Review: First Annual Australian Americana Honours Night

Americana Honours
Image Courtesy of the Americana Music Association

Australian Americana Honours Night feat. Old Crow Medicine Show, Valerie June, Kevin Welch, Busby Marou, Kasey Chambers, Shane Howard, Yirrmal, Bernard Fanning, Catherine Britt, Henry Wagons, Emily Barker, Ruby Boots, Jordie Lane & The Sleepers
Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Monday 2nd October, 2017

Like many people I woke up Tuesday morning to the horrible news that an evil individual had killed dozens and injured hundreds of people in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. What’s really hit home about this latest atrocity is that it was committed at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival – a festival not unlike the festivals the Timber and Steel community attends all the time here in Australia. Words cannot describe the emotions I’m feeling right now. It’s senseless, just senseless.

As the events in Vegas were unfolding on Monday night night I was sitting in the warm confines of Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre for the first annual Australian Americana Honours Night. It was a coming together of the Australian Americana community and a celebration of a genre that has so much heart and soul behind it. As so often happens with these events I was overwhelmed with the community that’s been created around the music we love.

From the opening marching-band entrance of Old Crow Medicine Show’s live version of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” to the closing singalong of “May The Circle Be Unbroken” featuring Old Crow, Valerie June, Kasey Chambers and Kevin Welch, the Australian Americana Honours Night was pure joy from start to finish.

Americana Honours

It would be too easy to look at the events in Vegas and decide that you’re not going to music festivals anymore. Despite how irrational it is, despite the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of festivals are held around the world every year without incident, it would be easy to walk away from live music.

If it wasn’t for the Australian Americana Honours Night last night maybe I would have made the easy decision and walked away from live music festivals. At the very least maybe I would’ve reconsidered my bucket list of international festivals, striking all off the US-based events.

But when you’re listening to Kasey Chambers and Bernard Fanning duet on “Watch Over Me”, when you can feel the goosebumps from Yirrmal’s surprise performance with Shane Howard, when Henry Wagons literally owns the entire stage while performing “King Hit”, when artists you’ve been following and supporting for years like Ruby Boots, Emily Barker, Catherine Britt, Jordie Lane and Busby Marou get roaring applause from the gathered fans and industry folk, you know there’s no way you can give this up.

Americana Honours

Kasey Chambers and Brian “BT” Taranto were both honoured with vanguard awards on the night and both of them gave passionate speeches about how important Americana music is. How much the community means. To me it was almost a call to arms – a plea to keep the candle burning for good music. To keep going to festivals, to gigs, to keep buying records and to keep the passion alive.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, before I turned to my smart phone, before I knew the full extent of what had happened in Las Vegas, I was still buzzing from the Australian Americana Honours Night, and the 3+ hours of amazing music I’d witnessed the night before. And even as the world came crashing down around me as I scrolled through the news it wasn’t enough to extinguish the light that is burning for live music.

The best way to not let the bastards win? Keep going to live music. Keep going to festivals. Show your support, be part of the community of amazing people who keep this music alive, and enjoy every minute of it.

Thank you Australian Americana Honours.

Details of the First Annual Australian Americana Honours Night in Melbourne

Australian Amerciana Honours
Image Courtesy of the Americana Music Association

Americana fans rejoice – Australia is about to get it’s very own Americana Honours Night this October.

The inaugural Australian Americana Honours Night will take place in Melbourne at the Thornbury Theatre on Monday 2nd October. The event is being presented by Michael Chugg, Nash Chambers and the international Americana Music Association and will celebrate the diverse artists that make up the Australian Americana scene.

The Australian Americana Honours Night will feature a raft of performers including international icons Old Crow Medicine Show, Valerie June and Kevin Welch along with Australian favourites Busby Marou, Kasey Chambers, Shane Howard, Bernard Fanning, Catherine Britt, Henry Wagons, Emily Barker, Ruby Boots and Jordie Lane & The Sleepers.

