The National Announces Even More Artists for 2016

All Our Exes
Image Courtesy of All Our Exes Live in Texas

Last week The National Folk Festival announced a whole lot more artists for its 50th anniversary in 2016 and we’re getting super excited.

Included in this round of announcements are Vishten (Canada), Tony McManus & Beppe Gambetta (Scotland & Italy), Bluetongue Bush Ceilidh (UK), Brian Peters (UK), The Beez (Germany), All Our Exes Live in Texas, Castlecomer, Andy White (UK), The Davidson Brothers, Women in Docs, Matthew Dames, Eastwinds, Le Blanc Bros Cajun Band, Danny Spooner and Margret RoadKnight.

The National Folk Festival takes place in Canberra over the Easter long weekend, 24th to 28th March. Earlybird tickets are available now via the official site.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 10th January

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Stream the self-titled debut album for Sydney brother duo Forgonia. Details here

James Vincent McMorrow wrapped up his Australian tour this week and released his new video “Red Dust”. Details here

– After you listen to the Redvers track “Impressions” make sure you reach out to the man himself for an exclusive stream of his new album. Details here

– Danish ethnopunk band Afenginn are in the country and have a bunch of shows around the place that you need to get to. Details here

– To showcase his upcoming album Jack Carty is heading out on a national house concert tour from this week. Details here

– London’s Emily and The Woods released their new single “Helios”. Details here

– Today marks the release of Sarah Blasko’s new live album I Awake Live at Sydney Opera House. Details here

– Brisbane five-piece Bandito Folk released their new video for the track “Don’t Wanna Be Like You”. Details here

– Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard has announced Australian dates in March with Lisa O’Neill in support. Details here

– It may be a shameless cash-in on the buzz surrounding Inside Llewyn Davis but the upcoming compilation Greenwich Village in the ‘60s has a pretty impressive track listing. Details here

Jordan Millar has released his new single “If Only…” which he’s offering as a free download. Details here

– Scottish singer Emily Smith has released the video for her new single “My Darling Boy”. Details here

– Following the sad news that The Staves have cancelled their Australian tour due to illness, Communion Melbourne have added Ainslie Wills and Tigertown (DJ set) to their January lineup. Details here

Interviews

“It’s great to get away from a Berlin winter and if work is slow, you might as well be able to visit your friends and family, be in good weather, and actually have some work to do” – Peter D’Elia from The Beez chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

Releases This Week

Sarah Blasko
I Awake Live at Sydney Opera HouseSarah Blasko
JB HiFi

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Chris Thile

Chris Thile

Arguably the best mandolinist in the world, Chris Thile returns to Australia in solo mode with his new album Bach: Sonatas & Partitas Vol. 1 in tow. Thile will reportedly be dipping into his back catalogue along with his new album which will make for some pretty special shows

Tuesday 14th January – The Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 15th January – The Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 16th January – Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, NSW
Friday 17th January – MONA FOMA, Hobart, TAS

Gigs Next Week

Afenginn
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Monday 13th January – MONA, Hobart, TAS
Tuesday 14th January – Lizotte’s, Newcastle, NSW
Wednesday 15th January – Lizotte’s, Central Coast, NSW
Thursday 16th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Friday 17th to Saturday 18th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Andy Irvine
Friday 10th January – The Merry Muse, Southern Cross Club, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 11th – Katinya Environmental Centre, Moruya, NSW
Sunday 12th – Cobargo Folk Club, Cobargo, NSW
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Chris Thile
Tuesday 14th January – The Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 15th January – The Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 16th January – Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, NSW
Friday 17th January – MONA FOMA, Hobart, TAS

Cygnet Folk Festival
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th January – Cygnet, TAS

Dom Flemons
Saturday 11th January – Circus Ronaldo Tent, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 12th January – Circus Ronaldo Tent, Sydney, NSW

Emily Barker
Monday 13th January – Sky Terrace at The Star, Sydney, NSW
Tuesday 14th January – Sky Terrace at The Star, Sydney, NSW

Illawarra Folk Festival
Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th January – Bulli, NSW

Jack Carty
Wednesday 15th January – House Concert, Thornlands, QLD
Thursday 16th January – House Concert, Fig Tree Pocket, QLD
Friday 17th January – House Concert, Brisbane, QLD

