Justin Bernasconi Announces New Album Barefoot Wonderland

Justin Bernasconi
Image Courtesy of Justin Bernasconi

Melbourne based singer-songwriter and celebrated finger-picking guitarist Justin Bernasconi has announced plans to release his second album Barefoot Wonderland on the 19th May.

The album was recorded at Jeff Lang’s Enclave Record Facility, mixed by Shane O’Mara at #Yikesville and mastered by Adam Dempsey at Deluxe Mastering. As well as Bernasconi himself Barefoot Wonderland also features some of the country’s top musicians including Ben Franz, Pete Fidler and Cat Canteri.

For a taster of Barefoot Wonderland check out the wonderful track “Careless Shells” below:

Justin Bernasconi will of course be heading out on tour to support the release of Barefoot Wonderland. The full list of dates are as follows:

Friday 19th May – Basement Discs In-Store, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 19th May – Saint Monday, Yackandandah, VIC
Saturday 20th May – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 21st May – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 26th May – The Shared, Yandina, QLD
Sunday 28th May – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 2nd June – The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, VIC
Saturday 3rd June – Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 8th June – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 9th June – The Skylark Lounge, Upwey, VIC
Saturday 10th June – Baby Black Espresso Bar, Bacchus Marsh, VIC
Saturday 26th August – Wauchope Community Arts Councilty Arts Council, Wauchope, NSW
Sunday 27th August – McCrossin’s Mill Museum, Uralla, NSW
Friday 8th September – Selby Folk Club, Selby, VIC

Watch the New Bill Jackson Video “Double Shot”

Bill Jackson
Image Courtesy of Bill Jackson

Melbourne based troubadour Bill Jackson has released, with his collaborator Pete Fidler, the video for his new single “Double Shot”. The track is taken from Jackson’s excellent new album The Wayside Ballads Vol 2 and was co-written by Bill Jackson and his brother Ross Jackson.

Bill Jackson explained of the track: “When Ross sent me the almost complete lyric to this song, he sent this with it: “Double Shot” explores the real meaning of loss and hurt of a failed love. The make believe pretence of this experience delivered by someone who has never really felt that deep pain, however make of it what you will. I wrote the last verse and twisted it a little.”

Check out the video for “Double Shot” below:

Full Line Up Announced for Majors Creek Festival

Kate and Ruth
Image Courtesy of Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton

Majors Creek Festival is a small folk festival held in the small town of Majors Creek, NSW, south east of Canberra. The next festival is going to be held over the weekend of the 20th to 22nd November and they have just finalised a lineup that includes a who’s who of Timber and Steel favourites.

Headlining this year’s Majors Creek Festival roots singer-songwriter Heath Cullen in full band mode, trad songbirds Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton (above), indie-folk sweethearts Women in Docs and raucous Adelaidians The Timbers.

Joining them will be the likes of Bill Jackson with Pete Fidler, Dear Orphans, Echo Deer, Edema Ruh, Enda Kenny, Little Wise, Maia Jelavic, Riogh, Shiny Bum Singers, Sparrow-Folk, The April Maze and many more.

For more information on the Majors Creek Festival check out the official site here. The full lineup is below:

Heath Cullen, Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Women in Docs, The Timbers, Accapalerang, Angharad Drake, Bajaly Suso, Bellyfusion Bellydance, Ben Drysdale, Bill Jackson with Pete Fidler, Braidwood Dance School, COZMO, Craig and Simone Dawson, Cumbe!, DASH, Dear Orphans, Deep River Choir, Den Hanrahan and the Rum Runners, Doctor Stovepipe, Echo Deer, Ecopella, Edema Ruh, Enda Kenny, Folklines, Indi Pendant, Jasmine Beth, Jim and Ingrid Rehle-Williams, Little Wise, Lugh Damen, Maia Jelavic, Mat Brooker, Maypole with Molly, Mike Cosgriff, Merrilyn Simmons, Mexico Lindo, Moochers Inc., Mr Tim and the Fuzzy Elbows, OMG Dance Crew, Pete Wild & The Only Ones, Pop Up Choir, Riogh, Rory Ellis, Salsa with Rachel and friends, Shiny Bum Singers, Sparkle Circus, Sparrow-Folk, Surly Griffin Morris, TABLA Bellydance, TallaTango, The April Maze, The Fuelers, Tony Eardley, West Texas Crude

National Folk Festival Interview: Bill Jackson

Bill Jackson
Image Courtesy of Bill Jackson

Australian folk-country singer-songwriter Bill Jackson dropped his new double-A side “Try/Somebody’s Darlin'” last week, just in time for his appearance at The National Folk Festival this weekend. The single is the first taste of Jackson’s ambitious three album series The Wayside Ballads which he hopes to release over the course of the year. We sat down with Bill Jackson to talk the albums, music and The National.

