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

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 2nd December

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Classical music mastermind Pekka Kuusisto will be teaming with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and American folkster Sam Amidon this February for the Murder Redemption tour. Details here

The Mountain Goats have announced Australian tour dates next year. Details here

– So many amazing artists on the WOMADelaide lineup so far including 9Bach, Archie Roach, Brushy One String, Dope Lemon, The East Pointers, Gawurra, Hanoi Masters, Nattali Rize, Oki Dub Ainu Band, The Waifs, Wawsaw Village Band, William Crighton and many more. Details here

– Christian folk duo The Welcome Wagon released a version of Sufjan Stevens’ “The Greatest Gift”. Details here

– The amazing Laura Marling announced her new album Semper Femina and also premiered her directorial debut for the “Soothing” video. Details here

– The new best of album from Kate Miller-Heidke comes out today. Details here

– Co-headline tour announced for The Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd. Details here

Radical Face released “Sunn”, his first recording since completing his The Family Tree project. Details here

Michael Kiwanuka has announced Melbourne and Sydney shows when he’s in the country for Bluesfest. Details here

– A huge January tour has been announced for Hat Fitz & Cara. Details here

David Gray released his new video “Enter Lightly”. Details here

Releases This Week

KMH
The Best Of Kate Miller-Heidke: Act OneKate Miller-Heidke
iTunes

Stray Hens
The ConfluenceStray Hens
Bandcamp

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Stray Hens

Stray Hens

Stray Hens will be launching their brand new, crowd funded album The Confluence in Melbourne tonight and it looks like the gig is going to be amazing

Friday 2nd December – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Alannah Russack, Trish Young, Melodie Nelson
Saturday 3rd December – The Golden Barley, Sydney, NSW

Australian Bluegrass Conference
Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th December – Tranquil Park, Maleny, QLD

BBQ & Blues feat. Cass Greaves
Wednesday 7th December – Surly’s, Sydney, NSW

Boy & Bear
Friday 2nd December – Albany Entertainment Centre, Albany, WA
Saturday 3rd December – 3 Oceans, Margaret River, WA
Sunday 4th December – Fremantle Prison, Fremantle, WA
Wednesday 7th December – Orange Ex-Services Club, Orange, NSW
Thursday 8th December – ANU, Canberra, ACT
Friday 9th December – Waves, Wollongong, NSW

End Of Year Folk Bash feat. Darlo After Dark, Black Joak Morris, Peter Miller-Robinson, Buck and Deanne, Bells of Caroldise
Sunday 4th December – The Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Fairgrounds Festival
Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd December – Berry, NSW

Finders Keepers Market Sydney
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th December – Australian Technology Park, Sydney, NSW

FolkSwagon feat. MoSoul, Colin Jones and The Delta Revue
Wednesday 7th December – Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Get Folked Punk feat. Medusa’s Wake, The Bottlers, Scarlets Revenge, The Habanerbros, Mournwillow, Jonno Read, Billy Punton, Whiskey Jeff, Josh Arentz, Antonia Susan, A-Rock Newman, Angus + Julia Stoned, Yvette Vials, Luke Holmeslice, Smug young Dads, Mac + Cheese, Brendan, Kennedy, Avobandito
Saturday 3rd December – Lazybones Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Handsome Young Strangers
Friday 2nd December – Union Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 8th December – The Hideaway Bar, Sydney, NSW

Heartbreaker Sessions feat. Darren Cross, Jen Mize
Sunday 4th December – The Bearded Tit, Sydney, NSW

Hootenanny feat. Sam Newton
Sunday 4th December – Miss Peaches, Sydney, NSW

ILona Brooks, John Chesher, Mark Lucas, Bill Hunt
Sunday 4th December – The Duck Inn, Sydney, NSW

Joe & Harmony’s Magic Carpet Ride feat. Anthea Sidiropoulos, Bruce Watson, Margaret & Bob Fagan
Saturday 3rd December – Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, Sydney, NSW

Josh Pyke & Bob Evans
Friday 2nd December – Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 3rd December – Solbar, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Sunday 4th December – Soundlounge, Gold Coast, QLD
Thursday 8th December – 48 Watt St, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 9th December – The Factory, Sydney, NSW

Julia Jacklin
Friday 2nd December – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 2nd December to Saturday 3rd December – Fairgrounds Festival, NSW
Friday 9th December – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Karl Broadie’s “Leave On a Light” Tribute Album Launch feat. Amber Lawrence, Jasmine Rae, Amali Ward, Luke O’Shea, Den Hanrahan, Katie Brianna, Brett Hunt, Michael Carpenter
Thursday 8th December – The Bunker, Sydney, NSW

Kasey Chambers w/ Eagle & The Wolf
Friday 2nd December – Revesby Workers’ Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 3rd December – Campbelltown Convention & Entertainment Centre, Sydney, NSW
Friday 9th December – The Entrance Leagues Club, Bateau Bay, NSW

Liam Gerner & The Sunset Pushers
Friday 2nd December – Lazy Bones, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 3rd December – Stag and Hunter, Newcastle, NSW

Little Wise
Friday 9th December – Basement Discs, Melbourne, VIC

Matt Andersen
Friday 2nd December – The Music Lounge, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 3rd December – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 4th December – Lizotte’s, Newcastle, NSW

Mel Parsons
Friday 2nd December – Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Sunday 4th December – Indi Bar, Scarborough Beach, WA

Pat and Kellie, Imogen Clark
Friday 9th December – The Acoustic Picnic, Sydney, NSW

Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen
Saturday 3rd December – Flinders Street Baptist Church, Adelaide, SA
Friday 9th December – St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, QLD

Ryan Adams
Tuesday 6th December – Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Steve Poltz
Friday 2nd December – Ravenswood, Ravenswood, WA
Saturday 3rd December – The Charles, Perth , WA
Wednesday 7th December – Ararat PAC, Ararat, VIC
Thursday 8th December – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave, VIC
Friday 9th December – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Stray Hens
Friday 2nd December – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Sydney Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Get-together
Saturday 3rd December – Annandale Community Centre, Sydney, NSW

The Newsagency 5th Bday Sessions feat. Alison Avron, Kent Eastwood
Thursday 8th December – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW

The Petersham Bowling Club Community Christmas Party
Sunday 4th December – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

The Rhythm Hut Christmas Party feat. 19-Twenty, Lime and Steel, Night Kite
Friday 9th December – The Rhythm Hut, Gosford, NSW

The Spooky Men’s Chorale
Sunday 4th December – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW

The Tallest Man On Earth
Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd December – Fairgrounds Festival, Berry, NSW
Wednesday 7th December – QPAC, Brisbane, QLD

The Western Distributors
Sunday 4th December – Gasoline Pony, Sydney, NSW

The Willing Ponies
Sunday 4th December – The Union Hotel, Sydney, NSW

The Wilson Pickers
Friday 2nd December – Basement Discs, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 3rd December – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Sunday 4th December – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

Tom West
Friday 4th December – Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA

Tower of Song – A Tribute to Leonard Cohen
Friday 2nd December – Leadbelly, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“The Rose Hip” – Fairport Convention

The Cat Empire & Xavier Rudd Announce Co-Headline Tour

CEXR
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

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!

WOMADelaide Announces First Round of Artists for 2016

Marlon Williams
Image Courtesy of Marlon Williams

The 2016 festival announcements keep rolling in with WOMADelaide the next cab off the rank. Held in Adelaide’s picturesque Botanic Park, just north of the city centre, WOMADelaide attracts some of the worlds top world music artists and is one of my favourite festivals of the year.

The first round of artists announced for 2016 has a bunch of artists that Timber and Steel readers should get excited about including Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo performing with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Australian fusion masters The Cat Empire, Ukrainian folk band DakhaBrakha, Spanish flamenco and gypsy band Diego El Cigala, harp driven jazz from Edmar Castaneda Trio, Canadian folk and world music from The Jerry Cans, Ladysmith Black Mambazo who are famous for collaborating with Paul Simon on his Graceland album, Timber and Steel favourite Marlon Williams (above), traditional Mediterranean music from Savina Yannatou and Primavera En Salonico, desert blues from Mali’s Songhoy Blues, the original indie-folkers The Violent Femmes and many more.

WOMADelaide is held from the 11th to the 14th March. The full lineup so far is below – for more information check out the official site here.

47SOUL
Angelique Kidjo and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Australian Dance Theatre
The Cat Empire
DakhaBrakha
Diego El Cigala
Edmar Castaneda Trio
The Jerry Cans
John Grant
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat
Marlon Williams
Orange Blossom
Savina Yannatou and Primavera En Salonico
Seun Kuti and Egypt 80
Songhoy Blues
Violent Femmes

The Woodford Folk Festival Drops 2014 Lineup

Lau
Image Courtesy of Lau

There were a ton of folk festival announcements all over the weekend but the one that everyone is talking about is the 2014 Woodford Folk Festival lineup. The full musical program dropped yesterday with the usual mix of folk, roots, trad, singer-songwriter and I-don’t-know-why-they’re-at-a-folk-festival artists.

