Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers – The Bluegrass Sessions Vol. 1
Sydney traditional country ensemble, Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers, have released their third album, The Bluegrass Sessions, Vol. 1, now available across digital streaming services, released through Big Radio/RTC Records.
A bonafide sidestep into authentic, acoustic bluegrass tunes, The Bluegrass Sessions, Vol. 1, is respectful of the traditions of the genre, but brings with it the band’s unique spin on the music they love, with the album featuring a great mix of mid and up-tempo classics. It includes current single, Torn Piece of Paper, as well as previous singles, Road Man and If You’d Have Told Me, and fast-paced instrumental, Burning Mountain.
With memorable instrumentals and beautiful tunes, including a duet with Melody Moko on Leaving Nowhere, the ten-track album showcases a band truly revelling in what they’re doing, and just getting warmed up.
Fans can stream or download here.
Track List The Bluegrass Sessions Vol. 1
|And the Band Plays
If You’d Have Told Me
|Torn Piece of Paper
Before the Tear Dries
Lay My Bones to Rest [version 2]
- Produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Michael Carpenter at Love Hz Studios and The House Studios, Sydney.
- Additional engineering by Zane Banks and Jy-Perry Banks, Hamish Davidson and Michael Muchow.
- Michael Carpenter: acoustic guitars, bass, Dobro, lead and backing vocals
- Zane Banks: acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, Dobro, lead and backing vocals
- Jy-Perry Banks: Dobro and acoustic guitar
- Hamish Davidson: fiddle and Dobro
- Melody Moko: lead and backing vocals
About Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers:
Michael Carpenter and the Banks Brothers is a collaboration between Carpenter, a well respected producer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Jy-Perry Banks – one of the country’s most in demand pedal steel players (also, Dobro and guitar) and Zane Banks – a purist in the art of electric country picking, (also banjo and flat picked acoustic guitar).
Carpenter and the Banks Brothers have had a growing friendship over the last few years, with producer Carpenter using both brothers as session players in his famous Love Hz Studios in Sydney. The growing friendship led to a reasonably innocuous conversation just after the Tamworth Country Music festival in 2020, where Carpenter and Zane Banks joked about ‘starting a band where we played the type of music we loved, just for us’.
It seemed like a good idea, so the trio put together a massive playlist to listen to, to focus their vision of what the band could be, and all three boys immersed themselves in listening and sharing tracks.
Pretty soon, new songs were being written, released, and in early 2021, they dropped their first album, Introducing…Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers, earning them a 2022 Golden Guitar finalist position for Traditional Country Album of the Year.
Their second album, Mr Goodtime, was released in February, 2022, also earning them a finalist position for Traditional Country Album of the Year for the 2023 Golden Guitars. The band were also in the running for Bluegrass Recording of the Year and Instrumental of the Year categories, for their September 2022 singles, Road Man and Burning Mountain, lifted from their new album, The Bluegrass Sessions, Vol. 1, out in March 2023.
And the Band Plays (Carpenter)
The album starts with this rollicking, easy, sing along track in a classic bluegrass style. It creates a sense of intent and authenticity, to announce the album and indeed, the whole ongoing bluegrass album series. With twanging vocals, rich acoustic instruments weaving around each other, and a righteous 3 part harmony chorus, the track signifies the quality that lies ahead.
Road Man (Carpenter)
‘Road Man’ is a lightning-fast lament from the partners of the road warrior, these journeymen who travel constantly keeping society ticking. With special guests Hamish Davidson on fiddle, and Melody Moko on high harmonies, the track is an exhilarating showpiece of the skills of Zane Banks on banjo, mandolin, flat picked acoustic lead guitar and harmonies, Carpenter on upright bass, acoustic rhythm guitar and lead vocals, and Jy-Perry Banks on dobro. Carpenter’s nimble mouthed narrative tells the story of those left behind while their partner spend hours and days behind the wheel, leading to the block harmony in the chorus as the track picks up momentum, like an out of control locomotive, before coming to a sudden stop!
