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Review by Anne Infante
Dreaming and Dancing is Tom Bolton's latest album and from the first track to the last is a beautiful potpourri of excellence with the skilfully created rhymes and rhythms that are the trademark of this gifted song maker and modern minstrel. Its beautifully crafted, thoughtful lyrics pull at the heart and emotions. Tom spins strongly appealing stories on subjects we can all relate to; from searching for a place to call our home or learning how to let go and move on with grace, to reflections about hope or facing despair with strength and dignity. Here are songs of celebration, of journeying and adventuring by simply following your feet, of being with a special person; delivered with his unique insightfulness. Tom also includes a lovely instrumental track, proving he is an accomplished guitarist as well as a talented wordsmith. The arrangements are beautiful and Tom has enlisted the support of a group of talented backing musicians and vocalists.
Although mostly Tom's original works, he has included two covers: Song to the Siren (Larry Beckett/Tim Buckley) and Wrecking Ball (Neil Young) which blend seamlessly into the album concept of dreaming and dancing.
I love the way the arrangements move effortlessly between the various styles; from a romantic French accordion, to jazz, to blues ... a wondrous collection to stimulate the senses and mind.
dreaming and dancing is elegant ... and also in its presentation, packaging and design which is simple but stylish. But more than that, it leaves me feeling glad inside and that somehow the world is okay and my journey through life is more blessed with beautiful music than it was before.
More on dreaming and dancing at www.sensibletom.com
Review by John Holmberg
Leah Cotterell and Jamie Clark's new CD Bottom of the River not only has a strong sense of place, but is a loving and sensual tribute to that place: Brisbane and her river. This CD is a real treat. Here we have two world class musicians (a phrase possibly overused these days, but not in this instance) focusing their stellar musicianship on their hometown. It is an album infused with the feel, sounds, smells of Brisbane; vignettes of its history; and personal insights and memories - all brought to vivid life in Leah and Jamie's lyrics. Their song-writing really stands out on this all-original CD. Song after song works so well in drawing one into another pungent slice of life in Brisbane, past or present. They clearly love this town... its river... their home.
Some might be thinking that thematic focus and great lyrics are not the primary pull they feel from music. There is so much more to great songs that are able to grab our hearts and quicken our pulse. Well, here is where this CD further shines. Jamie Clark's playing is incisive and articulate, full of the right feel. The songs are so varied in style, form and instrumentation that I found it a CD I wanted to listen to the end, every time I played it. The arrangements are very effective and the musicianship of the highest order. There is no over-production, no deadwood.
Some of the gems: The title cut starts out with a descending guitar riff with the feel of black velvet, setting the eerie tone of the historic secrets held in the depths of our river. Leah's vocals are passionate, moody and Pearly Black's harmonies at times deliciously dissonant. Next up, Red Rose evokes the bittersweet world of a riverside brothel who will buy this Red Rose?
Magpies changes feeling entirely with Leah's vivid memories of childhood wonder growing up in sunny Briz. Jamie's finger-style guitar on this cut has a light clarity and delightful sparkle evocative of this open-eyed stage of life... akin to the feel of Lennon and McCartney's Blackbird.
River City has a ragtime chord structure evocative of the sass of a possum scampering across a tin roof or a watermelon vine taking over the chook shed: Leah's word pictures of our sometimes extravagant environment. Jamie's playing seamlessly blends syncopated, ragtime, finger-style guitar with smooth single-string runs: very nice.
They just keep coming, like the bluegrass number, Blue Sky Highway with Jamie's great bluegrass flat-picking and Scruggs-style banjo and Leah's plaintive singing full of yearning for redemption. Throughout the CD Leah's distinctive voice - so strong, passionate, and evocative of many moods - is a real standout. The Super Club is smooth, sophisticated, iconic swing with Helen Russell's bass and Jamie's jazz electric guitar working so well together. It had me imagining a night out dining and dancing at Cloudland after the War. The Name of This Place is a love ballad to our river-valley home with the beautiful heartstrings of Savannah Jo Lack's violin.