The lineup itself is too huge to list here (you can see it for yourself here) but the highlights include the likes of Violent Femmes (USA), The Cat Empire, Archie Roach, Nahko and Medicine for the People (USA), Jeff Lang, Lau (SCOT), Tiny Ruins (NZ), We Two Thieves, Shooglenifty (SCOT), Flap!, Husky, Lior, Mama Kin, Siskin River, Andrew Clermont, The Mae Trio, Fred Smith, Lucy Wise Trio, Oh Pep!, Betty & Oswald, The Company and so so so much more.

The Woodford Folk Festival takes place from the 27th December to the 1st January. 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 2013

Listening to Records

In what is now an end of year tradition Timber and Steel are following up our own list of the top albums of 2013 with a piece that opens the floor to some of our favourite artists.

We reached out to musicians far and wide, from big international names to local up-and-comers, to get their thoughts on the best albums and EPs of the year and the result is once again incredible. If you ever wanted to know what the artists you listen to are listening to then look no further as we present to you Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2013:

Back on the MilksThomas Busby (Busby Marou)
The Starry FieldBack on the Milks
It’s almost impossible to slot this album into a genre because it covers almost all styles yet somehow it works perfectly. Mark Myers could be from another planet, because this seems to be a soundtrack from another world.

Picture of YouDarren Cross (Jep & Dep, Darren Cross Band)
Guy ClarkMy Favorite Picture of You
Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt have to be mentioned in the same sentence. The masters of the Texan Troubadour Genre- minimal powerful melodies and stories that change your mood-help you live. Townes is no longer around – Guy Clark is in his 70s, his songs getting stronger and more powerful. These guys wrote the rule book. Guy Clark’s latest album is amazing. In a world of autotune – Racscal Flatts / Taylor Swift mediocrity – a true country artist without any of the rhinestone cowboy bullshit is still alive and kicking and relevant and still breaking our hearts. I dare you to listen to “My Favorite Picture of You” or “Hell Bent On A Heartache” and not feel something. A true Inspiration.

Sam AmidonDevon Leger (Hearth Music)
Sam AmidonBright Sunny South
Because Sam Amidon is the most visionary folk artist of his generation. He understands musical traditions deep into his bones, and though he goes very far afield in his interpretations, he’s so grounded in the traditions that his experimentation serves as a vehicle to delve farther into the source material than ever before. He’s an uncompromising artist that reminds me again why I love folk music.

Melody PoolKristy Cox
Melody PoolThe Hurting Scene
The Hurting Scene has to be one of the most amazing debut releases of an Australian artist in a long time. It’s an album that more often than not touches on the topics of hurt and sadness – yet a notion of positivity shines through each of the songs. Melody’s vocals are shine on each track, however it’s her lyrics and the melody in each song that draw you in so you have to keep on listening! By far my favourite release of 2013! This girl is amazing!

Tiny RuinsOscar Lush
Tiny RuinsHaunts
For me, this six track EP has more depth and honesty than any other full length album of 2013. Tiny Ruins is the moniker of UK born, New Zealand based, singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook. Following up from her 2011 album Some Were Meant For Sea, the Haunts EP is a beautifully flowing fusion of modern folk, jazz and old-school country blues. Fullbrook’s rich and captivating vocals roll so smoothly over her laid back picking style as she draws you further and further into the veil of fog that hovers over this charming collection of songs. What I love most about Haunts is the way it pays tribute to so many traditional styles, from the Townes Van Zandt style of guitar on “Cold Comfort” to Fullbrook’s flawless cover of “Rolling Mill Blues”, yet I fail to compare the sound of Tiny Ruins to anything else because it’s also completely of its own world. I promise that this one really is worth all of your time.

Daft PunkKim Churchill
Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
Whilst I’ve been dancing around possible answers in my head I really have to go for one which I’ve barely stopped playing since I bought it. I know the whole world seems to have been won over, but Random Access Memories by Daft Punk has been my favourite album this year. It has such respect for music and its evolution over the past 50 years. It also has most of my favourite session players from as far back as the 60’s as well. Using drummers like JR Robinson and Omar Hakim and experimenting with things like Gorgio Moroder’s monologue over the top of those drums was incredible. Its the kind of music I dream of hearing and the ultimate experimentation in excess. Over a million dollars, 5 years the best studios and session players in the world and the occasional full orchestral and choir movements! Finally though, what mainly draws me to an album is the songs. Though I never thought I would look to Daft Punk for inspiration, the songwriting is really exquisite. Particularly the Paul Williams collaboration, “Touch’.

StreetsMike McCarthy
Isaac de HeerStreets
I am a huge fan of Isaac De Heer, his records are on high rotation here. On Streets Isaac continues on this well built path of unorthodox folk songwriting. Again, as on his previous two records, the production captures his quirky approach to writing and performing music. The melodies are strong, the lyrics are the kind you want to pore over and try to understand. Every broken piano sound and haunting backing vocal has it’s place in a very well thought out and enjoyable EP.

The PreaturesAshleigh Mannix
The PreaturesIs This How You Feel?
I cannot tell you how may times I have listened to this EP since it’s release. Its absolute killer first single “Is This How You Feel?” still has me shamelessly breaking out in dance wherever and whenever I hear it. I actually cannot stop myself! The entire EP is filled with a catalogue of influences – Fleetwood Mac, Prince and Neil Young are a few that I immediately note. Yet at the same time, The Preatures have their own captivating sound that I personally cannot get enough of. Listening to female lead, Isabella Manfredi’s voice makes me want to put on my LBD and leather jacket and paint the town red. While the lead vocals of Gideon Benson in “Dark Times” leaves me completely devastated that I’m not single … It’s funny where music can take you. Is This How You Feel? is the sound of a band doing what they do, and doing it fecking well!

Jim JamesIsaac de Heer
Jim JamesRegions of Light and Sound of God
A couple of years back I was struck by the Yim Yames EP Tribute To which is a collection of George Harrison songs – I loved how rushed the recording sounded, full of pure longing blasted into its delivery. I hadn’t heard anything about the Regions… album but bought it on a whim when I was wandering through Polyester Records, judging from the strength of that EP. What I found was a real grower with a gospel sorta vibe, mixed with huge drum sounds and wonderful imaginative lyrics and soundscapes. The whole album has a naivety and innocence about it that is captivating, flowing from song to song effortlessly, with a great instrumental track halfway through that lets it breathe. It’s well worth a few listens!

Stolen ViolinMark Myers (The Starry Field)
Stolen ViolinTemperate touch, Tropical Tears
I don’t listen to much music outside of the studio but I spent a lot of time with this album. It might not be everyone’s thing with it’s lofi guitars and hard to hear lyrics but I had tears in my eyes by the end of it.

Jimi HendrixJustin Thurgur (Bellowhead)
Jimi HendrixPeople, Hell and Angels
My album for 2013 is Jimi Hendrix’s People, Hell and Angels a previously unreleased studio album that was supposed to be the follow up to Electric Ladyland. This album is full of refreshingly strong, raw, bluesy songs with a healthy funk influence played by instrumentalists who are true virtuosos and unafraid of expressing themselves. The soul pours out of these recordings.

Keston Cobblers ClubRachael McShane – (Bellowhead)
Keston Cobblers’ ClubA Scene of Plenty
This sounds like a really fun band to be in! The rich instrumentation featuring tuba, squeeze-box, banjo, strings, percussion and vocals, coupled with catchy melodies and massed group vocals on the song “Beam” make you want to sing along, put on your dancing shoes and join the party. Keston Cobblers’ Club have a very refreshing DIY attitude to recording and packaging. They designed their CD case as a train set with cut-out-and-stick trains, tents and animals. Well worth checking out their videos on YouTube too.

Jimi HendrixBenji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead)
Jimi HendrixPeople, Hell and Angels
I would have to say People, Hell and Angels by Jimi Hendrix is my favourite album of 2013. The reasons being I’m a massive Hendrix fan and although there’s nothing really very new on this release it’s a great collection of Hendrix tunes and displays his fluid mastery of the guitar very well. Also some nice cameos from the likes of Stephen Stills and Lonnie Youngblood. Essential stuff for us Hendrix geeks.

