Trouble in the Kitchen and Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton Announce Rare Double Bill

Trouble in the Kitchen
Image Courtesy of Trouble in the Kitchen

It’s impossible to overstate the impact Trouble in the Kitchen and Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton have had on traditional music scene in Australia.

Trouble in the Kitchen, made up of Ado Barker (fiddle), Ben Stephenson (flute, whistle, bodhran), Kate Burke (guitar) and Joe Ferguson (bouzouki), brought a fresh, exciting take to Irish trad tunes when they first emerged in the lat 90s. The four piece has since become the gold standard by which all other Australian Irish-trad groups have been compared.

At the same time as Trouble in the Kitchen was making waves at folk festivals around the country guitarist Kate Burke joined with Ruth Hazleton on their duo project, exploring and reinterpreting traditional songs from the British Isles and the United States (and the occasional contemporary or self penned song).

To celebrate both bands’ second decade in the folk scene they’re playing their first ever double bill on the 9th September at Open Studio. If anyone has been to Open Studio before you’ll know it’s a super intimate space so we recommend getting to this gig early to avoid disappointment. For more details check out the official Facebook event 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…

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 3rd April

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Canadian fiddler April Verch released her new video “Belle Election”. Details here

Passenger announced his new album Whispers II. Details here

Bellowhead released their new video “Roll Alabama”. Details here

– US duo The Milk Carton Kids announced details of their new album Monterey. Details here

Dan Managan + Blacksmith released their new video “Mouthpiece”. Details here

– Melbourne singers Fraser A Gorman and Leah Senior released a version of “Blues Run The Game”. Details here

– Sydney artists Direwolf and Willowy announced a co-headline east coast tour. Details here

– The inaugural Bello Winter Music Festival announced its lineup including The Milk Carton Kids, Ash Grunwald, TinPan Orange, Marlon Williams, The Wilson Pickers, Lucie Thorne & Hamish Stuart, Perch Creek, Jack Carty, Karl S Williams, The Mid North, The Button Collective, Starboard Cannons, Sara Tindley, Oh Pep! and many many more. Details here

Vance Joy released his new video “Georgia”. Details here

– UK based chamber-folk band The Leisure Society released their new single “The Fine Art of Hanging On”. Details here

– Adelaide’s Thom Lion & The Tamers have released their new single “Emily”. Details here

Interviews

“We’ve never been on the [National Folk Festival] program before but we have actually played a couple of times as part of the MoFo concert or The Flute & Fiddle asked us to play. We always love doing a blackboard because we have members that are part of other acts, different conglomerates of different things so we’re usually down there. Apart from last year where we didn’t actually play at all as Chaika I think for the last four or five years we’ve had a play around somewhere on The National. But yeah, this is our first time on the program” – Laura Bishop from Chaika chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

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

“We had this discussion with the band just before we started rehearsing for The National and we decided because we haven’t played Canberra that much, and a lot of people wouldn’t recognise those songs, we’re playing mainly from An Ear To The Earth. I have a couple of new songs which we ended up not having the time to rehearse and just wanted to stick with the songs that were strong”Mark Moldre chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“The folk scene here is amazing. Where we were before in Lismore, if we played three or four gigs a week we’d flood the market in one week and have to wait six months to play any more gigs. Here we can do it as much as we want. And the bands around Sydney in the folk scene have been really supportive, giving us gigs or contacts. It’s amazing”The Button Collective chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“We find when we’re put in the folk festival circuit you get lots of people coming up and saying “this is great that they’ve put some comedy in”. It gives people an opportunity to relax or laugh a little bit. Some folk music can be quite heavy, some of the topics that they talk about can be quite dark or heavy. I totally think it lends itself to comedy. But there’s not a lot of folk comedy people out there so it’s good to get a chance to share what we do”Sparrow-Folk chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“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” – Ruth Hazleton from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“It’s a bit of a different thing I did with this album [The Wayside Ballads Vol 1]. The last two albums, I did both of those in the US and they were very acoustic based. I had these songs lying around and a good friend of ours Shannon Bourne, who’s a great guitar player, said “let’s try and do an electric album. The story’s still at the centre of the songs but it’s just a different approach to it. We picked these ten songs and went in and did them – I think it took us about a day and a half to record them. It was all done pretty much live. And I had some great players in there – we hadn’t rehearsed or anything like that so it was all pretty organic in that regards. I’m really happy with the way it turned out”Bill Jackson chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

Releases This Week

Eddie Boyd
A Lover and a FoolEddie Boyd and The Phatapillars
iTunes

Emily Barker
The Toerag SessionsEmily Barker
iTunes

Windfall
WindfallJoe Pug
iTunes

Sufjan
Carrie & LowellSufjan Stevens
iTunes

Mountain Goats
Beat The ChampThe Mountain Goats
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

National Folk Festival

National Folk Festival

How could we not choose The National Folk Festival as this weeks gig pick. It’s going to be a cracker of a festival – will we see you there?

Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – Canberra, ACT

Gigs Next Week

Alabama Shakes
Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW

All Our Exes Live In Texas
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 9th April – Ellington Jazz Club, Perth, WA
Friday 10th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Perth, WA

Bluesfest
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – Byron Bay, NSW

Brad Butcher
Thursday 9th April – 12 Bar Blue, Cairns, QLD

Darren Hanlon
Friday 3rd April – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday 9th April – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, QLD
Friday 10th April – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD

David Gray
Sunday 5th April – Palais, Melbourne, VIC

Eddie Boyd and The Phatapillars
Sunday 5th April – The Juke Joint Stage, Bluesfest Byron Bay, NSW
Monday 6th April – The Juke Joint Stage, Bluesfest Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 9th April – Lefties Old Time Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 10th April – The Currumbin Creek Tavern, Currumbin, QLD

Elwood Myre
Wednesday 8th April – The Pier, Port Macquarie, NSW
Thursday 9th April – No. 5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW
Friday 10th April – Cardigan Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Fairbridge Festival
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Pinjarra, WA

Festival of Small Halls feat. Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, Siskin River
Friday 3rd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Frank Turner
Sunday 5th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Monday 6th April – Amplifier, Perth, WA
Wednesday 8th April – Unibar, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 9th April – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 10th April – The Basement, Canberra, ACT

Heartstring Quartet
Wednesday 1st to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 5th April – Narooma, NSW

Jake Shimabukuro
Sunday 5th April – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Monday 6th April – Lizottes, Central Coast, NSW
Wednesday 8th April – Lizottes, Dee Why, NSW
Thursday 9th April – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 10th April – The Gov, Adelaide, SA

John Flanagan
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, WA

Jordie Lane
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Fairbridge, WA

Justin Townes Earle w/ Sam Outlaw
Friday 3rd April – Boogie, Tallarook, VIC
Sunday 5th April – Byron Bay Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 9th April – Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Friday 10th April – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

Kaurna Cronin
Friday 3rd April – Blenheim Music Festival, Blenheim, SA
Sunday 5th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Kim Richey
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Lucie Thorne
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT

Lucy Wise Trio
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – The National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th April – Fairbridge Festival, WA

Man From Snowy River Bush Festival
Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th April – Corryong, VIC

Marlon Williams
Thursday 9th April – Gasometer, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 10th April – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

National Folk Festival
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th April – Canberra, ACT

Nuala Kennedy
Friday 3rd to Monday 8th April – The National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Friday 14th April – Fairbridge Music Festival, Fairbridge, WA

Pokey LaFarge
Wednesday 8th April – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 9th April – The Corner, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 10th April – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Saturday 4th to Sunday 5th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Tuesday 7th April – The Palais, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 9th April – Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW

Roland Kay-Smith
Thursday 9th April – The Grand Junction, Maitland, NSW
Friday 10th April – Django Bar, Marrickville, NSW

Sam Buckingham
Sunday 5th April – Pyramids Road Wines, Ballandean, QLD
Thursday 9th April – The Rhythm Hut, Gosford, NSW

Skyscraper Stan And The Commission Flats
Saturday 4th April – Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 5th April – The Loft, Warrnambool, VIC

Steve Smyth
Saturday 4th to Monday 6th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 10th April – Four 5 Nine, Perth, WA

The String Contingent
Saturday 4th April – Flute & Fiddle, National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
Friday 10th April – Fairbridge Folk Festival, Fairbridge, WA

Timberwolf
Friday 3rd April – Blenheim Camping and Music Festival, SA

Winterbourne
Saturday 4th to Monday 6th April – Fremantle Street Arts Festival, Fremantle, WA
Thursday 9th April – The Milk Factory, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 10 April – The Treehouse, Byron Bay, NSW

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations
Sunday 5th April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Jim Shank” – April Verch

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.

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.

National Folk Festival Interview: Trouble in the Kitchen

Trouble in the Kitchen
Image Courtesy of Trouble in the Kitchen

I’m going to warn you here. This interview features 1,500 words of me geeking out over Trouble in the Kitchen. I first saw the band about 15 years ago and have been an avide fan ever since. So getting the chance to interview Trouble in the Kitchen guitarist Kate Burke, who is also one half of Kate and Ruth (we’ll get to them later), was a dream come true. If you can get past the gushing and general hero-worship of this piece there’s a decent interview in there. We promise.

