Thank Folk It’s Friday – 23rd December

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– We picked our top 25 albums and EPs of 2016 including releases from Applewood Road, Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & Beatenberg, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, Bon Iver22, A Million, Burrows, Eagle & The Wolf, Foy Vance, Gregory Alan Isakov, Imogen Clark, Jack Carty, James Kenyon, Melody Pool, Michael Kiwanuka, Oh Pep!, One Up, Two Down, Passenger, Paul Kelly, Radical Face, Rowena Wise, Seth Lakeman feat. Wildwood Kin, The Company, The Staves, The Weeping Willows and William Fitzsimmons. Details here

– We reached out to the Timber and Steel community to get them to pick their top albums of the year. The results are wonderful with well over 100 artists contributing. Details here

– Our Editor In Chief Gareth Hugh Evans picked his top 25 tracks of 2016 including songs from Ariela Jacobs, Bon Iver, Burrows, Eagle & The Wolf, Emmy The Great, Fanny Lumsden, Foy Vance, Gretta Ray, Imogen Clark, James Kenyon, Laura Marling, Matthew And The Atlas, Melody Pool, Michael Kiwanuka, Mumford and Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & Beatenberg, One Up, Two Down, Passenger with All Our Exes Live in Texas & Luke Thompson, Paul Kelly with Alice Keath, Rowena Wise, Sam Newton, Seth Lakeman with Wildwood Kin, Sian Evans, The Campervan Dancers, The Weeping Willows and William Fitzsimmons. Details here

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Woodford Folk Festival

Woodford

Tuesday 27th December to Sunday 1st January – Woodford, QLD

Gigs Next Week

Áine Tyrrell
Tuesday 27th December to Sunday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, QLD

Amerrycana Christmas feat. Catherine Britt, Gregory Page, Katie Brianna, Adam Young, Brielle Davis, Arna Georgia
Friday 23rd December – Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Get Folked 2016 New Years Eve Eve feat. Peter ‘Blackie’ Black, Dan Kemp(UK), Jim Mongrel, Whiskey Jeff Larson, James Seymour, Sooze, Jim Lynch
Friday 30th December – Lazybones Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Eddie Boyd
Friday 23rd December – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

James Thomson & The Strange Pilgrims w/ Magpie Diaries
Friday 23rd December – Stag and Hunter Hotel, Newcastle, NSW

Justin Bernasconi
Saturday 24th December – City Sounds, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday 27th December to Sunday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, QLD

PJ Michael & The Banditas
Thursday 29th December – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA

Steve Poltz
Friday 23rd December – The Govenor Hindmarsh, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 24th December – Flying Saucer Club, Elsternwick, VIC

The Whitetop Mountaineers
Tuesday 27th December to Sunday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, QLD

Woodford Folk Festival
Tuesday 27th December to Sunday 1st January – Woodford, QLD

Friday Folk Flashback

“The Wexford Carol” – Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Krauss

Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2016

2016

To round out our week of “best of” lists our illustrious Editor in Chief Gareth Hugh Evans once again whittles down the ton of releases that crossed his ears this year to pick his 25 favourite tracks of 2016.

We’re going to get out of the way and let Gareth throw some music your way – enjoy!

1. Foy Vance – “She Burns”
Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance has always been on my radar but when he released his album The Wild Swan earlier this year I was floored. The standout track, I think most people would agree, is the wonderful “She Burns”, with its pizzicato guitar, slow build percussion and choral backing vocals. Foy Vance is a singer-songwriter at the top of his game.

2. One Up, Two Down – “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie”
It seems almost unfair that I would choose a traditional song as my favourite from a band that are not only accomplished songwriters in their own right but also amazing musicians whose instrumental tracks are incredibly special. But I challenge you to listen to Dan Watkins singing “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” and not melt into a puddle. His voice and guitar, combined with George Jackson and Andrew Small’s long bowed fiddle and bass, turn this cowboy ballad into something more. Simply beautiful.

3. Burrows – “Falling Apart”
When I saw Burrows play at this year’s Summer Hill Folk Festival I was floored. Every song they played was a piece of harmonic brilliance, enhanced by the acoustics of the Summer Hill Church. When they came around to “Falling Apart” I murmured “that’s the song” – and I still maintain that this track is near perfect. I love Sam King’s understated vocals and the harmonies in the chorus are just divine.

4. Eagle & The Wolf – “Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost”
The pairing of Kris Morris’ dirty blues and roots with Sarah Humphreys’ big folk voice, “Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost” was the perfect introduction to Eagle & The Wolf. Individually Kris Morris and Sarah Humphreys are firm favourites of Timber and Steel but Eagle & The Wolf is greater than the sum of its parts and “Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost” is the epitome of their collaboration. This is rootsy blues done right – all crunchy guitars, clipped percussion and keyboard and big, bluesy voices.

5. Bon Iver – “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”
With its glitchy opening, distorted Mahalia Jackson samples, saxaphone solos and weird lyrics it would appear on the surface that Justin Vernon has well and truly moved on from the acoustic folk of For Emma, Forever Ago and embraced the more electronic elements of the self-titled Bon Iver. But at its core “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” is still classic Bon Iver with Vernon’s double-tracked, falsetto voice coming through loud and clear. Strip back all the beeps and bops and “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” could sit alongside any of the classic Bon Iver folk tracks.

6. Melody Pool – “Love, She Loves Me”
Since first seeing Melody Pool perform at the Gulgong Folk Festival back in 2013 I’ve been predicting big things for her. To say that her new album Deep Dark Savage Heart was highly anticipated in the Timber and Steel bullpen is an understatement and when it dropped earlier this year it was on solid repeat for ages. “Love, She Loves Me” is definitely a standout track on the album (although “Black Dog” is a close second), perfectly demonstrating Pool’s skill as a songwriter and singer. What a voice!

7. Rowena Wise – “Then We Met”
Rowena Wise owns the quirky indie-folk genre this year this this wonderfully catchy track from her 2016 self titled album. I love the twisted, bluesy finger-picked riff throughout this track and that chorus is a definite ear worm. I’ve been watching Rowena Wise cloesly since she launched a serious solo career and it’s songs like “Then We Met” that will see her successfully straddle the folk and indie worlds in the coming years

8. Matthew and the Atlas – “Elijah”
I love Matt Hegarty’s voice. “Elijah” is probably the most stripped back, acoustic track on Matthew and the Atlas’ latest album Temple and is easily my favourite as well. I love the finger-picked guitar over the swelling piano and orchestral elements and the subtle backing vocals. But most of all I love Matt Hegarty’s voice – I just can’t get passed that.

9. Paul Kelly feat. Alice Keath – “Sonnet 73”
To be honest I could have chosen any of the tracks from Paul Kelly’s marvelous album Shakespeare inspired Seven Sonnets And A Song. The reason I finally settled on “Sonnet 73” is two fold: Firstly it has a wonderful, folk-country feel with Kelly’s strummed acoustic guitar over a plucked pedal steel; And second the backing vocals from Alice Keath (Sweet Jean) are pitch perfect. Who knew you could improve on The Bard?

