival this June I think we’ll be hearing a lot from Mumford and Sons in the next six months.

Packwood
Packwood

2014 was a pretty quiet year for the now Melbourne based chamber-folk singer-songwriter Packwood. In 2013 Packwood successfully ran a crowd funding campaign and then hunkered down to write and record his ambitious four part seasonal album series, Vertumnus, complete with his trademark orchestral and choral accompaniment. The first part of the album series, Autumnal, is due in March and promises a lot more guitar than the banjo-based songs of his previous recordings – and will also hopefully mean a return to live music for Packwood as well.

Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens’ starring role in both The New Basement Tapes project and the Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis live concert and album has definitely raised her profile. And now the Carolina Chocolate Drops singer and musician will be releasing her debut solo album Tomorrow Is My Turn on the 10th February featuring traditional songs, covers and original material and from what we’ve heard so far it’s going to be very unique and very very good.

Ruby Boots
Ruby Boots

After a massive 2014 touring the country and showcasing at festivals and conference WA’s Ruby Boots has kicked off 2015 with some massive news – a signing to the Lost Highway Australia record label and the announcement of a new album, Solitude, which will be due for release in April. Ruby Boots is the poster child for the burgeoning Australian alt-country scene and her success will only bring more attention to the genre and increase the profile of her contemporaries. Go and see Ruby Boots in 2015 and find out exactly what all the fuss is about.

Sam Lee
Sam Lee & Friends

No one is producing traditional music like Sam Lee. His 2012 debut album Ground of its Own brought together the songs Lee had collected throughout Britain, many from the UK traveller community, with a very modern arrangement and production. Over the last two years Sam Lee has brought together a band and now performs under Sam Lee & Friends, and has announced his second album The Fade In Time to be released on the 16th March. If you managed to catch Sam Lee & Friends at WOMADelaide last year you’ll know exactly why we’re so excited for The Fade In Time.

Sufjan
Sufjan Stevens

Let’s be honest, Sufjan Stevens has always been a little bit odd. So when he asked his fans to go on an experimental journey with him for his 2010 albums All Delighted People and The Age of Adz I think he alienated a lot of people who loved his folkier side. On the 31st March Sufjan Stevens has announced he’ll release his brand new album Carrie & Lowell which promises a return to his folky roots, an announcement which no doubt was met with a sigh of relief from many of his fans. We’ve only heard a few snippets from Carrie & Lowell so far so the next couple of months will be very very interesting as more of the album is revealed.

The Staves
The Staves

The Staves have always been Timber and Steel favourites but they may have outdone themselves in 2015, choosing none other than Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) as the producer of their debut album If I Was, due for release on the 30th January. We’ve already heard a couple of tracks from If I Was and it’s everything you’d expect from a collaboration between The Staves and Bon Iver – beautiful three part harmonies, sweet folk songs and dense, dramatic production. Now we just need to convince The Staves to make it down to Australia at some point this year.

Tolka
Tolka

In 2014 Melbourne trad-folk quartet Tolka travelled to Northern Ireland thanks to a grant from the Australia Council to write and and record their second album with Dónal O’Connor and producer Brian Finnegan. The result is One House, due for release on the 1st March and featuring ten original tunes and songs that feel like they’re pulled directly from the tradition. With One House under their belt Tolka are set to become the darlings of the Australian folk scene this year.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton Announce New Album Declaration

Kate and Ruth
Image Courtesy of Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton

Last year I interview Kate Burke as Trouble in the Kitchen were going to be performing at the National Folk Festival. During the chat I completely geeked-out when Kate mentioned that she was planning on heading back into the studio with Ruth Hazleton after they’d both taken some time off to have children.

Well it looks like they’ve made good on that news with the announcement of Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton’s fifth studio album due in April this year. The album, titled Declaration, was produced by Luke Plumb, mixed and mastered by Calum Malcom (Clannad, Lau, Bellowhead) and will feature 11 traditional and original tracks.

Declaration was announced via a video on Youtube – check it out below:

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014

Turntable

You’ve probably read what we think are the top albums of 2014 and now it’s time to turn to Timber and Steel’s favourite artists and see what they pick as their number one.

We reached out to musicians across the folk spectrum, from local singer-songwriters to internationally acclaimed folk stars and the response, as always, has been amazing. So we’ll shut up and we’ll let the artists do the talking with Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014:

NightwalkWoody Pitney
Matt WaltersNightwalk
I was a small part of Matt’s crowd-funding campaign to get this album off the ground and it was definitely money well spent! Matt has a really defined, folky sound, which evokes different emotions throughout the album. His understated vocals with his powerful lyrics make a great recipe for an excellent album. My personal highlights are Track 2, “Melbourne Goodbye’ and Track 8, ‘Build A Place’. I highly recommend you give it a listen!

SongsRoland K Smith
John FullbrightSongs
On his second album the best new songwriter in the world pairs lyricism with musicality and musicianship. Seriously, no one is making records as good as this young man from Oklahoma. “High Road”, the album’s penultimate track, still sends shivers down my spine after the hundredth listen. Fingers crossed we see him in Australia soon.

ZabaSteven Barnard (Arbori)
Glass AnimalsZaba
It was a toss up between this record and Jamie Cullum’s Momentum. Both are full are brilliant arranging and some great hip hop and R&B influences. Glass Animals however have created soundscapes, grooves, crochendo, and a singer who’s channelling a rapper, in what I can only describe as indie swag. I have not stopped listening to this record all year

Upside Down MountainTodd Sibbin (Todd Sibbin and the Acadian Driftwood)
Conor OberstUpside Down Mountain
Its been three years since Bright Eyes’ 2011 heavily electronic influenced The Peoples Key and many were expecting a blow back to the early Oberst/Bright Eyes days with the announcement of a solo record. While it certainly is more laid back, the collaboration with producer Jonathan Wilson brings an entirely new aesthetic to anything we’ve heard from an Oberst incarnation (not to mention, in terms of subject matter, Oberst got married three years ago so most of the lyrical content is about the “experiences” of married life, instead of the “experiences” of single life). Defiantly modern sounding (largely due to a decent amount of electronic PAD work), Wilson and Oberst have managed to retain the stripped back and intimate nature of the songs despite the fact that the tracks are still fairly overdubbed (with a decent amount of electric guitar too!). It’s an extremely ambient record which, after speaking to others, can help take some of the “bluntness” out of Oberst’s delivery, certainly making it one of Oberst’s more “friendlier” releases. I love it.

New MoonLiz Frencham
Sarah HumphreysNew Moon
It may seem biased because I played on this album but the things I love about it are nothing to do with my playing. Sarah’s songwriting is exquisite and her voice sublime. It also has the energy and dynamics of a live album.

The Spoon CollectorsLiam Gale (Liam Gale & the Ponytails)
The Spoon CollectorsA Dime for Charon
Part mellow-drama-rock-opera, part nineteen-seventies-swamp-explosion, but mostly a psychedelic journey through The Spoon Collector’s fabricated landscape beyond space and time. I was present for a lot of the recording of this album, out in central NSW with Sunfield Records, and let me tell you: The Spoon Collectors know how to party. The album features guest vocals by the boys from the Dusty Yellow Sunbeams and characterised artwork by the producer’s brother.

Angel OlsenLauren Moore (Pepperjack)
Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
There’s something consistently cool and brooding about this February release. It’s the fuzzy guitar tones; it’s her angry-drunk to sleepy-drunk vocals. It’s the gripping nature of the tom-heavy drumming in “Forgiven/Forgotten”. You can put this in your ears, down a glass of red and kick in a car window if you want to. I love it when folk meets rock in the most seamless way. And that’s what this album is – an ideal balance of gloom and glow – as well-rounded as a human personality; bleak at times, but honest and changing. As she sings in “High & Wild”, “I’m neither innocent nor wise when you look me in the eyes.” Perfect for long walks in the dark and putting out cigarettes in the carpet.

