Happy 7th Birthday Timber and Steel

Happy Birthday

“There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Five Orange Pips

I’ve been attending The National Folk Festival on and off since I was a kid, but it was following my first year at University (1999 for those of you playing at home) where I seriously made an effort to make it to Canberra every Easter long weekend. I’ve volunteered a number of years (especially when I was a penniless student) and been a regular punter. I’ve also covered the festival for the last few years for Timber and Steel and last year I even cameoed on stage with Bloodwood and Dave Oakes.

But 2017 was the first time I found myself with an official National Folk Festival performer wristband and a swathe of gigs over the course of the weekend. I’d convinced my good friend Sally Balfour to apply this year and she did on the provision that I join her on stage as the fiddle player in her band. As luck would have it the Northern Territory was one of this year’s feature states and with Sally being based in Darwin she was accepted onto the bill along with yours truly.

Gareth and Sally

And so it was I was able to tick a major item off my bucket list. When I attended my first Canberra National Folk Festival in 1999 I could never have imagined that 18 years later I’d be up on the same stage as so many of my musical heroes. Not in my wildest dreams.

While my appearance at The National has nothing to do with Timber and Steel, and has everything to do with Sally Balfour’s amazing songwriting, I’d like to think I wouldn’t have found myself up on that stage without this blog.

Without Timber and Steel I probably wouldn’t have attended every National Folk Festival for the last seven years. Without Timber and Steel I wouldn’t have felt a part of the folk music community in the same way I do now – I have a feeling I would have remained a spectator, never peering behind the performer curtain. Without Timber and Steel I would never have pushed Sally Balfour to apply for The National, let alone ever assume that I’d be playing fiddle right there beside her.

For seven years Timber and Steel has opened doors into the folk music community for me. Without the blog I would still be the biggest fan of this music but I doubt I would have even considered crossing the line between spectator and performer.

Seven years is a long time to have spent on this little “hobby” and sometimes I need to remind myself why I do it (for the love of the music!). But whenever I take a step back and look at everything I’ve achieved, every door that’s been opened, every friendship I’ve forged, I can’t help but feel proud.

Thank you so much for continuing to indulge me on my folk music journey.

Happy 7th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Gareth Hugh Evans
Editor in Chief

Happy 6th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Bob Dylan

Running from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old time string band
My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now

– “Wagon Wheel” Old Crow Medicine Show

Like many music writers I’m a frustrated musician. I play a decent fiddle and mandolin (and mediocre guitar) but my lack of commitment when it comes to practicing coupled with how intimidated I get with the amount of talent that’s out there has meant I’ve never really taken it further than backyard jams and open mics.

The truth is that Timber and Steel didn’t start life as a blog. The first incarnation of Timber and Steel was a band playing covers of artists that we’d discovered through Laura Marling and the burgeoning UK nu-folk scene – bands and artists like Mumford & Sons, Johnny Flynn, Noah and the Whale, Emmy The Great, Pete Roe, Jay Jay Pistolet and more. Most of these bands went on to make a mark on the international music scene in some way or another but at the time we saw our band Timber and Steel as a vehicle to bringing these unknown artists and songs to an Australian audience, essentially continuing the folk process of sharing songs that has been happening for centuries.

Timber and Steel the blog was born during the band’s jam sessions from comments like “surely there’s music like this emerging in Australia as well” or “why isn’t anyone in Australia writing about this music?”. The blog was born out of the desire to share the music we were uncovering from Australia and around the world outside of what we were able to share on the stage. The rest, as they say, is history.

What I love most about the folk scene is its inclusiveness. My musical exploits may be purely amateur but if I go to a folk festival I will always arrive with at least one instrument in tow. My favourite regular nights in my home town of Sydney are the ones that involve a participation element like a jam session. My fondest memories from gigs are the ones that have ended back stage or at a local bar with a couple of guitars and a group of people keen to continue the music. My entire monthly gig and festival going experience is built around where I can pull out my fiddle or mando and have a play. Over the last six years I have jammed with some of the best in the business.

