Jamgrass’s Adelaide Debut

Jamgrass2013This weekend marks Jamgrass’s Adelaide debut and they’ve got an incredible line up of music. Fiddle Virtuoso Casey Driessen has landed in Australia and will be making his only SA appearance at The Gov. Marlon Williams returns to Adelaide after selling out his last show in town. Astro Cobalt and The Cherry Pickers will provide a bluegrass fix, James Kenyon will wow with his intricate songs while Skyscraper Stan and The Bakers Digest will provide a late night party.

So you’ve had the JamGrass experience in Melbourne or Sydney? Now don’t let your Adelaide friends miss out. Help grow the JamGrass movement by letting them know it’s coming their way this weekend. You know they’ll thank you.

More info can be found at the Facebook event page here.

Follow JamGrass on Twitter here.

Blackwood Festival of Music and Culture

Blackwood FestivalNews of another festival has arrived this week with the Blackwood Festival of Music and Culture.

This event will be held over the weekend of November 7th, 8th and 9th, 2014. Their website states that this is a pilot festival with the aims of celebrating great aspects of music culture in a beautiful mountain-forest setting at Blackwood, Victoria an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

The festival will feature a diverse music lineup including old-time, Irish, bluegrass, country, Blues and rockabilly genres as well as workshops and demonstrations in Cajun and old-time dance styles and traditional harmony singing.

Acts include old-time masters Eddie Bond and Kirk Sutphin (USA) and Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass (USA) as well as musicians from Melbourne and regional Victoria including Chere Cajun, Johnny Can’t Dance, Little Rabbit, Flying Engine Stringband, Woodward and Rough, Fingerbone, Swamplands,Cat and Clint, Archer, Freedom, Clintonium Bomb, The Ramshackle Band, Honeyfields, Hardrive Bluegrass Band, Slim Dime, Jonno and the Daredevils, Tully Sumner, Colin Matthews, Fruit Jar and Lowdown & Lonesome.

The festival is aimed at music lovers, musicians and anyone interested in old-time and traditional culture and entertainment. The event will be inclusive and family friendly. Onsite camping is available for a limited number of attendees. Those in RV’s or wanting a quieter environment, are encouraged to book into the Blackwood Mineral Springs Caravan Park.  Note – RV’s are not permitted on the Rec Reserve. A range of other accommodation is also available in Blackwood, including B&Bs and rental cottages.

Guildford Festival 2014

GuildfordThe Ninth Guildford Banjo Jamboree, in the tiny town of Guildford in Central Victoria, is almost upon us. We are sure that this year’s Jamboree will be as enjoyable as the last eight, with loads of talented artists in concerts, workshops and the dance, and with jam sessions going night and day. The Jamboree aims to be a friendly, enjoyable and informative gathering of musicians and music lovers and we trust that all readers who are attending will stand by that ethos and ensure that everyone has a wonderful weekend. I know it is the highlight of the year, both for local people and for the many folks who travel from far and wide.

Of course the Jamboree could not possibly happen in our little village without the generosity of the performers, MCs, dance musos and callers, sound crew, local businesses and organisations, committee of volunteers, and the volunteers who come to the party and offer some time to sit on doors or sell tickets or merchandise, or help with the 1001 other tasks necessary for the Jamboree to function.

If you are coming from afar and would like to volunteer, please contact us via any of the contacts at the end of the newsletter.

Old favourites such as the afternoon concerts, the four chalkboard concerts, the open-age and youth Pick-Off awards, the Saturday lunchtime Big Tree Parade and Photo, the Maree Murrell Memorial Saturdee Night Dance, the Sunday morning Gospel Singalong, the Instrument Makers Display at London House and Glen Bale’s Big Banjo will still be featured. Our special logo this year features and honours the Big Banjo. Final artwork came from the wonderful Irene Fitness, but a number of folks contributed ideas and time, including quite a deal of work from Ashley and Louisa Tracey.

The Robbie Watts Pick-Off and the Ron de Graauw Youth Award during the Saturday afternoon concert will again see some fierce banjo pickin’ competition. Those interested in entering can do so at the Jamboree’s registration desk. Entrants must be Jamboree wristband holders.

