National Folk Festival Interview: Burrows

Burrows
Image Courtesy of Burrows

You may recognise the members of Canberra nu-folk four piece Burrows as being from bands like The Ellis Collective, Mr Fibby, Fun Machine, Pocket Fox and more. But Burrows is more than the sum of its parts, with music that draws you in and captivates you. With a new album on the way Burrows will be playing a series of shows at this week’s National Folk Festival. We sat down with front man and songwriter Sam King to talk through the evolution of the band.

Gareth Hugh Evans: Back in 2013 you were on The National Folk Festival lineup credited as Sam King. Was that the beginning of the project that has become Burrows?

Sam King: Yeah, it actually was! I applied to the festival solo because I’d not really done much solo before, I’d always played in bands. I had a solid hour of songs at that point so I thought I’d give it a shot. Then very kind of close to the festival I decided that it’s definitely much more fun playing with other people so I invited three people to come and play with me. We were still credited as “Sam King” in the festival program. It was only meant to be a one off thing, a nice excuse to play with some friends. But we ended up being quite taken by it and continued doing it.

GHE: I was at The National that year and called you out as an artist to watch in a Timber and Steel feature. And then every now and then I’d check in online to see what was going to happen to “Sam King” project but nothing had ever eventuated. I thought maybe that was it – I didn’t realise it had evolved into what has now become Burrows.

SK: Yeah – it’s a slightly less Google-able name

GHE: All of you guys play in different bands in and around the Canberra folk and indie scene like The Ellis Collective and Mr Fibby. What makes Burrows different from those other projects?

SK: Yeah, a lot of those bands have the same people in them. We definitely stick pretty close to each other project to project. I mean Grahame [Thompson] is definitely my go to cello guy. They all kind of evolved out of different things. For The Ellis Collective Matty Ellis is a huge part of that. The name we were never really stoked with but it kind of came about because early on there was a lot of us playing in the band and we were all quite busy. It was more just an idea that Matty could be at the centre and whoever he was playing with could be The Ellis Collective. As it turned out we pretty much all made it to all gigs so it wasn’t really necessary. For [Burrows] I’m sort of at the centre of it. I’m slightly uncomfortable with that idea but I like to think of it as a more collaborative process than just a single singer-songwriter. I feel like we’re much more than the sum of our parts from that point of view. So I guess what makes it different from the other projects is really that I’m playing less of a supportive role – usually the catalyst for all the songs comes from me and then it evolves from there pretty quickly.

GHE: And it’s not just you doing the songwriting right? I got the feeling other members of the band were contributing.

SK: Yeah. And that’s a great deal for me. Usually the way those songs come about is often I’ll get a third of a way through a song – I might have a melody and the chords – and I sort of take it as far as I can then flick it to them. Whether they totally finish it from there or they flick it back to me, that process can go on for a little bit – but in most cases I’ll get it part of the way and they’ll write the lyrics, then maybe as a band we’ll change things structurally. I’d really love in the future for it to be much more collaborative. After a while you get sick of the sound of yourself.

GHE: So you’re just about done on the Burrows album right? You’re pretty close to releasing that?

SK: Yeah, it’s being pressed and printed now. It will be available at The National Folk Festival but we’re not officially launching it – it’s just a little sneaky prelaunch. I think we’ll be officially launching it and touring it mid year. Our initial plan was to launch it at the festival and then tour it around that time but it had to get pushed back a little bit – I was al little bit too picky with the masters. It came back the first time and I wasn’t thrilled with the mix, I had to change one or two things.

GHE: I caught you guys at the Summer Hills Folk Festival in Sydney and from what I gather you pretty much played the album from start to finish in your set there.

SK: Yeah, that’s right.

GHE: It’s sounding gorgeous live. I guess the way I would describe Burrows’ sound is “lean in music”. The kind of music you want to listen intently to.

SK: That’s a very good description – that’s definitely what we’re aiming for. We’re trying to be miles away from the play-louder-than-the-pub kind of band, which I’ve definitely done in the past but it gets kind of exhausting. These days we hope to invite people in rather than try to compete with them.

GHE: Are you playing more intimate stages at The National Folk Festival?

SK: Generally The National’s pretty great for [that type of music]. We’re playing Scrumpy, Majestic and The Lyric – we’ve just got the three gigs. Intimate is what we’ll be aiming for and we’ll cross our fingers that there won’t be some sort of dance band in the next tent.

GHE: Just as you’re launching into a sweet folk tune the Brass Knuckle Brass Band will march past.

SK: Those guys would do that just to spite me, even if they weren’t scheduled to play at that point they’d hop up on stage [laughs]. The festival tends to evolve every year with where venues are and the size of them. Scrumpy and Majestic have been pretty consistent over the last few years.

GHE: I feel like The Majestic is your spiritual home. That’s always traditionally been the “youth” tent at the festival.

SK: Yeah. There’s a very funny story behind The Majestic. The two years before The Majestic came about and was on the oval Mr Fibby was there. We didn’t get in [to the program] but we were all there with The Ellis Collective and I think [Adam] Hadley was there with something. – we just put up some posters in toilets saying “Mr Fibby. The Oval. 10pm”. So there was a tradition for a couple of years where we would play acoustically on the oval and sometimes more people than could really hear us would show up, which is awesome. And then the Majestic was kind of put there based on those performances. I think the festival director had been invited to come down and look at these scallywags playing on the oval and then they put Hadley in charge of the venue for three years. Then hilariously we couldn’t get a gig there anymore [laughs]. But yeah, definitely our spiritual homeland based on that. It was brought about by Mr Fibby in an indirect way – and it also coincided with the fringe festival’s funding getting diverted to The National. It was nice to see all that stuff in one place – it was often hard to get a seat in there.

GHE: Definitely – when The Majestic was on the oval I could never get in. People would just come and park themselves there all day.

SK: Yeah – it was funny wasn’t it? I would always just sneak backstage and watch from there.

GHE: As a Canberra based band how important is The National Folk Festival for you guys?

SK: It’s definitely a great opportunity to play in Canberra to a lot of people who are from interstate. I think it’s a good stepping-stone – it’s a nice gateway for other festivals around the place. A lot of the other festival directors come to The National and they see you and that has some nice flow on effects. And I guess as a Canberran, I’ve not done anything else for Easter since I was 17. I’m sure other stuff goes on but I wouldn’t know about it. It’s a very special time of year and it’s always very nice when they get you along to play – particularly when I was younger. The first few breaks they gave me in bands like One Night Jam – they were hugely supportive. For younger performers it’s a great stepping-stone to all of a sudden be playing to 200 people who are hanging on your every word. There’s not really any opportunities in Canberra – or anywhere to for that matter – to do that outside of the festivals. I cannot praise it highly enough.

GHE: Well thank you so much for chatting with me today. I can’t wait to see Burrows again!

SK: Thanks very much mate.

All of Burrows’ shows at The National Folk Festival are below:

Thursday 24th to Monday 28th March – National Folk Festival, Canberra, ACT
– Saturday 5pm – Scrumpy
– Sunday 10:30pm – The Lyric
– Monday 4pm – Majestic

Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014

Turntable

You’ve probably read what we think are the top albums of 2014 and now it’s time to turn to Timber and Steel’s favourite artists and see what they pick as their number one.

We reached out to musicians across the folk spectrum, from local singer-songwriters to internationally acclaimed folk stars and the response, as always, has been amazing. So we’ll shut up and we’ll let the artists do the talking with Timber and Steel’s Artists’ Top Albums of 2014:

NightwalkWoody Pitney
Matt WaltersNightwalk
I was a small part of Matt’s crowd-funding campaign to get this album off the ground and it was definitely money well spent! Matt has a really defined, folky sound, which evokes different emotions throughout the album. His understated vocals with his powerful lyrics make a great recipe for an excellent album. My personal highlights are Track 2, “Melbourne Goodbye’ and Track 8, ‘Build A Place’. I highly recommend you give it a listen!

SongsRoland K Smith
John FullbrightSongs
On his second album the best new songwriter in the world pairs lyricism with musicality and musicianship. Seriously, no one is making records as good as this young man from Oklahoma. “High Road”, the album’s penultimate track, still sends shivers down my spine after the hundredth listen. Fingers crossed we see him in Australia soon.

ZabaSteven Barnard (Arbori)
Glass AnimalsZaba
It was a toss up between this record and Jamie Cullum’s Momentum. Both are full are brilliant arranging and some great hip hop and R&B influences. Glass Animals however have created soundscapes, grooves, crochendo, and a singer who’s channelling a rapper, in what I can only describe as indie swag. I have not stopped listening to this record all year

Upside Down MountainTodd Sibbin (Todd Sibbin and the Acadian Driftwood)
Conor OberstUpside Down Mountain
Its been three years since Bright Eyes’ 2011 heavily electronic influenced The Peoples Key and many were expecting a blow back to the early Oberst/Bright Eyes days with the announcement of a solo record. While it certainly is more laid back, the collaboration with producer Jonathan Wilson brings an entirely new aesthetic to anything we’ve heard from an Oberst incarnation (not to mention, in terms of subject matter, Oberst got married three years ago so most of the lyrical content is about the “experiences” of married life, instead of the “experiences” of single life). Defiantly modern sounding (largely due to a decent amount of electronic PAD work), Wilson and Oberst have managed to retain the stripped back and intimate nature of the songs despite the fact that the tracks are still fairly overdubbed (with a decent amount of electric guitar too!). It’s an extremely ambient record which, after speaking to others, can help take some of the “bluntness” out of Oberst’s delivery, certainly making it one of Oberst’s more “friendlier” releases. I love it.

New MoonLiz Frencham
Sarah HumphreysNew Moon
It may seem biased because I played on this album but the things I love about it are nothing to do with my playing. Sarah’s songwriting is exquisite and her voice sublime. It also has the energy and dynamics of a live album.

The Spoon CollectorsLiam Gale (Liam Gale & the Ponytails)
The Spoon CollectorsA Dime for Charon
Part mellow-drama-rock-opera, part nineteen-seventies-swamp-explosion, but mostly a psychedelic journey through The Spoon Collector’s fabricated landscape beyond space and time. I was present for a lot of the recording of this album, out in central NSW with Sunfield Records, and let me tell you: The Spoon Collectors know how to party. The album features guest vocals by the boys from the Dusty Yellow Sunbeams and characterised artwork by the producer’s brother.

