Timber and Steel’s Top Albums of 2015

Record Player

If anything has characterised 2015 for me in terms of new albums it’s that we finally saw debuts from some of our favourite artists. So many bands these days are serial EP releasers so it’s great to see the likes of Patrick James, Falls Marlon Williams and more knuckle down and get into the studio. It’s also great to see the return of firm favourites after time away and an explosion of traditional music that pushes boundaries and challenges our perception of what trad music can be.

Coming up with a top 25 list is always a challenge (let alone putting them in some kind of order) but I think what we’ve come up with is a wonderful cross section of all the genres of “folk” music we cover on Timber and Steel – from singer-songwriter to Americana to indie folk to traditional and beyond.

So without further ado here it is – our top 25 albums and EPs from 2015!

Kate and Ruth

1. Kate Burke & Ruth HazletonDeclaration

What a year 2015 has been for traditional music. Maybe it’s just me but it seems like a lot more trad is breaking through at the moment and the icing on the cake this year has been the incredible new album from Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Declaration.

This is the duo’s first album in about eight years and their return to the studio has been a welcome one. Once again teaming with producer Luke Plumb, Declaration is loosely themed around traditional music from the female perspective with a few contemporary tracks thrown in for good measure.

The tracks are rich, heartbreaking, emotional and beautiful. So many of the songs deal with pretty heavy themes such as domestic violence (“Bleezin’ Blind Drunk”), false accusations of adultery (“Waly Waly”) and the disintegration of a woman’s public reputation (“Katy Cruel”) and these are conveyed with resonance by Burke and Hazleton. Hearing these two singing together again reminds me of why I fell in love with their harmonies all those years ago.

The two originals on the album – “The Freeze” and “Hearts Of Sorrow” – are two of my favourites and they make me wish Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton were more prolific as songwriters. Maybe one day we’ll get a full album of self penned tracks?

I love how much Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton have matured as performers over the last 15 years. Gone is the rigid need to stick 100% to the tradition and instead we have a fluid take on the material that draws as much from contemporary music as it does from Anglo, Celtic and American music. A simply wonderful album

Sufjan

2. Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell

Touted as the return to Folk Music for Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell is in fact the next step in his musical evolution. Rather than shrugging off the electronic chaos of his recent albums, Stevens has merely toned it down and brought back his acoustic guitar to dive into the complex relationship with his mother following her passing. This album is so raw, so nuanced and deserved of every bit of praise that has been heaped upon it.

Fanny Lumsden

3. Fanny LumsdenSmall Town Big Shot

I’ve always predicted big things for Fanny Lumsden ever since I saw her perform at a rooftop bar in Sydney many moons ago. Small Town Big Shot is the album that is currently turning Lumsden from Sydney’s alt-country darling to a favourite of the Australian country scene. The album is full of Fanny Lumsden’s true-to-life accounts of growing up in rural Australia while never straying into the Americanised, dust kicking ideal of country life so often portrayed by Australian country artists. Not to be ignored, Lumsden’s band The Thrillseekers add a rich musical tapestry to her songs and really seem to have gelled as group. Only released in September there’s a lot of life in Small Town Big Shot so we’ll continue to see Fanny Lumsden riding high off it’s ever growing success in 2016.

Paper Kites

4. The Paper Kitestwelvefour

The Paper Kites have produced what has to be one of the most interesting concept albums of recent years. twelvefour was written exclusively between the hours of 12am and 4am as frontman Sam Bentley believed this is when people are at their most creative. The result is stunning – a patchwork of eighties electro influences and the band’s trademark indie-folk – and will no doubt go down as a high watermark in their career. twelvefour feels very deliberately structured moving from the straight up electro of “Electric Indigo” and “Relevator Eyes” to more folky numbers in the second half of the album (“A Silent Cause” is a standout for me). I’m interested to see where The Paper Kites take their sound next.

Packwood

5. PackwoodAutumnal

This year chamber-folk artist Packwood released four seasonally themed EPs as part of his Vertumnus album project. The first of these was Autumnal which has remained my firm favourite through all of the subsequent releases. Gone is Packwood’s trademark sparsely plucked banjo (don’t worry, it returns in later EPs) and instead we get delicately fingerpicked guitar accompanied by choir and chamber orchestra. The songs are delicate and sumptuous and Packwood has really come a long way as a songwriter since his debut. Put on Autumnal, close your eyes and let the world fall away.

Laura Marling

6. Laura MarlingShort Movie

We’re now five albums into Laura Marling’s career and her songwriting has never been stronger. On her latest release Short Movie Marling’s songwriting takes on a freeform, Dylan-esque mode only hinted at on previous albums and it takes her into some very ineteresting places. There’s a lot more electric guitar on Short Movie and at times she descends into beat-poet-like spoken word phrases (like on the amazing “Gurdjieff’s Daughter”) yet no one is crying that Marling’s turned her back on her folk roots (like Marling’s old band Mumford & Sons). Instead Short Movie is being praised as an evolution of her sound and while it is miles away from her 2008 debut Alas, I Cannot Swim, both musically and stylistically, this is 100% a Laura Marling album.