The Saturday afternoon concert in the Public Hall will feature: The Black Swans of Trespass, Red Dog, the Geelong Banjo Pickers, the Pick-Off awards, Appalachian Heaven, A new incarnation of Heel-Toe Express, The Kastlemaine Klezmer Kollective and Faux Grass. The Sunday afternoon in the hotel beer garden will feature: Zeptepi, Rose Turtle Ertler, Tequila Mockingbirds, Archer and the Long Gone Daddies, High and Lonesome, Sitting Ducks and the Cider House String Band. There will be four “chalkboard” concerts – Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Register for these at reception at the Public Hall during the Jamboree if you wish to perform. Chalkboard performers must be Jamboree wristband holders. Most “chalkboard” concerts will commence with a band set. Friday night: Pennyweight; Saturday afternoon: The Marvilles; Saturday night: Lonesome Still; Sunday afternoon: Jan Wositzky.

Saturday and Sunday morning workshops will be offered in many styles of banjo playing, from Bluegrass to Jazz, from Celtic to Klezmer!

Organisers appreciate any assistance anyone can offer before, during and after the Jamboree. Anyone wishing to volunteer some time can contact the organisers at: volunteers@banjojamboree.org The full volunteer offer form is on the website.

Further information can be obtained from our website at www.banjojamboree.org or by emailing info@banjojamboree.org or Ph 03 5473 4201.

Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival

FMBluegrassHere’s news of another new festival scheduled for October this year – Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival.

Kinglake Ranges is set to come alive with the sounds of bluegrass on the weekend of 17-19 October 2014 with the first annual Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival. Supporting the economic redevelopment of the Kinglake Ranges, the Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival will showcase the best the region has to offer, in a family-friendly event with something for everyone.

Visitors to the festival will enjoy local and national bluegrass artists, music workshops, markets, arts and crafts, a bush dance and a gospel concert. The festival will feature popular and well-known Australian bluegrass bands Hardrive, Coolgrass, the Marville Family, and Nine Mile Creek. We’re also pleased to welcome the internationally renowned Davidson Brothers, who will be playing up a storm.

If you love playing music, you can hone your skills by joining one of the workshops being run by our professional musicians for guitar picking and banjo or fiddle techniques.

Kick off the weekend and kick up your heels with Clan Destiny at the Old Timey Bush Dance and Spit Roast on Friday 17th October. Saturday 18th October will be a day of music, art and craft, mouthwatering local produce, horse and carriage rides, culminating in a family-friendly afternoon concert featuring the best of Australian and international bluegrass bands. In the evening, you can stick around and enjoy more from our headliner acts at local venues.

Come and enjoy great local food, fun and music – bring the family for a fun weekend among the towering timbers.

Kids can enjoy playing at Bollygum Park, the best adventure playground in Victoria, while you browse the local Sunday markets.
For something very special, enjoy our uplifting Gospel Concert on Sunday morning.

Kinglake is a convenient hour and a half drive from Melbourne’s CBD, but there will also be limited accommodation available on the mountain and in the local region for those who would like to make a weekend of it.

By having a great time at our festival, visitors will also be supporting Kinglake’s talented local performers and artists, our incredibly beautiful local area, and our high quality local produce. Join our friendly locals for a weekend you’ll never forget.

Full details about the Foggy Mountain Festival are available at www.fmbluegrass.com.au

Follow them on:
Twitter: @FoggyBluegrass
Instagram: foggymountainbluegrass
Facebook: Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival
Youtube: Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival

Green Mohair Suits – Wooden Duck

GMS Wood Duck AlbumAustralia’s favourite purveyors of “garage grass” Green Mohair Suits release their third album Wooden Duck today before their  tour takes them to east-coast venues as grassroots, eclectic and off the beaten track are they are.

Along with the album release, are two brand new videos – for album tracks ‘With You I Feel Like I Have Nothing to Hide’ and ‘Open Door Metaphor’. These are out now, with more (including some ingenious covers) to be released via the band’s social media while they’re on the road.