Brisbane has been home to me for a relatively short seven years. This CD enriches my developing feeling of place in my new home. I strongly recommend you get this CD... I think you will listen to it right to the end...more than once. If you live in the area, it will enrich your perspective of your environment.
Contact Leah Cotterell Phone 0423 414 964 0423 414 964
Address PO Box 5523 West End 4101
Review by Anne Infante
John Spencer and Geoff Welham have been both performing folk music for over 35 years. Together as Welspent they have created a very easy-listening CD of lovely Irish, Scottish, English and Australian tunes as well as songs from Don Henderson's Don't Stir the Water (the title track) and Bottle of Wine to delightful jigs, reels and slow airs to Billy Ed Wheeler's Coal Tattoo. John's tunes are also featured here - the CD opens with two of his originals: Lazy Wind and Paddy in the Bog.
The restful, well-blended airs conjure up peaceful visions of the sea washing the shores of Scottish isles, sheep grazing in green Irish meadows and gentle breezes wafting over the Gaelic lands, then switch to a wild Australian rain deluge pounding on a shed's corrugated-iron roof, then spring into a cheeky ragtime. John and Geoff play a multitude of instruments: harp, guitar, tin whistle, tenor banjo, mandolin, mandola and bass fiddle. Geoff sings lead vocals and John joins him with backing vocals.
Don't Stir the Water is available from John Spencer at or Geoff Welham at and is a worthwhile 45 minutes of listening pleasure with its attractive arrangements from two skilled and experienced musicians.
Review by Mary Brettell
I had been having a bad day. stressed out! ... I decided to put on a CD which had arrived in the mail - The Stetson Family's Hey Sister Mary Where'd You Get that Gun? What a pleasant surprise - a CD to lift the spirits to be sure.
The instrumentation on this CD is great with a very clean, clear sound - very easy to listen to. All the traditional bluegrass instruments make an appearance with clear and concise flat-pickin' guitar from John Bartholomeusz and guest guitarist Jordie Lane, the easy-rolling 5-string banjo of Colin Swan, and great mandolin work by Alan Carswell. The dobro is very tastefully played by guest instrumentalist Jordie Lane on The Dark side of Town as well as by Nadine Budge, the Stetson's lead singer, and the double bass of Luke Richardson keeps the tight rhythm going.
The voices of John, Andrew and Colin blend in tight harmonies with Nadine making this a wonderful listening experience added to by the vocals of guests Liz Stringer and Sharin Anderson. The sound quality of the entire CD is exceptionally good.
The songs (7 tracks of murder, mayhem and twisted tales of the human heart) are mainly originals with the nice blend of Lucinda Williams' Jackson, the trad Old Paint, and Earl Scruggs' Nashville Blues.
The title track Hey Sister Mary, in typical Bluegrass tradition, is a sad tale made to sound a whole heap lighter by the bright, energetic instrumentation and upbeat tempo.
I was sorry to get to the end of the CD - so I put it on again... and again. It is very easy to listen to... certainly brightened my day!
Available thru Vitamin Records, CDBaby & Itunes,
CD Review by Col Johnson
Presenter Kaleidoscope, Cairns FM 89.1
This album is the result of public demand from those who attended a National Folk Festival concert organised by Marina Hurley to honour the music of Joni Mitchell. Marina has produced this CD and credit should go to her for the selection, sequence and layout. Technically the recordings are superb. With the exception of one track (ten) all are female vocals. They are the cream of the talent that Australia has to offer. There is not a single bad apple in the barrel. Naturally I have my favourites but this is personal taste. I do think however that there are tracks worthy of mention because of their treatment of the Joni Mitchell composition. Liz Frencham's arrangement of River being an example. By singing solo with just a double bass accompaniment Liz has enhanced the emotion of the song. Kate Fagan's clear and melodic voice challenges the composer's original recording. The variation of Chelsea Morning to accommodate two voices is very effective, whilst Blue is given new life thanks to Fay White. I must not leave out Penny Larkins' version of For Free which lifts the song to a new level - sheer delight. Track ten is the Spooky Men's Chorale singing The Fiddle and the Drum and anyone who is familiar with this group knows that quality is paramount in any of its recordings.
