Peak Festival Announces First Round of Artists for 2018

Sahara Beck
Image Courtesy of Sahara Beck

It may be the height of Summer but it’s time to start planning your Winter escapades with the first round of artists announced for the Peak Festival in New South Wales.

So far nine artists have been revealed including Hot Potato Band, Sahara Beck (above), Electrik Lemonade, His Merry Men, Hussy Hicks, Aliensworth, Felicity Lawless, Matiu, Lizzie Flynn & The Reckoning and Pete Denahy. And you know there’s a lot more goodness to come especially as this is the Peak Festival’s 10th anniversary.

Peak Festival is held in Perisher, NSW over the Queens Birthday Long Weekend from the 8th to the 11th June. For more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here.

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2017

Record Collection

Always our most popular post of the year! Once again we’ve sent out the request to the incredible community of folk and acoustic musicians covered on Timber and Steel and they’ve responded overwhelmingly with their favourite albums of 2017.

We’ve already given you our top 25 albums and EPs – now we turn it over to the artists. So much new music still to discover! So without further waffle may we present to you this year’s Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2017.

Sarah BelknerAlison Avron
Sarah BelknerBut You Are, But it Has
This album release was a long time coming and it was totally worth the wait. The lyrics are so easy to relate to, the production is sophisticated, warm and intriguing. Sarah’s voice and songwriting are absolutely sublime.

Gretta ZillerMichael Carpenter (Carpenter Caswell)
Gretta ZillerQueen Of Boomtown
Apart from having one of the most honest and accomplished voices in the Australian alt-country world, Gretta Ziller has developed into a world class writer in the genre. This album showcases how far she’s come in such a short time, combining her take on contemporary writing, with the amazing production of Paul Ruske. The album is strong and sensitive, ballsy and ambitious, without losing any of the heart you’d expect with the songwriting content. An outstanding release from an artist who has truly arrived, and drawn a line in the sand for the genre.

The East PointersÁine Tyrrell
The East PointersWhat We Leave Behind
What an impossible task, top albums, as I am only just sinking my teeth into so many of the amazing 2017 albums at the moment like Jen Cloher’s Jen Cloher, Declan O’Rourke’s Chronicles of The Great Irish Famine and so many more. But one album that has been top of my play list since release has been The East Pointers’ What We Leave Behind and I never tire of it, which is a sign of a great album. This album has great depth to it musically, lyrically and in production. There is a stunning simplicity to the way the three lads work together that creates a joyous sound much bigger than a three piece and I think they have captured it on CD which is sometimes hard to do. I love that they have been able to honour and respect their tradition and push its boundaries into some modern places. One of the stand out tracks for me is their co-write with Liz Stringer, “82 Fires”.

SOHNRosie Evelyn (Liam Gale and The Ponytails)
The general vibe is darkly sexy future blues, with simple, soulful vocals, driving percussion, major synth, and just enough movement to keep you going. A little bit James Blake, a little bit Allan Rayman.

Jed RoweLes Thomas
Jed RoweA Foreign Country
This album grabbed me instantly with the strength of its songwriting, quality of musicianship and directness of emotion. Very few songwriters I know can deliver the goods as writers and players like Jed can. The song “Tailem Bend” – a small town story with universal resonance – shows the level of accomplishment and expression he’s achieved and it’s a beautiful thing to hear.

Stu LarsenResolute
Not only is Stu a beautiful human being but also an incredible singer songwriter! Every song on this album is just beautiful and comes from a very honest and humble place.

Mexico CityM.E. Baird
Mexico CityWhen The Day Goes Dark
Why? Because they represent the real deal to me – no ego, no frills, no pretense, just damn good songs and tunes.

Hiss Golden MessengerBrooke Russell and the Mean Reds
Hiss Golden MessengerHallelujah Anyhow
There’s something about MC Taylor’s voice that makes me so happy. I’m fairly new to his music and while I’m diving into his back catalogue, this new one has arrived and I’m in love. Beautiful band sound, fab songs – something sentimental in it that feels warm to me. My rekkid for the summer!

Ryan AdamsRyan Oliver (Oliver’s Army)
Ryan AdamsPrisoner
I love that it’s a revered, adored singer-songwriter at the top of his fame, dealing with genuine emotions and pain in the public spotlight. It may be tragic, it might be self inflicted, but I still feel like he’s a true artist who is his own worst enemy and that comes across in his heart-break ballads.

The Homeless Gospel ChoirFrank Turner
The Homeless Gospel ChoirNormal
I’ve been doing shows with Derek in Pittsburgh for a few years and he’s always been good, but this record is the sound of an artist finding his voice and spreading his creative wings. It’s been absolutely jammed in my stereo since I got hold of it.

Brooke RussellKelly Day (Broads)
Brooke Russell and the Mean RedsThe Way You Leave
This year one album really ticked all my boxes – which sounds too clinical really for something that made me splashy cry while I was driving. I particularly love that it sits outside the kind of music I tend to lean towards, but great albums are often the ones that transcend your usual inclinations. Brooke has absolutely NAILED it with this release. Stunning production, exquisite songwriting, and the most luscious, authentic, rich voice that feels like someone blowing softly on the back of your neck.

Gretta ZillerMandy Connell
Gretta ZillerQueen Of Boomtown
Put together with care and love, produced beautifully, and full of arrangements that feel perfect, unpredictable and just right. Every song inspires a depth of feeling, making it a really rich listen all the way through.

Offa RexMackenzie Shivers
Offa RexQueen of Hearts
Being a true lover of Celtic music, this album inspired me as an artist more than any other. From quirky folk-rock (“Queen of Hearts”) to haunting ballads (“The First Time I Ever Saw Her Face”), there is just enough variety of instrumentation and mood to keep the listener completely captivated. And Olivia Chaney’s voice is arrestingly beautiful. Favorite track: “The Old Churchyard”

Fanny LusdenMelody Moko
Fanny LumsdenReal Class Act
I love the way Fanny has cemented her unique way of writing with the record, her blend of social commentary, vivid imagery and Australian culture is unlike anyone else. The production is lush and thoughtful and brings the album together beautifully.

Moses SumneyTulalah
Moses SumneyAromanticism
Choosing a favourite album is a hard ask, the first one that comes to mind (probably because I’m currently listening to it) is Moses’ masterpiece, Aromanticism. It’s impeccably well constructed; colour, texture, mood, feel, groove – it ticks all of the boxes and ticks them damn well.

The War On DrugsThe Once
The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding
A super strong, sonically rich and atmospheric follow up to previous album, Lost in the Dream. Sounds like Ryan Adams, Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen adopted a kid in the seventies and this is the result of that happy home.

Jason IsbellBrad Butcher
Jason Isbell & the 400 UnitThe Nashville Sound
To make my decision for album of the year I simply refer to which album I’ve listen to most. It’s an easy choice really – The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. All class as usual, amazing sounds all throughout the record and Isbell’s songwriting is up there with the best of the best.

Jed RoweCat Canteri
Jed RoweA Foreign Country
Jed paints a beautiful and lush portrait of predominantly Australian characters and landscapes, past and present on this record. The depth of field and attention to detail in his songwriting is just wonderful and comes across as completely effortless. Sonically the album is paired back, which allows the strength and quality of the songs, performances and Jed’s voice to shine. If I can write a song like “Where The Water Meets The Sky” or “Tailem Bend” some day, I’ll be well pleased.

LordePepi Emmerichs (Oh Pep!)
Melodrama hits me in the heart every time. It’s lush, poignant, groovy and the songs make me think, all the while being incredibly catchy. Those are pretty much most of my favourite things in music!

TajMoLloyd Spiegel
TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ BandTajMo
The first time I heard Keb’ Mo’ I said “Man, this guy should sit in with Taj”. It’s about time they listened to me. Both these artists have the rare ability to modernise the blues genre while still giving it’s roots and traditions their rightful respect. Combined, this CD hit a nerve with me, in particular the gutbucket tracks “Don’t Leave Me Here” and “Diving Duck Blues”. Really though, you can’t put those two in a room and expect anything less.

Valerie JuneEmily Barker
Valerie JuneThe Order of Time
I learned about Valerie June on my trips to Memphis as she lived there for many years and has worked with a lot of the musicians I know out there. I heard “Long, Lonely Road”, the first song on the record, and I knew from then on I was going to love it. There’s so much space in the recordings and her unusual but beautiful vocals grabbed me instantly. I love how the production and her songs seamlessly blend a mix a folk, soul, pop and desert blues. It sounds fresh and cool, powerful and feminine.

The Ahern BrothersJoel Barker & The Low Company
The Ahern BrothersThe Ahern Brothers
Charming and insightful songwriting combining two voices made to sing together. Deserves to be in front of the masses. Astonishing live performances to boot!

Cigarettes After SexHusky
Cigarettes After SexCigarettes After Sex
It’s a fog of romance and nostalgia you can’t help but get lost in. Reminds me of being 16 and love sick, listening to Mazzy Star.

Lisa KnappSam Lee
Lisa KnappTill April Is Dead – A Garland of May
English folk singer Lisa Knapp has captured in this album a stunning insight into the melodic and archaic realms of May-time when all of England is blooming and the sense of ancient rites and mysticism is emerging from the dark winter. It’s an album that casts a rich and hauntingly magical spell and gives that sense of contemporary ancientness that all good folk singers are masters of.

Greg StepsFour In The Morning
Greg Steps & The Not For ProphetsThe Overland
There have been a lot of great releases this year, but our favourite from around Melbourne has to be The Overland by Greg Steps. The songs just scream of someone who has worked hard at honing their craft. Tightly woven lyrics painting little snapshots of Australia, from early morning walks in Melbourne to trains clattering across Queensland. It’s all underlaid with a warm, folky vibe that feels authentic without being derivative. The stand out track for us is “Famous Last Words”. It’s a folk song in the true sense of the word and weaves together thoughts on fame, colonialism, and folk heroes. It also introduced us to the amazing story of Breaker Morant.

Novo Amor and Ed TullettWildwood Kin
Novo Amor & Ed TullettHeiress
This is the perfect album to listen to when in need of some peace and tranquility amongst a busy schedule. They have released a set of live performance videos that capture their sound together so well; the two voices blend harmoniously together, creating an unbelievable sound of completeness and perfection. You can’t help feeling relaxed when hearing their music!

Leif VollebekkRiley Pearce
Leif VollebekkTwin Solitude
You know how people say they’ve had this CD in their car and have listened to it on repeat since they got it and you’re like “yeh right, no you didn’t”. Well now I understand that feeling. This album is everything. It’s emotive, it’s clever, it’s stripped and simple and it’s f#@king great!

The Teskey BrothersPaddy McHugh
The Teskey BrothersHalf Mile Harvest
When I first heard the track “Crying Shame” I thought that I was listening to a bunch of old African American soul men from Memphis. Then I saw a picture of the band and thought I was listening to a bunch of young white soul dudes from Memphis. Then I read they are from bloody Warrandyte in Victoria. I invited them to play live on my radio show Three Chords & The Truth and they absolutely killed it. Since then I have had the pleasure of playing on a few bills with them and can also report that they are top blokes to boot.

Big TheifFraser A. Gorman
Big ThiefCapacity
Adrianne Lenker is easily the most eloquent and beautiful songwriter I’ve heard in years.

Neil McSweeneyJon Boden
Neil McSweeneyA Coat Worth Wearing
I’ve chosen an album by Neil McSweeney, a stalwart of the Sheffield scene for many years. A Coat Worth Wearing is a fantastically literate collection of songs beautifully arranged and produced, and displaying the talents of a brilliant band of musicians including renowned folk stalwarts Ben Nicholls and Sam Sweeney. It’s an excellent album on so many levels and definitely my pick for album of 2017.

YirrmalKetch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show)
I met Yirrmal Marika in Melbourne at the Australian Americana Honors Awards this past October. Yirrmal stole the show. He is a culture man. I picked up Yirrmal’s new EP Youngblood; it is the best Americana record I heard all year long. It’s got 50,000 years of soul. Crank it up.

Nadia ReidTaryn La Fauci
Nadia ReidPreservation
This record was on repeat for many many months in my car this year. I had really been craving an exquisite, cohesive and beautiful album that I could fall for, hard. This album did all of that and more, which is why it is my album of the year for 2017. I also got to see Nadia play in Sydney at The Golden Age Cinema in April and the show was stunning, it made me want to run home and learn how to play my guitar with that kind of verve.

Ryan AdamsImogen Clark
Ryan AdamsPrisoner
This album sounds to me like beautiful chaos and distress. Ryan Adams has a way of tapping into human vulnerability and woe like I don’t think I’ve ever heard from another artist. This record is just another example of his way with words and melodies that together, form the most melancholy but simultaneously kick-ass comments on the human condition you’ll ever hear from any modern day songwriter.

Sgt PepperJames Daley (The Morrisons, Diamond Duck, Tawny Owl String Band)
The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 50th Anniversary Edition
I feel a bit a strange choosing a reissue as album of the year, but who cares, it’s Sgt Peppers. After all the music I have listened to in my life, nothing has ever captured my imagination the way The Beatles have. It is the most astonishing body of work in pop music, the same way Bach is to classical music or Shakespeare to literature. I discovered The Beatles as a teenager after I got a copy of The White Album for xmas one year and my life has never been the same. Hearing all the remastered tracks and outtakes on this reissue was a wild journey and reinvigorated my love for this music in a way I hadn’t anticipated – I have been listening to The Beatles non stop since it came out, like I’m rediscovering it all over again. There are some absolute pearlers on this – the alternate takes of “Strawberry Fields”, “Lucy In The Sky” and “Day In The Life” are really interesting. Hearing how they built these songs into what we know and love is a fascinating process. However the most astonishing track is the instrumental take of “She’s Leaving Home”. Being able to hear all the subtlety, intricacy and beauty of George Martin’s arrangement for strings/harp was such a joy. A real masterclass in arranging – plus you can sing over and pretend you are Paul McCartney, ha.

The War On DrugsDirewolf
The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding
Don’t you just adore things that need only a moment to take a firm grip around your mind, heart and/or soul? Like a one in a million barista made coffee or takeaway Thai? Not that I’m directly drawing comparisons between those things and what I consider to be a modern day classic album. However that is how my body reacted when the first second of “Up All Night” passed by. The unmistakable soundscape, verb soaked /grunge driven guitars, the synergy of acoustic/electronic driving “Dire Straights” percussion, Adam Granofsky’s/Bob Dylan’s often confused voices are but the tip of a very large and colourful iceberg that make up the record at large. We’re only supposed to be confined to one sentence, and since I’ve already profoundly broken that line I’m going to insist you put this record on in the background and see how long it takes you to stop needle poking around on the internet and gain A Deeper Understanding.

Scott CookLiz Frencham
Scott CookFurther Down The Line
I listen repeatedly to a lot of albums for my work as an accompanist. Rarely does such an album make it past that stage into my ‘listening
for pleasure’ category let alone become my favourite. But Scott Cook’s warm and beautiful Further Down The Line is one such album. It captures his arresting live delivery and the songs are rich in detail and real, visceral experience.

Dermot KennedyHarrison Storm
Dermot KennedyDoves & Ravens
I remember stumbling upon Dermot’s music on Spotify and instantly connecting with it. I became really intrigued with his music and read in an interview where he explains his sound as a cross between Bon Iver and Drake, which is pretty accurate. This EP is full of rich lyrics and interesting sounds and each listen uncovers a phrase or sound you may have missed in the previous listen. This EP definitely inspired me this year and I am looking forward to what he releases in 2018.