10. Seth Lakeman feat. Wildwood Kin – “Meet Me In The Twilight”
More than any other song on this list “Meet Me In The Twilight” gets lodged in my head and refuses to leave. Lakeman’s percussive guitar work coupled with an instantly singable (or yellable) chorus are what makes this song so catchy. Wildwood Kin add an extra level of sophistication to this track as well as the rest of Lakeman’s album Ballads of the Broken Few. I have a feeling that this track would be amazing to see live and have the crowd foot stomping and singing along.

11. Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best, Beatenberg – “Wona”
This collaboration between Mumford & Sons, Senegalese musician Baaba Maal, Swedish-Malawian electronic band The Very Best and South African afro-beat masters Beatenberg is just pure joy. All afro-beat goodness and nu-folk bombast, you can’t help but smile when listening to “Wona”, it’s such a breath of fresh air. I know that liking Mumford & Sons is definitely no longer “cool” but when they’re collaborating and producing music like this then you’ll still find me first in line for their next release.

12. James Kenyon – “The Motorbike Song”
I feel like James Kenyon might be one of the most underrated singer-songwriters in Australia right now. Songs like “The Motorbike Song”, with its rootsy groove and Paul Kelly-esque lyrical style, should see Kenyon a firm favourite amongst music lovers everywhere. I also have to give props to the wonderful video from Ed Bracey – it even makes Melbourne’s Docklands look stunning.

13. Michael Kiwanuka – “Black Man In A White World”
Michael Kiwanuka has always deftly woven together elements of folk, gospel, blues and old-school R&B and his single “Black Man In A White World” is the epitome of that sound. I love the gospel clapping accompanying the disco-like string stabs and R&B guitar. This could well have come straight out of the 70s – one of those songs that sound immediately timeless.

14. Fanny Lumsden – “Land of Gold”
At the time of writing Fanny Lumsden had been nominated for an ARIA award, has 4 Golden Guitar nominations and has gone to number one on the Country Music Channel charts twice. Incredible work for a singer-songwriter from the Riverina. One of those top charting songs is the nostalgic “Land of Gold”, a deceptively simple storytelling song with a big heart that has quickly become one of my favourite Fanny tracks ever. Whether she’s playing with a full band or with just her bassist Dan, “Land of Gold” always pops live. I really love this song.

15. Passenger feat. All Our Exes Live in Texas & Luke Thompson – “Caravan (Live)”
It’s a bit cheeky choosing a live version of a track that’s seven years old as one of my favourites of 2016 but this video has been on serious high rotation since it was posted earlier this year. When you take possibly my favourite Passenger track of all time and throw a collaboration between All Our Exes Live in Texas and Luke Thompson into the mix you strike pure gold. Just listen to those harmonies on the choruses – magic stuff.

16. Imogen Clark – “You’ll only Break My Heart”
Imogen Clark has had a pretty big year built on the bedrock of her debut album Love & Lovely Lies and its two lead singles “Take Me For A Ride” and “You’ll only Break My Heart”. The latter is Clark’s most mature offering to date, making the most of her big voice and lyric driven song writing. I’m not sure why Imogen Clark gets lumped into the Country crowd – to my ears her music is straight up acoustic pop – but regardless of the genre “You’ll only Break My Heart” heralds big things to come from the Sydney singer-songwriter.

17. Ariela Jacobs – “Lost”
The way that Ariela Jacobs plays with melody and syncopation on “Lost” is so intriguing. The rhythmic, unpredictable verses give way to simple 4/4 choruses and then a middle eight that just launches itself at you and takes you by surprise. This song is all about Jacobs’ voice with the accompaniment – simple piano chords for the most part – taking a back seat to her lyrics. This track is powerful and vulnerable all at the same time.

18. Sian Evans – “Cold Feet”
I got to meet Sian Evans at the National Folk Festival this year where she got me to act as roadie for her as she rushed to one of her gigs. She’s spent much of 2016 carving out a solo career for herself after her work with The Rusty Datsuns and part of that has involved developing her own distinct sound. The result is the single “Cold Feat” which has a pop sensibility with a heart of folk.

19. The Weeping Willows – “River of Gold”
The Weeping Willows embrace their bluegrass side with their huge single “River of Gold”. I love Andrew Wrigglesworth flat picking guitar on this song, accentuated with a subtle banjo over the entire track. And then of course there’s the harmonies between Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates which The Weeping Willows are renowned for.

20. Gretta Ray – “Unexpected Feeling”
Triple J Unearthed High winner Gretta Ray has quite rightly had a massive year with high rotation on the national broadcaster and lots of love from the music press. Her track “Unexpected Feeling” is such a joy to listen to – and to be honest when I first heard it I had no idea that Ray was still in high school. There’s a definite maturity in her songwriting and I just love her guitar work on this track.

21. Sam Newton – “Hold You Down”
The Americana vibes of “Hold You Down” coupled with Sam Newton’s sweet, unassuming voice make this track instantly attractive. I love the way you can’t help but tap your toe along with the brushed snare drum and thumping bass. The production on this track really pulls it all together – it could well have been a straight up acoustic song but the addition of drums, bass and trembling electric guitar turn the song into something more.

22. William Fitzsimmons – “Hear Your Heart”
I was so happy that William Fitzsimmons released his mini album Charleroi: Pittsburgh Vol. 2 this year (as well as a live album) because it meant more songs like “Hear Your Heart” out in the world. Rolling fingerpicking, hushed vocals, sad subject matter – this is William Fitzsimmons in a nutshell and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

23. Laura Marling – “Soothing”
I don’t know why I was surprised when we got a new Laura Marling song this year – she’s been insanely prolific throughout her relatively short career having released five albums in the last eight years. “Soothing” is the first taste from her upcoming seventh album Semper Femina and it sees Marling depart from her usual acoustic guitar driven songwriting with a bass and percussion loop that wouldn’t be out of place on a Radiohead release. This track also sees Marling’s first foray into directing on the accompanying video (that is borderline NSFW so maybe wait until you get home to play this one).

24. The Campervan Dancers – “Slow Down Butterfly”
From what I understand “Slow Down Butterfly” was gestating for quite a while before Sydney duo The Campervan Dancers launched it at the beginning of the year. This is a track that tumbles over itself with vocals, samples, instrumentation popping up all over the place. I love the injection of chaos into what could have just been a standard piece of indie-folk pop. Let’s hope there’s more gestating where this came from.

25. Emmy The Great – “Algorithm”
My need to squeeze Emmy The Great’s recent output into the genre of “folk” so that I can justify posting it on Timber and Steel continues with “Algorithm”. The first Emmy The Great song in a while to contain a decent amount of acoustic guitar, “Algorithm” is a lovely example of the direction Emmy The Great’s songwriting has taken recently – more obscure, more pop but still with her fragile voice front and centre.

Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2016

Vintage Recording

For me 2016 was the year where the singer-songwriter reigned supreme and where the more experimental edges of the folk genres got my attention. I’m actually surprised there’s not a lot more bluegrass and Americana music on this list given that’s been my focus over the last few years, but I think this is a pretty nice collection of what’s been on high rotation in the Timber and Steel bullpen throughout 2016.

As always it’s hard to pick just 25 albums and no doubt your favourite hasn’t made this list. But as always there’s a few more “best of” lists to come this week so stay tunes.

So without further ado here are Timber and Steel’s top albums of 2016.

Foy Vance
1. Foy VanceThe Wild Swan
From the opening blues of “Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution” through the rootsy folk of “She Burns” to the sixties folk of “Fire It Up (The Silver Spear)” The Wild Swan is a simply cracking album from Northern Irish troubadour Foy Vance.

Never one to be confined by expectation The Wild Swan takes you on a journey through blues, soul, Americana, folk and more, with Vance deftly weaving everything together in a single coherent piece of joy. I love how individual each and every song is while still having enough of a through line that the album is utterly listenable from start to finish.

I’ve been across Foy Vance for some time now but the lead single from this album, “She Burns”, was my way into his music. The Wild Swan was the perfect soundtrack for a driving holiday I took in New Zealand earlier in the year, rolling with the landscape and sinking deep into my bones.

Almost every track is a standout but “She Burns” and “Bangor Town” are the tracks I keep coming back to. The Wild Swan has turned me into a life-long Foy Vance fan – I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Burrows
2. BurrowsBurrows
I didn’t realise this when I first heard it but I’ve been waiting for Burrows’ self titled album for about three years. I saw Sam King perform at the 2013 National Folk Festival and fell in love with his delicate folk music. Little did I know that that appearance would be the beginning of the Burrows project and that their debut album would become a firm favourite this year. King’s voice, the beautiful harmonies from the rest of the band, the understated instrumentation all come together to build an amazing piece of art. Standout track is without a doubt “Falling Apart”.

The Company
3. The CompanySix & Five
Six & Five is a thoroughly modern bluegrass album from a local band at the top of their game. This is bluegrass without the play-as-fast-as-you-can gimmickry so many modern bluegrassers rely on. Instead this is solid songwriting backed by some of the best musicians in the country. “Another Season”, “Six and Five” and “Androids” are all standout tracks but to be honest my list of favourites changes on every listen. And can I just say that I think Michael Patrick has my favourite bluegrass voice in Australia.

Bon Iver
4. Bon Iver22, A Million
Part of me expected the new Bon Iver album would be an extension of the cinematic indie-folk of 2011’s self-titled opus. So when 22, A Million landed I was more than a little blindsided – but in a wonderful way. All glitches, samples, electronics and overdubs, the album is completely immersive and a giant leap forward for Justin Vernon. At the heart of it all is Vernon’s unique voice and some pretty amazing songwriting which stands up regardless of the beeps and bops.

Melody Pool
5. Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
Melody Pool delivers an amazingly red raw new album dealing with her own experiences of depression and mental illness. The songwriting is mature and complex and requires the listener to engage, not passively sit by as the music washes over you. I’ve picked Pool as an artist to watch for many years now and I feel with Deep Dark Savage Heart she’s delivering completely on her potential. Just listen to “Black Dog” or “Love, She Loves Me” and try not to fall for Melody Pool.

William Fitz
6. William FitzsimmonsCharleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2
Pittsburgh was easily one of my favourite albums of 2015 so when William Fitzsimmonsfollowed it up with a mini-album featuring a bunch of unreleased tracks from the same recording session earlier this year I was a very happy man. Fitzsimmons’ beautiful, melancholic songs draw you in and keep you captivated. I love his hushed vocal style – this is definitely lean in music.

One Up Two Down
7. One Up, Two DownA Day On The Quay
Two of Australia’s most talented folk musicians – George Jackson and Daniel Watkins – join forces with American bassist Andrew Small for this wonderful mini album from the beginning of this year. Stuffed full of amazing instrumentals like “Kansas City Railroad Blues” and “The Ways Of The World”, it’s actually the traditional song “Bury Me Not On The Lone Praire” that keeps me returning to A Day On The Quay again and again.

Radical Face
8. Radical FaceThe Family Tree: The Leaves
The final chapter of Radical Face’s The Family Tree series is a triumphant bookend to an amazing project. The album is full to the brim with Radical Face’s trademark layered vocals, finger-picked guitars and soundscapes making this a unique indie-folk experience. The rumour is that Radical Face will be changing stylistic direction now that The Family Tree is done so I can recommend immersing yourself in this album before getting ready for his next adventure.

Paul Kelly
9. Paul KellySeven Sonnets & A Song
Pairing Paul Kelly with The Bard is absolutely inspired. For the most part Seven Sonnets & A Song sees Kelly flex is folk muscles when adapting the sonnets into songs and the results are lovely. The two singles – “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 73” – are by far my favourite tracks on the album with the latter featuring beautiful backing vocals from Sweet Jean’s Alice Keath. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this album is pure magic.

Seth Lakeman
10. Seth Lakeman feat. Wildwood KinBallads Of The Broken Few
Teaming with up-and-coming trio Wildwood Kin was a stroke of genius for Seth Lakeman’s new album Ballads Of The Broken Few. Their three-part harmonies elevate Lakeman’s classic folk sound to something more. I’ve been a fan of Seth Lakeman since I saw him on his last Australian tour and I can honestly say this is my favourite album of his to date – and that is one 100% down to the collaboration with Wildwood Kin. As always Lakeman is able to draw on the tradition to inspire his music while still creating something that is wonderfully modern.

Eagle and the Wolf
11. Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf
The crunchy blues of Kris Morris and the indie-folk of Sarah Humphreys come together for a project that is greater than the sum of its parts

Mumford
12. Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & BeatenbergJohannesburg
The combination of Mumford & Sons’ big nu-folk sound with afro-beats and electronic music makes this one of the most joyful releases of the year.

GAI
13. Gregory Alan IsakovGregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony
While the songs may not be new, the arrangements with the Colorado Symphony give Gregory Alan Isakov’s beautiful music a wonderful depth.

Oh Pep
14. Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
Oh Pep! shake off the shackles of straight up indie-folk and embrace all out pop on their debut album.

Billy Bragg
15. Billy Bragg and Joe HenryShine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad
Billy Bragg and Joe Henry dive into the American songbook for their Railway themed album – I especially love their version of “Midnight Special”.

Passenger
16. PassengerYoung As The Morning Old As The Sea
Passenger once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best folk singer-songwriters in the world with the release of Young As The Morning Old As The Sea.

Michael Kiwanuka
17. Michael KiwanukaLove & Hate
Michael Kiwanuka’s melting pot of influences – folk, blues, jazz, soul and R&B – come together on an album that is instantly timeless.

Rowena Wise
18. Rowena WiseRowena Wise
The new queen of quirky indie-folk Rowena Wise delights with her stunning debut.