During the night the Americana Music Association will present the inaugural Americana Vanguard Awards to Kasey Chambers for her deep commitment to roots music and to Brian “BT” Taranto, founder of the Out on the Weekend festival, who has been championing the Americana Community for more than a decade.

“For those of us who love roots and Americana Music, this is a dream line-up to have at our inaugural event,” Nash Chambers explained. “We’re mighty proud to be building awareness of Americana Music in Australia with the US Association and Tennessee Tourism. We also believe this is just the beginning of a genre that is exploding worldwide.”

For more information on the night including how to get your hands on tickets head over to Chugg Entertainment here.

First Artist Announcement for the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2018

Port Fairy
Image Courtesy of Port Fairy Folk Festival

With early bird tickets just about to go on sale for the 2018 Port Fairy Folk Festival, Victoria’s premiere folk even have just released a huge swathe of artists for first announcement.

Firstly the Port Fairy Folk Festival will be showcasing two very specical performances of Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia featuring performances from Troy Cassar-Daley (AUS), Declan O’Rourke (IRE), Shane Howard (AUS), Pauline Scanlon (IRE), Andy Irvine (IRE), John Spillane (IRE), Leah Flanagan (AUS), Lynnelle Moran (AUS), John McSherry (IRE) and an eight piece band of traditional musicians.

Along with the artists announced as part of Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia the Port Fairy Folk Festival has also added a bunch of other performers for 2018 including Alan Kelly Gang (IRE), The Band Who Knew Too Much, Chris While & Julie Matthews (UK), Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys (CAN), Harry Manx (CAN), Nano Stern (Chile), Rebecca Barnard, Steve Poltz (USA), The Topp Twins (NZ), The Ahern Brothers, The Brothers Comatose (USA), Faith I Branko (Serbia/UK), Gina Williams & Guy Ghouse, Jack Broadbent (UK), Mental As Anything, The Mexicans, Sophie Koh & Her Lady Choir, The Teskey Brothers and YolanDa Brown (UK).

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to full Port Fairy lineup so expect a bunch more announcements over the coming months.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is held in Port Fairy, Victoria from the 9th to the 12th March. For more information check out the official site here.

Review: Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Illawarra
Image Courtesy of Illawarra Folk Festival

As the summer roles around each year I take a look at the packed folk festival calendar and try to work out which events I’ll be attending over the season. There are always a few festivals that fall into the “one day” category because of the effort required to get to them (making it down to Cygnet and Georgetown in Tasmania for instance is a two week commitment I’m yet to make). And then there’s those events that have to be a trade off – if I head to WOMADelaide it means I’m missing out on Nannup or Port Fairy.

Then there are those events that are a must – and the Illawarra Folk Festival is at the top of that list. Just an hour and a half from Sydney by train, the Illawarra Folk Festival is a no brainer, even if just for a day or two over the long weekend. The festival sits somewhere between the smaller boutique folk festivals hosted by country towns and the “big three” folk festivals of Woodford, Port Fairy and The National – it manages to attract the best and brightest of the international and Australian folk scene while maintaining a unique community vibe.

For the first time in ages I committed to heading to the Illawarra Folk Festival for the three main days this year, even if it meant commuting to and from my base in Sydney every day. I was determined to see as much music as possible without dealing with the inevitable clashes that comes from trying to see everything in one day. This year I was going to lose my weekend to the Illawarra Folk Festival.

Friday

I walked into the festival on Friday morning nursing a slight hangover courtesy of The East Pointers, The Button Collective and a few too many Guinnesses at The Gaelic Club the night before. I had decided against patronising the opening night of the Illawarra Folk Festival in favour of The East Pointers’ headline show in Sydney – I knew I was going to catch them over the weekend but the opportunity to see them in my own backyard was just too appealing.

It’s been a long while since I’ve spent a Friday at the Illawarra Folk Festival and I have to say it was the perfect way to kick the event off. The smaller Friday crowd made for a lazy day wandering around the Bulli showground taking in music at all of the venues and getting a feel for the place.

