The Best Folky Christmas Songs of 2016

Little Drummer Boy

It’s Christmas Eve which means its time to publish our favourite Christmas tracks released this year with a folky flavour.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! Looking forward to folking with you in 2017

The Lumineers – “Blue Christmas”
This year we were treated to a couple of versions of the Elvis Presley track “Blue Christmas” – a stripped back version from The Lumineers and an indie version from Builder of the House & Robyn Adele Anderson. We like ’em both!

Builder of the House (ft. Robyn Adele Anderson) – “Blue Christmas”

Trampled by Turtles – “Christmas in Prison”
Jone Prine’s “Christmas in Prison” is a go to cover for Americana, country and bluegrass bands each year – we like this version from Trampled by Turtles

Bonnie & The Barrows – “Christmas Brand New”

Sara Watkins – “The Holidays With You”
Sara Watkins adds a touch of ukulele to Christmas with her track “The Holidays With You”.

David Brent & Foregone Conclusion – “Don’t Cry It’s Christmas”
Ok, this isn’t folk. But you have to agree that Ricky Gervais’ David Brent owns the Christmas number one with “Don’t Cry It’s Christmas”

Brooke Annibale – “This Holiday”

Caroline Pennell Feat. Aaron Espe – “This Year”

Miranda Dodson – “Christmas Glow”

Jessica Martindale & Tyler Huston – “Angels We Have Heard”

She & Him – “Christmas Memories”
She & Him are determined to corner the indie market each and every year and their 2016 track “Christmas Memories” is another gem.

Freedom Fry – “Oh Santa (Bad World)”

Woodsy Pride – “It’s Merry Christmas”

Marié Digby – “Venice Beach Christmas”

Cara Dillon – “Upon a Winter’s Night”
A truly wonderful piece of Christmas folk music – what more would you expect from Cara Dillon?

Low – “Some Hearts (at Christmas Time)”

Jack Skuller – “Stuck In This Holiday”

The Washington Squares – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”
“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” gets a 60s folk makeover care of The Washington Squares.

Loretta Lynn – “To Heck with Ole Santa Claus”

Skinner and T’witch – “The Winter Song”

Jethro Tull – “Pass The Bottle (A Christmas Song)”

The Changing Room – “There’s Magic In Christmas Eve”

Ange Hardy – “Mary’s Robin”
Ange Hardy released a double A side for Christmas and both tracks – “The Quantock Carol” and “Mary’s Robin” – are magnificent. We chose “Mary’s Robin” because most other outlets are chosing the former.

The Gothard Sisters – “Christmas Flower”
Tightly polished Irish folk music at its best.

Jennifer Licko – “The Holly and the Ivy”

Cherish the Ladies – “Ding Dong! Merrily On High/The Cordal Jig/Old Apples In Winter/Con Cassidy’s”

Ben Abraham and Missy Higgins – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
A wonderful slice of Australian Christmas. Ben Abraham, Missy Higgins, a kiddy pool and a dog are all you need.

The Secret Sisters – “The Little Drummer Boy”

Hattie Briggs & Natalie Holmes – “Christmas Bells”

The Chieftains Celebrate 50 Years With Indie-Folk Collaborations

The Chieftains
Image Courtesy of The Chieftains

A big part of my musical education growing up was listening to traditional music from the British Isles. While my family comes from good English, Scottish and Welsh stock it was Irish trad that seemed most prevalent during my childhood and continues to be the most nostalgic music for me as well as being the foundation upon which my love of folk music was built.

Of the group of Irish artists I remember from my childhood – Christy Moore, Four Men and a Dog, The Dubliners, Planxty – the group which always stood out was The Chieftains.

2012 sees The Chieftains reach quite an incredible milestone, celebrating 50 years together. The Chieftains have chosen to mark the event with the announcement of a brand new album titled Voice of Ages featuring collaborations with some of the world’s hottest indie, folk and Americana artists and produced by Paddy Moloney and the legendary T Bone Burnett. You’d be excused for wondering whether The Chieftains read Timber and Steel considering the list of artists that will appear on Voice of Ages including: The Decemberists, Punch Brothers, The Secret Sisters, The Low Anthem, The Civil Wars, Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lisa Hannigan, Carlos Nunez, Paolo Nutini, Imelda May and Bon Iver.