Angel OlsenLauren Moore (Pepperjack)
Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
There’s something consistently cool and brooding about this February release. It’s the fuzzy guitar tones; it’s her angry-drunk to sleepy-drunk vocals. It’s the gripping nature of the tom-heavy drumming in “Forgiven/Forgotten”. You can put this in your ears, down a glass of red and kick in a car window if you want to. I love it when folk meets rock in the most seamless way. And that’s what this album is – an ideal balance of gloom and glow – as well-rounded as a human personality; bleak at times, but honest and changing. As she sings in “High & Wild”, “I’m neither innocent nor wise when you look me in the eyes.” Perfect for long walks in the dark and putting out cigarettes in the carpet.

Salad DaysJay Penaflor
Mac DemarcoSalad Days
I decided to listen to this album before dozing off to sleep. Didn’t sleep of course. My ears were completely drawn to the ‘jizz jazz’ of Mac Demarco and ended up listening to the very end of the album. Upon listening to this album, I found myself head-bopping to nearly all his songs. He has a way of messing with your head with his romantic-like melodies and bizzare yet addictive twangy guitar riffs. For some reason I feel like this album should be listened in a cafe in Paris or something. My hat’s off to Mac Demarco. Listening to him inspired me to write ‘Fridge Buzz (Choirs Of Suburbia)’ on my Incentive EP, though I doubt it’s got nothing on any of his tunes.

BeckOisin Leech (The Lost Brothers)
BeckMorning Phase
On this album Beck appears in the desert wearing silver robes and speaking in tongues of crystal and cold fire. The songs are immaculate. The precision and emotion in this album makes it so special. This album was my close companion as we toured the world. I love it dearly.

The CoralMark McCausland (The Lost Brothers)
The CoralThe Curse of Love
This album was recorded eight years ago and kept hidden in a treasure chest until the flavours had stewed. It’s a unique album of frightening beauty and its songs hold many secrets. I’d been waiting to hear these songs for centuries without realising it. The album immediately unlocked a labyrinth of mysteries to me from the first note to the last. It’s boss.

The No-Hit WonderFrank Turner
Cory BrananThe No-Hit Wonder
Everything Cory does is pretty much flawless – it’s a real wonder to me that he’s not better known than he is. Most every songwriter I know loves his stuff and feels slightly daunted by it, he’s so much better than the rest of us! This new album is no exception. It’s worth the price for the opening lines of “The Only You” alone. A classic record in the making.

Jack WhiteClaude Hay
Jack WhiteLazaretto
This one’s easy for me, Jack White’s Lazaretto. It’s full of wicked riffs, catchy melodies, analog raw production, brilliant songs, all the ingredients for a perfect album. I’ve flogged it to death.

Otis GibbsBill Jackson
Otis GibbsSouvenirs of a Misspent Youth
As well as being a native of Indiana, Otis Gibbs is also noted as “a storyteller’s storyteller” who symbolizes the true essence of the independent spirit thriving in the East Nashville neighbourhood he now calls home. Fiercely independent, Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth produced by Thomm Jutz is Gibb’s seventh album since 2002. Folk is Otis’s style but country is his flavour and many are predicting that this will be his breakout album. Not that it matters as Otis writes to inspire. If you like Guy, Townes, Steve etc then get on board. Every song on this album is a highlight, so as they say “lean in and listen” and you won’t be able to stop. My favourite track: “Ghosts of Our Father’s”. Otis Gibbs has also recorded nearly 100 podcasts under the title Thanks for Giving a Damn that consists of conversational interviews with those who write, sing and play for a living – free on iTunes.

Lily OSam Lee
Sam AmidonLily-O
An album of absolutely sensitive genius, maturity in craft and skill in story telling that is heads beyond most other albums about

Hey RosettaWinterbourne
Hey RosettaSecond Sight
Such a good album! Tim Baker’s vocals are addictive and they’re backed up by clever and moving lyrics. Each song is thick with real instruments, which move together in a way that still feels fresh after the tenth listen. It just makes you feel good.

Damien RiceRyan Oliver (Olivers Army)
Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy
It’s classic Damien Rice melancholy but with a new focussed indie-pop sensibility. The songs are well crafted, passionate, raw and honest and you feel like you’re sitting right in his Icelandic borrowed home-studio. The production is beautiful. I love the lengthy songs that take you on a wild journey and the lush orchestral arrangements that almost drown out everything else, in a very good way.

Caitlin ParkHeyMun
Caitlin ParkThe Sleeper
Caitlin Park is a real gem and her latest album is a reflection of great ambition and perspective. A body of work exploring intricate layers of acoustic blended with touches of electronic (“Wake Up In A Whirr”) and thought provoking verses (“Hunt For The Young”) all in all results in a real treat for the senses indeed. Paired with sound engineer extraordinaire Sam Brumby, The Sleeper is a fusion of great ideas executed beautifully. Reminding us of how lucky we are to have inspiring talents like this in Australia.

AtlasCaitlin Harnett
Real EstateAtlas
Bittersweet lyrics, dreamy vocals and guitars and just the right amount of ache to make you fall in love with this record over and over again.

Mikhael PaskalevLittle May
Mikhail PaskelevWhat’s Life Without Losers
This album has been the prominent soundtrack to my year. It is perfection and has really inspired me to think outside the box creatively. Such a genuine guy who deserves all the success that will continue to come his way.

Nikki LaneBex Chilcott (Ruby Boots)
Nikki LaneAll Or Nothin’
It takes about five minutes of watching a Nikki Lane show to become a totally dedicated fan girl and although album was a slow burner for me, its infectious nature took hold this year. She’s got to be one of the nicest badasses both in person and in song. The songs are just good, strong songs that are both honest and lyrically pretty clever, classy hooks and a really good dose of steel and slide which always pulls at my heartstrings. Totally won my heart over this year!

Angus and Julia StoneChris Panousakis (Timberwolf)
Angus & Julia StoneAngus & Julia Stone
For me it would be Angus & Julia Stone’s self titled album no doubt. It’s such a punchy, refreshing version of their songwriting, and there’s an intangible sense of unity between the two that you can really feel listening to it as well as seeing them play live. It almost feels a lot more vulnerable or honest, either way it’s pretty special.

Apex TwinThe Ellis Collective
Aphex TwinSyro
After 13 years, Richard James’ Syro is a tuneful, buoyant and humble return, playfully heralded by a green blimp hanging over London and announced from the depths of the deep web. Without any sonic uppercuts, the likes of Windowlicker or Come To Daddy, Syro dwells in analog manipulations more common to his Analord series (released as AFX) and serves as the frontrunner of what more may come now that the 13 years without Aphex Twin has passed. How bloody exciting!

Daniel ChampagneBearded Gypsy Band
Daniel ChampagneThe Gypsy Moon – Volume II
Dan is one of the most hard working Australian musicians I know of. He is a prolific songwriter and musician of great calibre. The songs on this album are full of depth, they talk of life on the road, of friends and lovers lost and the constant moving on that comes with the touring life. Beautiful melodies accompanied by some of the finest guitar playing you’ll hear makes this album so great.

Against MeBilly The Kid
Against Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Why? It’s the most real, rocking, sincere, vulnerable, brave and catchy thing to get stuck in my ear holes in awhile, with a lyrical perspective that is engrossing, inclusive and yet daringly different. Also, I love these people.

WastelandsMatthew Black (The Bottlers)
Protector 101Wastelands
Tuning into the crackling airwaves of cinematic score saturated post-apocalyptica never felt so awesomely ominous. Maine synthwave artist Protector 101 has paid homage to future shock, nuclear holocaust ravaged movies with an envisioned 17 track soundtrack entitled, Wastelands. Protector 101 takes the listener on a rugged journey through ravaged love, gang warfare and bleak radiated Australian desertscapes circa 2099 with a musically based visual dexterity I could only liken to John Carpenter or Vangelis.

EnmaarCatgut
TinariwenEmmaar
We’ve listened to countless favourite albums on long car trips, lots of familiar country and old-time and bluegrass. But Malian Tuareg band Tinariwen really struck us: rolling rhythmic grooves, bluesy electric guitars and beautiful low male vocals. There’s a hypnotic drive to this desert music that draws you in, we love it!

FanfarloMike McCarthy
FanfarloLet’s Go Extinct
Fanfarlo’s third LP Let’s Go Extinct quickly danced its way to the top of my record collection this year. Fanfarlo have been my go to fun music choice for a few years now and although there are a few more psychedelic moments on the album Let’s Go Extinct delivers with solid songwriting, vocal delivery and production.

Valerie JuneSam Buckingham
Valerie JunePushin’ Against A Stone
It’s bluegrass, it’s folk, it’s rockin’ it’s heartbreaking, it’s uplifting and her voice carries each track in a vulnerable, sexy, “I take no shit, but I just wanna be loved” kind of way. I kind of want to marry her

Caitlin HarnettShane Nicholson
Caitlin HarnettThe River Runs North
My favourite album of 2014 is The River Runs North by Caitlin Harnett. A collection of great songs, played with heart and a minimum of fuss. As an album, it’s incredible – as a DEBUT album, it’s astonishing.

Jack WhiteEddie Boyd (Eddie Boyd and the Phatapillars)
Jack WhiteLazaretto
Jack White! What a man! His latest offering, Lazaretto is a dirty, raucous blues/rock/country mash-up which has been playing on repeat in my kitchen for months. Crunchy guitar riffs, wailing fiddles, ghoulish backing vocals, and a piano which has surely been bashed to pieces by now!
Easily my favourite album of 2014.

Lera LynnJohn Flanagan
Lera LynnThe Avenues
I came home from Nashville in October with a stack of incredible records but this is the one that I’ve listened to non-stop since getting back. I’d call it Americana-Folk-Pop, similar to Lisa Mitchell but more Americana and less pop. The melodies are catchy, but there are offbeat moments (which is what I love about it) and the production is slick and atmospheric tying it all together. Her voice is smooth and irresistible and yes, I might have a slight crush on her.

Tim WheelerTony Wright (VerseChorusVerse)
Tim WheelerLost Domain
The Ash frontman released his debut solo record this year and surprised everyone in that it didn’t sound remotely like the mother-band and it wasn’t (as a lot of solo debuts tend to be) an acoustic record! These songs deal with the loss of Tim’s dad, George, how it affected him and his family and how it’s still affecting them. It’s a work of tremendous emotion and beauty. I lost my mother at a young age and hearing some of the lyrics in this wonderful album tugged at my heart strings in every manner possible. From the instrumental, bluesy movers to the frankly stunning single, “Vigil”, this deeply personal album has an extremely universal appeal. A truly beautiful and happy/sad achievement on a topic we all, sooner or later, can relate to.

Emily BarkerEmily Barker (Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae)
Lucinda WilliamsDown Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
I love this new record of Lucinda’s. I’ve been a fan for many years now and this is stand out. The songwriting is exceptional and very much complimented by a great production. Her voice is weathered, broken and beautiful as ever. Very classy and visceral.

