A bluegrass festival is a different animal to the commercially driven rock blockbusters and this is particularly true in say, Dorrigo. This hamlet up in the Range is now more of a grey nomad stopover than the roaring timber town of yore, but you can still see a good old-fashioned brawl outside the pub at peak hour on a Friday afternoon.
The festival itself is blissfully tranquil. A ban on booze means no excitable chest-beaters or mega systems erupting with the latest pop sensations. All you can hear is the pleasant trickle of mandolins, banjos and violins extolling thousand year old folksongs.
This was the scene for the launch of the Lonely Horse Band’s latest album, written, recorded and released in the town last weekend. We previewed our latest tunes about the contemporary histories of one-horse towns alongside the likes of Scarlett Affection and country music history incarnate in the forms of Anne Kirkpatrick, daughter of Slim Dusty, and Ami Williamson, daughter of John.
After our show on Saturday night we were just in time to miss a 40-person brawl outside the pub, and next morning I motored off to play the Coaching Station in Nymboida, a much less sedate affair – fire-fighting choppers coming and going made us feel like the Doors playing live at an Apocalypse Now re-enactment. Now that’s ancient history.
New album finally to hand and on the weekend The Re-mains decamp to The Junkyard in Maitland and The Botany View in Newtown to flog it. It’s only taken three years and more line-up changes than the Melbourne Hit Men’s Association to finish this one. We’re going head to head with Jackie Marshall in Newtown, where just up the road she’s launching her new record as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how we go in the new all-digital environment where everybody downloads and an analogue product is allegedly a thing of the past.
I know you North coast Luddites are all desperate to hear it, so I’ll be bringing it along to Nimbin Pub tonight where Grandson, the new duo with myself and Uncle Burnin’ Love is making its debut. You may have to make an appointment however.
Meanwhile it appears that someone with either an agenda or a morbid fetish for Mazstock is systematically tearing down posters for this esteemed event as fast as promoter Sideshow Bridge can get ‘em up. Perhaps they’re selling well on the black market.
After his performance at Bluesfest I’ve been listening to nothing but Justin Townes Earle. Apart from Christian Pyle, Wilco and Lucie Thorne, of course. Son of Steve Earle, Justin is named for Townes Van Zandt, who was equally, a trader in traditional blues, folk and country-based narrative, flipped on its back and twisted into a strange and compelling beast.
A tall, skinny, oddly bobbing and quietly hilarious showman Townes Earle may be, but what he does with these revered genres was as startling at Bluesfest, in cahoots with ex-Drive By Truckers cohort Jason Isbell, as it is on record, Midnight at the Movies.
Another great record on high rotation is the aforementioned Pyle’s Nothing Left to Burn, on Mullumbimby label Vitamin. Pyle played every note himself on this astonishing landmark of laconic, avant garde, post-electro rural pop (gulp), produced with as much painstaking verve as his other new release with his band Ghost Mountain.
Meanwhile, breaking news from Lismore is that the Celibate Rifles, Australia’s punk prototypes, have just been confirmed for Mazstock on May 22, at the Italo Club. Promoter, Sideshow Bridge, is missing, presumed delirious.
With the World Cup dominating my cortexes and precluding any notions of sleep, it’s been a long, dreamlike procession of lurid guernseys, sneering vuvuzela, botched refereeing and the odd extraordinary goal to keep it interesting. These are precisely the right conditions for songwriting under ordinary circumstances – where the mind is locked onto an astounding circumstance and can run free, abetted by the free-associating chicanery of sleep deprivation, you can usually come up with some pretty radical nonsense.
But as James Morrison demonstrated on the Ed Sam and Santos programme, that jarring vuvuzela drone, the blaring idiocy of a million amplified blowflies, falling somewhere between ‘A’ and ‘B flat’, is guaranteed to cruel any looming lyric – if music soothes the savage beast, the vuvuzela bites it like a tsetse fly.
On the weekend I tried to distract myself with Ghost Mountain at the Buddha Bar, Birdbrain, the Tendons, Antibodies and Slug at the Great Northern, Kathryn Hartnett at Lennox Pub – to no avail. Every time I turn on the tele and try to concentrate on writing a less irritating World Cup jingle the vuvuzelas awake, it’s offside, handball, and my brain scores an own goal.
So we’re having dinner after rehearsal for our new album launches and the subject came up of how many players have passed through the ranks of The Re-mains. Bassplayer B-12 reckons he got a good laugh when he admitted to it in a well-known music shop. Guitarist C-8(z) reckons if you took a poll of North Coast musicians at least half of them would sheepishly admit to having dabbled. Drummer BB-09 claimed he’d spoken to three other previous Re-mains drummers that very day.
Funny business. Seems we’ve had a bigger turnover than the Melbourne Hit Men’s Association. At least, apart from the odd encounter with rogue steers in the outback, it’s a rarely fatal profession.
But as we meander down the coast to Sydney next weekend for a couple of shows, one reformed and latterly lapsed guitarist will be in the van and at least one ex-drummer, a guitarist and a journeyman piano-payer in attendance. There have only been two banjo players, you do the math. If you’d like to follow the fortunes of the survivors, check out my blog at www.mickdaley.com. And if you are a hurdy-gurdy specialist, be very, very afraid.