Even if you’re not a trad fan just hearing all of those artists on one disc should be enough of a draw card. Voice of Ages is due for release on the 21st February. More details can be found on the official Chieftains web site. We thought we’d leave you with one of our favourite Chieftains collaborations featuring The Corrs from the Tears of Stone album:

The Secret Sisters to Return to Australia?

The Secret Sisters
Image Courtesy of The Secret Sisters

In our geekish, almost obsessive search for folk related news on the interweb we came across something very interesting this morning – US alt-country duo The Secret Sisters were listed as playing at Sydney’s The Basement on the 30th September. A little more digging uncovered that The Secret Sisters have a whole list of Australian dates centred around an appearance at The Great Southern Blues Festival this September and October.

Constant readers will know that The Great Southern Blues Festival was announced as cancelled this morning. They’ll also know that The Secret Sisters had not been formally announced as part of the lineup, leading us to believe that they were meant as part of a yet to be announced addition of artists to the festival – and we can only speculate who else that may have included.

This does beg the question as to whether The Secret Sisters will still make it down our way without The Great Southern Blues Festival as their linchpin. The duo were here earlier in the year for the Byron Bay Bluesfest and delivered a performance our reviewer said “had the audience smiling, swaying and hanging on to every swell word”. You can even read an interview we had with The Secret Sisters here.

We’re going to assume that yes, The Secret Sisters will still make it to our shores next month, so we’re going to print the dates below. We’ll let you know if we hear of any changes, otherwise make sure you get along to one of these shows:

30th September – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
4th October – A&I Hall, Bangalow, NSW
6th October – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
8th October – The Palais, Hepburn Springs, VIC

The Best of Newport Folk 2011

The Decemberists
Image of The Decemberists Courtesy of NPR Music

The Newport Folk Festival is easily the most famous folk festival in the world with a history spanning back to 1959. The latest iteration of the festival took place on the 30th and 31st July and for the first time in its history was completely sold out. Traditionalists had their usual grumbles about the definition of “folk” being too loosely applied to music with grounding in rock, blues, funk and soul but in our opinion Newport had one of the most exciting lineups we’ve seen at a festival in recent years.

NPR Music spent the weekend of the Newport Folk Festival streaming most of the key concerts live and have since uploaded all of that material to their site to be accessed by fans all over the world. We here at Timber and Steel have painstakingly sifted through all of the material compiled by NPR Music (it’s been really difficult listening to hours and hours of music) to recommend to you, our constant reader, our favourites from the event. If you’d like to access a full list of everything captured by NPR at the festival click here, otherwise you can stream our recommendations via the links below:

  • The Decemberists copped a lot of flack for their inclusion at The Newport Folk festival (they’re apparently a rock act) despite delivering their folkiest album to date with The King is Dead this year. Accordion player Jenny Conlee was absent from the proceedings due to her battle with breast cancer but The Decemberists were blessed with appearances of touring violinist Sara Watkins, collaborator Gillian Welch and the great Pete Seeger
  • The Felice Brothers have a reputation as an amazing live band and it looks as though they deliver once again
  • The Wailin’ Jennys should be familiar to Australian audiences having toured here a couple of times in the past. Their Newport set is as tight as folk music gets and their voices are absolutely superb
  • Gillian Welch is having a hell of a year having collaborated with The Decemberists on their new album as well as releasing her first solo record in 8 years. As usual Welch is on stage with partner in crime David Rawlings (who is just a magic guitarist) performing some of the choicest cuts from The Harrow and the Harvest
  • The Civil Wars have been making quite a stir on the music scene of late and listening to their performance at Newport it’s easy to see why
  • Justin Townes Earle was meant to perform at last year’s Newport Folk Festival but a hand injury kept him away. This set is almost note for note the same as we saw at the Blue Mountains Music Festival this year (including the introductions) which we don’t mind one bit
  • Emmylou Harris is another folk legend with a new album this year and an amazing live show to showcase it. Here she’s just as amzing as she was earlier this year at the State Theatre in Sydney
  • The Head And The Heart are not a band we’ve talked about much but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Their harmonies alone are worth listening to in this NPR concert
  • Amos Lee has been kicking his brand of rootsy folk around for a while now and it’s easy to see why he attracts an audience of loyal followers
  • Middle Brother, the supergroup consisting of members of Dawes, Delta Spirit and Deer Tick, were show stealers at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. It’s easy to see why
  • Mountain Man flew a little under the radar when they were here earlier this year but having toured with Jonsi and The Decemberists and now an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival it looks like their star is well and truly on the rise
  • The Secret Sisters were one of our standouts at this years Bluesfest so its great to hear them again at Newport

There’s over 12 hours of music there and that just scratches the surface of the Newport Folk Festival. We don’t know about you but we’ve already started working out how we can afford to see the festival in person next year. Why don’t you join us?