Midnight Follows MeJulian Cue (The Barons of Tang)
BJ MorriszonkleMidnight Follows Me
Ridiculous and beautiful, this album is essentially the mad ramblings of a one man band let loose in a studio. I love the every changing and complex compositions, demented keyboard sounds and the delicate balance between “tongue in cheek” and sincerity. Also it seems to me that BJ Morriszonkle is one of the finest male vocalists / crooners playing around at the moment. His voice makes this album. 5 out of 5 exploding cakes

Vance JoyWoody Pitney
Vance JoyGod Loves You When You’re Dancing
Since first hearing a demo of “Riptide” in 2012, i’ve been a big fan of VJ’s music and his debut EP didn’t disappoint! James Keogh has a killer voice and there isn’t a dull moment throughout the entire 5-track EP. All of the songs are beautifully written, yet simple enough to have you singing along after one listen. With catchy melodies, slinky ukelele strumming and powerful storytelling, it’s clear to see why people compare the great man to the likes of Paul Kelly and Bernard Fanning.

Vic ManuelScott Collins (The Mid North)
Vic ManuelBury Me Deep
Vic Manuel is someone you probably would not have heard of……yet. ‘Bury Me Deep’ is his first solo album and it is a cracker. A melding of folk, old-time and Americana, with lyrics that are as good as Leonard Cohen and Dylan. He can rip your heart out and have you horny as a hound in a matter of a few words. There are road trip songs, ballads, bluegrass toe tappers and dark tales from older days. The song ‘Oh Mother’ will have the hardest of you shedding tears. As a songwriter myself, i hold Vic in awe. I am amazed by him and a little bit (ummm…..whole lot) envious of his talent, he is quite simply Brilliant.

Vance JoyThelma Plum
Vance JoyGod Loves You When You’re Dancing
Because it makes me feel sad, but good sad.

Liz StringerCara Robinson (Hat Fitz and Cara)
Liz StringerSoon
I actually have been listening to the album Soon by Liz Stringer with its powerful tales of personal experiences written so poetically that grasps my attention every time it is played. With its beautiful delicate and honest intent it is a raw masterpiece. I love this.

Abbe MayEli Wolfe
Abbe MayKiss My Apocalypse
A diverse and experimental artist from WA, with quite few different releases. This album evokes an intense feel, from a strong and highly expressive woman – cathartic in love and release – in a lemon juice squeezed on a paper cut kinda way.

Chance McCoyJimmy Daley (The Morrisons)
Chance McCoy & The Appalachian String BandChance McCoy & The Appalachian String Band
I love old time music and this album by Chance McCoy & The Appalachian String Band is packed full of it. The newest member of Old Crow (replacing Willie Watson), and educator of Old Time Music at The Augusta Heritage Centre, West Virginia, Chance McCoy really knows his stuff. He is an amazing old time fiddle and banjo player with a really sweet sounding voice to top it of. The collection of tunes here feature some of my favourite old time numbers like “Lazy John”, “Greasy Coat”, “Little Birdie” and “Gospel Plow”, while also introducing me to some great tunes I had never heard before, like “Davy Come Back and Act Like You Ought To”. That’s the thing about old time music, it’s an endless well of incredible songs, I don’t think I’ll ever stop digging through them. With fantastic playing and singing, this album has a more slick sound that what you usually get with old time music and in that sense would be a great introduction for someone looking to get into this genre.

CapercaillieEddi Reader
CapercaillieAt The Heart of it All
This is a beautiful traditional album using the tradition and bringing it right up to date. Karen is one of my favourite Scottish vocalists and this album is class as is their live performances. A little bit of Scotland for your ears.

Josh PykeChris Collins (Tigertown)
Josh PykeThe Beginning and the End of Everything
One of the best song writers that we have in Australia, Josh has been a major influence on our music since the start. All four albums are filled with honest stories so it’s cool to be able to follow someone through different stages of their life. For a fourth album, this one seems to have a certain youthfulness and energy to it, which could come from having a toddler running around in this record. It’s a very Australian sounding record which is something we love and would love to harness ourselves one day. This album makes you excited about love, life and family.

Bobby AluBrianne Curran (Takadimi)
Bobby AluTake it Slow
Refreshing, groovy and chilled out all in one. Bobby Alu’s album of 2013 just makes you feel like having a great day!

Melody PoolKevin Mitchell (Bob Evans)
Melody PoolThe Hurting Scene
This is an insanely good debut album. The lyrics and songwriting are so good it’s hard to believe they come from a someone of such a tender age. The production is subtle and honest and Melody’s voice is weighty and substantial. She must be an old soul or something. I can’t get enough of this album.

Katie BriannaAndrew Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates (The Weeping Willows)
Katie BriannaDark Side of the Morning
Katie’s voice will instantly capture you but it’s her lyrics that will hold you; one part heartbreak, two parts introspection, a dash of sass and one hundred percent original. Her tone may evoke some of the greats (Iris DeMent, Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, Kasey Chambers…) but Katie holds her own and her album packs a punch. It’s definitely one of those rare finds you can appreciate from beginning to end without any temptation to reach for the “skip” button. Dark Side of the Morning is Americana at its best; at times dark and moody, other times hopeful, even audacious. Our favourite tracks are “What It Means”, “Dark Side of the Morning” and the vulnerable last track, “Risk it All”.

The VaccinesAndrew Davie (Bear’s Den)
The VaccinesMelody Calling
I bloody love this EP. We recently had the honour of touring with The Vaccines on the Mumford and Sons Full English Tour and we just had the best time. An amazing group of people and an incredible band. We listened to this EP religiously in the van between shows and I constantly had “Melody Calling” and “Everybody’s Gonna Let You Down” stuck in my head. Freddie’s guitar parts are so unconventional and interesting and the chord progressions and band dynamics flow in such a beautiful and unpredictable kind of way. It’s an incredibly inspiring piece of work and Justin’s songwriting has always been brilliant but just keeps getting better and better.

Kurt VileJordan Wilson and Benjamin Riley (Georgia Fair)
Kurt VileWakin’ on a Pretty Daze
It’s a beautiful sounding record. He’s a cool cat and has been a favourite of ours for a while. It’s a great record to get you through whatever you’ve been dealt, especially when combined with wine and cigarettes in your lounge room.

0Roscoe James Irwin
Ichiko Aoba0
A super beautiful (if not odd) collection of tracks from this Japanese alt/folk singer-songwriter. It’s strikingly bare, but really intimate as a result. You feel like you’re there with her, listening to her play her songs in your bedroom. The classically inspired nylon string guitar parts, mixed with Ichiko’s etherial vocal melodies create something really unique and honest, (even though I have no idea what she’s singing about). Track 8, “Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu” is a standout.

Ghost BoyGregory Alan Isakov
Sanders BohlkeGhost Boy
Beautiful and dark electric landscapes behind songs that make you dream, and remember how important music is.

The DronesMark “Looch” Lewis (Handsome Young Strangers)
The DronesI See Seaweed
This band is so far ahead of the pack it scares me. I didn’t think the Drones could top their last album Havilah – but they have. Gareth Lilliard’s lyrics slowly weave into your brain as always whilst the delivery and more specifically the passion in the delivery still kills me everytime. The final track “Why Write A Letter That You’ll Never Send” (all 9 minutes of it) is stunning. The best album from 2013 from Australia’s best band. Simple really.

Anna CalviBity Booker
Anna CalviOne Breath
Anna did not start singing until she was in her mid twenties. Now she is singing her hearth out. Her songs explode like colour onto a canvas. She slowly draws the listener into her world. Her guitar is like a voice, sometimes a weep, sometimes a laugh. This album makes me feel close to the beautiful beast she has within.

Josh PykeJackson McLaren
Josh PykeThe Beginning And The End Of Everything
(Ok I might be a bit biased but it’s a great album!). Josh sets the bar high and this record is an absolute cracker. Grappling poetically with legacy and morality. The BIG themes! Beautiful harmonies and clever arrangements. It sounds like Josh is having fun and that’s what I like about it.

Katy PerryGemini Downs
Katy PerryPrism
Yes I know we’re in an indie band and our taste is music is meant to be all indie and alternative – and primarily it is – but everyone has their guilty pleasures, right? For what it’s worth – chuckling at the new “Roar” film clip, feeling creative when looking at the fairyland live sets that this chick pulls off and winding up the windows in the car in order to sing along as loudly as possible was enough to bring Katy Perry to the top of the pile. Plus she got dumped by a tonne of record labels before she cracked it which makes her success all the more impressive.

Cloud ControlJosh Pyke
Cloud ControlDream Cave
I love Cloud Control, and this record really saw them push themselves, whilst still remaining true to the almost primitive innocence that their music captures for me. Al’s voice has taken on a strangled desperation in some songs that makes the whole thing a lot tougher in a very engaging way. Love it.