Matt Corby
19. Matt CorbyTelluric
The long-awaited debut from Matt Corby sees him refusing to be boxed in by genre or convention and creating some stunning music in the process.

Imogen Clark
20. Imogen ClarkLove & Lovely Lies
One of the hardest working singer-songwriters in Sydney releases a debut to be proud of, paving the way for bigger things to come.

Home State
21. Jack CartyHome State
Another solid, positive outing from Jack Carty following a big year of touring (and marrying!) for the singer-songwriter.

Applewood Road
22. Applewood RoadApplewood Road
Singer-songwriters Emily Barker, Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace come together to celebrate their love of classic country music in this wonderful side project.

Weeping Willows
23. The Weeping WillowsBefore Darkness Comes A-Callin’
The Melbourne based duo deliver a heady mix of folk, bluegrass and classic country in their best release yet – no wonder they’ve been nominated for four Golden Guitars

James Kenyon
24. James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
Australia’s most under-rated singer-songwriter delivers a stunning new album that is making the local industry sit up and take notice.

The Staves
25. The StavesSleeping In A Car
The Staves follow up their 2015 debut with a three track EP that continues to prove they are one of the most exciting voices coming out of the UK indie-folk scene.

Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of 2016 You Should Own

Couple With Records

As Sandy Denny once sang, who knows where the time goes? It’s the beginning of July which means we’re already halfway through 2016 without really breaking a sweat. And already this year has proven to be filled a treasure trove of music with some excellent albums and EPs released over the last 6 months.

In fact I had a lot of trouble coming up with my usual Top Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of The Year list because of all the amazing records released so far in 2016. The following ten albums are just the tip iceberg and if you want to dive deep into all the releases we’ve covered this year check out the Album News category tag here.

So without further ado here’s our Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of 2016 You Should Own:

Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf

Eagle and the Wolf

Eagle & The Wolf is the perfect example of a coming together of artists whose sum is greater than its parts. Alt-country singer-songwriter Kris Morris and indie-folk chanteuse Sarah Humphreys are both celebrated artists in their own right (as well as Timber and Steel favourites) but Eagle & The Wolf has elevated them to a new level. Humphreys’ voice seems to have been unshackled and is out in full force. Morris’ guitar work is pitch perfect – blistering in the bluesier numbers and restrained in the ballads. At only 5 tracks the self titled Eagle & The Wolf is the perfect taster for a partnership that has a big future ahead of it.

The Wild SwanFoy Vance

Foy Vance

I feel like Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance has been the quiet achiever of the folk scene in recent years. But with the release of his latest album The Wild Swan, the massive success of its lead single “She Burns” and his association with Ed Sheran, Foy Vance is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The Wild Swan is a melting pot of tone and style – anyone expecting 12 songs all like “She Burns” might be a bit shocked with the blues of “Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution” or the Bryan-Adams-like balladry of “Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye”. This is an album that deserves to be listened to from start to finish.

Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado SymphonyGregory Alan Isakov

GAI

Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony doesn’t really feature any new music from the US based South African singer-songwriter, but the inclusion of the orchestra just takes Gregory Alan Isakov’s music to the next level. In most cases the Symphony is actually pretty understated on the album with Isakov’s vocals and finger-picked guitar well and truly at the front of the mix. The result is a lush experience that still feels intimate.

Love & Lovely LiesImogen Clark

Imogen Clark

Imogen Clark has come of age with the release of her debut album Love & Lovely Lies. Her EPs to date have all been pretty strong but it feels like Love & Lovely Lies realises Clark’s potential as a singer and a songwriter – which is not at all hurt by the slick production and fantastic band she has behind her. Imogen Clark is touted as an alt-country singer (and we’ve been known to use that label as well) but I feel there’s a pop sensibility to her music that’s had a country sheen added to it courtesy of her band. Imogen Clark has a big future ahead of her and Love & Lovely Lies is a fantastic foundation.

Deep Dark Savage HeartMelody Pool

Melody Pool

I feel like I’ve been waiting for a new Melody Pool album for too long. But do you know what? Now that I have Deep Dark Savage Heart I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Melody Pool is seriously one of the finest young songwriters in Australia – her melodies are complex, her lyrics are layered and each song is just so perfectly crafted and presented. If you listen to Deep Dark Savage Heart from start to finish – and trust us, you should – prepare to be transported by Pool’s liquid velvet voice. “Black Dog” is the standout track but it’s a highlight in an album full of highlights – every song is worth revisiting over and over again.

JohannesburgMumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & Beatenberg

Mumford

I don’t think anyone expected a new Mumford & Sons record this year, but after traveling to South Africa earlier in 2016 and a collaboration with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, London/Malawi DJ duo The Very Best and South African pop band Beatenberg the EP Johannesburg was born. This record brings together the best of each band – epic choruses, groovy afro-beats and passionate vocals. The project is reminiscent of Mumford & Sons’ 2010 collaboration with Laura Marling and India’s Dharohar Project, but this time around with a focus on creating new music rather than recording new versions of existing songs. I think what I love most about Johannesburg is just how joyous it is – the EP has become a go to should I need a pick me up. Wonderful stuff.

A Day On The QuayOne Up, Two Down

OUTD

George Jackson and Daniel Watkins are some of the best musicians coming out of the Australian bluegrass and old-time scene at the moment. Their pairing with American bassist Andrew Small for the One Up, Two Down project is inspired and the release of their A Day On The Quay mini-album in January was the perfect way to kick off 2016. Each track is a delight from instrumentals like “Kansas City Railroad Blues” and “The Ways Of The World” to songs like “Ginseng Sullivan”. But the absolute highlight is One Up, Two Down’s version of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Praire” – the song seems to have been written for Dan Watkins’ voice.

Seven Sonnets & A SongPaul Kelly

Paul Kelly

Whoever came up with the idea of Paul Kelly putting music to the sonnets and songs of William Shakespeare should be commended. Here you have Australia’s greatest songwriter elevating some of the greatest writing in the English language. And the best thing is that for the most part we’re treated to Paul Kelly the folk singer (as opposed to his rock or soul incarnations) which means plenty of acoustic guitar, pedal steel and fiddle throughout the tracks. This is pure magic.

The Family Tree: The LeavesRadical Face

Radical Face

Five years in the making, Radical Face finally puts his The Family Tree trilogy of albums to rest with the release of the highly anticipated The Family Tree: The Leaves. With this album we’re once again treated to Radical Face’s unique brand of indie-folk – all layered vocals, finger-picked guitar, piano and floor-tom. Radical Face has kept a consistent sound through The Family Tree trilogy and The Family Tree: The Leaves is a fitting way to wrap everything up. I wonder what’s in store next for Radical Face – whether this album will be the closing of a chapter in his musical career and the next we hear from he will completely redefine his sound. Who knows? I’m just so glad that The Family Tree: The Leaves, along with The Family Tree: The Roots and The Family Tree: The Branches, exist in this world

Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2William Fitzsimmons

William Fitz

My fondness for Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2 stems from the fact William Fitzsimmons released it a couple of days after his first ever show in Sydney. Made up of tracks left off his 2015 album Pittsburgh, the Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Volume 2 EP is delicate, sad and brilliant. By allowing these additional songs to see the light of day William Fitzsimmons has gifted the world more of his amazing songwriting.