John Grant and John Murry
Thursday 16th January – Sydney Town Hall, Sydney, NSW

Jordan Millar
Friday 17th January – Name This Bar, Sydney, NSW

Kaurna Cronin
Wednesday 15th January – The Moon Cafe, Perth, WA
Friday 17th January – White Star, Albany, WA

Kim Churchill
Thursday 16th January – Solbar, Maroochydore, QLD
Friday 17th January – The Sound Lounge, Gold Coast, QLD

Mat McHugh
Friday 10th January – Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour NSW
Saturday 11th January – Great Northern, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 16th January – Live at Lizottes, Lambton, NSW
Friday 17th January – Entrance Leagues Club, Bateau Bay, NSW

Ruby Boots
Friday 17th January – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Sarah Blasko
Tuesday 14th January – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 15th January – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 16th January – St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, QLD

Tamar Valley Folk Festival
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January – George Town, TAS

Tamworth Country Music Festival
Friday 17th to Sunday 26th January – Tamworth, NSW

The Beez
Saturday 11th January – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

The Timbers
Saturday 11th January – Crown and Anchor Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Thredbo Blues Festival
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January – Thredbo, NSW

Tom Dockray
Saturday 11th January – The Vic Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Unpaved Sessions feat. Samantha Stephens, Trevor Shard, Sophie Rose, Leo Kahans, Kaidee Grzankowski
Monday 13th January – The Old Bar, Melbourne, VIC

Zoe Elliot
Friday 10th January – The Merry Muse, Canberra, ACT
Monday 13th January – Smiths Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Friday 17th January – Limonata, Grafton, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Untitled” – Ben Stephenson (Trouble in the Kitchen)

A couple of years ago the National Museum of Australia put together a series of videos on Youtube, hosted by Jimeoin, on Irish Music in Australia. In this clip Ben Stephenson from Trouble in the Kitchen talks about his research into Irish music at the National Library of Australia and plays an untitled jig he learnt from a recording of box and harmonica player Sally Sloane. You can link to the full series of videos here.

Interview: The Beez (Germany) 2014 Australian Tour

The Beez
Image Courtesy of The Beez

The Beez are one of many international folk bands who make Australia a regular part of their touring itinerary. In 2013, they toured as here as a duet with the Don’t Mention The Wall show, but are returning with the full band in January to bring their pop/folk/originals/parody repertoire down under again.

Bill Quinn spoke with Peter D’Elia from Berlin on the eve of the tour about what Australian audiences can expect.

Bill Quinn: You’re heading back to Australia; it’s been a regular visit for you over the years, hasn’t it?

Peter D’Elia: Yes, it’s my fifth time and it’s the sixth time for the band. Rob Rayner (guitar and vocals) is from North Sydney. He likes to get back home, and what’s a better way to visit your home than to mix it with your work? Which is hopefully your pleasure!

BQ: So it’s more than just trying to get away from a Berlin winter!

PD: Our work here does get slow in the winter. So yes, it’s great to get away from a Berlin winter and if work is slow, you might as well be able to visit your friends and family, be in good weather, and actually have some work to do.

BQ: Going back to 2013, it was an unusual year for The Beez in terms of line-up, wasn’t it?

PD: Yes, we had ‘Sweet Felicia’ [filling in on bass for new mother, Ulischka], originally from Queensland and now living in Victoria. It was a lot of fun, and very different to have a different member.

She had to learn a lot, different kinds of ways of singing and melodies. As a blues musician, she was definitely pointed in another direction with our intricate four-part harmonies.

And for us, it was great fun to do a lot of blues songs. I have another guitar now – a slide guitar – and I was doing a lot of slide playing on her songs, so that was fun for me and for everyone. Definitely for Rob, who loves a lot of rock and blues. For all of us, it was just a different experience, which is good to have sometimes.

BQ: You’ve got a loyal following in Germany. How did they react to having a new member of the band?

PD: It was always positive. Felicia’s a very strong performer; she wins a crowd over.

BQ: It was a temporary fill-in because of Jule/Julishka.

PD: Yeah, her son will already be a year old in February.

BQ: And you’ve been performing in Germany and Europe with the baby on tour?

PD: We’ve had two tours. He’s definitely not crazy about too many hours in the car. So you’ve got to take some breaks, and keep him moving around.

He loves music; he reacts very positively to music.

BQ: He’d have to with those parents [Beez bass player Jule plus sound man and musician Georg].

PD: Two bass player parents! I’m voting him to be more of a drummer, maybe. But some people think he’s going to follow in his parents’ bass-playing steps.

