Woodford in a Nutshell


Photos by Stuart Bucknell, full album on our Facebook page

Timber and Steel loves a good festival, and Woodford is no exception. The premiere Folk Festival is forever growing and developing to highlight and showcase both the beauty of the natural surrounds, and a diverse array of musical greats and emerging artists.

The beauty of Woodford is it’s a week long festival, culminating in a liminal Fire Event timed to usher in the new year rising from the ashes of the old. However, even someone only able to attend for two to three days can still catch a majority of the performers, and be immersed in a whole other world, where music reigns supreme, and almost every interest is catered too.

For the 2018/19 Woodford experience, our intrepid reporters spent a little over 2 days exploring Woodford’s many stages and acts.

Bright and early on the Friday morning of Woodford, our two trepidation reporters trundled in to Woodfordia. It’s been an age since we last visited but it still felt like home. In our brief visit, we caught as many acts as we could, here are our highlights.

Our first stop was to catch the Hussy Hicks and in spite of the early time of day, The Pineapple Lounge was PACKED! Their healthy rhythms kept every foot tapping as the days’ heat began to rise. Their musical passion was on display as Through The Windmill enthralled the throngs and the hot guitar interlude had the crowd cheering. The dynamic duo’s strong connection on stage commanded all attention and ensured rapturous applause. See our photos online.

Mark Lang (of Skipping Girl Vinegar fame)’s only Woodford set had something for everyone, whether you were a fan or new to Lang’s melodic storytelling. With tunes “for our good friend Donald Trump”, to songs about “letting go of all your frustrations”, or just a true reminder of “living in the now, living in the present”, Lang proved time and time again how his music welcomes audiences, connects, and entices them to participate, punching the air hammering home political commentary, or singing along in full voice. See our photos online.

The Strangest Dreamers delivered a dreamy set of layers and stories to entreat and enchant. They had us with a bluesy lament, kept us with a song from the history books of Joe Hill, about The Rebel Girl Elizabeth Gurley Flynn; and delighted us as they trilled through their eclectic set of fun and frivolity. See our photos online.

Scandinavian fiddle trio Fru Skagerrak had the crowd clapping along from the very opening. Their trad style fiddle to warmed up the crowd as we all enjoyed a refreshing brew. Their skill and prowess shone on stage, the sensitivity of every nuance and note had us enraptured, and Scandinavia’s best was truly in fine form for all to see. Though something tells me this may have been their mellow set, for the daytime crowd… See our photos online.

Lindsay Lou gave us a delectable Americana, full of sass treating us to a set full of songs like Sugar with beautiful harmonised backing vocals, mandolin, and just the right amount of funk to give it that tap along beat. Her delightful accent trilled through the lyrics giving them a lively interplay amongst the skilled musicianship of the tight knit group. Stunt Double, written for her brother, gave a deeper, more earthy opening with lyrics and vibe reminiscent of a Missy Higgins style tale. Her cover of Bill Withers’ I Wish You Well showcased that she is sunshine personified on stage. See our photos online.

The Halcyon stage, we could hardly catch a view of The Fergies as they absolutely packed out the place, and the humans filling the space moved as one to their fun, upbeat, frivolity. They were the name on lips around the festival, ‘did you see The Fergies??’ See our photos online.

Tullara seemed like a dark horse, but the beautiful harmonies proved it was a golden set to capture. Joined on stage at times by additional friends, she delivered heartfelt and raw honesty with tales of her life through song. Particularly beautiful and melancholic was the emotive Five Weeks which then lead in to Six Months – a powerful storytelling experience for the audience.

The Loveys were perhaps the most aptly named act, with classic one liners, witty remarks and sensational sense of style teamed with dulcet tones and a European Cabaret vibe. I never thought I would say the words “she is rocking the bassoon” but here I was, saying them out loud to a bassoon solo. Their set had everything from a comedic lament about old age, to a lullaby about dementia Daddy Joined The Circus, and the terrific harmonies in Beautiful Woman dedicated to a French cross dresser.It was a set that caught you off guard at the same time as being completely in tune with the vivacious women. At one point I realised the drummer was playing a tea cup. Literally, rhythm section on a tea cup – and that of course was perfectly normal and in tune. They had the whole audience clapping along, and to no surprise, inspired a standing ovation.