Bumper Bluesfest Review: Part II

Bluesfest Trees
Photos by KT Bell

THIS IS IT!! Finally… part two of the Bumper Bluesfest Review.

Of course, it was totally planned this way. Just in time (ahem) for the news that Bluesfest are extending the deadline for Pre-Earlybird tickets for the 2012 festival! As they say, there’s no better time than now!

Anyway, more about the 2012 festival at the end.

A quick re-cap… so far, since Part I, we are half way through the marathon 6 day festival, having had the pleasure of watching Ben Harper, CW Stoneking, Eric Bibb, Ernest Ranglin, Fistful of Mercy, Funky Meters, Imogen Heap, Leah Flanagan… (DEEP BREATH)… Mavis Staples, Michael Franti, Mick McHugh, Ray Beadle, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Ruthie Foster, aaaaand Trombone Shorty!

Let us continue…

Secret Sisters

Having heard about the Secret Sisters several times leading up to the festival, I was keen to see what all the talk was about. One song into the set, the young duo from Alabama, who are indeed sisters, had turned me into an instant fan. With their beautiful southern harmonies, and country/gospel charm, they would not be out of place on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. That distinct accent, and being just so gosh darn nice, had the audience smiling, swaying and hanging on to every swell word. Stories of home, family, food, and tradition interlaced their set of authentically old styled originals and covers, including a beautiful rendition of Hank WilliamsYour Cheatin’ Heart. The sisters captured the hearts of Bluesfest, and it seems Australia had a good impression on them too, so this will certainly not be the last we see of them. (Check out KT Bell’s great interview with the girls during the festival)

From soft and sweet, to evocative and tribal, Canadian-Indian songwriter and performer Buffy Sainte-Marie was about to take the fans and new comers on a journey through her Cree heritage, her career as a songwriter, and her passion for social justice. Not knowing far beyond the classics Up Where We Belong, and Universal Soldier, my expectations were wide open, and what I experienced was an education! Musically, culturally, politically. There are two sounds that Buffy excels at… the softly spoken folk singer, and the passionate warrior singing from the voices of her ancestors. Her unconventional vocal style for those ‘heavier’ songs may shock, but you soon realise that this is the sound of a people, as well as one woman, and her experiences. The warrior came out in full force for her epic closing song, Star Walker, that features the folk singer meeting head on with a barrage of Cree chanting, and rock guitars. I’d have to agree with other responses to her set that there was a certain something that came over the crowd. An immense respect for a legend, and understanding of the social and cultural messages she was offering.

The time was drawing near. With one set to go, the artist who had inspired, transformed, and near turn upside down Bluesfest 2011 was not far away. Droves of fans had been gathered, saving their places, sitting tight in anticipation for Bob Dylan to hit the stage. Blessed with an almost capacity Mojo stage crowd, Warren Haynes took the stage, playing as what could be described as the ‘warm up’ for Bob Dylan. But any notion of Haynes as a support act soon drifted, as he launched into his set of guitar driven, rock heavy blues without hesitation. It became apparent that a significant number of people in this crowd weren’t just here for Dylan, and did indeed know of Haynes and his projects (Gov’t Mule, The Allman Brothers, and The Dead (featuring members of The Grateful Dead), and were keen to catch his return to Bluesfest for 2011.
Regardless of notoriety, everyone had the opportunity to see Haynes in full swing, in no way slowing down or sitting comfortably in his fortunately positioned set, proving to this evening’s mixed crowd why he is one of the quintessential Bluesfest artists, who in turn showed due respect.