I kicked off my day getting on top of my hangover hiding out for a couple of acts in the Grandstand restaurant. I managed to catch the amazing bouzouki player Beth Patterson who is touring the country at the moment spreading her take on traditional and contemporary folk. I’d never considered the bouzouki as a solo instrument before but Patterson brought a maturity to the instrument that was just spellbinding. I hung around for Adelaide based singer-songwriter Banjo Jackson on the recommendation of Kaurna Cronin and was not disappointed – Jackson can stand tall with the new breed of folk singers coming out of Adelaide at the moment with the type of music that is instantly relatable and the perfect pairing of solo, finger-picked guitar and effects laden fiddle.

I’d drunkenly promised Rebecca Bastoli the night before that I would be at her debut programmed festival show at 2:15pm so I staked out my spot in the Nags Lounge early. Despite a couple of unavoidable technical problems (she was mortified when she broke a string halfway through the performance) Bastoli delivered a stunning set, backed by a full band of fiddle, flute, box and bass. It boggles my mind how talented Rebecca Bastoli is – in such a short time she has mastered both the guitar and mandolin and written some of the most poignant songs I’ve heard in ages.

A revelation of the festival was Irish singer O’Leary. If I’m honest I only caught his set by accident but I was mesmerised throughout. The way he brought a humility and reverence to traditional songs was amazing and the backing percussion, electric guitar and flute just enhanced his music.

It wouldn’t be an Illawarra Folk Festival without Australiana-punks Handsome Young Strangers so I made a point of catching their set at The Miners Camp before wrapping my day up and jumping on the train back to Sydney. Handsome Young Strangers are a folk music institution and they tore through their catalogue with the usual devil-may-care attitude. It’s amazing seeing Australian bush and folk music updated for a modern audience while still maintaining respect for the work.

Saturday

Saturday at the Illawarra Folk Festival is always hectic and this year was no different. Watching the crowd stream through the front doors and fill up the venues. Watching a packed festival like this fills me with joy – it proves once again that folk music is thriving and that the people behind the Illawarra Folk Festival should be so proud of the community that they’re created.

I was determined to see local singer-songwriter Kay Proudlove after I missed her set last year, and I was not disappointed. Proudlove is the consummate performer, delighting crowds between songs and delivering lyric driven music that is instantly relatable. I am now determined to see Kay Proudlove every time she ventures north to Sydney (or at least to program future Illawarra Folk Festivals around her sets).

Having heard nothing but amazing things about Irish Mythen I just had to see what all the fuss was about – and I have to say I was not disappointed. Watching one woman with a guitar command the largest stage at the Illawarra Folk Festival was astounding – her stage presence and the way she worked the audience was truly a masterclass in performance. Her version of “The Auld Triangle” is a crowd favourite for a reason and absolutely brought the house down.

The next few hours were a blur of amazing music. Shane Howard once again proved why he is Australia’s best songwriters for those people who braved the mud to venture into the Black Diamond Marquee. Out Of Abingdon added touch of jazz to the festival with their vibey folk tunes. The Redfern Shanty Club turned their performance at The Miners Camp into an all-in singalong session. The Button Collective’s impromptu blackboard session at the Tantric Turtle was the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon coffee. And The Dead Maggies rounded out a bunch of amazing music by tearing up the stage with a mostly cobbled together new lineup.

I rounded out the day by catching trad band Fresh Off The Boat at their intimate Café de Rude. Made up of some of Sydney’s best trad players (most of which you can catch at the Friday night Gaelic Club sessions) Fresh Off The Boat breathed fresh life into traditional Irish music and delighted the local crowd. The sound at the gig was not amazing, mainly owing to the fact that the entire band couldn’t fit on Café de Rude’s stage, but just watching the skill of the players was enough to overcome any issues. The perfect way to round out a hectic Saturday of music.

Sunday

On the third day the Illawarra Folk Festival became about two things – catching all the artists I hadn’t seen yet and revisiting those that had made an impression over the weekend.

I kicked off my day with Queensland based singer-songwriter Mia Wray. Alternating between guitar and piano Wray brought a maturity to her music that seemed to defy her young age. Her original songs were just stunning and she had the audience eating out of her hand with her easygoing stage presence.