The War On DrugsAidan Roberts (The Maple Trail)
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
Unlike so many rock bands who meddle with reinventing a retro sound, The War on Drugs possess several assets that make them soar above the rest – particularly with this dark, spectacularly beautiful record. The songs live in a world almost entirely ruled by common-time 80’s new-wave rock rhythms, the landscape populated by widescreen analog synth textures and twisting, chorusy guitars. And above it all, the beauty of Adam Granduciel’s weary and insistent tenor tugs you through these resigned and ponderous story songs like a troubled, trusted brother. Amazing.

Hot DreamsLacey Cole (Lacey Cole & the Lazy Colts)
Timber TimbreHot Dreams
Nostalgically cinematic, hauntingly beautiful and profoundly strange Timber Timbre’s 2014 album Hot Dreams sounds like 50s L.A noir meets Elvis-era Vegas complete with the picturesque road-trip around Arizona it took to get there. Equal parts sexy and creepy Hot Dreams is breathtakingly weird. Each song emerges from the shadows reveling itself as either the night of your life or your worst nightmare, you choose, then hold on tight and enjoy easily the best musical expression of the Grand Canyon ever recorded.

The TimbersGemini Downs
The TimbersLawless
Gotta go with local lads The Timbers. Not only do we love watching them bring crowds to life at awesome Adelaide venues like The Grace, now we have an awesome CD that beautifully captures their live, real, raw spirit. One of the most hard working bands we know and I dare you to try to keep your feet still when that trumpet kicks in.

The War On DrugsMatt Walters
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
For months I kept hearing about this album and it took me a while to finally get to it. I remember my friends gushing about The War on Drugs. That kind of turned me off. You need to find things in your own time. Anyway, I was sitting in a cafe near my house and this beautiful dreamy music was playing. I thought it was a Dylan live recording that I hadn’t heard or something. So I Shazam’d it! I rarely use Shazam – but I knew I couldn’t miss this. I had to know. And it was the song, “Lost in the Dream”. That beautiful dreamy harmonica – the strange cryptic words – the ambience captured in the recording just pulled me in. It had me immediately. So I went home and bought the record and played nothing else for about 6 months. I’ve only really just stopped. I love this album. The production is just so pristine, flawless and unique. Adam Granduciel is like a master painter with his guitar sounds on this record – so ethereal and haunting. His playing is so detailed, yet raw and visceral at the same time. “Suffering” is so beautiful. Simple and profound. Oh, and If the guitar solo in that song doesn’t destroy you, nothing will. Masterpiece.

Ryan AdamsImogen Clark
Ryan AdamsRyan Adams
This record is heart-wrenching, soulful, moving and pure magic, but also somehow packs this almighty punch and really rocks out. Ryan Adams manages to be a total electric-fuelled punk rocker and a sensitive, poignant, acoustic singer/songwriter all at once. He’s the champion of wearing his heart on his sleeve and he leaves no stone unturned. Thank you, DRA.

Sweet JeanThe Weeping Willows
Sweet JeanGreetings From Goodbye
It is perhaps a little biased of us to choose Sweet Jean’s Greetings From Goodbye mini-LP as our top album of 2014 as it contains most of our favourite songs from the (many) times we’ve seen them play live over the years. Sime Nugent and Alice Keath are everything we would love to be as a duo; timeless singer-songwriters, multi-instrumentalists and heavenly harmonisers, with two of the best voices in the country. Much of this EP was actually recorded “live” in Sime and Alice’s laundry, which further demonstrates their effortless proficiency. Stand-out tracks are Dock Boggs’s “Country Blues” (in the style of Peggy Seeger), the traditional “Weeping Willow” and “Spring Bird” written by Keath and Nugent. Sweet Jean definitely have a gothic-folk sound that is all their own but check them out if you’re into the old-school folk stylings of She and Him or Americana duos Mandolin Orange, The Civil Wars or Australia’s own Jep and Dep.

SiaAnna Buckingham (Nova & the Experience)
Sia1000 Forms of Fear
She’s never had one distinctive style to her career. Some would call her an indie goddess and others a pop princess. 1000 Forms of Fear is an anguished pop album, in its smartest and human form. The first album she has released in four years, her powerful and perfect melodies remain uniformly magnificent throughout these twelve songs, with deeper and darker lyrics that highlight a more intimate side of Sia. Beautiful in all its vulnerability, she delivers great pain with even greater triumph. Every track is magnificently crafted and combines a faultless balance of violently raw emotion with total uplift. You are invited to look into this woman’s anguish through melodies and vocal cartwheels that can make you think she is unbreakable . Hauntingly beautiful in all its cleverness. My favourite by far.

Ben AbrahamTimothy James Bowen
Ben AbrahamSirens
My top album actually only came across my ears just the other day. It’s Sirens by Ben Abraham. He’s a friend of a friend of mine who I met at a house concert we were playing together in Melbourne around this time last year. He said that he had something in the works but I had no idea it would be this tasty. It’s like if you put Gotye, Josh Pyke and Passenger in a room and told them not to come out till they had something musical going on between them. Sort of. But all in his own greatness. Go and check it out.

Sun Kil MoonPeasant Moon
Sun Kil MoonBenji
Our individual short lists were like night and day…from Robert Ellis (Harvey) to Asgeir (Josie). Benji was the point of convergence. We’ve never been to Ohio, but this land of lethal backyard fires, mercy killing, teen sex and albinos can sure inspire some amazing music. This is a brutal and beautiful collection of stories about life, death and gratitude. And it can be confronting – there’s nowhere to hide as Mark Kozelek shuns the use of metaphor and other distractions. This, combined with the mostly simple arrangements, produce deceptively insightful songs about the tragedy and joy of what it is to be human. Dark slacker folk at its finest – think Smog meets Pavement meets Neil Young.

Lily OPete Flood (Bellowhead)
Sam AmidonLily-O
A really great ensemble album rooted in the inspired pairing of Amidon’s spiky banjo picking and Bill Frisell’s more expansive guitar playing. The overall tone is focused and quietly daring – traditional material given space to unfold and evolve in unusual and sometimes disquieting ways – a real breath of fresh air.

Everything UnsaidSam Sweeny (Bellowhead)
Screaming MaldiniEverything Unsaid
This is the second and final album from one of my favourite bands of all time. Perfect, innovative intelli-pop from a band who never got the recognition they deserved.

The Moral of the ElephantJon Boden (Bellowhead)
Eliza and Martin CarthyThe Moral of the Elephant
Two English folk greats on top form, shaking it up a bit with some unexpected material and totally nailing the traditional stuff, as ever.

Ben AbrahamAl Parkinson
Ben AbrahamSirens
I had been waiting for this album for years. YEARS. Ben Abraham is one of my favourite Australian songwriters and performers. You know when you go and see someone play and you HAVE to buy their cd, it’s not a choice, you have to scavenge around your Mary Poppins bag for dollars and even ask your friends if you can borrow some money to buy their album? This is how you would feel if you saw him play and the album is more than we as listeners had hoped for. It was absolutely worth the wait. The production on the album suits Ben’s songs perfectly; subtle where it should be, interesting and very clever. The album was only released in November but I just cannot stop listening to it. ‘Speak’ was the single he released from the album and it’s one of those “EVERYONE BE QUIET AND PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS” songs. Although I’ve listened to it probably 300,000 times, every time is like the first time I heard it. Other favourites are ‘You and Me’, ‘I Belong To You’ and ‘Songbird’ oh and ‘Collide’… Okay so they’re all beautiful. I’m so glad that I finally have these songs in my ears and I’m really excited to see where this stupidly talented persons career heads.

Southerly ChangeSivan Agam (The April Maze)
Southerly ChangeSoutherly Change
I love putting this album on first thing in the morning to get my day going with good vibes. It reminds me to live in the moment. Even if it’s cold outside this album makes me feel like I’m on summer holidays. There are some great singalong tunes in there too, so it’s the perfect album for long road trips.

Searching for TallSophie Klein (Little Wise)
Lauren GlezerSearching for Tall
This Melbourne songwriter likes to describe herself as a true “feeler”. That’s is exactly how I would describe my connection to this little record; emotional. The production, replete with gorgeous string arrangements on certain tracks, gracefully shines a deserving spotlight on Glezer’s tender and sultry vocals. Similarly, her long time rhythm players are sensitive and nuanced. But it is her personal, ever-so-human stories and her unforgettably breathy vocal delivery that really tug on my heartstrings.

Open SwimmerRose Wintergreen
Open SwimmerCanyon
Floaty, nostalgic, haunting melodies anchored with grit, sprinkled with sunshiney pop hooks and glorious references to Melbourne life.

SoutheasternThe Audreys
Jason IsbellSoutheastern
Perhaps his first great solo work, Isbell’s Southeastern is a masterclass in songwriting that doesn’t just touch on its themes of regret and redemption but mines them in ways we’ve never before heard. We were lucky enough to see Jason perform a highlight from the record, opening track “Cover Me Up”, at this year’s Americana Music Awards in Nashville. He got the award for Best Album and we got the pleasure of hearing him play.

Ray LamontagneAshleigh Mannix
Ray LamontagneSupernova
What a surprise this album was! It had me absolutely hooked from the first spin. These psychedelic sounds are completely different to anything I’ve heard from Ray Lamontagne before. This, coupled with its catchy hooks and wonderful lyrics made it a no-brainer for my choice of album of the year. It’s an anywhere album! I love it!

Rob MuinosDan Arnott (Dan and Amy)
Robert MuinosYou’re Not Alone
There have been a few releases this year by wonderful artists who I’m lucky enough to be great mates with, and I think my favourite of these is the debut EP by Robert Muinos called You’re Not Alone. Robbo does what amazing songwriters do; his songs of very personal moments somehow become universalised, making it feel as though you’ve been through whatever he’s singing about yourself, even if you’ve never experienced anything like it. His voice and his melodies are beautiful and I can’t wait for more. (Notable mention to Jackson McLaren’s album)

Daylight ExpressJames Kenyon
Tobias HengeveldThe Daylight Express
Hengeveld’s lyrics are brilliant. He’s operating at a level above. They’d be compelling enough without music, but his melodies and musicianship and that of his band elevate it to great album status for me. Lyrics that good just keep on giving. Every listen brings me to another great line or phrase. “All the old TVs on the side of the road…” that line in “Fools Rush In” kills me. Or “Our Katherine owned a temper like her name-sake. The firecracker always spinning off its nail” from “The Daylight Express”. Brilliant song, and heart breaking.

LulucRuth Hazleton – (Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton)
LulucPasserby
Gently and quietly profound, Luluc are perfecting the art of simplicity – a trait that is very unique and brave in this age of musical trickery. Unpretentious, disarming, beautifully written, recorded and produced with a “sound” completely their own, Passerby features beautiful vocal harmonies, sophisticated melodies and honest lyrics. Recommended for long drives, Sunday afternoons or whenever your feet and/or heart need to touch the ground again.

