The Gov in Adelaide Announces Weekly Old Time Fiddle Sessions

New Lost City Ramblers

Iconic Adelaide venue The Gov is opening its front bar on Friday nights for some American style old-timey music with their regular Old Time Fiddle Sessions. Starting on Friday the 14th June from 7:30pm fiddle, banjo, mando players and more are encouraged to make their way down to The Gov for an informal session of traditional and contemporary appalachian style music.

The sessions will be headed by Peter Hisco who has 40 years experience in old time music and has been an organiser of the Harrietville Bluegrass Festival and The Kelly Country Pick. For more information on the regular night check out the official web site for The Gov here.

Interview: James Daley from The Steamgrass Boys and Country Roads

Steamgrass Boys
Image Courtesy of Bellyache Ben and The Steamgrass Boys

Over the last couple of years Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys have become somewhat of an institution in Sydney. Bringing bluegrass and old timey music to the fans, heading to a Steamgrass Boys show means you’re always guaranteed a night of amazing, real music. We sat down with James Daley, mando player, singer and multi-instrumentalist for the band, about their music and their upcoming regular night Country Roads at The Oxford Arts Factory.

Gareth Hugh Evans: The first obvious question is how you got into bluegrass/old timey music to begin with? You’re family is musical right?

James Daley: Yeah I come from a very musical background, my father is responsible for that. He is an amazing piano and accordion player, as well as being a great composer of jazz and art music. My brother, sister and I all have him to thank for the musical genes. Music was everywhere when I was growing up it was hard to escape at times. I got into folk music in high school through all the usual suspects, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell etc, and from there I started to explore the less commercial American folk music, The Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon, Doc Watson, and just fell in love with that sound. I also inherited a Mandolin from our great Grandfather, also very musical, who was responsible for getting my Dad into music – he bought my Dad he’s first accordion when he was 8 years old. After getting hold of the Mandolin I began to research and learn the kind of the music it was commonly associated which ultimately led me to bluegrass and old timey, and from there I have never looked back.

GHE: What I love about The Steamgrass Boys is the Australian influence you put on music that is so typically American. While so many other Australian bluegrass bands take on faux-American themes and tales your songs are uniquely Australian. How important is injecting an Australian heart into this music for you?

JD: Well from a song writing perspective it’s the most important thing. I love the sound of American folk music, but I’m not American. All my experiences are as an Australian, so to write about anything else just wouldn’t do. I see all to often though Australian songwriters, perpetuating American clichés and avoiding writing about what’s on their doorstep. We have such rich culture and history here that is really worth looking at. As I said I love the sound of American music, so negotiating that with my own experiences to find a unique and contemporary Australian voice, is my main focus and my biggest challenge as a songwriter.

GHE: This kind of music is exploding at the moment with more and more players coming out of the woodwork every day, especially in Australia’s cities. What do you think it is about right now and this kind of music that seems to have captured the cultural zeitgeist?

JD: It’s hard to pin point these types of movements, especially when you are in the middle of them. Social trends are incredibly complex with so many factors at play. Perhaps when it has passed we will be able to understand it a bit better. There are definitely a few things that have had a big impact though. A little movie called O Brother Where Art Thou might have something to do with it. If you can get George Clooney to legitimize something you’re on the right track. I think the banjo has a bit to do with it as well. It seems to be popping up everywhere in all sorts of music. Whenever an instrument has a revival, the music that is commonly associated with it, in this case bluegrass and old-timey is never far behind. I think the fiddle will be the next one, there seems to be a shortage of good young fiddle players at the moment. Also folk revivals just happen all the time not just through music either, and we are in one at the moment, which is great. People get to a point where they want to reconnect with the past and feel like they are part of a shared cultural heritage, or they want to simplify things to try and create more “authentic” experiences. It happens in pop music and culture all the time, the low-fi simplicity of 90’s grunge in response to the excess and extravagance of 80’s glam rock.

GHE: Let’s talk about Country Roads, the regular night you’re kicking off at the Oxford Art Factory. The night started as a one off concert featuring some of Sydney’s best alt-country acts, right? What inspired you to make it a regular night?

JD: There are so many great young bands popping up all over Australia playing this kind of music, so I came up with the idea to put on a concert showcasing some of Sydney’s best. I never intended for it to be regular thing but Oxford Arts had approached me about the Steamgrass Boys doing a monthly residency there. After the success of the first Country Roads show at the Vangaurd, I thought, what a great opportunity to make it a regular event, firstly, to showcase all of these amazing young country bands, and secondly to put a big spotlight on the scene. I really hope it will take off and turn into something that really galvanizes the community. It’s also a great opportunity for bands to support each other and work together.