In what other genre of music can you participate to this degree? This is why I love folk music.

Timber and Steel the band still exists and still performs occasionally at low key nights and small festivals. Coming up we have shows at FolksWagon in Sydney on the 25th May and at the Top Half Folk Festival in Darwin over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June. The blog is still a reflection of the music we’re discovering and want to share as well as helping us discover and connect with shows and festivals we may want to play.

Seeing Timber and Steel moving into its sixth year is surreal. The blog that was conceived my lounge room between working out Laura Marling songs was only ever going to be an outlet for sharing music, little did we know where it would take us. I’m incredibly proud of Timber and Steel and constantly humbled by how much we’ve been welcomed into the folk scene in Australia. I’m looking forward to many more years of watching, playing and even occasionally writing about folk music.

Happy 6th Birthday Timber and Steel!

Gareth Hugh Evans
Editor in Chief

Timber and Steel Presents: Timothy James Bowen’s Steel & Wood Tour

TJB
Image Courtesy of Timothy James Bowen

This November Sydney based singer-songwriter Timothy James Bowen will be releasing his brand new EP Steel & Wood and to celebrate he’s teamed up with Timber and Steel (that’s us!) for a string of dates around the country.

If you haven’t seen Timothy James Bowen before you’re in for a treat. After stints in the US plus the coveted support slot for The Milk Carton Kids earlier this year, Timothy James Bowen has developed a live sound that captivates audiences. Add to that a mastery of lyric driven songwriting and Timothy James Bowen is not to be missed.

Check out all of Timothy James Bowen’s Steel & Wood tour dates below:

Sunday 1st November – Central Park Markets, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 5th November – Babushka Bar, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 7th November – The Bluebee Room, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 8th November – Open Studio Bar & Creperie, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 14th November – Viva La Gong, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 14th November – Secret Show, Wollongong, NSW
Sunday 15th November – Edgar’s Inn, Canberra, ACT
Thursday 19th November – Australian Music Week Showcase, Blind Bear, Cronulla, NSW
Friday 20th November – Australian Music Week Showcase, Shucked, Cronulla, NSW
Friday 20th November – Home Sweet Home, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 21st November – Australian Music Week Showcase, Rydges, Cronulla, NSW
Saturday 21st November – Australian Music Week Showcase, Zinc, Cronulla, NSW
Sunday 22nd November – Beechworth Town Hall, Beechworth, VIC
Monday 23rd November – The Monday Jam, The Beresford Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 26th November – Secret Show, Jan Juc, VIC
Friday 27th November – Secret Show, Philip Island, VIC
Saturday 28th November – EP Launch, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 29th November – The Waterhouse, Jervis Bay, NSW
Wednesday 2nd December – Folkswagon, Cafe Lounge, Sydney, NSW

Americana Australia, Post to Wire, Unpaved & Timber and Steel Present The September Sampler

Americana Australia

This month the good folks behind online community Americana Australia asked Timber and Steel along with our fellow roots bloggers Post to Wire and Unpaved to contribute tracks to their monthly playlist sampler. The result is a wonderfully eclectic mix of tracks that is the perfect playlist for the first day of spring.

The three tracks selected by Timber and Steel are pulled from what’s on high rotation here – “Travelling Shoes” from Jack Carty’s recent free live album, “Waly Waly” from Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton’s amazing new album Declaration and the brand new Packwood track “My Fair Life” which is taken from the album Vernal, released today.