Pittsburgh

7. William FitzsimmonsPittsburgh

In his ode to his recently passed Grandmother and her home town of Pittsburgh, William Fitzsimmons has created a delicate, beautiful piece of magic. This is his first self-produced album since 2006’s Goodnight and it does feel markedly different from his recent releases – the production is not a slave to his voice and guitar, instead it sits more comfortably as part of each song. At only seven tracks long Pittsburgh leaves you warm and fuzzy and wanting more.

Outlier

8. Patrick JamesOutlier

It seems like 2015 saw a lot of long time favourite Timber and Steel artists finally got around to releasing their debut album – and one of the debuts we were most excited about was from Patrick James. Over the course of a bunch of EPs Patrick James has refined his James Taylor-esque folk songs and Outlier is the culmination of years of solid songwriting. The production on Outlier makes the most of James’ unique voice and elevates his solo singer-songwriter roots into a rich, luscious landscape.

Wilder Mind

9. Mumford & SonsWilder Mind

With all of the attention on Mumford & Sons “ditching the banjo” and turning their back on folk music when Wilder Mind came out very little attention was paid to the album itself. Which is a shame because it’s another solid outing for the boys. If you push through the electric guitars and drums you discover that Wilder Mind is unmistakably a Mumford record with big choruses, melodies dripping with four part harmonies and festival ready lyrical hooks. And anyone who has seen Mumford & Sons this year will know they have in no way ditched the banjo – Wilder Mind sits perfectly within their entire catalogue.

Omaha

10. FallsOmaha

It took Falls moving to LA 18 months ago (and dropping the “The”) to produce their gorgeous debut album Omaha. Falls have expanded their two-voices-and-a-guitar sound to an almost orchestral level, but at the forefront is still their lyrically driven melodies and beautiful harmonies. I’m actually really impressed that all of the tracks on Omaha having seen them perform almost exclusively from their Hollywood EP before their big move Stateside. Now we just need a national Australian tour off the back of the album!

Omaha

11. TolkaOne House

The stunning result of trad band Tolka’s trip to Belfast last year to write and record a new album – one of the tightest trad bands in the country.

Limit of Love

12. Boy & BearLimit of Love

Boy & Bear return with a 70s vibe and a bunch of new tracks that saw the band collaborating on the songwriting duties.

If I Was

11. The StavesIf I Was

The Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) production on The Staves’ debut elevates their sound from simple three part harmonies to full blown indie-folk goodness.

Secret Victory

12. The East PointersSecret Victory

The result of writing sessions on their summer tour of Australia, The East Pointers have written 10 original tracks that sound as if they’ve been ripped directly from the tradition.

Monterey

13. The Milk Carton KidsMonterey

Monterey is the closest The Milk Carton Kids have come to capturing their mesmerising live show on record – this is something special.

Freewheeler

14. Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben StephensonThe Freewheeler

Instead of complaining that it’s been too long between albums for Trouble in the Kitchen get your trad fix with the debut album from Dougal Adams, Ado Barker & Ben Stephenson.

Solitude

15. Ruby BootsSolitude

The Perth songstress has nailed down an amazing band and has produced one of the best alt-country albums of the last few years.

Tomorrow Is My Turn

16. Rhiannon GiddensTomorrow Is My Turn

In her debut solo album Rhiannon Giddens has built on the trad and old time of her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and spun it into something new and very exciting.

Marlon Williams

17. Marlon WilliamsMarlon Williams

With a voice that has reduced grown men and women to tears, there’s a lot to love about Marlon Williams’ debut record – this man is taking country music back to its roots and winning fans every step of the way.

Inside Llewyn Davis

18. VariousAnother Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis

The folk and Americana industry’s best come together for a night of music inspired by the 60s folk scene and to a lesser extent the Cohen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis.

Dream's End

19. Matt BauerDream’s End

On his latest album Matt Bauer has upped the production stakes, forgoing his normally sparse folk songs and the result is wonderful.

Punch Brothers

20. Punch BrothersThe Phosphorescent Blues

I think it’s time to stop referring to Punch Brothers as “bluegrass” or “nu-grass” or anything at all – with The Phosphorescent Blues they have proven they are undefinable.

WHITE LIES

21. Mustered CourageWhite Lies and Melodies

Mustered Courage have always been the most polished bluegrass band in Australia but they’ve upped the ante with their new album adding a pop sheen to their sound.

Hell Breaks Loose

22. Shane NicholsonHell Breaks Loose

The godfather of the Australian Americana scene released one of the year’s best country albums – all heartbreak and whisky and everything that’s good about this kind of music.