The Cat Empire can always be relied on to bring the party to any hill, dale or amphitheatre, and Woodford was no exception. With an extensive back catalog mixed in with new album songs, their set was utter decadence from start to finish. Their new songs like Killer, and unreleased Anybody, demonstrated the enthusiasm for their infectious brand of music, playing homage to The Cat Empire of old while injecting some of their newer sound and style melding is infinitely danceable, clap-alongable. Steal The Light, written as joyful instead of happy, featured a chorus horn interlude that was spine tingling, and a call to action that the crowd wilfully answered with their cheers and dancing. As always, a world class entertainment.

Les Poules a Colin brought delicate fiddle and mandolin intricately woven with electric instruments in a blanket of sound that wrapped the audience up and drew them closer. Singing songs in native French, the group from Quebec somehow made French sound more musical than English, especially lifted by stunning twin harmonies. A real stand out was a kind of murder story, performed in bi-lingual tandem with haunting banjo, occasional stomp box, and dual vocals telling the tale, punctuated with stunning three part harmonies. By their own admission, their final song was “very danceable” – they weren’t kidding, the dance floor was full within seconds!

We could only stop in briefly by for Hat Fitz and Cara’s Breakfast BBQ, with Sally and the sizzling sausages already well underway! Cara gave us a new song never played live, played with a “we’ll just see how it goes” finesse that charmed the morning crowd.

Irish Mythen, one of our all time favourite performers, delivered yet another powerhouse set on the Woodford Grande stage. Starting out with something a bit political in What If We Built A Wall, it didn’t matter the time of day, or the lack of sunglasses, Irish was on fire with lyrical passion and gutsy guitar filling one of the largest venues, and taking every audience member along for the ride. Mythen has such a powerful voice, and a Capella prowess that makes your spine tingle, inspiring rapturous rounds of applause. Between songs, her wit and banter is so effective, we could mistake her for a stand up comedian. We were transfixed as she effortlessly brought us to tears with 55 Years, elated by a spirited rendition of I Wanna Dance With You, and a moved with the gravitas of Little Bones. As always, Tullamore Blues had the entire crowd singing along enthusiastically, only to be surpassed by a rousing, a Capella rendition of Mercedes Benz that everyone stood and sang along too.

Lucy Wise was the epitome of sweet and pure as her voice descended on the expanding crowd, infused with good humour delivered in earnest. She shared her New Year song, inspired by her mother, accompanied by ukulele. Her set was down to earth and personal, with You Are Here about facing anxiety, Winter Sun about the affects of Melbourne’s weather and accompanied by her sister Rowena, and the heartbreaking Where Did You Go with her other sister Ruth – glorious harmony woven with beautiful sentimentality and sense of loss.

Trad Attack, a blast of energy from Estonia, used archival recordings alongside lead vocals creating the most fascinating soundscapes. Immediately the dance floor is full and enthusiastic. Most of their set was full energy with moment where we simply wondered what next crazy instrument would be brought to the fray. The fact the crowd can sing along with an archival recording how to make butter demonstrated they are clearly the party folk band – reminiscent of Australia’s own Crooked Fiddle Band.

The Spooky Men’s Chorale were the cheeky chaps as we always expect, taking great pleasure in testing the Auslan interpreter with the many abstract concepts in We Are Not A Men’s Group. Ever a popular act, the audience was large, and delighted with the quirks and perks of the Chorale and all their interpretations of everyday life.

The Raglins poured copious harmonies you could drown in with renditions of favourites like The Palmers Song, and The North Country Maid getting everyone in the mood. Song after song delivered in a spellbinding performance. Particular highlights were Robert’s admission that he’d always promised himself he’d never write a love song, that was until he fell in love, inspiring Luna, and the performance of an old Bush Ranger ballad rewritten with new melody and less racism, Ben Halls Gang.

Glenn Cardier and Christian Marsh at Pineapple Lounge had the bluesy goodness rolling forth with licks of harmonica on A Case of Mistaken Identity. Their set was peppered with fun, moving in to rockabilly swamp thing with a raucous jam in Ringmaster Blues, and sliding through mellow, energetic, enchantment and more.

Mel Parsons unleashed a voice and style so mellow, yet steeped in luxury and richness. Opening with some slow songs to warm up the crowd, then picked up the tempo and vibrancy with I Got The Lonely, and a great selection of tracks from her new album, Glass Heart.