I’d seen Japanese Irish trad band John John Festival a couple of years ago at the Illawarra Folk Festival a couple of years ago so I jumped at the chance to catch bodhran player Toshi Bodhran and fiddle player Mana Okubo again as part of Tim Scalan’s band – and I was not disappointed. While I loved Scalan’s masterful singing and harmonica playing it was Toshi Bodhran who stole the show – the man can turn the bodhran into a melody instrument like no one I’ve ever seen before. Special mention has to go to Mana Okubo who performed the entire set with her baby strapped to her back.

The Wish List proved that the fiddle is all you need to accompany a voice and that three fiddles with three voices is even better. This was one of the most innovative bands at the Illawarra Folk Festival – I can’t wait to see these girls live again.

In the afternoon I dragged myself up the hill to the Small Halls Concert in order to catch Liz Stringer and then The East Pointers. For too long people have been telling me that Liz Stringer is the best songwriter in Australia and watching her set at the Illawarra Folk Festival those same people may be proved right. Stringer has an intensity to her songwriting that is tempered with a warmth in her performance not matched by many. I implore you to see Liz Stringer wherever and whenever you get the chance.

Despite having seen The East Pointers in Sydney a couple of days earlier there was no way was going to miss their final set at the Illawarra Folk Festival. These guys are probably the most exciting trad band I have seen in the last 12 months and their live set is incredibly tight. Their use of foot percussion and bass effects on the guitar elevate this three piece from session band to festival headliners and the ease at which they interact with their audience makes you feel included in the experience.

The rest of Sunday evening was spent drifting from tent to tent catching whatever music was playing before idling my way to the Grandstand Restaurant for a final set from The Button Collective and then jumping on the train home.

The organisers of this year’s Illawarra Folk Festival have a lot to be proud of, building an event that caters to almost every facet of the “folk” genre all the while maintaining a community spirit. There’s a reason why performers and punters come back to the Illawarra Folk Festival every year and why it remains a must attend on my festival calendar. Bring on 2017!

Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

Exile
Image Courtesy of Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

This February acclaimed singer-songwriter Shane Howard is bringing together some of Australia and Ireland’s finest artists for a series of concerts celebrating the influence of Irish exiles on Australian life titled Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

The concert series, set to take place in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, will feature the likes of Paul Kelly (AUS), Declan O’Rourke (IRE), Pauline Scanlon (IRE), Sean Tyrrell (IRE), John Spillane (IRE), Leah Flanagan (AUS), Steve Cooney (IRE), Aine Tyrrell (AUS/IRE), Lynnelle Moran (AUS) and of course Shane Howard himself.

The full list of dates for Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia are below – check out the official website for more information:

Saturday 20th February – Hamer Hall, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 21st February – Festival Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Monday 29th February – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane, QLD

The Illawarra Folk Festival Drops Its 2016 Lineup

Dougie MacLean
Image Courtesy of Dougie MacLean

You know that the year is getting well and truly getting away from you when 2016 festivals start to drop their lineups. The first to do so is the incredible Illawarra Folk Festival and it’s simply amazing.

If you’ve never made it down to the Illawarra Folk Festival before then 2016 might be your year. Held in the historic town of Bulli just north of Wollongong, the festival is held from the 14th to the 17th January and manages to attract an impressive lineup of international, national and local artists.

The 2016 lineup includes the likes of Dougie MacLean (above), The East Pointers, Catgut, Daniel Champagne, Handsome Young Strangers, Liz Stringer, Rebecca Bastoli, Shane Howard, Shanty Club, The Button Collective, The Dead Maggies, Big Erle, Joe Mungovan, Kay Proudlove and many many more.

