Who needs Byron Bay or Fremantle? Sydney’s holding its own with its own blues and roots festival this October.

OK, so there’s no Bob Dylan, no BB King, and no Elvis Costello, but the predominantly local artists who have made the bill are first class. Jeff Lang, Ash Grunwald, and The Tea Party’s Jeff Martin are amongst the acts already announced, and there’s more to come when the second crop are named on July 1.

The bands will take over restaurants, cafes, and hotels in the picturesque Hawkesbury River region from October 28 to 30. Discounted early bird three-day passes are currently available for $119 from the Sydney Blues and Roots festival website. It sounds like an excellent opportunity for a road trip to me!

Image used with permission from Revolutions per Minute

The Fearless Vampire Killers have currently left the stakes at home and packed up their touring van for shows in Victoria and New South Wales. I recently caught up with band’s lead guitarist Al Marx to chat about his band’s unusual moniker, their new single “For You and Me,” and the album to come.

I love your band’s name. It’s got to be one of the most creative in the music industry at present. Where did it come from?
Honestly, we stole it. It was a bit of a throwaway title to begin with, but I think we’ve all grown to love it. The only real aim at the time was to have an obscenely long name to dwarf others on bills.

You weren’t worried about the wrath of a thousand young Twilight fans at all?
It might get a little bumpy, but we maintain it’s just a phase.

I’m sure most people won’t forget your band’s name in a hurry, but can you describe your sound for the uninitiated?
The closest we can get is bluesy-western-surf-rock.

You’re touring your home state at present, and you’ll end up in Sydney in July. How are the shows going?
We haven’t had so much fun since the ice-cream mountain.  That was a happy day.

I hear that your last Melbourne show generated some major buzz. What is it that makes your live shows so special?
Our live show has always been our focus. If we’re in a good mood you’ll have a good time.  If you have a bad time it was the sound guy.
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Leone Western and Foragers have come together for the split EP Little Love.

Each band was given just three tracks to showcase their talents and perhaps win over the fans of the other artist. Honestly, as the EP opened with “Golden Girl” I thought Leone Western may have wasted their opportunity. The song felt aimless, dragging along without any real purpose. Happily though the band was back with the promise I heard on their Hearts Still Beating EP with their following material. “Make Believe” is super catchy, and while the guitars overwhelm the vocals at times there’s a lot to like about it. Everything came together with “Make Believe” though. I couldn’t help thinking of one of my favourite singers, Howie Day, as I listened to this tune. The vocals had a similar raw, emotive quality, and the soundscape was every bit as epic. They may not have had the strongest start, but Leone Western certainly left an impression with this stand out tune.

With Foragers portion of the EP the recording takes a sharp left turn. While both acts happily use retro sounding synthesizers in their music, Foragers is more unashamedly 80s influenced. As a child of that decade, I didn’t mind that electro-pop influence one bit. This is music that sounds so sugary and sweet, with Simone Gustafsson’s reedy vocals and the melodic electro choruses. However there’s a darkness to the lyrics that makes this music more than just throwaway Take 40 fodder. “Can’t Stop Counting” made me want to get out of my chair and dance, and “Take a Chance” is as close to a retro pop gem as I’ve heard in recent years.

As the EP wound down I was left believing that Foragers are a band that knows themselves, with a clear creative vision, while Leone Western are still figuring it out. That’s not a bad thing though, as I’m enjoying their journey. Little Love showcases some great new music from some really promising new Aussie talent.

Image source: Foragers Bandcamp page

Jordie Lane is coming home after an extended American stay to celebrate the release of his forthcoming second album, Blood Thinner. Jordie will travel all around the country following its July 15 release.

Blood Thinner sees Jordie showing off a more stripped back sound, with back to basics recordings captured in motel rooms, basements, and garages. In such simple surrounds you’ve often got to improvise, which is why we hear Jordie playing kitchen utensils, wine glasses, and a fan-powered harmonium he found for $10 on the side of the road. The record melds gospel, folk, bluegrass, and more to create something that’s completely unique and very special.

