The Railsplitters Announce Woodford Sideshows

The Railsplitters
Image Courtesy of The Railsplitters

With the summer festival announcement season well and truly upon us it’s exciting to see so many visiting artists now announcing headline shows while they’re in the country.

The latest band to drop tour dates is Rocky Mountain five-piece The Railsplitters. The band, known for their high-energy fussion bluegrass, will be touring throughout January including shows at Woodford and the Cygnet Folk Festival.

Check out the full list of dates below:

Friday 29th December to Monday 1st January – Woodford Folk Festival, Woodford, QLD
Tuesday 9th January – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 10th January – No 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Thursday 11th January – Wauchope Arts Hall, Wauchope, NSW
Friday 12th to Sunday 14th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS
Friday 19th January – Rosny Barn, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 20th January – Mountain Mumma, Sheffield, TAS
Sunday 21st January – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW

The Infamous Stringdusters Announce Covers EP Undercover Vol. 2

The Infamous Stringdusters
Image Courtesy of The Infamous Stringdusters

Newgrass favourites The Infamous Stringdusters have announced plans to release their latest covers EP Undercover Vol. 2 this Friday 27th October.

The EP contains an eclectic list of covers including tracks from The Allman Brothers Band (“Jessica”), My Morning Jacket (“Golden”), Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”), Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On”) and The Cure (“Just Like Heaven”).

“Sometimes you hear a cover that comes from a completely different genre and it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes you just have to try,” Jeremy Garrett of the band explained. “As an artist, this can be liberating.”

The full track listing for Undercover Vol. 2 is below:

1. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
2. Golden – My Morning Jacket
3. Jessica – The Allman Brothers Band
4. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
5. Get Lucky – Daft Punk

Punch Brothers Announce Australian Tour Dates

Punch Brothers
Image Courtesy of Punch Brothers

It seems like the tour announcements are coming thick and fast at the moment. If you’ve been paying attention to social media you would have seen that seminal newgrass band Punch Brothers will be returning to Australia this August for their first tour since 2012.

In the intervening years Punch Brothers have released an album (The Phosphorescent Blues) and two EPs (Ahoy! and The Wireless) so there’s going to be lots of new music to enjoy.

Check out the full list of Australian dates below:

Tuesday 9th August – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 11th August – Adelaide International Guitar Festival, Adelaide, SA
Friday 12th August – City Recital Hall, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 13th August – Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, VIC

Watch the New Mustered Courage Video “Honesty”

Mustered Courage
Image Courtesy of Mustered Courage

I love this video! Mustered Courage have just released there amazing new clip “Honesty” which features the band in a real life Mario Cart style video game. And the single itself is an absolute cracker as well – it’s the first taste from the upcoming third album.

Check out the video for “Honesty” below:

National Folk Festival Interview: Mustered Courage

Mustered Courage
Image Courtesy of Mustered Courage

Melbourne based new-grass band Mustered Courage have had a massive couple of months, touring the US, picking up a Golden Guitar at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and spending time in the studio recording their epic new album. With an appearance at this weekend’s National Folk Festival we sat down with Mustered Courage’s banjo player and lead vocalist Nick Keeling to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the year ahead.

Gareth Hugh Evans: First of all congratulations on the Golden Guitar win this year! That must be pretty exciting for you.

Nick Keeling: Yeah. It was a pretty good night there. Tamworth can be a bit of a hard slog – we played like 10 gigs this year in a row. So on the last day to win a little bit of a shiny thing, it’s nice. And then the phone rings a little bit so that’s good to.

GHE: Yeah, I imagine that suddenly there are a few people who’ve never heard of Mustered Courage who are now paying you a little bit of attention.

NK: Mustered Courage kind of sits in between a couple of different genres and different music scenes and the country scene is definitely one of them. If we can make inroads into the folk scene, the country scene, the roots scene, the indie scene – we just want to be everywhere.