And of course special mention also has to go to the following albums and EPs:

Applewood RoadApplewood Road
YesteryearAriela Jacobs
Wayside Ballads Vol 2Bill Jackson
Second LoveEmmy The Great
ElsewhereGretta Ray
TelluricMatt Corby
case/lang/veirsNeko Case, K.D. lang, Laura Veirs
Stadium CakeOh Pep!
Love Letter For FireSam Beam and Jesca Hoop
The Lonesome SeaThe Button Collective
Sleeping In A CarThe Staves
Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’The Weeping Willows
Golden FleecesTom West

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 1st July

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Alt-country singer-songwriters Megan Cooper and Brooke Russell have teamed up for a Victorian tour this week. Details here

– Sydney nu-folk stompers Citizen of the World released their new video “Embers”. Details here

The Weeping Willows are currently on tour through ACT, New South Wales and Queensland. Details here

Aidan D. Cooney released his new single “When the Shadows Are Long and There’s a Blood Red Sky”. Details here

Mumford & Sons released their video “Wona” featuring collaborations with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg

– Irish born singer-songwriter Áine Tyrrell is currently heading up the east coast on a bunch of tour dates. Details here

– Alt-country singer-songwriter Tori Forsyth released her amazing new single “Black Bird”. Details here

Taasha Coates from The Audreys is heading out on a solo tour this month. Details here

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry announced their album Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad. Details here

Leah Flanagan released her new single “Chills” and announced a national tour. Details here

– Sydney alt-country singer-songwriter Katie Brianna released her new video “Birmingham”. Details here

Gregory Alan Isakov released his new single “Master And A Hound” with the Colorado Symphony. Details here

Caitlin Park and BANFF released their collaborative video for “My Love, My Lover”. Details here

Reviews

Gigs

“James “Morri” Morrison is an affable front man whose easygoing stage presence kept the audience enthralled throughout. I love the way he personalised Paul Kelly’s songs with his introductions, espousing his personal connections to the material. Morri was joined by a band of fine musicians – Anna McInerey on fiddle, Jimmy Daley on mandolin, Dr Zane Banks on banjo (and even a little bit of guitar!), Iain Tallis on bass and Miles Fraser on lead guitar – who in turn reproduced the musical accompaniment of Paul Kelly’s bluegrass albums and also made the songs their own. For a brief moment I wondered how close the players were getting to the solos and melodies of the original albums and then I realised it didn’t matter – each song was pitch perfect”Gareth Hugh Evans reviews The Morrisons’ show Smoke on a Foggy Highway: The Bluegrass Albums of Paul Kelly. Review here

Releases This Week

Liz Stringer
All The BridgesLiz Stringer
iTunes

Oh Pep
Stadium CakeOh Pep!
iTunes

Todd Sibbin
The Bottled Ship Got FreedomTodd Sibbin
Bandcamp

Tracy McNeil
ThievesTracy McNeil & The GoodLife
Bandcamp

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Aidan D. Cooney

Aidan D Cooney

Aidan D. Cooney brings us some brand new music with the official launch of his new single “When the Shadows Are Long and There’s a Blood Red Sky” in Sydney.

Saturday 2nd July – Golden Stage, Golden Age Cinema, Sydney, NSW

Gigs Next Week

Aidan D. Cooney
Saturday 2nd July – Golden Stage, Golden Age Cinema, Sydney, NSW

Áine Tyrrell
Saturday 2nd July – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 3rd July – The Metropole Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Wednesday 6th July – FogHorn Brewhouse, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July – Bello Winter Music Festival, Bellingen, NSW

BBQ & Blues feat. The Plough
Wednesday 6th July – Surly’s American BBQ, Burgers & Beer, Sydney, NSW

Bello Winter Music Festival
Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th July – Bellingen, NSW

Brooke Russell and Megan Cooper
Friday 1st July – The Skylark Room, Upwey, VIC
Saturday 2nd July – The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, VIC
Sunday 3rd July – The Post Office Hotel, Coburg, VIC

Citizen of the World
Friday 1st July – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Colin Jones w/ Lazy Colts, Grand Oyster Parade
Thursday 7th July – Slyfox, Sydney, NSW

Colin Lillie
Friday 1st July – Night Quarter, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday 8th July – Darwin Railway Club, Darwin, NT

Coopers After Dark feat. Ash Grunwald
Thursday 7th July – The Gov, Adelaide, SA

Finders Keepers Markets Brisbane
Saturday 2nd July – The Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD

FolkSwagon feat. Joseph Van Der Hurk, Olly Friend, The Cafe Loungers
Wednesday 6th July – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Hootenanny feat. The New Savages
Sunday 3rd July – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

Imogen Clark
Friday 8th July – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, QLD

Joe Mungovan
Sunday 3rd July – Little Village, Margaret River, WA

Lloyd Spiegel
Friday 1st July – The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove, VIC
Saturday 2nd July – Baby Black, Bacchus Marsh, VIC
Friday 8th July – Hickinbotham Winery, Mornington, VIC

Music Makers Club feat. Citizen Of The World, Love Drunk Hearts, The Talentless, Youngsmith
Friday 1st July – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Shifting Sands, Jep and Dep
Sunday 3rd July – The Lord Gladstone, Sydney, NSW

Strayaway Child
Saturday 2nd July – Winterfest, Parramatta, NSW

Sweet Jean
Friday 1st July – Music on The Hill, Red Hill, VIC
Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July – Bello Winter Music Festival, Bellingen, NSW

Sydney Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Get-Together
Saturday 2nd July – Annandale Neighbourhood Centre, Sydney, NSW

The Beards
Friday 1st July – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday 2nd July – The Metro, Sydney, NSW

The Paper Kites
Friday 1st July – Astor Theatre, Perth, WA
Saturday 2nd July – Norwood Town Hall, Adelaide, SA

The Weeping Willows
Friday 1st July – Flow Bar, Old Bar, NSW
Saturday 2nd July – 5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW
Sunday 3rd July – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 6th July – The Bison Bar, Nambour, QLD
Thursday 7th July – Bangalow Hotel, Bangalow, NSW
Friday 8th July – Two Goats Cafe and Baa, Armidale, NSW

Todd Sibbin
Saturday 2nd July – The Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA

Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife
Friday 1st July – The Stag & Hunter Hotel, Mayfield, NSW
Saturday 2nd July – Grand Junction, The Junkyard, Maitland, NSW
Sunday 3rd July – The Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 8th July – Baha’s, Rye, VIC

Vanishing Shapes w/ The Squeezebox Trio, Ess-Em
Friday 1st July – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Vincent Cross
Friday 1st July – Illawara Folk Club, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 2nd July – The Shack, Narrabeen, NSW
Sunday 3rd July – Hotel Blue, Katoomba, NSW
Wednesday 6th July – House Concert, Nabiac, NSW

Winterbourne
Friday 1st July – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Friday Folk Flashback

“O Death” – Ralph Stanley

Watch the New Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg Video “Wona”

Mumford and Sons
Image Courtesy of Mumford & Sons

Want some uplifting music in your life? Well you’re going to love “Wona”, the new track from the collaboration between Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg. Taken from the recently released Johannesburg EP, this is a slice of indie-pop-folk-afro-beat goodness that’s bound to put a smile on your face.

