Hunters Harps vs Banjo

This video clips was sent to me today. Here is an interesting video clip of what some believe to be the early evolution of the banjo. The instruments shown here are called Hunter’s Harps also known as Calabash Harps.

Other instruments that have similar mechanics are the Kora a West African harp of the family of bridge harps or harp-lutes.  The Kora and Ngoni are well-known names. Donsongoni, Simbin, and Kamalengoni are also types of calabash harps.

Mustered Courage – Honesty

HonestyMelbourne band Mustered Courage return with a new single “Honesty”, the first taste of their soon-to-be-released third album. The band also revealed the accompanying video and dates of their east coast tour today which will also see the progressive folk-rock quintet playing at this year’s Gympie Muster.

The band rose to the top of Australia’s folk and roots scene on the strength of their energetic live shows and previous albums leading them to a world-wide deal with Lost Highway Records. For the recording of “Honesty” and their forthcoming album the band enlisted ARIA nominated producer Forrester Savell (Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool) to the mixing desk.

I’ve been a big fan of Forrester ever since I first heard Karnivool’s record Themata in 2005. We did an initial trial session with him where we recorded two songs. We loved what Forry did and pushed forward – Julian Abrahams, Mustered Courage.

Since the release of their self-titled debut (2011) and sophomore album ‘Powerlines’ (2013), the group have toured heavily in both Australia and the US. Invited in 2014 to the World of Bluegrass Conference and Festival (Raleigh, North Carolina) by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) the down-home pickers turned their short visit into a full-blown tour of 60 shows in 70 days across 43 US States. 2015 has already seen Mustered Courage take out the 2015 CMAA Golden Guitar Award for Instrumental of the Year for “Candle Creek” before heading to the US for a whirlwind two month tour that included high profile gigs and the revered Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado.

To celebrate the release of “Honesty” Mustered Courage have announced their first Australian shows in NSW, VIC and QLD.

Tour Dates:

Learn The Banjo Style of Hamish Davidson

Hamish Davidson Banjo TabsAfter years of touring and performing one of the most often asked questions Hamish Davidson has received from fellow banjo players is: do you have any Tab for your banjo music?

Hamish spent considerable time documenting his playing of the many Davidson Brothers songs and has compiled them into a book of Tab called “Bluegrass Banjo Davidson Style“.

For those unfamiliar, my brother Lachlan and I have been recording as the Davidson Brothers since 1998, and have formally released eighty-eight songs under our own name. Fifty-three of those tracks are original bluegrass songs and instrumentals. I get very excited hearing people play our songs, I felt that I wanted to make my banjo playing more accessible – Hamish Davidson.

The new publication is available to buy in hard copy or digital download. It is a collection of banjo tablatures of many of the Davidson Brothers’ original songs featured on their albums over the years. The tabs are mostly based on the recordings but, in some cases, the tabs are closer to how they play these songs live these days.

The book contains banjo tab for the following tunes from the albums listed:

  • Born to Play – Born to Play 2009
  • Bottle Cappin’ Back Crackin’ – Blues Wanderlust, 2014
  • City Life – Davidson Brothers, 2007
  • Davidson County – Raised on the Road, 2006
  • Don’t Turn Me Down -Raised on the Road, 2006
  • Double Plugger Strut – Here to Stay, 2011
  • Down Time – Here to Stay, 2011
  • Every Time I Leave – Wanderlust, 2014
  • Find You – Here to Stay, 2011
  • Fox on the Freeway – Born to Play, 2009
  • Fresh Cut Grass – Davidson Brothers, 2007
  • Grass Hound – Wanderlust, 2014
  • Hunter Valley Breakdown – Where I Want to Be, 2004
  • I Miss the Sound of Rain – Davidson Brothers, 2007
  • It’s a Banjo – Raised on the Road, 2006
  • It’s Not Makin’ Love – Davidson Brothers, 2007
  • It’s Time to Go – Wanderlust, 2014
  • Left Hand Drive – Davidson Brothers, 2007
  • Locky & Hagwinkle – Here to Stay, 2011
  • Lost in Amsterdam – Wanderlust, 2014
  • My Heart Can’t Believe My Eyes – Here to Stay, 2011
  • O.M.F.G. – Here to Stay, 2011
  • Raised on the Road – Raised on the Road, 2006
  • Rather Be Gone – Here to Stay, 2011
  • Scrub Turkey – Raised on the Road, 2006
  • Take Me to the Mountains – Wanderlust, 2014
  • Transpacific – Wanderlust, 2014
  • Where I Wanna Be – Raised on the Road, 2006

Banjo Pickin’ Girls and Fiddlin’ Women

Photo: Berea College, Southern Appalachian Archives, John Lair Collection.

Photo: Berea College, Southern Appalachian Archives, John Lair Collection.