Green Mohair Suits, originally a rag-tag bunch of blokes lining up some instruments for a Gram Parson tribute show, have established themselves. Today they are  as a force to be reckoned with, pushing against the preconception of country and bluegrass music as much as they embrace it.

Band members Brian Campeau, Richard Cuthbert, Jason Mannell, and Ben RomalisIt’s say that this is a benchmark album for the good friends – despite being seven-odd years into the band’s history, Wooden Duck feels like their first real album: the first time all four songwriters have shared the songwriting, writing together but separately, writing just for one another, and allowing their individual and quite varying styles to shine.

Without question, Green Mohair Suits have released a stellar record, their musicianship and vocal harmonies are fantastic and the songwriting is inspiring. A killer album.

Wooden Duck Album Tour:

Fri 19 Sep – South Side Tea Room, Morningside, QLD
Sat 20 Sep – Cardigan Bar, Sandgate QLD
Sun 21 Sep – The End, West End QLD
Wed 24 Sept – Mother’s Milk, Sawtell NSW
Thu 25 Sep – Cafe 2340, Tamworth NSW
Fri 26 Sep – The Lass O’Gowrie, Wickham, Newcastle NSW
Sun 28 Sep – Grand Junction Hotel [The Junkyard], Maitland NSW
Fri 3 Oct – Tanswells Commercial Hotel – Beechworth, VIC
Sat 4 Oct – Paynesville Wine Bar, Vic
Sun 5 Oct – Bruthen Inn Hotel, Bruthen VIC
Fri 10 Oct – Smith’s Alternative Bookstore, Canberra ACT
Sat 11 Oct – The Vanguard, Newtown NSW
Sun 12 Oct – Modus Operandi Brewery, Mona Vale NSW

2014 Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival Catch Up

Chris Henry & Hardcore Grass

Chris Henry & the Hardcore Grass

The 2014 13th Annual Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival is shaping up to be one of the best yet we are told. They have announced an exceptional line-up and some new surprises in store. Like many successful festivals, organisers plan improvements each year to improve on previous years. This year appears to be no exception.

This year the festival organisers will be extending the scope of The Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival by featuring more brilliant performers from the USA – home of Bluegrass and Old-Time mountain music, adding their extra dimension of experience and authenticity to the mix.

As well as the Main Pavillion Stage, the recently renovated Luncheon Pavillion Stage, and the “Tallowood Venue”, we will also have a new “Mini Big Top” Circus Tent Venue, allowing for more intimate acoustic performances, and more “blackboard spot” opportunities.

Some of the acts announced so far include:

Sutphin & Bond

Kirk Sutphin & Eddie Bond.

Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass. A band that has risen quickly to become one of the most popular bluegrass groups in Nashville. Chris Henry has been described by the International Bluegrass Music Association as the premiere Monroe-style mandolinist of his generation. After receiving a Song of the Year nomination for writing the song “Walkin’ West to Memphis”, his skill as a songwriter has been receiving national attention as well.

Hardrive Bluegrass Band. This is one of Australia’s foremost traditional Bluegrass bands, playing standard bluegrass repertoire as well as Australian Original songs and tunes in a hard driving bluegrass style.

Kirk Sutphin and Eddie Bond. Here are two Masters of Old-Time Fidldle and Banjo. They hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and steeped in the Round Peak, Galax and Mt Airy Old-Time music styles and traditions. Kirk Sutphin and Eddie Bond aquired their nickname while travelling around the US with the acclaimed “Music from the Crooked Road: Mountain Music of Virginia” and the “Roots of American Music” Tours. They seemed to pop up in so many of the tour’s musical line-ups that the other performers began to jokingly call them The Stage Hogs. Now they have made the name official…

Colin O’Brien, who playfully delights his audiences with catchy melodies, groovy rhythms, soulful lyrics, fancy footwork and old time hat tricks. His banjo, fiddle and guitar playing, percussive dancing, and lyrics all express an earnest regard for the traditional, natural and true. His music is informed by the past and speaks to the present.