Take a listen to the full playlist below:

A breakdown of who chose which track is below:

Post to Wire:
1. James Thomson – “Highway Nights (I Wanna Be)”
2. HT Heartache – “Cowboy Poetry”
3. Will Wood – “Quiet Night”

Unpaved:
4. Suzannah Espie — “I’m Sorry”
5. Damon Smith and the Quality Lightweights — “The Sun And The Moon”
6. Alison Ferrier — “Be Here Now”

Timber and Steel:
7. Jack Carty – “Travelling Shoes (Live @ The Front)”
8. Packwood — “My Fair Life”
9. Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton – “Waly Waly”

Americana Australia asked Timber and Steel:
10. Raised By Eagles — “Waterline”
11. The Heggarties — “True to You”
12. Ben Bunting — “Don’t You Ever Speak My Name Again”

The Woodford Files 2014-15: Volunteer Party

Woodford
Image Courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

2014-15 is only my fourth trip to Woodfordia, so there are others who are 25 visits ahead of me.

The first three festivals I attended as a volunteer, and like my introduction into the world wide weird of folk merely two years previously, I could not have made a better choice than to join the ranks of vollys, as they/we are affectionately known.

Woodford Volly Camping

Woodford Volly Camping

 

I have very little if anything to compare with the frissons of excitement I had as a wide-eyed young 41 year old, reduced by an event to a gibbering little schoolboy.

(Except when on stage; always a professional behind the microphone, of course!)

I was in a trippy paradise of heaven. Everything was new, everything was bigger and more colourful, more musical, more stunning, than anything else I’d encountered in music and art to that date.

Sorry, Bayern State Opera, but Woodford takes the strudel!

(It even proved to be a sorting hat for me, because my partner at the time came with me (to her first Woodford). In stark contrast, she whinged and whined and moaned and griped and complained. It was too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too expensive, too cheap, too too too much. I put her at an arm’s distance, revelled in my then very patchy mobile phone reception, and on 31 December when she texted me to say she’d gone home to mother near Chermside, I punched the air, danced a jig, yodelled from the Hilltop, and dived right back into the festival. A week later we were over for good and she ended up marrying the sound guy. Good luck to them both!)

I left home several days before the festival started and made a savage hook turn trip from Canberra down to Bodalla then later from Moruya to north Brisbane in one Christmas Day non-stop haul. Google maps informs me that’s about 1450kms on the black-top. Another 74kms to the front gate of Woodfordia, in near carpark conditions on the Bruce Highway. Travel north from Brisbane to the festival on Boxing Day at your own peril.

The taste of service station sausage rolls still lingers to this day. Nothing on the highway of any higher gastronomic fare was on offer in 2007, apart from days old sandwiches in those hideous plastic containers that look like they’d been washed and glazed for display.

But as I left my then Canberra base, with one foot out the door, the phone rang and it was then MC Convenor, now Queensland Folk Federation president Rose Broe, telling me who I had on my rota to MC for.

Tripod, Sarah Blasko, Ernie Dingo, Eric Bogle (twice). And John Schumann (twice). I was going to walk out on stage and introduce my absolute god of music of 25 years plus standing.

Gulp.

“Rose?”

“Yes, Bill?”

“I’m a little bit excited now.”

“Yeah, thought you might be!”

Coopers Bar

 

It was wonderful. Pure magic. I was even asked to mentor the wonderfully talented, but new to MC-ing, Ange Takats. After watching one MC performance (Spooky Men’s Chorale), I told her simply this: “I have nothing to teach you. You’re a natural.”

And she is. Because (as I’ve written extensively elsewhere), she went on stage and was herself. Natural. No artifice.

Woodford

Woodford volunteering is usually In tents

 

Mixing with the vollys, gathering in the then (and still) just on the adequate side of adequate Volly Centre, where you got to recreate scenes from The Good Earth by traipsing through mud to get there!

Did we care? Not a jot. It was fun, it was wet, it was wild.

I came back the next two years running, and lapped up every second. Volunteering is THE best intro to a festival, especially for the slightly or very out-of-pocket, and definitely for the sole traveller.

At my second Woodford, I met the guys from the Tokyo Bar and made friends and compadres for life. After a five year break, it was a sheer delight to be co-located with them again, even though I went there on a media pass this year.