BQ: You’re out here for just short of four months. In the past, you haven’t always had the best experiences in terms of venues, have you?

PD: There was one tour that wasn’t what should have been the next stepping stone. Had it been our first tour we would have been fine with it, but on one tour we were promised some venues that did not happen. It was still enjoyable to be there, but as a band that wants to progress every tour, it was not the stepping stone that it should have been.

Every other tour’s been positive.

We’re doing about five festivals on this tour. Every weekend is busy except the Easter weekend, and I’m sure other things will creep up while we’re there.

BQ: Four months travelling with a very small child – are you all going to be friends at the end of it?

PD: We will! We will!

BQ: And you’re looking forward to going back to some favourite venues and towns?

PD: Yeah, our first show is at Camelot Lounge the night after we arrive and I’m really excited about that. I love that place. They have so many great bands there. My memory of it last time: all the staff there were really great people.

And of course Illawarra Folk Festival’s the next thing. We’ve been there so many times, it’s just like going back to see our friends on the other side of the hemisphere.

Full list of tour dates for The Beez:

Saturday 11th January – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Monday 20th to Saturday 25th January – Tamworth Country Music Festival, NSW
Saturday 1st Febraury – Tilba Winery, NSW
Sunday 2nd February – The Artists Shed, Queanbeyan, NSW
Thursday 6th February – Braidwood Folk Club, NSW
Friday 7th to Sunday 9th February – National Multicultural Festival, ACT
Friday 14th February – Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club, NSW
Saturday 15th February – Blackheath, NSW
Sunday 16th February – Bundanoon, NSW (house concert)
Wednesday 19th February – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, ACT
Saturday 22nd February – George Kerford Hotel, Beechworth, Vic
Sunday 23rd February – Gerogary, VIC
Friday 28th February – The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove, Vic
Saturday 1st March – Bendigo Folk Club, Vic
Sunday 2nd March – Mildura Arts Festival, Vic
Friday 7th to Sunday 9th March – Burke and Wills Festival, Mia Mia, Vic
Friday 14th March – Old Mill Flour Gallery, Mildura, Vic
Saturday 15th March – Richmond, Vic
Sunday 16th March – Burrinja Café, Upwey, Vic
Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March – Yackandandah Folk Festival, Vic
Friday 28th March – Taste Canowindra, NSW
Sunday 30th March – Tamworth, NSW (house concert)
Saturday 5th April – Wauchope Arts, NSW
Sunday 6th April – The Royal Exchange, Newcastle, NSW
Tuesday 8th April – Newcastle University, NSW
Friday 11th April – Candelo Arts Society, NSW
Friday 25th to Sunday 27th April – Mount Beauty Music Festival, Vic

Illawarra Folk Festival Reveals Full 2014 Lineup

Sarah Humphreys
Image Courtesy of Sarah Humphreys

Just a week or so after revealing their first lineup for 2014 the Illawarra Folk Festival has gone the whole hog and given us every single artist for the event. We could call out a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites that have just just joined the lineup – like Martin Pearson, Sarah Humphreys (above), Handsome Young Strangers, Jane Aubourg, Oh Pep! and Chaika – but instead we though we’d bring you one full list of all the musical acts:

