Shane Nicholson Announces the Inaugural Americana Music Prize of Australia

Americana Music Prize
Image Courtesy of Shane Nicholson

Huge news this morning. Shane Nicholson/The Sound Hole, Forbes Street Studios and Lost Highway Australia have come together today with the announcement of The Americana Music Prize of Australia, an annual grant to support up-and-coming artists in the genre.

The winner of the prize will be rewarded with a $10,000 prize pack which includes services from some of the best in the business:

“We want to support, encourage, mentor and resource aspiring unsigned artists in the Americana/alt-country scene in Australia and this is a great way to kick start a career,” explained Shane Nicholson.

The judging panel for the prize has been chosen by Nicholson himself and includes Rod Yates (Editor, Rolling Stone), Brian Taranto (Love Police), Bernard Zuel (Journalist), Chris Familton (Post To Wire), Tim Daley (Country Music Channel), Michael Taylor (Lost Highway/Universal), Tracey Griffiths (Dashville Skyline), Graham Thompson (Artist Manager), Matt Fell (Record Producer), Alison Avron (The Newsagency), Jeremy Dylan (Filmmaker), Henry Wagons (Artist), Brian Wise (Rhythms magazine founder and music writer), Jane Gazzo (Triple M) and Denise Hylands (RRR-Twang).

More information, including how to apply for the prize, head over to The Industry Observer.

Lost Highway Presents Country and Inner Western for July 2015

Caitlin Harnett
Image Courtesy of Caitlin Harnett

Sydney Americana and alt-country night Country and Inner Western (presented by the Lost Highway label) seems to have become somewhat of an institution, especially since changing venues to The Basement a few months ago. Part of the reason has to be the quality of the artists that the night attracts, plus the fact that many on the scene have made it a must-attend part of their monthly calendar.

The July instalment of Country and Inner Western looks set to be a cracker with music from bluegrass larrikins The Green Mohair Suits, the enchanting Caitlin Harnett (who is recently returned from her latest North American jaunt) and singer-songwriter William Crighton.

The night will take place at The Basement in Sydney on Wednesday 29th July. For more information check out the official Facebook event here.

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.

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