GHE: I feel like the Australian country scene can be a little bit closed at times – its very hard for bands to break into. But maybe that’s going away a little bit?

NK: I feel like it’s just about participation. I don’t think there’s any kind of clique or wall. Just get up there and do it! I keep urging bands that I’ve seen at one Tamworth and then I don’t see the next to say “why didn’t you come back?”. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’ve just got to keep chipping away. It’s basically an open door policy as far as I’m concerned – you want to play in the country scene, then play in the country scene. The only thing stopping you is your own desire or intent to do it.

GHE: How were the audiences in Tamworth?

NK: I really did feel like the audiences are changing a little bit. It’s getting younger, the next generation of country music listeners is intact. Hopefully that will then encourage more bands that are maybe in the scene to go up there. We had the Green Mohair Suits in Tamworth for two years in a row, Little Bastard came back, Wagons came back. I look first to our closest peers – you kind of need an army to lead the movement, you can’t do it by yourself.

GHE: You guys are heading to The National Folk Festival this year, which will be your second time there. What’s drawn you back to The National?

NK: I think it’s one of the greatest folk festivals in the country by far. I’ve been to dozens of festivals, I think they do it really well. I lived in Canberra for a long time, Julian [Abrahams] our guitarist is a Canberra boy, so it’s a bit of a homecoming in that regard. The best thing about The National for me is almost every concert I ever went to there is packed. Some people might get a little bit grumpy when they have that sign out the front that says “Venue Full” but you just learn to get in a little bit earlier and then you know the vibe’s going to be good. Some festivals, without naming any names of course, may spread themselves too thin on some shows. I think the beauty is in the programing and size management. When you go and see a show half of what you want is atmosphere and if a festival works hard to make sure that atmosphere is good for the band and the audience then there is no excuses.

GHE: And the audience that goes to The National are genuine music lovers.

NK: You go and you know there’s going to be a great camaraderie at The National as well. The session bar after hours, that’s the best musicians get together and party that I’ve ever experienced.

GHE: I don’t think there’s anything quite like the session bar. It’s one of those places where you can jam with your musical heroes. Where else does that happen?

NK: No where! I’ve been to a lot of back stage picks but this is just anyone. It’s really cool. From a personal perspective I’m gonna know about a hundred people up in there so it’s a good party.

GHE: I know people who pay for a season ticket and then spend their entire time in the session bar. They don’t go and see any of the programmed music, they just wait for the music to come to them.

NK: That happens at a lot of the great festivals of the world where people don’t leave the parking lot. That’s one of the great things about festivals, it’s a lot more than just going to see the bands. There’s a lot of stuff to do.

GHE: So you’ve been in the studio recently?

NK: Yeah, we’re just putting the finishing touches on the mixes now.

GHE: I saw crazy photos on your Facebook page of timpani and orchestral percussion. Is this a “big sound” Mustered Courage?

NK: It’s a big sound. We’ve kept the bluegrass thing at its core for sure – every track is acoustic guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dobro. But then we built more around that which was one of the visions that we had for a long time, to orchestrate things a lot more. There is timpani, tubular bells, marimba, horns, organ, electric pianos, electric guitars and some other exotic instruments. Oh, and drums! I forgot – when you get too deep into the bluegrass scene people are like “drums?” but then the moment you stick you’re head out everyone’s like “of course you have drums. Bands have drums”. It’s definitely the next evolution of the sound – I would describe it as bluegrass with indie/Americana/folk/rock stuff that we don’t know has been done before, but it’s worth a try.

GHE: Sounds like you guys are really pushing the boundary of what Mustered Courage is.

NK: It’s still the same at the core. We try to write good songs. The vocal harmonies that we’ve really focused on for the past four years are still the main feature and the picking is still underneath and in the breaks to tantalise the ears. There’s just a lot more textures.

GHE: Did I see that you guys are heading back over to The States again this year as well?

