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Review - Lonnie Martin
Fans of The Poms From Oz will be absolutely delighted by their latest offering, Ripples is their finest recording to date. I always expect high standards from this family of fine harmony singers from Northern Queensland, but on this recording their careful arrangements and precise vocal performances are matched by clean and clear production values and integrity in approach.
This recording contains a wide variety of material and styles, from folk classics, such as Sally Free and Easy, Cruel Mother (Child #20), and Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens, through gospel, Let Me Fly, Respite for my Soul country Dolly Did Ya, and a trademark touch of vaudevillian silliness in Nellie the Nudist Queen.
The arrangements - mostly by Judy - are precise and elegant without detracting from emotion and intent of the song - the song remains the main focus. Each voice is beautifully balanced and I particularly enjoyed the handful of solo songs as we tend to focus on the Poms outstanding harmony singing and forget that they are all very fine solo singers.
If I have a criticism, it is the Poms' tendency to be a touch theatrical in approach, however this is also what makes the Poms distinctive in our Folk scene. I do however believe this theatricality works better live than on recorded material.
If you never miss a Poms performance you will be totally captivated and completely pleased with this recording
You may purchase a copy of this CD via: www.tradandnow.com
Poms from Oz website:
Review - Lonnie Martin
I love a live recording. I enjoy being part of an experience and being taken for a journey with a performer and with their audience. Live at the Irish Club from Brisbane band, Murphy's Pigs, gives me that sense of "being there" and the immediacy that I love.
If you harbour a secret love of Irish pub bands you will be delighted with this CD. Tracks like Fiddlers Green, Black Velvet Band, The Rare Old Times, Rare Old Mountain Dew, Leaving of Liverpool, evoke pub bands of old. This is an utterly charming recording. It is an unashamed romp, without pretensions or affectation.
There are moments of brilliance (a wonderful piper and flautist and the viola under some really lovely vocals), and moments of ouch (some of the harmonies and a few not quite in tune bits), but what one really hears and remembers is joy - the band is obviously having such a grand time and the audience is so involved that the listener is swept away. This is a pub band having a great night.
If I have any criticism, it is that some of the chatter between songs is obviously in house jokes and as such a little off putting to some one who is new to the band.
I absolutely enjoyed this recording, warts and all, and heartily recommend a listen.
Email to obtain a copy: or
phone - John 0438-866-478 or Peter 0410-499-773
Review - Lonnie Martin
Firstly, in reviewing this album, I must admit to being a little out of my depth - not being an aficionado of purely instrumental music. However the more I listened, the more I had to say about this first recording from two of our local scene's finest young performers. So I hope you will forgive my lack of technical expertise. George Jackson and Davydd McDonald have produced an album that absolutely screams potential. The album contains mostly original tunes with varied instrumentation that are deeply rooted in our traditions and forms, as well as some twists on traditional tunes that led me to re-examine the old in the light of the new. I expected to hear beautiful fiddle and guitar work but was surprised by equally fine banjo (from George) and flute (Beth McCracken) as well as some clever use of vocals. I was astounded at the creativity and innate joy on this recording and thoroughly enjoyed all tracks.
The CD attempts to use their shared Celtic backgrounds as well as their New Zealand and Australian cultural backgrounds and influences to create a distinctive sound. This synergy is nowhere more apparent than in the Song of the Tui (a solo fiddle piece that evokes NZ and the beautiful bird) and the treatment of the traditional Dinky's Reel (using banjo and guitar). From the more traditional sounding Euphoria and Foolish Epiphanies to the sultry Spinning Her, (which is my favourite track, an evocative piece using subtle vocals to underpin the harmony), funky Death Metal, the jazz influenced variations on Not So (E)tholl Highlanders, to the more percussive Trading Set and the whimsical Granpa Dickson Set, surprises await at every turn.
The production is clean and uses simple effects that enhance the work rather than overpower - the tune itself remains the focus. Occasionally I felt there was a tendency to be a bit self indulgent, however the incredibly high standard of musicianship and equally high level of empathy in the recording makes it difficult for me to find fault. The CD itself is well presented - though the font is a wee bit small for my aging eyes - grand photos and charming notes on the tunes.