BelovedGeorgia Fair
New GodsBeloved
Because “Caravan park” taunts me, “I Love You Too” is like cringing in the mirror, “Beneath the World” is just simply beautiful, “Too High” makes me cry and “Skyman” makes me dance.

BeckDustin Tebbutt
BeckMorning Phase
For me this record perfectly balances precisely sculpted songs and production with organic sounds, and raw stories. I get the sense that this album is a series of “captured moments” in the studio as opposed to so many modern records where every track is edited to an inch of its life. It’s also both hi fi and lo fi at the same time, with the acoustic guitars and drums almost remaining unprocessed while the colours created by the lush reverbs and Beck’s characteristic lazy vocal performances take you on journeys through vast spaces.

Dwight Sings BuckNick Keeling (Mustered Courage)
Dwight YoakamDwight Sings Buck
This ain’t your mother’s country music … it’s more like your grandmother’s! The sweet and pretty country music coming out of Nashville in the 1950’s got a punch in the face by the electrified honky-tonk coming out of Bakersfield California. Pioneers like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard plugged in their telecasters, set the drummer to shuffle, and layed down what would be a huge influence on the music of The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and obviously Dwight Yoakam. Here Dwight nails the style and sound of Bakersfield country but with the fidelity of modern recording techniques. Pull up a barstool and let the steel guitar take you up Highway 99 to that oil patch they call Bakersfield.

StromaeKim Churchill
StromaeRacine Carrée
My album of the year is Racine Carrée by the Belgian artist Stromae. It has an essentially electronic dance feel, which is impeccably well complimented by absolutely brilliant song writing. I have had endless pleasure in sitting around on Google translate (as Stromae sings in French) discovering what each of my favourite songs is about. He sets the scene of each song magnificently and opens up discussions that are quite challenging for the listener. Given the dance feel – I find it amazing that people all over the world are jumping up and down in arenas to these words of wisdom. Stromae has incredible film clips – the artistic direction is both engaging and unique. He also incorporates elements of his clips into his live performances of each song and way he dances is literally ground breaking. There is a reason the new single “Papaoutai” has had over 200 millions views. Stromae is a master craftsman on every level and quickly becomes a complete obsession.

RuinsSarah Humphreys
Kris MorrisRuins
Ruins is a breath of honesty in a sea of over-earnest, over-thought out music that’s flooding my ears at the moment. I need truth in what I listen to and this is as raw as it gets and totally from the heart, a broken one. Bravely and beautifully produced by Kasey Chambers, he’s like the Australian Steve Earle.

Damien RiceJoel Barker
Damien RiceMy Favourite Faded Fantasy
I was driving to Denmark in the south of Western Australia, listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered program, when one of the program hosts started talking about Damien Rice’s long hiatus being over with the release of his new album My Favourite Faded Fantasy. It’s been so long since Damien has released anything that I kind of forgot what his music is to me. But on first impressions, this record didn’t make much of an impact with me. Not because it’s not staggeringly beautiful, but merely because of how I was listening to it. In the car. Through portable speakers. Driving at 110km per hour. I didn’t do it justice. I found the time the following week to sit down at listen to the record in full, and I’m completely blown away by it.
I’ve come to the conclusion the Damien Rice has three different writing personalities that are vastly different from one another, yet somehow come together to make what is uniquely his. There’s the distinctive guitar melodies, nothing complicated, but kind of like a place to house his other personalities. The second is his lyrical genius. Somehow always melancholic, even in moments of joy, his words resonate with honesty and integrity, self doubt, love and hate. His words become place holders for his third personality, which are the arrangements. Other than perhaps Bon Iver’s self-titled album, I’m not sure I’ve heard an album that balances the sincerity of words with these almost orchestra arrangements that soar with optimisim and drown with sorrow equally. All these personalities come together to give us a collection of songs which probably mean just as much to us as they do to him. I can live with a Damien Rice album every 8 years or so if this is the result. So see you in 2022, Damien. Until then, enjoy the solitude.

Upside Down MountainJack Carty
Conor OberstUpside Down Mountain
This album is beautiful on so many levels. The songs are thoughtfully produced, delicately arranged and seem less overtly melodramatic than most of his previous work, but somehow they still manage hold the same sort of poetic weight and satirically pointed attention to detail that has drawn me to Conor Oberst as a songwriter for years.

True StrengthJulia Johnson (Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens)
True StrengthTrue Strength
Lost in an empty old building in East Berlin while trying to find a bar Ned Colette was playing in, I arrived just in time to discover support act True Strength, an Australian/Danish duo. If you love your folk with a touch of experimentation, or your Joanna Newsom mixed with a bit of Scandinavia, you might love True Strength. The almost a-tonal tinges to their light, delicate melodies only make them more beautiful and robust. Their self titled EP is a work I have found myself returning to often, and their performance that night is a memory I find delicious to linger on.

Tarpaper SkyBrad Butcher
Rodney CrowellTarpaper Sky
The name Rodney Crowell was only made known to me at the beginning of the year by a friend who told me I had to listen to Sex & Gasoline, an earlier release of Rodney’s, which I instantly connected with. I had become aware of a new album being released later this year couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It became the sound track of my first Tasmanian Tour in July this year and is still on high rotation. The way he looks at a song is not only unique but refreshing, this you might not expect from someone who’s been doing it for over 4 decades, but thats the very reason he is still at the top of his game and why this is my pick of 2014.

KimbraCurtis Smith (Yetis)
KimbraThe Golden Echo
Kimbra has got it. Her vocal ability seems limitless and her sense of groove is spot on. Not necessarily “beautiful” or “folky” but I can’t stop listening to it. One of those artists who doesn’t appear to be restricted by any means, and through this is making me think about my voice and to explore it’s capabilities. Also, my brother, sister and I (half of Yetis) are half kiwi, and are way too proud of it. We believe everything that comes out of NZ is brilliant, such as Kimbra.

Royal BloodJoe Murphy (The Timbers)
Royal BloodRoyal Blood
Simply the album is a rocking banger from start to finish!! Influenced heavily by the White Stripes with a touch of Muse at times. Its been on rotation for weeks and responsible for a lot of head banging!!

Gon BoogalooMark Moldre
CW StonekingGon’ Boogaloo
This album was well and truly worth the wait. CW Stoneking managed to reinvent his sound whilst retaining his authenticity. I actually wonder whether he may own a flux capacitor and a DeLorean because there’s no doubt in my mind that he has just stepped out of a 1930’s speakeasy. The fact that he picked up a Fender Jazzmaster for this album and put down the banjo allowed him to swing a little harder and dig himself into deeper grooves. It’s a wonderful blend of blues, jazz and ragtime – yet there is also something here that is intangible and undefinable – and completely his own. Nobody wants to see me dance – I promise you that, but this album makes me want to get up on the floor.

Let It LieStu Larsen
The Bros. LandrethLet It Lie
I randomly met these guys a few months ago when they were on their way home to Winnipeg, Manitoba. They were a last minute support act for my show in Chicago and really blew me away, in fact, I should have been the one supporting them, they were phenomenal. There is something incredibly captivating about these four guys when they play and sing together, both on the stage and on their album. Let It Lie is out in Canada and set for release in the States and Europe in a month or so from what I understand. I haven’t stopped listening to this album since they snuck me a copy in Chicago, hopefully Australian crowds will have the chance to fall in love with them soon!

TemplesTanya Batt
TemplesSun Structures
This year I discovered Temples and thank golly gosh for that. Think the Beatles mix the best of Tame Impala on more psychedelics with the world’s best summer vibes. It suits every mood I’m in and compliments it perfectly. I was pretty much hooked from the first bar of the first song “Sun Shelters” on the album and have listened to the album in its entirety most days since. It gives me the warm fuzzy’s because I love the vibe so much.

Stray BirdsThe Mae Trio
The Stray BirdsBest Medicine
It’s extremely hard to communicate the strength and intensity of these three musicians on record, but the album is tracked live and what is captured is still enough to make it our favourite release this year. Lush, gutsy harmonies and warm acoustic instruments are part of the joy of this album, but the most exciting bit is the songwriting – there are some jaw-dropping songs on there. This is just such no-nonsense, straight up, great music to make you laugh and cry and sing along reeeally loudly!

Jack CartyRosie Catalano
Jack CartyEsk
Jack has the most delightful voice, pens lyrics that take you on little faraway journeys, and has recorded an album that includes a song I suffer withdrawals from (“Honey, Do You Know The Way Back Home?”).

HuskyJesse Lubitz (Tinpan Orange)
HuskyRuckers Hill
This is a mighty record. The soaring harmonies and tight arrangements wrap perfectly around the beautifully crafted songs. This is one of the best albums to come out of Australia in the past few years. Faultless.

Jacob WyldeHayden Calnin
Jacob WyldeIt’s All About To Go
I’ve been following folk artist Jacob Wylde’s music for some time, impatiently waiting for an EP release from him for far too long. He’s 18, from Perth and been very busy with school I imagine. Then one day, It’s All About To Go came along and (pardon my foul mouth) but… HOLY F*CK! He’s the musician the world’s been needing and I’m spreading the word and supporting this guy till the bitter end of my days. Please listen to Jacob Wylde. He’s a rare find.

Kate Miller HeidkeImogen Bel
Kate Miller-HeidkeO Vertigo!
I love the way Kate surprises you with each new album. She never rests on her laurels and she is impossible to pin down. This is what has kept her fan-base so loyal. On this album, she has found the perfect balance of her theatrical leanings with off-kilter pop hooks and her mixture of literal and absurd lyrics. I’m a huge fan of the production on this one and the subtle eighties pop influences that never sound obviously retro. I began following (stalking) her career since her first EP and she has been a huge inspiration to me. Thanks, Kate!

VariousLes Thomas
VariousAustralian Artists for Asylum Seekers
I was blown away by the Australian Artists for Asylum Seekers Christmas album, which was put together by Lindsay Philips and features 25 excellent local songwriters. Christmas albums have never done it for me before, but the quality of every song and the fact that all proceeds go towards supporting the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre make it a beautiful example of an artistic collaboration in the best traditions of giving.

Phantom RadioMichael Paolino (Husband)
Mark Lanegan BandPhantom Radio
I got into Mark Lanegan’s music this year and I don’t know how I got through the last 30 years without it. This album has a pretty diverse sound, going from incredibly soulful, organic southern/gothic rock to some synth experimentation with iPhone drum apps! Best track “Harvest Home”. All in all a great listen.