The Decemberists

23. The DecemberistsWhat A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

A welcome return to the studio from The Decemberists to follow up their amazing 2011 album The King Is Dead – a little less folk, a little more rock and all sorts of goodness.

Josh Pyke

24. Josh PykeBut For All These Shrinking Hearts

Australia’s premiere troubadour delivers yet another stunning album with his trademark wry lyrics and hooky melodies.

S

25. Emmy The GreatS

Emmy The Great slides into electro music while maintaining the folk-inspired melodies she’s become known for.

Full Lineup Announced for the 2015/16 Woodford Folk Festival

Woodford
Image Courtesy of Woodford Folk Festival

Over the weekend the Woodford Folk Festival revealed their 2015/16 lineup and it’s time to get excited. As usual the Woodford Folk Festival have delivered a lineup of artists taken from the best of folk, roots, rock and world music that’s bound to satisfy any music lover.

If you head to Woodford over the New Year period you’ll get a chance to see the likes of Dougie Maclean, Michael Franti, Harry Manx, The East Pointers, Irish Mythen, Marlon Williams, Kim Churchill, Lanie Lane, Josh Pyke, Katie Noonan, The Paper Kites, Tinpan Orange, Timberwolf, Jacinta Price, Tolka, Starboard Cannons, Davidson Brothers, Lucie Thorne & Hamish Stuart, Hat Fitz & Cara, Broads, Andrew Clermont, Catgut, Lime and Steel, One Up, Two Down, Kaurna Cronin, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Loren Kate, Totally Gourdgeous, The Little Stevies, Daniel Champagne and many more.

The Woodford Folk Festival takes place near Woodford, Queensland from the 27th December to 1st January. Check out the official website for the full lineup and more information.

Port Fairy Announces Second Round of Artists

Steve Earle
Image Courtesy of Steve Earle

This week the second round of artists were announced for the Port Fairy Folk Festival and once again we’re looking at some big hitters to join the already announced Ayleen O’Hanlon, Eric Bogle, Manran, Mary Black, Pierce Brothers, Ruby Boots, The Bushwackers, The East Pointers, The Young’uns and more.

On the international front Port Fairy has revealed the likes of Cedric Burnside Project (USA), Shooglenifty (Scotland), Kristina Olsen (Canada), Steve Earle & The Dukes (USA, above) Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (UK) and Spiro (UK).

Locally the aditional artists are just as strong with Archie Roach, Colin Hay, Graeme Connors, Cat Canteri, Damian Howard, Flamenco Fire, Kaurna Cronin, Marcia Howard, Oriel Glennen, Sol Nation, The Barleyshakes, The BordererS, The Furbelows, The Little Stevies, The Mae Trio, The Timbers, The Tolka Big Band and Tinpan Orange all added.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is held from the 11th to the 14th March in Port Fairy, Victoria. Tickets for 2016 are already on sale – check out the official web site for more information.

Ten Albums and EPs From the First Half of 2015 You Should Own

Bob Dylan

We’ve hit the halfway point of 2015 and already we’ve been treated to some very very fine music of the folk, acoustic and roots albums from some of our favourite artists. When I was sifting through the releases so far this year whittling it down to just ten records was almost impossible. But this is the challenge I’ve set myself and ten albums I have chosen – with honourable mentions to of course go to William Fitzsimmons, Passenger, Lucy Wise Trio, José González, Catgut, Punch Brothers, The Decemberists and many many more. So prepare to discover some amazing music, revisit some amazing music or hotly debate what’s missing from our list of the top ten albums and EPs from the first half of 2015.

DeclarationKate Burke & Ruth Hazleton

Declaration

The return of Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton to the studio with their fifth album was welcomed with open arms from everyone in the folk scene. I’ve said it many times before but Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton’s music in the early 2000’s is what solidified me as a life long fan of folk and traditional music and having them back in my earbuds with brand new music is simply wonderful. This album is everything you want from Kate & Ruth – beautiful harmonies, stunning renditions of traditional songs and some contemporary music added in for good measure.

Short MovieLaura Marling

Short Movie

Five albums in seven years is no mean feat, but what is truly amazing about Laura Marling is how much she has grown as an artist over that time. Not content to just present the same idea over and over again Laura Marling has become more than the sum of her influences, more than just a sweet folk singer from London, and has truly become one of the most exciting and important artists of her generation. Short Movie is the most lyrically and melodically raw album of Marling’s catalogue – all electric guitars and Dylan-esque spoken lyrics – yet it also manages to be her most seamlessly produced work to date, which is yet another achievement given the record was completely self produced.

Marlon WilliamsMarlon Williams

Marlon Williams

Where did you come from Marlon Williams? By this time last year I’d only heard rumours of this alt-country singer from New Zealand who was taking the folk scene by storm. Since then I’ve seen the man live more times than I can count, watched him literally reduce audience members to tears with his voice and have had his self titled album on repeat since its release. Williams has been described as harkening back to the country music stars of old, but I think there’s something thoroughly modern about his music – taking his cue the best of the golden tonsiled singers of the 50s and 60s and updating that sound to a new generation.