Laura CorteseThe East Pointers
Laura Cortese & The Dance CardsCalifornia Calling
If there’s one album we could pick from 2017, we’d have to choose California Calling by Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards. These girls are ridiculously talented (watching them perform live makes you want to go home, practice and write better songs). Their latest album combines Americana, trad, pop and folk so perfectly. Organic, yet slick. Can’t see how anyone wouldn’t like it!

FeistAinsley Farrell
Pleasure is so intimate and fragile, yet very powerful. It tugs at all my heartstrings. I recently got the chance to see her live performance at The Opera House and it blew me away.

Leif VollebekkDustin Tebbutt
Leif VollebekkTwin Solitude
My good friend Hayden Calnin introduced me to this guy over a late night whisky, and I have been listening ever since. The lyrics verge on stream of consciousness without being aimless, while vocally, Leif somehow manages to ride the line between being completely vulnerable and completely in control at the same time. Put this on top of some of the tastiest drum sounds I’ve heard in a long while, and simple but stunning keyboard playing, and you’ve got yourself one hell of an album. There are few bells and whistles, there aren’t really any production tricks or shoe shine here, just honest stories, and raw but precisely executed sounds.

Phoebe BridgersWilliam Fitzsimmons
Phoebe BridgersStranger in the Alps
I came upon Bridgers from my bandmate, who had done some touring with her and I was pretty caught up in it immediately. Her voice is special and there is a wisdom in her words beyond her young years. The most exciting thing for me, however, isn’t the album itself, it’s knowing that there is only more and even better from her to come. Listen to “Smoke Signals”.

The Mae TrioThe Northern Folk
The Mae TrioTake Care Take Cover
We finally caught The Mae Trio at Dorrigo Folk this year after hearing good things for so long, and they blew us away. This is the kind of album that reminds you of how amazing our folk scene can be- heartspoken, cleverly arranged, beautifully performed and catchy as anything. “Call Me Stranger” is a particular favourite of ours, but each song on this record is so strong.

R.L. BoyceDom Turner (The Backsliders)
R.L. BoyceRoll and Tumble
It is the second album from a man at the heart of the Mississippi hill country blues tradition. It contains all the style and swagger, grit and power that comes from a musician who sets perfectly gritty grooves overlain with heartfelt vocals to achieve maximum emotion.

The Button CollectiveJoe Glover (Shelley’s Murder Boys, The Backsliders)
The Button CollectiveHall on the Hill
This album has been on constant repeat in my car, my workshop, and my Spotify from the first day I bought it – so beautifully recorded so that you feel like you are in the room with them as they emotionally belt out fantastic songs written by Brodie and brought to life by a bunch of great musicians. Hall on the Hill is an absolute cracker of an album and I think I’ll be religiously listening to it for some time to come – perhaps until their next one is released.

Willie WatsonShelley Eves (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
Willie WatsonFolksinger Vol.2
This album is such a clear winner for me, I’ve had it on high rotation since its release. Once again Willie brought his own feel to some classic folk songs, from the delightfully joyful harmonies in “Samson and Delilah” to his haunting take on “Gallows Pole”.

All Our Exes Live in TexasJimmy Murray (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
All Our Exes Live in TexasWhen We Fall
Such a pleasure to finally hear this debut album after hearing the band grow and play over the past few years. What an amazing collection of songs and of course the incredible vocal performances from all 4 of these superstars. I really loved the production on the album as well by producer Wayne Connolly which added lovely colour to the beautiful songs. ARIA award winners 2017!

Kat GoldmanRuth Hazleton (Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton, Bill Jackson)
Kat GoldmanWorking Man’s Blues
Nina Simone once said “It’s an artist’s duty … to reflect the times [in which we live]”. It’s been a fantastic year of new releases, though I’d like to highlight an album that nails the above brief and more. Canadian writer Kat Goldman’s Working Man’s Blues is challenging, at times fragile, brutally honest and incredibly insightful. Collectively, the songs explore contemporary working-class culture, often from the perspective of a lover who struggles to understand and accommodate the struggles of the working man. I’ve long been a fan of Kat Goldman’s writing. Her unique sound, mesmerising voice, distinctive compositions and feet-on-the-ground approach to her music make her a formidable artist of great integrity. Working Man’s Blues has been on high rotation here, and will be for some time to come.

Jed RoweBill Jackson
Jed RoweA Foreign Country
First thing that struck me about this record was the vocals and these songs provide a beautiful vehicle for a great voice. Next thing, the sparseness – the way I have been accustomed to hearing Jed over his journey. Jed Rowe has something to say – I admire that and this record puts him up there with the very best. Standout track for me is “Tailem Bend”. Beautifully produced by Jeff Lang.

Lilly HiattJames Allsopp (Ralway Bell)
Lilly HiattTrinity Lane
Picking one standout release for 2017 was pretty impossible in what was a year of exceptional music. Locally, Joel Barker and the Low Company’s Unchartered EP was a stand out. Otherwise, I’ve been talking up Lilly Hiatt since the moment I finished listening to Trinity Lane. Like all my favourite albums, it’s rooted in personal struggle, ebbs and flows perfectly, is filled with outstanding musicianship, and doesn’t try too hard sound like any one genre in particular. 10 stars!

Body CountMatt Black (The Bottlers)
Body CountBloodlust
Body Count’s sixth studio album Bloodlust emblazons a brutally honest sociopolitical conscience and fire eyed world view, teetering on the honed end of a pistol sight. I feel this is Ice T and band’s tried and true return to form with pinpoint, stand out tracks such as the narrative charged, “Black Hoody” and controversy ladened, “No Lives Matter”. A must listen for those thirsting for the truth beyond a media blurred world.

Bob DylanThe Welcome Wagon
Bob DylanTrouble No More – The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
You might call this choice dirty pool, as the music was recorded nearly 40 years ago, but it’s only now getting a proper release, so I’m technically in the clear. This is a collection of live tracks, demos, and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s so-called “Born Again” period, stuff folks (me included) have been downloading from various sketchy websites for years, and for good reason. The songs are great – check “Solid Rock” for a straight Gospel stomper, cue up “I Believe in You” for an arresting spiritual ballad – and so are many of the live performances (the backing choir is consistently blistering). Whether you’re a believer or not, Dylan clearly is here, and it makes all the difference.

The Mae TrioJohn Flanagan
The Mae TrioTake Care Take Cover
Sisters Maggie and Elsie Rigby have such beautifully contrasting songwriting styles, Maggie is a stone cold killer Americana writer and Elsie writes stunningly original melodies with uplifting pop hook choruses. With (no exaggeration) some of the best folk harmonies in the WORLD and Anita’s impressive rhythmic cello playing, this is a truly unique and heart-grabbing band and this album is them going all out with tasteful and at times epic production.

Georgia State LineNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Georgia State LineHeaven Knows
These guys applied to play at the Americana Music Association of Australia’s takeover of Late Night Alt at Tamworth in January. Paul Heggart from The Heggarties chose them site unseen from the applications purely based on what he heard when he listened to their pre-release recordings of this album. Hailing from country Victoria these guys are a six piece featuring Georgia Delves on vocals, and songwriting. They’re all accomplished instrumentalists in their own right and Georgia’s songwriting authentically channels the best of sophisticated country songwriting from the 60s and 70s.

Fanny LusdenSam Buckingham
Fanny LumsdenReal Class Act
I’m not just picking this album because Fanny and Dan are two of my favourite people! This album is, as the title suggests, all class. Fanny’s songwriting is beautifully Australian and the album is joyful, brilliantly performed by all involved, and completely without any ego – despite the outstanding success these guys have been earning. Fanny gives us all a lesson on how to be a ripper indie artist and how to make music that’s undoubtedly, authentically, your own. Roll on kids

LCD SoundsystemEm George
LCD SoundsystemAmerican Dream
I was moderately (read as *very*) excited when there were rumblings of talk about a new album from these guys, but like anything that was laid to rest, one always is slightly concerned that the revival won’t live up to what has come before it. So when LCD Soundsystem released their new album, I cautiously gave it a first listen and it did not disappoint. Every beat and melodic turn is so completely in tune to what has become their signature sound; that build up of tension and release, excitement and sadness, with inflections of irony that James Murphy grabs the listener with in his choice of lyrics marked with wit. There’s a touch of darkness and melancholy as each song seems to question the ending of things, the loss of once was, but that bright spark of beat this band is known for keeps it somewhere higher and closer within reach, slightly unobtainable so you keep wanting to hear it on repeat from start to finish again and again.

Aldous HardingCharm of Finches
Aldous HardingParty
Party swept us off our feet. Moody and textural, impeccable production awash with aural spectres. Horizon is addictive and moving. Aldous’ compelling voice and haunting poetics have us in thrall.

The Teskey BrothersMark Wilkinson
The Teskey BrothersHalf Mile Harvest
Amazing vocals and killer tracks full of old school soul. Sounds like neat whiskey and smokey bars.

The NationalBANFF
The NationalSleep Well Beast
I eagerly awaited The National’s next record, after Trouble Will Find Me kept me wrapped me up in its flawlessness for the last four years or there abouts. This year Sleep Well Beast won me over, with Matt Berninger’s candid yet agitated words luring me back into that deeply thoughtful, emotional and hauntingly beautiful sound I would’ve always come back for. The National perfectly blend understated harmony with organised chaos throughout all of their records, and this was no exception by any means. The meticulous musicianship and purposeful, but somewhat ambiguous lyrics continue unravelling more layers to this beast in itself every time I listen. This was the best record of 2017 for mine.

LankumKarine Polwart
LankumBetween The Earth and Sky
I can’t get enough of the murky drone-scapes and vocal edges of Lankum’s Between The Earth and Sky. In particular, the raw, reedy singing of Radie Peat on album opener “What Shall We Do When We Have No Money?” sounds like the ages. It’s the absolute antithesis of sweet.

The Wood BrothersBen Prest (Echo Deer)
The Wood BrothersLive at the Barn
I know it’s a live album but this release was my first exposure to the brother’s amazing songs, chops and harmonies. Their sound owes a lot to The Band, and “the barn” is at Levon Helm’s farm where he held concerts before he died, making the fantastic closing cover of “Ophelia” and dedication on “Postcards from Hell” all the more meaningful.

Jess LockeHollie Matthew (Echo Deer)
Jess LockeUniverse
A revisiting of the 80’s Australian rock sound ala Go Betweens with more sadness and slacker vibe. Killer matter of fact lyrics and chorus-y guitar sounds. Even better live. 5 Stars.

SamphaSimon Wegman (Echo Deer)
I hadn’t been aware of Sampha’s previous EP releases, but after Shazaming “Blood on Me” while in a tragically trendy sneaker store, I was moved to hunt down the British singer and producer’s debut LP. Sampha Sisay’s sensitive, soulful vocals and meditative piano (reminiscent of James Blake at his best) form the backbone of this record, while the thoughtful production touches throughout make me want to hit “play” again the second it finishes.

All Them WitchesAlexi Grivas (Echo Deer)
All Them WitchesSleeping Through the War
The latest album by All Them Witches has been my most played record this year. A four piece from Nashville – but they aren’t a country band – All Them Witches is a great new-wave heavy psychedelic band, with moments of light and shade. This record has them growing as writers and players, bringing new instruments and sounds into the mix. Can’t wait to see it live.

Sam OutlawRick Hart
Sam OutlawTenderheart
Simple, yet endearing melodies, layered with beautiful storytelling. It’s an album that is strong from start to end, in many ways reminding me of some of the great traditional country songwriters whom I love. Favourite tracks are “Now She Tells Me”, “She’s Playing Hard To Get (Rid Of)” and “Bougainvillea, I Think”.

Courtney Marie AndrewsJames Ellis and the Jealous Guys
Courtney Marie AndrewsHonest Life
I knew what my favourite album of the year was going to be when I saw Courtney Marie Andrews play in Melbourne in July this year. She’s got a tremendous voice and the lyrics stand apart from almost everything else I’ve heard this year in their insight and honesty. What makes her songs exceptional is the way they all seem to come directly from her own story and experience. These are her songs and this is her life. It’s an honest life.

Mike BarnettHamish Davidson (Davidson Brothers)
Mike BarnettPortraits in Fiddles
As a fiddle player and bluegrass fanatic, I am thrilled to see Mike Barnett create a record which to me is like a cross section of all the bluegrass fiddle music I’ve devoured in the last 27 years. He collaborates with some of bluegrass music’s most vibrant talent and shines new light on a great selection of fiddle masterpieces.

Angel OlsenKate Barker (Whoa Mule, Golden Whistler)
Angel OlsenPhases
I just can’t seem to get enough of Angel Olsen’s vocals and songwriting. Her work inspires me to sing like there’s no tomorrow!

George HarrisonTim Guy
George HarrisonWonderwall Music
I know this is a turn up for the books, this was released in 1968. I was in India a few weeks back, and as we descended into the ancient blue city of Jodhpur, I had this on in my headphones and seriously guys, it was incred. Place and time – but you know what I mean.

Sarah BelknerMel Parsons
Sarah BelknerBut You Are, But It Has
Sydney producer and songwriter Sarah Belkner knocks it out of the park with But You Are, But It Has. This record and its predecessor the Humans EP have been on high rotation for me all year. Brilliant songwriting, interesting and super clever arrangements and impeccable production. I will continue to listen obsessively.

Bill OrcuttMark Moldre
Bill OrcuttBill Orcutt
Orcutt wanders in and around the destruction, renovations and construction sites of melody. Tearing a well worn musical phrase apart and rebuilding it. Disassembling a traditional like it’s a jigsaw puzzle and putting the pieces back together in all the wrong places with gaffer tape and super glue. Attacking the guitar with a ferocious tenacity, short angry, dogged outbursts are followed by meditative beauty. “When You Wish Upon A Star” dances about the melody without ever really clearly stating the theme. “Ol’ Man River” is soft and dripping with the peaceful lapping of the Mississippi whist remaining dark and haunting, broken and fractured. Reminiscent of the solo work of Marc Ribot, Fred Frith or even the sonic explorations of Tom Verlaine in its angular assault to the senses. Jazz, traditional folk and the avant-garde smash headlong into each other with little regard for the trail of damage and re-creation left in their wake. Dissonant yet sweet, contemplative while remaining challenging. Bravely free and uncensored.

Loene CarmenCatherine Traicos
Loene CarmenLovers Dreamers Fighters
I’ve always loved the way Lo’s voice manages to be strong, vulnerable, sassy, gentle and flirty all at the same time, and on this record it achieves that in spades. Also the pacing and the production of this record are spot on.

King Gizzard And The Lizard WizardJeff Lang
King Gizzard And The Lizard WizardFlying Microtonal Banana
This is a rocking album, really fun to listen to. The band gets up quite a head of steam, the rhythm section powering with a relentless forward momentum and the various microtonal electric guitars stabbing and chattering over the top. Great riffs all over the album, fantastic energy and an adventurous, explorative mood throughout. It sounds to me like they’re having a load of fun.

Ryan AdamsJosh Rennie-Hynes (The Ahern Brothers)
Ryan AdamsPrisoner
Adams has so many albums and this is one of his best. Great songs, production and tones

Pony FaceCat Leahy (This Way North)
Pony FaceDeja Vu
I’ve always been fascinated with the sonic scapes that Pony Face create. I’m a massive fan of Shane Omara’s musical mind too, so when I heard he was a new member of Pony Face, it just made so much sense. This album really speaks to me. The way the songs tail in and out, the mesmerising, pulsing tremolo on “Mt Deja Vu” the driving groove in “Justine”. It’s pretty magical. Simon’s voice is just heavenly. He’s like some kind of grungy, modern-day crooner.

