Thanks again for all of the great feedback. This week marks an exciting week in Country Music in Australia, especially New South Wales. It holds my favourite festival, Hats Off, which is the Tamworth Country Music Festival spin off – the mid year festival held every July in Tamworth. In January, the festival is 10 days and some more in 45 degrees Celsius temperatures (way over 100 odd in the non metric scale). In July, our Winter, it can get down to a few below in Tamworth, but the country music and the camaraderie warm things up. Where it is running through shower sprays and wearing next to nothing but a hat in January and drinking cold beer, in July, it is sitting by a fire with a merlot and your hat off.
Hats Off hasn’t been running for anywhere near as long as the January festival. It is a totally different feel from its big brother. It is building every year, with more gigs on and more artists and fans coming to town, but it is much more intimate than the big, crazy festival in January. This year, there is a big mix of signed artists and Indies. As mentioned in the last blog, John and the mob at the Dag have songwriting workshops and gigs going on just out of town with Shane Nicholson, Felicity, Aleyce, Luke and many others and the major clubs and pubs in town have a few events going. Don Costa is always a shopping centre favourite, singing lots of traditional country music songs. Michael Bryers, Melinda Schneider, Dobe Newton and Roger Corbett from The Bushwackers, the wonderful TSA sessions (with Melissa Robertson, The Shelly Jones Band, Becci Nethery, Kalesti Butler, Ian Burns and many others), Two Gals, Brendan Smoother and Brendan Nawrocki, Clancy Drive, Matt Scullion, Allison Forbes, The Weeping Willows, Brad Butcher, Emma Beau, Emma Jene, Jen Mize, Innocent Eve, Sandra Humphries, Anthony Taylor, Jared Scott, the wonderful Luke O’Shea, Amber Lawrence, Catherine Britt, Mickey Pye, Jodie Crosby and Sally Anne Whitten, Ashleigh Dallas, Tori Forsyth, Andrew Swift, Daniel Thompson, Marie Hodson and many more. I won’t be able to make it this year due to other commitments and it is sad as this is the best fun that you can have with clothes on (as they say)....and you have to have a lot of clothes on at Hats Off, except for your hat. So, all roads lead to Tamworth. The salute this year is to Stan Coster, one of Australia’s Country Music Legends who we miss heaps.
Cheers to the Girls
This is a salute to the women of Australian Country Music – all 79 types. Our pioneers like Shirley Thoms, The Schneider Sisters (Mary and Rita), then the McKean Sisters, Evelyn Bury, Deniese Morrison all set benchmarks for today’s female artists.
The Men of Country received more attention for years, as it is in most walks of life (even now to a certain extent). However, the times are a changin’ and the girls are starting to take over.
Anne Kirkpatrick, daughter of the man that most Australians call our King of Country Music, the late Slim Dusty and his wife, Joy McKean, one half of the McKean Sisters probably didn’t have much choice about having country music talent. Anne is still going strong and much admired and respected by the crop of female artists that followed her footsteps. Her style is very different to her parents, she led the modern wave of country music stars and though her Mum wrote several songs for her, she has her own approach to music. Her sound is a mix of Celtic and Folk with a touch of the old Torch and Twang. She sings songs in the Gram Parsons/Townes Van Zandt/Linda Ronstadt kind of way.
Melinda Schneider, Beccy Cole, Gina Jeffreys, Kasey Chambers and the like set an era off where women were starting to get noticed more, singing their own songs, their own way and being full on entertainers. Lyn Bowtell (with and without Bella, a trio of women), Catherine Britt, Amber Lawrence, Aleyce Simmonds, Christie Lamb, Sara Storer, Dianna Corcoran, Tamara Stewart, Rose Carleo and many others have followed.
The Indies coming through now like Allison Forbes, Sally-Anne Whitten, Wendy Wood, The Crosby Sisters, Harmony James, Susan Lily, Melissa Robertson, Connie Kis Andersen, Imogen Clark, Fanny Lumsden, Rebecca Lee Nye, Katie Brianna, Melody Pool, Melody Moko, Jo Caseley,
Tracy Killeen, Tracey Davis, Chelsea Basham, Amber Joy Poulton, Sandra Humphries, Kalesti Butler, Aimee Hannan, Becci Nethery, Emma Jene, Sami, Kora Naughton, Seleen McAlister, Tara Favell, Phoebe Jay, Kirsty Lee Akers and many others are doing such great things which make the future look strong and healthy. Every day I learn of a new female artist coming through. They are all different ages with different styles but they do make for a feast of great country music. Kristy Cox is doing great things in America and we have a lot of our neighbours in NZ coming over here being part time or adopted Aussies like Kaylee Bell, Aly Cook, Marie Hodson, Camille and many more.
There are times when the gals dominate the guys in the charts and at the awards and on the airwaves, which wasn’t always the case. I think that the guys are getting nervous!
One of the biggest voices around. She can belt out a song like you wouldn’t believe. She does a lot to help the up and coming artists and she is only a young one herself. Aimee can pretty well sing anything but of course, her own songs are the best. Definitely Alt. Country but she can sing a big country classic too.
Without a doubt one of the best female vocalists of the last few years. I was in Tamworth a few years ago at one of those around about midnight alt. Country music gigs with a few muso mates and this teenager (then), got up and sang about half a line of a lyric and my mate and I looked at each other in shock. OMG. Imogen. Future star. Her voice is way above her years. She is now about 22/23, but wow, she is still singing stuff (her own work), way beyond most mature country singers. Her lyrics are thoughtful and heartfelt and she is definitely one to watch in the future. She has the most incredible voice to match her words.
Fanny knocked the Golden Guitars for six this year with several nominations and a win. Her songs are almost like alternate hymns or anthems and her voice soars on a big stage. Her vocals hit you in the heart and make you think. Fanny will be around for years to come. She has an amazing sound and touch. She has spent a lot of time taking her music to halls all around Australia in a unique old style fashion. She has a great stage presence and a dry humour. She is probably the Alt Country Queen at the moment.
Wendy was a part of Those Gals and Two Gals and she does a lot on her own now as well as some collaborative work still. She is one of the sweetest voices around. Her songs are a mixture of autobiographical works and observations of life that we can all relate to. She is one of the driving forces behind the Tamworth Songwriters Association and she has also had some success in the USA. Like myself, she is a big fan of Mary-Chapin Carpenter and it reflects in her music. Wendy does a lot of charity work and she does a lot to promote country music in Tamworth where she is based. One of our finest female songwriters.
If Fanny is the Queen of Alt. Country, then Sandra is just the Queen of Australian Country Music at the moment (officially, the crown belongs to Anne Kirkpatrick, but Sandra is the successor). One of the most respected female artists in the country, Sandra has a huge following amongst her peers and traditional country music fans. She can sing just about any country song and she co-writes and writes songs that break your heart or make you laugh. She does a new spin on an old style. She never fails to pack out a gig. A wonderful entertainer.
Best Albums of the year so far:
With half of the year gone already, it is probably a good time to reflect on some of the best albums so far in 2017. The April Family, Matt Henry, Aleyce Simmonds, Sandra Humphries, James Stewart Keene, Matt Cornell, Darren Coggan are some of my favourites so far, but all in all, it has been a huge 6 months in Indie country and there have been some cracker albums. Translation for O.S. folks: Amazing albums. I know that there are some new ones to come...can’t wait.
If there is more information that you need about the artists that I have mentioned or the albums that I have reviewed, please go to my blog Country As on Wordpress, or check out their websites.
Until Next Time,