Now the time had come. With much patience, aching leg, and sore behind, the hunger of hundreds of expectant fans  was about to be quenched. Bob Dylan was in the house.
Now, most readers of Timber & Steel should be familiar with the reaction of fans and first time viewers of Dylan’s current live show. The figurehead of classic politically charged folk music does indeed keep to himself off stage, and through the entirety of his performances. It’s not that it appears he’s not enjoying himself. In fact, I caught him tapping, and rocking in time to the music, and releasing the occasional grin from behind the keyboard at various stages. And despite Dylan’s questionable degree of physical contribution to the content of the performance, there was no denying that there was a performance taking place. And whether or not that performance had much of a resemblance to the Dylan records that many of those present had been listening to for years, nay, decades, there were songs being played that had a rhythm and melody, and were unmistakably, by definition, songs. So, what’s all of the fuss about? I try to be optimistic about anything I see live, and being the second time I had seen ‘21st century Bob’, there were no surprises. This was Bob as he is today.
Regarding a television interview I recently watched of him interviewed for American 60 Minutes, recalling Dylan’s set, it seemed evident that Bob certainly has surrendered to the thought that his golden era of song writing from the 60s was ‘magic’, and that he had lost said magic, just cruising along on his fictional Never Ending Tour. While this era of Bob Dylan may be the vehicle on which he departs this world, it may turn out to be one of the highlights of his career. Where in the 80s there was a lull, this modern Bob could possibly, in his twilight years, be forging a new path for songwriters to come. Though lacking the ‘magic’, this craft may go on to evolve into a fresh guise of the ‘new folk’ scene. Bob has reinvented himself. Some would say he’s devolved, but what we are witnessing may prove to be the sound and model that lays the way for folk to come. It cannot be denied that Dylan is a hard working man, and in this age rock stars and idols, the role of ‘legend’ is being down played, and in fact, one of the most influential, prominent artists still alive, recording, and performing today has not changed that much at all. Still bucking the trend, retreating from what is expected, and not giving his followers too much of what they demand.

Jethro Tull

After seeing Dylan, Jethro Tull’s set was a vast contrast. A sea of Tull fans of all ages were out in force and eager to catch one of the more animated acts on this year’s festival lineup. Choosing to stand at the rear of the tent, I took in the entire magnificent spectacle unfolding before me. To my left, middle aged devotees who had most likely seen ‘the Tull’ countless times since the sixties and seventies. To my right, a gang of twenty-something ‘kids’ who had possibly been exposed over the years via their parent’s record collections. As for the band, they were strikingly tight, and Ian Anderson’s on-stage reputation was in full swing! With trademark theatrical presence, and over the top facial expressions, he leaped across the stage, flute in hand, as if barely a year had gone by. It appears the band and fans alike have tapped into some kind of musical fountain of youth.
The set included several of their epic hits such as Thick as a Brick and Aqualung, and venturing into classical territory with their rendition of Bach’s Bouree. Fans got what they came for, and when left chanting for more, the Tull delivered, returning for an encore that left droves of middle aged Tull fans satisfied, shaking their heads in awe. As for me, it was an opportunity to see one of the greats, and I now understand what, indeed, makes a Tull fan.

Elvis Costello

Whilst some ‘blues’ and ‘roots’ puritans are still questioning the validity of some artists being on the bill, the rest of us are getting on with loving the huge array of music on offer at Bluesfest, and Elvis Costello is one of those artists that few other festivals in the country would even attempt to book. On his last visit to Australia in 2006, the man graced the halls of the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Five years later, the harbour and porcelain sails have been replaced by trees, canvas, and the wild weather of the Northern Rivers, with a much different show in tow. This is Costello in festival mode, with his full live band The Imposters, and a swag of hits and special surprises ready ready for fans, and the new alike. Including Pump It Up, Watching The Detectives,  Either Side Of The Same Town, Shipbuilding, Good Year For The Roses, and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding, just to name a few, there was never going to be enough time to do the man’s eclectic catalogue justice. The ‘secret’ ingredient was a song with special guests the Secret Sisters, who are no strangers to an Elvis Costello stage, having been guests on several other shows and tours throughout the States. He even suggested that he’d like to bring one of them out here at some stage. Here’s hoping!