This is undoubtedly only the beginning from this talented pairing and I, for one, can't wait to hear what they will grace us with next.
You can now purchase a copy of this CD via: www.tradandnow.com
By David De Santi
The Wongawilli band, based in the Illawarra, has been promoting, preserving and performing a rich tradition of Australia folk music, song and dance since 1987. Over the past twenty-one years, Wongawilli have re-energised the old songs and tunes of the Australian settlers and continue to re-invigorate the tradition with new tunes and songs.
In recent years the band has performed internationally, throughout China, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany and New Zealand. At home in Australia, Wongawilli has also been performing to acclaim at folk festivals including Woodford, Port Fairy, Illawarra, Victor Harbour and has now performed a phenomenal 18 times at the National Folk Festival in Canberra. The band was in Europe once again in July and performed in Berlin, Denmark, Scotland and north England.
The band name was inspired by the heritage coal mining village of Wongawilli which is at the foot of the Illawarra escarpment, south-west of Wollongong, NSW. The village has a community hall at which the band members still play for a weekly bush dance.
The band has 7 recordings to its credit including the newest selection - Australia Street. The previous song based recording was Live at the Local in 1999 so it's been awhile!
Australia Streets are scattered across the cities, suburbs and towns of Australia. In them generations of Australians have made their homes, expressing their sense of who they are and where they come from. The songs and tunes on this new recording form part of a folk music tradition now part of that expression.
The recording includes 18 tracks with 4 instrumental medleys. The songs range from an arrangement of Waltzing Matilda using the Marie Cowan / Buderim Queensland and Craigielee March tunes to new songs about coal mining, beer, trains, the environment and migrants. There are also new songs and tunes found in the depths of the National Library of Australia that have not been heard for 50 years.
You can buy this CD online from www.illawarrafolkclub.org.au/store,
Review by Julie Minto
Stockade is Chuck Euston on vocals, mandolin, slide guitar and guitar; his wife Chris on vocals, harmonica, accordion, & mandolin and their son Ben on percussion. They are joined by the talented Geoff Carwardine on vocals and bass guitar. The instrumental skill of these musicians is a standout feature of the CD, and the members of the band performing backing vocals in tight harmony also creates a significant part of Stockade's sound.
Chris's wailing harmonica sets the mood with the up tempo opening track by asking you to Enjoy The Ride. It is a nice ride full of witty observations on life but never dwelling on the pessimistic side for too long. Although the album has an upbeat mostly positive theme, the lyrics are cleverly crafted and pack a punch.
There is quite a green flavour to many of the tracks such as Geoff's contemplative Antarctica and also the witty Its All About the Money and Clean Green Line, which ask us to think about what we are doing to the environment. Its All about the Money and the almost zydeco sounding Public Liability cover the subject of man's greed and the problems it creates.
In contrast the aptly named Café Columbus has that cruisy sitting in a café feel complemented by the lovely smooth and mellow tones of Chuck's vocals.
This is a quintessentially Australian folk album which includes an ode to Ned Kelly in Mother Kelly's Son. This is one of the few songs I have heard that does not grant Ned hero status but rather touches on a fatalistic view of his life and the choices he made. As said in the line, Live by the gun die by the gun. This is certainly a different approach to Ned Kelly's life than that taken by other song writers. The ballad Western Plains is a beautiful melodic waltz. It is wistfully sung by Chris and is about moving to a dry and arid region of Australia to follow the man you love. Ah...a bit of romance never goes astray!
Indigenous clap sticks and didgeridoo feature on Out Of The Dreaming which travels again to the Western Plains. The ghostly Min Min lights are a part of the Australian local folklore.
The final and title track of the album is the up lifting anthem-like Common Man, which brings a feeling of completeness to the end of the album. We're all together and on the same page - you can't help but join in and sing along with this one!