Afenginn, Andy Irvine, Dom Flemons, Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, Harry Manx Band, Jaaleekaay, John John Festival, Klezmorim, London Klezmer Quartet, The Beez, The Hollands!, The Latchikos, The Underscore Orkestra, The Whitetop Mountaineers, Astro Cobalt, Bitchpick, Harman and Hellens, Cassidy’s Ceili, Enda Kenny Band, Riogh, Ange Takats, Another Train, Australian Union Choir, AZ-I-AM, Belle Jar, Bernard Carney, Bygone Error, Chippo Days, Chloe & Jason Roweth, Fly With Me, Graeme Morrison All Stars, Greg Champion, Jim Green, Kavisha Mazzella, Lola Wright’s Keg Night, Martin Pearson, Matthew Fagan “Lord of the Strings”, Merryweather, Rough Red, Sally Harris & Little Big Smoke, Sarah Humphreys, Solidarity Choir, Swingaleles, The Three Sisters, Tia Juana, Wongawilli, Bazinga!, Big Erle, Bruce Mathiske, Frank Povah and Chris Cruise, Funkier Than Alice (and Friends!), Glenn Skuthorpe, Graeme Morrison All Stars, Handsome Young Strangers, Jane Aubourg, Kay Proudlove, Kenny Bartley/Super Kenny, Love In The Jungle, My Secret Window, Oh Pep!, Pete Thomas & Blue Salt Band, Shellie Morris, Smokehouse, The Lazy Farmer’s Sons, The Ribbon Gang, The Timbers, Tracey Bunn, Alison Johnston, David Beniuk, Gemma Glendenning, Glenn Skuthorpe, Kavisha Mazzella, Merryweather, My Secret Window, Patrick Lyons & The American Creek Band, Robbing Steve, Shellie Morris, The Lazy Farmer’s Sons, The Littlest Fox, The Miss Chiefs, The Ribbon Gang, Tracey Bunn, Another Train, Bob Campbell Band, Bush Music Club ‘URBAN SCRUB’, Bygone Error, Chloe & Jason Roweth, Chord-eaux, Christiaan Dolislager, Denis McKay, Franklyn B Paverty, Good Tunes Session, Illawarra Pipe Band, Kavisha Mazzella, Lola Wright’s Keg Night, Louisa Lawson Tribute, Songs you do not sing to children!, The Raglins, The Roberts Family Reunion, Ayanamsha, Beatmeisters, Belle Jar, Chaika, Dall’ Italia All’ AUstralia, I Viaggiatori, Mat Brooker, Mr Cuttlefish, Rapskallion, Ruido, SingGongGo, Somesing Laik Zat, Spirit of Serpentine, Spyglass Gypsies, Taiko no Wa, The Con Artists, Zumpa, Alison Johnston, Caitlin James, Harry O’Brien, Lucette, Melanie April, Nyssa and Alex, Paddy & The Wonderband, Rosie and the Bluesters, Shalani Thomas, Tim Lukey, and many more

The Illawarra Folk Festival will take place from the 16th to 19th January next year – for more information on the festival including how to get your hands on early bird tickets check out the official site here.

Illawarra Folk Festival Drops First 2014 Lineup

Dom Flemons
Image Courtesy of Dom Flemons

The Illawarra Folk Festival, held in January each year in Bulli near Wollongong, NSW, last night announced a very exciting selection of international artists for 2014. The international artists announced so far include Afenginn (Denmark), Andy Irvine (Ireland), The Beez (Germany), Dom Flemons (USA), Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys (Canada), Harry Manx Band (Canada), The Hollands! (USA), Jaaleekaay (Gambia), John John Festival (Japan), Klezmorim (Brazil), London Klezmer Quartet (UK), Underskore Orchestra (USA) and Whitetop Mountaineers (USA).

Along with that pretty impressive group of musos the Illawarra Folk Festival has also announce a bunch of national acts including Belle Jar, Bernard Carney, Bruce Mathis ke, Dave de Hugard, Enda Kenny Band, Frank Povah, Glenn Skuthorpe, Greg Champion, I Viaggiatori, Kavisha Mazzella, The Miss Chiefs, Rapskallion, Rough Red, Shellie Morris, Spyglass Gypsies, Tai ko no Wa, The Timbers, The Wollemi Band and about 100 more to come.

The Illawarra Folk Festival will take place from the 16th to 19th January next year – for more information on the festival including how to get your hands on early bird tickets check out the official site here.

Interview: Don’t Mention The Wall!

Don't Mention The Wall

Berlin folk pop band The Beez have been frequent visitors to Australia in recent years with their latest tour taking place at the start of 2012. The band is now taking a short break at the start of 2013, however, band members Rob and Deta Rayner will be coming to Australia very shortly with a new show: Don’t Mention The Wall! — songs and stories  from the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond.

On a variously muggy mid-summer’s Australian morning or frosty Berlin midnight hour, depending on your hemispherical perspective, Bill Quinn (Overheard Productions) spoke with Rob Rayner about the show.

Bill Quinn: The Beez left our shores back in April, was it?

Rob Rayner: It was May. It was the epic tour of four months. We never thought we’d get through four months but we did. AND the amazing thing is that we’re still talking to each other!

BQ: I was going to ask how that went after four months on the road!

RR: You probably thought, “Ooooh, they’re having a break; there must be some sort of internal disputes or musical differences”, but there weren’t.

[Acoustic bass player] Jule’s having a baby. She’s the big mama!