Salad DaysJay Penaflor
Mac DemarcoSalad Days
I decided to listen to this album before dozing off to sleep. Didn’t sleep of course. My ears were completely drawn to the ‘jizz jazz’ of Mac Demarco and ended up listening to the very end of the album. Upon listening to this album, I found myself head-bopping to nearly all his songs. He has a way of messing with your head with his romantic-like melodies and bizzare yet addictive twangy guitar riffs. For some reason I feel like this album should be listened in a cafe in Paris or something. My hat’s off to Mac Demarco. Listening to him inspired me to write ‘Fridge Buzz (Choirs Of Suburbia)’ on my Incentive EP, though I doubt it’s got nothing on any of his tunes.

BeckOisin Leech (The Lost Brothers)
BeckMorning Phase
On this album Beck appears in the desert wearing silver robes and speaking in tongues of crystal and cold fire. The songs are immaculate. The precision and emotion in this album makes it so special. This album was my close companion as we toured the world. I love it dearly.

The CoralMark McCausland (The Lost Brothers)
The CoralThe Curse of Love
This album was recorded eight years ago and kept hidden in a treasure chest until the flavours had stewed. It’s a unique album of frightening beauty and its songs hold many secrets. I’d been waiting to hear these songs for centuries without realising it. The album immediately unlocked a labyrinth of mysteries to me from the first note to the last. It’s boss.

The No-Hit WonderFrank Turner
Cory BrananThe No-Hit Wonder
Everything Cory does is pretty much flawless – it’s a real wonder to me that he’s not better known than he is. Most every songwriter I know loves his stuff and feels slightly daunted by it, he’s so much better than the rest of us! This new album is no exception. It’s worth the price for the opening lines of “The Only You” alone. A classic record in the making.

Jack WhiteClaude Hay
Jack WhiteLazaretto
This one’s easy for me, Jack White’s Lazaretto. It’s full of wicked riffs, catchy melodies, analog raw production, brilliant songs, all the ingredients for a perfect album. I’ve flogged it to death.

Otis GibbsBill Jackson
Otis GibbsSouvenirs of a Misspent Youth
As well as being a native of Indiana, Otis Gibbs is also noted as “a storyteller’s storyteller” who symbolizes the true essence of the independent spirit thriving in the East Nashville neighbourhood he now calls home. Fiercely independent, Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth produced by Thomm Jutz is Gibb’s seventh album since 2002. Folk is Otis’s style but country is his flavour and many are predicting that this will be his breakout album. Not that it matters as Otis writes to inspire. If you like Guy, Townes, Steve etc then get on board. Every song on this album is a highlight, so as they say “lean in and listen” and you won’t be able to stop. My favourite track: “Ghosts of Our Father’s”. Otis Gibbs has also recorded nearly 100 podcasts under the title Thanks for Giving a Damn that consists of conversational interviews with those who write, sing and play for a living – free on iTunes.

Lily OSam Lee
Sam AmidonLily-O
An album of absolutely sensitive genius, maturity in craft and skill in story telling that is heads beyond most other albums about

Hey RosettaWinterbourne
Hey RosettaSecond Sight
Such a good album! Tim Baker’s vocals are addictive and they’re backed up by clever and moving lyrics. Each song is thick with real instruments, which move together in a way that still feels fresh after the tenth listen. It just makes you feel good.

Damien RiceRyan Oliver (Olivers Army)
Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy
It’s classic Damien Rice melancholy but with a new focussed indie-pop sensibility. The songs are well crafted, passionate, raw and honest and you feel like you’re sitting right in his Icelandic borrowed home-studio. The production is beautiful. I love the lengthy songs that take you on a wild journey and the lush orchestral arrangements that almost drown out everything else, in a very good way.

Caitlin ParkHeyMun
Caitlin ParkThe Sleeper
Caitlin Park is a real gem and her latest album is a reflection of great ambition and perspective. A body of work exploring intricate layers of acoustic blended with touches of electronic (“Wake Up In A Whirr”) and thought provoking verses (“Hunt For The Young”) all in all results in a real treat for the senses indeed. Paired with sound engineer extraordinaire Sam Brumby, The Sleeper is a fusion of great ideas executed beautifully. Reminding us of how lucky we are to have inspiring talents like this in Australia.

AtlasCaitlin Harnett
Real EstateAtlas
Bittersweet lyrics, dreamy vocals and guitars and just the right amount of ache to make you fall in love with this record over and over again.

Mikhael PaskalevLittle May
Mikhail PaskelevWhat’s Life Without Losers
This album has been the prominent soundtrack to my year. It is perfection and has really inspired me to think outside the box creatively. Such a genuine guy who deserves all the success that will continue to come his way.

Nikki LaneBex Chilcott (Ruby Boots)
Nikki LaneAll Or Nothin’
It takes about five minutes of watching a Nikki Lane show to become a totally dedicated fan girl and although album was a slow burner for me, its infectious nature took hold this year. She’s got to be one of the nicest badasses both in person and in song. The songs are just good, strong songs that are both honest and lyrically pretty clever, classy hooks and a really good dose of steel and slide which always pulls at my heartstrings. Totally won my heart over this year!

Angus and Julia StoneChris Panousakis (Timberwolf)
Angus & Julia StoneAngus & Julia Stone
For me it would be Angus & Julia Stone’s self titled album no doubt. It’s such a punchy, refreshing version of their songwriting, and there’s an intangible sense of unity between the two that you can really feel listening to it as well as seeing them play live. It almost feels a lot more vulnerable or honest, either way it’s pretty special.

Apex TwinThe Ellis Collective
Aphex TwinSyro
After 13 years, Richard James’ Syro is a tuneful, buoyant and humble return, playfully heralded by a green blimp hanging over London and announced from the depths of the deep web. Without any sonic uppercuts, the likes of Windowlicker or Come To Daddy, Syro dwells in analog manipulations more common to his Analord series (released as AFX) and serves as the frontrunner of what more may come now that the 13 years without Aphex Twin has passed. How bloody exciting!

Daniel ChampagneBearded Gypsy Band
Daniel ChampagneThe Gypsy Moon – Volume II
Dan is one of the most hard working Australian musicians I know of. He is a prolific songwriter and musician of great calibre. The songs on this album are full of depth, they talk of life on the road, of friends and lovers lost and the constant moving on that comes with the touring life. Beautiful melodies accompanied by some of the finest guitar playing you’ll hear makes this album so great.

Against MeBilly The Kid
Against Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Why? It’s the most real, rocking, sincere, vulnerable, brave and catchy thing to get stuck in my ear holes in awhile, with a lyrical perspective that is engrossing, inclusive and yet daringly different. Also, I love these people.

WastelandsMatthew Black (The Bottlers)
Protector 101Wastelands
Tuning into the crackling airwaves of cinematic score saturated post-apocalyptica never felt so awesomely ominous. Maine synthwave artist Protector 101 has paid homage to future shock, nuclear holocaust ravaged movies with an envisioned 17 track soundtrack entitled, Wastelands. Protector 101 takes the listener on a rugged journey through ravaged love, gang warfare and bleak radiated Australian desertscapes circa 2099 with a musically based visual dexterity I could only liken to John Carpenter or Vangelis.

EnmaarCatgut
TinariwenEmmaar
We’ve listened to countless favourite albums on long car trips, lots of familiar country and old-time and bluegrass. But Malian Tuareg band Tinariwen really struck us: rolling rhythmic grooves, bluesy electric guitars and beautiful low male vocals. There’s a hypnotic drive to this desert music that draws you in, we love it!

FanfarloMike McCarthy
FanfarloLet’s Go Extinct
Fanfarlo’s third LP Let’s Go Extinct quickly danced its way to the top of my record collection this year. Fanfarlo have been my go to fun music choice for a few years now and although there are a few more psychedelic moments on the album Let’s Go Extinct delivers with solid songwriting, vocal delivery and production.

Valerie JuneSam Buckingham
Valerie JunePushin’ Against A Stone
It’s bluegrass, it’s folk, it’s rockin’ it’s heartbreaking, it’s uplifting and her voice carries each track in a vulnerable, sexy, “I take no shit, but I just wanna be loved” kind of way. I kind of want to marry her

Caitlin HarnettShane Nicholson
Caitlin HarnettThe River Runs North
My favourite album of 2014 is The River Runs North by Caitlin Harnett. A collection of great songs, played with heart and a minimum of fuss. As an album, it’s incredible – as a DEBUT album, it’s astonishing.