Gareth Hugh Evans: I am going to have a little bit of a geek out moment. The first time I saw Trouble in the Kitchen and Kate and Ruth I think was way back in 1999 which was my first folk festival as an adult. I pretty much attribute my re-education and re-indoctrination into folk and trad music down to you guys.

Kate Burke: Wow.

GHE: And I think what I found so cool is I was this 18 year old and you guys were around the same age as me and you were playing this music, and had this absolute love for it. Up until that point trad music for me had been associated with old guys sitting around in pubs playing “The Rakes of Mallow” or “Mrs McLeod’s Reel”. Where did the love of trad music come from?

KB: It came from different places for all of us. Ado [Barker] – the fiddle player – I don’t know the exact story but I think he was definitely a witness first hand to great players in Canberra. And he became completely immersed in it very quickly when he was about 17. Ben [Stephenson] who’s now our flute player but started out as our bodhrán player – I think he was exposed to the folk scene throughout his youth as well but I think he really came to it from a perspective of being around a lot of English music and then when we found ourselves at the same college I think he started going to sessions then as well. So really the session scene in Canberra was the catalyst for us. I came in after the band’s first incarnation which I think was called Sianar because they needed a guitarist and I just happened to be in a drama class with Ado. I’d always been into folk music like Simon and Garfunkel – that kind of guitar based singing folk music from the sixties. And I saw Sianar play and I loved it but they were so cool, they were really cool people [laughs]. I was quite nervous about joining.

We started off as a band called Cooking for Brides which was myself, Ado, Ben, a woman named Bree from Sydney who came to Canberra from Sydney and played the accordion and Ado’s brother Martin on the cello. After a while that band fell apart but Ado and Beno and I really wanted to keep playing music together – Martin was off doing classical music with his cello playing. Joe Ferguson had just moved to Canberra and he was a bit of a rock star for us – he’d been in bands in Sydney like Reels on Wheels I think one was called. And he was a bit older as well – he had long hair like a heavy metal player down to his waist and he was a bit amazing. And he was really keen to join so that’s when Trouble in the Kitchen started. I think that was 1998. And we also had Dan Gordon who’s a Canberra musician and he played with us for a couple of years at the beginning until Beno figured out that he could play the flute which only took about a year.

I guess that’s where it all came from. The session scene in Canberra was really the main inspiration for all of us. But then of course Ado and Ben in particular went back to recordings of traditional musicians from Ireland and learnt it from the source. They wanted their playing to be as authentic as possible from the beginning.

GHE: I always got the feeling in those early days that The National Folk Festival was kind of your “home” festival, probably because you were all based in Canberra. Even though you were a fairly new band when I first started seeing you guys there was a level of comfort – you were tearing up the session bar at night, you were everywhere throughout the festival during the day. It felt like you guys were already ingrained in that scene.

KB: I think we felt like it was home. Partly because it was in Canberra and we were from Canberra but I think also the nature of the Irish music scene – it’s very inclusive for people who are really dedicated to it. So we immediately found ourselves with friends there. All the session players would come to The National. Anywhere you travelled – wherever you found yourself playing with people it was like a conversation. And that’s why we’ve always loved The National, for its concerts but also its sessions. I can’t even tell you how many nights I’ve spent there playing until dawn!

GHE: I think there was a few of those nights that I would have been sitting in the background just watching you guys play.

KB: One of the great things about Ado and Beno as players is they’ve always been very encouraging of other players too. So I’ve watched them over the years really mentor people, at The National and in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. And I think we all do that to a degree, it’s an important part of our music – passing it on and sharing it.

GHE: The other thing that really struck me about your music was was the way you arranged the music. In a session, which is what I had been exposed to prior to seeing you guys, it’s generally old men in sessions playing the set of tunes slowly whereas you guys inserted dynamic and counter melody and harmony. Is that part of the session scene? How do you make a transition from session playing to performance?

KB: I think firstly it’s interesting that you talk about the old men in the sessions playing slowly. They’ve actually been a really really important part of our musical development and upbringing. A lot of the players that came out from Ireland in the 50s went to Melbourne like Joe Fitzgerald, Paddy Fitzgerald and Billy Moran fit that description exactly. Except maybe not playing so slowly [laughs]. Especially the accordion players – it’s so strong and fearless. We learnt a lot pinging off them and learning their tunes.