For more information about the festival including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official site here. The full lineup is below:

NTERNATIONAL ACTS: Beth Patterson (USA), Donna Dean & The Tui Melody Boys (NZ), Dougie Maclean (SCOT), The East Pointers (CANADA), Environmental Encroachment (USA), Irish Mythen (CANADA), Jonathan Bob Lynn (CANADA), Ken Field (USA), Paul McKenna Band (SCOT), Reg Meuross (UK), Santa Taranta (ITALY), The Poozies (UK), Tim Scanlan & Toshi Bodhran (JAPAN), Underscore Orkestra (USA), Ward Macdonald (CANADA)

NATIONAL ACTS: Alma Mater, Ami Williamson, Andalus Arabic Choir, Astro Cobalt, Banjo Jackson, Black Joak Morris, Black Vat Trio, Bob Rummery, Bush Music Club Inc., Catgut, Chloe & Jason Roweth Band, Craig and Simone Dawson, Daniel Champagne, David Beniuk, David Bridie, Denis Murphy Puppets, Dingo’s Breakfast, Duo Agogo, Ethnodelica, Folkaphonic Youth Orchestra, Frank Yamma, Fresh Off The Boat, Glover & Sorrensen, The Goodwills, Handsome Young Strangers, Harman and Hellens, Humbug, Inka Marka, Innes, James Blundell, Jan Preston’s Boogie Circus, Jeannie Lewis, Jordan McRobbie, Kaisha, Karen Lynne Bluegrass Circle, Ken Field, Keystone Angel, Kutcha Edwards Duo, Lagoon Hill Zydeco, Lily and King, Liz Stringer, Lorraine McCrimmon, Matt Glass and the Loose Cannons, Maypole with Molly, Mexidhalia Dance Group, Merryweather, Mia Wray, Mick Daley, Mick Thomas, Mike Martin, Neil Murray, O’Leary, Out of Abingdon, Peter Mace, Peter Willey and Matthew Hobbs, Queen Porter Stomp, Rebecca Bastoli, Riogh, Santa Taranta, Scarlet’s Revenge, Señor Cabrales, Shane Howard Trio, Shanty Club, Solidarity Choir, Sydney Irish Ceili Dancers, The Button Collective, The Dead Maggies, The East Pointers, The Goodwills, The haBiBis, The Junkadelic Brass band, The Pie Eaters, The Rhythm Hustle , The Settlement, The Wish List, Ungus Ungus Ungus, Union Choirs

LOCAL ACTS: Ana Otero Flamenco, Aviva Sheb’a, Ayanamsha, Az-I-aM, Beatmeisters, Big Erle, Brynn Luker, Chord-eaux, Cinnamon Twist Belly Dance, Circus Wow , Curious Rendition Orchestra, Dane Overton, Declan Jenkinson, Denis McKay, Doux Manouche, Dru Yoga with Erika Steller, Duncan Chalmers, Eaton Gorge Theatre Company, Fly With Me, Gobsmacked!, Good Tunes Session, Hernan & Janis , Illawarra Breakfast Poets, Illawarra Pipe Band, Illawarra Union Singers, Joe Mungovan, John Broomhall, John Littrich, John Tubridy, Kay Proudlove, Kenny Bartley/Super Kenny, Lilli Story, Love In The Jungle, Melanie April, Merryweather, Middle Eastern Jam, Mz Mally Moo, No Such Thing, Paddy & The Wonderband, Patrick Lyons & The American Creek Band, Rani’s Fire, Ribbon Gang, Ruido, Scientists Behaving Badly, SingGongGo, Southern Crane Martial Arts Academy Inc., Steve Robinson, Stewart Holt, Swing Booty, Swingaleles Ukulele Group, Tamnesia, The Con Artists, The Humphreys, The Legs, The Scratchies, The Shield Maidens & the Celt, Three-Sixty, Tia Juana, Vic Janko Orkestar, Zingara, Zlatkos Balkan Cabaret, Zondrae King, Zumpa

The Inaugural Murwillumbah Country Roots Fest Announces Its Lineup

Kasey Chambers
Image Courtesy of Kasey Chambers

The brand new kid on the festival block is the Murwillumbah Country Roots Fest and judging by its inaugural lineup it will be making a big splash.