Jack WhiteEddie Boyd (Eddie Boyd and the Phatapillars)
Jack WhiteLazaretto
Jack White! What a man! His latest offering, Lazaretto is a dirty, raucous blues/rock/country mash-up which has been playing on repeat in my kitchen for months. Crunchy guitar riffs, wailing fiddles, ghoulish backing vocals, and a piano which has surely been bashed to pieces by now!
Easily my favourite album of 2014.

Lera LynnJohn Flanagan
Lera LynnThe Avenues
I came home from Nashville in October with a stack of incredible records but this is the one that I’ve listened to non-stop since getting back. I’d call it Americana-Folk-Pop, similar to Lisa Mitchell but more Americana and less pop. The melodies are catchy, but there are offbeat moments (which is what I love about it) and the production is slick and atmospheric tying it all together. Her voice is smooth and irresistible and yes, I might have a slight crush on her.

Tim WheelerTony Wright (VerseChorusVerse)
Tim WheelerLost Domain
The Ash frontman released his debut solo record this year and surprised everyone in that it didn’t sound remotely like the mother-band and it wasn’t (as a lot of solo debuts tend to be) an acoustic record! These songs deal with the loss of Tim’s dad, George, how it affected him and his family and how it’s still affecting them. It’s a work of tremendous emotion and beauty. I lost my mother at a young age and hearing some of the lyrics in this wonderful album tugged at my heart strings in every manner possible. From the instrumental, bluesy movers to the frankly stunning single, “Vigil”, this deeply personal album has an extremely universal appeal. A truly beautiful and happy/sad achievement on a topic we all, sooner or later, can relate to.

Emily BarkerEmily Barker (Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae)
Lucinda WilliamsDown Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
I love this new record of Lucinda’s. I’ve been a fan for many years now and this is stand out. The songwriting is exceptional and very much complimented by a great production. Her voice is weathered, broken and beautiful as ever. Very classy and visceral.

The War On DrugsAidan Roberts (The Maple Trail)
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
Unlike so many rock bands who meddle with reinventing a retro sound, The War on Drugs possess several assets that make them soar above the rest – particularly with this dark, spectacularly beautiful record. The songs live in a world almost entirely ruled by common-time 80’s new-wave rock rhythms, the landscape populated by widescreen analog synth textures and twisting, chorusy guitars. And above it all, the beauty of Adam Granduciel’s weary and insistent tenor tugs you through these resigned and ponderous story songs like a troubled, trusted brother. Amazing.

Hot DreamsLacey Cole (Lacey Cole & the Lazy Colts)
Timber TimbreHot Dreams
Nostalgically cinematic, hauntingly beautiful and profoundly strange Timber Timbre’s 2014 album Hot Dreams sounds like 50s L.A noir meets Elvis-era Vegas complete with the picturesque road-trip around Arizona it took to get there. Equal parts sexy and creepy Hot Dreams is breathtakingly weird. Each song emerges from the shadows reveling itself as either the night of your life or your worst nightmare, you choose, then hold on tight and enjoy easily the best musical expression of the Grand Canyon ever recorded.

The TimbersGemini Downs
The TimbersLawless
Gotta go with local lads The Timbers. Not only do we love watching them bring crowds to life at awesome Adelaide venues like The Grace, now we have an awesome CD that beautifully captures their live, real, raw spirit. One of the most hard working bands we know and I dare you to try to keep your feet still when that trumpet kicks in.

The War On DrugsMatt Walters
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
For months I kept hearing about this album and it took me a while to finally get to it. I remember my friends gushing about The War on Drugs. That kind of turned me off. You need to find things in your own time. Anyway, I was sitting in a cafe near my house and this beautiful dreamy music was playing. I thought it was a Dylan live recording that I hadn’t heard or something. So I Shazam’d it! I rarely use Shazam – but I knew I couldn’t miss this. I had to know. And it was the song, “Lost in the Dream”. That beautiful dreamy harmonica – the strange cryptic words – the ambience captured in the recording just pulled me in. It had me immediately. So I went home and bought the record and played nothing else for about 6 months. I’ve only really just stopped. I love this album. The production is just so pristine, flawless and unique. Adam Granduciel is like a master painter with his guitar sounds on this record – so ethereal and haunting. His playing is so detailed, yet raw and visceral at the same time. “Suffering” is so beautiful. Simple and profound. Oh, and If the guitar solo in that song doesn’t destroy you, nothing will. Masterpiece.

Ryan AdamsImogen Clark
Ryan AdamsRyan Adams
This record is heart-wrenching, soulful, moving and pure magic, but also somehow packs this almighty punch and really rocks out. Ryan Adams manages to be a total electric-fuelled punk rocker and a sensitive, poignant, acoustic singer/songwriter all at once. He’s the champion of wearing his heart on his sleeve and he leaves no stone unturned. Thank you, DRA.

Sweet JeanThe Weeping Willows
Sweet JeanGreetings From Goodbye
It is perhaps a little biased of us to choose Sweet Jean’s Greetings From Goodbye mini-LP as our top album of 2014 as it contains most of our favourite songs from the (many) times we’ve seen them play live over the years. Sime Nugent and Alice Keath are everything we would love to be as a duo; timeless singer-songwriters, multi-instrumentalists and heavenly harmonisers, with two of the best voices in the country. Much of this EP was actually recorded “live” in Sime and Alice’s laundry, which further demonstrates their effortless proficiency. Stand-out tracks are Dock Boggs’s “Country Blues” (in the style of Peggy Seeger), the traditional “Weeping Willow” and “Spring Bird” written by Keath and Nugent. Sweet Jean definitely have a gothic-folk sound that is all their own but check them out if you’re into the old-school folk stylings of She and Him or Americana duos Mandolin Orange, The Civil Wars or Australia’s own Jep and Dep.

SiaAnna Buckingham (Nova & the Experience)
Sia1000 Forms of Fear
She’s never had one distinctive style to her career. Some would call her an indie goddess and others a pop princess. 1000 Forms of Fear is an anguished pop album, in its smartest and human form. The first album she has released in four years, her powerful and perfect melodies remain uniformly magnificent throughout these twelve songs, with deeper and darker lyrics that highlight a more intimate side of Sia. Beautiful in all its vulnerability, she delivers great pain with even greater triumph. Every track is magnificently crafted and combines a faultless balance of violently raw emotion with total uplift. You are invited to look into this woman’s anguish through melodies and vocal cartwheels that can make you think she is unbreakable . Hauntingly beautiful in all its cleverness. My favourite by far.

Ben AbrahamTimothy James Bowen
Ben AbrahamSirens
My top album actually only came across my ears just the other day. It’s Sirens by Ben Abraham. He’s a friend of a friend of mine who I met at a house concert we were playing together in Melbourne around this time last year. He said that he had something in the works but I had no idea it would be this tasty. It’s like if you put Gotye, Josh Pyke and Passenger in a room and told them not to come out till they had something musical going on between them. Sort of. But all in his own greatness. Go and check it out.

Sun Kil MoonPeasant Moon
Sun Kil MoonBenji
Our individual short lists were like night and day…from Robert Ellis (Harvey) to Asgeir (Josie). Benji was the point of convergence. We’ve never been to Ohio, but this land of lethal backyard fires, mercy killing, teen sex and albinos can sure inspire some amazing music. This is a brutal and beautiful collection of stories about life, death and gratitude. And it can be confronting – there’s nowhere to hide as Mark Kozelek shuns the use of metaphor and other distractions. This, combined with the mostly simple arrangements, produce deceptively insightful songs about the tragedy and joy of what it is to be human. Dark slacker folk at its finest – think Smog meets Pavement meets Neil Young.