Finally the album itself comes complete with an eight page full colour information booklet on all the artists. Besides being a necessary addition to any music lover's collection I think this album will go down as an Australian iconic album of 2010. The big plus however is the fact that all proceeds go to the Troubadour Foundation which aims to assist in sustaining the Australian Folk Culture. Do not forget that because of its relatively small distribution this album could become quite valuable in the future.
Please note that if you want a copy of festival folk sing Joni Mitchell CD, you can send a cheque/money order for $25 + 4 (P&H), made out payable to The Troubadour Foundation and post your order to The Troubadour Foundation, 89 Coombes Lane Mia Mia, Victoria 3444.
You can also purchase it through Trad&Now www.tradandnow.com
CD Review by Andrea Baldwin
Nadia Sunde's CD Homespun is a visually and aurally sumptuous offering. The cover features Nadia sitting on an old-fashioned board swing, rainbow-striped stockings and lacky-sided boots depending nonchalantly from a bunched-up patchwork skirt of reds, blues, stripes and laces. The same vibrant joy - a sense of things rich and bright brought together in serendipitous collisions - colours everything about this CD, from design to song choice to instrumentation to production.
Nadia spent some years running music classes for under-8s, where she loved watching children giggling with Grandpa as they both bounced around the room like bunnies. Homespun is dedicated to her own two children, Asher (5) and Mia (2), with whom Nadia enjoys loud singing, outrageous dance moves and plenty of laughter. She says: I love to write songs that reflect and enhance that shared space between grown-ups and kids. Songs that everyone in the family can relate to and share in the delight of.
Anyone who has a nodding acquaintance with goats and/or geese will enjoy the imagery of Homespun's opening track, The Goat and the Goose. It's followed by the toe-tapping rock'n'roll of Red Rattler, a good old-fashioned train song complete with Doc Span wailing plaintively on harmonica. There's lots of fun calypso percussion on The Mango Tree, courtesy of Doug Gallacher, and Silas Palmer's accordion gives a lovely waltzy feel to the lullaby Little Boat. Other instrumental highlights include Silas again on piano (sweet and dreamy for Rainy Day Dream, funky and playful for The See Saw Song), and Sarah Calderwood's lilting whistle on Boom Ditty. Michael Fix deserves a special mention for playing at least eight instruments, providing beautiful backing harmonies, and doing the recording, mixing and production. I particularly enjoyed the children's voices and giggles provided by Asher and Mia. And of course Nadia's beautiful voice, warm and versatile, makes every song a joy.
To paraphrase Molly Meldrum: do some little people a big favour - bring home Homespun.
Visit www.nadiasunde.com and www.myspace.com/nadiasunde
CD Review by Col Johnson
Producer/Presenter Kaleidoscope Cairns FM 89.1
We are told that the age of the solo singer/songwriter has passed. I am happy to report that this is not entirely true. Filling this niche is a healthy group of artists of this calibre contributing a wealth of fine music. One of these is Jim Low with the release of his album Above The Creek Bed. Jim is one of the too few who sing about their love of Australia.