Alabaster Maiden (Z Banks)
‘Alabaster Maiden’ was originally written as a poem for Zane Bank’s wife Amy, on her 30th birthday. He wanted to acknowledge all of her wonderful qualities as well as the challenges she has faced to get to where she currently is in her life. The second half of the lyrics is his recount of their first meeting and subsequent courting. A modern bluegrass sound seemed appropriate, especially since they met at a bluegrass gig and fell in love while touring to many bluegrass and folk festivals.
If You’d Have Told Me (Carpenter)
track came as part of a huge batch of songs Carpenter and Zane Banks wrote for this bluegrass project. Carpenter says the song was written about the “hidden extras” that often reveal themselves in relationships once you’re in them. “Sometimes things just don’t go the way you thought they would. Let’s leave it at that!!”
Burning Mountain (Z Banks)
“Every year in January I drive to Tamworth, and every year just after driving through Muswellbrook I drive past the ‘Burning Mountain’ nature reserve, often while listening to classic bluegrass recordings” says Zane. ‘Burning Mountain’ is Australia’s only naturally burning coal seam, also the world’s oldest burning coal seam (approx. 6000 years). Zane has long been captivated by the title of the nature reserve and had long thought that it would suit an uptempo ‘breakdown’ style instrumental. With this is mind, he wrote a fast, traditional fiddle tune and to complete the song, enlisted the help of good friend and bluegrass superpicker, Hamish Davidson to play fiddle and dobro.
Torn Piece of Paper (Carpenter)
This track sees the ensemble rollicking their way through the familiar story of falling in and out of romance. A lament on the things we leave behind when a long term relationship ends, despite the best efforts of those involved. Featuring Hamish Davidson on fiddle, and Melody Moko on high harmonies, it’s a classic bluegrass jaunt, both timeless and new!
Before the Tear Dries (Z Banks)
“A few years ago, I unfortunately had to attend a funeral for a friend who had suddenly passed way; this event naturally brought up many emotions as well as the predictable contemplations regarding the brevity of life. While musing on this topic I was reminded of the classic image of the ‘Grim Reaper’ who so often is depicted as a vicious ghoul with an insatiable lust for collecting souls. This made me think, what would the Grim Reaper say about their task and fate? Perhaps their Sisyphean task is done with resignation and compassion? These thoughts inspired a poem which then inspired the musical setting,” explains Zane.
Honey Alba (Z Banks)
‘Honey Alba’ is an instrumental Zane wrote for his daughter, Dorothy Honey Alba Banks, who was 2.5 years at the time of the composition. “Dorothy is a vivid little girl with big feelings, a wild imagination and an innately mercurial nature. The melody of the tune essentially wrote itself; I was watching Dot play in the backyard on a summer’s afternoon, while playing mandolin, and the melody of the tune emerged, and seemed to perfectly fit with the little girl I was watching play,” says Zane.
Leaving Nowhere (Carpenter)
This song provides a lovely counterpunch to the beautifully angular Zane Banks ballads earlier in the album. Written as a simple, classic country ode to that feeling, as Carpenter describes, of being “lost…physically or emotionally, and knowing that there’s a person or a place that is HOME”. Sung as a gentle duet with Melody Moko, the melodies are understated and undercooked purposely, to let the sentiment and sensitivity of the playing deliver the message.
Lay Your Bones (version 2) (Z Banks)
“My mother’s family have lived in the Illawarra region of NSW (Dharawal country) since the 1820s; specifically, my ancestors were mainly coal miners (originally from the UK) who lived and worked on Mount Kembla,” says Zane. “I grew up frequently visiting family members in the area, and hearing many first-hand stories concerning local history and personalities. Many of these stories were told to me by my great grandmother, Agnes May Perry (1899-2007); Fifteen years after her death I finally decided to write a poem about the region and its history. Again, the bluegrass genre seemed to be most fitting musical accompaniment in which to set the poem.”