Sam AmidonBayden Hine (Packwood)
Sam AmidonBright Sunny South
An artist who’s work I’d been meaning to listen to for a few years dropped into my lap when I was asked to support his Australian tour earlier this year. I couldn’t have been happier! His albums are effortlessly beautiful, and his live set all the more so. Sam Amidon reworks American trad tunes from way back when into his own brand of contemporary folk. On his previous two albums he paired up with one of my favourite composers Nico Muhly (Grizzy Bear, Jonsi, Sufjan Stevens), but on Bright Sunny South he mirrored his live set – recording with minimal instrumentation as well as a few guest accompanists (most notably Jazz trumpet legend Kenny Wheeler – so, so cool). The winning track for me is “As I Roved Out” – my favourite choice for singing along to in the car when stuck in traffic. Freaks people out every time!

Christy MooreDamien Dempsey
Christy MooreWhere I Come From
A legendary Irish folk singer. 45 tracks that he wrote or had a hand in. An incredible album full of human spirit and empathy and stories and wisdom and humour, Christy is everything I aspire to be as a singer, a great role model, check out “Viva La Quint Brigada”, “Johnny Connors”, “The Boy from Tamlaghtduff”, “Lisdoonvarna”, “Whacker Humphries” or “Strange Ways”. Sublime.

The NationalIsaac Graham
The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
My brother bought me Trouble Will Find Me for my birthday this year. On his way to buy it he fell off his push bike and fractured his wrist in two places and ended up in hospital for a few days. He was all fine but the whole incident totally overshadowed my birthday. Fortunately he’d bought me such a great present so I forgave him. I’ve always had a passing interest in The National but for me this album is the perfect combination great songwriting, considered progressions, beautiful arrangements and flawless production. Not a bad song on the whole thing.

John SmithGibson Bull
John SmithGreat Lakes
There is something very honest about John’s music. You get the feeling he really believes in the songs he sings. This is certainly the case with Great Lakes. A beautiful album.

Sam BuckinghamHeyMun
Sam BuckinghamI’m A Bird
An album that tickles the senses with its dreamy folk-sical setting whilst hitting the high notes of honesty is one of the valiant traits of Sam as a musician. If she’s in love Oh, Bahbo she’ll say it’s so. If she’s got to Leave This Town, she will, but not without a song. A spirited gem in the indie music scene here in Australia, her recent live performance of this album when on tour with Buffalo Tales was a beautiful delivery of tunes that draws smiles on faces.

Kacey MusgravesFanny Lumsden
Kacey MusgravesSame Trailer Different Park
It surprised me how much I love this album so “trying to be a cool indie kid” wont fly this year for me as it’s a major label country pop album that has done it. It’s my hell yeah to “small town up-bringings” and overall is just a really well crafted album that lyrically has the right percentage of sass, apple pie and trailer parks. (Also I have serious caravan plans so it teams with the theme).

Vampire WeekendRoland K Smith
Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
I’ve been pretty slack at keeping up with new music this year, but I’m okay with that, the good stuff I missed will find its way to me eventually. One record I did enjoy was Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City. The too-cool-for-school Indie rockers seem to have made the jump out of ironic subject matter and into more emotionally effective territory. I think it works for them. The production’s great too – mixing hard blues with vocal pitch shifters in “Diane Young”, the harpsichord is put to good use in album highlight “Step”, and industrial percussion in “Obvious Bicycle”. I’ll get around to listening to more new music once Bob Dylan stops releasing his excellent Bootleg series.

Big ScaryLittle May
Big ScaryNot Art
This is an album that I can listen to on repeat for hours on end, and it reminds me of staying up until 4am drawing and drinking red wine. It is a collection of beautiful songs produced perfectly with everything in it’s rightful place.

Rhye WomanBec Sandridge
RhyeWoman
Great title, magical album cover, a beyond brilliant opening track and sob-worthy film clips. Being a sucker for tales of heartbreaking romances, understated vocal melodies and gentle synths, this Canadian duo definitely have my vote. They had me like a fool playing “Open” on repeat for weeks. (Note: I may very-well still be sobbing and smiling and listening to this track whilst typing this).

VasenGeorge Jackson (The Company)
VäsenMindset
Swedish super group Väsen have produced a new album this year featuring their trademark melodic invention and effortless virtuosity, it’s simultaneously modern while still tradition based, balancing on that fine line, like they always do, with ease. The Fiddle, Nyckelharpa and Guitar trio offers unending creativity of textures throughout the album, defying their seemingly minimal lineup, and of course, there’s plenty of Polska’s to get your feet tapping to. These guys are simply, brilliant. I’ve had Mindset on repeat in my car and on my computer and have even learnt four of the tunes already. If you haven’t heard Väsen, do yourself a favor, this is a good place to start. If you know and love them already, this new offering is another classic.

Frank SolivanMustered Courage
Frank Solivan and Dirty KitchenFrank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen
This album has everything we appreciate in modern bluegrass. Flawless three part harmonies and the kind of virtuosic pickin’ that makes you wanna sell your shit on eBay, or work a lot harder. The band has a unique and modern take of bluegrass, while still maintaining integrity to the tradition.

Buffalo TalesPerch Creek Family Jugband
Buffalo TalesRoadtrip Confessions
We first had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Wes (aka Mr Buffalo Tales) at Wintermoon Folk Festival in May this year. Great voice, great guy, great songs, great performer, and (you guessed it) great album! It’s a gold mine of catchy, rootsy folk gems that always end up stuck in our heads!

Volcano ChoirMatthew Oastler (Little Bighorn)
Volcano ChoirReprave
I thought my fascination/addiction to anything Justin Vernon did hadn’t carried over when I first listened to Repave by The Volcano Choir, however his genius, and the emotions that come with it are slow burning. It has now been the only thing I’ve listened to for 3 months, and I hear something new every time. It feels a lot more anthemic and hopeful than any of his previous works. Only a special few can make you feel like Vernon does, and this album is a classic example.

CirclesLachlan Bryan
Chris PickeringCircles
I got to know Chris on the road in the USA and each night he quietly blew me away with not only his songs, but the way he played and sang them. His music is subtle – delicate but nourishing – filled with the warmth and self-deprecation that are trademarks of his live performance. Whenever Circles comes on my iPod I am reminded that CP is a proper artist, and I can’t imagine paying a fellow songwriter a greater compliment. Bravo Sir!

Kurt VileEdward Deer
Kurt VileWakin’ on a Pretty Daze
Whenever I describe Kurt Vile’s music to someone, I manage to make it sound like something to be avoided. Really long, meandering songs with numerous guitar solos and a guy mumble-singing in almost a monotone. But the textures and atmosphere in his music are so rich and evocative. I kept coming back to this record this year, and it has to be one of my fave driving albums ever.

Volcano ChoirImogen Clark
Volcano ChoirReprave
I’ve never found another artist whose songwriting moves me quite as much as Justin Vernon of Volcano Choir and Bon Iver, which is why I couldn’t wait for this album’s release. I think the best songs often take a couple of listens before you say “yes, I get it, and I love it”, which is what happens to me every time I listen to a project Vernon has been a part of. In Repave, the vocals are so raw and the dynamics so great that it just builds you up and tears you down in a kind of frenzy of emotion. To me, the album sounds like how I imagine listening to someone’s soul would sound – completely pure, heart-wrenching, honest, complex and unpredictable. That’s why I think this record is magic.

Loren KateSarah Humphreys
Loren KateMoving On
Loren is a folk artist like no other, her songs punch me right in the heart til I’m crying my eyes out and her voice is like honey. A beautiful record.

Neko CaseAchoo! Bless You
Neko CaseThe Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
We’ve both been huge fans of Neko Case for a few years, in particular her ’06 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, what an album. This record is just awesome as well. Her voice is beautiful as usual, and her lyrics are bad ass! “Man” is a particular fave. She writes absolute cracking pop songs, and the production of her records are always really rich and lush. I particularly love the edgier kind of grit and distortion that features a fair bit on this one, Neko gettin’ back to her punk roots via whimsical pop. So good!

Ainslie WillsAlison Avron
Ainslie WillsYou Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine
This record gives me all I need in music: tingles and toe taps. The subtle and sexy grooves combined with the beautiful and rich tone of Ainslie’s vocals get me every time. “Weighing The Promises” and “Liquid Paper” are the standout tracks for me. Miss Wills is representing everything that is right about the Australian music scene.

NgaiireSam Buckingham
NgaiireLamentations
I can’t quite say why I love this album. I think it’s a combination of her voice, interesting production and the fact that it’s not like anything I’ve listened to before. It feels experimental but perfectly thought out, bold but humble, surprising but familiar … truly creative and original.

DaughterHayden Calnin
DaughterIf You Leave
I played this album on repeat for the few weeks after hearing it for the first time. It’s depressing, but motivating, which is totally my kind of jam. Stand out track was, and still is “Smother”, with the lyric “I wish I’d stayed inside my mother, never to come out” it pretty much sums up the whole album. Daughter’s blend of shoegazey guitar lines, slow bass and simple, yet well composed drum lines, matched up with her gorgeous vocals and lyrics, is so mature, intricate and worth a listen.