MontereyThe Milk Carton Kids

Monterey

When you listen to a new Milk Carton Kids album you pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get – two part harmonies over lead and rhythm guitar. But what makes Monterey stand out to me is the production. For the first time I feel like The Milk Carton Kids’ live sound has been captured on a record, although I can’t quite put my finger on why that’s so – on the surface the presentation is not that much different to The Ash & Clay. Maybe it’s just the “feeling” of the songs – but whatever it is this is definitely an album to have in your collection.

AutumnalPackwood

Autumnal

I’m kind of glad it’s taken three years for Packwood to release new music since his incredible debut self-titled album. In the intervening years Packwood has developed as a songwriter, adding a lyrical depth to his beautifully arranged chamber-folk music that was a little lacking on the first release. Autumnal is the first of two mini albums that Packwood has already released this year (with two more to come) but is by far my favourite with its choral arrangements, sweeping orchestras and nods to contemporaries like Sufjan Stevens and Sam Amidon. I’m going to revisit Packwood’s entire seasonal concept album Vertumnus as a whole once all four mini-albums are released, but for the moment I’m thoroughly enjoying Autumnal as a standalone release.

Tomorrow Is My TurnRhiannon Giddens

Tomorrow Is My Turn

2015 really been the the year of Rhiannon Giddens. Her successful collaboration with superstar producer T-Bone Burnett on the Inside Llewyn Davis concert Another Day, Another Time as well as the Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes has lead to the outstanding Tomorrow Is My Turn, Giddens’ debut solo album. The record takes traditional and contemporary music and reimagines it for Giddens folk-blues-jazz-old-time voice with amazing results, elevating her beyond her work with The Carolina Chocolate Drops. I feel like Tomorrow Is My Turn is destined to be an album that influences folk singers for years to come.

SolitudeRuby Boots

Solitude

When we picked Ruby Boots as an artist to watch in 2015 we suspected that come July we’d be talking up her new album Solitude. And that prediction has come true as Solitude is one of the alt-country albums of the past few years. Ruby Boots’s trademark big country voice is all over this record but what really makes it for me is just how tight she’s sounding with her full band – in fact I’d almost say that Solitude is the first time I’d describe Ruby Boots as a “band” rather than the solo project of frontwoman Bex Chilcott. When you add that dynamic to Ruby Boots’ masterful songwriting you’ve got an instant Australian country music classic.

Carrie & LowellSufjan Stevens

Carrie & Lowell

While I’ve enjoyed almost everything Sufjan Stevens has produced in the last five years his move away from his experimental electro music and back to his folk roots for Carrie & Lowell got me extremely excited, and the album itself has not disappointed. Here is a fragile, sumptuous, personal, raw piece of art that may well be Sufjan Stevens’ best album to date. I’m glad that Carrie & Lowell isn’t just Seven Swans revisited and that despite it being very much a folk album you can still here the echo of Stevens’ electro dalliance. This is Sufjan Stevens moving forward with his music and we’re all going on the journey with him.

If I WasThe Staves

If I Was

I feel like The Staves have always been destined for greatness since they burst onto the UK nu-folk scene almost six years ago. But it’s taken their Justin Vernon produced album If I Was to bring them to the attention of the wider folk community. In the past The Staves have leant on their three part harmonies to drive their music, and those harmonies are all over this album, but the inclusion of Vernon as producer has brought with it a full compliment of drums, guitars, horns and more. This adds a wonderful fullness to If I Was and only enhances The Staves’ stunning singing and songwriting.

One HouseTolka

One House

Tolka really are on the cutting edge of traditionally inspired music in Australia right now. Their latest album One House is almost entirely original music that draws so heavily on the tradition that you’d assume all of the tunes have existed for millennia. The production is pretty spot on and I love the use of samples dotted throughout – it adds an extra element to the music and makes One House stand out from its contemporaries. I can’t wait to see what Tolka have in store next.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 30th January

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– London based Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker has announced a new solo album The Toerag Sessions. Details here

Timothy James Bowen released his new video “Let Me Be Your Fire”. Details here

First Aid Kit released their new video “Master Pretender”. Details here

– Singer-songwriter Jess Locke released her new video “Change The Sheets” from her forthcoming album Words That Seem To Slip Away. Details here

Bear’s Den have released their new video “Think of England”. Details here

– Bluegrassers The Pigs released their new video “You Just Like Me ‘Cos I’m Good In Bed” featuring Fanny Lumsden and Red Symons. Details here

– English husband-wife duo Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman released their video for the track “Child Owlet”. Details here

Brad Butcher confirmed his new album Jamestown will be out in March along with dates for a national tour. Details here