Lily OPete Flood (Bellowhead)
Sam AmidonLily-O
A really great ensemble album rooted in the inspired pairing of Amidon’s spiky banjo picking and Bill Frisell’s more expansive guitar playing. The overall tone is focused and quietly daring – traditional material given space to unfold and evolve in unusual and sometimes disquieting ways – a real breath of fresh air.

Everything UnsaidSam Sweeny (Bellowhead)
Screaming MaldiniEverything Unsaid
This is the second and final album from one of my favourite bands of all time. Perfect, innovative intelli-pop from a band who never got the recognition they deserved.

The Moral of the ElephantJon Boden (Bellowhead)
Eliza and Martin CarthyThe Moral of the Elephant
Two English folk greats on top form, shaking it up a bit with some unexpected material and totally nailing the traditional stuff, as ever.

Ben AbrahamAl Parkinson
Ben AbrahamSirens
I had been waiting for this album for years. YEARS. Ben Abraham is one of my favourite Australian songwriters and performers. You know when you go and see someone play and you HAVE to buy their cd, it’s not a choice, you have to scavenge around your Mary Poppins bag for dollars and even ask your friends if you can borrow some money to buy their album? This is how you would feel if you saw him play and the album is more than we as listeners had hoped for. It was absolutely worth the wait. The production on the album suits Ben’s songs perfectly; subtle where it should be, interesting and very clever. The album was only released in November but I just cannot stop listening to it. ‘Speak’ was the single he released from the album and it’s one of those “EVERYONE BE QUIET AND PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS” songs. Although I’ve listened to it probably 300,000 times, every time is like the first time I heard it. Other favourites are ‘You and Me’, ‘I Belong To You’ and ‘Songbird’ oh and ‘Collide’… Okay so they’re all beautiful. I’m so glad that I finally have these songs in my ears and I’m really excited to see where this stupidly talented persons career heads.

Southerly ChangeSivan Agam (The April Maze)
Southerly ChangeSoutherly Change
I love putting this album on first thing in the morning to get my day going with good vibes. It reminds me to live in the moment. Even if it’s cold outside this album makes me feel like I’m on summer holidays. There are some great singalong tunes in there too, so it’s the perfect album for long road trips.

Searching for TallSophie Klein (Little Wise)
Lauren GlezerSearching for Tall
This Melbourne songwriter likes to describe herself as a true “feeler”. That’s is exactly how I would describe my connection to this little record; emotional. The production, replete with gorgeous string arrangements on certain tracks, gracefully shines a deserving spotlight on Glezer’s tender and sultry vocals. Similarly, her long time rhythm players are sensitive and nuanced. But it is her personal, ever-so-human stories and her unforgettably breathy vocal delivery that really tug on my heartstrings.

Open SwimmerRose Wintergreen
Open SwimmerCanyon
Floaty, nostalgic, haunting melodies anchored with grit, sprinkled with sunshiney pop hooks and glorious references to Melbourne life.

SoutheasternThe Audreys
Jason IsbellSoutheastern
Perhaps his first great solo work, Isbell’s Southeastern is a masterclass in songwriting that doesn’t just touch on its themes of regret and redemption but mines them in ways we’ve never before heard. We were lucky enough to see Jason perform a highlight from the record, opening track “Cover Me Up”, at this year’s Americana Music Awards in Nashville. He got the award for Best Album and we got the pleasure of hearing him play.

Ray LamontagneAshleigh Mannix
Ray LamontagneSupernova
What a surprise this album was! It had me absolutely hooked from the first spin. These psychedelic sounds are completely different to anything I’ve heard from Ray Lamontagne before. This, coupled with its catchy hooks and wonderful lyrics made it a no-brainer for my choice of album of the year. It’s an anywhere album! I love it!

Rob MuinosDan Arnott (Dan and Amy)
Robert MuinosYou’re Not Alone
There have been a few releases this year by wonderful artists who I’m lucky enough to be great mates with, and I think my favourite of these is the debut EP by Robert Muinos called You’re Not Alone. Robbo does what amazing songwriters do; his songs of very personal moments somehow become universalised, making it feel as though you’ve been through whatever he’s singing about yourself, even if you’ve never experienced anything like it. His voice and his melodies are beautiful and I can’t wait for more. (Notable mention to Jackson McLaren’s album)

Daylight ExpressJames Kenyon
Tobias HengeveldThe Daylight Express
Hengeveld’s lyrics are brilliant. He’s operating at a level above. They’d be compelling enough without music, but his melodies and musicianship and that of his band elevate it to great album status for me. Lyrics that good just keep on giving. Every listen brings me to another great line or phrase. “All the old TVs on the side of the road…” that line in “Fools Rush In” kills me. Or “Our Katherine owned a temper like her name-sake. The firecracker always spinning off its nail” from “The Daylight Express”. Brilliant song, and heart breaking.

LulucRuth Hazleton – (Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton)
LulucPasserby
Gently and quietly profound, Luluc are perfecting the art of simplicity – a trait that is very unique and brave in this age of musical trickery. Unpretentious, disarming, beautifully written, recorded and produced with a “sound” completely their own, Passerby features beautiful vocal harmonies, sophisticated melodies and honest lyrics. Recommended for long drives, Sunday afternoons or whenever your feet and/or heart need to touch the ground again.

BelovedGeorgia Fair
New GodsBeloved
Because “Caravan park” taunts me, “I Love You Too” is like cringing in the mirror, “Beneath the World” is just simply beautiful, “Too High” makes me cry and “Skyman” makes me dance.

BeckDustin Tebbutt
BeckMorning Phase
For me this record perfectly balances precisely sculpted songs and production with organic sounds, and raw stories. I get the sense that this album is a series of “captured moments” in the studio as opposed to so many modern records where every track is edited to an inch of its life. It’s also both hi fi and lo fi at the same time, with the acoustic guitars and drums almost remaining unprocessed while the colours created by the lush reverbs and Beck’s characteristic lazy vocal performances take you on journeys through vast spaces.

Dwight Sings BuckNick Keeling (Mustered Courage)
Dwight YoakamDwight Sings Buck
This ain’t your mother’s country music … it’s more like your grandmother’s! The sweet and pretty country music coming out of Nashville in the 1950’s got a punch in the face by the electrified honky-tonk coming out of Bakersfield California. Pioneers like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard plugged in their telecasters, set the drummer to shuffle, and layed down what would be a huge influence on the music of The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and obviously Dwight Yoakam. Here Dwight nails the style and sound of Bakersfield country but with the fidelity of modern recording techniques. Pull up a barstool and let the steel guitar take you up Highway 99 to that oil patch they call Bakersfield.

StromaeKim Churchill
StromaeRacine Carrée
My album of the year is Racine Carrée by the Belgian artist Stromae. It has an essentially electronic dance feel, which is impeccably well complimented by absolutely brilliant song writing. I have had endless pleasure in sitting around on Google translate (as Stromae sings in French) discovering what each of my favourite songs is about. He sets the scene of each song magnificently and opens up discussions that are quite challenging for the listener. Given the dance feel – I find it amazing that people all over the world are jumping up and down in arenas to these words of wisdom. Stromae has incredible film clips – the artistic direction is both engaging and unique. He also incorporates elements of his clips into his live performances of each song and way he dances is literally ground breaking. There is a reason the new single “Papaoutai” has had over 200 millions views. Stromae is a master craftsman on every level and quickly becomes a complete obsession.

RuinsSarah Humphreys
Kris MorrisRuins
Ruins is a breath of honesty in a sea of over-earnest, over-thought out music that’s flooding my ears at the moment. I need truth in what I listen to and this is as raw as it gets and totally from the heart, a broken one. Bravely and beautifully produced by Kasey Chambers, he’s like the Australian Steve Earle.