Nikki LaneRuby Boots
Nikki LaneHighway Queen
I tried to pick another album for fear of seeming biased, but I really do love Nikki’s album from back to front and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get past it for this year’s top pick, I fell in love with it on first listen and over 50 listens later it still remains my fave. There’s a storyline in every song that is so easy to latch on to and make your own whilst still being cleverly written, that and the infectious melodies that take up the prime real estate on this record are the things that almost make you feel like she’s written the album just for you, the listener, yet there is enough sincerity in there to know that it’s just as much for her as it is for you, the perfect balance really! Fave song on the album: “Foolish Heart”.

Nai palmTommy Spender (Mama Kin Spender)
Nai PalmNeedle Paw
I started listening to this record while I was having a bath and it felt like it really complimented the complete surrender to the hot water. I love Nai’s passion to her artistry. She is truly gifted with a confidence and commitment to her voice that verges on punk, but her vocal has such a developed technicality, it blows me away. It’s so great hearing where she is at without the sinewy and muscular musicality of Haitus Kaiyote winding around her sound.

Scott CookAlanna and Alicia
Scott CookFurther Down The Line
Scott Cook is a natural storyteller; his songs glow with empathy, wit and warmth. This is a beautiful album, but he is even better live.
His performance on the porch at Enda Kennedy’s house concert in Northcote, Melbourne was a passport to the heartland of folk songs as they should be, as they have always been.

Colter WallHarvey Russell (Peasant Moon)
Colter WallColter Wall
This is a sparse, flawless debut from an extraordinarily talented 22 year-old Canadian possessing an absurdly weathered baritone. Arranged mostly with acoustic guitar and pedal steel only, these songs are written with the assuredness and self-knowing of a veteran songwriter. At times channelling Haggard, others Townes, the dark, vivid storytelling is magnetic and stunning. These songs feel lived in, shaped by wisdom and experience. Here we have a voice of country music’s future.

Caroline SpenceJosie Rothwell (Peasant Moon)
Caroline SpenceSpades and Roses
I’ve adored Spades and Roses this year. The songs are gentle, personal, universal, with gorgeous, sonically diverse but simple instrumentation. From the gender politics of “Softball” to the twang of “Hotel Armarillo” to the cute, lyrically playful “Wishing Well” and yearning of “Slow Dancer”, they’re songs I love to listen to, to be swept away by – what a songwriter!

Bad // DreemsMark “Looch” Lewis (Wifey, Handsome Young Strangers)
Bad // DreemsGutful
A cracking second effort from the best thing to come out of Adelaide in a long time. Big old school pub rock sound, quality songs, gruff vocals and a solid rhythm section make these guys a step above the other contenders. Bad // Dreems have always been a fantastic live act and this album gets closer to nailing that intensity and rawness. There is a reason they supported Midnight Oil recently! Can’t wait to see what comes next.

Gang of YourhsGretta Ray
Gang of YouthsGo Farther In Lightness
It wasn’t a challenge in the slightest to fall completely, head over heels in love with Gang Of Youths’ record Go Father In Lightness. The lyrics throughout this album are phenomenal, philosophical, pegging together lines of innovative poetry such as “a weight that’s in youth” soon to be followed by more casual, laid-back slang “..that makes a dick of us all”. I felt that the literature, interwoven with conversational speech in this way served to make this album, an album that discusses and reflects on the pros and cons of one’s “limited life” as well as the exploration of what it is to be “human”, unbelievably moving and relatable. As a writer myself, but more importantly a listener, I perceived it to be nothing less of an honour to see the world through writer and frontman Dave Le’aupepe’s eyes whilst listening to this record, that is more than deserving of all of the acclaim it has received over the duration of this year.

Kasey ChambersTom Busby (Busby Marou)
Kasey ChambersDragonfly
I’ve spent a bit of time with Kasey and the Chambers family over the last couple of years and the more I’ve been able to watch her off stage, the more I have realised that she is a true and prolific songwriter. Constantly singing, always creating, forever exploring. That is what this record is, just like her, brave and genuine!

Kendrick LamarSahara Beck
Kendrick LamarDamn
This album has worked for me no matter what mood I’ve been in all through 2017. It’s one of those albums that, to me, will always be a classic. Driving down to the lake with the windows down loving every moment of each song. Thank you for making my 2017 that much better Kendrick.

Leif VollebekkHayden Calnin
Leif VollebekkTwin Solitude
Never has an album been so important. I’ve listened to this every second day, and it still feels as good as the first listen. It’s come to the point that I’ve started a petition to bring this talent to Melbourne. I’m addicted to the feeling Leif gives to me. Enjoyed best walking through chaos on a sunny day, forgetting the world around you.

Ulrika SpacekTom Stephens (Tesse)
Ulrika SpacekModern English Decoration
A lesson in the art of denial, an element is there and then it’s not. It’s driving and heavy, commanding attention, but somehow you can drift away at the same time. Melodies that have to be revisited again and again and then again.

Valerie JuneMatt Golotta (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Valerie JuneThe Order of Time
I listened to the first few songs online of The Order of Time when it first came out, then began calling record stores instantly to see if they had it in stock because I had to own it. This record seriously has everything I look for, its soulful, rocky, bluesy and country, with the right amount of sadness. I think I’ve listened to “Love You Once Made” every day this year since buying the record. “Got Soul” is a stunning pairing of soul and country that is this perfect happy way to close the record.

Daniel RomanoTamara Lindeman (The Weather Station)
Daniel RomanoModern Pressure
Definitely the record I listened to most this year. Just great. Perfect pop songwriting, wonderful wild drumming, insane bass playing, great solos, crazy organ jams, great everything (and every note played by Romano of course). What else do you want?

Big ThiefCy Winstanley (Tattletale Saints)
Big ThiefCapacity
After being introduced to ‘Paul’ from 2016’s Masterpiece on a late night drive, and subsequently watching their Tiny Desk concert, I have been enthralled with this band. I love Adrianne Lenker’s poetic, yet coherent and often confronting lyrics, and the stark arrangements of harmonically rich songs played with a nonchalance that belies their mastery.

Sara TindleyLucie Thorne
Sara TindleyWild & Unknown
There’s an extraordinary richness and directness to Tindley’s voice that is truly stunning. Wild & Unknown is a brave and beautiful collection of songs that’ll have you dancing one moment, weeping the next. A quiet masterpiece that creeps up under your skin and plants itself in your soul. I love this album.

Jen CloherAlison Ferrier
Jen CloherJen Cloher
I love everything about Jen Cloher’s self-titled fourth album. This comes close to the perfect album for me, it’s brilliantly written, performed, recorded and produced. Jen’s bare-faced honesty is incredibly brave and inspiring. Favourite tracks: “I Forgot Myself” and “Strong Woman”.

The Secret SistersThe Weeping Willows
The Secret SistersYou Don’t Own Me Anymore
Selecting your favourite album of the past 12 months is made all the more difficult when three of your favourite acts (Jason Isbell, David Rawlings and The Secret Sisters) all release LPs within the same calendar year. But whilst Isbell and Rawlings delivered sublime albums (as to be expected), the Sisters’ album is “all killer, no filler”, their best work yet, with no temptation to reach for the “skip” button! You Don’t Own Me Anymore is the charming trad-country harmony duo’s third album and most personal project to date. The writing is at times confessional, at others, nostalgic for simpler times; strength juxtaposed with vulnerability. Their soulful songs were lovingly and tastefully produced by good friend Brandi Carlile. Stand out tracks include “Tennessee River Runs Low”, murder ballad “Mississippi” (sister song to the wonderfully haunting, “Iuka” from their 2014 album, Put Your Needle Down), “Little Again” and title track, “You Don’t Own Me Anymore”. Check them out if you’re fans of sibling harmony (eg. The Everly Brothers) and/or the southern gothic stylings of Gillian Welch and The Civil Wars.

Lilly HiattSophie Klein (Little Wise)
Lilly HiattTrinity Lane
I saw Lilly perform at Third Man Records at AmericanaFest in Nashville, but the gravity of her songwriting only hit me afterwards, listening to her rocking 2017 album Trinity Lane on my headphones traveling around the States. The production, by Michael Trent of Shovels and Rope, is big, loud, gritty and more indie rock than Nashville alt-country. But Lilly’s voice still has a southern twang to it though and the melodies and words kick around my brain for days on end. “I just wanna rock n’ roll, scream out my and burn real slow” she sings on “Records”, and it makes me want to do the same.

Jamie WyattGretta Ziller
Jamie WyattFelony Blues
Although it’s been out for most of the year I’ve only just discovered Jamie Wyatt’s Felony Blues! It’s a rare thing for me to listen to something on repeat but since I’ve discovered her it’s all I’m listening to!!! It’s unashamed, uncomplicated, catchy, good old fashioned country music.

Christopher Coleman CollectiveThe Dead Maggies
Christopher Coleman CollectiveAh Winter
This is a work of art, from a guy that’s had a hard run and put his heart on his sleeve. The result is a deep, personal and moving album of mature songwriting. Musically it sits somewhere between Bright Eyes and Neil Young.

Steve EarleTristan Goodall (The Audreys)
Steve Earle & The DukesSo You Wanna Be An Outlaw
Equal parts devilish invitation and cautionary tale, this killer record was a tour van favourite as we hit the road after a break this year. Steve is in fine form, as usual, and while the album is boisterous and swaggering, it also manages to highlight his songwriting craft. Highlight: Willie Nelson growling “if you wanna be an outlaw you can never go home”. Giddy-up!

LogicSteve Barnard (Jon Cotton and The Book Keepers)
Riding my push bike past all the kids and their mothers, heads adorned in their icon of piety, devotion and religious identity. The burka is far more common in this corner of Sydney than most and it puts a smile on my face to see children enjoying their walk home from school with Mum. An old bogan crossing the road to the pub yells racial cliches about going back where you came from and then turns to me for my approval of his vitriol. I inform him I’m from overseas too, I just happen to be white and he is guilty of the grossest and purest type of racism. Racism is as blatant as the inability to see past difference and as subtle as the apathy that accompanies privilege. Everybody suffers either in their oppression or privilege. Everybody.

Lawrence GreenwoodTanya Batt (BATTS)
Lawrence GreenwoodP.S. I’m Haunted
Lawrence has been a favourite of mine for a long time with his previous project. It feels so nice to have a new album from him and my gosh wow. The melodic and lyrical genius within this album actually made me cry the first time I heard it. The journey this takes you on from start to finish is incredibly special. All of the amazing detail within the album leaves you finding something new each listen.

Gretta ZillerAndrew Swift
Gretta ZillerQueen Of Boomtown
Maybe I’m a little biased after spending so much time on the road with Gretta, but credit where credit’s due. Queen Of Boomtown is a solid record from start to finish. With underlying blues tones throughout, Queen Of Boomtown will have you tapping your feet, singing along and wiping away a tear or two again and again. Ziller is quickly being recognised as one of this country’s best songwriters and without a doubt one of its best vocalists.

Raise By EaglesSam Newton
Raised By EaglesI Must Be Somewhere
There is a great mix of upbeat and slow-burner tracks with a sprinkle of country here and there. The record is filled with great songwriting and heartfelt lyrics.

Ben SalterShane Nicholson
Ben SalterBack Yourself
I have a lot of favourite albums of 2017. It’s been a good year. But for me, one stands above the rest – Ben Salter’s Back Yourself. It’s equal parts diverse, brave, accomplished, intelligent, exciting, original, and just plain incredible, superior record-making.

Frank OceanThe Campervan Dancers
Frank OceanBiking
Ryan is arrested by the nostalgic visions of meatophorical bike-riding. Chelsea is delighted by how they manage to execute an extensive shouting outro with great aplomb.

The East PointersThe Little Stevies/Teeny Tiny Stevies
The East PointersWhat We Leave Behind
This recommendation is just as much about the album as it is about the live show, because TEP have done what is often very difficult to do and that’s to capture the energy and magic of their live show on record. As a band they’ve got the full package; great songs, impressive multi-instrumental musicianship, rich 3-part harmony, and to top it off they’re genuinely nice people. My favourites on the album are the vocal lead songs because I love a catchy melody and riff. But I also really enjoy the instrumentals because they include some super interesting harmonic changes through them that don’t always go where you’re expecting them to go. It’s an album that’s made a non-fiddler make it their new years resolution to learn how to play the fiddle, so it must be pretty good.

Songs From DanMelanie Horsnell
Dan TuffySongs from Dan
I loved Dan Tuffy’s record Songs from Dan because I love the quiet back of the valley live sound and the song “The biggest bastard who ever rode the west” is every musician-having-a-low-down-day’s anthem. And I loved King Curly’s new EP but biased as now we are making a record together, so not allowed to vote for that.

Les Poules a ColinJesse Periard (Ten Strings and a Goat Skin)
Les Poules à ColinMorose
Les Poules à Colin have never been a band to limit themselves. They are constantly pushing boundaries and exploring uncharted territory, which sets them apart from so many traditional music groups. They’ve grown so much as a band and Morose is a true representation of where they stand in the realm of traditional Québécois music and I couldn’t be more proud of them. This album has so many complex and beautiful layers to it, and has inspired me and taken me to places I didn’t expect.

Sarah BelknerJulia Johnson
Sarah BelknerBut You Are, But It Has
A record I have returned to repeatedly, finding more with every listen. The textures and arrangements glisten, but have this earthy, warm undercurrent. Her lyrics unfolded the more I honed in on them. Where I was wondering of their meaning upon first listen, months later her songs are resonating deeply with chapters and moments in my life. For me, there’s nothing more wondrous than finding a song that exposes one’s painful or wonderful experience as universal, and this album is rich with those gems. Standout track: “Cellophane”.

Jesca HoopAinslie Wills
Jesca HoopMemories Are Now
I describe this album to other people as “assertive folk” in that it has folk sensibilities and instrumentation but the song ideas are quite robust and angular at times which make it really memorable (ha! Pun not intended). Also, It has no drums which to me was really refreshing as most things these days are so banger/beat driven.

Trad AttackJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Trad.Attack!Kullakarva / Shimmer Gold
Every so often I spend some time seeking out what’s happening in other local scenes around the world, and Crooked Fiddle’s musical equivalents therein – thus leading me to Estonia’s Trad.Attack! (punctuation included). Part melodic folk pop, part updated trad folk complete with Estonian bagpipes, they sometimes come across as a Baltic equivalent to Ireland’s Kila, especially on the epic title track.

Big ThiefAngie McMahon
Big ThiefCapacity
I’ve fallen in love with this band and this album. The intimacy of the songwriting has captured me, and the so many moments in the lyrics and music have brought me to moments of realisation and clarity. Some albums make you really grateful for music and the power it has over your mind, and this year, for me, it’s been this one.

Lana Del ReyTori Forsyth
Lana Del RayLust for Life
I love that Stevie Nicks has a little part of this record, she also experiments with some rad sounds. Also, lyrically this record is incredible.

This Is The KitEmily Staveley-Taylor (The Staves)
This Is The KitMoonshine Freeze
We met Kate, Rozi and Jamie at The Funkhaus during the Michelberger festival in Berlin last year and thought they were all wonderful people making wonderful music. Then we saw them play this album live at Eaux Claires festival in the summer and were blown away. The record has so many lovely, rounded sounds on it. It feels soft, but it has a driving energy that keeps pushing it forward. Kate’s voice has a familiar, kind quality when she sings – who doesn’t want to feel like they’re having a conversation with a friend when they listen to music? It’s a self-assured album by a band who seem to really know who they are. And that’s a comforting presence to be in. Plus the tunes are fucking banging. And the horns rule.