The video was filmed in eight days over three continents to capture all of the musicians in various locations. Check it out below:

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 6th May

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Aoife O’Donovan has released the video for her new single “Porch Light”. Details here

– Celebrated singer-songwriter Liz Stringer released her new single “Anyone”. Details here

– New alt-country singer Raechel Whitchurch released her new video “Kerobokan Blues”. Details here

Mumford & Sons will collaborate with The Very Best, Baaba Maal and Beatenberg on a brand new EP Johannesburg. Details here

– NZ singer-songwriter Tiny Ruins released her new single “Dream Wave”. Details here

– English four piece Turin Brakes released their new video “Save You”. Details here

Paul Kelly released videos for his tracks “Sonnet 73” and “My True Love Hath My Heart”. Details here

Blog

“The truth is that Timber and Steel didn’t start life as a blog. The first incarnation of Timber and Steel was a band playing covers of artists that we’d discovered through Laura Marling and the burgeoning UK nu-folk scene” – Editor in Chief Gareth Hugh Evans reflects on Timber and Steel‘s sixth birthday. Read the blog here

Releases This Week

Wayside
Wayside Ballads Vol 2Bill Jackson
iTunes

Blair Dunlop
GildedBlair Dunlop
iTunes

Imogen
Love & Lovely LiesImogen Clark
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Old Man Luedecke

Old Man

Canadian folk singer and banjo plucker Old Man Luedecke returns to Australia for a series of shows which this week take in Tasmania and New South Wales

Friday 6th May – Mountain Mumma Restaurant, Sheffield, TAS
Saturday 7th May – Brookfield Winery, Margate, TAS
Tuesday 10th May – Sunset Studio, Newcastle, NSW
Wednesday 11th May – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th May – Illawara Folk Club, Bulli, NSW

Gigs Next Week

A Man Walks Into A Bar feat. Sam Newton
Friday 6th May – Blood Moon Theatre, World Bar, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 7th May – Blood Moon Theatre, World Bar, Sydney, NSW

Andy Golledge w/ Direwolf
Thursday 12th May – Union Hotel, Sydney NSW

Chaika
Thursday 12th May – Sutherland Acoustic, Gymea, NSW
Friday 13th May – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT

Claude Hay
Friday 6th May – Lazybones Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 7th May – The Stag and Hunter, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 8th May – Towradgi Beach Hotel, Towradgi, NSW
Thursday 12th May – The Golden Vine Hotel, Bendigo, VIC
Friday 13th May – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Cornerbrook
Sunday 8th May – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Davey Craddock
Sunday 8th May – Four5Nine, Perth, WA

FolkSwagon feat. Tate Sheridan, Colin Jones & The Delta Revue
Wednesday 11th May – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Henry Wagons
Friday 6th May – Jive, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 7th May – Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Sunday 8th May – Four5Nine, Perth, WA
Thursday 12th May – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 13th May – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Hootenanny feat. Callum Wylie
Sunday 8th May – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

Joe Mungovan
Saturday 7th May – Front Bar and Gallery, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 8th May – The Birdhouse, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Friday 13th May – Billyroy’s Blues Bar Bendigo, Bendigo, VIC

Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
Friday 6th May – TBA, ACT
Saturday 7th May- The Stag & Hunter, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 8th May- Shady Pines, Sydney, NSW

Little May
Friday 6th May – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 7th May – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 12th May – ANU Bar, Canberra, ACT
Friday 13th May – Max Watts, Melbourne, VIC

Luke Watt and Nigel Wearne
Sunday 8th May – The Red Hill Hotel, Chewton, VIC

Mark Lucas & the Dead Setters w/ Brielle Davis
Thursday 12th May – Lazybones Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Mark Wilkinson
Thursday 12th May – Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Friday 13th May – The Basement, Sydney, NSW

Melody Pool
Friday 13th May – Shadow Electric, Melbourne, VIC

Miriam Lieberman Trio
Friday 13th May – House Concert, Katoomba, NSW

Mountains Gothic feat. Lime & Steel
Saturday 7th May – Paragon Cafe, Katoomba, NSW

Old Man Luedecke
Friday 6th May – Mountain Mumma Restaurant, Sheffield, TAS
Saturday 7th May – Brookfield Winery, Margate, TAS
Tuesday 10th May – Sunset Studio, Newcastle, NSW
Wednesday 11th May – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 13th May – Illawara Folk Club, Bulli, NSW

Porch Light Sessions feat. Lucie Thorne, Suzannah Espie, Colin Jones
Thursday 12th May – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Sahara Beck
Thursday 12th May – The Gasometer Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 13th May – Sooki Lounge, Melbourne, VIC

Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel and John Flanagan
Friday 6th May – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW

Speakeasy feat. The Squeezebox Trio
Saturday 7th May – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Tara Carragher
Friday 6th May – The Guildford, Guilford, NSW
Saturday 7th May – The Reverence, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 8th May – Bridge Rd Brewers, Beechworth, VIC
Wednesday 11th May – Drunken Poet, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 12th May – East Street Markets, Wollongong, NSW

The Beards
Wednesday 11th May – Gladstone Events Centre, Gladstone, QLD
Thursday 12th May – Lionleigh Hotel, Rockhampton, QLD
Friday 13th May – Magnum’s, Airlie Beach, QLD

The Wayward Henrys
Friday 6th May – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

The Weeping Willows
Friday 6th May – The Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA
Sunday 8th May – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton, SA

TinPan Orange
Saturday 7th May – Toff in Town, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 8th May – Rattlers Hotel, Wallan, VIC

Vorn Doolette and Julia Johnson
Sunday 8th May – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT

William Crighton
Friday 6th May – The Northern, Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 7th May – Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD

Friday Folk Flashback

“Why We Build The Wall” – Billy Bragg

Given the likelihood that Donal Trump will become the Republican presidential candidate I thought it was about time to revisit Billy Bragg’s version of the prophetic Anais Mitchell track “Why We Build The Wall”.

Happy 6th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Bob Dylan

Running from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old time string band
My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now

– “Wagon Wheel” Old Crow Medicine Show

Like many music writers I’m a frustrated musician. I play a decent fiddle and mandolin (and mediocre guitar) but my lack of commitment when it comes to practicing coupled with how intimidated I get with the amount of talent that’s out there has meant I’ve never really taken it further than backyard jams and open mics.