Damien RiceJoel Barker
Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy
I was driving to Denmark in the south of Western Australia, listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered program, when one of the program hosts started talking about Damien Rice’s long hiatus being over with the release of his new album My Favourite Faded Fantasy. It’s been so long since Damien has released anything that I kind of forgot what his music is to me. But on first impressions, this record didn’t make much of an impact with me. Not because it’s not staggeringly beautiful, but merely because of how I was listening to it. In the car. Through portable speakers. Driving at 110km per hour. I didn’t do it justice. I found the time the following week to sit down at listen to the record in full, and I’m completely blown away by it.
I’ve come to the conclusion the Damien Rice has three different writing personalities that are vastly different from one another, yet somehow come together to make what is uniquely his. There’s the distinctive guitar melodies, nothing complicated, but kind of like a place to house his other personalities. The second is his lyrical genius. Somehow always melancholic, even in moments of joy, his words resonate with honesty and integrity, self doubt, love and hate. His words become place holders for his third personality, which are the arrangements. Other than perhaps Bon Iver’s self-titled album, I’m not sure I’ve heard an album that balances the sincerity of words with these almost orchestra arrangements that soar with optimisim and drown with sorrow equally. All these personalities come together to give us a collection of songs which probably mean just as much to us as they do to him. I can live with a Damien Rice album every 8 years or so if this is the result. So see you in 2022, Damien. Until then, enjoy the solitude.

Upside Down MountainJack Carty
Conor OberstUpside Down Mountain
This album is beautiful on so many levels. The songs are thoughtfully produced, delicately arranged and seem less overtly melodramatic than most of his previous work, but somehow they still manage hold the same sort of poetic weight and satirically pointed attention to detail that has drawn me to Conor Oberst as a songwriter for years.

True StrengthJulia Johnson (Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens)
True StrengthTrue Strength
Lost in an empty old building in East Berlin while trying to find a bar Ned Colette was playing in, I arrived just in time to discover support act True Strength, an Australian/Danish duo. If you love your folk with a touch of experimentation, or your Joanna Newsom mixed with a bit of Scandinavia, you might love True Strength. The almost a-tonal tinges to their light, delicate melodies only make them more beautiful and robust. Their self titled EP is a work I have found myself returning to often, and their performance that night is a memory I find delicious to linger on.

Tarpaper SkyBrad Butcher
Rodney CrowellTarpaper Sky
The name Rodney Crowell was only made known to me at the beginning of the year by a friend who told me I had to listen to Sex & Gasoline, an earlier release of Rodney’s, which I instantly connected with. I had become aware of a new album being released later this year couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It became the sound track of my first Tasmanian Tour in July this year and is still on high rotation. The way he looks at a song is not only unique but refreshing, this you might not expect from someone who’s been doing it for over 4 decades, but thats the very reason he is still at the top of his game and why this is my pick of 2014.

KimbraCurtis Smith (Yetis)
KimbraThe Golden Echo
Kimbra has got it. Her vocal ability seems limitless and her sense of groove is spot on. Not necessarily “beautiful” or “folky” but I can’t stop listening to it. One of those artists who doesn’t appear to be restricted by any means, and through this is making me think about my voice and to explore it’s capabilities. Also, my brother, sister and I (half of Yetis) are half kiwi, and are way too proud of it. We believe everything that comes out of NZ is brilliant, such as Kimbra.

Royal BloodJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
Royal BloodRoyal Blood
Simply the album is a rocking banger from start to finish!! Influenced heavily by the White Stripes with a touch of Muse at times. Its been on rotation for weeks and responsible for a lot of head banging!!

Gon BoogalooMark Moldre
CW StonekingGon’ Boogaloo
This album was well and truly worth the wait. CW Stoneking managed to reinvent his sound whilst retaining his authenticity. I actually wonder whether he may own a flux capacitor and a DeLorean because there’s no doubt in my mind that he has just stepped out of a 1930’s speakeasy. The fact that he picked up a Fender Jazzmaster for this album and put down the banjo allowed him to swing a little harder and dig himself into deeper grooves. It’s a wonderful blend of blues, jazz and ragtime – yet there is also something here that is intangible and undefinable – and completely his own. Nobody wants to see me dance – I promise you that, but this album makes me want to get up on the floor.

Let It LieStu Larsen
The Bros. LandrethLet It Lie
I randomly met these guys a few months ago when they were on their way home to Winnipeg, Manitoba. They were a last minute support act for my show in Chicago and really blew me away, in fact, I should have been the one supporting them, they were phenomenal. There is something incredibly captivating about these four guys when they play and sing together, both on the stage and on their album. Let It Lie is out in Canada and set for release in the States and Europe in a month or so from what I understand. I haven’t stopped listening to this album since they snuck me a copy in Chicago, hopefully Australian crowds will have the chance to fall in love with them soon!

TemplesTanya Batt
TemplesSun Structures
This year I discovered Temples and thank golly gosh for that. Think the Beatles mix the best of Tame Impala on more psychedelics with the world’s best summer vibes. It suits every mood I’m in and compliments it perfectly. I was pretty much hooked from the first bar of the first song “Sun Shelters” on the album and have listened to the album in its entirety most days since. It gives me the warm fuzzy’s because I love the vibe so much.

Stray BirdsThe Mae Trio
The Stray BirdsBest Medicine
It’s extremely hard to communicate the strength and intensity of these three musicians on record, but the album is tracked live and what is captured is still enough to make it our favourite release this year. Lush, gutsy harmonies and warm acoustic instruments are part of the joy of this album, but the most exciting bit is the songwriting – there are some jaw-dropping songs on there. This is just such no-nonsense, straight up, great music to make you laugh and cry and sing along reeeally loudly!

Jack CartyRosie Catalano
Jack CartyEsk
Jack has the most delightful voice, pens lyrics that take you on little faraway journeys, and has recorded an album that includes a song I suffer withdrawals from (“Honey, Do You Know The Way Back Home?”).

HuskyJesse Lubitz (Tinpan Orange)
HuskyRuckers Hill
This is a mighty record. The soaring harmonies and tight arrangements wrap perfectly around the beautifully crafted songs. This is one of the best albums to come out of Australia in the past few years. Faultless.

Jacob WyldeHayden Calnin
Jacob WyldeIt’s All About To Go
I’ve been following folk artist Jacob Wylde’s music for some time, impatiently waiting for an EP release from him for far too long. He’s 18, from Perth and been very busy with school I imagine. Then one day, It’s All About To Go came along and (pardon my foul mouth) but… HOLY F*CK! He’s the musician the world’s been needing and I’m spreading the word and supporting this guy till the bitter end of my days. Please listen to Jacob Wylde. He’s a rare find.

Kate Miller HeidkeImogen Bel
Kate Miller-HeidkeO Vertigo!
I love the way Kate surprises you with each new album. She never rests on her laurels and she is impossible to pin down. This is what has kept her fan-base so loyal. On this album, she has found the perfect balance of her theatrical leanings with off-kilter pop hooks and her mixture of literal and absurd lyrics. I’m a huge fan of the production on this one and the subtle eighties pop influences that never sound obviously retro. I began following (stalking) her career since her first EP and she has been a huge inspiration to me. Thanks, Kate!

VariousLes Thomas
VariousAustralian Artists for Asylum Seekers
I was blown away by the Australian Artists for Asylum Seekers Christmas album, which was put together by Lindsay Philips and features 25 excellent local songwriters. Christmas albums have never done it for me before, but the quality of every song and the fact that all proceeds go towards supporting the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre make it a beautiful example of an artistic collaboration in the best traditions of giving.

Phantom RadioMichael Paolino (Husband)
Mark Lanegan BandPhantom Radio
I got into Mark Lanegan’s music this year and I don’t know how I got through the last 30 years without it. This album has a pretty diverse sound, going from incredibly soulful, organic southern/gothic rock to some synth experimentation with iPhone drum apps! Best track “Harvest Home”. All in all a great listen.

Possessed By Paul JamesIsaac Graham
Possessed by Paul JamesThere Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely
I stumbled across Possessed by Paul James (stage name of musician Konrad Wert) at a show in San Francisco a few years ago. I was amazed at his effortless and energetic performance and impressed by his ability to seamlessly switch gears between heartfelt folk ballads and fiddle-driven, foot stompers. Although he fell off my radar for a little while I recently tracked down his latest album There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely (2013) and was immediately captivated. Although it was released late last year I’m still claiming it as my favourite for 2014. Through his shrewd lyrics and restless performance, Wert seems to capture both the inevitable joy and loneliness of everyday life. The end product is a series of songs that are as heartbreaking as they are heart-warming. Standout tracks are “Hurricane”, “Where Does All the Time Go” and title track “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely”. Let’s hope he tours here sometime soon.