GHE: The first one kicks off on the 18th April and features yourselves, Mustered Courage from Melbourne and 200K. That’s a pretty impressive lineup – how did you feel when you locked down these guys?

JD: Yeah it’s going to be a killer show. Those guys are all good friends of mine and they put their hands up straight away to be involved. I was always sure it was going to be a strong line up as there are just so many great bands floating around. I am really looking forward to seeing 200k, I have seen Johnny with Little Bastard and Matty with Fanny Lumsden, but not together, there is always something special about a brother duo. I’ve spent a bit of time with Mustered Courage, they are the real deal, amazing players and singers and the ultimate professionals, so great to have them on board. Comedian Luke Escombe will also be there on the night as the MC. He is a great person to have involved, ridiculously clever and very funny. Having the MC makes the show unique and more than just a gig. It almost gives it a grand Ole Opry feeling.

GHE: The bluegrass and old timey community seems pretty tight knit. How has the response been to the announcement of Country Roads? Have many of the local and national bands put there hands up to perform at upcoming nights?

JD: Yeah it is. One of the great things about playing this kind of music is the community you get to belong to. You meet so many great people and musicians. With bluegrass especially, there is this shared language among the musicians. You could be in an amazing bluegrass jam with people who you don’t even know their names and you are communicating in a very sincere and sophisticated way. It’s really special and I love that! I think you were there at Gulgong, when we were jamming with Mustered Courage and a few others from the festival. That was the perfect example – amazing! The response to putting the show together has been really positive. As I said Mustered Courage and 200k put their hands up straight away, and we have already locked in Fanny Lumsden and the Thrillseekers, The Green Mohair Suits, Lucky Luke and the Shooting Stars, Andy Golledge, The Morrisons, and British Blues for the upcoming months. I have also been in conversation with the people from Jamgrass in Melbourne about doing a joint event just prior to this years Jamgrass festival in October to help promote the festival to Sdyney siders. I think the idea at this stage is to have a small 1-day festival with about 7 or 8 bands, some Melbourne, some Sydney as ‘Country Roads presents The Road To Jamgrass 2013’. That sounds like a pretty good day out to me! So all the musicians are on board, now we just have to convince the punters.

GHE: What’s next for the Steamgrass Boys? Surely there’s an album on the way soon?

We have a few festivals coming up, a tour planned for later in the year, and obviously I’ll be running the Country Roads shows each month. There has been an album on the way for about 2 years. The songs are all there, we just need to raise the funds and assemble the right people. One thing I really don’t want to do is rush it, I am content to wait for the right time so we can produce the best album possible. Though sooner rather than later would be good.

Country Roads featuring Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys will take place at The Oxford Art Factory on the Thursday 18th April. Tickets here.

Interview: Dom Flemons (USA) – The Real Deal

Image courtesy of Dom Flemons

Image Courtesy of Dom Flemons

I’m one who normally shies away from imported phrases and clichés – until that phrase or word or even that cliché is the most appropriate and resonant to unpack whatever notion or feeling or thing (a technical term, beg pardon) you want to get out there.

Case in point: I arrived at the Illawarra Folk Festival roughly 20 hours before I’d planned, on Thursday night. And I surfaced on Friday morning, with one eye open, one eye closed, and a third eye tied behind my back for safe-keeping.

About half a dozen people then independently proceeded to tell me, and of their own volition bailed me up, tied me down, roped me off, and press-ganged me on board the good ship Flemons. “Maaaaaate, you gots to see Dom Flemons!”

When I did, I kid you not: I was spell-bound.

The Miners Camp was full to over-flowing x 2 and everyone was spell-bound for the duration.

Before that performance, and the packed out stage at Slacky Flat Bar the next day, I took just a few minutes of Dom’s time, high above the dog track in the grandstand on Friday morning, to have a chat.

I present that interview: live, uncut and un-fiddled with. No editing or anything.

The typed out wordification will be along later this week.

If you are only roughly within a quarter turn of the earth’s orbit away from anywhere Dom is playing on this tour, just get there.

Like I said in the title: the real deal.

Chance McCoy (Old Crow Medicine Show) Offers Debut Album for Free Download

Chance McCoy
Image Courtesy of Chance McCoy

Fiddle player Chance McCoy is a recent addition to the Old Crow Medicine Show lineup but has been steeped in Appalachian and old time music for years. In order to introduce new fans to his solo music Chance McCoy has decided to give his debut album Chance McCoy And The Appalachian String Band away as a free download.

Featuring 19 traditional and original songs Chance McCoy And The Appalachian String Band is a must for fans of string band and old timey music. Download it via Noisetrade here.