The truth is that Timber and Steel didn’t start life as a blog. The first incarnation of Timber and Steel was a band playing covers of artists that we’d discovered through Laura Marling and the burgeoning UK nu-folk scene – bands and artists like Mumford & Sons, Johnny Flynn, Noah and the Whale, Emmy The Great, Pete Roe, Jay Jay Pistolet and more. Most of these bands went on to make a mark on the international music scene in some way or another but at the time we saw our band Timber and Steel as a vehicle to bringing these unknown artists and songs to an Australian audience, essentially continuing the folk process of sharing songs that has been happening for centuries.

Timber and Steel the blog was born during the band’s jam sessions from comments like “surely there’s music like this emerging in Australia as well” or “why isn’t anyone in Australia writing about this music?”. The blog was born out of the desire to share the music we were uncovering from Australia and around the world outside of what we were able to share on the stage. The rest, as they say, is history.

What I love most about the folk scene is its inclusiveness. My musical exploits may be purely amateur but if I go to a folk festival I will always arrive with at least one instrument in tow. My favourite regular nights in my home town of Sydney are the ones that involve a participation element like a jam session. My fondest memories from gigs are the ones that have ended back stage or at a local bar with a couple of guitars and a group of people keen to continue the music. My entire monthly gig and festival going experience is built around where I can pull out my fiddle or mando and have a play. Over the last six years I have jammed with some of the best in the business.

In what other genre of music can you participate to this degree? This is why I love folk music.

Timber and Steel the band still exists and still performs occasionally at low key nights and small festivals. Coming up we have shows at FolksWagon in Sydney on the 25th May and at the Top Half Folk Festival in Darwin over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June. The blog is still a reflection of the music we’re discovering and want to share as well as helping us discover and connect with shows and festivals we may want to play.

Seeing Timber and Steel moving into its sixth year is surreal. The blog that was conceived my lounge room between working out Laura Marling songs was only ever going to be an outlet for sharing music, little did we know where it would take us. I’m incredibly proud of Timber and Steel and constantly humbled by how much we’ve been welcomed into the folk scene in Australia. I’m looking forward to many more years of watching, playing and even occasionally writing about folk music.

Happy 6th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Gareth Hugh Evans
Editor in Chief

Mumford & Sons Announce New EP Johannesburg

Mumford
Image Courtesy of Mumford & Sons

Earlier this year Mumford & Sons embarked on an historic, sold out tour of South Africa. While the band were there they brought together three of their touring buddies – Swedish-Malawian electronic band The Very Best, Baaba Maal from Senegal and South African afro-beat masters Beatenberg – to record their brand new EP Johannesburg.

The EP is due for release on the 17th June and will feature five tracks. Check out the full track listing and a live version of the first single “There Will Be Time” below:

1. There Will Be Time – Mumford & Sons and Baba Maal
2. Wona – Mumford & Sons, Baba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg
3. Fool You’ve Landed – Mumford & Sons, The Very Best and Beatenberg
4. Ngamila – Mumford & Sons, Baba Maal and The Very Best
5. Si Tu Veux – Mumford & Sons, Baba Maal and The Very Best

Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2015

2015

Ok, so we have one final best of list to round out the week and then I promise you we’re done. Our illustrious Editor in Chief Gareth Hugh Evans has sifted through the wealth of music that’s been released this year and whittled it down to his top 25 tracks of 2015. Some of these are album tracks that haven’t been released as singles, some are singles from albums that were released last year and at least one or two have only seen light as live versions – but one thing that’s certain is that this is a pretty good snapshot of all of the music we’ve been loving throughout the year.

So without further ado please enjoy Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2015.

1. Sufjan Stevens – “Should Have Known Better”
While I loved the direction that Sufjan Stevens took with his Age of Adz album, when “Should Have Known Better” dropped earlier this year I almost wept. This was Stevens leaning back into to his acoustic roots without denying where his sound has evolved in recent years (the electronic middle eight in the track is a nice nod to Age of Adz). Despite the heavy subject matter of the track (“When I was three, three maybe four, She left us at that video store”) it is overwhelmingly uplifting and I can’t help but smile as I let the melody wash over me. It’s good to have you back Sufjan!

2. John Flanagan – “The Last of the Cassette Men”
A core element of “folk music” as an overarching genre is the story song and John Flanagan has written the best story song of the year, recounting the time Flanagan was tasked with driving his songwriting hero Paul Kelly to a show. John Flanagan’s easygoing, personal narrative style works perfectly in this track, almost aping the songwriting style of Kelly without descending into parody. With this track John Flanagan has proven himself a songwriting force to keep an eye on.

3. Packwood – “All Smoke Must Find Its Way Home”
With four EPs released this year there’s a wealth new Packwood material to choose from, but I can’t help but come back to “All Smoke Must Find Its Way Home”, his first single from 2015. The track is everything I want from a Packwood song – soaring melodies, delicate finger-picked guitar, orchestral arrangements (including a choir!) and Bayden Hine’s vulnerable vocal style. Another work of genius from Australia’s king of chamber folk.

4. Patrick James – “Bugs”
“Bugs” has been a standard of Patrick James’ live set for much of his career, including his time as a busker, but it’s only in 2015 that it’s been released as a single thanks to his debut album Outlier. What makes “Bugs” such a great song is hands down the chorus: a catchy, loopy piece of music that always stimulates a sing along. With live versions of “Bugs” available on the internet for years now I’m glad James has not gone crazy on the production of this track, keeping the arrangement subtle and familiar.

5. The Morrisons – “Wild Eleanor”
Despite being probably the most recognisable Bluegrass band in Sydney the amount of recorded music available from The Morrisons is pretty light on the ground. Which is why I’m so chuffed they’ve chosen to record and release one of my favourite of their tracks, “Wild Eleanor”. The frantic single shows off just how skilled each of the members of The Morrisons are. And yes, I even like the hokey clip shot at Sydney’s Hibernian House.

6. Laura Marling – “False Hope”
This is Laura Marling’s Dylan-going-electric moment. When “False Hope” hit earlier this year the first thing that fans noted was just how rock driven it was- Marling has swapped the acoustic guitar for a choppy electric and surrounded herself with a traditional rock lineup. But Laura Marling’s lyrical style and vocals shine through – you know this song is unmistakably a Laura Marling track despite the instrumentation and for that reason alone it’s something special.

7. Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton – “Waly Waly”
I was trying to put my finger on what it is about “Waly Waly” that stands out for me on the excellent album Declaration from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton and it hit me – about halfway through the song Ruth Hazleton brings in this minor led banjo lick that just, well, grooves. It’s that lick, and the minor arrangement over the chorus, that gets my toe tapping and my head bobbing every time. It’s not often that you mention the word “groove” in reference to a Child Ballad but that’s how clever Declaration from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton are.

8. Mumford & Sons – “Ditmas”
“But this is all I ever was, And this is all you came across those years ago, Now you go too far, Don’t tell me that I’ve changed because that’s not the truth, And now I’m losing you”. Could this be the catchiest chorus of 2015? Forget that Mumford & Sons ditched the banjo and the acoustic guitar – what they’ve created in “Ditmas” is the perfect Mumford & Sons song. Restrained verses, blistering choruses and lyrics you want to sing along to at the top of your lungs.