Catch Jordie Lane playing the songs from Blood Thinner and some old favourites at the following shows.

21 July 2011 – Ararat Hotel Red Room, Ararat
22 July 2011 – Harvester Moon, Bellarine
23 July 2011 – Baby Black Café, Bacchus Marsh
24 July 2011 – Lot 19, Castlemaine
27 July 2011 – Front Gallery, Canberra
28 July 2011 – Wickham Park Hotel, Newcastle
29 July 2011 – The Vanguard, Sydney
30 July 2011 – Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland
31 July 2011 – Lizottes, Kincumber
4 August 2011 – Beetle Bar, Brisbane
5 August – Joe’s Waterhole, Eumundi
6 August 2011 – Mullum Civic Hall, Mullumbimby
11 August 2011 – Westernport Hotel, San Remo
12 August 2011 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
13 August 2011 – Barwon Heads Bowling Club, Barwon Heads
14 August 2011 – Old Hepburn Hotel, Daylesford
17 August 2011 – The Loft, Warrnambool
18 August 2011 – The Wheatsheaf, Adelaide
19 August 2011 – Indi Bar, Scarborough
20 August 2011 – Norfolk Basement, Fremantle
21 August 2011 – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River

Image used with permission from Riothouse

Gurrumul Yunupingu rarely takes his extraordinary talents on the road, so it’s pretty exciting that he’s planning to tour the country through August and September.

The run of shows sees Gurrumul play his first ever solo concerts in Brisbane, Adelaide and Tasmania. Even if you have seen him before, these shows will be worth another look. His collaborator and producer Michael Hohnen says he’s worked hard to create a night which reflects the full, complex orchestration of Gurrumul’s new album Rrakala.

“Gurrumul and I have been talking about the best way of presenting a special concert to a larger audience and the challenges of this. On “Rrakala” Gurrumul plays drums, electric and acoustic guitars and grand piano.  I thought it was a touching but also a more varied performance at Bluesfest in Byron recently where some 8000 people simply stood, mesmerised, and listened for the entire hour, as if we were playing in their collective lounge room. This was a show where we had some extra people play with him – he loves playing with musicians backing him up,” he explained.

Tickets for the following shows go on sale on June 1. Considering how rare Gurrumul’s live performances are, and how intimate the venues, I don’t expect them to last long.

24 August 2011 – Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart
26 August 2011 – Riverside Theatre Perth Convention Centre, Perth
29 August 2011 – Sydney Opera House, Sydney
1 September 2011 – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
3 September 2011 – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
5 September 2011 – Royal Theatre @ Canberra Convention Centre, Canberra
7 September 2011 – The Palais, St Kilda

Port Macquarie trio Barrel House have brought their down and dirty blues to the masses with the recent release of their long-awaited debut album Species Vagabond.

The three-piece has honed their live show with performances across this wide brown land over the last couple of years, including slots at Festival of the Sun, East Coast Blues and Roots, and supports for Ani Difranco, Blue King Brown, Mama Kin, and Ash Grunwald.

Listen to one of the album tracks, “Stop Me” here, and if you dig it check out Barrel House at the following shows. All shows are free to attend, so there are really no excuses! More dates are to be announced, so if you don’t see one near you keep your ear to the ground. They still may be headed your way!

16 June 2011 – Fotheringham Hotel, Taree
17 June 2011 – Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland
18 June 2011 – CBD, Newcastle
23 June 2011 – Woody’s, Byron Bay
30 July 2011 – The Lennox Point Hotel, Lennox Point

Image used with permission from Heapsaflash

I’d all but assumed we’d heard the last of 2007 Australian Idol winner Natalie Gauci, but it seems she’s still kicking around. She released her EP I’m Ready last year, and in case you missed it she’s preparing to release a new single from it, “Best of Me.”