Possessed By Paul JamesIsaac Graham
Possessed by Paul JamesThere Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely
I stumbled across Possessed by Paul James (stage name of musician Konrad Wert) at a show in San Francisco a few years ago. I was amazed at his effortless and energetic performance and impressed by his ability to seamlessly switch gears between heartfelt folk ballads and fiddle-driven, foot stompers. Although he fell off my radar for a little while I recently tracked down his latest album There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely (2013) and was immediately captivated. Although it was released late last year I’m still claiming it as my favourite for 2014. Through his shrewd lyrics and restless performance, Wert seems to capture both the inevitable joy and loneliness of everyday life. The end product is a series of songs that are as heartbreaking as they are heart-warming. Standout tracks are “Hurricane”, “Where Does All the Time Go” and title track “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely”. Let’s hope he tours here sometime soon.

BeckMatt Dewar (Direwolf)
BeckMorning Phase
I don’t mean to split hairs, but I was vigorously torn between Faker, FKA Twigs and Beck. However I landed on Morning Phase because of its beautiful complicated simplicity. Despite the gusty blend of 60’s inspired psychedelic folk/rock, I’m constantly in awe of a man who can bring so much weight with such blunt phrases like “these are the words you use, to say goodbye”. It’s truly a lament of husky wails, lingering sadness and about 20 years of making records.

About FaceJaye Kranz (Brighter Later)
#1 DadsAbout Face
CAVEAT: I decided to choose my fav local release. It just seems like such an impressive time for Oz music, right? #1 Dads About Face flew in on first listen and still hasn’t left me. As per Big Scary, Tom Iansek is once again behind the production desk, wielding his sonic sensibilities in ways at once strangely familiar, decidedly new, and always astonishingly beautiful. I love how much he does with sometimes the simplest production choices and changes, doing only as much as the song needs. Love the collaborations, “Return To” being my standout. Also: a sax solo. (Equal first: Lowlakes – Iceberg Nerves)

Mia DysonLiz Stringer
Mia DysonIdyllwild
Idyllwild is such a playful and coherent bunch of songs. One of my favourites is “Based On Your Eyes”, a beautiful, honest and soulful love song that’s vulnerable and tender and heaving with feeling. It gets better with every listen which, for me, is a mark of a quality album. There’s a brashness to Idyllwild that I love. Mia seems to have reached another level of writing and playing. Just when you think it can’t get any better.

In The SilenceThom Lion
ÁsgeirIn The Silence
I’ve always admired artists who could mix organic instruments into their sound with electronic circuitry. So many try and fail, yet Iceland’s Ásgeir does it with supreme conviction. His release In The Silence had me intrigued and genuinely moved from the first listen. The Bon Iver influence can be heard throughout (especially in the layered vocal production and acoustic guitars) but Ásgeir carves his own sound through bleeps, bloops and R&B beats. The fact that these songs have been translated from their original Icelandic form to English makes the words all the more wholesome and endearing. His voice exudes a soft, pleading emotion, with ethereal qualities. “Kings and Queens” is a folky song, yet would not be out of place on a chillout sessions compilation. Punctuated by pulsing synths, lyrically it conjures beautiful imagery and a sense of wonder. “Torrent” is an absolute belter, with its anthemic piano line, the band joins in with the spirit of Arcade Fire. Do yourself a favour and check out his vulnerable yet grandiose take of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” on youtube, for an insight into his stunning live show.

ElbowOlivia Hally (Oh Pep!)
ElbowThe Taking Off And Landing Of Everything
Elbow’s arrangements hit you hard, even more so with this latest release. Guy Garvey’s lyrics make you smile, but not because they’re particularly happy. This is a great album, my favourite this year.

KimbraJames McKendry (Takadimi)
KimbraThe Golden Echo
This is not a lo-fi listen, it is as much about sound design and exploration of textures as it is about songs. On each track you can hear that great care was taken to a sculpt a piece of art, and not just write some catchy tunes that everybody would like. It still has Kimbra’s trademark quirky sense of melody but it is far more experimental and eclectic in it’s influences than Vows. There are strong influences of neo-soul, experimental electronic music and psychedelia present. Washy, armchair sinking moments of ambient bliss like those heard on Carolina are contrasted with some edgier and more confronting works like the tongue in cheek ode to nostalgia that is “90’s music”. All in all I’m blown away by this album. Go get it.

Emma SwiftJames Morrison (The Morrisons)
Emma SwiftEmma Swift
Emma really delivered with this album. The songs are full of conviction, and her voice is equal parts of beauty and sorrow. It’s a real late night record. The whole thing is understated and moody, the session band are subtle and tasteful, Anne McCue did a great job with the production, and there’s more than one moment that will bring on a blissful sigh (special mention to the chorus in “James”). Just go and listen to it, watch her live, fall in love with her, and if you meet anyone who belittles the state of Australian country music, throw this their way.

Daniel RossenShannon Carpenter (Sleepy Dreamers)
Daniel RossenSilent Hour/Golden Mile
I love Grizzly Bear so I was probably always going to love this. I’ve always been a big fan of his voice and guitar playing. Was really hard to choose a fav so I should give an honourable mention to The War on Drugs. Their album was ridiculously good as well.

The War On DrugsOllie Brown
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
It’s the subtle change of the snare drum after the first chorus of Lost in the Dream. It’s the distant piano that melts away in your ears. It’s the shimmering tremolo guitars, driving 80s rock beats and Dylan-esc vocal delivery that makes this record timeless, refreshing and my favourite album of 2014.

S CareyRoscoe James Irwin
S. CareyRange of Light
S. Carey is mostly known for being the drummer and main backing vocalist in the Bon Iver live band, but his own solo records are amazing and place him highly as a genuine artist in his own right. He manages to blend live instruments and orchestration with manipulated ambient sound into something very haunting and really incredible. Once you’ve heard the opening track “Glass/Film”, you’ll be hard pressed not to listen to the whole record. “Crown the Pines”, with it’s free melody and layered double-stop fiddles, and “Alpenglow”, with it’s deep and powerful string arrangement, are both highlights.

The StavesRosie McDonald (RAPT, Folklore)
The StavesIf I Was
I’m really pre-empting as the full album isn’t out until early Feb but I’ve heard snippets of the songs on If I Was from the online trailer for the album and i love it already and have even pre ordered it. I don’t know if you are like me but I tend to judge if I like a song in the first few seconds and this sister act have the goods to deliver. I saw the family band – Emily, Jess, Camilla – at the Cambridge folk festival last year having not heard them before and loved their close harmonies and lovely poetic songs (like Wailing Jenny’s, Fleet Foxes, Crosby Still Nash & Young) but the band could crank when needed also. There is something very special about family voices together that finds a cohesive fullness and beauty. Ukulele, still the new black, was a feature as well as very nice guitar playing. I bought their album Dead, Born and Grown and have absolutely loved listening to it. Their Live at Cecil Sharpe House album is also sublime with a beautiful reading of that American folk ballad “Silver Dagger” made famous by Joan Baez. Like his year’s release pre release of The Blood I Bled From, If I Was was produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin and will be on high rotation as soon as I have it in my hands.

Tiny RuinsJane Hendry (Broads, The Nymphs)
Tiny RuinsBrightly Painted One
I had been waiting for this album, as I am a massive fan. Kel (also from Broads) is also a big fan. I was lucky enough to see Holly do a solo album preview show in Melbourne a few months ago put on by the Melbourne Folk Club and she played the entire album in order from start to finish. It was such a beautiful, intimate show. And she’s totally lovely as well.

HozierMark Wilkinson
HozierHozier
A really impressive collection of songs. The production gives the album a rawness and a darkness which I really like.

The War On DrugsAidan Cooney (Boy Outside)
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
A complete album and the sound of art being perfected over years. Culminating in this painstakingly crafted masterpiece. Beauty from start to finish.

Swimmin TimeTracy McNeil
Shovels & RopeSwimmin’ Time
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent conjure up the dead, awake the living and are in my opinion one of the best and purest forms of male-female–husband-wife country duo’s of all time. On this latest release they tread through deeper waters, transforming darkness into light, dirt into finely cut diamonds, all within just a few bars. I’m at times exhausted having gone on the journey with them but always better for it. Swimmin’ Time is magic! Hands down my favorite release of 2014. “There’s hope where you can’t see it, there’s a light after the storm”. I’m glad Shovels & Rope are around to remind us of that.

GirlAde Vincent (The Tiger and Me)
Pharrell WilliamsGirl
Great voice, great writing, full of fantastic hooks and well executed ideas. And I always love his production. My favourite pop album in years.

Angel OlsenJulia Jacklin
Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
This album sounds like 2014 for me. My housemates can attest that I have probably listened to it too much but it really hit me hard. She crafts really interesting songs which kind of meander but never lose focus. Her voice is this incredibly powerful thing that just cuts right through, she is one of the most unique and evocative vocalists I have ever heard. Some of the best moments on the record are when it’s just a strummed electric guitar and her singing in a whisper. It’s just beautiful heartbreaking lo-fi goodness.

The StavesSibylla Stephen (The Little Stevies)
The StavesThe Blood I Bled From
I am devastatingly slow when it comes to discovering to “new music”, even though I love it. These days, my two year old takes up most of my time (when I’m not concentrating on my own music), so I tend to catch onto things late, but I don’t enjoy them any less. The band I have discovered this year are The Staves. Their music moves me into a steady pace where I feel at peace. I’m pregnant again, and their album replaced my nightly 6pm-ish glass of wine (which is was very much missing!). I also want to shout-out to the best live band I’ve seen all year The Eastern, and the songs of Sweet Jean that featured heavily in the toddler music class my son and I have been attending at the Footscray Arts Centre, Rock On.

Ane BrunJames Lindsay (Breabach)
Ane BrunRarities
We really grew to be big fans of Ane when we were at WOMADelaide and Womad NZ together back in March this year. This album perfectly displays her serene voice, subtle lyrics and brilliant band.

VagabondLyn Taylor (Dear Orphans)
Stu LarsenVagabond
I waited too long for this album. Mike Rosenberg’s production of this album is sublime.

Gretta ZillerNick Payne (Dear Orphans)
Gretta ZillerHell’s Half Acre
I’m a sucker for a good turn of melody and Gretta’s EP has a plenitude of notes that turn in unexpected directions. I also like songs that can take me to a different time and place. The title track “Hell’s Half Acre” transported me straight away to Wyoming, and “the low country where those lands were so so bad … for me”.

HITSMark ‘Looch’ Lewis (Handsome Young Strangers)
HITSHikikomori
This may be a controversial choice nominating a flat out rock and roll band in this forum. But sometimes exceptions need to be made. HITS have delivered a staggering album which stands right up there with the best Australian rock n roll flag wavers before them. Think Radio Birdman, The Saints, The Hard Ons at their best – this album sits right up there with them. Quite possibly the best rock n roll band in the world ATM.