BeckMatt Dewar (Direwolf)
BeckMorning Phase
I don’t mean to split hairs, but I was vigorously torn between Faker, FKA Twigs and Beck. However I landed on Morning Phase because of its beautiful complicated simplicity. Despite the gusty blend of 60’s inspired psychedelic folk/rock, I’m constantly in awe of a man who can bring so much weight with such blunt phrases like “these are the words you use, to say goodbye”. It’s truly a lament of husky wails, lingering sadness and about 20 years of making records.

About FaceJaye Kranz (Brighter Later)
#1 DadsAbout Face
CAVEAT: I decided to choose my fav local release. It just seems like such an impressive time for Oz music, right? #1 Dads About Face flew in on first listen and still hasn’t left me. As per Big Scary, Tom Iansek is once again behind the production desk, wielding his sonic sensibilities in ways at once strangely familiar, decidedly new, and always astonishingly beautiful. I love how much he does with sometimes the simplest production choices and changes, doing only as much as the song needs. Love the collaborations, “Return To” being my standout. Also: a sax solo. (Equal first: Lowlakes – Iceberg Nerves)

Mia DysonLiz Stringer
Mia DysonIdyllwild
Idyllwild is such a playful and coherent bunch of songs. One of my favourites is “Based On Your Eyes”, a beautiful, honest and soulful love song that’s vulnerable and tender and heaving with feeling. It gets better with every listen which, for me, is a mark of a quality album. There’s a brashness to Idyllwild that I love. Mia seems to have reached another level of writing and playing. Just when you think it can’t get any better.

In The SilenceThom Lion
ÁsgeirIn The Silence
I’ve always admired artists who could mix organic instruments into their sound with electronic circuitry. So many try and fail, yet Iceland’s Ásgeir does it with supreme conviction. His release In The Silence had me intrigued and genuinely moved from the first listen. The Bon Iver influence can be heard throughout (especially in the layered vocal production and acoustic guitars) but Ásgeir carves his own sound through bleeps, bloops and R&B beats. The fact that these songs have been translated from their original Icelandic form to English makes the words all the more wholesome and endearing. His voice exudes a soft, pleading emotion, with ethereal qualities. “Kings and Queens” is a folky song, yet would not be out of place on a chillout sessions compilation. Punctuated by pulsing synths, lyrically it conjures beautiful imagery and a sense of wonder. “Torrent” is an absolute belter, with its anthemic piano line, the band joins in with the spirit of Arcade Fire. Do yourself a favour and check out his vulnerable yet grandiose take of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” on youtube, for an insight into his stunning live show.

ElbowOlivia Hally (Oh Pep!)
ElbowThe Taking Off And Landing Of Everything
Elbow’s arrangements hit you hard, even more so with this latest release. Guy Garvey’s lyrics make you smile, but not because they’re particularly happy. This is a great album, my favourite this year.

KimbraJames McKendry (Takadimi)
KimbraThe Golden Echo
This is not a lo-fi listen, it is as much about sound design and exploration of textures as it is about songs. On each track you can hear that great care was taken to a sculpt a piece of art, and not just write some catchy tunes that everybody would like. It still has Kimbra’s trademark quirky sense of melody but it is far more experimental and eclectic in it’s influences than Vows. There are strong influences of neo-soul, experimental electronic music and psychedelia present. Washy, armchair sinking moments of ambient bliss like those heard on Carolina are contrasted with some edgier and more confronting works like the tongue in cheek ode to nostalgia that is “90’s music”. All in all I’m blown away by this album. Go get it.

Emma SwiftJames Morrison (The Morrisons)
Emma SwiftEmma Swift
Emma really delivered with this album. The songs are full of conviction, and her voice is equal parts of beauty and sorrow. It’s a real late night record. The whole thing is understated and moody, the session band are subtle and tasteful, Anne McCue did a great job with the production, and there’s more than one moment that will bring on a blissful sigh (special mention to the chorus in “James”). Just go and listen to it, watch her live, fall in love with her, and if you meet anyone who belittles the state of Australian country music, throw this their way.

Daniel RossenShannon Carpenter (Sleepy Dreamers)
Daniel RossenSilent Hour/Golden Mile
I love Grizzly Bear so I was probably always going to love this. I’ve always been a big fan of his voice and guitar playing. Was really hard to choose a fav so I should give an honourable mention to The War on Drugs. Their album was ridiculously good as well.

The War On DrugsOllie Brown
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
It’s the subtle change of the snare drum after the first chorus of Lost in the Dream. It’s the distant piano that melts away in your ears. It’s the shimmering tremolo guitars, driving 80s rock beats and Dylan-esc vocal delivery that makes this record timeless, refreshing and my favourite album of 2014.

S CareyRoscoe James Irwin
S. CareyRange of Light
S. Carey is mostly known for being the drummer and main backing vocalist in the Bon Iver live band, but his own solo records are amazing and place him highly as a genuine artist in his own right. He manages to blend live instruments and orchestration with manipulated ambient sound into something very haunting and really incredible. Once you’ve heard the opening track “Glass/Film”, you’ll be hard pressed not to listen to the whole record. “Crown the Pines”, with it’s free melody and layered double-stop fiddles, and “Alpenglow”, with it’s deep and powerful string arrangement, are both highlights.

The StavesRosie McDonald (RAPT, Folklore)
The StavesIf I Was
I’m really pre-empting as the full album isn’t out until early Feb but I’ve heard snippets of the songs on If I Was from the online trailer for the album and i love it already and have even pre ordered it. I don’t know if you are like me but I tend to judge if I like a song in the first few seconds and this sister act have the goods to deliver. I saw the family band – Emily, Jess, Camilla – at the Cambridge folk festival last year having not heard them before and loved their close harmonies and lovely poetic songs (like Wailing Jenny’s, Fleet Foxes, Crosby Still Nash & Young) but the band could crank when needed also. There is something very special about family voices together that finds a cohesive fullness and beauty. Ukulele, still the new black, was a feature as well as very nice guitar playing. I bought their album Dead, Born and Grown and have absolutely loved listening to it. Their Live at Cecil Sharpe House album is also sublime with a beautiful reading of that American folk ballad “Silver Dagger” made famous by Joan Baez. Like his year’s release pre release of The Blood I Bled From, If I Was was produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin and will be on high rotation as soon as I have it in my hands.

Tiny RuinsJane Hendry (Broads, The Nymphs)
Tiny RuinsBrightly Painted One
I had been waiting for this album, as I am a massive fan. Kel (also from Broads) is also a big fan. I was lucky enough to see Holly do a solo album preview show in Melbourne a few months ago put on by the Melbourne Folk Club and she played the entire album in order from start to finish. It was such a beautiful, intimate show. And she’s totally lovely as well.

HozierMark Wilkinson
HozierHozier
A really impressive collection of songs. The production gives the album a rawness and a darkness which I really like.

The War On DrugsAidan Cooney (Boy Outside)
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
A complete album and the sound of art being perfected over years. Culminating in this painstakingly crafted masterpiece. Beauty from start to finish.

Swimmin TimeTracy McNeil
Shovels & RopeSwimmin’ Time
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent conjure up the dead, awake the living and are in my opinion one of the best and purest forms of male-female–husband-wife country duo’s of all time. On this latest release they tread through deeper waters, transforming darkness into light, dirt into finely cut diamonds, all within just a few bars. I’m at times exhausted having gone on the journey with them but always better for it. Swimmin’ Time is magic! Hands down my favorite release of 2014. “There’s hope where you can’t see it, there’s a light after the storm”. I’m glad Shovels & Rope are around to remind us of that.

GirlAde Vincent (The Tiger and Me)
Pharrell WilliamsGirl
Great voice, great writing, full of fantastic hooks and well executed ideas. And I always love his production. My favourite pop album in years.