Exiting the festival on the penultimate evening, I managed to catch the closing songs of Mad Bastards. Taking their name from the film for which tonight’s music was written, the collaboration of Alex Lloyd and the Pigram Brothers surprisingly makes quite the fitting trio. Lloyd‘s often melancholy tones, coupled with the indigenous folk of the Pigram Brothers suits the damp, cooling midnight air, filled with smoke from a nearby food stall. The music seems quite reflective of the Kimberly area where Lloyd, Alan and Stephen Pigram wrote these songs, and the remote rural indigenous community where the film is set. Though Alex Lloyd’s commercial success has been varied in recent times, he is an artist who has continued to produce music, despite what the media or critics say. A soundtrack collaboration is a welcome change for the otherwise ‘pop’ artist, and on this night, taking more of a bIues approach, I witnessed the end of a beautiful set from three artists creating a unique new sound in the Australian musical landscape.

Entering a well soaked Tea Tree Farm for the last time this festival, I was just starting to get used to gumboots, gravel, and a staple diet of Mayan coffee and Byron Bay Donuts. Via a few repeat performances, I made my way to see another regular to Bluesfest, Paul Kelly, who so naturally fit in to the final day’s proceedings. Whilst the bill was full of long lost legends, international guests, and festival new comers, there was no need for fanfare or hype. Whether nestled within the big top, or gathered beyond the cover of the canvas to the Mojo’s outdoor screen, the crowd was ready to spend some quality time with one of Australia’s greatest singer/songwriters, in what was feeling like the biggest back yard gig ever! Kelly was joined on stage by the equally legendary Vika and Linda Bull, who not only provided backing vocals, but also presented their own takes on a selection of Kelly’s songs. Driving through his hits, including Dumb Things, Before Too Long, and Deeper Water, this was a more focused Kelly that I’d previously seen, working hard (and succeeding!) to fit as much as possible into the time given. Towards the end of the set I went for an urgent pit stop, and on the way, down one of those ‘authorised personnel only’ roads, I witnessed one of those perfect little festival moments. Several festival workers, volunteers, officials, and security folks on a break, huddled together, utilising a few up turned road cases, and various parts of a ute, to gain a vantage point over the barrier fence, fixated on Kelly and co. as he closed with How To Make Gravy. One of those special, simple moments that was so fitting for an artist like Paul Kelly.  I’m glad I went for that walk.

Gurrumul

I last saw Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupyngu, now performing under the name Gurrumul, at the Peats Ridge festival in 2008. Two years later, and a new album released, Gurrumul‘s profile has grown, as has his repertoire. But there has been no change to his soft, yet powerful sound. Though, this Bluesfest we are seeing two sides of Gurrumul, both solo, and as a member of the Saltwater Band, a vast contrast to his usual ethereal indigenous vocal performance. Watching the Saltwater Band helped me appreciate the sound of Gurrumul more, having seen a more expressive and musically playful side to this notoriously shy, softly spoken (if speaking at all) artist. When he shifts into solo mode, the beats and dancing are traded for respectful, and awe filled silence, but tonight we still see some of the playful side of Gurrumul, giggling at one point over some private, on stage comment. His audience, whilst sympathetic to his blindness, seem entranced by his musical talent, and respond with cheers and much deserved applause. Whilst we often crave some form of acknowledgement of, or engagement with the audience from the artist, here there is simply a man sharing his songs, showing his strengths, with what he lacks almost forgotten.

Next stop, Michelle Shocked… an artist that I had previously heard a lot about, but had missed at every opportunity. Then, as the final night of Bluesfest was wrapping up, I had the fortune of witnessing a great performance from a truly talented, charismatic artist. Complying to song requests shouted from her obviously dedicated fan base, the enthusiasm of her followers was addictive. An all smiling, positive singer, songwriter, and storyteller, with a tale or two for every song. It is clear that she has seen and experienced a lot in her 20-plus years in the business, but her outlook is optimistic, her stage show energetic, and I will not let another festival featuring Michelle Shocked go by without seeing her again. I may even attempt to delve into her extensive, almost 15 album strong back catalogue!