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations have announced a new album plus dates for a national tour. Details here

The Wild Comforts released their new video “Better Off Dead”. Details here

– UK four-piece Stornoway have released the video for “The Road You Didn’t Take” along with details of their new album. Details here

– Perth Bluegrassers The Seals have announced their plans to finish up this year but not before a final show in their hometown. Details here

– English folk darling Bella Hardy has announced her new album With The Dawn. Details here

– Sydney old-timey three-piece Catgut are streaming their new album Flying Spiders Over Texas online. Details here

The National Folk Festival added more artists to its 2015 including Kutcha Edwards, Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, the Djaadjawan Dancers, My Friend The Chocolate Cake, Shane Howard, Christopher Coleman Collective, Restless Legs, The Button Collective, Folklore, Lime and Steel, The String Contingent and many more. Details here

– Sydney duo Winterbourne have announced their first ever national headline tour. Details here

Darren Hanlon has announced details of his new album Where Did You Come From? as well as a national tour this March and April. Details here

Reviews

Recordings

“One House is an outstanding release from one of the true rising stars of the Australian folk scene. A completely contemporary folk album that is rooted heavily in the tradition, One House is Tolka at the peak of their powers”Gareth Hugh Evans reviews One House by Tolka. Review here

Gigs

“And then I was off! Having just a day at the festival meant I needed to see as much as possible in a small amount of time. Anyone tracking my progress around the showground would have seen me almost running between venues, ducking in halfway into sets, saying g’day to the artists as they clambered off stage only to then piss-bolt to the next gig”Gareth Hugh Evans recounts his 12 hours at the Illawarra Folk Festival. Review here

Releases This Week

Catgut
Flying Spiders Over TexasCatgut
Bandcamp

S
SEmmy The Great
Rough Trade

Sailing By The Stars
Sailing By The StarsRoland Kay-Smith
Bandcamp

The Lone Bellow
Then Came The MorningThe Lone Bellow
iTunes

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Bell St Delays

Bell St Delays

Bell St Delays, the duo project of singer-songwriters Tracy McNeil and Luke Sinclair (Raised By Eagles) make their way to Sydney and Maitland this weekend bringing their beautiful harmonies and stunning folk songs to their NSW fans

Friday 30th January – Petersham Bowls Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 31st January – The Junkyard, Maitland, NSW

Gigs Next Week

Alanna Eileen
Wednesday 4th February – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, NSW

Angus and Julia Stone
Wednesday 4th February – Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth, WA
Friday 6th February – Entertainment Centre, Darwin, NT

Ann Vriend
Friday 30th January – Sovereign Resort Hotel, Cooktown, Qld
Saturday 31st January – The Reef Casino, Cairns, Qld
Sunday 1st February – Brisbane Jazz Club, Fortitude Valley, Qld
Thursday 5th February – House Concert, Tallai, Qld
Friday 6th February – Mother’s Milk, Sawtell, NSW

Bernard Fanning with Little May
Friday 30th January – Twilight At Taronga, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 31st January – Melbourne Zoo Twilights, Melbourne, VIC

Bell St Delays
Friday 30th January – Petersham Bowls Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 31st January – The Junkyard, Maitland, NSW

Black Market Tune
Friday 30th January – Albert Park Yacht Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 31st January – Roxby Hotel, Sydney, NSW

CW Stoneking
Friday 6th February – Milton Theatre, Milton, NSW

Husband
Friday 30th January – The Prince of Wales Hotel, Bunbury, WA

John Flanagan
Wednesday 4th February – The Yarra Hotel, Abbottsford, VIC
Thursday 5th February – The Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA
Friday 6th February – The Bluebee room, Adelaide, SA

Kim Churchill
Friday 30th January – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 31st January – Solbar, Maroochydore, QLD
Sunday 1st February – Festival of King Island, TAS
Thursday 5th February – Jive, Adelaide, SA
Friday 6th February – Amplifier Bar, Perth, WA

Lachlan Bryan w/ Jack Henderson, Sam York, Aleyce Simmonds
Friday 30th January – The Basement, Sydney, NSW
Monday 2nd February – The Loft, Melbourne, VIC

Mandy Connell with Tom Ciccone
Saturday 31st January – Retreat, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 4th February – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Melody Pool
Tuesday 3rd February – The Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, VIC

Passenger
Thursday 5th February – Darwin Entertainment Centre, Darwin, NT

Peasant Moon
Friday 30th January – Gasoline Pony, Sydney, NSW

The Melbourne Folk Club feat. Jeff Lang, Emma Swift, Matt Langley
Wednesday 4th February – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

The Wild Comforts
Saturday 31st January – The Old Bar, Melbourne, VIC

Tim Edey
Friday 30th January – Harvest Moon, Bellarine, VIC
Saturday 31st January – Flying Saucer Club, Caulfield RSL, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“‘S iomadh rud tha dhith orm/Ciamar a ni mi ‘n dannsa direach” – Carolina Chocolate Drops

This is one of my favourite tracks from the Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis live album where Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens performs it which then prompted me to hunt out some CCD versions on Youtube. Look out for the traditional “raising of the foot” to signify the change in songs in this video!