InterstellerLaura Bishop (Chaika, Laura & Susie)
Hans ZimmerInterstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
It starts with a soft theme reminiscent of the opening of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, minuscule in sound like a forgotten echo of humanity’s first footsteps into space flight; progresses to the magnitude of a full church organ with columns of air blasting through metal pipes, matching the enormity of rocket engines launching; later sits back to watch as an observer from afar with a simple yet beautiful piano theme; and even at points uses a theme that is similar to one I wrote myself over a decade ago for a short film about the Apollo 11 mission. Wormholes much? Who knows! Either way, it’s a jolly good ride.

New MoonFanny Lumsden
Sarah HumphreysNew Moon
Generally I am not into “love songs” or sincerity however this album makes me want to hug, love and high five everyone that is dear to me. The song writing is just top notch with equal parts heart, fight and spunk. I also really singing the songs into a wooden spoon and dancing around the kitchen. Also other tops were: Caitlin Harnett’s The River Runs North, Nikki Lane’s All or Nothin’ (yep girl power) and Del Barber’s Prarieography.

Tiny RuinsEmma Davis
Tiny RuinsBrightly Painted One
I was tremendously excited for this release. Holly’s first record, Some Were Meant for Sea, is one of my favourites – a beautiful piece of storytelling, cleverly told and delicately produced. This record has a little more of everything. More instruments, a little more electric, more variation and dynamics, but no less heart. It’s the perfect example of what happens when a musician grows a constant band around her. The arrangements become a little more thought out, the songs lift and fall a little more. Buy this record, wrap it up in paper, and leave it in the letterbox of someone brilliant.

Lily OJoe Gould (The Crooked Fiddle Band)
Sam AmidonLily-O
I bumped into good friend and man of impeccable taste, Mr Leroy Lee, at the Townie. It was 1:30am and luckily I wrote down the recommendation of this album. “You’ll love the beats” said Leroy. Beats? On a Sam Amidon album? He’s never been scared of percussion, but that’s not a comment to expect for the rustic strumming and plucking I’d enjoyed on Sam A’s previous outings. It was drizzly on my walk home, and I took an extra long way just to hear more as the early morning mistiness surrounded me. It perfectly suited the crystal clear production and voice filled with humanity. The version of “Groundhog Variations” is perfect, so try starting there. And if you see Leroy Lee around, get him to recommend your next favourite album.

Sun Kil MoonDarren Hanlon
Sun Kil MoonBenji
Sun Kil Moon had been one of those bands that, due to their bulky catalog and my own laziness, I’d never delved into. I couldn’t find an obvious doorway. I’d even played a show with them in Manchester a few years back, but it was a bad fit. The crowd watched me blank-faced and I felt self-conscious about displaying any kind of sunniness so just put my head down and plowed through. Mark Kozelek didn’t see me play but he was cordial in the bandroom and let me pilfer one of the bananas off his rider.
Just a few months back a good friend, in whose music taste I trust, implored me to listen to Benji, it was much more than a recommendation. So I took it very seriously and was, surprising to me, drawn into it right away by the croaky conversational tone and the stripped bare emotional tales he was telling.
A lot of the subject matter leans towards family, and is often confronting and candid. Lots of death and regret and tenderness. “I Can’t Live without My Mothers Love” is a far cry from your average Rock and Roll subject matter – and reminds me of first hearing Jonathan Richman sing about his wife in “Closer” – and just because of that is more Rock and Roll than any sex or drug reference. But there’s plenty of sex to be found. “Dogs” details the history of the protagonist’s (Kozelek’s?) early carnal explorations in erotic, graphic detail.
The songs are long, but don’t feel it. Like floating along on a stream where you’re too busy taking in the details of the surroundings to keep an eye on the time. The usual long-ingrained formulas of much popular music don’t apply here. The narratives are forthright and metaphor-free and the sparse instrumentation reflects this; it is subtle but inventive.
I’ve been thinking that as you get older poetry, for the sake of itself, can start to feel superfluous held up against pure message, or just plain truth. I’d spent my 20s trying to think up clever wordplay when now they can seem like window dressing. It’s not to say Benji isn’t clever. There’s so many surprising and inventive rhymes, or off-rhymes; it’s as if he’s tailored them to not quite fit so they jump out. And there’s a lot of humor, I actually laughed out loud hearing the line about his Dad flirting with the girls at Panera Bread. How often does that happen listing to serious folk music?
And it would take a hard heart not to find at least one tear. Listen to the story of his Dad’s downtrodden friend “Jim Wise”.
Very rarely, but every now and then, discovering a new band can pull back a curtain on a new way to approach songwriting, and another piece of the eternal puzzle falls away. I felt like this when I first heard Benji, ideas for about three new songs popped into my head. I feel like I have new tools with which to work.
I wonder if Mark Kozelek had an epiphany one day and a new horizon opened up, where the shackles of his old systems dissolved. Cause to me, as far as the lyrics go, this path he’s on feels limitless. Judging by his recent crazy slinging match with War On Drugs I hope this freedom of expression isn’t eating him up. I’m gonna go backwards now through his catalog to look for clues.
So listening to Benji has been a positive experience for me. I’ve also recommended it to other friends and they haven’t had the same experience, so evidently it’s not for everyone. But I’ve written this review without having listened to it for a few weeks now. That’s how vivid it still is in my mind.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 8th August

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The August edition of the Porch Light Sessions in Sydney will feature Betty & Oswald and Andy Golledge. Details here

– Australian country artist Aleyce Simmonds released her new video “My Life Drives Me To Drink” featuring and directed by Lachlan Bryan. Details here

– NSW Central Coast singer-songwriter Daniel Allars has announced a new EP Singing for Logs. Details here

– Melbourne alt-country duo The Mockingbird are streaming their new album This Is The Mockingbird online. Details here

– Melbourne artist HOWQUA released an amazing video for his new track “Fishing For Gold” where he plays to an empty Forum Theatre. Details here

– The 2014 Sunshine Fiddle Camp will be held in September and will feature tutoring from Casey Driessen, Ariel Friedman and George Jackson. Details here

– LA based singer-songwriter Xander Smith shared his new video “Say Anything” ahead of his upcoming visit to Australia. Details here

– The Wollombi Music Festival has a raft of folk and roots artists on its lineup this year including Claude Hay & The Gentle Enemies, The Morrisons, Shaun Kirk, Eddie Boyd & The Phatapillars, Benny Walker Band, Big Erle and many more. Details here

– American fiddling genius Casey Driessen is heading to Australia this September. Details here

– New Zealand lap steel guitarist and singer-songwriter Thomas Oliver released his new video “Boy”. Details here

– We premiered the new video from Tom Stephens, “Nowhere to Roam”, to help bring awareness to Homeless Persons’ Week. Details here

– We also got to premiere the brand new Jack Carty single “The Universe” featuring Katie Noonan. Details here

– Melbourne artist Oscar Lush released his brand new track “Please Come Back Soon”. Details here

– Direwolf released his brand new video “Alone on a Hill”. Details here

– Americana-rock five-piece Olivers Army have announced details of their new album Nothing Ever Really Stays The Same. Details here

Nova & The Experience announced details of their new EP Where We Go. Details here

Missy Higgins has announced details of her new album of Australian covers, OZ. Details here

The Ellis Collective released the video for their heartbreaking new song “Black Words”. Details here

Bec Sandridge is heading overseas but left us a parting gift with her new video “Over The Sea”. Details here

– Perth musician David Craft released his beautiful new video “Smokey Lungs & Dirty Puns”. Details here

Boy & Bear have released their new video “Old Town Blues”. Details here

Interviews

“Yeah, I do try and make little licks up. I only learnt that because I loved Joni Mitchell and would just go on Youtube and watch her play guitar. People would comment “what tuning is this in” and someone would comment back with the tuning and I’d just tune my guitar to it and watch where her fingers went. That’s kind of where I learnt that side of guitar playing”Melody Pool chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

Releases This Week

Direwolf
DirewolfDirewolf
Bandcamp

The Brouhaha
Smile It’s FreeThe Brouhaha
iTunes

The Company
TroubleThe Company
Bandcamp

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

The Folk Informal feat. Dan and Amy, Big Smoke, Katie Wighton, Sweet Jean

Dan and Amy

For anyone who hasn’t been to The Folk Informal is a really nice regular monthly night in Sydney that I would always recommend checking out. But this month especially as they’ve outdone themselves on the lineup featuring some of Timber and Steel’s favourite up and coming artists – Dan and Amy (above), Big Smoke, Katie Wighton and Sweet Jean.

Thursday 14th August – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW
Facebook Event

Gigs Next Week

Bob Dylan
Wednesday 13th August – Riverside Theatre, Perth, WA
Thursday 14th August – Riverside Theatre, Perth, WA
Friday 15th August – Riverside Theatre, Perth, WA

Bree De Rome
Thursday 14th August – Dowse Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 15th August – Rabbit and Cocoon, Gold Coast, QLD

Busby Marou
Friday 8th August – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 9th August – Wrest Point SHowroom, Hobart, TAS
Sunday 10th August – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 14th August – Baroque, Katoomba, NSW
Friday 15th August – ANU Bar, Canberra, ACT

Clare Bowditch with Adalita
Friday 8th August – Powerhouse Theatre, Brisbane, QLD

Dan and Amy
Wednesday 13th August – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 14th August – The Folk Informal at FBi Social, Sydney, NSW

Fairlight Folk Acoustic Lounge feat. Justin Bernasconi and the Dukes of Thornbury, Aaron Lyon, Laura Zarb
Saturday 9th August – William Street Studios, Sydney, NSW

Fanny Lumsden
Friday 8th August – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th August – Happy Yess, Darwin, NT

Jep and Dep
Friday 8th August – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Joel Barker
Saturday 9th August – The Astor Lounge, Perth, WA

Justin Bernasconi
Friday 8th August – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 9th August – Fairlight Folk, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 10th August – The Junkyard, Maitland, NSW

Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes, Dan Waters and The Weeping Willows
Saturday 9th August – Caravan Club, Oakleigh, VIC

Luke Morris
Wednesday 13th August – Marble Bar, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 14th August – The Bucket List, Bondi, NSW

Melody Pool and Marlon Williams
Friday 8th August – St Martin’s Parish Hall, Mullumbimby, NSW
Saturday 9th August – No. 5 Church Street, Bellingen, NSW
Sunday 10th August – Lizotte’s, Central Coast, NSW
Tuesday 12th August – The Front Gallery, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 14th August – Ararat Hotel, Ararat, VIC
Friday 15th August – Harvester Moon, Bellarine, VIC