Ainslie WillsAll Our Exes Live In Texas
Ainslie WillsYou Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine
The vocals and arrangements are incredible and Ainslie’s lyrics are so evocative. We particularly love “Liquid Paper” – such a universal sentiment. We listened to the entire album about a million times in the van on the way back to Sydney after we played a show with her in Melbourne. She also happens to be an amazingly good egg.

Mark KnopflerThe April Maze
Mark KnopflerPrivateering
This is actually a 2012 release but we only just discovered it … So it is new to us! A friend of ours who had toured with Mark Knopfler made us a mix CD for our Canadian tour and one of his songs was on there – we loved it, so we went online and bought the rest of the album. It is fantastic. It really takes you on a journey – lots of ups and downs and there are lots of goosebump moments. Our favourite tracks are “Haul Away” and “Kingdom of Gold” – these songs are super folky, just the way we like it. The production and instrumentation are spot on. This is a truly inspirational album for any songwriter. 100 stars.

JoJo SmithLucie Thorne
JoJo SmithStanding In The Lovelight
When it comes to soul not much beats being in the same room as JoJo Smith singing straight in to your heart. But this mighty collection – from one of our mightiest vocalists – comes pretty darn close. A national treasure!

Abbe MaySweet Jean
Abbe MayKiss My Apocalypse
Abbe May’s album is a blistering synth pop romp that takes you through all the ups and downs of imploding love. One of the many great things about this album is that she doesn’t “tell you about her feelings”. Instead, every song actually makes you feel something as a listener, which can be both uncomfortable and uplifting. It’s a funny, dark, smart, poignant and really well put together album.

The NationalEmily Barker
The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
I picked up this record just before heading out on a solo tour across the UK. It was a beautiful summer and I was driving myself around the country doing record shop in-stores and promoting our new record. Trouble Will Find Me quickly became my driving soundtrack. The songs are fantastic. Brilliant lyrics: a combination of abstract, ironic, heartfelt and just plain silly sometimes (ie. “I was teething on roses, I was in guns and noses”). I love the effortlessly, out-of-the-ordinary time signatures they use; the epic, but still intimate, production value; the melodies and arrangements; and Matt Berninger’s croonery, deep voice is always killer. A great record to drive to!

LordeRosie Catalano
LordePure Heroine
Given that we’re in an age where number one singles are as much about taking bootylicious selfies as writing good music, it took me a while to figure out how Lorde managed to dominate the Billboard charts, especially as my initial listen to her album Pure Heroine didn’t register highly on the excitement scale. I’ve happily eaten my words since then as Lorde and her producer Joel Little are a match made in heaven – the harmonies are beautiful, her lyrics take me to another world (albeit a teen world that I’m not sure I’d like to go back to), and I have a soft spot for Kiwis.

Mali MaliJack Carty
Mali MaliGather ’round the Goose Clock
I love this record because it feels anxious and intimate and fragile. The songs are strong, and tell their stories, but they go about it quietly so you really have to tune in to catch them. “Peace In My Chest” is the highlight for me, it feels like an affirmation.

Vance JoyPierce Brothers
Vance JoyGod Loves You When You’re Dancing
Since seeing him at The Hills Are Alive festival earlier this year, we picked up this EP. It’s a soulful and beautifully paced EP with awesome range from the indie pop rhythms of “Riptide” to the heartfelt and intimate lyrics of “Snaggletooth”. The crescendo in “From Afar” is our favourite. Well done sir. Well done indeed.

PikeletRose Wintergreen
PikeletCalluses
Entrancing from the very first listen (start with the track “Calluses”), this album still tickles my brain in unexpected and exciting ways. I’m not sure I understand it, but it’s unlike anything else I’ve heard, and I keep going back for more. YES!

Mark MoldreJessica Cassar (Jep & Dep)
Mark MoldreAn Ear To The Earth
If Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy were pushed out to sea in a rickety old boat they’d come up with something like this. Mark Moldre’s An Ear to the Earth is a boisterous yet soulful musical journey worth the fare. You’ll be stomping and crying and laughing, and if you’re lucky to catch Moldre live, you’ll be doing all three with a whiskey in hand.

PowerlinesBeth Stephen (The Little Stevies)
Mustered CouragePowerlines
I’m a sucker for great harmonies and catchy melodies, and Mustered Courages’ album Powerlines has both, so I’m a big fan. Powerlines was produced by Jimi Maroudas, who also produced our first album Love Your Band. And for me it ticks all the boxes of a great album. The songs remind me of those off Foggy Highway, by Paul Kelly and The Stormwater Boys; strong and well-constructed, front and centre. Followed secondly by great musicianship and vocal harmony to present the full kick-ass package. And although their musicianship is apparent, luckily for these talented lads their songs don’t need to be dressed up head to toe in an overkill of instrumental licks to try and hide a weak song, but instead have successfully shown off their musicianship when it counts and in a very tasteful way. When I listen to the album I hear it as a collection of great pop songs first, and secondly as a bluegrass album. And in my opinion I think that’s clever, and the sign of good bunch of songwriters. There’s also nothing more impressive than when a group can reproduce an already top-notch studio album to an even higher standard live, and that’s what Mustered Courage can do. It’s a tasteful album, one of great energy and diversity in mood and who sings the lead on each song, and I recommend a listen to anyone who calls themselves a music lover.

ArcWhitaker
Everything EverythingArc
The perfect sophomore release, Arc built on all that was good about Everything Everything’s punchy, dramatic and down-right enviable musical style presented by their debut album three years prior. It’s the kind of record we listen to and think “Man, how did they do this? How can we do this?” as we listen through every track on repeat. Incredible production – good luck topping that one boys (they will)!

Vance JoyMark Wilkinson
Vance JoyGod Loves You When You’re Dancing
Emotive vocals and great songs. “Riptide” has obviously been huge, but the rest of the EP really stands up as well.

AgapeCastlecomer
Bear’s DenAgape
Bear’s Den produce an organic brand of music that resonates in its beautiful and powerful simplicity. Disarmingly honest lyrics accompany soaring and often haunting melodies backed by 3-part harmonies, and there are obvious folk influences to their songwriting. These guys are a must-see live act, and seem to be going from strength to strength, recently following up in magnificent style with their new EP Without/Within. There is an unassuming and captivating charm in this EP that is hard to resist.

HaimImogen Bel
HAIMDays Are Gone
There seemed to be a lot of highly anticipated releases this year, and for whatever reason, I missed out on a lot of them! One band that caught my attention early on however, was HAIM. This is a really solid album – so many hooks jam packed into each song, both melodically and rhythmically. I love that these girls obviously love pop music, but they play around with structures and mix things up to keep it fresh and surprising. They are obviously very accomplished musicians but they never let it get in the way of creating fun, interesting pop music. Standout tracks: “The Wire”, “Don’t Save Me”, “Go Slow” (no filler on this album though!).

Steal The LightKyle Vause (The Timbers)
The Cat EmpireSteal The Light
This is my favorite Cat Empire album to date. I seriously can’t fault this album, every song is a winner. My top three tracks off this album are “Still Young”, “Open Up Your Face” and probably the first single “Brighter Than Gold”.

Lucy WiseNigel Wearne
Lucy Wise & The B’GolliesWhen We Wander Far From Home
It makes me very happy to nominate this album as my favourite for 2013. The first time I heard Lucy Wise, I was struck by the originality and honesty of her songwriting. There are so many layers at work in this ten song offering. She’s included songs about organic farming and broken families, sailing, family connections, sculpture gardens and even Google Earth! Three members of the B’Gollies double in their own right as The Sting Contingent and they, with Mischa Herman on accordion, bring sophistication and tastefully woven arrangements to Lucy’s beautiful songs. “Lay of the Land” and “Mother’s Song” are stand-out tracks. A slow-burner that keeps giving.

InnocentsKate Martin
MobyInnocents
This was difficult to narrow down so I’ll say that ONE of my favourite LPs of 2013 is Innocents by Moby. Seven of the twelve tracks are collabs, it’s nice cross-pollination. The highlight track for me is a very moving instrumental called “Going Wrong”.

Step BrothersAidan Cooney (Boy Outside)
PalmsStep Brothers
A vehicle back to care free summers that lasted for ever. Yes that feeling. Play loud! Jump around aimlessly. Throw shapes at friends. A real shot in the arm. This shit works.

Josh PykeDan Acfield (Dan and Hannah Acfield)
Josh PykeThe Beginning And The End Of Everything
I must admit that although I’ve been listening to lots of music that’s new to me this year, most of it was not actually released this year! However, I have been enjoying Josh Pyke’s recent release The Beginning and End of Everything. After watching Josh Pyke perform tunes from this album from side of stage earlier in the year, I went home and immediately purchased the album. It’s deliciously folk-pop with that special (but evolved) Josh flavour which is quite difficult to not enjoy.