CD or booking info: call Chuck & Chris on 07-3829-9724 or
Review by John Holmberg
What do you get when you cross Bella Fleck with a Frenchman who has Gypsy-swing and ragtime running through his veins? You get Jean-marc Andres and his Belle Époque Ensemble. A couple years ago I reviewed Andres' first CD Lucettina in these pages, and his new CD Havona Shores is a very nice follow-on from this first unusual and eye-opening CD.
Andres is a masterful banjo player using the melodic three-finger style to bring his compositions to life. Belle Époque Ensemble is a tight string-swing and ragtime band featuring violin, guitar, upright bass and mandolin. Their engaging sounds are somehow very Gallic although they are principally American genres and do evoke an earlier epoch.
This CD has a great variety of song styles, from (by Andres' description): klezmer waltz, to slow ragtime, to latin jazz, to easy blues, to a shuffle and a boogie to a couple swing barn-burners. He has a great feel for syncopated tunes, but many of the tunes on this CD are slower or moderate tempo (several waltzes) with richly-ornate melodies. He does write lovely melodies and there are nice violin, accordina (a wind instrument played like a harmonica but with an accordion keyboard), guitar and mandolin solos to add variety to the banjo lead.
Andres has had an interesting life in music, having toured the USA with his band Transatlantic ending up playing in Woodstock New York for several years. He then lived in Florida and the Caribbean performing in local acoustic bands before moving back to France to form Belle Époque. His ensemble music does have a transatlantic feel, having elements of musette and gypsy music as well as Yankee swing and ragtime. Very interesting listening, and it just may let you see the banjo in a new light :-)
You can check out Andres and Belle Epoque Ensemble (and arrange to buy a CD) at www.cdbaby.com/jeanmarc It's a big wide-world of music out there and Andres takes you on an interesting journey through genre time and space. Check it out for some different and delightful tunes played by a corker of a string band.
Review by Anne Infante
Denise Miller is a superb story teller. She recently toured Australia and totally charmed the Kookaburra Folk Club audience with her wondrous renditions of Native American and Inuit tales, using her Living Drum to illustrate and underline as she drummed out heartbeats, Coyote lolloping along and the rhythms of her ceremonial songs.
Soul Stories and Wise Ways is an absolute delight for anyone with an interest in traditional folk tales, myths and legends. Denise opens as she begins all her sessions, with the Cherokee Blessing Song Windayaho. Then she weaves her magic in the stories of First Man and First Woman, a Cherokee legend which reminds us to forgive conflicts in relationships; Skeleton Woman, and Inuit legend of the renewal of love and trust; Tashunka Whitco, a true Lakota history which tells of the boyhood vision of their great leader (known to the West as Crazy Horse) and his determination to help his people and The Breath of Love, an emotional and tender folk tale of the acceptance of love -reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew. Denise closes with a Lakota ceremonial song The Gratitude Song then reprises Windayaho, this time as a live concert recording.
Denise's skill as a teller of tales makes her performance totally absorbing. Her Native North American and Celtic ancestry gives her an inherited feel for the language and drama of the stories she presents; stories that teach, heal, guide, advise, empower and, of course, amuse and entertain.
Soul Stories and Wise Ways is available from Denise Miller:
A review by Mary Brettell
Beautiful, mellow, soothing music, by one of the best flute players I have had the good fortune to hear. This is how I would describe the first CD by Brisbane's own Robin Etter-Cleave (she was born in Canada but we now claim her). The CD is called Notes From Squire Street, the street she grew up on.
It is a CD to put on and chill out with - pour yourself a nice glass of wine, get comfortable, close your eyes and listen as her fingers glide smoothly or dance dexterously over the keys to produce beautiful sounds.
This CD has been a long time coming for Robin but it was well worth the wait. It is a collection of songs that have influenced her and her flute playing throughout her musical career. Some talented musicians accompany her including Brian Brett (guitar), Steve Stiller (percussion) and Ian Evans (bass guitar), who with Robin are collectively known as Silken Thomas playing, primarily, Irish music. Other very fine musicians on this CD are Briony Luttrell (cello), Richard Farmer (guitar), Elise Crawford (piano) and Guy Bursle (cello).