Sun Kil MoonNigel Wearne
Sun Kil MoonCommon As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
This year Sun Kil Moon has been on high rotation. Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood is so different, that I honestly can’t remember hearing anything else like it. Spoken word poetry, prose, and random stories (including a Chameleon vs a Cat), diary entries, muses on David Bowie and Ali augmented by busted-up Dad hip hop. It’s completely whacked and compelling. A slow burn that requires the lyrics booklet.

Paul Kelly Announces November Tour

Paul Kelly
Image Courtesy of Paul Kelly

Following the release of his amazing new album Life Is Fine in August the incomparable Paul Kelly has just announced plans to hit the road for a national tour this November.

Joining Kelly on the tour will be a bunch of amazing guests including Busby Marou in Darwin, Cairns and Townsville, Sahara Beck in Rockhampton and Steve Earle and Middle Kids supporting the rest of the tour from Brisbane to Perth.

Check out the full list of dates below:

Friday 3rd November – Entertainment Centre, Darwin, NT
Saturday 4th November – Entertainment Centre, Darwin, NT
Tuesday 7th November – Convention Centre Great Hall, Cairns, QLD
Wednesday 8th November – Entertainment Centre, Townsville, QLD
Thursday 9th November – Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton, QLD
Saturday 11th November – Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 12th November – Regional Botanic Gardens, Coffs Harbour, NSW
Tuesday 14th November – Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre, Tamworth, NSW
Wednesday 15th November – Entertainment Centre, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 17th November – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 18th November – MONA Mainstage & Lawns, Hobart, TAS
Sunday 19th November – Sydney Opera House Forecourt, Sydney, NSW
Monday 20th November – Sydney Opera House Forecourt, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 22nd November – Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 23rd November – Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 25th November – Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, Perth, WA
Sunday 26th November – Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, Perth, WA

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 13th January


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Indie folk duo Husky released their new video “Late Night Store”. Details here

– Sydney summer concert series Courtyard Sessions announced their 2017 lineup including Imogen Clark, Leroy Lee, Jordie Lane, Taryn La Fauci, Skyscraper Stan, The Cruisin’ Deuces and more. Details here

– Sahara Beck released her new single “Crack Bang Bang”. Details here

– Ex-member of The Middle East Jordan Ireland announced his new album Jordan Ireland With Purple Orchestra and beautiful new single “East Coaster”. Details here

– Singer-songwriter Jack Carty announced a tour through February, March and April. Details here

William Crighton released his new video “Jesus Blues”. Details here

– Indie-folk duo The Campervan Dancers released their new video “St⭐️rlight (Pickin’ Pears)”. Details here

– Canadian folk and trad trio The East Pointers have announced a massive Australian tour kicking off in March. Details here

– We posted the latest video from bluegrass duo The Weeping Willows, “Fallen Ring”. Details here

– Australia’s queen of country Kasey Chambers announced her new double album Dragonfly. Details here

– Melbourne singer-songwriter Kathleen Mary Lee released her video “Hey, Very Good Friend”. Details here

– Australian tour dates were announced for Billy Bragg and Joe Henry. Details here


With the new year upon us it’s time to look ahead at some of the great folk, roots and acoustic music that will be coming our way in 2017. We had a stab at picking 10 artists we think you should be keeping an eye on in the coming months including All Our Exes Live in Texas, Davidson Brothers, Fleet Foxes, Husky, Jordan Ireland, Laura Marling, Punch Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, The Morrisons and Timberwolf. Blog here

Releases This Week

Flo Morrissey
Gentlewoman, Ruby ManFlo Morrissey & Matthew E. White

Laws of Gravity
Laws of GravityThe Infamous Stringdusters

The McClymonts
EndlessThe McClymonts

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Illawarra Folk Festival

Illawarra FF

Our favourite mid size folk festival kicks off this weekend with an amazing lineup including Andy Irvine and Luke Plumb, FourWinds, Tattletale Saints, The Whitetop Mountaineers, Tim O’Brien, Wallis Bird, Daniel Champagne, Echo Deer, Handsome Young Strangers, Lime and Steel, Mandy Connell, Martin Pearson, Nigel Wearne, Shanty Club, The Squeezebox Trio, Tinpan Orange, Big Erle, Jane Aubourg, Joe Mungovan, Kay Proudlove, Shelley’s Murder Boys, The Lurkers and many many more.

Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Bulli, NSW

Gigs Next Week

Áine Tyrrell
Friday 13th January – Rosny Barn, TAS
Saturday 14th January – Waratah Hotel, Hobart, TAS
Friday 20th January – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Alanna and Alicia
Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Alice Terry
Thursday 19 January – Village Stage, Meriton Festival Village, Sydney, NSW

Andy Irvine w/ Luke Plumb
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW
Thursday 19th January – Bathurst City Community Club, Bathurst, NSW
Friday 20th January – Fairlight Folk Acoustic Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Backsliders w/ Shelly’s Murder Boys
Saturday 14th January – Milton Theatre, Milton, NSW

Banjo Jackson
Thursday 19th January – Hither & Yon, Willunga, SA

Ben Salter
Thursday 19th January – The Golden Barley, Sydney, NSW

Blue King Brown
Friday 13th January – Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale, NSW

Bluegrass @ Yulli’s Bluegrass Picnic
Wenesday 18th January – Balls Head Reserve, Sydney, NSW

Sunday 15th January – The Golden Barley, Sydney, NSW

Cash Savage & The Last Drinks
Wednesday 18th January – Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Courtyard Sessions Presents Imogen Clark
Friday 13th January – Seymour Centre, Sydney, NSW

Courtyard Sessions Presents Leroy Lee
Friday 20th January – Seymour Centre, Sydney, NSW

Don McGlashan
Friday 13th January – Brookfields Shed, Margate, TAS
Saturday 20th January – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January – Mofo, Mona Foma, Hobart, TAS

eüsh, Nic Cassey & Friends
Thursday 19th January – Marlborough Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Fairlight Folk feat. Andy Irvine & Luke Plumb, Seanchas
Friday 20th January – Fairlight Folk Acoustic Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Fanny Lumsden
Friday 20th January – Fanzone Performance, Tamworth, NSW

FolkSwagon feat. GG Music, Ben Camden, Julia Johnson
Wednesday 18th January – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th January – Illawara Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Tuesday 17th January – Wauchope Arts Hall, Wauchope, NSW
Wednesday 18th January – 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Friday 20th January – The Unorthodox Church of Groove, Newcastle, NSW

George & Noriko
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Gregory Page
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Handsome Young Strangers
Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Friday 20th January – Botany View Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Hat Fitz & Cara
Thursday 19th January – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January – Thredbo Blues Festival, Thredbo, NSW

High and Lonesome feat. Katie Crane, Scott Collins, John Woolhouse
Saturday 14th January – The Bellingen Brewery & Co., Bellingen, NSW

Thursday 19th January – Alpha House Artist Co, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January – Mofo, Mona Foma, Hobart, TAS

Thursday 19th to Saturday 21st January – Wollongong, NSW

Hootenanny feat. Mark Lucas and The Dead Setters
Sunday 15th January – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

Illawarra Folk Festival
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Bulli, NSW

Jenny Biddle
Thursday 19th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW

Joe & Harmony’s Trippy Hippy Band
Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Josh Pyke & Bob Evans
Friday 13th January – Esk BeerFest, Launceston, TAS

Kenta Hayashi
Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Wednesday 18th January – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Friday 20th January – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

King Arthur
Thursday 19th January – The Rooks Return, Melbourne, VIC

Kirsty Bromley
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

Kyle Taylor
Friday 13th January – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 14th January – The Exeter, Adelaide, SA

Lake Street Dive
Friday 13th January – Sydney Festival, Sydney, NSW

Lime & Steel
Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th January – Illawara Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Sunday 15th January – Hither & Yon, Willunga, SA

Matt Henry
Thursday 19th January – Gasoline Pony, Sydney, NSW

Matt J Ward & The Rising Sons w/ Alana Jagt, Sam Newton
Sunday 15th January – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide, SA

Melody Moko, The Wayward Henrys & Andrew Swift
Thursday 19th January – The Stag & Hunter, Newcastle, NSW

Missy Higgins
Sunday 15th January – Australian Open Sessions, Melbourne, VIC

Friday 20th to Sunday 21st January – Mona Foma, Hobart, TAS

Nigel Wearne
Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Friday 20th January – Mountain Mumma, Sheffield, TAS

Numeralla Folk Festival
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January – Numberalla, NSW

Friday 20th January – Riverstage Theatre, Brisbane, QLD

Pierce Brothers
Friday 13th January – The Grand, Morngington, VIC
Saturday 14th January – Westernport Hotel, San Remo, VIC
Thursday 19th January – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 20th January – The Foundry, Brisbane, QLD

Saturday 14th January – Salt Contemporary Art Gallery, Queenscliff, VIC
Sunday 15th January – Long Play, Melbourne, VIC

Sahara Beck
Friday 13th January – The Rhythm Hut, Gosford, NSW

Sharon Shannon
Friday 13th January – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Saturday 14th January – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 15th January – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Shelley’s Murder Boys
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW
Saturday 14th January – Milton Theatre, Milton, NSW
Thursday 19th January – Mr Falcon’s, Sydney, NSW

Tamar Valley Folk Festival
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January – Georgetown, TAS

Tamworth Country Music Festival
Friday 20th to Sunday 29th January – Tamworth, NSW

Tattletale Saints
Friday 13th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

The Outside Track
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW

The Porch Sessions On Tour feat. Stu Larsen, Luke Thompson, Tim Moore
Friday 13th January – Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 15th January – Bacchus Marsh, VIC
Wednesday 18th January – Wollongong, NSW
Friday 20th January – Sydney (Croydon Park), NSW

The Snakemen
Sunday 19th January – Wayward Brewing Company, Sydney, NSW

The Weeping Willows
Sunday 15th January – The Standard Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

The Whitetop Mountaineers
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Wednesday 18th January – Yinnar Community Hall, Yinnar, VIC
Thursday 19th January – Valencia Creek Hall, Brigalong, VIC
Friday 20th January – Harvester Moon Café, Bellarine, VIC

Thompson Springs w/ Maia Marsh
Friday 13th January – The Front, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 15th January – Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Monday 16th January – Cherry Bar, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 17th January – Some Velvet Morning, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 20th January – Club 54, Launceston, TAS

Thredbo Blues Festival
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd January – Thredbo, NSW

Tim O’Brien
Friday 13th to Saturday 14th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Sunday 15th January – The Quarter Deck, Narooma, NSW
Thursday 19th January – The Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

TinPan Orange
Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Vanishing Shapes
Sunday 15th January – The Milk Factory, Brisbane, QLD
Monday 16th January – Camp Davey, Lismore, NSW
Wednesday 18th January – Phoenix Rising Café, Nimbin, NSW
Thursday 19th January – Treehouse on Belongil, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 20th January – Miami Marketta, Gold Coast, QLD

Wallis Bird
Friday 13th and Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

We Lost the Sea w/ The Crooked Fiddle Band
Saturday 14th January – Northcote Social Club, Sydney, NSW

William Crighton
Saturday 14th January – Quarterdeck, Narooma, NSW

Winter Wilson
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Thursday 19th January – Braidwood Folk Club, Braidwood, NSW
Friday 20th January – Humph Hall, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“The Bonny Ship, The Diamond” – Beoga

English superstar Ed Sheeran dropped details of his upcoming album ÷. The album will include collaborations with Irish trad band Beoga so we think it’s time you got acquainted.

Listen to the New Sahara Beck Single “Crack Bang Bang”

Sahara Beck
Image Courtesy of Sahara Beck

After a huge 2016 seeing the release of her second album Panacea as well as a string of festival and tour dates Sahara Beck has treated us to her new, rollicking single “Crack Bang Bang”.

Take a listen to the track here:

Sahara Beck has also been announced on the upcoming The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd tour – check out the full list of dates below:

Sunday 29th January – North Gardens, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 4th February – Red Devil Park, Byron Bay, NSW
Sunday 5th February – Sandstone Point, Bribie Island, QLD
Saturday 11th February – Glenelg Beach, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 12th February – Stuart Park, Wollongong, NSW

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016

Child Records

You’ve heard what we think the top albums of 2016 were, but lets be honest this is the piece you’ve really been waiting for.

Every year we reach out to the community of folk and acoustic musicians in Australia and around the world to ask them to pick their favourite album or EP of the year, and this year they came through in spades.

So without further waffle may we present to you this year’s Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2016.

Bill ChambersEagle & The Wolf
Bill ChambersCold Trail
What a record. Bill just turns up when he feels like it and shows us all how it’s done. The title track is one of the best driving songs ever written and we’ve done A LOT of driving this year! This record has been with us on every trip and inspires us as artists of the alt. country genre to dig deep and keep being real, in life and in music. He’s the baddest and the best.

James KenyonAnna Cordell
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
This album takes me into such a beautiful space, it is so beautifully written and produced, I find myself smiling every time I listen to it – I’m entranced and inspired.

Joe MungovanImogen Clark
Joe MungovanWay Down South
Joe totally embodies the Joni Mitchell quote about songwriting, “The closer you get to your heart is the closer you get to everyone else’s”. This EP is an evolution for him, the production is so sparse and spacey, almost Bon Iver-ish, and very different from the folky style of his first EP. But what remains is Joe’s amazing ability to capture so perfectly the melancholy of the human condition with his beautiful melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics. A big 5 stars from me. Love ya, Joe!

Piers FacciniSam Lee
Piers FacciniI Dreamed An Island
This album only came out a couple of weeks ago but I think needs mentioning in this years crop. Piers is one of the finest male singers and his musicianship is exquisite. It’s an album of great sensitivity with deep thought and poetry inside. The songs are so well formed, he has a knack at creation of timeless soundings orgs.

DD DumboDan Flynn
D.D DumboUtopia Defeated
Oliver has really found his own unique sound while incorporating some diverse influences including folk, electronic and world music. I was really impressed with his songwriting and his ability to draw you in to his strange little world. I also love the production with all those sonic layers that reveal themselves over repeated listens. Amazing debut.

Michael KiwanukaSkyscraper Stan
Michael KiwanukaLove and Hate
I got hooked on this album while touring around New Zealand. The songwriting is melodic, the dynamics are masterful and the closing track, “Final Frame”, kicks me in the guts.

William CrightonJosh Rennie-Hynes
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
I first heard William at Nannup at the start of this year and loved it. He’s a great performer and his songs are top notch. This album captures all of that perfectly. The production is spot on and is a testament to the benefits of what a more DIY approach to recording can achieve.

Bon IverTanya Batt (BATTS)
Bon Iver22, A Million
There have been a lot of amazing releases this year, Canary, Braille Face and Hayden Calnin were three I wanted to choose too. However, it had to be Bon Iver. The most highly anticipated album in my life, it did not disappoint. This album means so much to me, It’s an extremely innovative album within soundscapes and also so raw, filled with emotion. Many tears were shed when I first listened.

MoulettesClaude Hay
Moulettes new album Preternatural really grabed me from the first second, Distorted Cello, Oboe, guitar bass drums and they all sing insane harmonies perfectly live….Audio candy

Bill HuntLiam Gale (Liam Gale & the Ponytails)
Bill HuntUpwey
Conversational, melodic, witty and hooky songwriting flood through the beautiful ebb and flow of Upwey, Hunt’s first of many offerings. The songs are hued by a consistent arrangement of drums, bass, violin and Hunt’s subtle and precise guitar style. But they don’t rely on these arrangements; each song a story, assisted by the swell of instrumentation to convey the tales that swing from the near Latin grooves of “Odalik” to the slow sexy grind of “Sea of Love”. At six tracks long, it leaves you wanting more. Perfect.