9. The Paper Kites – “A Silent Cause”
To be honest “Electric Indigo” has been the track on highest rotation from twelvefour for me this year, but every time I’m listening to the album from start to finish I always have to go back and listen to “A Silent Cause” again and again. It’s such a simple song – lead vocals, guitar and subtle vocal harmonies – but it’s just mesmerising. It’s a nod to The Paper Kites’ earlier work and there’s a real Paul Simon feel to the way its been written. “A Silent Cause” has not (yet) been released as a single from twelvefour but it’s definitely the standout for me.

10. Fanny Lumsden – “Soapbox”
Fanny Lumsden’s incredibly catchy single “Soapbox” is the driving force behind the success of her album Small Town Big Shot. The track’s driving back-beat courtesy of the clapping percussion drives the song forward and that banjo riff is so hum worthy. I love how crisp Lumsden’s vocals are on this track – you get to follow the narrative elements of the song without having to distance yourself from the rest of the instrumentation. It’s a great track to see live as well!

11. William Fitzsimmons – “Pittsburgh”
There’s such a lean-in quality to William Fitzsimmons’ voice – it’s so delicate over the top of his acoustic guitar and the result is beautiful. The album version of this song is supplemented by subtle piano, electric guitar and backing vocals but if you’ve managed to hear any of the live versions floating around Youtube you’ll know just how good this song is with just Fitzsimmons and his guitar.

12. Matt Corby – “Monday”
The first new music from Matt Corby in quite a while ends up being classic Matt Corby. That layered, looped vocal and hand percussion. The blues inspired melody. That voice. It’s good to have you back Matt Corby.

13. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”
The transformation of Nathaniel Rateliff from sensitive acoustic singer-songwriter to full blown gospel-blues master has been one of the unexpected joys of 2015. Together with his outstanding band The Night Sweats, Rateliff released one of the year’s catchiest tunes in “S.O.B.” complete with a Blue Brothers inspired video.

14. Bellowhead – “Roll Alabama”
Bellowhead tempered the news that they’d be wrapping things up this year with the release of their new single “Roll Alabama”. The track is filled with Bellowhead’s usual bombast but also manages to balance this with fine arrangement – at no point is the song overwhelmed by the instrumentation. The clip for “Roll Alabama” is a loving ode to Bellowhead as a live band, making me wish they’d made the trip to Australia at least once.

15. The East Pointers – “The Drift”
I love that the tenor banjo, after being maligned by its five stringed cousin in recent years, is making a bit of a resurgence. And Canadian trio The East Pointers are leading the tenor banjo charge. I love the way “The Drift” plays with tempos and instrumentation, building and dropping throughout, providing texture to the traditionally inspired music. A highlight from Secret Victory which is stuffed full of amazing tracks.

16. Yetis – “Luckiest Guy Alive”
Yetis were another band that we said goodbye to in 2015 but who left us with an amazing goodbye track. “Luckiest Guy Alive” is beautiful – five part harmonies over a solo piano – and it just seems to sore. I’m not sure Yetis every really reached their full potential and I would have loved to have seen more from them before they went their seperate ways – but “Luckiest Guy Alive” is a nice way to say goodbye.

17. Boy & Bear – “Walk the Wire”
Boy & Bear have embraced the 70s and early 80s on their new album Limit of Love and the greatest example of this is “Walk the Wire”. Embracing synths and crisp guitars, “Walk the Wire” still has that undeniable Boy & Bear groove to bop your head along to. The video is also hilarious – don’t just listen to this track on YouTube in the backgound, make sure you give it your full attention.

18. Ruby Boots – “Wrap Me In A Fever”
No this is country music. Ruby Boots’ big voice just powers through this track as the drums shuffle, the steel guitar twangs and an organ adds just a touch of class. “Wrap Me In A Fever” is a song full of heartbreak and lonliness but Ruby Boots also imbues a sense of strength into it with her big voice.

19. Gurrumul & Paul Kelly – “Amazing Grace”
The moment I heard that Gurrumul was turning his voice to gospel music for his latest album my first thought was “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?”. The fact that he’s joined by Paul Kelly on possibly the most iconic gospel song of all time is just incredible. Here are two artists at their best breathing life into a classic and reinventing it for an Australian audience.

20. Passenger – “Fools Gold”
The ever prolific Passenger this year released an album (Whispers II) and then a series of videos for brand new songs that were shot while he toured the world. To be honest I could have picked any number of the songs that Passenger released this year but this is the one that stuck in my head. The song is textbook Passenger – delicate vocals over finger-picked guitar – but that little lick at the start and the “Hey-ey-ey” of the chorus are what gives “Fools Gold” the ear-worm quality.

21. Josh Pyke – “Hollering Hearts”
From the opening ukulele to the “oh oh oh” backing vocals there’s something insanely catchy about this song. No one quite writes folk-flavoured pop music like Josh Pyke and “Hollering Hearts” is pretty much a perfect Josh Pyke tune. I’m not sure how I feel about the lyric video (if you’re going to go to that much effort animating it why not just make a video?) but at the end of the day this is all about the music.

22. Falls – “When We Were Young”
I chose to post the live version of this song purely for the nostalgia of it. This is Falls performing at the Hotel Hollywood in Sydney during one of their rare visits back to our shores – and for these guys this is where it all started. I love how infectious this song is, almost willing you to clap along and stomp your feet. Of all the new material on Omaha this is the track that really captured me – I feel like it’s the bridge between their Hollywood EP and the tracks they’ve been writing since they’ve relocated to the USA.

23. Sam Amidon – “Blue Mountains”
“Blue Mountains” is not taken from Sam Amidon’s 2015 album of home and field recordings Home Alone Inside My Head but is rather the final single from his amazing 2014 record Lily-O. This is Amidon at his most coherent and accessible – the track has a pretty conservative structure and vocal line which is something he’s not always known for. I love the 6/8 drum beat that comes in about half way through this song giving it that extra drive, and of course Amidon’s meandering fiddle lines are just beautiful.

24. We Banjo 3 feat. Sharon Shannon – “The Fox”
This is traditional music at its most polished, with none of the rough edges you’ll find on other versions of this classic track. But that’s not a bad thing – We Banjo 3 have perfectly captured the rollicking fun of “The Fox”. Strangely Sharon Shannon’s accordion seems to be relegated to the back of the mix until they break into the reel two thirds of the way through (known as “Clumsy Lover” for those of you playing at home) – but I guess that’s why this is We Banjo 3 featuring Sharon Shannon and not the other way around.

25. Nick Payne – “Old Sydney Town”
I’ve had the pleasure of watching Nick Payne workshopping his convict folk song at jam sessions and festivals over the past 18 months and what he’s managed to capture on tape is pretty bang on what you’ll get live. I love the old time feel of this track and the fine group of musicians he’s managed to amass to accompany him (including many members of his band Dear Orphans) elevate the song to another level. I love the “behind the music” style of the video as well – very nice.

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