Jim is primarily a balladeer and every song tells a story. With the exception of the verses of Myall Grove all the words and music are original. This reviewer enjoys compositions that are based on truth and this album fulfils this aspect very well. Some titles are quite revealing as to the content. The Country in Me expresses Jim's passion for his country of birth whilst Fields of Eldorado tells a true story of an event on the Victorian goldfields in 1895. Sailing Through History goes back even further and gives the listener a rare insight into the personal life of medical practitioner George Bass who landed in Sydney in 1795 when he was just twenty years old. Outlaw Ned Kelly and the great artist Fred McCubbin both get a mention in At Stringybark Creek in a clever use of lyrics. At the same time Folksinger is a dedication to someone still living. Those of us who know and like the artistry of Gary Shearston can only endorse the lines written here. Negatives of Glass is about the William Corkhill collection of photographs that illustrate the history of the Tilba district of NSW in black and white.
I have seldom felt the compulsion to investigate a subject as much as the sentiments expressed here urge me to. Chloe and Jason Roweth provide the back up instrumentation. Chloe plays the mandolin with backing vocals whilst Jason plays the fretless bass and electric guitar. Jim is on the acoustic guitar and harmonica. I have not had the privilege to attend a live performance by Jim Low but this album tells me I should make the effort. This is an album for listening enjoyment and quiet contemplation. There is a total of 13 tracks and whilst I have my favourites I leave it to the listener to decide.
Accompanying the album is a 20 page glossy colour booklet which includes all the lyrics. No credit is given for the beautiful camera work but I happen to know the photographer was Jim himself. If you have a music loving, astute relative whose intelligence is above average you could do no better than to obtain this album for them as a gift.
This CD is available at www.jimlow.net
CD Review by Mark Davidson
Several years ago Coffs Harbour's loss became SE Qld's gain in the form of a band called Stockade.
Since then we've been delighted by their live performances and their fine CD Common Man. Well folks they've done it again! Their new CD entitled There be Time is now available! This album is a work of art in every respect. It consists of a collection of quality, well - crafted songs by Chuck & Chrissy Euston which are brought to life through the brilliant musicianship of everyone in the band.
It is a sheer pleasure to listen to Stockade whose sound is distinctly and importantly, Australian. Chuck's vocals are the foundation of this sound. His accent and his style are unaffectedly, that is, naturally Australian. He sings strongly, with good clarity, musicality and plenty of expression. He knows just how to sing the songs to give them life. His vocals are well complimented and supplemented by those of Chris as she displays a range of vocal sensitivities across the album. Son, Ben Euston completes the treat with his back- up vocals.
Chuck plays guitars, slide, mandolin and didge. Everything he does musically on the CD works just as it should in relation to the songs. I note in particular though his great guitar playing and his finesse on mandolin.
Chris plays harmonica, whistle, accordion and mandolin. She is one fine musician. The standout for me though is her skill with harmonica. I hear myself saying, Wow, what a sound! Chris's accordion playing adds a special feel to particular tracks.
Ian Evans provides pulse and drive for the CD with his bass playing. Ian doesn't just play bass. He converses in bass. He adds another dimension to bass playing that truly enhances the musical experience provided by the Band.
Ben Euston, a quality guitar player in his own right, rounds out this musicality by skilfully aiding and abetting Ian with well-oiled percussion.
Of the 12 tracks comprising the CD, my favourites are, Quandamooka, What's 'is name, The Gig from Hell, Seize the Moment, Given Away and Grandpa's Mandolin.
The production quality of the CD is very high. The Artwork is attractive. There are useful background notes about the songs and the lyrics are provided. Beautifully done Stockade!
CD Review by John Holmberg
What do you do when you're down...havin' a hard time? One thing that works for me, by way of an escape to an energizing good place, is to throw myself into a music project...or even just some good tunes or a heart-felt song out on the verandah. John Thompson and Nicole Murray say the idea for the title song of their new CD Circus of Desires came from a sometimes-difficult year. The song, and indeed the whole CD, evokes the "real magic" out there in the creative cosmos. The connections and seminal discoveries that come with the hard work of touring internationally; the sense of cultural occasion that comes from a shining performance or an unexpected impromptu collaboration on stage; the process of bringing new songs into existence or developing a new take on an old song: all of these are a part of that serendipitous place called the Circus of Desires.