On the night of 2 January, when the punters have gone home, the musos have moved on to their sideshows and petrol money gigs, and the stalls are coming down, the last bar standing (this year, the Bazaar) pumps out slightly cheaper drinks, a couple of bands are roped in to get a little bit nutty and let everyone let their hair right down, and there’s something of a feeling of ‘get down and maybe not get up again’ in the air.

And there are speeches. Or really, just the one speech this time, with a miniscule intro.

You can hear my surprise on the tape, as I did not know that my former boss (of sorts) and mentor is Ms Prez now. You would only expect an MC wrangler to speak with credibility, authority and clarity.

Rose Broe knocked it out of the park. Even with a large furry animal half way down her ‘festival throat’.

If like me before Easter 2005, you’ve been sat back sucking the air in through your clenched teeth at festival ticket prices due to your current financial circumstances, have a good hard look at volunteering. We need our paying punters, but festivals would be nowhere without an army of volunteers, and they don’t come much better than at Woodfordia.

MoFo Artists for November/December

Timber and Steel
Image Courtesy of Barry Skipsey

Sydney’s newest monthly folk night, MoFo, have just announced the lineup for their next night and we’re super excited because it includes, well, us! That’s right Timber and Steel, the-band-that-became-the-blog (above), will be strapping on their instruments (made from timber and steel) warming up their vocal chords and burning up the MoFo stage. Joining Timber and Steel, and no doubt upstaging them, will be a stripped back version of arbori:, one of Sydney’s most exciting young bands.

MoFo is supported by the NSW Folk Federation and will take place on the refurbished ground floor of the NSW Teachers Federation House (23-33 Mary St Surry Hills) next Friday 2nd December at 8pm. Tickets will be $8 on the door ($5 for NSW FF memebers and concessions).

For more information check out the official MoFo Facebook Page.

Timber and Steel Presents: Fanny Lumsden Single Launch

Fanny Lumsden
Image Courtesy of Fanny Lumsden

Timber and Steel are proud to present the launch of Fanny Lumsden’s new single “Hello Bright Eyes” on the 23rd November at the Hunky Dory Social Club in Sydney.

Fanny Lumsden is an exciting up and coming folk singer songwriter who’s music is sweet, melodic and very very catchy. Lumsden recorded the wonderful “Hello Bright Eyes” in the Blue Mountains with producer Ian Prichett (Angus & Julia Stone and The Beautiful Girls) which will be available for download on the 24th November, the day after the official launch.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to the Rooftop of the Hunky Dory Social Club on the 23rd Novemeber you’ll be among the first to be given the chance to download the single plus an exclusive track. Joining Fanny Lumsden in the support slot is the ever popular and multi-talented Leroy Lee.

Full details of the launch are below. Check out Fanny Lumsden’s work via her official Facebook page:

Venue: Hunky Dory Social Club, The Rooftop on Level 3, 215 Oxford Street, Sydney
Date: Wednesday 23rd November
Doors: From 7PM – FREE ENTRY

Win Double Passes To Matt Corby’s Secret Garden Tour

Matt Corby Secret Garden

*** ALL PASSES HAVE BEEN WON! KEEP READING FOR MORE GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE! ***

Timber and Steel are very excited to announce that we have five double passes to give away to Matt Corby’s upcoming Secret Garden tour, one in each state (QLD excluding Mackay and Maryborough, NSW, VIC, WA and SA). If this is something you’d be keen to get your hot little hands on all you need to do is e-mail us at timberandsteelaustralia@gmail.com with the following information:

Name
E-mail Address
State
Preferred Show

Winners will be chosen on a first-in basis. The full list of shows is below – and remember we only have one double pass per state so you better get in quick!