Julia Jacklin treated everyone at the Ampitheatre to a spellbinding night of favourites, like Eastwick, Leadlight, and Don’t Let The Kids Win. Her laid back style soothed the audience as the days heat was swiftly replaced with a cool evening chill. Everything about Jacklin is enchanting, her guitar  declared “You Got This!!” on a hand written tape sticker, and she certainly did, the picture of cool, calm and collected. Hay Plain had the crowds transfixed and swaying along in pure bliss, awakened as the intensity pops and Jackson’s vocals oozed over the audience.

The Little Stevies battled adversity as Byl’s voice had gone AWOL and they were down on numbers as Cliff on electric guitar had been too sick to make Woodford. But Beth stepped in to the spotlight and delivered exquisite lead vocals throughout the set, while Byl managed to bring harmonies and jovial, if quiet, banter between. Old favourites like Accidentally and I hold My Breath had everyone delighted, while the new tracks were a fresh and exciting journey to explore. 

The Waifs were much anticipated and the Ampitheatre was alive with energy and enthusiasm. Old favourite Lighthouse struck a note with everyone singing along, while Sun, Dirt, Water gave a sexy and sassy edge. Love Serenade was a bit more lighthearted and playful, while London Still was breathlessly perfect, much to the acclaim of the audience.

Two days at Woodford were glorious, and we couldn’t leave without squeezing just a couple of last acts in the morning of our departure.

The Bushwhackers were a blast with a shanty, a whirl and jig, a sparkly coat and largaphone, a hoedown and everything in between. Leave it in the Ground elicited a positive response from the gathering crowd in spite of the early time. The most amusing highlight was the enthusiastic Auslan interpreter who was literally dancing and sign-singing along with each and every song. Another Trip To Bunnings now comes with its own audience participation thanks to the Auslan sign for Bunnings (bunny ears).

The final set we caught at Woodford was a firm favourite, the Stiff Gins. As always, their music is storytelling and evocative, we could see the east win gently stir the blossoms over the land, their glorious harmonies had us winging our way home with them, and we witnessed the leaves turning in  Narrandera. You know you’re a part of the band when you’re allowed to sing a song, and Lucas on guitar also brought to the stage Chance Meeting. It was a delightful start to the day, and still a wonderful way to end our festival visit.

As always, Woodford Folk Festival delivered diversity, beauty, and glorious memories in a world made perfect by music. If you’ve never been, you really must put it on your bucket list!

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Woodford!

While the silly season is in full swing, the folkier of us are looking beyond the tinsel and jolly man in a red suit, and are planning the trek to this year’s Woodford Folk Festival. If you haven’t yet made your New Years plans, it’s not too late to get in on the folk action and plan a post-Christmas trip to Woodfordia.

For those still on the fence, let’s take a quick look at why this year’s festival is going to be a great time for all.

The line up is a heavy blend of traditional and discovery, with a delight around every corner for all discerning music lovers. With heavy weights (and our namesakes) The Cat Empire topping the bill, the scene is set for a party. Timber and Steel favourites like Dan Sultan, Julia Jacklin, Irish Mythen, Hat Fitz & Cara, Emily Wurramara, The Waifs, Alex the Astronaut, Stella Donnelly, and Stiff Gins will join more than 2000 artists, musicians and presenters in over 400 acts, over 25 venues throughout the festival.

We’re excited to see some favourites diversify as The Little Stevies become the Teeny Tiny Stevies for their appearances at the Children’s Festival spaces, making the festival, as always, a very family friendly affair. The array of workshops on offer, once again delivers the ultimate in experiences for any festival goer, from yoga to craft, there will be a workshop to suit anyone.

With major infrastructure improvements for this year’s festival, multiple accommodation options to suit every budget and accommodation style, the Woodford Folk Festival is a completely immersive experience where you can choose your own adventure. Whether you participate in The Game, in The Fire Event, or just take in some amazing Australian and international music, it’s the most exciting way to spend your post-Christmas haze.

Whether you visit for a day, or stay for the whole week, there is a journey made just for you. Head over to the website and explore the different journeys you could take at this year’s festival.

When: 27 December 2018 – 1 Jan 2019

Where: Woodfordia, QLD

Tickets: from $25 for kids, from $165 for adults. Book online

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

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