NK: Yeah, we’re leaving in about seven weeks now. I feel like we just got back. The last tour was three months, no less than, no days off. Any day that was considered a day off was a couple of interviews and a 12 hour drive. We still played 50-something shows, nearly killed each other a few times, killed a few vehicles and we drove 27,000 miles. And we’re doing it again! We’ve got some good festivals lined up in the summer of bluegrass scene.

GHE: Is it important for you guys to chip away at the American scene while still maintaining your base in Australia?

NK: Yeah. It’s expensive for us to get over there but as far as the audience goes, we’re trying to build an audience for this kind of stuff here but over there there’s a ready made one. Our management and agencies don’t want us to lose any of the ground that we’ve got from going last time. We’ve managed to get on some really, really good festivals. One is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival – it’s kind of little bit of a dream festival for us. It’s the place where new-grass all started. Just to be a part of that makes this trip worth going and it makes the last trip worth it to because obviously we made an impression enough to get noticed by the people that you want to [notice you].

It’s tough because sometimes the tours feel like they have no rhyme or reason to them. They’re just town to town to town to town to town to town and you’re like “how can we even start to make a fanbase in these towns if we just play one little show and leave”. It’s a good thing we have some people driving this train that know what they’re doing because a lot of it has to do with trying to create hype with publicity. Basically the words “publicity tour” were important in what we did last time.

GHE: Well I’m glad you’re heading back there but I’m also glad I’m going to be able to catch you at The National Folk Festival first.

NK: Thanks mate – see you there.

Watch the New Nickel Creek Video “Destination”

Nickel Creek
Image Courtesy of Nickel Creek

The brand new video from American newgrass trio Nickel Creek, “Destonation”, was shot in New York City in the week they released their awesome new album A Dotted Line. As a result the vidoe captures the band’s raw, live energy and obvious affection for each other and the music.

Check out “Destination” below:

Interview: Jason Taylor From JamGrass

JamGrass
Image Courtesy of JamGrass

The 2012 JamGrass Music Festival, which features two nights of progressive Bluegrass at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre, will be kicking off in just over two weeks on the 19th and 20th October. Gareth Hugh Evans sat down with Jambands Australia founder and JamGrass organiser Jason Taylor to get the low down on what punters can expect from the festival.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Talk us through the genesis of JamGrass. What made you want to put on the festival in the first place?

Jason Taylor: Phoebe Preuss (co-producer) and I started JamGrass last year. We had been video recording lots of live music throughout Melbourne for our Jambands Australia facebook page and YouTube Channel. We noticed an emerging progressive bluegrass and alt-country scene that paralleled the resurgence of this music in North America, particularly the bluegrass and newgrass scene. It started off by thinking we needed to create a music night to get a bunch of these artists together and have a big party to create some exposure for the bands. Apparently people liked the idea because it quickly grew into a small one day festival that sold out last year.

GHE: Did you expect the debut of JamGrass to be as successful as it was last year?

JT: We had a simple concept last year. Put great music in front of people who appreciate great music and musicianship and it will be hard for people not to have a good time. I think we achieved that last year, but what we didn’t expect is for the audience to bring such a critical element to the event. The room was packed full of great people who radiated a great vibe. And I think the bands could feel that and they played off of it. Alex from the Merri Creek Pickers described it as “Best vibe … vibe of the year!” We couldn’t have asked for that to turn out any better.

GHE: You’ve expanded the festival over 2 days this year, what was behind that decision?

JT: Demand. We’ve had such an incredible response from bands that played last year and new bands wanting to be part of it and the audience from last year. The amount of support and private emails from those that were at JamGrass 2011 have been so encouraging. People definitely want more of this. That has given us the confidence to expand to a two stage, two day format. This means we can accommodate a massive 17 band lineup.

GHE: A lot of the artists at this year’s festival – The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, Mustered Courage, Merri Creek Pickers, etc – also featured in lineup last year. Most festivals try and have a fresh lineup each year. What is the thinking behind repeating artists?