Josh RitterJack McNeill and Charlie Heys
Josh RitterThe Beast in Its Tracks
Josh Ritter has always been a favourite listen, he seems to grow more subtly insightful with each new album. A thoughtfully connected collection with the ghost of the Golden Age of Radio walking quietly through it. Ritter has the knack of catching you off-guard, gifted with a quiet wit, a sharper tongue than most and a real eye for the detail.

Warp and WeftEmma Davis
Laura VeirsWarp and Weft
Laura Veirs makes me happy. In fact, I think I would go as far as saying, I love her. Her unique way of phrasing things, her incredible ability to put into words the way that nature effects us, the delicate but interesting production- I couldn’t get enough. Laura’s newest release, Warp and Weft once again seems to deliver that Veirs-y charm that I have grown fond of. It is definitely a more mature album than Saltbreakers and the slightly Fleet-Foxy previous album July Flame. Some of the tracks are a little rockier with the beefy sounds of her Gibson shining through, and the arrangements are loaded full of weird and wonderful instruments, but the songs don’t seem to get lost at any point. Every little thing has its place and works together to carry her strong melodies and endearing way with words. As with her past releases, the album works well as a entire composition, so a little listening time is needed to start appreciating the tracks separately, but I think it makes this record a real grower. Overall, it’s a beautiful and carefully produced album that seems to communicate the warmth of nature and our place in it, so darn well.

Melt Yourself DownJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Melt Yourself DownMelt Yourself Down
This debut is most original album I heard all year, a mix of electronics and afrobeat that is dark and danceable. Saturated sax riffs and tribal drums collide and make me feel euphoric that there’s still sounds out there I haven’t heard. What a great feeling to evoke in a listener!

LuxGordon Wallace (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
AfenginnLux
My album pick of 2013 is Lux by Danish band Afenginn. I have been a fan of the band’s “bastard ethnopunk” for a while now and their back catalog is well worth checking out. Lux is their latest offering and has quite a chilled out/ambient vibe and the most amazing fold-the-cd-digipak-into-a-lantern I have ever seen! Last year we realized we would cross paths at a festival in Sweden, so met Kim the main composer and became friends. The outcome of that is that they will be in Sydney playing at the Basement on the 16th January and Crooked Fiddle are lucky enough to be playing support! A great success of cross-continental mutual musical appreciation!

Big ScaryMark Leahy The Twoks
Big ScaryNot Art
After listening to Not Art I cannot help but walk around with a bounce in my step. This album is so confident, so diverse, so intricate and yet really simple. Fantastic production and really great songwriting. The performances have such dark commitment and awesome personality about them that I cannot help but love it.

Lucy WiseEmily-Rose Sarkova (Chaika)
Lucy Wise & The B’GolliesWhen We Wander Far From Home
I would say Lucy Wise’s newest album, When We Wander Far From Home. Her incredibly personal way of writing songs seems to capture so perfectly the very small delicate goings on of everyday life as well as the touching poignantly on deep environmental and social issues. All in a collection of songs that are truly beautiful and you cannot help but want to sing along with her.

The HeistCJ Shaw (CJ Shaw and the Blow Ins)
I have two:
Big ScaryNot Art
Beautiful and purposeful. Every nook and cranny of this album has been sculpted with the up most of care.
Macklemore and Ryan LewisThe Heist
A powerhouse. Big sound, big ego, big belief, big purpose. It is big and wonderful, makes you think and groove. It enlights and inspires.

Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2013

Vinyl Records

2013 has provided yet another year of amazing music from the folk, acoustic, traditional, roots, alt-country and singer-songwriter scene. There’s been a number of strong local releases this year and some definite highlights from our favourite artists from overseas.

This also feels like a year where more artists are embracing the full length album again. There have been some outstanding EPs and standalone singles of course but the album format really seems to have made a resurgence.

Once again we’ve asked each of the Timber and Steel contributors to give us their favourite albums or EPs of 2013 and the results are once again eclectic, interesting and most certainly unique.

So without further ado we bring you Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2013:

Gareth Hugh Evans

Melody Pool

1. Melody PoolThe Hurting Scene
At the Gulgong Folk Festival in early January I stumbled across Melody Pool and was transfixed. Pool’s music was both timeless and fresh. Her sound was a dash of Laura Marling, a smattering of Emmylou Harris and a generous dose of Joni Mitchell but all the while unique. I’ve heard people refer to Melody Pool as an “old soul” and think that captures her – there’s a depth and an age to her lyrics and her voice that you don’t hear in artists twice her age. When I picked up The Hurting Scene following its release a month or two after the festival it was put on high rotation and I was reminded just what had captured me when I saw her live. I’ve recommended The Hurting Scene and Melody Pool to everyone since, seen her live a number of times throughout the year and even awkwardly chatted to her when she support The Milk Carton Kids. I think there’s big things in Melody Pool’s future – pick up The Hurting Scene and you’ll think so too.

2. Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson HamerChild Ballads
3. Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle
4. Patrick JamesAll About to Change
5. Gregory Alan IsakovThe Weatherman

HannahA

Melody Pool

1. Melody PoolThe Hurting Scene

The song writing on this album is skillful and honest – I love that. Additionally I’m partial to a great singer, Melody has a sweet delicious voice that draws me into the song. Finally, I liked the production which had interesting space and dynamics. And those rich string arrangements are just gorgeous!

2. Mustered CouragePowerlines
3. Dan ParsonsDan Parsons
4. Rose CousinsWe Have Made a Spark
5. Matt CorbyResolution EP

Haz

The Melodic
1. The MelodicEffra Parade

This is an album that immediately brought a smile to my face. A blend of traditional folk harmonies, older (even baroque!) instruments, tied together with afro-latino rhythms and strings of the charango, and the ever present melodica of their namesake. For me comparisons include the hugely underrated Grand Union, the music of Paul Simon, the bass driven melancholy of Australia’s Sodastream, and certainly, as a number of other reviewers have mentioned, The Decemberists. All comparisons considered, this is an upbeat album, that is lyrically adventurous, and interspersed with story, without being at all heavy. Though released for the colder UK months, Effra Parade sits coolly and comfortably in the summer of the southern hemisphere, that can (and will!) accompany many a lazy Sunday cocktail or weekend roadtrip.

2. The Heavy BlinkersHealth
3. Twin ForksTwin Forks EP
4. The Avett BrothersMagpie and the Dandelion
5. Jim JamesRegions of Light and Sound of God

JDX

Laura Marling

1. Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle

In this album’s first single “Master Hunter”, which is a statement in itself, Marling swaggers and snarls in front of her pounding rhythm section. “I’ve cured my skin, so nothing gets in. Nothing as hard as it tries.” A friend said she sounded kind of scary. I like that. I like to think this is a protest album against gender stereotypes, but she’s much more than a woman scorned. The music is sparse, sprawling, full of odd angles and surprises. Sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes it’s beautiful. But it’s her voice that always catches me off guard. It’s one of the most expressive instruments in music. And that’s what this is about. With all the lush musicianship stripped away, Marling proves once again that she is one of the most intriguing and independent voices in 21st century music. And if this album isn’t considered a classic, it’s only because the next one will be better.

2. The Cat EmpireSteal the Light
3. The Milk Carton KidsThe Ash and Clay
4. Mama Kinthe Magician’s Daughter
5. Brighter LaterThe Wolves

KT Bell

Mabon

1. Jamie Smith’s MabonWindblown
I came across Jamie Smith’s Mabon at a London gig earlier this year, Wales at Cecil Sharp House, and they were the stand out for me wherein I bought their latest album, Windblown, on the spot. Since then, this lyrical and lilting Welsh Folk has strummed and jigged its way in to my heart and is one of the most frequent spins on my playlist. Stu decided it’s the type of house music for a Welsh Bar, so if you see such an establishment pop up here in Australia, don’t be surprised to see us behind the bar.
2. Mike VassDecemberwell
3. Paper AeroplanesLittle Letters
4. Boy & BearHarlequin Dream
5. Josh PykeThe Beginning And The End Of Everything

Mackajay

Anais Mitchell

1. Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson HamerChild Ballads

When I first listened to this album I was immediately impressed by the way the modern, American arrangements breathed new life into these old, old English ballads. What is far more surprising is that I am still finding the album fresh and inspiring many months later. This is my clear winner this because of it’s routinely high rotation on my stereo.