Robin plays alto flute, C flute and has previously played as a studio musician on CDs, including Anne Infante's Love Is A Circle and Mark Davidson's Laughter In the Clay. She not only plays beautifully, she passes on her knowledge through teaching.
Find out more about Robin, her music and hear samples from the CD on her website at www.altoflute.com.au
Review by Ray Downes
Australian folk and roots music devotees will be familiar with the warmth and power of Chris's live performance through her many visits to this country with Julie Matthews. Of the ten tracks on this solo album, eight are Chris's own compositions. Chris has a great love of the Australian landscape and people and has appropriately titled her solo cd Rosella Red which has a splendid cover painting by Jill Swarbrick-Banks.
Two of the songs relate to her Australian experiences. There's a superb arrangement of Michael Kennedy's composition, Pennyweight Hill concerning the cemetery near Castlemaine where 200 children lie who died in the severe conditions during the 1850s Goldrush. Safe in Your Arms is a gentle song concerning Chris flying to Australia and leaving a loved one behind and contains some perceptive lines like to rest in the glow of Australian smiles and the horizon would glow with rosella red.
She has gathered about her some talented musicians. I particularly like the sound of the cello from Emma Capp on a couple of the tracks and the string arrangements from producer and good mate Joe Broughton which doesn't intrude on the stunning vocals to which daughter Kellie adds some top harmony.
Chris excels when she is delivering biting, bluesy lyrics and her composition Walking in My Shoes is the perfect song to demonstrate her skills. There are a number of songs of relationships, some with interestingly mysterious themes such as When I Watch You Sleep. You Didn't Think It Through Did You is just so well written and has such general appeal it deserves daytime radio play.
My favourite track on the album is Falling Ashes a song about her hometown of Barrow in Furness that vividly relates the story of the shipyards demise and the resident's pride enabling the town to recover.
Joni Mitchell's song, Both Sides Now has been covered by many singers and Chris is up there with the best of them with her interpretation with minimal instrumentation and her voice well forward in the mix.
There's been a ten year wait for this superbly crafted solo album from one of England's finest female singers. It comes highly recommended. Available from Amazon UK for 9 quid plus postage. Fat Cat Records FATCD020
Review by Andrea Baldwin
Russian Doll is the latest creation of Stephanie Barros-Lees of Moot (Brazilian-flavoured folk-jazz) and maudlin (ambient-industrial trip-hop) fame. With such a diverse range of musical interests, it's not surprising that this offering from Pear and the Awkward Orchestra is tricky to define, genre-wise. Steph's jazz roots are showing, but each song is an intriguing journey which yields more surprises the more times you listen.
Travelling in Circles moves like a dream carousel - slightly warped, slightly out of control, a touch psychedelic. Steph's vocal virtuosity, from sweet high gasps to sudden low rasps, enhances the fairground feel, backed by autumnal bassoon and clarinet, and sassy percussion.
Noah's Song is lyrically simple but musically ironic, the understated choppy acoustic guitar laying down a bumpy bed for laid-back slow-jazz vocals and cool harmonies.
Steph's tonal creativity impresses anew in Light of Love. Old Friend pulls off the remarkable trick of telling a familiar story (a woman recovering from broken love) in myriad subtle shades of mood and feeling, ultimately proving that the story is always unique to the teller.
Tingly percussion and harmonics introduce Small Things, another delicately introspective exploration of mood. Fallen Woman pushes further into the territory of soundscape - slow, smooth, mesmeric jazz vocals dancing a tango with the electric guitar, sometimes gliding in perfect unison, sometimes confronting each other before slowly stepping back into the groove.
Beautifully produced; vocally and musically elegant, complex and satisfying.
To obtain a copy of Russian Doll call Steph on 0431 185 086
Review by Lonnie Martin
For the uninitiated, The Slimey Brothers (Mick O'Halloran & Ross Roache) are to contemporary folk music what The Castle is to contemporary Australian film. Filled with laconic and understated humour, this recording captures images and stories familiar to many of us.