BQ: How has the rest of 2012 been going for The Beez

RR: It’s been really good. The funny thing was that we were supposed to release the record [Freischwimmer] when we came back [to Germany] and then there was all this umming and ahh-ing because our record company said, “Well, perhaps we might get to ‘Stage B’ on the steep curve to the top” (us having been at ‘Stage A’ for the last 20 years or so).

“Why don’t we just spend a little bit of money, promotion and maybe we can get you to ‘Stage B’.”

So we talked about that. We talked about various modes and how we were going to do the whole thing.

The practical upshot of that is that now that the CD is officially coming out in April or March 2013. So, it’s taken all up a year and a half which is a lesson for all of us.

BQ: That is a bit of a break considering that you ostensibly launched it in Australia on your tour in 2012.

RR: Yeah, well we did. And it was released on iTunes.

BQ: So what happens now that one of your members is great with child?

RR: Well, we have Sweet Felicia. She’s a wonderful bass player and a really gutsy blues singer who has played with/for, amongst others, Chris Wilson for many years. And she was over in Germany this year with a blues band doing a couple of festivals, and we met her with Chris Wilson.

And she will be filling in for Jule from April to November.

And it’s really good because it’s a completely different feel, a different personality. It’s not a competition thing; it’s two completely different people. And The Beez will be a different band for six months.

We’re really happy, Jule’s really happy because she and Felicia get on really well, and we really love Felicia.

She played in May here at Commusication, which is the show that we have every month, and she just went down a treat. The Germans loved her. She’s just great. Look her up.

BQ: Moving on to the duo project, tell us all about Don’t Mention The Wall!

RR: We [Deta and Rob] were going to have a holiday because of the pregnancy break – ‘maternity leave’ is the official designation for what’s happening. Deta and I thought we’d come out for a little holiday.

And then we thought because I want to come back to Australia in the next ten years and we figured we’d probably spend the twilight of our careers wandering around as a duo or we’d pick up other musicians. We’d love to do it with The Beez, but we can’t reasonably expect Jule and Peter to hang on for that long and spend that much time with us.

So we thought, why don’t we give it a shot and see what happens with just the two of us. And we had this idea about doing a show about the Berlin Wall. Because we were both here – I got to Berlin about six months before the wall came down, and Deta being a native Berliner, it’s something close to our hearts.

So we’re doing a show with songs and stories. And pictures.

We talked about different ways of doing it, and thought of getting a collection of songs together to do with the wall. And we were running with that for a while until about two months ago when I thought, ‘No, this is not working’.

Because we’re coming to Australia with a bunch of songs that don’t really have that much to do with the wall when we’re purporting to do a show that’s all about the wall.

And I thought this is not good, so I’m going to have to write some songs. And really specifically address all the issues.

Now we’re in headless chicken mode.

Because I wrote all these songs and we have to rehearse them and we’re recording them so we can get an album out so we can bring them on tour!

It’s just a total schmozzle!

And we know we’re going to do a multi-media show. Well, a ‘multi-media show’ – what does that mean? Just having a few nice slides from our chequered past.

So we’re at our wits’ end at the moment.

BQ: I can see that concept working well in a festival setting. Do you think it will go as well in smaller venues?

RR: Yeah, probably pretty well. Because they’re first-hand stories; we’re not making a big thing of it. There’ll be a couple of dramatic little bits there, but it’s mainly anecdotal, and an intimate look into a historical event. Because we were both there.

But not wanting to make a big thing of it because it’s a very personal thing. There’s a little bit of historical background, but it’s just really personal stories, anecdotes and photos and songs. And there’s really funny things in there, and probably some pretty moving ones as well.

I think it’s going to be good and with the smaller gigs we’ll be able to do the slideshow as well, and with the festival gigs, we’ll just be doing the songs and a few stories.

BQ: Is it something that you’d see yourselves taking back to Berlin? Would you play it back to…

RR: No. [Laughs loudly.] Not at all!

No one would be remotely interested in it. This is not something you could do in Germany. On the other hand, the songs speak for themselves and as they’re all in English and there are a lot of good pop songs and don’t all deal with the Berlin wall. Not like:

Oh, I got to Berlin and I saw the wall
And I was very impressed
Oh, the wall; oh, the wall

No, we do some different things about the rise of racism, a song about German white trash – which is a fun little song.