2. Vance JoyGod Loves You When You’re Dancing
3. Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle
4. Laura ViersWarp and Weft
5. Boy & BearHarlequin Dream

Nikita Andrea

Jordie Lane

1. Jordie LaneNot Built to Last

Devoid of cliché, this ultimate storyteller voices lyrics of the present moment through warming crystalline vocals. This release is a welcome sound evolution of Lane’s alternative country style. I chose Not Built to Last because for one this is an EP showcasing songs that clearly prove this musician has something to say and also for the fact that I heavily dislike anything country so this man should be heavily commended for bringing such full and palatable music to the table for all tasters.

2. Bob EvansFamiliar Stranger
3. Oh Pep!II
4. Bears With GunsOnly The Quick and the Hungry
5. Sleepy DreamersCreatures

Serena Skye

Mama Kin

1. Mama KinThe Magician’s Daughter

I liked this album from the outset, when I first reviewed it, and throughout the year it has grown on me even more. Danielle Caruana’s vocal is sublime, and each track offers a different vibe both sonically and emotionally, but they still work together as a cohesive album. “Bosom of Our Bed” is still my favourite track, closely followed by “Rescue,” and I cannot wait to see their next offering.

2. The Cat EmpireSteal the Light
3. Vance JoyGod Loves You When You’re Dancing
4. Laura MarlingOnce I was an Eagle
5. Melanie HorsnellThe Cloud Appreciation Society

Thom Owen Miles

Phosphorescet

1. PhosphorescentMuchacho

Despite Phosphorescent consistently releasing album after album for the past ten years, Muchacho is the first to truly appeal to me and capture my imagination. Muchacho is a product of tall ambition, of bold choices and unfettered creative vision. For an indie-folk record, it is delightfully untraditional in its production and utilisation of mediums unfamiliar to the genre. “Song For Zula” is perhaps the best song to speak for the album, in all its poetic bliss and compositional glory.

2. Radical FaceThe Family Tree: The Branches
3. The Milk Carton KidsThe Ash & Clay
4. Brown BirdFits of Reason
5. Night BedsCountry Sleep

The New Year Conundrum

Every year as the calendar days roll by, friends and family start asking the inevitable questions about what you are doing for Christmas and New Year. In the past, there has been a good range of folk friendly festivals stretching up and down the East Coast of Australia for eager punters to choose from, but with the demise of both Pyramid Rock Festival and Peats Ridge Festival, it shrinks the obvious choices down to Woodford Folk Festival and The Falls Festival (which has conveniently added a new venue/ location for the 2013/14 event).

But, what if you’re not after a big and busy festival for your New Year’s celebrations? Well, let’s take a look at what’s on offer, both the big guns and the ones you might not have come across yet.

Woodford Folk Festival – Woodford, QLD

Woodford Cart

Undeniably one of the largest festivals in Australia, it has been repeatedly nominated for all kinds of awards in the events and tourism industries and remains one of my favourite festivals of all time, even if only for a 35 hour experience, I’d love to go back (but sadly, not this year). Based on their own site (Woodfordia, about one hour north of Brisbane), The Queensland Folk Federation have delivered outstanding line ups year after year and offer a range of musical acts and arts activities for all ages making this festival easy for the whole family to attend. While this year’s line up hasn’t yet been announced, we would put money on it being another outstanding list of great musicians from around the world, a quick glance through the 2012/13 programme book will attest to that.

Tickets and camping are still available at pre-festival web prices up until Christmas Eve, or if you’re feeling the pinch, they are always looking for willing volunteers who gain free entry in return for their help before, during or after the festival. Highlights of Woodford, apart from the amazing line up (in which we would name almost ever artist we’ve covered on  Timber and Steel if we were to list past festival performers), includes the huge range of workshops, crafts and activities for all ages to participate in, the exciting range of food and stalls available on site, the breathtaking lantern parade and the penultimate fire event bringing in the New Year. Completely safe for the whole family with plenty for the young and young at heart, if you haven’t been to Woodford, it is probably the festival I would tell everyone to go to no matter what their musical leaning. Don’t believe me? Check out their latest promo video:

The Falls Festival – Lorne Vic, Marion Bay Tas and Byron Bay NSW

Falls Festival, Lorne, 2008, Music Festival

Now, before I get you all excited, tickets for two of the three sites have sold out, tickets are now only available for Marion Bay in Tasmania. So, for those of you already with tickets to Lorne or Byron Bay, I’m only going to be reaffirming your excellent choice in festival for the New Year period. I went along for the 2011/12 festival in Lorne Vic and discovered an experience I had not anticipated, it was so big it required multiple small reviews, no single post could encapsulate it all. 2013 is the first year they’ve expanded to Byron Bay (which has successfully hosted Splendor in the Grass and nearby is the home of Bluesfest) so there is no hesitation that a New Year’s festival will have any trouble in such esteemed company.

Just like Woodford, The Falls Festival is not just a music festival, it has a vast array of arts workshops and experiences to keep every punter engaged no matter their hangover or musical interests, from themed days and fiesta’s through to art attacks. For those thinking still and wondering about Marion Bay, we can confirm it is a kid friendly event meaning, like Woodford, the whole family can come along and enjoy the line up.

Speaking of line ups, since The Falls Festival is not exclusively a folk festival, it means the artists cover a range of styles but still features some of our favourites including Emma Louise, Gossling, Grizzly Bear, Neil Finn, The Cat Empire, The Paper Kites, The Preachers and a whole lot more that we’d love to check out live. For the full line up, visit the listing on their website.

If you’re heading to the Byron Bay site and haven’t decided whether to camp, glamp or swag it, all the accomodation options are available on the Falls Festival travel page including the incredibly groovy Tepee Life village (Tepee Life also available in Marion Bay).

And if the idea of heading to Tasmania isn’t immediately appealing, just pause for a moment to consider the great adventure you could embark on. Not only do you get to head to one of the most pristine and beautiful forest areas within Australia and see some of the best acts around (including voting by Oct 31 in the Foster A Band competition to choose a local band to grace the stage), you can also take advantage of the 29 December start date to have an adventure around Hobart and broader Tasmania before bringing in the New Year!

If you’re struggling to decide, or wish you’d got a ticket to Lorne or Byron Bay, don’t despair, there are a few more options including applying for an Art Camp at any of the three sites to create the artistic heart and soul of the festival, and includes a coveted ticket to the festival. If you’re not so artistically inclined, but don’t mind a bit of work, volunteer applications are still open for Marion Bay.

Now, I move out of my comfort zone to two festival’s I’ve never been to!

Gulgong Folk Festival – Gulgong NSW

Dancing Gulgong Folk Festival by Flickr member farmgrovePhoto courtesy of Flickr member farmgrove

Technically not actually a New Year’s festival, the Gulgong Festival (which Gareth enjoyed earlier this year) takes place over the weekend immediately prior, 28 and 29 December 2013, making it a good option for those who have to work those pesky week days between the public holidays – if you’re in NSW and can manage a drive out to Gulgong that is. However, it’s also a great option for people that want a folky fix AND their big city New Year’s party as you could manage both pretty easily. If a nice jaunt out to Mudgee isn’t tempting enough, what if I told you tickets were free? I kid you not.

There’s no obvious camping options unless you seek out a camping ground but their website does list a number of motels and accommodation options, and really who doesn’t like a trip out in to the countryside and a good B&B to see you through?

Again, their line up is not announced yet, but with past acts like Jack Carty, The Falls, Mustered Courage, April Maze, we’re pretty confident it will be an impressive selection. A little birdy has shared some inside information that Daniel Champagne, Melanie Horsnell, Alan Caswell, Big Erle and Matt Southon may well make appearances *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Nariel-Creek Folk Festival – Nariel Creek Vic

Vendulka performing at the Nariel-Creek Folk FestivalVendulka on stage. Photo courtesy of Nariel-Creek Folk Festival

A beaut little festival in regional Victoria (North East for those playing at home) which looks to be the kind of scale of The Gum Ball or Corinbank and equally delightful feel for all the family. They went simple in their online presence – a facebook page only, having pulled down their website earlier in the year. Tickets are cheap at $20 a head and available at the door, camping is an incredibly low $5/ night and you can turn up early and stay late if you really want. No idea who is on their bill, but in honesty, it just looks like an amazing and relaxed way to spend a New Year’s, especially if you want to avoid the crowds! Plus there is ample opportunity to dress up for the fun of it with plenty of great shots of their past New Year’s Even cocktail parties on their facebook page.

Gum Ball Crowd

An honourable mention goes to The Gum Ball, who last month put the call out online to see who might be inclined to turn up at their Dashville property for a New Year’s Gum Ball-esque event. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough interest to make anything happen this year, but if you’re keen to see a New Year festival in the Hunter Valley for future years, we think heading to the 2014 Gum Ball and making noises at the organisers might help them decide to go ahead in 2014.

So, where are you spending New Year’s? We’re still considering the conundrum ourselves!