Angel OlsenJulia Jacklin
Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
This album sounds like 2014 for me. My housemates can attest that I have probably listened to it too much but it really hit me hard. She crafts really interesting songs which kind of meander but never lose focus. Her voice is this incredibly powerful thing that just cuts right through, she is one of the most unique and evocative vocalists I have ever heard. Some of the best moments on the record are when it’s just a strummed electric guitar and her singing in a whisper. It’s just beautiful heartbreaking lo-fi goodness.

The StavesSibylla Stephen (The Little Stevies)
The StavesThe Blood I Bled From
I am devastatingly slow when it comes to discovering to “new music”, even though I love it. These days, my two year old takes up most of my time (when I’m not concentrating on my own music), so I tend to catch onto things late, but I don’t enjoy them any less. The band I have discovered this year are The Staves. Their music moves me into a steady pace where I feel at peace. I’m pregnant again, and their album replaced my nightly 6pm-ish glass of wine (which is was very much missing!). I also want to shout-out to the best live band I’ve seen all year The Eastern, and the songs of Sweet Jean that featured heavily in the toddler music class my son and I have been attending at the Footscray Arts Centre, Rock On.

Ane BrunJames Lindsay (Breabach)
Ane BrunRarities
We really grew to be big fans of Ane when we were at WOMADelaide and Womad NZ together back in March this year. This album perfectly displays her serene voice, subtle lyrics and brilliant band.

VagabondLyn Taylor (Dear Orphans)
Stu LarsenVagabond
I waited too long for this album. Mike Rosenberg’s production of this album is sublime.

Gretta ZillerNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Gretta ZillerHell’s Half Acre
I’m a sucker for a good turn of melody and Gretta’s EP has a plenitude of notes that turn in unexpected directions. I also like songs that can take me to a different time and place. The title track “Hell’s Half Acre” transported me straight away to Wyoming, and “the low country where those lands were so so bad … for me”.

HITSMark ‘Looch’ Lewis (Handsome Young Strangers)
HITSHikikomori
This may be a controversial choice nominating a flat out rock and roll band in this forum. But sometimes exceptions need to be made. HITS have delivered a staggering album which stands right up there with the best Australian rock n roll flag wavers before them. Think Radio Birdman, The Saints, The Hard Ons at their best – this album sits right up there with them. Quite possibly the best rock n roll band in the world ATM.

InterstellerLaura Bishop (Chaika, Laura & Susie)
Hans ZimmerInterstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
It starts with a soft theme reminiscent of the opening of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, minuscule in sound like a forgotten echo of humanity’s first footsteps into space flight; progresses to the magnitude of a full church organ with columns of air blasting through metal pipes, matching the enormity of rocket engines launching; later sits back to watch as an observer from afar with a simple yet beautiful piano theme; and even at points uses a theme that is similar to one I wrote myself over a decade ago for a short film about the Apollo 11 mission. Wormholes much? Who knows! Either way, it’s a jolly good ride.

New MoonFanny Lumsden
Sarah HumphreysNew Moon
Generally I am not into “love songs” or sincerity however this album makes me want to hug, love and high five everyone that is dear to me. The song writing is just top notch with equal parts heart, fight and spunk. I also really singing the songs into a wooden spoon and dancing around the kitchen. Also other tops were: Caitlin Harnett’s The River Runs North, Nikki Lane’s All or Nothin’ (yep girl power) and Del Barber’s Prarieography.

Tiny RuinsEmma Davis
Tiny RuinsBrightly Painted One
I was tremendously excited for this release. Holly’s first record, Some Were Meant for Sea, is one of my favourites – a beautiful piece of storytelling, cleverly told and delicately produced. This record has a little more of everything. More instruments, a little more electric, more variation and dynamics, but no less heart. It’s the perfect example of what happens when a musician grows a constant band around her. The arrangements become a little more thought out, the songs lift and fall a little more. Buy this record, wrap it up in paper, and leave it in the letterbox of someone brilliant.

Lily OJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Sam AmidonLily-O
I bumped into good friend and man of impeccable taste, Mr Leroy Lee, at the Townie. It was 1:30am and luckily I wrote down the recommendation of this album. “You’ll love the beats” said Leroy. Beats? On a Sam Amidon album? He’s never been scared of percussion, but that’s not a comment to expect for the rustic strumming and plucking I’d enjoyed on Sam A’s previous outings. It was drizzly on my walk home, and I took an extra long way just to hear more as the early morning mistiness surrounded me. It perfectly suited the crystal clear production and voice filled with humanity. The version of “Groundhog Variations” is perfect, so try starting there. And if you see Leroy Lee around, get him to recommend your next favourite album.

Sun Kil MoonDarren Hanlon
Sun Kil MoonBenji
Sun Kil Moon had been one of those bands that, due to their bulky catalog and my own laziness, I’d never delved into. I couldn’t find an obvious doorway. I’d even played a show with them in Manchester a few years back, but it was a bad fit. The crowd watched me blank-faced and I felt self-conscious about displaying any kind of sunniness so just put my head down and plowed through. Mark Kozelek didn’t see me play but he was cordial in the bandroom and let me pilfer one of the bananas off his rider.
Just a few months back a good friend, in whose music taste I trust, implored me to listen to Benji, it was much more than a recommendation. So I took it very seriously and was, surprising to me, drawn into it right away by the croaky conversational tone and the stripped bare emotional tales he was telling.
A lot of the subject matter leans towards family, and is often confronting and candid. Lots of death and regret and tenderness. “I Can’t Live without My Mothers Love” is a far cry from your average Rock and Roll subject matter – and reminds me of first hearing Jonathan Richman sing about his wife in “Closer” – and just because of that is more Rock and Roll than any sex or drug reference. But there’s plenty of sex to be found. “Dogs” details the history of the protagonist’s (Kozelek’s?) early carnal explorations in erotic, graphic detail.
The songs are long, but don’t feel it. Like floating along on a stream where you’re too busy taking in the details of the surroundings to keep an eye on the time. The usual long-ingrained formulas of much popular music don’t apply here. The narratives are forthright and metaphor-free and the sparse instrumentation reflects this; it is subtle but inventive.
I’ve been thinking that as you get older poetry, for the sake of itself, can start to feel superfluous held up against pure message, or just plain truth. I’d spent my 20s trying to think up clever wordplay when now they can seem like window dressing. It’s not to say Benji isn’t clever. There’s so many surprising and inventive rhymes, or off-rhymes; it’s as if he’s tailored them to not quite fit so they jump out. And there’s a lot of humor, I actually laughed out loud hearing the line about his Dad flirting with the girls at Panera Bread. How often does that happen listing to serious folk music?
And it would take a hard heart not to find at least one tear. Listen to the story of his Dad’s downtrodden friend “Jim Wise”.
Very rarely, but every now and then, discovering a new band can pull back a curtain on a new way to approach songwriting, and another piece of the eternal puzzle falls away. I felt like this when I first heard Benji, ideas for about three new songs popped into my head. I feel like I have new tools with which to work.
I wonder if Mark Kozelek had an epiphany one day and a new horizon opened up, where the shackles of his old systems dissolved. Cause to me, as far as the lyrics go, this path he’s on feels limitless. Judging by his recent crazy slinging match with War On Drugs I hope this freedom of expression isn’t eating him up. I’m gonna go backwards now through his catalog to look for clues.
So listening to Benji has been a positive experience for me. I’ve also recommended it to other friends and they haven’t had the same experience, so evidently it’s not for everyone. But I’ve written this review without having listened to it for a few weeks now. That’s how vivid it still is in my mind.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 28th March

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– A new regular country music night, Fun Shootin’ Thursdies, kicked off in Sydney last night. Details here

– NSW based singer-songwriter Daniel Lee Kendall has made a welcome return to the scene with his new single “Angelique”. Details here

– As well as announcing a new album Wagons also have a national tour on the way this May and June. Details here

Passenger announced plans to release his new album Whispers this year with the release of cover art and a making of video. Details here