JT: Not only those artists, every artist from last year will be back this year in one way or another. We don’t want to be a corporate festival. We’re not trying to bring in “fresh” acts for the sake of selling tickets. Our priority is to build a supportive community around the bluegrass genre and related genres and to provide a platform to showcase great bands. The bands that helped make JamGrass 2011 such a success are a very important part of building this community and when they told us they wanted to be part of JamGrass 2012, the obvious answer was “of course!”. The two day format means there will also be plenty of new bands at JamGrass 2012 to keep things fresh. We see a lot of live music throughout the year and are always scouting for new bands we think will fit the JamGrass theme. Hopefully JamGrass can be community that acts as a catalyst to promote some really great undiscovered bands.

GHE: Are you planning on having the “SuperJam” again this year? How important is it to the whole JamGrass experience?

JT: The SuperJam was a bit of an experiment last year and was lots of fun. Many people said it was a highlight for them. I recall one person in the audience saying “Wow, it’s the Mustered Mountain Courage Rats”. We had planned to bring it back again this year but we’ve had so many bands that wanted to be part of the event that we’ve decided that we’d rather use that timeslot to add another band to the lineup. We have a really hard time telling bands the lineup is full, especially when we really want them to be on board. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring the SuperJam back in future years. Of course there will be lots of interplay amongst artists and we’ve included a few special guests who will be making some appearances as well. So the collaboration element of the superjam is still very strong.

GHE: Bluegrass, folk and country music seems to attract it’s fair share of “traditionalists” – people who believe there’s one way of playing this music and it should never change. Do you think these traditionalists will find something they’ll enjoy at JamGrass?

JT: Most certainly! We probably have the contrary perspective to music than many traditionalists. However, we think there is a real role to play for keeping those traditional ways of playing alive and we love going to those more traditional events as well. The roots of the music are very important! I think it would be tough to find a traditionalist that wasn’t passionate about music. Great music is great music and that’s what we are trying to showcase. We just don’t subscribe to any rules. Peter Rowan who played with Bill Monroe for years was interviewed last year before his Australian tour and asked if ever found bluegrass music a little restrictive sometimes. He responded, “Not the way I play it”. I think that’s a great attitude.

GHE: What is it about this type of music that sees it flourishing in Australia at the moment? And Melbourne in particular?

JT: This scene is definitely flourishing overseas and its catching on here. A few newgrass or bluegrass influenced bands have been over to Australia for other festivals such as Bluesfest and Golden Plains over the past few years. This is having a big impact. It’s high quality musicianship, great songs and lots of fun. Once people hear this music, it’s very hard not to pay attention. The last few years have seen an influx of young bluegrass musicians from all over Australia flocking to Melbourne because the scene is growing so quickly here. George Jackson, who this year won the Golden Fiddle Award for Best Fiddler and The Australian Youth Bluegrass Scholarship (sponsored by The Davidson Brothers), has just moved to Melbourne. He’s one of our special guests at JamGrass this year and will be sitting in with a bunch of bands. He’s just one example of all the talent coming to Melbourne.

GHE: Is there anything else Timber and Steel readers need to know about JamGrass before heading to the festival this year?

JT: Here’s our top 10 JamGrass tips:

  1. Put on your “good times” hat and bring your dancing shoes.
  2. People who order advance tickets before October 9 will get custom designed souvenir tickets. Ordering advance tickets really helps make the event better so is a great way to help out… you can get them here
  3. Bluegrass bands love it when you cheer after hearing a great solo. It makes them play faster, harder and longer. So show your appreciation!
  4. Last year someone came dressed as a Taco. Yes a Taco. While JamGrass isn’t formally fancy dress, we hope someone can beat that this year.
  5. There isn’t really a “hierarchy” in our program, we are more concerned with the musical journey the bands will take the audience on throughout the festival. So don’t miss some of the bands on early in the evening. They might just be some of this year’s highlights.
  6. Make sure you say “hi” to someone you don’t know Friday night. By Saturday, they’re sure to be considered a friend.
  7. Even the bands are volunteering their time so make sure you buy a CD to help support the artists.
  8. We’re working on an after party for Saturday late night. Keep an ear out for it.
  9. We’ll be bringing back the JamGrass Raffle with some great prises.
  10. Lots of people have asked for JamGrass t-shirts. We’ll have a limited number of them available this year. Sure to be snapped up quickly so get yours early.