George Clinton

Not being able to pull ourselves away from Michelle Shocked, we arrived almost one hour into the set at the Jambalaya tent for the man who has been credited with inspiring 4 decades of psychedelic, funk driven urban music world wide, George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars! At first glance, it appeared that George Clinton had yet to grace the stage with his presence, then from right of stage, a camouflage-clad Clinton (sans rainbow hair) limped onto the stage, walking stick in hand. I had previously thought that Clinton was showing a little more than his mid-60s age when I saw him perform back in 2005, so the walking stick was no surprise. He then proceeded to discard the walking stick, and take charge of the stage, and the ten-plus strong P-Funk Allstars. This man demanded a crowd, but on this night, it seemed Bob Dylan and Grace Jones had robbed him of numbers. Six days of festival is a long time for many, and given the chance, Clinton and crew would party into the wee hours of the morning, but the vibe was just aching for more. Perhaps I was hoping a little too much for a 70s funk revival, with few remaining members still touring with Clinton. Maybe it was the lack of keyboardist Bernie Worrell on this tour? Or maybe a large chunk of funk was lost with the sad recent death of original P-Funk member Gary ‘Diaperman’ Shider? The band seemed young, and occasionally hesitant to meet the level of ‘freak’ and ‘funk’ that Clinton or his fans would demand. Fortunately, the mood switched as the band eventually moved into their hits One Nation Under a Groove, Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker), Flash Light, Maggot Brain, P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up), Atomic Dog, Up for the Down Stroke, and Aqua Boogie. A sample of a legendary band, that left a fanatical horde against the barrier as the lights went up, chanting the native call “Ain’t no party like a P-Funk party, Cause the P-Funk party don’t stop!” Sadly, for now, it has.

Bluesfest Violin

And that was it for another Bluesfest, which overall was, by no exaggeration, the best I had experienced. With five under my belt, the question comes: How about a sixth?

The dates are set: Thurs 5th – Mon 9th April, 2011. And if, like me, you’re contemplating returning to Bluesfest in 2012, now is THE time to make up your mind, with Pre-Earlybird tickets available at crazy prices. I know I want to. So should you. Seriously, I’m not kidding.

See you in 2012!

Bluesfest Interview: The Secret Sisters

Bluesfest Monday
Photo and interview by KT Bell

Today marks the first gig of The Secret Sisters‘ summer tour according to their Facebook Page and they’re a little nervous,not that they have any reason to be. The Secret Sisters have experienced a groundswell of support in Australia after appearing on the ABCs Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight in the lead up to their Bluesfest appearance. We managed to catch up with the Alabama born sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, to find out about their stunning musical style and how they found their time in Australia.

KT Bell: How are you finding Bluesfest? It’s your first time here.
Lydia Rogers: Yeah, it’s our first time here and it looks like it’s going to be a really great day, we just got here about an hour ago so I’m interested to see everybody.
Laura Rogers: This is our first festival of our summer. I know it isn’t summer here any more, but we’re spending the rest of the summer in the States at least, doin’ all the festivals and this is kind of our kickoff outdoor thingy, so we’re excited.
KT: And actually,you have a good year because it’s not raining ridiculously.
Laura: I know! I hear it’s always raining!
KT: We were saying before, in Australia, we love festivals and we do them all year round because we have the climate for it. So you’ve got a lot of festivals going on back home?

Laura: Well, yeah, in the States we do, and then also we’re headin’ to all the major European festivals. We got a busy year ahead, but that’s alright! [laughs]

KT: Now, you’ve got two sets at Bluesfest, what can audiences expect?
Lydia: We always include a few originals and definitely lots of covers. We do lots of Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline and we do about an hour set.
Laura: Honestly, we do a long set when we’re not opening for someone, when we do our own kind of gig we really like to make the audience feel like they’re just sittin’ in our living room, listening to us play songs that we grew up singing and so that’s a lot of what the audience can expect. It will be just casual, really easy goin’.
KT: Have the stage manager bring out a couch or two for everyone?
Laura: Yeah! We’ll pass around coffee and tea, it’ll be cosy!

KT: So you’ve never been to Australia before?
Both: No, never!
Laura: Lovin’ it!
Lydia: It’s my favourite place we’ve ever visited, honestly.
Laura: The weather is wonderful, the beaches are incredible, I just feel like I’m on a vacation the whole time. I’m like “Oh yeah, I have to sing today, whoops! I forgot!”
Lydia: And the people are very laid back and easy going too, so it’s been very welcoming here.
Laura: It reminds me of what America would be if everybody would just chill out and if we had better beaches. I feel really at home here, I don’t know why, but I guess I’ll just have to come back.

