By LACHLAN BRYAN
February is recovery-month for many country music artists and fanatics as they return home from the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival. I was at the festival this year (my eighth in a row) and noticed a change in the atmosphere – for the better, I might add!
Perhaps it was due to the increased presence of roots, Americana and alt-country artists in town, or maybe it was simply the fact that the festival seemed to run a little earlier this year (great for school holidays) but nearly every venue I dropped in to was full of punters – even the ticketed shows that always have to compete with the hundreds of free entertainment options. A highlight of the festival was the Golden Guitar Awards, five of which went to Troy Cassar-Daley, whose Freedom Ride record has struck a chord with listeners over the past twelve months. Paul Kelly shared some of the spoils with Troy, and the pair performed together live at the awards ceremony before a crowd of more than three thousand at The Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre.
Closer to the grass-roots end of the business, the now customary Late Night Alt sessions at The Tudor Hotel were a huge hit with younger fans, as well as older folks with left-of-centre taste. It’s a peculiarity of country music that the ‘alternative country’ style has more in common with traditional old fashioned music than the mainstream, but any way you look at it, the artists belting out tunes in the sweaty upstairs bandroom of the Tudor were some of the finest and most authentic at the festival. I returned home with CDs from a few of these acts – the highlights being the work of Queensland’s Jen Mize (originally from the USA) and Josh Rennie-Hynes.
Back home in Victoria, I’m pleased to inform you there’s plenty of post-Tamworth country going on. If you’re city-bound, our own Gothic-country songstress Jemma Nicole will be playing each Sunday this month at the infamous Tote in Collingwood, whilst the Peninsula’s own sweethearts The Weeping Willows will kick off their album launch tour with a performance at The Basement Discs in the CBD. Readers of this column, and frequenters of Peninsula gigs, will be very familiar with Laura and Andy of The Weeping Willows – they’ve performed regularly at Peninsula wineries as well as local festivals for the last four or five years. On March 4th they will release their second album – titled Before Darkness Comes a calling – and will embark on an epic promotional tour to promote it. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing the record already – and reckon all us locals should be proud.
And so we are now off and running in a new year of fine country music. I’m happy to say that in the time I’ve been writing this column, the genre has had a real resurgence – growing in popularity Australia-wide. It feels like a good time to be a country artist – and it’s definitely a good time for fans to start checking out new talent!
Lachlan Bryan is primarily a singer/songwriter. His third album, Black Coffee, is out now. He also moonlights as a gifted observer and music journalist, writing monthly for Mint Magazine on all things folk/country/bluegrass. If you’ve got a new release, upcoming show or you’d like to get in touch with Lachlan, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org