The Murwillumbah Country Roots Fest will this year be headlined by Kasey Chambers (above) as well as featuring a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites including The Audreys, Shane Howard, Archie Roach, Busby Marou, Bill Chambers, Henry Wagons, Pierce Brothers, Good Oak, The Davidson Brothers, Harry Hookey, The Wilson Pickers, Melody Pool, Karl S. Williams, Lachlan Bryan, Caitlin Harnett, The Mid North, Garett Kato, Katie Brianna, Sara Tindley, The Company, Mustered Courage, Gretta Ziller and many many more.

The festival will be held at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds in Northern NSW from the 2nd to 5th October this year. To get more information including how to get your hands on tickets check out the official web site here.

Fairlight Folk Announces February Lineup

Shane Howard
Image Courtesy of Shane Howard

Quarterly Sydney folk music night Fairlight Folk Acoustic Lounge will return this month with an amazing lineup. Held in the city’s Northern Beaches on Saturday the 14th February, Fairlight Folk will this time around feature legendary songwriter Shane Howard (Goanna) and the hippie stylings of Joe Flower and Harmony Breeze.

The night will kick off at 7:30pm at the William Street Studios in Fairlight, Sydney with tickets just $20 on the door. For more information on the night check out the official Facebook event here.

The National Folk Festival Announce Even More Artists for 2015

Kutcha Edwards
Image Courtesy of Kutcha Edwards

A bunch more artists were added to The National Folk Festival lineup this week and we can’t tell you how excited we are.

Firstly a plethora of indigenous artists will be gracing the stage at The National Folk Festival this year including soul/blues icon Kutcha Edwards, celebrated duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, Golden Guitar winner Col Hardy, singer-songwriter John Bennett and the Djaadjawan Dancers.

These artists will be joined by the freshly announced My Friend The Chocolate Cake, Shane Howard, Christopher Coleman Collective, Restless Legs, Alex and Annette Hood, The Bush Music Club, The Button Collective, The Coalbrook Band, Coolfinn Mac, Folklore, John Peel, Lime and Steel, Round Mountain Girls, Ryebuck Bush Band, Scots on the Rocks, Señor Cabrales, Southern Cross Trawlers, The Transylvaniacs, Waiting For Guinness, The String Contingent, Ukulele Republic of Canberra, Cathie O’Sullivan, Coral Eden and the Melbourne Colonial Dancers, Dingo’s Breakfast, Frank Povah and Chris Cruise, Keith McKenry and Santa Taranta.

The National Folk Festival takes place over the Easter Long Weekend from the 2nd to the 6th April 2015. For more information check out the official site here.

The Melbourne Folk Club Announces Summer Season

Melbourne Folk Club
Image Courtesy of The Melbourne Folk Club

The Melbourne Folk Club is one of the success stories of 2014 – bringing amazing folk music, both Australian and international, to a regular night right in the heart of Melbourne.

The night takes place at Bella Union in Melbourne’s inner-North, mostly on Wednesdays but sometimes throughout the week to accommodate touring artists. The Melbourne Folk Club this week announced its summer season and the lineup is looking as strong as ever.

Check out the full line up from January through to the end of March below:

Wednesday 7th January – John Smith (UK) + Caitlin Harnett
Thursday 8th January – Unplugged show w/ The East Pointers (Canada) + Tolka
Wednesday 14th January – David Francey (CAN) + James Kenyon + Lucy Wise
Wednesday 21st January – Oh Pep! + Open Swimmer
Wednesday 28th January – Darren Hanlon + Laura Jean + Single Twin
Wednesday 4th February – Jeff Lang + Emma Swift + Matt Langley
Wednesday 11th February – The Mae Trio + The Once (Canada)
Wednesday 18th February – Machine Translations + Broads
Wednesday 25th February – Shane Howard (Album Launch) + Skyscraper Stan
Wednesday 4th March – Ruth Moody & Band (Canada) + Scott Cook (Canada) + Nadia Reid (NZ)
Wednesday 11th March – Jordie Lane (In Conversation + Concert)
Wednesday 18th March – Breabach (Scotland) + Stray Hens
Wednesday 25th March – All Our Exes Live in Texas + Kim Richey (US)

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