The following article appears courtesy of ABC Radio National:

Many musicians from Kentucky cite their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters as inspirations. Why then, wondered Rachel Hopkin, don’t female musicians appear prominently in the state’s musical history? Her quest to find out taught her about three country pioneers and took her all over the Bluegrass State.

Rachel writes:

I fell in love with American traditional culture some years ago when I travelled from my native England to the southern Appalachian Mountains for a field trip. The region is well-known for its vigorous maintenance of various forms of folklore—including pottery, quilting and storytelling—but I was most interested in music. I spent two months wandering around and listening to old-time musicians, including quite a number in Kentucky. It seemed apt, therefore, that when I eventually moved to the US myself in 2010, Kentucky would become my first home.

My mother, who visited me there several times, thinks that the English spoken with a Kentucky accent is the most beguiling she’s ever heard and I’m inclined to agree. The state itself is equally entrancing and full of contrasts. The northern part is famed for its racehorse stables and the annual Kentucky Derby. To the east are the aforementioned Appalachian Mountains, where despite cultural richness poverty is rife. However, I spent my two-year sojourn based in the green rolling countryside of south-central Kentucky. Bowling Green was my nearest city.

Although I already knew Kentucky to be musically rich, I learned more about how that musicality manifested once I was living there. For example, there’s a strong jug band tradition in the city of Louisville which sits on the Ohio River; gospel—both black and white—is vital within the state’s many, many churches; unique guitar, fiddle, and banjo styles have emerged in various different locales; and, of course, there’s the home-grown country music subgenre of bluegrass, which takes its name from Kentucky’s sobriquet…

You can read the full article on the ABC RN Earshot webpage.

2015 Wirrina Bluegrass and Acoustic Roots Festival

Wirrina FestivalWirrina Bluegrass & Acoustic Roots festival organisers are getting ready for another fine September weekend in South Australia. There are some changes this year, with a new venue and different stage & program arrangement.

This years overseas guest artists the Pipi Pickers, who are based in Auckland and are making their first visit to South Australia.

The Pipi Pickers are Nat Torkington on banjo, Barry Torkington on guitar, Jenine Abarbanel on bass, Garry Bigwood on mandolin.

  • Date: September 4th-6th – first weekend in September.
  • Tickets: Available now at with a discount for booking online.
  • Feature band: The Pipi Pickers from New Zealand
  • Other Bands: announced soon – watch Facebook and the website
  • New Venue: Wirrina Cove Holiday Park

Some other highlights this year:Pipi-Pickers
Andrew Clermont is back to run the main stage sound; he will also be appearing on the program with a mystery trio of something acoustically wonderful…

This year’s festival also features a lineup of local acoustic bands, some new to the festival and some old favourites returning. Bluegrass, Old Timey and all sorts of other traditional acoustic styles.

More guest artists from interstate – watch the website for updates on our other guest bands.

Workshops in the Woolshed. More information coming over the next month or so … we have some great workshops on offer.
Thinking of volunteering? We could really use a few more volunteers this year – there are lots of tasks to keep the festival running. Please email us if you’re willing to help in return for your ticket!

About accommodation this year:
If you’re camping or bringing a caravan/motorhome/trailer, please support the Wirrina Cove Holiday Park and stay on site. They are offering special rates for holders of festival tickets, valid for the festival weekend. If you want to extend your stay, they are open all year round as a great get-away-from-it-all regular caravan park. Contact Ben or Holly at the caravan park on (08) 8598 3125. They also have great cabins on site but these book out early.

If you like something a little more luxurious, and would like to stay off-site and come daily for the festival activities, please contact the Yankalilla Visitor Information Centre on 08 8558 0240 and they will advise you on local accommodation options including motels and B&Bs.

Cripple Creek In The Studio

Cripple CreekCripple Creek has posted 8 tracks in preparation for their new CD Release.

After the closure of their regular haunt the Whitmore Hotel (closed Sundays) the band has turned their attention to recording. Just what they needed to motivate them into the studio to record 8 tracks for their coming album release.

You can catch a glimpse of their work to-date on Soundcloud.

Their plan is to print a few CDs eventually, so if you are interested in pre-ordering, let them know and they will reserve one for you with free delivery.



Monroe Mandolin Camp Scholarships

Monroe Mandolin CampOrganisers of the Monroe Mandolin Camp are looking for video submissions for their first Annual Video Scholarship Competition. The winner will be awarded a full scholarship, including tuition, lodging, and meals.