Wednesday 12th October – Mackay, QLD (All Ages)
Thursday 13th October – Maryborough, QLD (All Ages)
Saturday 15th October – Salisbury, QLD (18+ BYO)
Sunday 16th October – Forest Lake, QLD (All Ages)

Tuesday 18th October – Palm Beach, NSW (All Ages)
Wednesday 19th October – Ingleside, NSW (All Ages)
Thursday 20th October – Pennant Hills, NSW (All Ages)
Friday 21st October – Kings Langley, NSW (18+ BYO)
Saturday 22nd October – Ashfield, NSW (18+ BYO)
Sunday 23rd October – Leumeah, NSW (15+)

Wednesday 26th October – Hopetoun, VIC (All Ages)
Thursday 27th October – Kyabram, VIC (All Ages)
Friday 28th October – Niddrie, VIC (18+ BYO)
Saturday 29th October – Donvale, VIC (All Ages)
Sunday 30th October – Ringwood North, VIC (All Ages)

Thursday 3rd November – Crawley, WA (All Ages)
Friday 4th November – Como, WA (18+ BYO)
Saturday 5th November – North Perth, WA (All Ages)
Sunday 6th November (AM) – Carramar, WA (All Ages)
Sunday 6th November (PM) – Carabooda, WA (18+ BYO)

Friday 2nd December – Blakeview, SA (18+ BYO)
Saturday 3rd December – Stirling, SA (All Ages)
Sunday 4th December – Evanston Park, SA (18+ BYO)

Review: 41st Top Half Folk Festival, Alice Springs

Songs From the Attic/Shed
Image Courtesy of Barry Skipsey

As I awoke bleary eyed and rolled out of my swag on the cold, crisp morning of the Queens Birthday Monday I suddenly realised that the Top Half Folk Festival was over for another year. The weekend had flown by in a blur of folk music and whiskey and it was time to pack up the hire car and make the weary trip from Glen Helen to Alice Springs and once again face the real world.

The Top Half Folk Festival is held alternately in Central Australia (Glen Helen) and the Top End (Mary River) and this year it was the “bottom half’s” turn. Showcasing some of the Northern Territory’s best established and up-and-coming folk music talent, along with special guests from interstate, the Top Half is everything that’s wonderful about a small regional festival – intimate venues, a family atmosphere and beautiful acoustic music filling the equally stunning surroundings.

The official program of the Top Half takes place over the Saturday and Sunday of the Queens Birthday long weekend (with the unofficial program continuing in the Glen Helen Homestead over three late nights) with a single venue hosting a selection of concerts, workshops and other folky goodness throughout.

Day one saw a heady mixture of traditional and contemporary folk to delight and inspire the audience who were trickling in from Alice Springs throughout the morning. The day kicked off with the famous Poet’s Breakfast hosted by the equally famous Jim Smith (VIC) and then was followed by a fascinating maritime themed workshop from WA duo Lesley Silvester and Mike Murray (an odd choice for a desert festival but who doesn’t like a good sea shanty?).

Next up local legend Dave Evans (Bloodwood) presented one of the highlights of the festival, interviewing West Australian group The Loaded Dog with hilarious consequences (and even a few songs thrown in for good measure). I use the term “interviewing” loosely with the majority of the presentation seeing Evans and The Loaded Dog trading friendly barbs and generally trying to outwit each other. The result was not only a great introduction to The Loaded Dog’s music (for those of us who hadn’t heard them before) but a fantastic introduction to the more formal concerts for the rest of the day.

Ted Egan and Jeanette Wormald
Image of Ted Egan and Jeanette Wormald Courtesy of Barry Skipsey

The two Saturday concerts were peppered with some absolutely delightful music spanning folk in all its forms from trad (Darwin’s Moonta Revellers) to contemporary (South Australia’s Don Bruce) and even klezmer (local band Rusty and the Infidels). Highlights from the day included the troubadour stylings of Edan Baxter and Jamie Balfour (Alice Springs) on resonator and lap steel, the irrepressible Ted Egan (Alice Springs) singing some of his most cherished Australian songs, Jeanette Wormald (Alice Springs) who had been coaxed out of semi-retirement from professional music to play a gorgeous set of contemporary country music and Dom Costello and Michael David (Alice Springs and QLD) who absolutely blew me out of the water with their Celtic inspired contemporary folk.