Here is a short video documentary that captures the essence and atmosphere of the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival produced by Kelly Stoner:

MountainGrass Acts Announced

ABOTMAThe team at ABOTMA Inc have announced this year’s line up for National MountainGrass Festival scheduled for Harrietville  on the 14th -16th November, 2014. This event is Australia’s national bluegrass and old-time music festival nestled in the gorgeous foothills of Mount Hotham in the amazingly picturesque Alpine Shire.

The Harrietville festival almost failed in 2013 as organisers of some past 20 years walked away, leaving a bewildered township, business community and hundreds of bluegrass and old-time music enthusiasts wondering what was had happened. All was not lost however. The townsfolk rallied; the bluegrass and old-time community closed ranks and all forged on with a new Australasian Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association Incorporated, determined to keep the hugely popular annual festival alive. The result sees the second annual festival now well into planning with the release of its artist line up for this year.

Artistic Director George Jackson has had a mammoth – and quite unenviable – task of evaluating more than 50 applications for just 20 performance places.

LachlanThe ABOTMA Executive Committee is extremely proud of the tireless work that our Artistic Director George Jackson has put in to create this year’s program. In the the early stages of festival development, it was an incredibly difficult task with more than 50 applications for limited performance space for around 20 acts. So we are very excited with his choices for this year;s event especially the balance between the number of new and younger acts along with the audience favourites in some of our more well established acts - Lachlan Davidson, President ABOTMA Inc. 

MountainGrass Line-up:

Special Consensus
The Flying Emus
Lonesome Still
String Theories
Little Rabbit
The Davidson Bros
Pipi Pickers
Old South
Coolgrass
Bluegrass Parkway
Appalachian Heaven
Karen Lynne
The Company
Fat Cousin Skinny
Flying Engine Stringband
Pete Denahy
One Up, Two Down
Chris Henry & the Hard Core Grass
Harman and Hellens
Banjo Boys


About ABOTMA Inc.
The Australasian Bluegrass & Old Time Music Association was founded in Harrietville on 27 April 2013, at the site where, for more than 20 years, musicians have gathered to play and share music at the foot of the Snowy Mountains of Northern Victoria.ABOTMA has commenced building affiliations with bluegrass & old time music organisations, teachers, and performers within the region and internationally, and in particular with the USA where these music forms originated. Over time, an Australasian ‘flavour’ will no doubt develop as the music evolves through local influences. The broad mission of ABOTMA Inc. is to support the teaching, performance, and promotion of bluegrass & old time music.
ABOTMA aims to support the:

  • sponsoring and coordinating workshops, masterclasses, and music seminars
  • organising performances by bands and solo artists in urban and rural concerts and festivals
  • awarding scholarships and prizes for achievements in bluegrass & old time music
  • cooperating and collaborating with affiliated music organisations.

ABOTMA Memberships are now open and cost just $25.00 for a single member and $50.00 for a double membership. A 3-Day pass to MountainGrass will cost you $115.00 or if you are an ABOTMA Member just $85.00.

Casey Dreissen On Tour in Oz 2014

Casey DreissenMajor festivals and events in Australia invariable provide the opportunity for international artists to travel to and tour parts of Australia. This is the case with the Sunshine Fiddle Camp scheduled for next month on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Casey Driessen one of the featured guests at this year’s camp has spent his career pushing the boundaries of fiddle music and has been touring with The Flecktones, Tim O’Brien, and Darrell Scott, and opening for the Zac Brown Band.

Driessen’s captivating live shows see music created by assembling musical parts like a musical Dr. Frankenstein. Driessen draws on a number of wide-ranging influences from Tom Waits to Stevie Wonder to jazz violinist Stuff Smith. He’s particularly drawn to the improvisational elements of bebop, the groove of R&B, and percussion rich global cultures. Driessen’s continued interest in percussion has also led to the creation of Fiddle/Sticks, an ongoing audio and video project in which he collaborates with drummers like Jamey Haddad, Kenny Malone, and Futureman.