Childish GambinoSahara Beck
Childish GambinoAwaken, My Love!
Listening to this album is like switching off the real world and stepping into an original and new world. I find it very inspiring.

Oh PepThe Little Stevies
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
I think the songwriting on Stadium Cake is really interesting. The songs take me to a place that I’m not expecting both lyrically and musically when I begin listening to them and they keep me guessing, which I absolutely love. The arrangements and production are also super cool, and I’m simply just a big fan of talented women and female partnerships doing great things in the arts.

Side PonyFanny Lumsden
Lake Street DiveSide Pony
It seriously makes me the most joy filled human ever. Side Pony is possibly my biggest songwriting envy of late and they just really nail that motown meets pop retro good times.

Nick CaveMiles O’Neil (Miles and Simone)
Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
I was scared to listen to this album due to the tragic circumstances surrounding it. Finally
mustering the courage one bright morning I listened to it through while walking beside the sea.
I stopped many times during that walk to sit and, floored, marvel at the breathtakingly
sadness and beauty captured in what is, to me and I’m sure many others, a masterpiece.

Hayden CalninForest Falls
Hayden CalninCut Love Pt 1/2
Hayden is an absolute stayer of the Melbourne music scene, but it’s for good reason. This record is world-class. Sparse, rich, cinematic, and desperate in its feel, it holds on to you long after the first listen.

Button CollectiveThe Bottlers
The Button CollectiveThe Lonesome Sea
As a softly lilting mandolin emerges from the silence of the opening track, Brodie’s haunting lyrical ballad begins to unravel the story of the heartbreak of a man, torn between travelling the lonesome sea and those who he has left behind. This beautiful yet bittersweet combination of well-travelled wordsmithing and an instrumental palate carrying a nostalgically truthful warmth, could be heard in any far-flung tavern in the dead of night, as tired candles flicker. Finishing with a raucous fling titled “Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy”, the Button Collective’s release concludes on a stirring high, twisting your arm to crave another ale. The EP’s recording, mixing and mastering add a special flair, as you hear the charismatic live-elements that give you a heart-swelling, beer-swilling singalong that you can partake in at any time. Well done fellas!

The Dreaming RoomPhia
Laura MvulaThe Dreaming Room
Her lyrics explore feminism, faith, self-worth, race, and her harmonies, arrangements and production are deep and multi-hued. One of the most exciting songwriters around, unafraid to experiment with multi-genre collaborations, like the London Symphony Orchestra and Nile Rodgers.

JoyGordon Wallace (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
The Peep TempelJoy
This is a great third album by the Melbourne based three piece that has initial flavours of 90s Aussie pub punk/bloke rock (like Cosmic Psychos) but that is just the beginning – the album is musically quite varied, with intelligent, dark, caustically humorous and often political lyrics with moments of honest beauty.

Wartime SweetheartsJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Wartime SweetheartsSo Long Sparta
It’s always great when a local artist drops something as fully formed and self-assured as Louise Nutting’s second album under the Wartime Sweethearts moniker. Experimental without forgetting the songcraft, it deserves its rightful place amongst the St Vincents, Dirty Projectors and My Brightest Diamonds of the art pop world. Props to local label Art As Catharsis, whose releases in October alone spanned from Wartime Sweethearts to Hashashin’s eastern mathrock and No Haven’s dark hardcore. Eclecticism rules the day!

BeyonceTaryn La Fauci
To create and release a piece of work that is so intricately linked and ordered, one you must listen to from start to finish to understand the whole was really refreshing! The film that accompanied the album was also richly interesting, deep and powerful. To address themes such as infidelity and race and then to weave them powerfully into a full album, which on release caused so much controversy and started a conversation world wide, I thought was really great.

Melody PoolKevin Mitchell (Bob Evans)
Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
Another beautiful record from the most under-rated songwriter in Australia. “Love, She Loves Me” gives me goose bumps every time.

Winter WheatFrank Turner
John K SamsonWinter Wheat
I am a long term partisan of John’s work, so it’s not surprising that I liked this record. But god-DAMN, the man just keeps delivering. This record had me in tears three times on my first listen through, and it gets better with age.

David BowieWilliam Crighton
David BowieBlackstar
My favourite album from 2016 is Blackstar from David Bowie. There were a lot of great albums but I listened to it the most.

TigallerroSteven Barnard (Arbori, Jon Cotton)
Phonte and Eric RobersonTigallerro
Smooth grooves, dope rhymes, sweet melodies. You’d be hard pressed to find another 2016 record his year that has this flow, though Anderson Paaks’ Malibu is a close second. It rolls effortlessly from track to track and the inevitable ass shaking comes with a no “slutty table top twerking” guarantee. It’s rare that a hip hop record explores what it means to be a man of sexual fidelity, a family man, and even man of faith in higher power. Getting hype or turning down, my morning wake up or my party starter, this record has been a solid find.

Julia JacklinJesse Lubitz (TinPan Orange)
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
This album is a gem. The more I listen to this record, the more the songs shimmer and shine with a beautiful honesty. Jacklin’s songwriting is earnest and her voice perfect – it feels like an important voice which dances delicately on a wire between mundanity and profundity.

Bon IverOliver’s Army
Bon Iver22, A Million
Although becoming more and more electronic heavy, Justin Vernon’s signature haunting melodies and dynamic vocals remain consistently endearing. I found the production to be quite bold and experimental, and I love that they’re continuing to explore their sound and push it in new directions. Sonically, it’s spacious and beautiful.

RadioheadKim Churchill
RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
My top album of 2016 has probably got to go to A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. It really hit me at the perfect moment. I was deep in the studio and sometimes getting a bit overly flustered by how complex the process of recording can be. I think Radiohead have done something incredible in the way this album is so relaxed, so subtle, but so powerful. There is this beautiful calm confidence that I am completely in awe of. To be alive whilst their legacy is still being added to is a real treat!

Conor OberstThomas Busby (Busby Marou)
Conor OberstRuminations
Brave, personal and heart achingly real. It feels like you’re in the room with him as he’s pouring his heart out.

Iggy PopEm George
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
It would be a total lie for me to say that I have been patiently and politely waiting for a new Iggy Pop record because I’ve been extremely impatient and downright rude, mouthing off to my vinyl copy of Lust for Life, begging to the Iggy Pop gods for a new release and then Post Pop Depression hit in March this year. Produced by Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), the entire album is gritty and dark, sharp and tight with that small hint of sadness that lies just under the surface of Iggy Pop’s music. However in true Iggy fashion, the melodies and heavy drums lift the album into something that is hard to define, taking you to another place. My pick for 2016!

KaleoGerrit Gmel (Citizen of the World)
I came across these guys on Spotify a few months ago as they were our number one associated artist then. I had never heard of them before but their album has been on repeat ever since. Their album is incredibly varied, with high-energy songs like “Way Down We Go” and soft ballads like “Save Yourself”. An emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

Gregory PorterJoe Glover (Shelley’s Murder Boys, Backsliders)
Gregory PorterTake me to the Alley
I watched a YouTube clip of Gregory Porter performing on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and watched it several times over, absolutely mesmerised. The album is just as mesmerising; full of soul, jazz and RnB, beautiful arrangements and Porter’s effortless delivery; just enough grit and soul to keep the jazz interesting! I listen to this album when I want something that will absolutely zone me out of where I am and what I am doing, Porter’s soothing voice is like being wrapped up in blanket and given a cup of hot cocoa.

Bruce MolskyShell Eves (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
Bruce MolskyCan’t Stay Here This a-Way
Bruce Molsky always manages to bring such a rich, unique sound to the old-time classics. His latest album is no exception. His fiddle-singin’ gives me warm fuzzies akin to sitting by a campfire under a starry sky.

David BowieJimmy Murray (Shelley’s Murder Boys)
David BowieBlackstar
It was hot, humid January afternoon driving through a sun-shower when I first listened to David Bowie’s Blackstar album. Released just 2 days after his death aged 69 this is an amazing final piece of work from this incredible artist. The hauntingly beautiful voice and instrumentation echos with songs about finality and death. Listening to this I was filled pure joy, sadness and reflection of this artist’s inspirational legacy.

Black Mountain String bandThe Plough
Black Mountain String BandTime Traveller
This year The Plough discovered the Canberra based Black Mountain String Band and can’t get enough of them. The exuberance and variety they bring to a live show is showcased beautifully in their recording. Their mix of traditional and original songs and instrumentals take the listener back in time through a landscape of high energy Old Time, Western Swing, triangle pumping Cajun and plucky Fiddle polkas. This CD’s been on high rotation in the Lancer’s CD stacker ever since it was launched in the bush capital on a chilly winters night.

TyrannamenFraser A Gorman
A brilliant, gruff mixture of Memphis Garage-soul blended deep in a gravel filled, VB bottle of Australian 70’s pub rock. Eight tracks long, all killer no filler.

Margo PriceNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Margo PriceMidwest Farmer’s Daughter
Margo is one of the first of a new breed of Americana artists to come out of the new epicentre of country music in East Nashville. Alongside Cale Tyson, Michaela Anne, Erin Rae, et al., these guys are playing authentic honky-tonk reminiscent of 1970s outlaw country, yet with their own fresh take. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter reminds me of the edgiest tracks from Dolly Parton, and the fact she is the first country act signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records is a testament to the quality of this album.

Oh PepJames Kenyon
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
Stadium Cake is a brilliant album – brave arrangements, tight pop writing, great lyrics and Liv’s voice is a pleasure. I love the ambition of the album, and the assuredness the result. It’s an inspiring record

Julia JacklinAinsley Farrell
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
I’ve had the chance to see Julia perform these songs over the past couple years so I’ve been very excited for her album. She has an incredible songwriting talent topped by this powerful yet vulnerable voice that’ll break your heart and put it back together again all in one go. If you get the chance to see her and her band live I wouldn’t miss it.

Liz StringerMel Parsons
Liz StringerAll The Bridges
I have been a fan of Liz for a good few years now, I’m completely smitten with her voice – all husk, beauty and pain. I had high expectations for her new album, and All The Bridges delivers and then some, it’s been on repeat in my house since it arrived.

CanaryKathleen Mary Lee
CanaryI Am Lion
I like this because it is a celebration of very big, very beautiful feelings that I reckon have no other way of being celebrated other than through this kind of emotionally epic music. The lyrics are attempts at honesty and the music is always their non verbal emotional equivalent, making the album a very cathartic experience. If you want it to be. A bit of a masterpiece

Eagle and the WolfSam Buckingham
Eagle & The WolfEagle & The Wolf
Sarah brings out Kris’s sweetness and Kris brings out Sarah’s no bullshit strength – making this album the perfect balance of heart and “fuck you”. It just sounds like two musicians being real and having a ball. Awesome songwriting, perfect harmonies – it’s golden.

Sian EvansTori Forsyth
Sian EvansHow Time Has Treated Thee
This EP has only swept across my table recently but it is hands down a stand out. It makes me feel happy, sad and inspired all in one hit!

Songs From DanLucie Thorne
Dan TuffySongs From Dan
Aussie expat (now Dutch resident) and legend Dan Tuffy (Big Low, Wild Pumpkins at Midnight) has made one of my favourite albums not just of 2016 but of all time (seriously!). Co-produced by Melbourne’s Matt Walker, and recorded partly here in Melbourne, and partly in Holland, this album is an extraordinary collection from a true poet who sings straight to the heart of it all. Check it out folks!

Sian EvansHusky Gawenda (Husky)
Damien JuradoVisions Of Us On The Land
While this is Damien Jurado’s twelth album, it is the first I heard of him. Visions is a psychedelic, mystical odyssey, one that takes place within and without. The internal wanderings, the struggles and revelations, mirror an external landscape that is both beautiful and haunting. Each listen draws you further into these mirror worlds and all the while Jurado’s songs and sounds are immediately and undeniably striking.

Tracy McNeilLeah Flanagan
Tracy McNeil and the Good LifeThieves
Thieves is such an enjoyable record to listen to. It’s poppy and catchy yet underneath the veneer of fun singalong good times the songs themselves incredibly well crafted and arranged. Tracey writes a damn good song and if you’re lucky enough to see her band live, you’ll see them play those songs damn well too.

Adora EyeMusketeer
Adora EyeIf You Need A King, I’ve Been Prepared All My Life
This is probably the most raw and enduring folk album I have listened to all year. I am sure that this Swedish singer-songwriter was up all night writing this album in a smokey boat in the Stockholm harbour somewhere. You can almost see him clutching that ink pen with a red right hand, as his pet raven swings in a cage above his head eating dead beetles.

Hiss Golden MessengerDave Powys (The Paper Kites)
Hiss Golden MessengerHeart Like A Levee
I heard this album playing in a record store in London, and as I flicked through racks of vinyl I was drawn into the melodies and depth of his song writing. Every now and then you come across an artist who really moves you, or scratches an itch you never knew you had – this album has done both for me.

The Kill Devil HillsCatherine Traicos
The Kill Devil HillsIn On Under Near Water
This album encapsulates all that I love about the The Kill Devil Hills. A mad racket of noise, it pulses with life and is as ripe with heartfelt ballads as it is with sexy, sinister, badass, guitar driven numbers. Enjoy with whiskey.

Robert Ellis10 String Symphony
Robert EllisRobert Ellis
His first self-produced effort combines thoughtfully crafted songs with unique and interesting arrangements, expertly performed by him and his killer band. It’s the full package real deal and we love it so much.

The Dead MaggiesThe Dead Maggies
The Cloves and The TobaccoAcross The Horizon
TCATT are one of many celt-punk bands making great music in Java, and this album is a standout. It’s straight up driving celtic punk, with big powerful singalong choruses that tug the heartstrings. Good arrangements and musicianship help make this album great. We played with them in their hometown of JogJakarta, in the attic of a vegetarian cafe. The power cut out just before the gig, so the bands went ahead and played unplugged, it was a great moment of sweaty singalongs.

Howe GelbMark Moldre
Howe GelbFuture Standards
Late night meanderings. Laid back, whisky infused jazz piano. Wordplay and lyrical twists that stand alongside the wit of Ira Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael with the quiet phrasing of Chet Baker. Gelb continues to walk to his own beat – confounding expectations whilst smashing and recreating genres. His history has always hinted towards a love of jazz and occasionally detoured into Monk style musings – here Gelb embraces it wholeheartedly.

TullaraSian Evans
TullaraBetter Hold On
Earthy folk and roots with a dash of dirty grunge, Tullara presents her debut EP Better Hold On. Featuring her superb guitar slinging and percussive finger tapping wizardry, genius pop-roots arrangements and powdery vocals; it’s as if an Aussie Taylor Swift, John Butler and Andy Mckee were entrapped in a love triangle and spawned gold threads of wild honesty weaving together this admirable little Roots record. It’ll jerk a tear and invoke a bit of primal badass equally.

TaliskJake Pember (The Button Collective)
Ever since first hearing Mohsen Amini’s amazing concertina playing earlier this year I have been a little bit obsessed with this band. They have the perfect blend of traditional and modern styles, and each member has such command of their instruments that every track feels as natural and flowing as a conversation.

Max SavageKaurna Cronin
Max SavageTrue Believers
Max has a brilliant ability to invite his audiences into the narrative of his works. With brilliant imagery and musicianship True Believers captures a great snapshot of true Australian culture, while also creating a great sense of nostalgia by grasping that 80’s Australian rock sound perfectly. The perfect soundtrack for an Australian road trip or any suburban household.