Hard deliveries sometimes bring the most cherished offspring. After some time of wanting to get traction on this new album, real momentum accelerated early this year and Nicole and John are justifiably excited about their new baby. The CD is skilfully and effectively arranged and produced. They've tried lots of effective new production and arrangement ideas. There is a bodhran-beating heart behind the tender rendering of David Francey's lament on lost love The Waking Hour. There is a brass arrangement by Mal Webb in Bill and the Bear that creates the proper pomp and circumstance for John's epic saga song. It tells of an Aussie strongman that heroically wrestled a bear in the travelling Wirth's Circus at the turn of the twentieth century. Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, friends from Essex, make several choice, cyber-contributions on double bass and piano, e-mailed from England. Erin Sulman (Barleyshakes) provides the subtle and effective percussion.
Three of the best songs on the album are written by John and two lovely tunes are penned by Nicole. In addition to Bill and the Bear and The Circus of Desire mentioned above, John's The Green Man, written in 1999, is here given new life. It has an evocative melody and wonderful harmony singing which help bring to life this celebration of the natural world and the inspiration and lessons garnered from observing it. The Clockwork Elephant Set is not only a great name for a tune set, evoking the bowed bass underpinning the concertina and flutes, but also the tunes are memorable in their form and unusual instrumentation. Again we see the fruits of a life of travels and touring as the first tune is a Swedish "sung polka". It evokes the moderate tempo and yearning of the contemplative human voice. Nicole's tune The Waltz of the Kitchenpipers was written for the wedding of their friends Vicki and Jonny in England and has a great feeling of significant occasion.
Cloudstreet lovers will find, in addition to the new treats above, lots of what the duo have always done so well: great arrangements of traditional ballads, some of them rare and offbeat; and wonderful harmony singing supporting stirring lead vocals. So come along to the Circus of Desires. While you are under the Big Top and the CD is unwinding you can forget your troubles, acknowledge your desires, and be transported on the magic of the muse these two gifted musicians have forged out of a life dedicated to their music.
Visit the website www.cloudstreet.com
CD Review by Dave Burton
I have just listened to three EPs by Davey Spicer and the Creatures of Habit. I have heard Davey live on stage several times and I usually really like what I hear. He is raw, electric and genuinely writes good songs. As someone who mostly responds to lyrics first and then mentally attaches the music, I find Davey Spicer lyrically tuned to my wavelength. The Creatures of Habit are essentially Todd Orchard (percussion) and Felix Merry (bass). They also provide vocal backing.
The album photography reflects images of Brisbane which is complemented by the music. If you are put off by electric guitar, this suite of EPs will not be to your taste. Although Davey is an accomplished guitarist, he relies heavily on a riff-based style, even where acoustic would sound as good or better. The songs are much closer to pop or rock music than traditional folk, although with different arrangements, several of the songs could fit neatly beside several modern folk singers.
Davey's lyrics are more poetry than story-telling, full of dialogue, clever wordplay, pop-imagery and descriptive of relationships. Only one of the EPs provides the lyrics in the sleeve, but his lyrics are easy to follow when not provided.
Of the three EPs, Fingers and Curves resonates with me the most. The arrangements seemed simpler. It also seems to be the first of the three and generally lacked the complexity of some of the later recordings. Not all the songs worked for me, but amidst the doo-wop, there was strong percussion, good bass lines and the occasional acoustic feel.
Feathers and Nails began with a great song but then wandered through some overwhelming arrangements. Throughout, Davey shows flashes of passion and anger. He uses falsetto, strong riffs and interesting lyrical themes.
The third EP, Tides and Caves uses similar techniques as Feathers and Nails, but is a tad darker. Two of the tracks are quite simple and listenable, and again, the lyrics are generally good.
I found that the more I listened to the songs of this trilogy, the more I liked it. The songs and the style grew on me as they became more familiar. I prefer Davey Spicer live with his simpler, less-complicated sound, but it is good to be able to admire his songwriting while battling the traffic.