Review: Tolka, One House

Tolka
Image Courtesy of Tolka

When Melbourne trad group Tolka announced that they would be spending six months in Belfast to record their new album One House with with Dónal O’Connor and Brian Finnegan here’s what I expected: The quartet would get so immersed in the Northern Irish trad scene that they’d emerge with a plethora of newly collected traditional tune sets and the occasional song about being away from home.

What I didn’t expect was an album of ten original tunes and songs steeped in, but not constrained by the tradition. Tolka have spent their time abroad getting inside themselves and writing some amazing music in the process.

One House is a stunning blend of instrumentals and contemporary folk songs that shows the band growing from their debut release Tunes From The External Hardrive. It’s obvious the band are enjoying playing with the production with loops, drones, steel drums, vocal samples (in “The Giant”), and even drums on a number of tracks. Tolka’s trademark ear for arrangement, with the banjo, guitar, fiddle and flute all intertwining to create captivating music, is out in full force on One House – I recommend checking out “The Old Sweetshop” and see if you don’t crack a smile when the tune step changes about halfway through.

While the album is largely instrumental the two songs – “Mulberry Sky” and “This Old Lie” – are standouts and demonstrate just how strong Tolka are as lyricists, not just tune writers. Despite being originals the songs sound as timeless as the tunes – I can see “Mulberry Sky” in particular becoming a firm favourite.

Overall One House is an outstanding release from one of the true rising stars of the Australian folk scene. A completely contemporary folk album that is rooted heavily in the tradition, One House is Tolka at the peak of their powers.

One House is due for release on the 1st March, 2015

Ten Artists to Watch in the First Half of 2015

Bob Dylan

As we emerge from the haze of the Christmas and New Year period I can tell you right now that the future is looking bright indeed. So many of our favourite artists spent last year in the studio and the next six months is going to be thick with exciting releases. With so much good music on the way I thought I’d try and distill a list of ten artists that I’m excited to hear from in the first half of this year. This list is by no means exhaustive and I could probably spend hours talking about every release on the calendar, but hopefully this gives you a jumping off point to get as excited as I am for 2015.

Fanny Lumsden
Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers

After smashing her Pozible campaign goal in 2014 Sydney’s Fanny Lumsden has headed into the studio with her band The Thrillseekers and producer Matt Fell to record her debut album. Details of the album are still few and far between but expect to hear Lumsden’s trademark big vocals. And if 2014 was anything to go by Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers will be performing all over the country and gaining fans everywhere they go.

Kate and Ruth
Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton

When I interviewed Kate Burke as part of Trouble in the Kitchen before last year’s National Folk Festival she confirmed that after some time off to raise a family she’d be heading back into the studio with Ruth Hazleton to record the duo’s fifth album. Since then a slow trickle of photos and status updates have emerged via Kate and Ruth’s previously quiet Facebook page from their recording sessions with producer Luke Plumb. The album, titled Declaration, is due for release in April this year and will feature a collection of traditional and original songs. Expect the see Kate Burke and Ruth Hazelton popping up on the live circuit in the coming months as well – can’t wait!

Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons

When Mumford and Sons went on hiatus in 2013 many assumed that was it for the English nu-folk superstars. But then rumours began to emerge in October last year that the band had headed back into the studio with producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Haim). And now that they’ve been named as the headliners of the 2015 Bonnaroo festival this June I think we’ll be hearing a lot from Mumford and Sons in the next six months.

Packwood
Packwood

2014 was a pretty quiet year for the now Melbourne based chamber-folk singer-songwriter Packwood. In 2013 Packwood successfully ran a crowd funding campaign and then hunkered down to write and record his ambitious four part seasonal album series, Vertumnus, complete with his trademark orchestral and choral accompaniment. The first part of the album series, Autumnal, is due in March and promises a lot more guitar than the banjo-based songs of his previous recordings – and will also hopefully mean a return to live music for Packwood as well.

Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens’ starring role in both The New Basement Tapes project and the Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis live concert and album has definitely raised her profile. And now the Carolina Chocolate Drops singer and musician will be releasing her debut solo album Tomorrow Is My Turn on the 10th February featuring traditional songs, covers and original material and from what we’ve heard so far it’s going to be very unique and very very good.

Ruby Boots
Ruby Boots

After a massive 2014 touring the country and showcasing at festivals and conference WA’s Ruby Boots has kicked off 2015 with some massive news – a signing to the Lost Highway Australia record label and the announcement of a new album, Solitude, which will be due for release in April. Ruby Boots is the poster child for the burgeoning Australian alt-country scene and her success will only bring more attention to the genre and increase the profile of her contemporaries. Go and see Ruby Boots in 2015 and find out exactly what all the fuss is about.