Nick CaveAlex L’Estrange
Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree
Amongst all the huge artists that dropped albums in 2016, and the loads of Australian artists that arguably dropped career highlights (Ball Park Music, These Guy, D.D Dumbo), there was one album that I found myself frequently listening to, uninterrupted, alone on the hi-fi, and that was Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. It’s not necessarily my favourite, I think it’s an impossible task to name a favourite, but it was the first album that came to mind for this list, and that means more than anything. Hearing it coupled with the film One More Time With Feeling was challenging, given its subject matter. But its atmosphere was expertly executed; dynamic, fluid, smooth and heartbreaking. The rooms of Air, La Frette and Retreat studios are beautifully on display in songs like “Girl in Amber”, where the wispy backing vocals of The Bad Seeds hauntingly resonate across the walls. These contrast the desperate and almost maddening mantras of “I Need You”. What makes it a truly extraordinary album, is that it isn’t just doom and gloom. ‘Skeleton Tree’ doesn’t dwell on tragedy, it addresses it as part of the human condition, and there is an underlying beauty in that.

William CrightonClaire Ann Taylor
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
The storytelling and the whole atmosphere created by Crighton on this album is incredible. His dark, brooding voice and emotive style of delivery, commanded my attention from the first moment I heard it.

Andy ShaufWilliam Fitzsimmons
Andy ShaufThe Party
This was my favorite album of the year for one simple reason: MELODY!!! Andy is everything that’s right about classic “pop” music; never playing a note without a damn good reason for doing so, and songwriting that makes you feel something deep in your gut. He’s the worthy musical son of Harry Nilsson that we’ve longingly been waiting for.

LuciusRuby Boots
LuciusGood Grief
I have to choose this album because I’m still, since its release, pulling away the layers on it. Although it’s a predominantly pop record, the lyrical content and melodic arrangements are so intelligent and accessible all at once – a fine line that is hard to walk. The girls’ voices are otherworldly and tend to make me forget where I am and what I’m doing every time I put this album on. I still can’t get enough of it.

WetLacey Cole (Lazy Colts)
WetDon’t You
If you have a soft spot for B-grade pop ballads/R&B this Brooklyn-based three piece may just have written the soundtrack of your 90s-nostalgia drenched dreams. Their latest album Don’t You is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. Helmed by the stunning front-woman Kelly Zutrau, her unusual vocal inflections and impassioned delivery suggest an emotional complexity in what may otherwise be confused as banal sentiments (one song is called “Baby, You’re The Best”). Once combined with the lush production and rhythms of the band – assigned with the noble task of turning tears into toe-tappers – these songs are wonderfully earnest, rarely overwrought and exactly what you need right now.

James KenyonJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
I have been lucky enough to see James play a couple of times. His beautifully crafted songs are reminiscent of great songwriters like Paul Kelly. The album is a stunning representation of his work.

JRHMabel Windred-Wornes (Charm of Finches)
Josh Rennie-HynesFurthermore
I love this album. It’s got so much warmth, it’s spacious. I listen to it late at night doing my homework and it’s so calming. It’s like the energy he captured recording it in the hills of Woodford transmits. We met him at Bendigo Blues and Roots Fest this year and felt we’d discovered a rare gem. He’s an amazing songwriter.

Tom BrosseauMatt Bauer
Tom BrosseauNorth Dakota Impressions
Beautiful storytelling, vivid imagery, and an incredible sense of place. I’ve always loved Tom’s records and he’s at the top of his game here writing about his native North Dakota.

Jim JamesTimberwolf
Jim JamesEternally Even
It’s a pretty passionate political plea and America needed a timely voice. He even released it the day before election day. I think his voice is very much from another world, so that’s an important “third person” kind of perspective. It’s a well sequenced collection of songs, and I really love the warm psych and soul inspired production/composition. Maybe I’m just biased because I know that Jim James and Blake Mills would make up my sonic dream-team.

Nigel WearneJustin Bernasconi (The Stillsons)
Nigel WearneDrawing Circles
Nigel has really forged his own fingerpicking techniques on both the banjo and guitar on this album, and his voice tenderly delivers every song with intense concern and passion. Just check out the live version of the title track.

The Kill Devil HillsMark ‘Looch’ Lewis – (Wifey/Handsome Young Strangers)
The Kill Devil HillsIn On Under Near Water
I have always loved this band. In all their incarnations and styles whether that is folk, country, gospel, rock or what I call the “WA dirge” (Kim Salmon, Drones type bass driven tunes). Hard to believe it is now 12 years since the release of their debut Heathen Songs when that “Drinkin’ Too Much” song first got my attention. And while it has been 7 years since the last studio album Man You Should Explode, the good news is that I reckon this is the most cohesive album yet. Cracking harmonies, great playing and strong tunes. Tracks like “The Nets”, “Chinese Burns” and notably “The Kid” are 3 of the best tunes they have released. Let’s hope there is more output and touring to come.

Austin LucasMatt Golotta (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Austin LucasBetween the Moon & the Midwest
I spend a fair bit of time on the road traveling to see my partner and this record became the perfect traveling companion for me. Took a few listens to get into and also realise it’s a concept album which draws from Lucas’ own past experiences. Without spoiling the outcome, it follows the luckless musician Richard, his partner Kristie Rae and his best friend William. It features killer song writing with pedal steel, twangy tele, country influences with punk rock subtlety, numerous guest vocals from the likes of John Moreland and Corey Brannan, and a cracker duet with Lydia Loveless “Wrong Side of the Dream”, dealing with the struggles and plights that many musicians face. My song of the record is “William”, the solo acoustic number at the end that makes you feel like you’ve just been kicked in the guts. Songwriting at its finest.

Cody JinksAndrew Cavalieri (The Sweet Jelly Rolls)
Cody JinksI’m Not the Devil
Raw, honest and heartache. That is this album! The first track really sets the mood for the rest of the album, but is broken up by “Chase This Song” which is a damn banger of a driving song! The outlaw vibe flowing from Junks’ music really prepares you for some hard times and disappointment in life. Bloody hell I love this album! Honorable mentions: Murlocs – Young Blindness, Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep and Mudcrutch – 2.

Wartime SweetheartsLaura Bishop (Chaika)
Wartime SweetheartsSo Long Sparta
A killer voice, some super awesome writing skills, and an obsession with bodybuilders (hello Ms Olympia!) make this my favourite album of 2016. Wartime Sweethearts, aka singer-keyboardist-loop artist-songwriter Louise Nutting, signed to Art As Catharsis Records this year and released an album full of all the beats and electric piano and vocal harmony sounds that I like to hear (and I wish I could make) – and my favourite track “Figure It In, Figure It Out” has all the unexpected twistings and turnings of chord progressions that I wish I could write. One day Chaika will make sounds like this! One day…

Neil YoungTristan Goodall (The Audreys)
Neil YoungPeace Trail
Well with everyone saying we should just put 2016 behind us (although to be honest we should probably be approaching 2017 with a little trepidation too) I’ve decided not to dig too deeply into the past when thinking of my favorite record release of the year. I’ve loved many, but my recent love is the just-released 37th album by Neil Young. Peace Trail is short, musically experimental within its tight three piece band approach, and lyrically angry and poignant. I love it for the drummer’s drummer Jim Keltner and the way his delicate touch chases Neil’s quirky phrasing around the songs. I love it because it captures another freeze frame moment from a restless and undaunted songwriter, and I love it, of course, for those mighty guitar tones.

Davey CraddockLachlan Bryan
Davey CraddockCity West
2016 was a great year for my friends releasing good music. Melody Pool comes to mind, as do The Weeping Willows, Henry Wagons, Ange Boxall and Bill Jackson. It’s actually really hard to contribute to a “best of” list when you’re close to many of the artists – it’s hard to be objective – even after I rule out the records I was actually involved in making. Actually – it’s always hard to be objective, whether you know the artists or not. Furthermore, judging a whole body of work is hard – and for me, more than ever, 2016 was the year of the song (as opposed to the album or EP). And as songs go, the one that’s really stuck with me this year is the song “Number 9” by Davey Craddock. I love the cricket references. I asked Davey if he was a diehard cricket fan like me. He’s not. I was bitterly disappointed.

The Stray BirdsThe Mae Trio
The Stray BirdsMagic Fire
The Stray Birds made our fave album of 2014 and they’ve done it again in spectacular style with Magic Fire. It’s everything about this album and this band, the playing, the three part harmony and songs that are unabashed, true and unadorned. Magic Fire is a reminder of the things that matter, it’s definitely a fire and maybe a little bit magic.

Tori ForsythAndrew Swift
Tori ForsythBlack Bird
This EP is right up there as one of my favourite releases of 2016. From the moment I heard the opening title track, “Black Bird”, I knew that I was in for a treat. The diversity on display within the 5 tracks of Tori Forsyth’s debut release excites me. The songs are so well crafted and presented with such a mature sound, especially for someone so young. I’m eagerly awaiting the next release from one of Australia’s most promising young songwriters.

Hayden CalninRoscoe James Irwin
Hayden CalninCut Love Pt 1
A beautiful album from Melbourne artist Hayden Calnin. Drenched in melancholy and ambient awesomeness, this album had me at hello. (One of my favourite live shows of 2016 as well).

Jordie LaneNadine Budge (The Stetson Family)
Jordie Lane & The SleepersGLASSELLLAND
Have to say I’ve been particularly digging Jordie Lane’s GLASSELLLAND this last couple of months – with mighty input from the multi-talented Clare Reynolds. Let’s face it, Jordie’s a bit of an all-round talented guy!

Melody PoolDavey Craddock
Melody PoolDeep Dark Savage Heart
One of my fave local album’s of the year was Melody Pool’s Deep Dark Savage Heart. I’m a sucker for strings and a massive chorus and I love the way the songs build from really intimate, delicate and ornate passages into full-blown, wailing-on-a-mountain top with Stevie Nicks, 100 soaring bats and a thunderstorm moments. I saw her launch it at the Abbotsford Convent earlier this year and it was a really powerful and affecting show for me.

Methyl EthylTim Guy
Methyl Ethel – “No.28”
I know it’s not an album, but I’ve listened to this song more than any other this year, and it only came out a little while back. It has a lot going for it – great rhythm behind a smart piece of songwriting and then the whole thing is bathed in a deep silver mercury type thing. An Australian classic I swear.

DocksThe Staves
Amanda BergmanDocks
Our favourite album of 2016 is Docks by Amanda Bergman. Her voice is utterly sublime. You want to listen to every word she says. The music is dreamy, deep, soft, moody with melodies that whirr deliciously around your mind for days and weeks on end.

Katie BriannaRaechel Whitchurch
Katie BriannaVictim or the Heroine
I picked this album up when Katie and I did a songwriters showcase together. Sitting beside her listening to her songs was so magical – her voice is one of the most enchanting I have ever heard and her lyrics hit you right in the feels every time. Reminds me of a young Lucinda!

James KenyonMandy Connell (Stray Hens)
James KenyonImagine You Are Driving
James’ lyrics have that magic of time and place usually associated with voices like Paul Kelly or Bruce Springsteen. You can practically smell his scenes. You’re there. This album captures the voice but better than that, like a Tim Winton book, its a record that makes you present in Kenyon’s stories.

Jordie LaneLiz Stringer
Jordie Lane & The SleepersGLASSELLLAND
It’s no secret that Jordie Lane and I are good mates. We grew up together, musically speaking, and I am more familiar with his work than with most other artist’s. His new album, his first full-length release in five years, is called GLASSELLLAND, recorded by Jordie himself in various make-shift recording spaces in North Los Angeles and co-produced by his fiercely talented partner, Clare Reynolds, who also co-wrote half of the songs and sings and plays a heap of instruments on the record. Jordie’s songwriting and musicianship continue to evolve and stretch out with the years and these songs, and the way they’re recorded, ache with longing while driving forward with a swagger and a playful showmanship, melodically rich and hooky as fuck. I always become a bit weepy listening to Jordie sing. And, now, the combination of him and Clare ruins me every time. Beautiful.

David BowieColin Jones (Colin Jones & The Delta Review)
David BowieBlackstar
An exceptional reflection on final days and the unknown. Every note by Bowie, McCaslin and the band emphasize the chaos and fragility of life. There is no better swansong for an artist.

A Moon Shaped PoolEmma Anglesey
RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
A Moon Shaped Pool completely surrenders to simple truths that both lie in plain sight and in the messy tangled, kicking and screaming realities of life. The epic levels of angst in the opening track “Burn the Witch” are like an exorcism – Jonny Greenwood’s sharp string arrangement take you right to the edge – and then from there it’s like Alice falling through the rabbit hole of raw emotion and you go deeper and deeper.

DawesTim Hart (Boy & Bear)
DawesWe’re All Gonna Die
Some of the best lyric writing welded on to some pretty simple, but catchy, pop songs. Produced by Blake Mills (Alabama shakes, Laura Marling), this is a great record start to finish if you can forgive some slightly John Mayer sounding guitars that pop their head up from time to time. This I the record I keep coming back to this year

Oh PepRebecca Bastoli
Oh Pep!Stadium Cake
I don’t think I have ever been so entranced, excited or exhausted by the journey of listening to an album start to finish.

Bon IverDustin Tebbutt
Bon Iver22, A Million
Bon Iver has once again exceeded expectations on this release. It’s both familiar and foreign, delicately coloured, softly focused yet angular and stark. It’s brave, honest and all the things that I loved about Justin’s earlier works, without coming close to formulaic. It’s colloquial and conversational, yet inherently profound. Incredible stuff both musically and sonically.

Margo PriceJosie Rothwell (Peasant Moon)
Margo PriceMidwest Farmer’s Daughter
There’s something comforting about Margo Price’s debut album, almost like I’d listened to it before, but not in an overly familiar sort of way. Perhaps there’s something in her glorious voice that reminds me of my parent’s Dolly Parton records. She’s a great story teller, and I want to know more about her heartaches and headaches, particularly when accompanied by her crack band. I’m also proud to say my 4 year daughter keeps calling for “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)” when we’re in the car – and I can’t think of anything else I’d want her to be listening to right now.

BJ BarthamHarvey Russell (Peasant Moon)
BJ BarhamRockingham
It pains me to say this but BJ Barham’s new-found sobriety has coincided with a serious coming of age as a songwriter. Taking a (very) short break from American Aquarium duties, BJ’s solo release (a genuine side-project) is seriously hard-hitting stuff. It rivals Aquarium’s 2012 release Burn. Flicker. Die. for intensity, but of a completely different nature. With sparse arrangements (often acoustic) Barham, as storyteller, gives you an uncensored and unashamed glimpse into how rural America has been left behind. Not for the faint hearted.

William CrightonSam Newton
William CrightonWilliam Crighton
I’d caught Crighton perform a bunch of times at local venues around Sydney and really dug his tune (and especially the music video) “Woman Like You” prior to this album’s release. So I was anticipating this release. Really excited for it. I was stoked when I heard that he and producer Matt Sherrod came through with the goods. Big time. Highlights for me are “Riverina Kid”, “Priest” and “2000 Clicks”. In my mind, this one is about as strong as debut albums get.

Chaim TannenbaumEliza Carthy
Chaim TannenbaumChaim Tannenbaum
The album that I have most enjoyed and most visited this year is the debut of the kind, quiet genius Chaim Tannenbaum (Storysound Records). I’ve had the privilege of working with Chaim over the years but it was only recently I realised that I have lived with his distinctive voice and gorgeous humility since I first began to love music. It’s his voice that forms the third harmony in “Complainte pour St Catherine” on the first McGarrigle sisters’ album, a song I played over and over as a child until you could almost see through the record, and he has been quiet companion and producer to theirs and their extended family’s work ever since. It’s somewhat typical of his humility that he has waited this long to make an album, produced by his dear longtime friend and collaborator Loudon Wainwright III. It’s a collection of avuncular stories told in his gorgeously expressive voice with beautiful, minimal production. Some trad, some conversational originals covering everything from the fate of the baseball stadium Ebbets Field to living in a depressing grey London in the endless rain in the 1960s. An album to listen to with your eyes closed by the fire. Again and again, and again.