Nova and the Experience
Saturday 9th August – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th August – The Penny Black, Melbourne, VIC

Porch Light Sessions feat. Betty & Oswald, Andy Golledge
Thursday 14th August – Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, NSW

Redlands Bluegrass Festival
Friday 8th to Sunday 10th August – The Kindilan Convention Centre, Redland Bay, QLD

The Beards
Friday 8th August – Spurs Saloon Bar, Devonport, TAS
Saturday 9th August – Royal Oak Hotel, Launceston, TAS

The Folk Informal feat. Dan and Amy, Big Smoke, Katie Wighton, Sweet Jean
Thursday 14th August – FBi Social, Sydney, NSW

Tobias Hengeveld
Friday 15th August – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

Tom West
Tuesday 12th August – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS

Vincent Cross
Friday 8th August – The Gallery, Gignet, TAS
Friday 8th August – ABC Radio, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 9th August – The Royal Yacht Club, Hobart, TAS
Sunday 10th August – Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Monday 11th August – Dear Mondays, Retreat Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 12th August – Barb’s House Concert, Melbourne, Victoria
Thursday 14th August – Sutherland Acoustic Music Club, Gymea, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th August – Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Folk Club, Hornsby, NSW

Wagons
Friday 8th August – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh, VIC
Saturday 9th August – The Substation, Newport, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“Shark Fin Blues” – Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens

This week Missy Higgins announced her new album OZ along with with releasing her version of the track “Shark Fin Blues”, orignially by The Drones (see this piece). The track is considered one of the best Australian songs ever, and I’m a little obsessed with it to be honest. I was originally introduced to “Shark Fin Blues” by Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens so I hunted out this video of them performing it live at National Folk Festival – and it turns out I was probably in the audience when this video was shot!

Watch the New Video from The Ellis Collective, “Black Words”

The Ellis Collective
Image Courtesy of The Ellis Collective

Canberra based folk band The Ellis Collective have just released their new single and video, “Black Words”. The track is one of the most heartbreaking to date and is taken from their forthcoming album Carry.

Check out the video, directed by multiple award winning film maker Scott Holgate, below:

The Full National Folk Festival Program Revealed

Old Man Leudecke
Image Courtesy of Old Man Luedecke

Can you believe Easter is under two months away? Crazy times! With that in mind The National Folk Festival last week officially launched their 2014 program with well over 200 artists announced.

To recap the international contingent includes Woody Mann (USA), Damien Dempsey (Ireland), Tift Merritt (USA), Lindi Ortega (Canada), Old Man Luedecke (Above, Canada), Eleanor McEvoy (Ireland), Fásta (Quebec/Ireland/Scotland) and The Alaskan String Band (Alaska).

Not to be outdone the local additions to the lineup include a bunch of Timber and Steel favourites including Jordie Lane, Kate Fagan, The Little Stevies, Heath Cullen, The Crooked Fiddle Band, Castlecomer, The Mae Trio, The Barons of Tang, The Davidson Brothers, Tolka, Bernard Carney, The Ellis Collective, Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, Archie Roach, Joseph Tawadros Trio, Leah Flanagan, The Lurkers, Margaret Walters, Martin Pearson, The Morrisons, The Rusty Spring Syncopators, Sarah Humphreys, Sparrow Folk, The Stetson Family, Takadimi, Trouble in the Kitchen, Zeptepi and many many more.

The National Folk Festival has also announced the recipient of the National Folk Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award is folk veteran Margret Roadknight.

The National Folk Festival takes place at Exhibition Park in Canberra from the 17th to 21st April. Check out the official web site for more information.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 15th November

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– Folk four-piece Lime and Steel have a couple of gigs around NSW while they’re busy recording a new album. Details here

– Sydney’s Belle and the Bone People have released their new video “The Boy”. Details here

– The very buzz-worthy Mikhael Paskalev has announced Australian tour dates next March. Details here

– Gold Coast singer-songwriter Weathered has released his new video “Coast”. Details here

– In the year’s most unexpected collaboration Norah Jones and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong are releasing an album of traditional Americana songs inspired by The Everly Brothers. Details here

– Melbourne duo Sweet Jean have released their new video “Annabelle”. Details here

– Adelaide based singer-songwriter Kaurna Cronin will be heading out on a national tour this weekend. Details here

Matt Walker, the singer-songwriter NSW readers would recognise from the NRMA adverts, has a brand new band called Lost Ragas. Details here

The April Maze are back in the country and are celebrating with a residency at The Toff in Town in Melbourne. Details here

– Melbourne based singer-songwriter Ariela Jacobs has released her debut single “The Sound”. Details here

– Canberran six-piece The Ellis Collective have released their brand new single “Walk Back Down” after a two year hiatus. Details here

– UK based singer-songwriter Gibson Bull will be releasing his new EP Skin and Bones at the start of next month. Details here

WOMADelaide revealed their full 2014 lineup including Billy Bragg, Sam Lee, Breabach, Washington, Hanggai, Jeff Lang, Mikhael Paskalev, Neko Case, Loren Kate, Thelma Plum, Tinpan Orange and many many more. Details here

– George Jackson, Daniel Watkins and Andrew Small have a new bluegrass and old time trio that will be touring the country next year. Details here

The Pierce Brothers will be launching their new single “Tallest Teepee in Town” with shows in NSW and VIC. Details here

– The Blue Mountains Music Festival has revealed the first lineup of artists for 2014 including Xavier Rudd, Ash Grunwald and Lior, Rory McLeod, Eleanor McEvoy, Hanggai, Blair Dunlop, Peter Rowan Band with Richard Greene, Rose Cousins, Eric Bogle, Jeff Lang, Slava & Leonard Grigoryan, Flap!, Sunas, The Woohoo Revue, The Pigs, The BordererS, The Tiger And Me, Jack Carty, Mustered Courage, George & Noriko, Hat Fitz & Cara, Dan Parsons, The Mae Trio and many many more. Details here

– Sydney’s Little May have released their new video “Hide” as well as being announced as supports for the upcoming Mikhael Paskalev tour. Details here

Releases This Week

Jake Bugg
Shangri-LaJake Bugg
iTunes

I Spy
I SpyMikhael Paskalev
iTunes

Timber and Steel Presents

Alex Bowen
Alex Bowen with Tash Sultana, Callee
Sunday 17th November – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets on the Door

Boy Outside
Boy Outside, The British Blues, All Our Exes Live In Texas
Thursday 21st November – The Mac Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Tickets on the Door

Gigs Next Week

Boy & Bear
Friday 15th November – Waves Nightclub, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 16th November – Wrestpoint Showroom, Hobart, TAS
Thursday 21st November – HQ, Adelaide, SA
Friday 22nd November – Metropolis, Fremantle, WA

Busby Marou
Friday 15th November – Flinders Social, Townsville, QLD
Saturday 16th November – Tanks Art Centre, Cairns, QLD
Friday 22nd November – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS

Damien Dempsey
Sunday 17th November – The Cab Bar @ Rosie O’Grady’s, Perth, WA

Davidson Brothers
Sunday 17th November – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Dyson Stringer Cloher
Friday 15th November – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Saturday 16th November – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 17th November – Beav’s Bar, Geelong, VIC
Friday 22nd November – Balnarring Community Hall, Balnarring, VIC

Emma Davis and Brian Campeau
Sunday 17th November – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Foghorn Stringband
Friday 15th November – Nerrigundah Ag Bureau, Nerrigundah, NSW
Saturday 16th November – Quarterdeck, Narooma, NSW

Gossling with Whitaker
Friday 15th November – Alhambra Lounge, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 20th November – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Jacinta Price
Thursday 21st November – Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs, NT

James Kenyon
Friday 15th November – No. 5 Church St, Bellingen, NSW
Saturday 16th November – Thirty Three on Hickory, Dorrigo, NSW
Wednesday 20th November – The Tree House, Byron Bay, NSW

Jordie Lane
Friday 15th November – Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Saturday 16th November – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 17th November – Grand Junction, Maitland, NSW
Monday 18th November – Music Lounge, Manly, NSW
Wednesday 20th November – Lizotte’s, Central Coast, NSW
Thursday 21st November – Lizotte’s, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 22nd November – Mullumbimby Music Festival, Mullumbimby, NSW

Kate Martin
Friday 15th November – Newsagency, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 16th November – The Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW
Sunday 17th November – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Kaurna Cronin
Sunday 17th November – The Grace Darling, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 19th November – The Newsagency, Sydney, NSW

Lachlan Bryan
Thursday 21st November – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS

Laura & Susie with Wartime Sweethearts
Friday 15th November – Cafe Church Space, Sydney, NSW

Lime and Steel
Saturday 16th November – The Royal Exchange, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 22nd November – Baroque Room, Katoomba, NSW

Lost Ragas
Sunday 19th November – Northcote Social CLub, Melbourne, VIC

Love Over Gold
Friday 15th November – Street Theatre, Canberra, ACT (Lucie Thorne Solo)
Saturday 16th November – The Town Hall, Candelo, NSW (Lucie Thorne Solo)
Wednesday 20th November – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Patrick James
Friday 15th November – The Fly Trap, Fremantle, WA
Friday 22nd November – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

Perch Creek Family Jugband
Saturday 16th November – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th November – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby, NSW

Raindrops on Rooftops feat. Grim Fawkner, Oh Pep!, Christopher Coleman Collective
Saturday 16th November – TBA House Concert, Melbourne, VIC

Robert Ellis and Corey Chisel with Marlon Williams
Friday 15th November – The Substation, Newport, VIC
Saturday 16th November – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine, VIC
Sunday 17th November – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 20th November 20 – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 21st November – Lizottes, Dee Why, NSW
Friday 22nd November – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW

Sal Kimber & The Rollin’ Wheel
Friday 15th November – The Junkyard, Maitland, NSW
Sunday 17th November – The Wollombi Tavern, Wollombi, NSW
Thursday 21st November – The Joynt, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 22th to Sunday 24th November – Mullum Music Festival, NSW

The Crooked Fiddle Band
Friday 15th November – Wollongong Diggers Club, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 22nd November – Baroque Room, Katoomba, NSW

The Little Stevies
Friday 15th November – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Friday 22nd November – The Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD

Tanya Batt
Friday 15th November – Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA

Whitley
Friday 15th November – Yours and Owls, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 16th November – Goodgod, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 17th November – Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Roving Gambler” – The Stanley Brothers

This song has crossed my desk twice this week. First of all it appears on the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack courtesy of The Downhill Strugglers and then again as part of the Billie Joe and Norah album of Americana covers Foreverly. Listen to this classic version from The Stanley Brothers.