Though the Grammy-nominated Driessen has participated in several genre-blending ventures, including Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet, at his core, he is a bluegrass fiddler, albeit one who honed his skills at Berklee College of Music.

Casey Driessen is a rather funky fellow….Music-wise, you might call him the heir to Vassar Clements in that he too, straddles the line between roots and jazz. If you’ve ever seen Driessen perform live you’ll swear his violin plays him - Nashville Scene.

Casey Driessen is touring Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane:

Applications for Academy of Country Music

ACCMThe number one Country Music Program in Australia is now seeking applications from Unsigned and Independent Artists.

Applications are open for: singer/ songwriters, traditional and new country music artists and instrumentalists.

Celebrating 18 successful years the Academy of Country Music is scheduled again in 2015. The Academy is the largest and most credible country music program for unsigned and independent artists in Australia and has resulted in many major success stories from previous Students including: Jessica Mauboy, Brooke and Samantha McClymont, Drew McAlister, Adam Eckersley, Amber Lawrence, Ashleigh Dallas, Kaylee Bell, as well as 2014 X Factor contestants The Brothers 3, Caitlyn Shadbolt and The Davidson Brothers Hamish and Lachlan.

After a highly successful transition to the summer festival period in 2014, The 2015 program will be made up of four distinct streams. Singer/songwriter streams for Junior and Senior artists, instrumental and the renowned parent stream. As always the exclusive program has limited places on offer with the Academy only offering 21 positions per stream. This is the place to be to learn all the ins and outs of the country music industry as well as fine tune your performance skills.

The Academy of Country Music’s intensive course covers every aspect of building a country music career from Songwriting through to performance, vocals, harmony singing, instrumental work, chart writing and video and record production. Students will also cover industry building modules such as digital marketing, managing your career, working with the media, social media, publishing, management, working with venues and many other aspects.

The students will be led and mentored by industry leading professionals over the course of the program and have the opportunity to bond and network with other students from all over Australia whilst perfecting their musical skills.

All students will come together on the 15th and 16th of January 2015 to showcase their talent to the industry, family and friends in the prestigious Capitol Theatre, Tamworth.

The Academy of Country Music gives vital recognition, exposure and development opportunities to Australian and New Zealand country music artists who are ready to take the next step in their career. Artists that make it through the application process are selected and judged by some of the Country Music Industry’s finest.

Artists wishing to apply to one of the streams can do so online at www.academycountrymusic.com.au. Places are filling fast.

  • Junior – Under 18 (Runs over 1 week) Starts January 9th 2015.
  • Senior – Over 18 (Runs over 2 weeks) Starts January 3rd 2015.
  • Instrumentalists – interested in working as arrangers, producers, session players and performers in concert bands (Runs over 2 weeks) Starts January 3rd 2015.
  • Parent – Accompanying a junior student at the academy (Runs over 1 week) Starts January 9th 2015.

Applications Now Open – www.academycountrymusic.com.au.

John Bridgland on John Liddy.

John Liddy BookJohn Bridgland’s recent publication Bending Maple, Carving Spruce has been released this week. We caught up with John to ask what motivated the publication on South Australian mandolin and guitar luthier, Mr John Liddy.

Why a book about a man who only spent 13 years working as a luthier?
In the Australian bluegrass and roots scene most pickers don’t know much about local luthiers, so this one addresses John Liddy’s legacy. In Adelaide in recent years there had been a trio of great luthiers working on the main instruments in the bluegrass genre until John died in September 2013. The other two are still very much alive and kicking: Alan Funk, banjos, and Bryan De Gruchy, guitars. Both still make awesome quality instruments. Although John didn’t have the same long-term profile as Alan and Bryan (both about 35 years in the craft) his instruments quickly elevated him into the top tier of South Australian luthiers.

You’ve previously written a book about Bryan De Gruchy?
Yes – and for the same reason. But given John Liddy’s relatively short career, I wasn’t planning writing about him. However, his sudden death last year prompted me to gather as much as I could about his work, his views and his instruments. His family was very generous in giving me access to his records and photos, and I was able to pull together several interview transcripts, one in 2003 and another in 2008, which are fascinating in hindsight. I have been concerned to catalogue the life of one of South Australia’s great luthiers who, without this book, will almost certainly be totally forgotten as the decades pass.