But then taking the music away again … I guess there were bands like The Bothy Band and Planxty that came well before that we’d been really well aware of. We would find what was exciting for us in the music. Ben and Adrian would work together on the tunes they were going to play, they’d figure out which ones went together well and what a great tune would be to finish on. That kind of progression of which tune goes into another is something that happens in sessions as well, you get inspired to think about what’s coming next. Joe and I would think about the chord arrangements and really our influences come from all over the place. Joe did play in heavy metal band when he was younger. He had a band called Thugs and Terrorists which was a punk band. The way he thinks about chords comes really strongly out of that background. For me I’m not sure. I think probably Bothy Band and players like that would have been a massive influence. I guess in Australia even though we’re quite remote from Ireland we’re lucky in that we have a freedom to take the music where we want it to go. We were able to pick and choose how we wanted it to sound without feeling like we needed to stick really strongly to one method of doing it. So what we did was keep tunes played traditionally and solid and really rooted in the tradition. But with the arrangements we could muck around with it and do what we liked. I’ve always found it really exciting doing that – being able to bring the colours out of the tunes with the chords that go with it. You can change the tune so dramatically.

GHE: Over the last little while Trouble in the Kitchen has, by default I guess, dissolved somewhat as you’ve all moved on to different places and different stages in your life. Joe’s gone and worked with Circus Oz, you’ve become a mum, Ado and Ben have both moved away. Is that a fair assessment of what’s happened with the band?

KB: Yeah absolutely. We just kind of moved off in different directions really quickly. Joe’s not been in the country all that much. I went and started a family. I’m living down near Bega in a town called Candelo. Ben’s got a family in Sydney. Ado’s working as a social worker in Melbourne. So we’re a bit scattered around the country but we really decided it was time to get back in and do it because it’s been such an enormous part of our lives. And we do realise that what we have as a band is quite special for us and we’ve had a lot of feedback from our audience that they’d love us to start playing again. So now’s the time.

GHE: So is The National a one off or is the idea to continue to play together whenever you can?

KB: 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.

GHE: One last question I did want to ask while I’ve got you: Kate and Ruth, your project with Ruth Hazleton, is also up their with Trouble in the Kitchen as one of my favourite National Folk Festival acts. Do you think you’ll ever revisit Kate and Ruth?

KB: Yeah! We’re actually planning to make a new album this year. Ruth’s also got a young child so that’s the reason we stopped playing for a while. We’re planning to release the album for the next festival season. And then we’ll begin the festivals again.

GHE: That’s super exciting! I love the stuff that you guys do together.

KB: Yeah, we’re excited to. We’re just putting material together at the moment and we’re about to have a rehearsal in the next few days up here in Candelo.

GHE: Well I might leave it there today. Thanks so much for the wonderful chat Kate and good luck with the return of Trouble in the Kitchen.

KB: Thanks so much!

The National Folk Festival takes place in Canberra from the 17th to 21st April. Trouble in the Kitchen’s set times for the festival are below:

Friday 18th April – 2pm Budawang
Saturday 19th April – 7pm Marquee
Sunday 20th April – 11pm Budawang

Spotlight On: Kate and Ruth

Kate and Ruth
Image Courtesy of Kate and Ruth

I first fell in love with Kate Burke and Ruth Hazelton (more commonly known as just Kate & Ruth) at the National Folk Festival back in 1999. At the time the duo were focusing on performing and recording almost exclusively traditional English folk songs, adding their own finger-picking guitar style and harmonies to the music. Since then I have watched Kate & Ruth develop both as performers and also as talented songwriters.

Now four albums and well over 10 years into their careers Kate & Ruth are favourites on the trad scene and stalwarts of folk festivals nationally. Their sweet, lilting voices perfectly compliment their chosen genre (there’s something inoffensive and “nice” about traditional English songs). Kate is also the guitarist/vocalist with Irish music greats Trouble in the Kitchen and Ruth plays banjo with bluegrass/old timey outfit Dev’lish Mary, and while their duo is a separate entity entirely from these groups it’s easy to see their influence on Kate & Ruth’s music. Their latest album (Summer’s Lonesome Tale) in particular has a lot more American-folk influence than their earlier work.

While traditional music is very obviously Kate & Ruth’s bread and butter, they really standout when performing their own songs. Their music is very heavily influenced by trad and folk sensibilities but their lyrics are contemporary and have a beauty all of their own. Probably their standout original, “Seasons” (about the affect climate change is having on life in Australia), could easily stand alongside music by the likes Missy Higgins or on mainstream or alternative radio. Although Kate & Ruth have marketed themselves to the Trad set, their music is definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan of female singer-songwriters.

Because of their other musical commitments (as well as their own solo careers) Kate & Ruth are a little hard to catch live outside of the folk festival circuit. There are currently no gigs on either their official or Myspace sites but if you keep your eye on the Timber and Steel gig guide for any tour announcements

Country of Origin: Australia
Sounds Like: They’ve come straight off the Woman’s Heart compilation CD
File Under: Trad
Official Site: www.kateandruth.com
Myspace: myspace.com/katenruth

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