There’s a song in three and a half minutes about how the wall was built, because there was a famous quote from the leader of the SED, the ruling party in East Germany at the time. He said – and this was three months before the wall was built – “Nobody has the intentions of building a wall here to divide East and West Germany”.

And the wall was up three months later. The song’s called, “No One Has Intentions Of Building A Wall”.

And there’s a song about a friend of ours who escaped from East Germany, got to West Germany, and was actually kidnapped by a Stasi spy and taken back into the east.

So there’s lots of dramatic and amusing stuff. It’s a real roller-coaster ride.

BQ: And there’ll be an album too. Gott-willing!

RR: There will! We’re just in the process of doing it – a very spontaneous thing. Almost all original songs and a couple of rather surprising cover songs. One from Deep Purple, if you can imagine that. And I can tell you it’s not ‘Smoke on the Water’!

BQ: I’m so glad to hear it!

RR: I bet you are! I’m glad to hear it as well.

BQ: We shall wait with bait on our breaths for your arrival!

Full list of tour dates for Don’t Mention The Wall featuring Rob and Deta Rayner:

Thursday 17th January – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
18th to 20th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
21st to 26th January – Tamworth Country Music Festival, NSW
Sunday 27th January – Dubbo Folk Club, NSW
Saturday 2nd February – Mildura Arts Centre, Vic
Friday 8th February – Gunnedah, NSW
Saturday 9th February – Uralla Arts, NSW
Sunday 10th February – Bellingen, NSW
Thursday 14th February – Congo, NSW (house concert)
Friday 15th February – River Music Folk, Nowra, NSW
Saturday 16th February – Nerrigundah Hall, NSW
Sunday 17th February – Tilba Valley Wines, Tilba Tilba, NSW
Thursday 21st February – Braidwood Folk Club, NSW
22nd to 24th February – Cobargo Folk Festival, NSW
Friday 1st March – Tara Guest House, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 2nd March – The Shack, Narabeen, NSW
Friday 8th March – Humph Hall, Allambie Heights, NSW
Saturday 9th March – Artists Shed, Queanbeyan, NSW
Sunday 10th March – Wongawilli Hall, NSW
15th to 16th March – Beechworth, Vic
Friday 22nd March – Springwood, NSW (house concert)
Thursday 28th March – Newcastle University, NSW (lunchtime show)

Review: Blue Mountains Music Festival

Blue Mountains Music Festival
Image Courtesy of the Blue Mountains Music Festival

To start, an admission: I’m a terrible festival attendee. My handful of must-sees quickly gives way to a fickle drifting, distracted eyes and ears rarely attentive for a whole set. I’m also, as you’ll quickly discover, musically illiterate yet fascinated and enthralled by a language I don’t understand. Lyrically, I feel adept to make comment; instrumentally I flounder and use inappropriate and often incorrect words. You’ve been warned: what follows is a review of the beautiful Blue Mountains Folk, Roots and Blues Music Festival by a musical illiterate with a deep love and appreciation for what she hears.

Thanks to Timber and Steel’s Editor in Chief Evan Hughes plans to marry one of my oldest (very youthful) friends, the lovely Sarah Tuz, and my convenient home in the misty, mystical Blue Mountains, I’m writing my first review for Timber and Steel.

Like many fellow festival attendees, I spent the preceding week checking the weather forecast, anticipating a repeat of last year’s perpetual rain and shin-deep mud bath (not atypical in the Bluies). Yet I also knew, as you can read in Evan’s review of last year’s festival, that the residents of the Blue Mountains and those attending from afar, are resilient and undeterred by a bit of soggy trudging between venues, and well-equipped with assorted gumboots and waterproof parkas.

The seventeenth Blue Mountains Musical Festival was, as the program described, the usual motley affair of folk, roots, blues, latin, world, jazz, bluegrass, Indie, reggae, blessed with artists from the quirky, theatrical The Beez, to the determined and socially conscious Blue King Brown. Young local musicians such as the passionate young Claude Hay played just metres away from the iconic Judy Collins, tackling themes from the intimate to the comical to the political and everything in between.

A “favourite five” glimpse of what we saw:

Fred Smith and Liz Frencham

Fred Smith is a songwriter of 15 years. He’s also an Australian diplomat who has been posted to far corners of the earth – from Bouganville to Uruzgan. Skilfully, he combines these two personas as a master storyteller, conjuring hope, despair and laughter in his audience. I was suitably curious to see him on both Friday and Saturday evening.