What was it about John’s work that promoted you to write?
John started luthiery late in his working life, and the book describes how challenging it was for him to get going. The book might be the only Australian resource on the market today that reveals what one needs to do to start such a business and succeed in making jazz guitars and bluegrass mandolins. John chose to make arch-top style instruments, which are the most challenging to craft, and he has been the only South Australian to do so, at a very high quality level, in the past 50 years. His output, 20 guitars and 40 mandolins, was small, but it was very good. He set a very high standard, and so far there’s no sign of anyone following in his footsteps.

What is you own background with the mandolin and writing books?
I’ve been a blues and bluegrass musician for 40 years and when I changed from being a bluegrass guitarist to a mandolinist (in 1994), that was around the time John Liddy was looking to change his wood-working career towards instrument crafting. He didn’t start making mandolins until 2000, so when I was looking around for a better mandolin (in 2005), John’s F5s were locally available and very tempting. By the time I bought a Liddy F5 mandolin, I’d been playing bluegrass as a mandolinist for 11 years and had seen and played some pretty good instruments. As for writing, I’ve been a journalist and editor since the 1980s. I enjoy writing as much as I enjoy picking.

Mr John Liddy

Mr John Liddy

What can we expect to read in the book?
I begin with an essay titled: ‘Feeding the Australian jazz and the hillbilly market – the short career and contribution of a unique South Australian luthier’ which looks back on John Liddy’s visits to bluegrass festivals over about 10 years at which I too had been present. In my view much has changed over that time about those gatherings. John was working during a really interesting period that, in some respects, isn’t the same any more. Then I discuss the two aspects of John’s output: ‘the jazz business’ – about John’s crafting of jazz guitars for the Australian jazz fraternity, and ‘the bluegrass business’ – about John’s exploration of building F and A model mandolins. Each chapter reflects on the origins of the Gibson L5 Gibson guitar and the F5 mandolin, and why, so many years later, there are luthiers who dedicate their lives to replicating the quality of those ‘classic’ models that emerged early last century. There are also observations on the business of Australian luthiery, and an overview of the decade 2000 to about 2010 during which the values of mandolins boomed until the GFC. It also saw a change in player demographics as the older pickers began giving way to younger, roots-focused, players who don’t follow the repertoires of Bill Monroe or Flatt and Scruggs or the Stanley Brothers as the earlier generation did.

Additionally, and appropriately, there’s a detailed appendix revealing his instrument models, sales numbers and specifications, for collectors in the future.

I note that you have included Steve Gilchrist in your writing – why does he figure in the John Liddy story?

John Bridgland

John Bridgland

Most Australian luthiers know each other and have seen each other’s work. Steve gets into the story because, having crafted great mandolins (and guitars) since the early 1980s, in my opinion he’s the standard against which all other luthiers around his age might be judged. Steve had to climb some challenging mountains when he started, although his US experience gave him a super-charged head start. By comparison, and being a non-player, John Liddy had a more difficult struggle to succeed. But his drive and passion for luthiery allowed him to go a long way in a relatively short period. Other younger luthiers might take a leaf out of his book – and aspire to achieve as much as Steve Gilchrist has in 35 years.

Who’s the book (and CD) targeted at?
Musicians, the retail and wholesale music market, other Australian luthiers – or anyone who might want to consider beginning a business making instruments for the Australian market. More obviously, of course, for any owner of a Liddy guitar or mandolin, it’s a revealing glimpse of the man who made their instrument, how he became a luthier and the legacy he left.

How much is the CD?
It’s $25 including postage in Australia and features colour photos of some of John’s great instruments. There’s also a tiny print run of (more expensive) spiral-bound ‘coffee table’ books with glossy colour photos. Enquiries to jbeditor@senet.com.au or phone Adelaide (08) 8211 8766 during business hours.