The Plough @ Tamworth Country Music Festival

Discovered busking at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, The Plough is band well-worth listening to. Recreating “olde timey string” sounds, this four piece group boasts talents in mandolin, fiddle, banjo and acoustic guitar. Their harmonies and ability to pick up requests is really impressive and they play with such enthusiasm and vigour. Their sound is authentic and when listening, I felt like it was in a sepia film from the American deep south. I was excited to find such bluegrass talent in Tamworth.

They performed towards the end of the Peel Street (the main street) in Tamworth, which is a feat of true bravery because it’s often difficult to pick up bystanders unless you’re smack bang in the centre of town. Yet, they drew a crowd and the people stayed to listen. They were raw and authentic, no bravado for the country music festival like some of the other boot-scootin’ denim short shorts or spurred boots. Nay, they stood, some barefoot and a little bedraggled- a sincere, authentic band to match a genuine sound.

We requested tunes from the Coen Brothers’ film “O, Brother Where Art Thou?” and their renditions were met with roaring applause. Each play is equally skilled in their own right, showcasing multi-instrument talents in bluegrass and deep southern vocals. They thrived, even when their banjo player nearly swallowed a fly.
Their knowledge of country and bluegrass added to an impressive repertoire, which only enhanced their performance. They had a special guest come and sing for a few tunes, a rather laid back affair supported by Nick Payne from Dear Orphans. This glorious camaraderie between bands and band members gave the Tamworth Country Music Festival a warmth in atmosphere, surpassing the temperature (which was in the high 30’s!)

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The Earth, The Sea, The Moon, The Sky

Catherine Traicos

Sydney-based singer-songwriter Catherine Traicos released her album The Earth, The Sea, The Moon, The Sky in the November of 2013. In my opinion, it’s the perfect showcase of her abilities and talents, in both performing and song-writing. Her bio identifies her as a blend of alternative country, blues, roots and folk. To be honest, I don’t disagree. It’s not that each song is chock-full of homages to each genre, no. It’s that each track on her album is distinctly different from the previous, while still remaining true to her signature sound.

“One By One” is a lovely, simple track which helps open and introduce the tone of the album. Catherine’s vocals are smooth, silky and slinky. She’s like a shiny black cat as it simpers the dark alleyways of Paris at midnight. The second track of her album- “All the Angels” really demonstrates this as well. I love her voice. It’s soft and non-committal, but there’s a deep passion for music. Her power comes from whispering, from breathing the words the carry the lazy tune, the tune that keeps the backing band; The Starry Night, in check.

Her album shows versatility, while it also shows her. The difference between tunes like “Light in the Dark” and “Devil’s Lover” still exemplify the sheer beauty of Catherine’s voice, while the tunes demonstrate her execution of different genres. “Devil’s Lover” is a little bit smooth-jazz with balanced equalising and guitar solos to support. It’s a rather professional, well-polished track that shows dynamicism and control. In comparison, “Light in the Dark” has more of a catchy beat, a faster tempo, a difference in percussion and it sounds as if the guitar’s been amped up to a different setting.

Her master plan is very clever, she uses the same instruments amplified a little differently to bring out a different genre or to draw out a different ambience. Her final track on The Earth, The Sea, The Moon, The Sky album is “A Stranger’s Lullaby” has a really nice base line. To me, her music should either be turned up to the max with good quality headphones- to really appreciate all the layers underneath her smooth voice, or as light background music to an artisan exotic furniture store with mahogany and cedar tables and carved fruit bowls and sandalwood. She’s calming and her voice is wonderful. She’s my kind of music.

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“Groundswell” by Pete Cornelius

Pete Cornelius

The opening paragraph of the media release for Pete Cornelius’ new album; “Groundswell” states;

Pete Cornelius grew up as far away from the Delta heartland as is almost humanely possible. He’s never picked cotton, never hitched a ride on a freight train, nor traded with the Devil. Not knowingly, anyway.

This introduction of the 29 year old Tasmanian is just as quirky and smile-tugging as his opening song, “Drinking the Blues”. It’s not that there’s anything humourous about his music, oh no. Rather, that his sound is so well-polished and collaborated, with a nice lazy beat that I can’t help but to smile in recognition; This Is Good Music. “Love and Happiness” is a song that really suits his voice, his vocals are a bit country, but his keyboard is a bit groovy, a bit woozy. The ambience is laid-back and the bass line is quietly embracing. The guitar riffs are exceptional and the whole tune, chorus especially, is catchy.

It’s a bit funk, it’s a bit everything. It’s a solid piece of music. I close my eyes and think- where am I? I’m envisioning myself in a mature café/restaurant, sunk into low-backed brown leather seats, beer in hand, hand resting on my worn jeans and, there are framed and signed records on the walls. Playing is track number 3; “Right Place, Wrong Time”. For the music to give me these day-dreams is a wonderful talent. It’s casual, it’s quiet and the dynamics are appropriate and well controlled. The guitar riffs are well-placed and what I love about it is that it’s not strained, that it doesn’t seem forced to put these solos in, the back-up drums aren’t just going nuts for the sake of it- it’s clever in collaboration and it’s fluid in momentum.

Each track transports you- “Talkin’ Bout New Orleans” puts me in Louisiana and I haven’t even been there. It’s great to hear differentiation between sounds and tracks because in an album, you don’t want to be hearing more of the same. It’s like there’s a different influencing genre on each song, because after that track, you’re listening to “My Soul” which is a bit country/rock. Great versatility, nicely refined.

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Colin Lillie

Colin Lillie

Colin Lillie’s most recent CD, released in early 2012 is a great showcase of his talent as a singer-songwriter and performance artist. Lillie’s vocals are Cat Stevens-esque and his talent is unmistakable in his 4-track self-titled CD. Each track is different from the rest, which really highlights his careful control and wide range. He labels his sound- “Folk Soul” and I also think there is a little bit of Country in there and a little bit of Roots. As an original singer-songwriter based in Central Australia, his sound is very earthy, his vocals are very articulate and his multi-instrumental compositions are rather clever. Songs like “Man’s Broken Heart” use fiddle, mandolin, bass and guitar and in my opinion, he tells a good story. He’s definitely got musicality. However, I think what really sells his music is his undeniable passion in every song. His harmonies aren’t close and his mandolin accompaniments aren’t either but overall, his sound is spot it. It’s gritty and grounded. His cover of “2 Hearts” is very groovy, very funky- he’s succeeded in making it his own. However, of the four songs on this CD, my favourite would have to be the final- “Dirty Water”. It’s slow, acoustic and so very passionate. It’s the kind of sound that would be mood-music or the non-diegetic soundtrack to a film in the country, with a big leafless-oak, a young family and a lone tomb-stone. For me, his slower, simpler music seems more thoughtful in evoking emotions that are heartfelt and nostalgic. He really is a talented singer-songwriter.

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