I love live recordings for their honesty, immediacy and what the performance tells us about the artists, and this recording is no exception. The recording catches the feeling of the concerts and the audience response confirms the authenticity and humour of the stories.
These original songs demonstrate a great affection for the foibles of our existence as well as considerable songwriting ability. These songs are sharp and funny and delivered with considerable charm by Mick and Ross Roache. I wish there had been some stage chatter left in the recording because having seen the Slimys live that is also an endearing part of their performances.
The vocals are clean and sweet throughout with an emphasis on the storytelling. There is great vocal compatibility and a comfort in the instrumentation which speaks of long association and empathy.
Particular favourite songs of mine are One Rissole or Two, Our Song, My Religious Song, and Surrey Hills Again.
If I have a complaint, it's that similar arrangements through the album make it a bit same-y, though I concede that with a duo this is difficult to avoid. Slightly out of tune instruments mostly add to the ambience but occasionally irritate.
It is an affectionate and sardonic observation of Australian suburban life worthy of admittance to the pool room.
To pick up your copy call Mick on 02-6688-0178
CD review by John Thompson
The latest Pirate Brides album is a delight. Broken Hearts Ride Free follows on from their earlier releases Cutlass Wedding and Walking the Planxty and represents a delicious development in the sound, confidence and style of this stand-out Queensland four-piece.
There's been something of a resurgence of the old-timey feel on the Australian acoustic music scene in the last few years, with acts such as The Horse's Leotard, Bluegrassy Knoll and Dev'lish Mary appearing in the Southern states. While The Pirate Brides play similar material, they bring a confidence and comparatively laid-back feel to their work that is both soothing and very, very sweet to the ear.
The Pirate Brides cover some classic material on this album, from Gillian Welch's Back to Wichita to Paul Kelly's Song of the Old Rake. All four members of the band comfortably master the instrumental demands of their old-timey/bluegrass/swing material, but it is vocally that the Pirate Brides really excel. Their harmonies are perfectly structured and beautifully executed, with gorgeous interweaving lines and a great tonal cohesion. The band is not afraid to stretch their sound, with harmonies on the Ryk Rostron original, Jenny being reminiscent of This Guy by The Beatles.
The lead vocals are handled well by John Holmberg and Ryk Rostron, but it is when the harmonies kick in on the choruses, that the Brides make you sit up and smile, with Rose Broe and the addition of the band's new bass-player, Markus Karlsen filling out the sound magnificently. (Markus also adds some particularly good bass lines on Blue Train and Jenny.) Papa's on the Housetop perfectly represents the tight harmonies, quirky interpretation and overall sweet satisfaction of the Pirate Brides sound.
I did feel that a couple of tracks might benefit from a little more compression to bring the voices to the fore, and the inclusion of track times on the sleeve notes would have been useful, but these minor production issues don't stop this from being a great album.
All in all, Broken Hearts Ride Free (the title comes from the chorus of Dave Allan's Blue Train) is a great selection of songs, sung with skill, enthusiasm and a consistently high level of musicality. There is a sense of fun evident in the selection and performance of these songs and tunes that I just love. This is a joyful, exciting, well-produced album from a world-class local band.
2007, independent release, www.piratebrides.com
CD review by Anne Infante
Lonnie really wanted her CD reviewed by someone who didn't know her and was therefore unbiased. As such a person would be almost impossible to find, I was delighted to be asked instead. I should confess up-front that I am a died-in-the-wool Lonnie Martin fan and totally biased - sorry, Lonnie - but surely it would be impossible for anyone not to be captivated by A Moving Hand.
Lonnie's extraordinary, beautiful voice is powerful and compelling and strikes to the very soul. She is a superb performer and A Moving Hand is a superb CD - Lonnie at her best - sad, thought-provoking, touching, funny, inspiring and - moving. All my favourite Lonnie songs are here: Sleepless Sailor, Black Muddy River, Peg and Awl, Cobweb of Dreams, Lies, I Can't Stand Up Alone and Lifeline (Harriet Tubman). Add to these Canaan's Land, Geraldine and Ruthie May, Dillard Chandler and So Say the Vikings and you have a wonderfully comprehensive collection of her songs.