Whether it really delivers the best of Natalie, I’m not sure. But it’s got some powerful vocals and strong lyrics, so we’re certainly more than halfway there. It should generate a bit of buzz as it’ll feature in the new Aussie rom-com Big Mamma’s Boy. Natalie also makes a cameo in the flick, so keep your eyes peeled!

Natalie will hit the road next month to promote the single at the following shows.

23 June 2011 – Brisbane Jazz Club, Brisbane
24 June 2011 – El Rocco, Kings Cross
25 June 2011 – Coogee Diggers, Coogee
26 June 2011 – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla
30 June 2011 – The Promethean, Adelaide
3 July 2011 – Bennett’s Lane, Melbourne

Image used with permission from Revolutions per Minute

Dereb the Ambassador will launch his self-titled album with a very special show at Sydney’s GoodGod Small Club on July 1.

The Ethiopian singer who now calls the New South Wales capital home will be supported on the night by a hand-picked band of seven extraordinary musicians. They’ll play Dereb’s own funky groves as well as a few special soul covers.

Nu-soul trio Lo Five will act as support, making the $15 pre-sale tickets seem like an exceptionally good deal!Get yours from the venue now!

Image used with permission from Other Tongues

Ash Grunwald seems determined to play for just about everyone over the next couple of months as he makes his way around Australia.

It’s not all about the shows though. Ash is actually making a doco about life on the road, contrasting the differences between the Aussie towns he plays and introducing us to some of the characters he meets along the way.

The gigs will meld Ash’s two great loves: surfing and music. Surfers Dave Rastovich, Neal Purchase Jnr, Matt Hoy, and Beau and Nat Young will join Ash at various locations on the tour, there’ll be surf photography displayed at the venues, and surf films will play in between the sets.

You could dismiss the whole thing as an excuse to catch a few waves if Ash wasn’t also promoting his new single “Tear the Roof Off” from the album Hot Mama Vibes. Being such a nice guy, he’s offering it as a free download from his website. If you like what you hear make sure you head out to one of the following shows. With so many dates on the agenda I’m sure there’ll be one near you!

28 July 2011 – The Sandbar, Mildura
29 July 2011 – The Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide
30 July 2011 – Echuca & Moama Winter Blues, Moama
3 August 2011 – Torquay Hotel, Torquay
4 August 2011 – Pier Live, Frankston
5 August 2011 – The Corner, Melbourne
6 August 2011 – Westernport Hotel, Hastings
8 August 2011 – Snowbird Inn, Mount Hotham
10 August 2011 – The Smiggins Hotel, Perisher
11 August 2011 – ANU Bar, Canberra
12 August 2011 – Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
13 August 2011 – Waves, Towradgi
14 August 2011 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
17 August 2011 – Beachcomber Hotel, Toukley
18 August 2011 – South West Rocks Country Club, South West Rocks
19 August 2011 – Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour
20 August 2011 – Pacific Hotel, Yamba
21 August 2011 – Coolum Civic Centre, Coolum
25 August 2011 – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
26 August 2011 – Coolangatta Hotel, Coolangatta
27 August 2011 – The Hi Fi, Brisbane
28 August 2011 – Gympie Muster, Gympie
1 September 2011 – Mainstreet Nightclub, Mackay
2 September 2011 – A.J Hacketts, Cairns
3 September 2011 – Uni Club Townsville, Townsville

Image used with permission from Two Fish Out of Water

Independent Sydney hip hop label Big Village is showcasing its finest artists with the release of Big Things Volume One. The compilation album features tracks from some of the brightest new talents in hip hop, including Loose Change, True Vibenation, Reverse Polarities, and Tuka.

This isn’t your typical American hip hop garbage with trite lyrics about hos and bling. Instead the artists on the Big Village roster serve up thought provoking music which goes to the heart of hip hop and reminds us what the genre used to be all about. The compilation is a great introduction to the good work the label is doing, and the exciting new sounds produced by its artists.

Look for it in all good music stores now!

Image used with permission from Other Tongues