Australia’s First Ever Sacred Harp Singing Convention Hits Sydney

Sacred Heart Singing Convention
Image Courtesy of the Surry Hills Sacred Heart Singers

This October long weekend Sydney will be ringing with the sounds of old time American folk and gospel music when the first ever Sacred Harp Singing Convention. Singers will be traveling from all over the country and even overseas to converge on an old church hall in Annandale on Saturday the 6th October to sing this amazing music together.

Sacred Harp is a completely inclusive, communal and democratic form of music making open to singers of all ages and ability levels.

Everyone is welcome to come to the convention and sing or to just sit and listen. The day starts at 10am with donations welcome to help cover the cost of putting on the event. For more information check out the Surry Hills Sacred Heart Singers facebook group or the official Facebook invite here.

Old Crow Medicine Show Announce New Album

Old Crow Medicine Show
Image Courtesy of Old Crow Medicine Show

Everyone’s favourite old-time string band Old Crow Medicine Show have announced the release of their forth studio album Carry Me Back. Recorded at Sound Emporium studios in Nashville (the same place the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s Raising Sand were recorded), Carry Me Back is Old Crow Medicine Show’s first studio album in almost four years.

“For me, Carry Me Back is all about the songs, how they line up, intertwine, switch partners, and promenade home,” OCMS fiddler Ketch Secor told American Songwriter Magazine. “each of these songs was an accident waiting to happen.”

Carry Me Back will feature 12 tracks and is currently slated for release on the 17th July.

Introducing The Surry Hills Sacred Harp Singers

Syrry Hills Sacred Heart Singers
Image Courtesy of The Surry Hills Sacred Heart Singers

The Surry Hills Sacred Harp Singers are a group of like-minded souls who have come together in Sydney to relish in the joys of singing old time American gospel music in the tradition of shape note singing. Shape note singing is a completely inclusive, communal and democratic form of music making open to anyone who wants to participate – all you need is a voice and a love of music.

The group meets once a month with more information on their facebook groups page here. And check out this video to see exactly what you’d be in for should you come along for a sing.

Who knew there was such a hidden gem in Australia’s harbour city?

O Brother Where Art Thou? Tribute at The Vanguard, Sydney

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Much of the current interest in and popularity of the folk revival can be traced back to a singular point: the 2000 Coen Brothers depression era film O Brother Where Art Thou?. The film itself is a wonderful piece of storytelling but it’s the soundtrack that elevates it to another level – producer T Bone Burnett took bluegrass, country and old time music and presented it to a wider audience all of whom lapped it up with gusto.

Sydney’s iconic venue The Vanguard is holding a special tribute to O Brother Where Art Thou? on the 12th April. Featuring a “cast of Sydney’s finest singers” along with house band and Timber and Steel favourites Bellyache Ben and the Steamgrass Boys. It’s going to be a hell of a pickin’ night.

For more information and to buy tickets visit the official Vanguard web site.

Frank Fairfield Announces Australian Tour

Frank Fairfield
Image Courtesy of Frank Fairfield

Folk fans listen up: American multi-instrumentalist and traditional music wunderkind Frank Fairfield has just announced a tour of Australia and he is seriously an artists not to be missed. Proficient in the guitar, banjo and violin Fairfield has this wonderful old world quality to him, simultaneously continuing and redefining the American folk tradition. Check out this live version of his track “Poor Ellen Smith”:

Frank Fairfield has already been confirmed for the Meredith Music Festival and now has a list of dates all around the country:

Friday 9th December – Bendigo Folk Club, Bendigo
Saturday 10th December – The Old Bar, Melbourne
Sunday 11th December – Meredith Music Festival, Meredith
Tuesday 13th December – Brass Monkey, Cronulla
Wednesday 14th December – The Basement, Sydney
Thursday 15th December – Syncretism @ Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane
Friday 16th December – Sound Lounge, Gold Coast
Saturday 17th December – Gasometer, Melbourne
Sunday 18th December – The Blackwood Academy of Bluegrass & Old-Time Music, Blackwood

Daytrotter Session: William Elliott Whitmore

William Elliott Whitmore
Image Courtesy of Daytrotter

William Elliot Whitmore’s old-timey-folk-singer-trapped-in-a-young-man’s-body style first crossed our desk in January when we featured the American based muso in our “Spotlight On” section. He has since recorded a brand new session with the marvelous Daytrotter Sessions titled The Gospel Of Moonshine. As you can expect the three songs in the session, “South Lee County Brew”, “Horrible White Dynamite” and “Let’s Call it a Night” follow a very alcohol fueled theme. Listen to and download the William Elliot Whitmore Daytrotter Session here.

And if you like what you hear there Whitmore has recorded twice before with Daytrotter, once in 2006 and then again in 2009.

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