Gareth Hugh Evans: You’ve just released a Double-A side, “Try/Somebody’s Darlin'” and I really really like them. I’ve been listening to them a lot.

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

GHE: I didn’t realise the songs were recorded live. But now that you’ve told me that I can hear it. It’s not overproduced.

BJ: Not at all. On that song “Somebody’s Darlin'” Shannon overdubbed some baritone which is nice – kind of gives it a Ry Cooder sort of sound. But that’s about the only thing that was overdubbed. There was one vocal overdubbed on one of the tracks but very few overdubs at all. It was good – it was pretty easy to mix in that regard. What we had was what we had.

GHE: To me the song “Try” is a political song without having an ideological agenda. It’s more of a social comment. Did you set out to write a political song?

BJ: Not really. With that one I probably just set out to document the confusion and the number issues that are around today. You could probably write another 60 verses to that [laughs]. With all the amount of stuff that’s going on and people who really care are getting really confused about which way to go. I guess it’s a list song in that regard. I sort of tie it together with the Occupy movement and the 99%. It’s an interesting song in that regard but the thing I truly love about that song is the feel that we got through it. I’ve always wanted to do a song, ever since I heard John Hiatt do “Thing Called Love”, with a straight drum feel with swinging guitars. It gives it that really nice cross-edge sort of feel that they used to do in the 50s.

GHE: I was going to say that it does remind me of 50s music. It’s not a rockabilly song but there’s elements in here.

BJ: Yeah. The other one’s got kind of a 50s thing going on as well. A sort of country-soul thing. It’s really interesting – I look forward to hearing the whole album. It’s got quite a variety of songs on there. We like to write a lot of historical songs as well – there’s a song on there about Kate Kelly and there’s also one about Angus McMillan who was one of the original explorers of Gippsland and has since turned out to be a total indigi-butcher. There’s quite a variety songs on there – there’s a couple of acoustic ones but mostly four piece band stuff.

GHE: With the electric feel.

BJ: Yeah. To get the one take thing I didn’t play guitar on a lot of them, I just sang. That helped in lots of ways. I probably played on two songs.

GHE: “Somebody’s Darlin'” feels a lot more personal than “Try”. “Try” is very outward looking while “Somebody’s Darlin'” feels a little more inward looking.

BJ: I don’t know whether you know but I write all of my songs with my brother Ross. He’s a never ending source of ideas and an inspiration. We swap things back and forward lyric-wise, he doesn’t have anything to do with the melodies. So that one I’ve sort of been sitting on for about five or six years, started playing it in the front room. This project The Wayside Ballads Vol 1 is one of three that I have to complete this year. Vol 3 is half finished – I’ve picked another 10 songs that we haven’t recorded and they’re being recorded by other singer-songwriters in Melbourne. We’re going to release that digitally and the proceeds are going to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.

GHE: That’s awesome.

BJ: It’s a good way of getting the songs out there as well. Some people have come back with some amazing versions of songs. It’s really good when you give songs to people and they make them their own, it’s really neat. So that’s Vol 3Vol 2 hopefully I get to do over in the US in September. That was the one I was going to do first. I’m going for a big year Gareth! Clear the decks!

GHE: Definitely sounds like it’s going to be a big year! Why the US for Vol 2?