Review: Womadelaide 2013

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All Photographs courtesy of Arcade Photo

In recent years Womadelaide has given folkies as much to be excited about as just about any other festival, barring the likes of Bluesfest or Woodford Folk. In previous years we’ve seen high profile acts like First Aid Kit, Luka Bloom, Joanna Newsom, Archie Roach & Angus and Julia Stone but a surprising list of fantastic, relatively unknown international artists which gives the festival a distinct appeal to anyone who approaches the event with an open mind, ready to discover something exotic and amazing.

Womad 2k13 Bands-23One of the great things about Womadelaide to me as an Adelaidian is that it’s a constant. I can rely on it, which sounds trivial but it’s something that almost every other festival can’t live up to. I can rely on the music programming to be insightful, contrasting and varied and the quality of sound to be to the highest standard. I can rely on there being great food, enough water, and adequate toilets. I can rely on the fact that I won’t be abused or harassed by drunken bullies and I won’t get into a situation where I’m going to be cramped or trampled. I can rely on having a good, relaxing weekend shared with friends and for that reason I think it has become sacred to a lot of people. Womadelaide has been running for 21 years now and I suppose they’ve essentially perfected it because for as long as I’ve been attending the festival it’s kept the same site layout, precincts, stages and amenities, which definitely contributes to the comfort levels of repeat attendees.

For the last 3 years (at least) the festival has spanned 4 days to include the Friday night before the weekend and the Adelaide Cup public holiday on the Monday following. The great thing about this is that it’s quite commonplace for artists to have more than one performance during the festival, which allows the flexibility to get around clashing set-times or prior engagements (which is a very real danger during the peak of Adelaide’s mad march festival season).

Womad 2k13 Bands-12The Friday night was the major event of my Womadelaide. Undoubtedly the atmosphere was at its most electrifying and everybody I spoke to was restless with anticipation for The Tallest Man On Earth, aka Swedish folk singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson. The Tallest Man On Earth has been one of my favorite artists ever since I first discovered his debut album Shallow Graves in 2009. That was an exciting time in this generation’s indie-folk revival, and Matsson has been contributing increasingly jaw-dropping works since. I had the enormous pleasure of seeing The Tallest Man On Earth perform last year at Womadelaide’s spin-off festival Earth Station that was held in the Belair National Park. Since that time he’s released a brand new album There’s No Leaving Now, which was largely the focus of his Womadelaide 2013 performance. Here’s what Timber & Steel contributor JDX had to say about the album;

“I was more than just a coward. I was handsome too”. One of the best opening lyrics I’ve ever heard. I was in a doctors’ waiting room; the venue for many of my musical discoveries. Kristian Matsson’s intricate chords, his sweeping melodies, his metaphors, sharp, yet brittle, stole me from the moment, as my favourite folk music always does. Matsson said There’s No Leaving Now was about wanting to deal with your own weaknesses. I felt weak. This album made me feel stronger. I could write reams about imagery, or interpretation, about how “Bright Lanterns” is the world’s best post-colonial protest song, about how this isn’t The Wild Hunt and whether that matters. But then I’d be saying too much.

Powerful right? I think that testimonial is representative of the command Matsson has on an audience. When I turned around to survey behind me from the front of Stage 3 during the set I saw a sea of affected faces- it stole us all for the better part of an hour.

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Matsson enters the stage and starts to play without a hint of ado, without a moment to feed his ego with the applause of an adoring mass as if to break the audience’s shackles with reality, their awareness of their surroundings and prepare them to experience the music and only the music. That’s not to say that his performance lacks humanity. Matsson is constantly, unashamedly, physically affected by his music during his performance, which can appear quite unique and peculiar at first but also allows the audience to feel uninhibited. Sometimes he assumes the famous one-legged stance of Jethro Tull flautist/front man Ian Anderson, and at other times he briskly whips back and forth the front of stage like a flamboyant magician showing the audience his empty hands before performing a trick. As per usual, The Tallest Man On Earth performed all by his lonesome until he was joined by a female vocalist (unknown to me) for a song towards the end of his set. Matsson’s trademark open-tuning, quick finger-picking guitar technique never ceases to amaze me. Among the songs from his latest album such as “1904”, “Wind and Walls”, “Leading Me Now”, and “Revelation Blues”, Matsson delved back into his back catalogue for some of his most moving tunes like “Love Is All”, “King of Spain” and “Like The Wheel” and even further back to tracks like “The Gardener”, “Where Do My Bluebirds Fly” and “I Won’t Be Found” from his debut. Below is a live version of one of my favorite tracks from his latest album for anyone who wants on the bandwagon.

Womad 2k13 Bands-25The next act I saw was the hyped Melbourne soul troupe Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes, who I’d seen for the first time nearly exactly a year ago supporting Charles Bradley at Adelaide Festival’s Barrio club in 2012. The energetic horn section and spritely back-up singers gave a fantastic excitement to the show and provide the ideal backdrop for diva-queen Ms. Browne to stun the crowd with her powerful-as-all-hell vocals. You’d have all heard her tune “Love Letter” on the radio at some point, but if her Womadelaide 2013 performance proved anything to me it’s that Clairy’s not just a one trick pony.

Before calling it a night I caught the first part of The Cat Empire’s set. The enormous crowd that had gathered to the main stage was probably the biggest of the festival and really just goes to show that the Melbourne collective still has the pulling power to the “world-music” audience, even if their new tunes aren’t quite taking to “youth-radio” like they used to.

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Unfortunately suffering from heat exhaustion brought on by an ill-fated attempt to play a Saturday morning soccer game in the high 30 degree, humid conditions, I missed out on much of the acts over Womadelaide’s Saturday and Sunday, although made it for at least a couple of hours on both days. If there’s one thing for certain, this Womadelaide was the hottest in recent years, being mid-to-high thirties for the whole weekend. All of the acts that I saw on Saturday I came across by complete accident. I delightfully observed indigenous Arnhem Land act East Journey for a few minutes before finding my way to the Morteton Bay Stage to catch a few tunes from contemporary Scottish folk group LAU. Despite being someone who is less inspired by the trad spectrum of folk music, I was incredibly impressed by the musicianship on display and could easily imagine their performance erupting into an unbridled ruckus in a smaller, enclosed venue.

Before calling it a day I stole a moment with both a genre defying group of Parisian-expats called Moriarty and a beautiful, sparse performance on an ancient discarded instrument, the viola da gamba, from viola guru Jordi Savall.

Despite lingering sickness I decided to head into botanic park on Sunday for two performances that I’d eagerly been anticipating, Mia Dyson and Abigail Washburn. Although Mia Dyson is a very well known Australian Rock/Blues & Roots artist, I think the height of her fame must have fallen slightly before my time. I was familiar with her name but not her work, despite her being widely touted by the Blues & Roots community in Adelaide and her being one of the intensely publicized headliners for last year’s Backwater Blues & Roots Festival in SA. To put it simply, I was stunned by Dyson’s Womadelaide performance. Her voice was just so intense and faultless. It made me wonder why I had never heard her music before? Perhaps her style falls on the “Adult Contemporary” side of blues/rock, rather than the “indie” side that’s considered fair game for mainstream radio… This reminded me of an interview article I read on Fasterlouder with Jen Cloher called “Why we need a Triple J for adults”- an Australian artist who’s probably been pigeonholed in the same way as Dyson. Well worth a read.

I caught Abigail Washburn’s second performance of Womadelaide with her current collaborator Kai Welch and found it equally as enlightening as it was entertaining. I had listened to Washburn’s most recent record only a couple of times. As an amateur banjo picker I’m always interested to listen to how the instrument is being used in new music and Washburn is renowned the world over for the use of that Scruggs-style clawhammer banjo in her music. What I didn’t realize was that Washburn’s obvious Appalachian/bluegrass influences are supplemented by strong ties with Chinese culture. Washburn has spent a lot of time in China writing and playing music, speaks the language fluently and draws from the culture in her music. The blend makes for an intriguing result, but is not at all gimmicky. Washburn and Welch had the crowd singing in Chinese and told stories of their shared time in the country following the ravaging earthquakes. In terms of performance, she and Welch played off each other wonderfully, hitting impossible harmonies without falter. Washburn even felt the energy to get up and clog along to a tune despite her obvious pregnancy. She did a TED talk that I found very interesting. Watch below.

Womad 2k13 Bands-48On Monday I was joined by some old friends so I spent the day less intent on seeing performances and more dedicated to catching up. Throughout the day I managed to catch sets from hearty New Zealand blues duo Swamp Thing and UK fiddle prodigy/trad heart throb  Seth Lakeman. I also had the Timber & Steel photographer playing paparazzi for an photo-article called “Beards of Womadelaide 2013”, which I would sternly urge you all to visit.

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