Sam Lee
Sam Lee & Friends

No one is producing traditional music like Sam Lee. His 2012 debut album Ground of its Own brought together the songs Lee had collected throughout Britain, many from the UK traveller community, with a very modern arrangement and production. Over the last two years Sam Lee has brought together a band and now performs under Sam Lee & Friends, and has announced his second album The Fade In Time to be released on the 16th March. If you managed to catch Sam Lee & Friends at WOMADelaide last year you’ll know exactly why we’re so excited for The Fade In Time.

Sufjan
Sufjan Stevens

Let’s be honest, Sufjan Stevens has always been a little bit odd. So when he asked his fans to go on an experimental journey with him for his 2010 albums All Delighted People and The Age of Adz I think he alienated a lot of people who loved his folkier side. On the 31st March Sufjan Stevens has announced he’ll release his brand new album Carrie & Lowell which promises a return to his folky roots, an announcement which no doubt was met with a sigh of relief from many of his fans. We’ve only heard a few snippets from Carrie & Lowell so far so the next couple of months will be very very interesting as more of the album is revealed.

The Staves
The Staves

The Staves have always been Timber and Steel favourites but they may have outdone themselves in 2015, choosing none other than Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) as the producer of their debut album If I Was, due for release on the 30th January. We’ve already heard a couple of tracks from If I Was and it’s everything you’d expect from a collaboration between The Staves and Bon Iver – beautiful three part harmonies, sweet folk songs and dense, dramatic production. Now we just need to convince The Staves to make it down to Australia at some point this year.

Tolka
Tolka

In 2014 Melbourne trad-folk quartet Tolka travelled to Northern Ireland thanks to a grant from the Australia Council to write and and record their second album with Dónal O’Connor and producer Brian Finnegan. The result is One House, due for release on the 1st March and featuring ten original tunes and songs that feel like they’re pulled directly from the tradition. With One House under their belt Tolka are set to become the darlings of the Australian folk scene this year.

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 2nd January

TFIF

This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

– The Gaelic Club in Sydney has some awesome Woodford sideshows coming up this month including appearances from Betty & Oswald, Black Market Tunes and The East Pointers. Details here

– Following his appearance at Woodford UK singer-songwriter John Smith will be making his way around the east coast for a string of dates. Details here

– Austro-Scottish celtic folk four-piece Black Market Tune will be touring throughout January. Details here

Tim Edey has a bunch of Woodford sideshows this January. Details here

– Trad four-piece Tolka announced their new album One House. Details here

Interviews

“And this led to a meeting with the just as lovely Deborah Suckling, the brains and organisational braun behind The Soldier’s Wife. Currently an irregularly performed concert, matching female singer-songwriters with ‘..the partners of Australian servicemen – both past and present – and putting the experience, emotions and lives of those women into song'” – Deborah Suckling chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“Mixing music, theatre, improv and audience participation, The Travelling Sisters fill that little caravan-y void where some punters might remember a couple of late night clowns used to perform out back of The Duck (the venue formerly known as The Duck and Shovel)”The Travelling Sisters chat to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“Andrew, like many folkies, wears many hats (some of them at the same time) and at Woodford he’s virtually juggling them. His supper club has two showings at Bill’s Bar every day, and Totally Gourdgeous are launching their new live DVD”Andrew Clermont chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“Bill and Joey were seated in the most salubrious of surrounds (on the slippery slope at the back of the gent’s toilets next to The Duck and The Travelling Sisters‘ caravan), chatting about performance spaces, and radio, and grass roots music development” – Joey Channon from Rabbit Radio chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“About 3.6 minutes later, David and Bill were outside the donga by the Spirit of Woodford office, standing variously on the wooden palets or in the mud, dodging dangerous ants the size of small cats, and speaking over the sound spill creeping up the hill from Bluestown, chatting about Paper Lions, music advocacy and the wondrous, wonderful Woodford” – David Cyrus MacDonald from Paper Lions chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“Bill Quinn stopped on his amble along the individually decorated paving bricks to chat with Aly de Groot about her workshops”Aly de Groot chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

“John Smith is performing at Woodford Folk Festival, and at the time of writing has just finished his last show at The Duck. While that’s bad news for anyone on site who missed his gigs, or for anyone who got along and just wants to see more, the good news for John is that he can now find a shady tree and try to keep cool for the rest of the festival. “This weather is too hot for my blood!” he observed to the lunchtime crowd of Duck Eggs, as he referred to them, in a friendly way”John Smith chats to Bill Quinn. Interview here