Big ups to our very own Lennox-based blues bawler Dallas Frasca, who just took out MusicOz Artist of the Year and Best Blues and Roots song at their Awards last Friday night. Also of course to her right hand man, Eumundi’s very own Jeff ‘Goat Boy’ Curran, the filthiest chicken-pickin’ dobro hand this side of the Beyond. These two have worked their arses off for years now and righteously deserve the plaudits.
And onto the Blues itself. Checking out the programme, I don’t know where to start. In no particular order, tent or time, here’s who’s what.
Jools Holland; – absolute must see. Jen Cloher and the Endless Sea; fulsome songwriter, enduring voice. Jeff Beck; mate of Ronny Wood. Hat Fitz; another barbed wire bluesman from Eumundi, living. Lyle Lovett; all class, all country, Johnny Greens Blues Cowboys; Australia’s authentic blues survivors. 10CC; Don’t like cricket? I’m your man. Kev Carmody; the black Bob Dylan is still angry, potent and prodigiously important. Justin Townes Earle; Son of Steve. Gogol Bordello; genuine gypsy trouble. The Wilson Pickers; all I know is Sime Nugent is in ’em. Nuff said.
By the time you read this we’ll be soaring overhead to Yackandandah Folk Festival. Where the hell is Yackandandah? About 40 klicks from Albury, where I grew up. I used to ride my pushy out there when I didn’t feel like fighting the Leaney Lads down at the park.
A folk festival? Well, yeah, it’s not often we get asked to play them, we’re considered too rock’n’roll, but they must have liked the idea of banjo and bushranger ballads. So Tom Jones is jetting in from Darwin, Al from Sydney, while Uncle Burnin’ Love and I hotfoot it from the Gold Coast. He’s just back from a huge grunge revival festival in Sydney, where his old band, Nunbait played alongside such dirty rock outfits as The Meanies, The Hard Ons, The Hellmen and the Celibate Rifles.
So anyway, we’ll be hooking up with Truckstop Honeymoon, from New Orleans, good friends who we’ve played with a number of times, and Lucie Thorne, in Yackandandah. Good word isn’t it? Yack-an-dan-dah. Rolls off the tongue. Bloody long way to go though.
This weekend just gone was Nymagee Outback Music Festival, the annual gathering of the country rock and roll tribes from all over Australia. In the geographical centre of New South Wales, a little to the left of Condoblin, little to the right of Cobar, but nowhere near as back as Bourke.
You had the Junes from Melbourne, theGibbo and the Fugs from Tamworth, Neil Murray from the Endless Road, Den Hanrahan from Canberra, Leah Flanagan from Darwin, Jackie Marshall from Brisbane, Liz Stringer, Dangles the Air Guitar Champion Apparent and of course Hully and Tonchi, Directors from Bourke, spearheading the Lonely Horse Band.
The Re-Mains came from Coonamble, where we’d played the night before, myself in the red acrobatic plane built by Steve Reynolds in the States and flown over specially. Executing tight rolls over the tiny, one-pub and a couple-of-shacks township, boasting more burrs per square inch than a Lightning Ridge wether. And there was The Australian Beef Week Show, a living tribute to country rock and roll.
The line-up was tremendous, the performances ebullient and dramatic – the punters flocked from as far afield as Goonengerry and Wilcannia. We made it home Monday, weary, but revitalized by the family reunion.
Next Saturday night I’m playing two songs solo at the fabulous Blue Moon Cabaret in Nimbin. Another colourful, dramatic occasion that the world needs more of.
A bluegrass festival is a different animal to the commercially driven rock blockbusters and this is particularly true in say, Dorrigo. This hamlet up in the Range is now more of a grey nomad stopover than the roaring timber town of yore, but you can still see a good old-fashioned brawl outside the pub at peak hour on a Friday afternoon. The festival itself is blissfully tranquil. A ban on booze means no excitable chest-beaters or mega systems erupting with the latest pop sensations. All you can hear is the pleasant trickle of mandolins, banjos and violins extolling thousand year old folksongs. This was the scene for the launch of the Lonely Horse Band’s latest album, written, recorded and released in the town last weekend. We previewed our latest tunes about the contemporary histories of one-horse towns alongside the likes of Scarlett Affection and country music history incarnate in the forms of Anne Kirkpatrick (?), daughter of Slim Dusty, and Ami Williamson, daughter of John. After our show on Saturday night we were just in time to miss a 40-person brawl outside the pub, and next morning I motored off to play the Coaching Station in Nymboida, a much less sedate affair – fire-fighting choppers coming and going made us feel like the Doors playing live at an Apocalypse Now re-enactment. Now that’s ancient history.
Dorrigo is featuring heavily in my personal orbit these days – been up there quite a bit recently with the Re-mains and my other outfit – the Lonely Horse Band. On Friday night the Re-Mains landed for a raucous evening accompanied by a group of quality control officials – who proceeded, literally, to tear the place a new bistro. Several locals also made the trek up from Bellingen, including Pete Bufo, one-time Australian Beef Week Show stalwart. The scenes at the Top Pub rooms later that evening were remarkable for their lurid consistency, the quality control officials being sticklers for decorum and proper procedure. Next weekend I return to the scene of the grime to play the Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival with the Lonely Horse Band. Readers of this column might be aware we did a songwriting project there a couple of months ago and came up with an album that we’ll be playing. On the Sunday I rendezvous with The Re-mains for a 1pm show at the Coaching Station in Nymboida, owned by one Russell Crowe, who is well known for his insistence on quality control.