Fred began his collaboration with the beautiful, cheeky, passionate Liz Frencham at the National Folk Festival in 2002. Liz on vocals and cello brought balance and intimacy to Smith’s performance on Friday night, enthralling the audience with her vivacious enjoyment of her instrument, balancing Fred’s dry humour with a distinctly feminine presence onstage. The evening mixed the political – such as “Blue Guitar”, reflecting on his time in the Solomon Islands, to the everyday and personal, such as “In My Room”.

Throughout Saturday evenings Dust of Uruzgan (the title of his new album) performance, Smith used a combination of story, song and multi-media to tell of his time posted in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan. What left the audience hopeful, despite his often tragic stories of distrust and fear, was Smith’s wry yet playful sense of humour, and his overt belief that in spite of the everyday horrors he witnessed, peace is still possible.

Liz Frencham and the rest of the band served as instruments by which Smith added life to his stories. Smith gave voice to the men and women of the armed forces in the province, describing the monotony of constant threat, the loss and death and ceaseless dust. It was not all bleak- from within the reality of war; Smith described uplifting friendships, a spot of ‘Schwafelen’ (brush up on your Dutch to translate this one) and plenty of laughter. A memorable and poignant experience.

Abigail Washburn and Kai Welch

Abigail Washburn’s sweet drawl and croaky laugh is just as compatible with Bluegrass as with traditional Chinese folk songs (hand gestures included). Vivacious, Nashville-based Washburn, complimented by co-writer and singing partner Kai Welch, blessed their Blue Mountains audience with some ramblin’ afternoon tunes, from the delicate “Dreams of Nectar” to the traditional Chinese folk song whose title (ironically for the weekend) translates ‘The Sun Has Come Out and we are so Happy’. Some soul-quietening, smile-delivering entertainment to bring in the Saturday evening.

My Friend the Chocolate Cake

Aptly described by our MC as ‘fizzy and effervescent pop’, My Friend the Chocolate Cake played us a range of tunes from their 21 years at the forefront of Australian Music.

Pianist and vocalist David Bridie started us on a melancholy note with “Strange Crumbs From the Suburban Fringe”, quickly swinging between the carnival and the cinematic in a set filled with songs you recognise but can’t quite place – probably from their presence on a plethora of Australian film and TV soundtracks.

Having never seen them before, I’m unsure if this is typical, but apart Bridie steering the show, and quirky Hope Csutoris on Violin, the rest of the band played along unobtrusively as if willing the audience to ignore the band and draw upon and use the music to conjure up their own images and memories. Bridies’ lovely shy young daughter joined the band on vocals for a rollin’ rendition of “25 Stations”, as My Friend the Chocolate Cake used suburban symbols integral to the Australian identity, music like the voice of a familiar and comfortable old friend.

Harry Manx, Judy Collins, Claude Hay

Bringing in Saturday evening, living up to my wandering tendencies our 7pm timeslot was filled with three very different artists I was very curious to see.

Firstly, a storytelling session with the diverse and bewitching Harry Manx accompanied by the extraordinarily talented and energetic virtuoso Hammond Organ musician Clayton Dooley. I sat, mesmerised as Manx minimised talk between songs, telling tale after tale, fusing eastern musical traditions with the Blues. Disappointingly, our time was cut short by the desire not to miss out on the legendary Judy Collins.

We skilfully edged into the jam-packed Big Top tent for a glimpse of Judy Collins, looking radiant, relaxed and all decked out in glitter and grin. At 71, Judy’s career spans more that half a century, and judging by the composition of the audience, attracts fans spanning many generations and backgrounds. The air was thick with nostalgia, and the voices of hundreds of festival attendees reminiscing in unison. The lyrics of Bob Dylans’ “Mr Tamborine Man” could no doubt be heard halfway up Katoomba St, Judy leading the crowd. Unfortunately, due my partner’s sore foot (see below paragraph), we hobbled across to the RSL stage where we discovered a whole generation perhaps untouched by Judy Collins.

Claude Hay had a collection of Blue Mountains youth dancing furiously to his Blue and Roots tunes. Feeling strangely old (especially compared to the rest of our time at the festival), we sat and watched the ‘young people’ shake and groove and chant along to defiant lyrics, while we polished our dentures and moaned about our arthritis.