To submit your video application you will need to provide:

  • Your name, email address, and telephone number.
  • At the beginning of the video recording, please announce your name and title of tune being played.
  • Competition open to all ages and all levels (Beginner to Expert).
  • Competition limited to the first 25 submissions. (Entrants will be notified if video not accepted.)
  • Videos must be under 4 minutes.
  • Candidates to answer following questions (can be included in the video if under 4 minutes, or in email):
    • Why is this camp, and the study of Bill Monroe’s music and traditional bluegrass mandolin music important?
    • Why does the candidate want to come to this camp?
    • What does the candidate expect to take away from the camp?
  • A link to the video must be emailed to: In the subject line, put your last name and “Annual Video Scholarship Competition Submission”. One way is to upload video to YouTube and “share” the link in an email to us. (Make sure it is not marked private, or organisers will not be able to view.)
  • Entries will be accepted beginning Sunday June 21st and ending Wednesday July 1, at 11:59 pm.

The winner will be notified by telephone and email by July 15.

Entries judged on:

  • Authenticity
  • Execution
  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • Difficulty
  • Technique

With permission, the winner’s video will be posted on our Facebook page after announcement.

Questions? Contact

Information about the camp visit:

Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass 2015.

Wilson Pickers

Wilson Pickers

After the inaugural event in 2014 which was a sell out, the Bangalow BBQ & Bluegrass Festival returns with a celebration of authentic local food, music & old-time entertainment, in the heart of the Byron Hinterland, Bangalow A & I Hall & Showgrounds  on 7th – 8th August 2015.

The first line-up of artists announced feature two time ARIA Award Best Blues & Roots album nominees The Wilson Pickers, accomplished Bluegrass luminaries (and Golden Guitar recipients) The Company (Bris), former Gram Parsons tribute band, quartet Green Mohair Suits (Syd), festival perennials and locals Hussy Hicks, and the ascending Sian Evans (Bessy-Lou, Pollysasin, The Rusty Datsuns) and more.

This year’s line-up offers up a Bluegrass landscape diverse in terms of our unique interpretations and response to Bluegrass music and old-time Americana. Some artists stick close to the tradition and some use it as a home base to from which to wander curiously. This year will see more progressive and new bluegrass sounds from some of Australia’s best Bluegrass bands and local talent – Ash Bell, Festival Director.

New in 2015 is a the launch of a festival opening night on Friday 7 August, an Old-time variety show with a vaudevillian flavour in a raucous adults only time slot. Unscripted and adventurous, expect the unexpected! A promise of delight for the festival’s performing artists and patrons alike. All proceeds will be donated to support artist bursaries to foster original music artists in our local region.

An authentic low ‘n’ slow BBQ competition open to purists and enthusiasts alike will feature again under the auspices of the Australasian BBQ Alliance. The Meat Sweats, current title bearer of ‘Bangalow BBQ Grand Champion’, beat off the hot competition winning $1K for their top performance in four meat categories. Over 310kgs of smoky ribs, 270kgs of pulled pork, 250kg of beef brisket, and 150kgs of chicken were consumed in over 3,000 tasting plates sampled last year! Entries are now open for 2015.

The picker’s competition, open to all skill levels on guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle has $250 in prize money and will be supported in 2015 by the introduction of a free pickers workshop demonstrating Bluegrass instrumentalism under the mentorship of Dan Kerin (River Mountain Riot), Gareth Bjaaland (Barkers Vale Brothers) and other amazing local pickers.

In 2014 the not-for-profit community event raised over $20,000 last year for regional arts and cultural initiatives of which the arts-in-schools program was a primary beneficiary. The Bangalow BBQ & Bluegrass Festival gave local primary schools the opportunity to host a day of $2 games for the kids raising over $8,300 to fund arts in schools programs. It enabled some of those participating schools to increase their arts funding 10 fold. The festival aims to raise $20,ooo again this year for local schools and calls on regional primary schools to register to participate now. It also funded the recent launch of the Bangalow Theatre Company.

Pre-sale tickets on sale now for a limited time. 2 day pass $68 Adult, $138 Family. Booking fees apply. Children under 18 free. Includes free tasting plate.

The Stetsons – True North

True-NorthNews just in from the Stetson Family is that there’s a new album on the way. It’s been two years coming, making and now ready to launch. Their third album is titled True North.

The Stetson Family describe True North as grassy with more than a hint of down-home Americana, and follows in the footsteps of Hey Sister Mary, Where’d You Get That Gun, and The Devil In His Sunday Best.

…a landmark Australian roots album – Rhythms Magazine.

True North will be launched in Melbourne on Sunday 26th July. The venue is The Spotted Mallard, 314 Sydney Road, Brunswick, VIC 4:00pm – 7:00pm. Tickets on sale now through the Internet.


National Festival Call for Artists

The National Folk Festival team are calling for expressions of interests for the 2016 festival opening 1st June and closing 1st July 2015.NFF

Their Expression of Interest process has changed since last year, so please ensure you read all the information on the Website before starting your application.

There will be 7 Program Categories from which to choose.

In 2016 we will be featuring all States/Territories and as such will be looking for a range of Acts that best reflect our diverse Australian folk culture across styles and genres.

NFF website is being updated and is available here.