KT: How long do you get to spend here?
Lydia: We are leaving Wednesday, we got here last Monday.
Laura: So we had about ten days which was really, I think, a good introduction. We spent time in Sydney and then in Melbourne and then Wollongong and here, so it’s, y’know I think we’re getting a good taste of what Australia is. We haven’t ventured in to the outback yet, I don’t know if that’s gonna happen [laughs], I wanna stick close to the beaches!
KT: How did you find the reception at your other Australian gigs?
Lydia: It’s been pretty massive actually. We opened for Elvis Costello a couple of times and really, everybody has been so great. I mean, we’ve sold a tonne of merch and people seem to be really in to it.
Laura: We also performed on Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight and that gave us a really good response. We had loads of people signing on to our facebook and writing things, and people at the shows coming up and saying “Oh, I saw you on Adam Hills and you were incredible”, so all the promo is really accomplishing what we want it to. Everything’s good about Australia!
KT: So you’ll be back?
Lydia: Absolutely!
Laura: Oh probably [laughs] it’s funny, the other day I was like, first of all, I want a summer home here, second of all, when’s the next tour to Australia, ’cause I’m ready! [laughs]
KT: I’m sure we could adopt you.
Laura: Oh, ok!

Bluesfest MondayLydia performing at Bluesfest

KT: So the two of you are from Alabama there must be a huge, diverse range of influences and inspirations there. How does that affect your music?
Lydia: Well, we grew up, it’s the bible belt of America. We were really influenced by our church and I always tell people, we didn’t have any musical instruments in our church. So, we had to learn how to read music and harmonise with each other and that’s a lot of where our sound comes from. Church, and our family, is very musical, every year we get together and play music. We have reunions, it’s called the Parker Pigout! [laughs] And we all get together and take turns playing songs and it’s just something we’ve always done, it’s just the norm for us.
Laura: Think southern America as a whole, not event just our little bubble that we’re in, but as a whole, Southern music is just so diverse. I mean, you’ve got rock n roll in Memphis, you’ve got blues from Louisiana and the delta, you’ve got country music from Nashville and all of it just sort of swirls together to create this really fertile area that music, any kind of music really can thrive there and I think that’s a lot of the reason why we do have so many influences, we’re not just straight country or straight pop or rock. We’re just kind of an amalgamation of everything and I love it! [laughs] And I like that this festival is that way, ’cause when they said Bluesfest, I was like “we’re not blues!” but then again, a lot of artists here aren’t and I love that that’s so ok here.
KT: Timber and Steel mainly focus on folk but the funniest thing about folk is that actually it kind of covers all of those genres
Lydia: Yeah, it does! It’s kind of one of those places that you put yourself when you don’t know what you are.
Laura: Sometimes, not all the time, Maybe Americana becomes a little bit of a catch-all as well, people say “What kind of music do you guys play?” and we can’t just say country, ’cause then they think Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood or Lady Antebellum, just Nashville country, and we’re really not in that vein, I don’t think. But, we just like to call it ‘Good Music’. [laughs]

KT: So you’ve had a couple of different types of gig here, obviously touring and the festivals, do you prefer the smaller intimate gigs or the big festivals?
Lydia: I like both, both have redeeming qualities but I really like the theatre setting. We were fortunate to play at the Palais in Melbourne and the State Theatre in Sydney and both of those, the acoustics in there were just great, and people sit down and it’s just a very respectful audience. And I think that’s the kind of audience that we like. I mean, we like all audiences! [laughs]
Laura: I think we’re most at home in those places, but of course, y’know, the only reason we’ve gotten to play those is because we’ve been opening acts. In Europe we were an opening act for a fellow named Ray LaMontagne and we were there with him and got to play in all these really great theatres. But, I mean, if we could pick any kind of venue, that would be the one, but we also do love festivals just because it’s so laid back and you get to be outside and you can be exposed to ridiculously huge crowds, which is wonderful.
KT: And crowds that may not have known they even like you
Laura: Yeah, exactly.
Lydia: They could just be walking by and hear one song.
Laura: You just stumble across it at the festival setting, where as if you go to a theatre, you’re there because you know it’s good. Every bit of it is fun, the thing is it’s different at each place, but it’s always good.