PinegroveQuinton Trembath
The lyrics on this album read like the private diary of a well spoken (and well read) guy filled with both anxiety and excitement for life. The musicianship and dynamics complement this introspectiveness well, making it perfectly suited for intense solo listening as well as for being cranked on road trips with friends.

Sean McMahonAlison Ferrier
Sean McMahon and the MoonMenShiner
Sean McMahon’s laid back yet somehow intense vocal brings this fantastic collection of songs to life in my living room. Shiner’s ragged elegance is full of the sort of raunchy country rock I can’t get enough of. Stand out tracks for me: “Shiner” and “Here Comes the Night Again”.

WhitneyEddie Boyd
WhitneyLight Upon the Lake
This album just grew and grew on me since my first listen. Simple, catchy tunes that make me wanna dance or go driving for a long time. I think Whitney nailed everything about this album – the instrumentation, the production, obviously the songs. Also, they’re heaps good live.

Secret PathThe Once
Gord DownieSecret Path
The Tragically HipMan Machine Poem
This year was a hard year in Canadian Music. We have a fella here by the name of Gord Downie. He is a legend. He has helped raise Canadians to be more real with his music. He is the frontman for the band The Tragically Hip. There are not many people in Canada who don’t know who The Hip are. Their music has become part of our DNA. Gord, this year, made a statement saying he has terminal brain cancer so he obviously fighting for the men and women of the north. The folks that have needed a voice for far too long. He is being that voice. He is showing us how to be Canadian and that we can’t be without acknowledging the needs of all of our people, without respecting all of our people. This year, instead of succumbing to his illness, he put out two albums. One with The Hip and one solo. Here they are. They are magic and will go down in history in our great nation. It’s amazing to watch one man build his second legacy.

Cash SavageJessica Cassar (Jep and Dep)
Cash Savage & The Last DrinksOne Of Us
This has everything you want from a record. It’s dirty and beautiful, and dark as hell. Cash sings with a thunderous anguish that cracks, rumbles and echoes so perfectly any sorrow you might have ever had. And like any good storm, the album’s darkness reveals a little light, one that roars some sort of painful end, or much needed beginning. I love this record!

Tracy McNeilGretta Ziller
Tracy McNeil & The GoodlifeThieves
I’ll be the first to admit I’m late to the game when it comes to Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife. I caught their set at Out on the Weekend and was captivated! Their 2016 album Thieves is just so dang easy to listen to, I will confess it is turning into a “chilling on the deck summer favourite” of mine! Please, if you haven’t already, pick up or download a copy of this album and chill!!

Bill JacksonRosie McDonald (RAPT, Trippy Hippy Band, Seanchas)
Bill JacksonThe Wayside Ballads Vol. 2
Bills’ reputation had preceded him before I heard him at Fairlight folk with Ruth Hazelton and Pete Fiddler. I grabbed the opportunity to contribute to his The Wayside Ballads Vol. 2 crowd funding campaign to get Bill and Pete over to Nashville to record with some very fine session players. Bill kept me updated with postcards and messages so I felt like a sideline cheerer in this whole project. Then the CD arrived! Magnificent songs, co-written with Bills’ brother Ross. Bills’ time worn voice, rich and mellow, rootsy, Americana-ish but very very homegrown, local accent, stories big and small, tender and big hearted. Pete’s playing shines in amongst the session guys, a great listen. Music for travel, the cabin, the verandah, anywhere.

Kate Burke and Pete WildMelanie Horsnell
Kate Burke and Pete WildLive at St Peters
In my small town we have the most marvellous artists touring through, but I also love our sweet locals, and I adore this live record by Kate Burke and Pete Wild. Pete Wild’s “Mars 1” is a love song about a person who goes on the Mars mission leaving his forever love behind, the Martin-Martin song is an old village favourite and the last love song between Doris and Arthur makes me giggle and lament at the same time. And I adore playing Kate Burkes version of Frozen Man on repeat when everything in life gets a bit much.

MontaigneGretta Ray
MontaigneGlorious Heights
My favourite record that was released in 2016 is without a doubt, Montaigne’s Glorious Heights. What impresses me most about this record is the fact that it is rather evident that the artist went into this project with the intention of experimenting with her sound and taking risks, drawing inspiration from a range of her influences and assuring that each song conveyed a slightly different emotion from the previous track. I believe it was this approach of 20-year-old Jess Sero’s (Montainge) that resulted in the production of what I perceive to be a very imaginative and bold debut album. This record showcases the fact that Jess has, unquestionably, one of the strongest and most commanding voices in the Australian music industry, this being exemplified through the outstanding production and arrangements of the songs that make up Glorious Heights. As well as this, each song is demonstrative of Jess’ incredibly clever and unique songwriting, which I cannot wait to hear more of in years to come; the simplicity yet complexity and quirkiness of a lyric such as “when you touch my skin, I think ‘this isn’t boring'” makes one ponder on such a line, as Jess’ way of writing is different, daring and something that never fails to make me smile. Glorious Heights made me so very excited about how extravagant pop music is becoming in this day and age, and on the whole made me very proud to be a young woman in the Australian music scene.

WhitneyTreetop Flyers
WhitneyLight Upon the Lake
I first started hearing about this band online, so was waiting for the album with anticipation. When it dropped I must have played it back to back straight away, which rarely happens. They are hard to put in a genre, which is really great. No Woman is one of our faves of the year. They are great live and do a version’s of NRBQ’s Magnet, so happy campers over here.

Drive By TruckersShane Nicholson
Drive-By TruckersAmerican Band
In a year of many great records, this stands tall above the crowd. It’s everything I love about the Truckers: gutsy and raw, clever and thoughtful, sometimes irreverent and full of attitude, and sometimes tender and restrained. Imagine a bastard-child born to Son Volt, Matthew Ryan and Uncle Tupelo, but all dressed up in those well-worn and unmistakable Drive-By Truckers clothes. How could that not make for the coolest kid on the block this year?

Conor OberstJack Carty
Conor OberstRuminations
It’s bloody beautiful in its simplicity. Gorgeous songs performed honestly. It seems like every track is a complete performance and any imperfections only enhance the sincerity of it all for me. Such an incredibly good songwriter.

Hayes CarllThe Weeping Willows
Hayes CarllLovers and Leavers
Lovers and Leavers is Hayes Carll’s most personal, introspective and “exposed” album to date, both in terms of the intimate, confessional songwriting and the stripped back arrangements, reminiscent of Heartbreaker era Ryan Adams, never saying too much – or too little. This intimacy draws you in, while Carll’s vulnerability captures you and takes you on a journey through heartache and reflection. Hayes was always in good hands with dynamic duo Joe Henry (producer) and Ryan Freeland (engineer) at the wheel, steering gently towards a common, graceful goal. Henry’s arrangements are characteristically unique yet elegant and tasteful, while Freeland brings his trademark clarity and warmth. Check it out if you’re fans of the late, great Guy Clark and/or Townes Van Zandt or fellow Texans, Steve Earle and Kevin Welch. Stand out tracks: “Sake of The Song”, “The Magic Kid” and “Drive”.

Iggy PopKelly Day (Broads)
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
Sometimes you’ll find a record that makes you feel high from the moment it begins. Iggy’s new album, channelled through the hooky sounds of Josh Homme and given a Bowie-esque lean, made me grin like a mad person. And then immediately take it for another spin.

Robert EllisMegan Cooper
Robert EllisRobert Ellis
I was waiting to go on air for an interview. While we were pfaffing around getting ready “The High Road” came on. I pretended I knew who Robert Ellis was when I was advised who the artist was that had pretty much hypnotised me in 30 seconds flat. I went out and paid cash money for the album the next day. Every song got me on first listen. Cinematic moments. Super personal bits. Non-standard approaches. Aspirational.

PassengerSam Brittain
PassengerYoung As The Morning, Old As The Sea
Mike has always had a wonderful way of crafting simple and memorable melodies. Combine this with his always captivating lyrics and you have a master songwriter who’s tunes that sneak their way into your day. Songs that sooner or later without realising you find yourself humming whilst waiting in line for your morning coffee. Although often his storytelling veers on on the darker side of heartbreak and loss this latest album has a lighter touch, proving Passenger is and a yard stick for the aspiring modern folk troubadour. A dynamic artist who’s albums have been true to his own brand since day one. Additionally his band on this record are also fantastic live. I recently caught his show to a sold out Vicar Street in Dublin, it was one I won’t soon forget.

Bon IverAde Vincent (The Tiger and Me)
Bon Iver22, A Million
Another great record from Bon Iver – I have loved all three so far. I like how it also pushes into some new and interesting territory with the production. The auto-tuned a cappella of “715 – CR∑∑KS” is a particular highlight

Margaret GlaspyMaia Marsh
Margaret GlaspyEmotions and Math
It makes me feel really empowered whenever I listen to it, as a woman myself playing music. The songs are strong, guitar tone is great and her voice has this amazing growl that cuts through a sincere sensitivy at the same time.

Frank OceanBlond
My hat is profusely off to an artist who can seamlessly bridge so many facets of musical integrity. What I mean by that nonsensical shit is that the entire record is some kind of highly strung soundboard (literally) which either sends you flying high just to get high, or high because you’re just too fucking upset. “Skyline To” and “Seigfried” are perfect examples. The whole collective arrangement kills me too, it’s like listening to recent Bon Iver whilst playing Sega in a radio store – the musicality is superb. I could say a lot more, but I’ll safely surrender by saying it definitely influenced the direction of my mind in doing another record.

Bon IverWildwood Kin
Bon Iver22, A Million
Easily. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. It’s just genius.

Tattletale SaintsGeorge Jackson (The Company, Buffalo Nickel, One Up, Two Down)
Tattletale SaintsTattletale Saints
Nashville based, New Zealand duo Tattletale Saints released their self-titled, second album this year, and it’s beautiful. Cy Winstanley (Guitars, Vocals) can pen songs with the best of them, his offerings on this album range from self-reflective and insightful, to sometimes cynical and cutting but always with a masterful craftsmanship. Vanessa McGown (Double Bass, Vocals) provides both solid and virtuosic Double Bass playing and vintage tinged country vocals. The new album is definitely a departure from their earlier acoustic recordings – but for a new fan, like me coming along, this is a bold and engaging listen complete with a production dripping in vintage tones and depth. Listen, and enjoy!

Genni KaneBill Jackson
Genni KaneSelfies
Ex-member of seminal Australian band, The Flying Emus, Genni Kane has a voice that can’t be denied. This long awaited record shows she is also a very gifted songwriter and the opening track “Little White Dog” is the beginning of a beautiful journey that deserves your attention.

Nancy KerrRuth Hazleton (, Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton)
Nancy KerrInstar
A heady mix of poetry, politics and social commentary, Nancy Kerr’s Instar is an achingly beautiful collection of original songs framed within the landscape of traditional folk music. Beautifully performed and produced, Instar is, without doubt, one of the masterpieces of folk from 2016 and a work that will inform the tradition for a long time to come.

Fanny LumsdenThe Pigs
Fanny LumsdenSmall Town Big Shot
This album is full of great songs written from Fanny’s heart. She’s the real McCoy. Whenever we see her play live her songs get stuck in our head for weeks after. “Bravest Of Hearts”, “Soapbox” and “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” are just a few of the crackers on this rekid. This is a breath of fresh air for Australian Country Music. We love Fanny! More… More…

Side PonyHannah Acfield (The Acfields)
Lake Street DiveSide Pony
Give me a bit of 60’s sounding soul any day of the week! The songs are catchy, nice melodies and make you wanna move. I’m a sucker for a sterling vocalist. This was fav album for me.

Julia JacklinWillowy
Julia JacklinDon’t Let The Kids Win
An album about the little things in life that somehow manages to sum up the bigger things as well, cutting right through the mess to the heart of it all. Beautifully written and perfectly executed. It’s lovely to see an artist from the Sydney folk music family reaching great heights with an exceptional debut album.

John FlanaganSal Kimber (Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel)
John FlanaganThere’s Another Way To Where You’re Going

Bill ChambersRicky Pann (The Willing Ponies)
Bill ChambersCold Trail
Jen MizeWarnings and Wisdom
Sam BushStoryman
Bill Chambers is an Australian Journeyman troubadour. Songwriter, producer, sideman and front man, Bills live shows have influenced many and earned him a legion of devoted fans. Cold trail is Bills first studio album in four years and reminds the rock pop acts infiltrating modern country of where the heart of country lies. Cold Trail is a collection of honky-tonk “life lived” country that is the real deal. Produced by Bill and Recorded at his son Nash Chambers foggy mountain studios, Cold Trail is a world class record that draws on many influences to deliver country authenticity with Aussie perspective. A cracker record.
It’s a long way from Jen Mize roots in the Appliacian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina as a decedent of Lumbee Tribe of native Americans to the Sunshine coast of Queensland. Jen Mize is the real deal in every respect. An American songwriter with an incredible voice delivering an album packed with dynamic, well-crafted songs that’s all killer no filler. Shane Nicholson’s earthy production, arrangments and playing provide a tastefully rich sonic pallet that does this fine singer justice. The album glides from old-timey to traditional country and honky tonk, setting a very high bar of authenticity. An absolute stand out record.
Sixty-four-year-old Sam Bush has many stories to tell as a musician, innovator, writer and singer. One of my favourite musicians on the planet, Sam is a bluegrass master and the father of newgrass music spawned from his groundbreaking band the New Grass Revival. Sam is arguably one of the most influential mandolin players in history having played with just about everyone from Bill Monroe to Leon Russell. This record is a collection of finely crafted songs with a crack band featuring vocals from Emmylou Harris and Alison Kraus. A masterful record.

The Cat Empire & Xavier Rudd Announce Co-Headline Tour

Image Courtesy of The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd

Two of Australia’s most loved roots artists The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd and teaming for a co-headline tour this summer.

The tour will see The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd perform a bunch of open-air concerts around the country supported by Sahara Beck, Ocean Valley and Harts.

“We’ve been crossing paths with Xavier Rudd at festivals in Australia and internationally for many years, and we’ve always had a great time together,” Felix Riebl from The Cat Empire explained. “Add Sahara Beck and Harts to the mix, it should be an amazing summer. We’re very excited about this one, it’ll be a full and colourful stage.”

“I’ve always had a tonne of respect for The Cat Empire guys since the start,” Xavier Rudd added. “Deadly musicians and lovely people. Over the last 15 or so years touring around the world and seeing their posters in so many different towns and countries has always brought me a smile. I guess it’s about time that we teamed up to do some shows together & I’m stoked to share a stage with these legends back on home soil early in 2017!”

Check out the full list of dates below:

Thursday 26th January – St David’s Park, Hobart, TAS
Sunday 29th January2017 – North Gardens, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 4th February – Red Devil Park, Byron Bay, NSW
Sunday 5th February – Sandstone Point, Bribie Island, QLD
Saturday 11th February – Glenelg Beach, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 12th February – Stuart Park, Wollongong, NSW

The Mullum Music Festival Announce First Lineup for 2016

Eilen Jewell
Image Courtesy of Eilen Jewell

The Mullum Music Festival has long been held up as one of the country’s best and it has a long history supporting of folk, country, roots and Americana artists throughout the years.