JamGrass takes place on the 19th and 20th October. For more information and to get your hands on one of the strictly limited number of tickets left head to the official site here.

Interview: Quarry Mountain Dead Rats

Quarry Mountain Dead Rats
Image Courtesy of Quarry Mountain Dead Rats

Tomorrow night one of the most exciting bluegrass-old-timey-string-bands to emerge in Australia over the last few years, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, will be launching their new album Bloodhound Killed My Squeezebox at the Northcote Social Club in Melbourne. We managed to catch a few minutes with Wishy, the mandolin player from the band, to chat about it’s recording, the rise of bluegrass-flavoured music in Australia and what’s in store next The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Let’s start with the new album which you guys are launching this weekend. Tell us a little bit about it – it was produced by Shane Nicholson right?

Wishy: Yeah, produced by Shane Nicholson. We went up to Nash Chambers house, Foggy Mountain studios. He and Shane record people there – we were stoked because I think they get a lot of people wanting to record there so the fact they wanted to work with us was really great. So we went up there for the week and we churned out 12 songs in about, well we recorded in three days and then we put the final backing vocals and a little bit of extra percussion on a couple of songs. So it was pretty frantic – a few of the songs were basically one take and most of them were in just a few. So it’s got that live feel to it. It was pretty full on actually – we were doing about four songs a day. Shane was just great to work with – he was just super chilled. We were all probably a little bit nervous about recording for the first time, especially as we were spending all this money and you want to get it right. To have someone with that calming aura about him was just great

GHE: It sounds like with the short time frame, the single takes and the minimal overdubs you went in there with a plan – you knew the sound you wanted to produce. Was Shane Nicholson really open to your ideas or did he come in with a plan?

W: To be honest with you I think we’re pretty vague at the best of times. We just had these songs we’d written and we’d been playing live anyway so it had just come time to record them. Shane was great. As a producer we were just open to anything he had to say. He had a lot of small ideas. He added in percussion, little bits here and there that made the songs have more impact in certain spots. All of his ideas were great.

GHE: The album’s called Bloodhound Killed My Squeezebox which just makes me smile, especially as a folk fan. Where is that from?

W: That’s one of the names of the songs. It’s probably not one of the songs we’ve been pushing as singles, we just thought that was a great name for the album. I used to play piano accordion in the band initially and the banjo player, Sudzy, had a dog that pretty much destroyed it one day. It just ran into it and it smashed into a million bits. And that was it for me playing the accordion because I couldn’t really afford another one. There was just a shitty old mandolin lying about and I just started playing the chords on that and straight away it just sort of worked a little bit better for the music we were playing – the speed that we’re playing at, you just get that sort of mando chonk going on that really keeps everything in time. So I just stuck with it.

GHE: Obviously your music is rooted in the bluegrass and old-timey tradition but you’re so much more than that. How would you describe your sound?

W: That’s a toughy. People usually describe us as bluegrass but we’re definitely not bluegrass. Bluegrass is usually these guys with these sweet voices and perfect three part harmonies and they’re playing these sweet, seemless, honey solos. We’re kind of the opposite. We’re definitely heavily influenced by bluegrass but people who are into bluegrass might almost get offended by the way we play it. We’ve got a little bit of the old-timey vibe about us, it’s a bit more raw I guess and a more similar attitude to the mountain music. We all came from rock and roll backgrounds – we still listen to a lot of rock music as well and I think that comes out in the songs we write, how we get a rocky sound in there.