BJ: It’ll be a semi-bluegrassy album that I’ll do over there with the songs that I’ve picked. I want to record with a guy over there called Thomm Jutz. Thomm produced Otis Gibbs’ album [Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth]. He’s been out here a few times, he played guitar with Nancy Griffith the last time he was out here. He’s a beautiful musician and he’s a great producer as well. He did a series of albums over the last year called The 1861 Project, three albums written about the Civil War. So we’ve got similar interests in the historical side of things and we’re going to use a few players over there that Thomm uses. I’ve never had a crack at doing one of those albums that’s really neatly perfect and this will be a bit of an attempt at that. So that was sort of the plan. And we’ve built up a lot of friends, Pete [Fidler] and I, in the US over the last three trips over there. And it’s quite cheap to record there as opposed to here. Hopefully it all comes off – we’ll give it a crack anyway.

We’ve just got such a backload of songs. You do an album and then it’s another two or three years before you do another one. So we thought we’d try and get as many of these ones down and they all sort of got written fairly closely together.

GHE: You’re playing The National this year. Is it just you and Pete Fidler?

BJ: Yeah, just Pete and myself doing it there. We’ll sort of launch the single there because we can do both those songs as a duo. We’ve got a bunch of singles pressed so we’ll take them along. We’ll do three or four tracks off the album and then stuff from the other ones over the past few years. It should be fun – I’m looking forward to it!

GHE: You’ve played with Pete Fidler for a while. He must be a pretty inspiring musician to be up on stage with. He’s one of the best in the business.

BJ: He is. You feel pretty safe with him. We’ve been playing together since about 2006 I think so it’s all fairly intuitive now. We don’t rehearse a hell of a lot but you don’t have to with Pete – he’s very good at having a conversation with the song. He’s an incredible musician. A lot of people don’t see him playing guitar a lot either but he’s a great player. He played a lot of the electric on this album.

Pete was a bit of a legend in the 80s in Melbourne. He was in a really well known, popular psychedelic band called Tyrnaround. He was primarily an electric guitar player up until he heard Gillian Welch I think. That got him onto the dobro.

GHE: She’s enough to turn anyone onto folk and country music! You’re very lucky to have him on stage with you I think.

BJ: He’s a bloody monster player, Pete. He never ceases to amaze me – he’s an intuitive musician and incredibly talented.

GHE: So your set at The National will be a mixture of new and old stuff?

BJ: We’ll do a few things that haven’t been on anything, that might be on the [album] we do in the US, probably about three or four. We’ve been playing those songs for the last year and a half presuming they were going to be the first recording. And a few back catalogue as well – we’ve got a lot to choose from now which is kind of good. We’ll hopefully get a few other people up to play with us at some stage. There’s a guy that plays the Cajón box who’s up their every year – that’s his business, he makes them and sells them – his name is Mark Aspland. If Ruth [Hazleton] is free she might grace the stage with us.

GHE: So is there anything else that we can look forward to from you at The National?

BJ: We’ve got the three official shows and hopefully we’ll play the Flute & Fiddle [blackboard]. That’s still the best gig at the festival if you can get in there because everyone goes through it. Although they’re sort of programming it a bit more than they used to, they’re not leaving as many open spaces. But hopefully we’ll do that one because it’s always a joy to play. That’s about it really.

GHE: Well thanks so much for chatting with me today.

BJ: No worries, it’s been a pleasure.

Under the Radar: Bands You Should See at JamGrass This Weekend

Bill Jackson
Image Courtesy of Bill Jackson

With just days left until the 2013 JamGrass party kicks off at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne we thought we’d take a look at a couple of “under the radar” artists you just need to check out – and hopefully convince anyone still umming and ahhing about tickets.

We all know the big names and Timber and Steel favourites on the JamGrass bill like Mustered Courage, The Davidson Brothers, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats and The Green Mohair suits, but if you manage to snap up a ticket for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday we highly recommend you make time for the following – who knows, you might come away with a favourite new artist.

Bill Jackson

If you’ve been immersed in the folk and alt-country scenes in Australia there’s a very good chance you’ve come across the amazing Bill Jackson (above) at some point. The man embodies the folk troubadour – an old soul that could just as easily be at home in Nashville as he is in his native Melbourne. Jackson is rarely without his brother-in-arms Pete Fidler, arguably Australia’s leading dobro player. If you were at JamGrass last year you would have seen Fidler with more bands than I can count – but his synergy with Bill Jackson is just on another level. Check out Bill Jackson’s 2011 album Jerilderie to see exactly what we mean.