It looks like 2016 is going to be another cracking festival with the first round of artists announced today. The lineup includes plenty of Timber and Steel friendly music including Eilen Jewell (above), The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer, Julien Baker, Henry Wagons & The Only Children, Matt Andersen, Suzannah Espie, William Crighton, Lior, Bobby Alu and the Palm Royale, Sahara Beck, Hat Fitz & Cara, Jordie Lane and many more.

The Mullum Music Festival takes place in the northern NSW town of Mullumbimby from the 17th to 20th November. Tickets are already on sales – check the official site for details.

The full lineup of artists announced this morning is below:

Eilen Jewell (USA), The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer (CAN), Julien Baker (USA), Henry Wagons & The Only Children, Olympia, Gareth Liddiard, Matt Andersen (CAN), Tash Sultana, Suzannah Espie, William Crighton, Lior, Epizo Bangoura (West Africa), The Meltdown, Bobby Alu and the Palm Royale, Sahara Beck, Hat Fitz & Cara, Jordie Lane

Folk Music on the 2016 Bello Winter Music Festival Lineup

Willie Watson
Image Courtesy of Willie Watson

After a massively successful debut last year the Bello Winter Music festival returns this July and once again the lineup is full of folky and rootsy goodness.

First of all, if you haven’t heard, the headliner this year is the fantastic Willie Watson. Watson, who was a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show, was recently in the country as part of the Dave Rawlings Machine but will return this time around in solo mode. And we’ve also heard he’ll be a part of the Gram Parsons Project event at the festival with a bunch of other artists.

Other folk leaning artists on the Bello Winter Music lineup include Jeff Lang, Jaaleekaay, Joshua Hedley, Bobby Alu, Sahara Beck, Yirrmal, The Twoks, Miss Eileen & King Lear, All Our Exes Live in Texas, William Crighton, Inga Liljestrom, Merryn Jeann, Loren Kate, Raised By Eagles, Sweet Jean, Green Mohair Suits, Aine Tyrrell, The Mid North, Brian Campeau, Claire Anne Taylor, Tullara Connors, Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells, Diamond Duck and many many more.

The Bello Winter Music festival takes place in Bellingen, NSW from the 7th to 10th July. Check out the offical web site for more details.

The full lineup is as follows:

Willie Watson (USA), Jeff Lang, Kylie Auldist, Tijuana Cartel, Mojo Juju, L-FRESH The LION, Jaaleekaay (W Afr/Aus), Joshua Hedley (USA), Jazz Party, Bullhorn, Allensworth (US), Tora, Bobby Alu (solo), Sahara Beck, Yirrmal, TEK TEK Ensemble, King Tide, Majiwa (KEN), The Twoks, Miss Eileen & King Lear, All Our Exes Live in Texas, William Crighton, Inga Liljestrom, The Seven Ups, Desmond Cheese, New Venusians, Merryn Jeann, Loren Kate, Gyan, Jo Jo Smith, Raised By Eagles, Sweet Jean, Greg Sheehan, Brian Nankervis, Liam Power, Joel Salom, Mandy Nolan, Mae Wilde, Green Mohair Suits, Aine Terrell, The Grand Magoozi, The Mid North, Ilona Harker, Bunya, Brian Campeau, Claire Anne Taylor, Tullara Connors, Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells, Diamond Duck, Baby Blue, Levingstone, Noam Blat, Drama King, Then Joelene, STAV, The Brothers, The Spangled Drongos, Kaya Boom’s Love Songs, Fish on Fire, Tim Porter, Siobhan Corcoran, Honey & Knives, Horns on Helium, Bellingen Afrobeat Ensemble, The Cassettes, How Deep is Your Love?, Bollywood Sisters, The Amazing Drumming Monkeys, Roundabout Theatre, The BlueSkillet Rover Van, Tales & Songs

Review: 5 things we learned at Bluesfest

Kale plays at Bluesfest 2016Kaleo playing Bluesfest
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

Year after year, Bluesfest manages to bring the big names and the impressive acts to Byron Bay for the annual Easter pilgrimage. Heading to Bluesfest this year, we really didn’t know many of the acts listed on the bill and wondered just what was in store for us, Timber and Steel wise. So here’s 5 things we learned at this year’s wildly successful, ultimate music sampler opportunity that is, Bluesfest.

#1 – Peter Noble knows how to program…

One thing is for sure, Peter Noble knows how to curate an inclusive, diverse and engaging festival. The big names drew enormous crowds to all their sets. City and Colour had the crowd from the first note and Dallas Green was on form all night.  The Decemberists gave their usual charming set delving in to a fabulous back catalogue of favourites. Not to go without a bit of political comment, they also played a song they thought to offer Donald Trump as his new campaign tune, ‘The Calamity Song’. The Cat Empire delivered a solid hour and a half set jam packed with both new tracks and past hits and favourites to wow the crowd. The biggest coup was probably The Original Blues Brothers Band closing out the weekend with a stellar set of their signature blues.

The festival was dappled with big names throughout the program. Archie Roach was in fine form, weaving his musical spell over the crowd and telling the tales of the land with strength and beauty, and a focus on songs from Charcoal Lane, the title track being a particular stand out moment of the set. Jason Isbell had his one an only set up against The Original Blues Brothers Band, so splitting our time between the two was challenging but rewarding as Isbell’s enigmatic style caught watchers in it’s thrall delivering a contemporary counterpoint to the old school blues on the other stage.

Kim Churchill plays BluesfestBut one of the most notable names for me, still playing midday sets, was Kim Churchill. Getting his big break on the Bluesfest Buskers stage all those years ago, Churchill has been a staple name on the line up ever since. His absence in 2015 was noted and the crowds that gathered for this sets this year spoke strongly of his popularity for the Bluesfest crowd. Watching him command the stage, with the occasional accompaniment of a fiddle player or percussionists, was a joy to witness and testament to the following he has. It felt like he had come home, and in the process had evolved from a keen boy with a guitar to a passionate man with a solid musical career stretching before him.

#2 – It’s never just about the Blues. Folk, Country, and Americana all strongly represented in 2016

Strolling from stage to stage, the peeling licks and plucky chords of the more folky persuasion were both notable and popular with punters, letting us stumble across all kinds of gems.  LA based Lord Huron made quite the entrance with a tension building soundscape and crescendo, an upbeat strummy and infectious style, inventive percussion beneath the acoustic lead and an ability to morph between styles, from the old school feel reminiscent of the 50s and 60s summer soundtracks, through alt country and indie folk rock vibes. A particular highlight from the four-piece was ‘Hurricane’, billed as a song about “getting in trouble”, turns out it was aptly named.

Described as an Icelandic Indie pop/rock/folk band, Kaleo was a light and lyrical delight. Building from their delicate opening style to gutsy, rhythm driven choruses, through alt-country sensibilities to deep southern style blues, and a soulful cover of Bang Bang, Kaleo didn’t hesitate to transcend styles and genres to sign off with a blues rock riff and howling vocals when warranted.

The Bros Landreth, hailing from Canada, brought their alt-country and folk laden cover of Wings’ ‘Let ‘Em In’ to break the ice and then let the Americana tinged goodness flow forth. A family affair, big brother David couldn’t attend so father Wally came in his place and whipped the crowd in to a cheering craze.

The Mastersons were touring with Steve Earle & The Dukes, and made appearances both on Earle’s sets and one of their own solo shows for Bluesfest. Their lyrical country styling, featuring voices working together in diverse melodic harmony gave their day opening set a contemplative mood, transporting the crowd to simpler days. Earle’s set was one great big treat of blues soaked tunes with toe-tapping jivey bluegrass edge, all with the sweet country counterpoint of The Mastersons.

Hound mouth playing Bluesfest 2016

It seemed to be a fatherly affair this Bluesfest, with Hussy Hicks welcoming Julz’s dad Greg to their set to deliver some blistering harmonica to their upbeat tempo and at times Joplin-esque wails and passion. Indiana’s Houndmouth however had no dad’s on their line up but did have plenty of twangy blues and American drawl to open their show and unravel your soul where you stood.

#3 – Word of Mouth is King

You know when you look at a line up and you’re not really sure what acts to check out? Well Bluesfest was that way inclined for many but within the first 8 hours, gossip was abuzz with recommendations and wild tales of phenomenal shows and must see acts to catch. So here’s what we checked out based purely on word of mouth.

Steve Smyth plays at Bluesfest 2016

OK, so Steve Smyth isn’t exactly news to us, but the stir on site had his name on the tips of peoples tongues and boy did he live up to the hype. Sheer genius stood on that stage in the form of master lyricist and vibrant stage presence. Smyth’s beautiful voice and stunning vibrato was just powerful solo as with the support backing instrumentalists. His performance of ‘Southland’ blew socks off across the festival.

Shooglenifty, also known as ‘that band I can’t pronounce’, was not what you expect when you read “Celtic” on the program, but a glorious blend of traditional highland derived tunes that were heavy on the fiddle and a mandolin at the ready, intricately twined with modern rhythms, a few electric guitars and a toe tapping beat, drew punters in before they could saunter too far past the heaving tent.

Blind Boy Paxton plays at Bluesfest 2016

The was no way to walk through the site without hearing the name, Blind Boy Paxton. Listening to his set was like a walk through time, from a fiddle calling a country dance and bransles, to a lightning speed banjo frenzy, a soothing guitar tune and even a lone harmonica telling you it’s tale. All this from one man on stage – simply astonishing.

#4 – The Ladies are out in force! And you should catch all of them live

There was a lot of talk about various acts, and word of mouth certainly got us to see some great performers, but thanks to emphatic and multiple recommendations from all kinds of punters, we discovered some of the most phenomenal women who stamped their mark and left as some of the powerhouses of Bluesfest.

We caught Sahara Beck for her last set and were immediately struck by her stage presence, the smooth set up with band and back up singers added the pizazz to her swag and gave her sultry vibe a ‘pop’ on stage.

Elle King had tongues wagging as word spread that after her first, expletive laden set, her set list had to be ‘revised’. However her husky, growling vocal licks were well and truly flowing when we caught her set in a heaving tent overflowing in to the customary Bluesfest rain. Sass and attitude would be the plainest way of describing King, her vibrancy comes from her musical versatility and ability to weave country vibes and bluegrassy panache throughout her ballsy bluesy set. A chameleon of style, King bowled over crowds with big notes, fiery wit and feisty repartee.

Elle King plays at Bluesfest 2016

Hailing from Ireland, via Canada, Irish Mythen is a modern troubadour equipped with a powerhouse voice and emphatic lyrics. Mythen might have been the grittiest, most real musician seen at Bluesfest this year, armed only with her guitar and her stories, she held hundreds of people spellbound, hanging on her every word any time she took to the stage. We caught her multiple times, and laughed, cried, cheered and sung along to songs we had only heard the first time days before. She regularly had the crowd in stitches with her sense of humour and story telling capers, and woe betide any punter brave enough to heckle her! Four stand out moments stayed with me, even though I saw them all more than once. Her performance of ‘Tullamore Blues’ almost defies description, except that the crowd was with her, in that space, singing every word and feeling every sentiment. Jesus is an experience to behold, hilarious in it’s explanation and empowering in it’s performance, I sincerely hope every person gets to experience it live. Her a Capella rendition of ‘The Auld Triangle’ gives me chills and is simply astounding.  And finally ’55 Years’ had me (and most in the crowd) in tears for the beauty it captures in it’s tale. A truly moving experience. Irish Mythen is awe inspiring and we’re excited she’ll be visiting Australia again soon.

Rhiannon Giddens plays at Bluesfest 2016

And finally, probably the all-singing, all-dancing highlight of the ladies was Rhiannon Giddens. Establishing herself originally as a part of Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens’ solo work is a sight to behold and a treat to hear. Her stunning vocals are soulful yet soar high in beautiful arcs and trills of an almost Celtic style. The skill of her band melds electric with acoustic in wonderful instrumental breaks, bouncing off one another jamming to a crescendo and returning the spotlight to her lead when the time was right. Her banjo crept through tunes to pounce on you unawares, yet could alternate and become the hero of the song. Old Bob Dylan lyrics never previously turned in to songs until Giddens got her hands on them offered a treasure trove to discover. Doing a Dolly Parton cover can be tough, but Giddens’ rendition of ‘Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind’ saw her own the song completely, from every element of style through to her emotive connection with both lyrics and sentiment. From start to finish and for each and every set, she wowed the crowd with fiddle, banjo, modern takes on traditional style, soul stirring lyrics and even a step back in time to the 1920s. Her fancy footwork went down a treat and her ability to connect with the audience and tether them to her tale as the most exquisite experience to behold. She could chat to the crowd but make you feel like she spoke to you and you alone, and yet at all times Rhiannon Giddens continued to exist as her own ineffable self.

#5 – Soul is in, along with BIG bands

Now strictly speaking, Timber and Steel doesn’t really cover Soul, but the prevalence of the big band style soul injections at Bluesfest is worthy of admiration and appreciation, so it gets a gong here.

Emma Donovan & The Putbacks were a sight to behold as Donovan put her own stamp on soul, with earthy tones and a voice that rolled over the crowd, calling to them, beckoning them to hear her story. The combination of her stories and passionate, soulful delivery made for a tight set and profound performance.

I wrote down 4 words when seeing The Word, and two of them were expletives… “holy f***ing sh*t wow.” The couple of songs we caught were incredible, full of funky groves and some sweet slide guitar, all topped off with an electric organ. Very smooth and cool indeed.

Ash Grunwald plays at Bluesfest 2016Ash Grunwald hasn’t moved in to soul, but his Bluesfet setup did resemble the big backing bands of the soul acts and boy did it compliment his wailing blues. Never conforming to just one genre, Grunwald drew on bluegrass vibes, some indie rock to his blues and of course his signature commentary on Australian life. Playing River from his new album, Grunwald spoke about the anti-CSG message prevalent throughout his most recent recordings and confirmed he was among friends int he Bluesfest crowd. His set was punctuated with old favourites as highlights, crowds rollicking in his passionate performance and joining in to sing along on choruses, and the utter delight when Kasey Chambers joined him on stage for a brand new song was palpable.

Another of the tongue wagging recommendations was for Vintage Trouble, and my first impression was that lead singer Ty Taylor was sex on legs, with enough swagger stuffed in to a cravat and suit to fell an army. And when the full band kicked in, it blew the show off the Richter scale. A set full of southern blues, call and response, screaming and wailing blues breaks and enough on stage antics to warrant a lie down after watching. This was my kind of place, 1950s style jazzy blues, complete with energy and onstage charisma!

Vintage Trouble plays Bluesfest 2016

Now, if you haven’t yet heard of the phenomenal popularity and praise for Bluesfest debutants St. Paul and The Broken Bones, then you haven’t been doing the internet properly. Of all the word of mouth recommendations, St Paul and The Broken Bones was THE most talked about act at Bluesfest, and not without good reason. A big band blues-laden soul outfit, oozing funk, with a big personality for a front man in Paul Janeway. Opening with an almighty wail and sliding in to a crooning style track, the crowd knew exactly where they stood and were rooted to the spot to witness the explosive show by one of the most engaging acts we’ve seen in years. Janeway, on behalf of the entire band, exclaimed that Bluesfest was the best experience they had ever had and they would definitely be coming back to Australia, to which the crowd erupted with delight. A set filled with rumbling soul, emotive ballads and big, ballsy blues, St Paul and The Broken Bones is sure to be a high rotation favourite on many punters playlists for some time to come.

St Paul and The Broken Bones plays Bluesfest 2016

Without a doubt, Bluesfest’s skillfully curated 2016 lineup was a smash hit success, sure to be spoken of for years to come. Can’t wait to see what Peter Noble comes up with for 2017!

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