– And just after the album was announced Passenger also released the video for its title track “Whispers” as well as the release date of the 6th June. Details here

– Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow has announced plans to return to Australia this May including a performance at Vivid Sydney. Details here

Timber and Steel are very proud to be presenting the upcoming tour from singer-songwriter Scott Matthew. Details here

– UK five-piece Eliza and the Bear have released “Brother’s Boat”, their brand new single and video. Details here

– The wonderful Hayden Calnin has announced a couple of intimate EP launch shows in May. Details here

Little Features hits Sydney this Saturday with a lineup that includes Tom Stephens, Lily So and the Bellows, Direwolf and Maia Jelavic. Details here

– Watch “Shake It”, the new video for Sydney roots singer-songwriter Steve Smyth. Details here

– The new album from Paul Greene and the Other Colours drops today (see below) and so does the first date of their NSW tour. Details here

– US nu-folk legends Midlake will be making their way to Australia this May. Details here

The Paper Kites have released their new video “Tenenbaum” ahead of their national tour. Details here

– UK singer-songwriter Gibson Bull has released his brand new video “Where Are You Now”. Details here

John Flanagan is raising money to head over to Nashville to record with a tour that kicks off tonight. Details here

– Sydney seven-piece Little Bastard have released their brand new video “High For You”. Details here

Interviews

“We’re actually not fans of real gentle folk music anyway. We’re like Led Zeppelin fans and Nick Cave fans. We don’t just sit around listening to ponderous acoustic folk music all day. It sort of makes me a little bit angry and bored [laughs]. So we like things a little grittier than that. We haven’t always reflected that in our records I don’t think and it’s probably partly been my fault, reigning Tristan in thinking my voice is too blah blah blah for that. But this time we just came up with all these rock riffs and just went with it. It was a fun record to make” – Taasha Coates from The Audreys chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“For us we love the sound of American music but we’re not Americans, it’s stupid for us to write about American things. It’s not because we’re just writing about Australian songs – that’s just because we’re in Australia. If you were a Scandinavian bluegrass band you should be writing about Scandinavian things. It’s about writing from your own experience, what you know and what you’re influenced by. Otherwise it comes a across as really disingenuous I think” – James Daley from The Morrisons chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“It’s a bit of a tester I guess. The issue for us is that we’ve got these lives that are scattered around the country. And having young children it’s quite hard to do things like go on the road. So at the moment we’re not really in the position to play together full time or to really take the band on the road or take it overseas like we were doing before. So I guess this is a bit of a starter – we want to just ease into it a bit and see how we’re placed over the next couple of years” – Kate Burke from Trouble in the Kitchen chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“The first gig we’re doing on the Friday night is on the Budawang stage which is the big one. Something Jess said was the very first time she went to The National 14 years ago or whatever she saw bands on the Budawang, this is way before Crooked Fiddle, and she said “I want to be playing on that stage”. And finally we’re playing on that stage at quite a good time on the Friday night so we’re very excited” – Gordon Wallace from The Crooked Fiddle Band chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“I think you learn so much from the players that you get to stand next to. When I made my first solo album I probably didn’t understand that as much and you try to keep track of it all for yourself. It was quite liberating on this album to basically hand things over and say “whatever you hear I know it’s going to be stellar and I’m grateful for you for taking that and making something amazing with it”. The players on this album certainly brought that”Kate Fagan chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

Releases This Week

Johnny Cash
Out Among The StarsJohnny Cash
iTunes

Sweet Rain Falling
Sweet Rain FallingLittle Wise
Bandcamp

Nickel Creek
A Dotted LineNickel Creek
iTunes

Paul Greene
One Lap Of The SunPaul Greene and the Other Colours
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

John Flanagan

John Flanagan

Melbourne Americana artist John Flanagan is about to head over to Nashville to record his new album. But before he does he needs to head out on the road to raise a bit of cash for things like plane tickets and recording studios. His tour kicks off tonight with a full band show in Melbourne before heading up and down the east coast.

Friday 28th March – Lomond Hotel, Brunswick, VIC
Friday 4th April – Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel, Beechworth, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Ash Grunwald
Friday 28th March – Tanks Art Centre, Cairns, QLD
Saturday 29th March – Base Backpackers, Magnetic Island, QLD

Caitlin Park
Thursday 3rd April – The Toff In Town, Melbourne, VIC

Christopher Coleman Collective
Friday 28th March – Royal Exchange, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 29th March – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 3rd April – Grand Junction, Maitland, NSW
Friday 4th April – The Pier, Port Macquarie, NSW

Claude Hay
Friday 28th March – The Old Manly Boatshed, Manly, NSW
Saturday 29th March – The Katoomba RSL Club, Katoomba, NSW
Friday 4th April – The Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW

Eleanor McEvoy
Friday 28th March – Illawarra Folk Club, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 29th March – Petersham Bowling Club, Petersham, NSW
Sunday 30th March – St David’s Church, Dee Why, NSW
Thursday 3rd April – South Coast Folk Club, Port Noarlunga, SA
Friday 4th April – HATS-Courthouse Cultural Centre, Auburn, SA

Ella Hooper
Saturday 29th March – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
Friday 4th April – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

John Butler Trio
Friday 28th March – Belvoir Amphitheatre, Swan Valley, WA
Saturday 29th March – Old Broadwater Farm, Busselton, WA
Tuesday 1st April – Palais Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 3rd April – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, SA

John Flanagan
Friday 28th March – Lomond Hotel, Brunswick, VIC
Friday 4th April – Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel, Beechworth, VIC

Jordan Millar
Friday 28th March – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 29th March – Cafe Le Monde, Noosa Heads, QLD
Sunday 30th March – Dowse Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens
Friday 28th March – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 4th April – Polish White Eagle Club, Canberra, ACT

Lior
Friday 28th March – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Little Wise and Megan Bernard
Sunday 30th March – Matians Cafe, Deans Marsh, VIC
Wednesday 2nd April – Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 3rd April – “E” For Ethel, Adelaide, SA
Friday 4th April – Café Troppo, Adelaide, SA

Mark Wilkinson
Friday 28th March – The Sound Lounge, Gold Coast, QLD
Saturday 29th March – Visy Theatre, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 30th March – Pig House Flicks, Byron Bay, NSW
Wednesday 2nd April – The Promethean, Adelaide, SA
Friday 4th April – The Studio Underground, Perth, WA

Paul Greene and the Other Colours
Friday 28th March – The Fig, Manly, NSW
Sunday 30th March – The Waterhouse, Huskisson, NSW

Sally Seltmann w/ Wintercoats
Thursday 3rd April – Lizottes, Kincumber, NSW
Friday 4th April – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW

Steve Smyth
Saturday 29th March – Baha, Rye, VIC
Thursday 3rd April – Easy Tiger, Paddington, NSW

The Beez
Friday 28th March – Taste Canowindra, NSW
Sunday 30th March – Tamworth, NSW (house concert)

The Good Ship
Friday 28th March – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 29th March – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW

The Little Stevies
Friday 28th March – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne, VIC

The Perch Creek Family Jugband
Friday 28th March – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 29th March – Devonport Regional Gallery, Devonport, TAS
Sunday 30th March – Live At The Wharf, Ulverstone, TAS
Friday 4th April – The Star Court Theatre, Lismore, NSW

The Pierce Brothers
Saturday 29th March – Upstairs Beresford, Surry Hills, NSW
Sunday 30th March – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW

The Stray Sisters
Friday 28th March – Belvoir Amphitheatre, Swan Valley, WA (with John Butler Trio)
Saturday 29th March – Old Broadwater Farm, Busselton, WA (with John Butler Trio)
Monday 31st March – Albany Entertainment Centre, Albany, WA

Yetis
Thursday 3rd April – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
Friday 4th April – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“There Once Was Love”/”Innstück” – Fairport Convention

I love the way these tracks play with conventional folk time signatures to create music that has a a sense of urgency and complexity that you don’t often find in the tradition. “Innstück” itself is one of my favourite modern folk tunes.

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