Listen to the New Ellis Collective Single “Walk Back Down”

Ellis Collective
Image Courtesy of The Ellis Collective

Folk six piece The Ellis Collective have finally released their new single “Walk Back Down” after a two year recording hiatus. The Canberra/East Coast based band will be releasing their second album Carrylater this month with “Walk Back Down” the official first single – check it out below:

And as an extra special treat the band have also released a B-side in the form of The Cure’s “Let’s Go To Bed”. Listen to it here:

National Folk Festival Find: Sam King

Sam King
Image Courtesy of Sam King

If you’re familiar at all with the Canberra music scene you would have, at some point, come across Sam King. King features in just about every band to come out of the nation’s capital including Mr Fibby, The Ellis Collective, One Night Jam and Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens (plus more!), yet has only just started to seriously flex his muscles as a “solo” singer-songwriter.

In fact Sam King’s solo act is so new it a) may or may not be called Dapto Street Dapto, b) has no online presence outside of a single Youtube clip (at the end of this article) and c) apparently made its debut at this year’s National Folk Festival with a series of shows at the youth-orientated Majestic venue.

I managed to catch Sam King twice during The National and both times I was taken in by his beautiful finger-picked songs and his engaging stage presence. Flanked by various members of his other musical projects King has seamslessly made the transition from band member and session muso to fully formed singer-songwriter.

Sam King’s writing and vocal style reminded me quite a lot of fellow National Folk Festival performer Jordie Lane, although the gorgeous arrangements of the songs and sumptuous vocal harmonies from his band place him firmly in the nu-folk crowd with the likes of Husky and Jinja Safari. It was obvious that Sam King is still finding his feet a little as a solo artist – the two sets I saw were essentially the same songs but King performed one acoustically and one electrically – but even this experimentation is enthralling and he was top of my list when it came to recommending artists to other people at The National.

How Sam King as an artist evolves – whether he truly goes solo with his material or chooses to keep the Dapto Street Dapto band format – is going to be really interesting to watch. I just hope that he continues to explore this part of his musical identity because it’s truly something special.

Country of Origin: Australia (Canberra)
Sounds Like: Jordie Lane backed by Husky
File Under: Singer-songwriter, Nu-Folk

Corinbank Returns With New Lineup

Jack Carty
Image Courtesy of Jack Carty

After a devastating weather event forced Corinbank Festival in Canberra to cancel earlier this year (read all about it here in our interview with Corinbank General Manager Amy Moon) the event is back with a new lineup, new dates and a whole bunch of quality music for your listening pleasure.

Corinbank Take 2 will take place from the 30th November to 2nd December in the Brindabella Mountains, ACT. The lineup is a mixture of acts from the cancelled event earlier this year and some fresh new faces including Timber and Steel favourites Busby Marou, Dallas Frasca, The Barons of Tang, Jack Carty (above), Heath Cullen, Lucie Thorne, Julia & The Deep Sea Sirens, The Ellis Collective and more.

All tickets purchased for the original Corinbank Festival are still valid for the Take 2 event. If you haven’t gotten yourself tickets yet head over to the official Corinbank site for details. The full lineup announced this morning is below:

Busby Marou, Dallas Frasca, The Barons of Tang, Jack Carty, Heath Cullen, Lucie Thorne, Cilla Jane, Amax, Beth n Ben, Big Score, Brass Knuckle Brass Band, Caity Sarah/This n’ That, Cracked Actor, D’Opus and Roshambo, Fun Machine, Hashemoto, James Fahy and his Trio, Julia & The Deep Sea Sirens, Los Chavos, Matt Dent, Drew Walky and the Hypnotic Planigales, Pocket Fox, Moochers Inc, No Hausfrau, Son of Rut, The Burley Griffin, The Ellis Collective, The Fuelers, Waterford, ZoOpaGOo

National Folk Festival 2012: A Musical Feast Part 1

Food

Hosted over Easter by Our Nation’s Capital, The National Folk Festival is something I look forward to, and every year I am in equal measure befuddled by, and in awe of, the phantasmagoria of sounds and kaleidoscope of sights present.

Music, dance, workshops, and expert percussive monkey puppeteers – these are all reasons to attend. But of course, there is another…

Lounging amidst lashings of hot mulled wine, ubiquitous gozleme and meat on sticks, lays the lip-smacking delight that comes with a side-served promise of spiritual awakening, known as The Feast.

The Feast, folk festival grub perfected by vegetarian Hare Krishnas, has become a main attraction. Two parts Royal Rice and Mixed Veggie Curry, one part Kofta Balls and Tomato Chutney and one part Halava Dessert, The Feast describes The National Folk Festival itself – aromatic, wholesome, lively and at times, experimental (who knew that sweet, sticky date-laden halava and tomato chutney could taste so good once accidentally combined)?

For this reason I will allow The Hare Krishna Feast a guest spot in this report (as it ‘gets’ folk).

The Yearlings

This super-lovely set got off to a cute start, with Robyn and Chris, a.k.a. The Yearlings wholeheartedly strumming (as we wondered, “Why are they performing through their foldback, and underwater?” and “Who turned out the lights?”) until the sound guy helpfully pointed out that things had not yet begun. Then, after giggles all round and a formal introduction from the MC they were on their way, both visible and audible.

What followed was dreamy, alt-country, road-trippin’ side-winding – the kind that makes you think, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”, or “Dernit, I fergit ma Stetson”.

Wildflower Girl” was ultra-cool. Robyn’s voice, with a touch of the Hope Sandovals, is so listenable and Chris coaxes milky tones from his electric guitar. Isn’t it so much more engrossing when talented guitarists don’t overdo it, even though they could?

After the gig we bumped into them at the sunscreen dispensary. They were friendly, relaxed and not the least bit sunburnt.

The Yearlings via The Feast: Everything that is great about The Feast, exists within The Yearlings. If I had to compare them to a particular part, it would be Royal Rice and Mixed Vegetable Curry: subtle, moreish, satisfying.

Sarah Humphreys (feat. Sam Buckingham)

Sarah Humphreys is quite the endearing performer. Somehow both shy and confident, she has a gentle, folky sway and a bunch of stories that, if told by a performer less natural, would seem too earnest for me (heck, she’s brought me to near-tears on more than one occasion).

This year at The National she was joined by her guitarist and a percussionist, which added a good amount of pep, to her oft introspective set.

I adore her most when she sings this song, which she did with fellow songbird, Sam Buckingham, silencing all in the Flute ‘n’ Fiddle and well into the fields beyond, even the drumming monkeys.

Sarah Humphreys via The Feast: Sweet like Halava.

April Verch

We wandered into a dark, cow-barn-sized, full of folk-folk room and settled in on the floor to catch some country/bluegrass tunes sung by a tiny, be-frocked Canadian fiddler accompanied by her wickedly skilled band (Cody Walters on double bass and banjo and Hayes Griffin on guitar).

All seemed wonderfully put together, hearty, festival, fiddle-driven fare until…April Verch started TAP DANCING!

I rummaged around for her programme bio to confirm that yes, this was happening and yes, April is not only a multi-instrumentalist and cherished Canadian musical export, she is also known in the business for her ‘step dancing’ prowess.

What the?

Over the next 30 minutes April and her band wowed us with their 3-man show. They were true performers, charming and funny (Hayes pointed out wryly that the only way to tell one fiddle tune from another is by the name, how true).

I’m Still Trying” was uber-country in both lyrical style and arrangement, and simply lovely. The final number, “Bumblebee in a Jug” was a foot stompin’ hurrah that had me looking around for bumblebees swarming from jugs (‘cause people play jugs at the Folky).

To finish, the crowd sung Happy Birthday to April and she forgave us for not bringing a card. It was short notice, after all.

April Verch via The Feast: Just like a small dollop of Tomato Chutney, April Verch stepped up with a surprising amount of (high) kick!

The Ellis Collective

Being a Sound Guy at a folk festival is pretty much the job from Hell. Sound checks in real time, constant rearranging of instrument mics, vocal mics and leads, knob/big ego/fiddle fiddling, it’s no walk in the park.

On Friday night, as The Ellis Collective prepared to folk-rock the Majestic (a 1950s circus-style tent and newish venue at The National), it was clear that there might be technical difficulties. The show was running 25 minutes late, for starters.

When Matty Ellis and his band of ragamuffin folksters graced the stage, they were met with raucous applause. Having recently been ‘Unearthed’ in 2011, their following is growing in number and devotion and those attending didn’t seem to mind the murky sound one bit. The Ellis Collective soldiered through the sound and even sanctioned some specific, rhythmic audience participation, which much to their bemusement, the odd wag continued in unexpected songs, with the full audience’s final approval delivered in said-same rhythm-claps instead of the usual applause.

The gig swung from an avant-garde experiment that at one point saw nine band members on stage (incl. four percussionists, one playing a chain, in a bucket) to a moving, heartfelt performance, and it brought the tent down. Sound Guy Hell, but fan Heaven.

The Ellis Collective via The Feast: Crunchy, crunchy Kofta Balls.

David Ross MacDonald

A cool thing to do at a folk festival is take a punt, as we did on Friday afternoon, with David Ross MacDonald.

Knowing nothing about him, we sat ourselves down in the Flute ‘n’ Fiddle, taking care to manage our exit strategy, should his set not fill our 40 minutes with joy (sounds harsh but there is a LOT of music to get through at The National)! The only clue that we were about to see something good was that The Yearlings crept in via a sneaky side entrance to watch. Did I mention how much I like The Yearlings?

David, a troubadour in folk-armour (white shirt and vest), had us immediately. And I can’t quite pinpoint what it was that captivated, perhaps the blend of introversion, quirk, honesty and sing-scat-humming to himself off mic. If you watch this shaky recording of “Ruby Stone” (try to ignore the children crying), you might hear what I think I heard – a hint of Darren Hanlon and something deeply lovely. And we all joined in with the chorus.

(Here, why not watch some more, it’s fun)!

I also liked what he had to say – whether dispensing advice from his Mother (“Adapt or die!”) or telling a funny story about a family holiday with Grandpa that takes a twist and punches you in the guts with brutal, beautiful observation.

David is a great guitarist but his appeal isn’t abracadabra or production. We lined up to buy his latest album after the gig (and maybe gush a little) and I like it, but his live performance with nothing added, seemed so, so pure. The album longs me to see him live again.

In any case, I give David Ross MacDonald two of my thumbs, pointed skyward.

David Ross MacDonald via The Feast: Have you ever eaten the feast for lunch AND dinner. David Ross MacDonald is just like that.

In sum, The National Folk Festival rules. So does sunscreen, songbirds, tap dancing, Sound Guys, Grandparents, D. R. MacDonald and of course, The Feast.

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