Visit the website www.myspace.com/daveyspicercreatures
CD Review by Lonnie Martin
Almost 4 years ago in 2007, the Don Henderson Project was launched at the National Festival with the mission to raise enough funds to produce a CD of Don's songs. I have had the pleasure of listening to the result, a double CD of 40 songs. The first disc of Don himself and one disc of other artists singing his songs. The result is a treasure and a "must have" for any folkie.
The artists featured include Declan Affley, Alex Hood, Danny Spooner, Dave De Hugard, Mark Gregory, and our own Helen Rowe, Ann Bermingham, Griff Bignell, Geoff Wills, Tommy Leonard, and, of course, Sally Henderson.
The tracks have been collected from a variety of sources and the recordings span from 1965 to 2007. Studio, concert and home recordings, from reel to reel, cassette and LP, restored to the best quality without losing the original atmosphere.
The CD was released at Woodford at a special concert featuring Tommy Leonard, Noel Gardner, Bernard Carney, Martin Pearson, Liz Frencham, Jeannie Lewis, John Schumann and Hugh McDonald, Alex and Annette Hood, Tommy Leonard, John Thompson and Nicole Murray. The CD will also have a launch concert at the National this year.
I found the concert very moving, seeing such a collection of talent pay tribute to Hendo and had the CD in my hands within minutes of the concert finishing. I have no hesitation in recommending this recording, not simply because of its importance as a record of such an influential singer/songwriter, but because it is a wonderful compilation of songs that still resonate for me and are as topical today as when they were first written.
The CD was produced by Mark Gregory and Sally Henderson, under the auspices of the Queensland Folk Federation. It has been a long project, supported by folk clubs, festivals, unions and individuals.
The CD is available from Trad & Now and check out www.donhenderson.com.au
CD Review by Julie Minto
This is not some Rastafarian reggae come country and western type male at all as you may expect from the name. Dreadlock Cowboy is actually Hayley Small, a female singer songwriter who lives in the Northern suburbs of Brisbane. Think acoustic, original, Australian country pop folk. Dreadlock Cowboy lists The Waifs amongst her influences and while you can identify that, the sound and songs are totally her own.
On initial playing of this debut CD there is an immediately easy to listen to vibe with some very catchy melodies and nice harmonies. The instrumentation is well done but uncomplicated so doesn't take anything away from the sweet vocal and the words which are so heartfelt. She sings mostly about love and a healthy respect for life's experiences and her passion for the music just shines through.
I really enjoyed listening to this CD and look forward to hearing more in the future from this totally original artist.
CD and upcoming performance info available at
A self titled debut album
Review by Col Johnson,
Presenter - Kaleidoscope Cairns FM 89.1
Just in case the reader has been in a re-education camp, prevented from attending music festivals or listening to folk on radio in recent years Vorn Doolette is a singer songwriter from South Australia.
This, his first outing, is an album for listening and contemplation. A solo singer with small group backing, where just about every track is in the ballad category. There are no vocal harmonies or duets included. The instrumentation is simple but melodic and does not intrude on the voice. Most tracks have a straight guitar accompaniment although there is an attractive cello refrain at the conclusion of the final cut. The total is of 10 tracks with some of Vorn's long standing compositions being included. A typical one is 9 Songs a Problem. Of all the tracks offered only two are under four minutes duration and none under three. One of my favourites is Friendship is My Sword. Two others worthy of mention are The Fantastic Four is Not so Fantastic Anymore and The Rodeo. If I have any misgivings they are with Happy Birthday Jesus, a song about Christmas. I found it a little too morbid for my liking and on my copy the track came to an abrupt end.
If you like a song that tells a story there are ten here to keep you occupied. In short a selection to relax by.
This album is available at your music store and also via itunes and Musicplug.com Musicplug.com visit www.myspace.com/vorndoolette