Blog

“Bill Quinn was sitting having his ritual cup of peppermint tea in Fine Earth Foods at Woodford Folk Festival when a postie came into the venue and started attempting to deliver letters. To people”Bill Quinn discovers The Lettering House at the Woodford Folk Festival. Read his piece here

“At probably my first Woodford Folk Festival, I got a treasured copy of the then very new The Next Turn album by Trouble in the Kitchen. As I set off down the D’Aguilar Highway on 3 January, processing eight days’ worth of festy wonderfullness, I was in an emotional, impressionable state, making listening to the 14 tracks all the more powerful”Bill Quinn details his love for Trouble in the Kitchen. Read more here

Bill Quinn captures the traditional Woodford Folk Festival three minutes of silence. Experience it here

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

John Smith

John Smith

UK folk singer John Smith has wrapped up an amazing New Year and is heading down the coast for his first ever Australian tour including shows at The Melbourne Folk Club (with Caitlin Harnett) and the Cygnet Folk Festival.

Saturday 3rd January – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 7th January -The Melbourne Folk Club @ Bella Union, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 8th January – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS

Gigs Next Week

Afenginn w/ Crooked Fiddle Band, Leroy Lee
Thursday 8th January – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW

Alela Diane
Thursday 8th January – City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, NSW

Black Market Tune
Thursday 8th January – Jetty Cafe, Dennes Point, Bruny Island, TAS
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS

Brass Knuckle Brass Band
Saturday 3rd January – The Milk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Sunday 4th January – Bellingen, NSW

Cygnet Folk Festival
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet, TAS

John Smith
Saturday 3rd January – The Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 7th January -The Melbourne Folk Club @ Bella Union, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 8th January – Django Bar, Sydney, NSW
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS

Nariel Creek Festival
Saturday 27th December to Saturday 3rd January – Nariel Creek, VIC

Paper Lions
Friday 2nd January – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 3rd January – Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 4th January – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Wednesday 7th January – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 8th January – Rad Bar, Wollongong, NSW
Friday 9th January – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC

The Melbourne Folk Club feat. John Smith, Caitlin Harnett
Wednesday 7th January – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

The Melbourne Folk Club feat. The East Pointers, Tolka
Thursday 8th January – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

Tim Edey
Saturday 3rd January – Old Museum, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 7th January – Byron Theatre, Byron Bay, NSW
Thursday 8th January – Mountain Mummas, Sheffield, TAS
Friday 9th and Saturday 10th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS

Friday Folk Flashback

“Auld Lang Syne” – Andrew Bird

Happy New Year folk fans! Here’s to a massive 2015!

Tolka Announce New Album, One House

Tolka
Image Courtesy of Tolka

Australian trad band Tolka have had a busy 2014, heading over to Belfast for four months to record their new album with producer and whistle player Brian Finnegan (Flook). The result is One House, the band’s second album which is due for release on the 1st March, 2015.

“This collection of music is, in a literal sense, caught between two places,” Tolka explained via their Bandcamp (where you can also order One House). “As musicians we grew up on the opposite side of the world to the music that we had come to love and play together. The Australian folk scene shaped the tunes we played and wrote for many years, and this is a part of our music that we will always take pride in. Yet it seemed right that, for our second album, we should seek out the Irish tradition and music that has been part of our lives for so long, to find a new place from which to write and grow as a band.”

Tolka are previewing four tracks which you can listen to below:

The Melbourne Folk Club Announces Summer Season

Melbourne Folk Club
Image Courtesy of The Melbourne Folk Club

The Melbourne Folk Club is one of the success stories of 2014 – bringing amazing folk music, both Australian and international, to a regular night right in the heart of Melbourne.

The night takes place at Bella Union in Melbourne’s inner-North, mostly on Wednesdays but sometimes throughout the week to accommodate touring artists. The Melbourne Folk Club this week announced its summer season and the lineup is looking as strong as ever.

Check out the full line up from January through to the end of March below:

Wednesday 7th January – John Smith (UK) + Caitlin Harnett
Thursday 8th January – Unplugged show w/ The East Pointers (Canada) + Tolka
Wednesday 14th January – David Francey (CAN) + James Kenyon + Lucy Wise
Wednesday 21st January – Oh Pep! + Open Swimmer
Wednesday 28th January – Darren Hanlon + Laura Jean + Single Twin
Wednesday 4th February – Jeff Lang + Emma Swift + Matt Langley
Wednesday 11th February – The Mae Trio + The Once (Canada)
Wednesday 18th February – Machine Translations + Broads
Wednesday 25th February – Shane Howard (Album Launch) + Skyscraper Stan
Wednesday 4th March – Ruth Moody & Band (Canada) + Scott Cook (Canada) + Nadia Reid (NZ)
Wednesday 11th March – Jordie Lane (In Conversation + Concert)
Wednesday 18th March – Breabach (Scotland) + Stray Hens
Wednesday 25th March – All Our Exes Live in Texas + Kim Richey (US)

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