GHE: It seems quite prolific at the moment, all these bands influenced by bluegrass. What do you think it is about right now that sees so many of these bands popping up?

W: I don’t know. Maybe for a while now a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio is ultra-produced electronic stuff. Maybe it’s people trying to get away from that, trying to go the other way and get back to acoustic music. That’s definitely something I’ve felt. I can’t stand the computer beat and this synthetic sound – I’d rather get something real.

GHE: There’s also an immediacy to this kind of music – that you can be sitting around in a living room, pick up some instruments and just start playing.

W: Yeah, i think that’s originally how we got into it – we wanted to spend a summer’s day outside down at the park and you can bring your acoustic instruments and have a jam in beautiful surroundings. You can’t do that with a drum kit and electric guitars and amps and stuff like that.

GHE: So with the launch show on Saturday are looking forward to finally getting the album out there?

W: Totally. We recorded it last year so it’s been a long time coming. We’re really looking forward to getting it out there and the [launch] night in general. We’ve got some other really great bands playing with us – Howlin’ Steam Train, Sweet Jean and Master Gunfighters. They’re really great bands. And I think we’re heading for a sold out show – they reckon there’s going to be no tickets on the door.

GHE: I’m sure five years ago you wouldn’t be able to sell out the Northcote Social Club with a bluegrass act.

W: I think that’s the thing. A lot of the time you stand out if you’re doing something a little bit different. People want to see that. If you’re playing in a three piece rock band you’ve got to be the best.

GHE: Following the launch show on Saturday what’s coming up next? Are you touring the album?

W: Our guitarist [Lachlan Alcorn] is going to have a kid within the next month so we’ve put it a little bit on hiatus, for a few weeks anyway. But we’ll be heading to Adelaide and I think there’s talk of going to Western Australia as well. We’ve never been out that way so that’ll be pretty cool. And then I guess we’re going to start trying to work towards the next album.

GHE: And I saw you’re on the lineup for JamGrass as well.

W: Yeah, we’re back at JamGrass this year.

GHE: There’s no way I’m missing it this year.

W: It was a great night last time. It was just so much fun – a really good vibe. Really looking forward to that one.

GHE: Well thanks so much for chatting to us. Good luck with the launch.

W: Awesome. Thanks mate.

The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats will be launching their album Bloodhound Killed My Squeezebox at the Northcote Social Club this Saturday the 16th June with special guests are Howlin’ Steam Train, Sweet Jean and Master Gunfighters. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Are These the Full Punch Brothers Tour Dates?

The Punch Brothers
Image Courtesy of Punch Brothers

Since newgrass legends Punch Brothers announced an appearance at this year’s Adelaide International Guitar Festival we’ve been awaiting a full list of Australian dates. About a month ago a Melbourne show was added and then we almost gave up hope of anything else until this morning when their regular newsletter named a Sydney date in August.

So that’s three Australian dates on the 6th, 8th and 10th of August in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide respectively. But is that all we can expect from Chris Thile and the gang? Surely other Australian cities need some Punch Brothers love as well? Their last show before the first Australian date is at the Newport Folk Festival on the 26th July leaving a good week to get to Australia and do some more shows. They have to be back in the US for a show on the 16th August so there’s definitely some room to move.

Are Punch Brothers not coming to your town? Maybe it’s time to start applying pressure via their Facebook, Twitter and Official site. We for one can’t wait to see them!

The full list of Punch Brothers dates (so far?) are below:

6th August – Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Southbank, Melbourne
8th August – The Basement, Sydney
10th August – Adelaide International Guitar Festival, Adelaide

***UPDATE***

Love Police and Warner have just issued a press release confirming that the 3 dates above are the only Australian tour dates for Punch Brothers. Read more here.

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