She has also gathered together the cream of the folk family to add their incomparable talents to hers. Helen Rowe, Ros Roche and Rhys Owen provide most of the stunning backing vocals that complement and enhance with tight, spine-tingling harmonies. Other vocals come from Cloudstreet (John Thompson and Nicole Murray) and Pirate Brides (Rose Broe, John Holmberg, Ryk Rostron and Michael Tully). Rhys Owen provides additional guitar; Helen Rowe, viola and fiddle; Ryk Rostron, guitar and mandolin; Don Jarmey, guitar and octave mandolin; Bec Wright, cello; Rose Broe, accordion; Michael Tully, bass; John Holmberg, banjo; Jamie Caulfield, fiddle and Matt Kealley, percussion. The arrangements are excellent and Cloudstreet, Jigger and Pirate Brides provide three of these. The CD was sensitively recorded and engineered by Mark Smith (Real Productions) and Martin Pearson provided the artwork and cover design, thus completing the who's who? of folk involved in this wondrous production.
Thanks to Lonnie for finally getting around to recording this CD and giving us the very great pleasure of having it to listen to for many years to come. I love it!
A Moving Hand is available from Lonnie by or at her performances.
CD review by Mary Brettell
When asked to review Cascades by Paris Dreaming (Ewan Mackenzie & Kay Sullivan), I just wanted to say ... mmmm, I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it... but I guess you might want to know why. It's just a feeling, really.
If you have ever seen Ewan and Kay live and loved them, as I do, you will not be disappointed in their latest CD of beautiful gypsy jazz style music, including several original tracks. The sound is entrancing. At times you can imagine yourself sitting in a French café sipping a glass of red and watching the passing trade. At other times you will close your eyes and hear the water trickling in the nearby creek, dancing over stones on the creek bed.
Ewan's wonderful guitar work can not be surpassed and Kay's passion for the music and mastery of the accordion is the perfect complement. This pair just blend. As I listen to it I can see Ewan's rapt smile and Kay's twinkling eyes in an otherwise serene expression (under that red cap).
The tracks reflect the settings in which they were rehearsed, including The Cascades of Borumba Deer Park, on the banks of Yabba Creek. Always with that Django Reinhardt influence shining through, the mood is relaxed, mellow, light-hearted, romantic, warm and always very, very tasty.
If you need a CD that will make you feel all of these things then this is just what the doctor ordered. 15 tracks of pure bliss.
Cascades is available at www.parisdreaming.com.au or call Ewan 0419 680 356
Review by Anne Infante
Tom released close to the river, a 4-track CD of songs from his new album when I cross the river, as a preview (reviewed in the November 2007 Folk Rag) - now finally the full album has been completed - and is predictably enjoyable.
Tom's melodious voice flows in easy partnership with his stylish, rhythmic and intelligent songs. I particularly like the soft jazz/rock beat and the poetry of Tom's words which he blends in different and interesting structures. He creates beautiful songs out of his personal experiences as he explores his Life's journey from a teenage boy's all-absorbing crush on a girl at school (hey you, yeah you) through the tender reflections of all I can do, three hearts and longer than my life to the angry bewilderment of whose army. Here again is the exquisite silver in which Tom takes an experience of drifting too far out on a surfboard at sunrise and makes it into a poignant metaphor for love lost; and the title track when I cross the river, a strong assertion of hope. The final three vocal tracks are strongly optimistic - where you wanna go (wheels, roads, hope, dreams and love all take you where you wanna go); little star - 'help me shine' - proving that the simplest couplet can become a song - and hold the sun (nothing ... 'can keep me from ... reaching toward the sun'). Tom closes disc 1 with a gentle instrumental, sweet days.
Also included is a bonus track which merits its own special disc and which explains Tom's fixation with his favourite comfort food - biscuits. This is the confessions of a man with a serious biscuit addiction - and the track is repeated, just in case you missed the message the first time around.
when I cross the river is another excellent offering from a gifted songwriter and poet.