At JamGrass this year Jackson and Fidler will be joined by The Stillsons’ Ben Franz on bass, Tracy McNeil’s drummer Bree Hartley and well known blues guitarist Shannon Bourne – although don’t be surprised if some extra special guests make it up onto the stage as well. The Bill Jackson Band will be performing on the Sunday night of the festival so make sure you’re front and centre.

Luke Plumb

The Ramblin’ Roses

Legendary mandolin slinger Luke Plumb (above, Shooglenifty) has assembled a cast of amazing musicians for a tribute to The Grateful Dead smack bang in the middle of JamGrass on Saturday. If you’re into your jam music and your bluegrass music then this performance is going to be something pretty special, and exactly what JamGrass is all about.

Joining Plumb will be guitarist Jim Green whose trio played JamGrass last year, luthier and guitarist Pete Daffy, keyboardist Dave Evans (The Band Who Knew Too Much), former John Butler Trio member Shannon Birchall and Ben McAtamney on Drums. With a collection of musos like that this show is not to be missed.

Pete Daffy

The Backsteppers

The aforementioned Pete Daffy (above) will also be bringing his bluegrass infused band The Backsteppers to JamGrass for some amazing music on the Sunday night of the festival. Daffy, on vocals and guitar, will be joined by Maree Daffy (double bass) and Steve Gilchrist (below, Mandolin) who is so intensely good it hurts.

And if that wasn’t incentive enough to see The Backsteppers we have it on good authority that they may be joined on the night by some guest fiddle players. Sounds right up our alley

If you’re yet to make up your mind whether JamGrass is your thing this weekend then we hope we’ve swayed you to check it out. Tickets are still available – head over to the official web site here to snap them up.

Mustered Courage Announce Wesley Anne February Residency

Mustered Courage
Image Courtesy of Mustered Courage

Melbourne based bluegrass quartet Mustered Courage have had a crazy couple of months appearing at just about every major festival on the east coast and surviving purely on a diet of gözleme, beer and campsite jams (we assume…) but that doesn’t mean they have any plans on slowing down when they eventually touch down in their home town. The band have announced that for the whole of next month they’ll be hosting a Thursday night residency at The Wesley Anne in Northcote, beginning next Thursday 7th February.

The residency will see Mustered Courage share the stage with some of the best and brightest in acoustic music including Lachlan Bryan, Bill Jackson & Pete Fidler, Sweet Jean and Oh Pep!. For more information check out the official Facebook event here. The full list of dates and supports are below:

Thursday 7th February – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC w/ Lachlan Bryan
Thursday 14th February – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC w/ Bill Jackson & Pete Fidler
Thursday 21st February – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC w/ Sweet Jean
Thursday 28th February – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC w/ Oh Pep!

National Folk Festival Find: Jimmy The Fish

Jimmy the Fish
Image Courtesy of Jimmy The Fish

If you’ve been to any folk festival in Australia, regardless of which one, you’ve probably come across Liz Frencham. She’s the go-to session bassist for everyone from Mal Webb to Andrew Winton to Martin Pearson as well as appearing as part of Jigzag, Frencham Smith, Dev’lish Mary and her own solo efforts. And if that hasn’t kept her busy enough she’s also part of the awesome acoustic/ nu-grass/folk trio Jimmy The Fish.

I went to the Jimmy The Fish Troubadour concert at this year’s National Folk Festival on the strength of Frencham’s reputation alone. What I discovered was lovely laidback show showcasing some beautiful bluegrass-tinged folk songs. Liz Frencham is joined in Jimmy The Fish by Robbie Long (Mic Conway, The Lawnmowers) and Pete Fidler (Bluestone Junction, The Somervilles, Bill Jackson) but rather than it being just a folk-festival-supergroup, the band have created a sound that will appeal to fans both new and established.

Fidler’s slide guitar is by far the most distinguishing feature of Jimmy The Fish, giving the band their bluegrass/country feel. Add to this Robbie Long’s expert guitar skills and Liz Frencham’s smooth voice and bass and the group really comes together. If you’re a fan of folk, country, bluegrass or really any style of acoustic music you should check these guys out at your next folk festival.

Country of Origin: Australia (Victoria)
Sounds Like: A fusion of all your favourite folk styles
File Under: Country, Nu-Grass, Bluegrass
Myspace: myspace.com/jimmythefishband

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