Eric Bibb

A beautiful conclusion to my second Blue Mountains Music Festival. Eric Bibb, accompanied by Swedish guitarist Staffan Astner, bestowed upon the audience an exceptional set of traditional and contemporary folk-blues tunes. It was Erics’ fourth Blue Mountains Festival, and second time visiting the Mountains in the space of a year- he played at Blackheath Community Centre in April 2011.

Everything about Eric contrasted with the pervasive fog outside the tent, from his bright orange shirt to his infectious and radiant smile. Staffan, dressed in black, hat obscuring his eyes and occasionally bemused smile, was Eric’s quiet yet brilliant shadow. From “Stagger Lee”, “Floodwater”, “Troubadour”, “Tell my Baby” and “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”, Eric played a mixture of covers and originals which created a warm and contented audience, pleased to be sharing the moment and the music with hundreds of others in the Big Top, rather than outside in Katoomba’s best mist and drizzle.

The Pigs, The Beez and Mustered Courage Join Forces for a One Off Melbourne Gig

The Pigs
Image Courtesy of The Pigs

***UPDATE: The Double Pass Has Been Claimed. Stay Tuned For More Giveaways Soon***

Melbourne get your pickin’ fingers ready, you’re in for an absolute treat this March. Three of folk/bluegrass’ favourite bands, The Pigs (above), The Beez (Germany) and Mustered Courage have announced a massive show at the Thornbury Theatre on the 8th March.

Tickets are a mere $18.50 and are available here. And if you’re lucky we have a double pass to give away! All you have to do is be the first to e-mail us at timberandsteelaustralia@gmail.com with your name – but get in quick, this is bound to go quick.

Illawarra Folk Festival Announces 2012 Program

The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats
Image Courtesy of The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats

While the summer months see some of the nation’s biggest festivals strut their stuff it’s the little regional folk festivals that really shine in our books. One of our favourite regional festivals roles around every January – The Illawarra Folk Festival in Bulli just north of Wollongong, NSW.

Being within spitting distance of both Sydney and Canberra the Illawarra Folk Festival manages to attract some amazing national and international talent and is set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The 2012 festival will be held from the 12th to the 15th January and boasts a program featuring the likes of Dougie Maclean, George Kamikawa & Noriko Tadano, The Beez, Andrew Winton, Cj Shaw, Evelyn’s Secret, Get Folked, Jack Flash, Lucy Wise & The B’Gollies, Margaret & Bob Fagan, Martin Pearson, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats (above), Skipping Girl Vinegar, The Bearded Gypsy Band, The String Contingent, The Woohoo Revue, Big Erle & the Limb Looseners, Jane Aubourg and of course Wongawilli.

The program for the event has just been released and is available on the official Illawarra Folk Festival web site – which is also where you can get the full lineup and all the information on how to get tickets. Looks like our January is planned then.

Blue Mountains Music Festival Announces First Artist Lineup

Beoga
Image Courtesy of Beoga

The Blue Mountains Music Festival was by far one of our favourite events on this year’s music calendar (despite the torrential rain – check out our review here) so we got pretty excited this morning when the first round of artists for next years event landed in our inbox. The Blue Mountains Music Festival celebrates music from a variety of genres but it definitely always has a strong folk, roots, blues and bluegrass contingent on its roster and next year is no different.

Rather than try and single out our favourites from the first announcement we though we’d just give it to you in one hit and let you see just how good it is. Ready? Here we go:

Judy Collins (USA), Abigail Washburn (USA), Harry Manx (UK/Canada), Pierre Bensusan (French Algeria), Staffan Astner (Sweden), Krystle Warren (USA), Ben Sollee (USA), Blue King Brown, The Shane Howard Band, Fred Smith, Eddi Reader (Scotland), April Verch (Canada), Noriana Kennedy (Ireland), Truckstop Honeymoon (USA) While and Matthews (UK), My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band (USA), The Beez (Germany), Frigg (Finland), Beoga (above – Ireland), ahab (UK), Afro Mandinko, The Buddy Knox Blues Band, Alwan, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, Chris Wilson, Fiona Boyes, Rescue Ships, Claude Hay, George Kamikawa and Noriko Tadano, Cass Eager, Phil Davidson, Daniel Champagne, Tonks Green, The Simpson 3 and more.

Pretty impressive eh? The Blue Mountains Music Festival is held in Katoomba, NSW from the 16th to the 18th March. Earlybird tickets are available from now until the 31st December. Check out the official site for more information.

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