KT: So obviously you’ve got all the festivals at home to do next, what can we expect to hear from you in the next 12 – 18 months?
Laura: Oh boy!
Lydia: You can expect a lot of touring from us, we are headed straight home after this to play a few festivals and then we’re going straight to Europe for a two week tour and then we have another tour of the US, so lots of touring and definitely lots of writing and by the end of this year we’re hoping to record the next record, so, lot’s going on.
Laura: Yeah, we’re excited about that next record. I think it’s funny ’cause once you record an album, you have to live with that album for a long time, so we’ve been living with these songs for almost a year now because the album is technically about a year old as far as how long it’s been recorded, but the world has only heard it for a few months, so we’re kind of getting to the point were we’re like “Ok, new songs please!” [laughs] But it’s fun!

KT: Has Australia inspired you at all? Have you been writing while you’ve been here?
Laura: Yeah!
Lydia: We wrote a song last night!
KT: Really? Do we get to hear it?
Laura: Maybe tomorrow, there’s a good possibility for tomorrow. Today is a little…
Lydia: It still needs to be worked on a little bit
Laura: Our confidence needs to build within the song, but we were stayin’ in our hotel last night, and we’ve got a great view of, I don’t know what, it’s umm, like a harbour kind of thing
Lydia: The Gold Coast
Laura:It’s beautiful, we were out on the balcony and it was warm and breezy and we’d just had a great dinner so we wrote a song! And now that song will forever more be dedicated to Australia [laughs]
KT: Fantastic! Well, we all look forward to you dedicating it to us every time!
Lydia: [laughs] Yes, we’ll just call it ‘Australia’
Laura: Even though it’s about Alabama!
Lydia: It has nothing to do with Australia, but it’s going to be called Australia
Laura: We could always change the hook to like “going home ’cause Australia is my home.” Well, we could pretend like it is.
KT: Or you’re just sick of Australia and you want to go home?
Laura: Oh, no, no! Honestly, I don’t wanna leave! I’m kinda bummed that we have to go to Europe in a week, I’m like “Oh, they don’t have beaches.”

KT: Have a great time, really happy to spend some time with you and looking forward to everything coming from you over the next few months.
Both: Thank you, so much!

The Secret Sisters Announce Single Solo Show

The Secret Sisters
Image Courtesy of The Secret Sisters

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Byron Bay for this year’s Bluesfest one band you should really make tome to see is Alabama-born singing duo, The Secret Sisters. Laura and Lydia Rogers, aka The Secret Sisters, have carved out a particular niche for themselves in the folk spectrum singing 1940s and 50s inspired country music, complete with impeccable harmonies.

If you’re still not convinced the duo are up your alley maybe it’s worth taking into consideration that they’ve been hand picked to support Elvis Costello on his Bluesfest sideshows. Has that got your attention?

Outside of Bluesfest and the Elvis Costello supports The Secret Sisters have only scheduled one headline show on Wednesday 20th April at The Vanguard in Sydney. Make sure you head down if you want to catch these unique talents.

Final Final FINAL Bluesfest Artists

Bobby Long
Image Courtesy of Bobby Long

The good folks at Bluesfest have just released the schedule for this year’s festival (so everyone can start their planning). But releasing a program just isn’t enough for these guys. No siree. They’ve also gone and added a bunch of new artists to the lineup. They’re saying these are the final additions but they said that last time. And the time before. So I guess we’ll just have to see if they’re telling the truth.

The new artists added to the Bluesfest lineup are:

Warren Haynes, Clare Bowditch, Dale Watson & His Lonestars, Neil Murray, Shane Nicholson, Frank Yamma, Buddy Knox, Lisa Miller, Louis King and the Liars Klub, Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson, Grace Barbe Afro Kreol, Ajak Kwai, The Blackwater Fever, Bobby Long (above), Nga Tae, Collard Greens and Gravy, Old Spice Boys, The Secret Sisters, Victor Valdes & the Marin Brothers, Raghu Dixit, Jackson Firebird, Hank Green’s Blues, A French Butler Called Smith, U Blues Band, Microwave Jenny, Kingfisha, Mojo Bluesmen, Bob Abbot & the Fabulous Green Machine, Joewah, Transvaal Diamond Syndicate and The Incredible Sky Pilots Plasticiens Volants.

For more information and tickets visit the official Bluefest site.

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