The festival’s special guest, WA singer songwriter Peter Bugden, appeared in two slots over the weekend including closing the Saturday night concert and a solo slot at lunchtime on Sunday. As charismatic as ever, Bugden charmed audiences with his unique mix of humour and poignancy. At one moment Bugden would have the audience rolling in the aisles to one of his stories or tongue-twisting songs and then the next moment they would be enraptured by a song full of heartbreak and longing. While Bugden hails from Perth he has had a long association with the Territorian folk scene and his performances solidified his standing as one of the Top Half’s favourite “blow ins”.

Sunday proved more of the same high quality performances starting once again with Jim Smith’s Poet’s breakfast before launching into a day of workshops and concerts. Paul “Stewy” Stewert once again assembled a “cricket team” (top image) of festival musicians (including members of local folk music heroes Bloodwood) for a workshop featuring songs from the depths of his impressive record collection. The workshop had the audience commenting how dismal their record collections were in comparison and many of the musicians frantically writing down the names of the all the new songs they had to learn.

Timber and Steel
Image of Timber and Steel Courtesy of Barry Skipsey

The two Sunday concerts were once again a mixture of the old and the new (both in terms of the music and the acts) and really demonstrated why audiences keep coming back. Highlights included South of the Berrimah Line (Katherine) combining old timey, country, Celtic and contemporary folk music with wonderful instrumentation and harmonies, Australian folk legend Margaret Walters (NSW), Phil Beck (WA) whose beautiful finger picking style and affection for the sadder side of folk music reduced some audience members to tears and the-band-that-became-a-blog Timber and Steel flexing their nu-folk muscles. The night was closed out by local rock/blues/folk/country trio Built for Comfort who had the crowd rocking in their seats and singing along to all the words.

Session Bar
Image Courtesy of Barry Skipsey

Many of the Top Half’s best moments occur off-program in the Glen Helen Homestead or the “Session Bar” as it’s commonly referred to. After each evening concert draws to a close the crowd descends on the homestead, musical instrument in one hand, a frothing pint in the other, and plays, sings and dances well into the early morning hours. At any given moment you can be treated to set dancing, traditional Irish fiddle tunes, a Capella singing and pub classics resonating through the building and out into the MacDonnell Ranges beyond.

Playing music, dancing and singing until 3am every morning and then ensuring you’re up in time to catch the Poet’s Breakfast takes its toll, hence the bleary eyes from this reviewer on the Monday morning. But the lack of sleep and below zero temperatures most mornings did nothing to dent the feeling that we had been a part of one of the best little festivals in the country. And the fact that it will be held in the tropical north next year has already inspired us to want to do it all again. Congratulations to the Central Australian Folk Society and the Top End Folk Club for another amazing Top Half Folk Festival. Long may they continue.

Timber and Steel Do The Top Half Folk Festival

Glen Helen

With so much wonderful music happening all over the country this Queens Birthday long weekend it probably seems strange that part of the Timber and Steel team are packing their thermal underwear and desert boots and heading to the red centre for the 41st annual Top Half Folk Festival. But what you probably don’t realise is just how much of an undiscovered gem the Northern Territory based festival is.

First of all the Top Half is set in the breathtaking surroundings of the Glen Helen Resort (above), nestled alongside the banks of one of the world’s most ancient rivers, The Finke, 132Kms west of Alice Springs. Secondly with a capacity of only a few hundred people the festival really is a community affair and you’re guaranteed to be on a first name basis with everyone there by the time you pack up your swag on the Monday. And finally the Top Half attracts some of the most well respected folk musicians in the country including Loaded Dog, Tony Suttor, Peter Bate, Ted Egan, Barry Skipsey, Seldom Party, Timber and Steel (the band, not the blog) and featured guest artist Peter Bugden.

Timber and Steel (the blog, not the band) will be bringing you the highlights of the festival (along with some stories from the famous late night session bar) so you can start planning your trip for the next Top Half in Darwin next year.

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