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Country Music Notes Saturday, October 28th, 2006
Check out this boat! Ettamoggah Pub, eat your heart out!
 
Offshore entertainment: This mighty craft is Frank and Diane Turton’s “home away from home” on the water – and it was launched in fine style last weekend in Paringa, complete with chooks roaming the decks and the washing on the line.
Photo: Robyn McIntosh.

PICTURE this: the Ettamoggah Pub on water and you are halfway to describing Frank Turton’s latest venture – the MV Wilitsinkorwon’tit. Frank, better known to audiences Australia wide as Frank the Chookman, launched his home-made craft on the mighty Murray River at Paringa, South Australia, last weekend, and it’s nothing short of a show-stopper. Well – he actually built the houseboat as a show-starter, due to a point of difference Frank had with the local Paringa council, where he was a former alderman. When told he could no longer perform on the riverbank near his hometown, Frank was not to be deterred. He built the craft so he could take his shows to another level, albeit an aquatic one. With its bullnose verandah, paddle wheels, floating dunny and “honeymoon suite” – a floating bed complete with bride Nola Crighton stretched out in wait for her groom, the craft set sail on the Murray to an audience of around 250 curious onlookers. “Sadists, they were. I think they wanted to see it sink,” Frank explained yesterday. “We had a couple of teething problems though. The boat was still hooked on when we tried to launch it. We couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t float, but once we worked our way through that small technicality it was plain sailing from then on.” Like most performers, Frank sometimes finds it difficult to find a venue to perform his music – but not anymore. “Now I can cruise along the Murray, see a campsite, pull in and sing half a dozen songs for the campers and head off to the next camp,” he said. Frank is not shy when it comes to performing, as many a Tamworth Festival patron would have noticed over the years via his Peel St shows, complete with his entourage of “wild wedgetailed eagles” – chooks. “I suppose you could call it offshore entertainment,” Frank said. “I could well be the first ever river busker pushing out country music.” My good mate, “Flasher” aka Robyn McIntosh was there with her trusty camera to capture the launch for posterity, so enjoy’s Rob’s image/s. And it’s not only Tamworth and the Murray River where Frank’s music is appreciated by the masses. Just six weeks ago he returned from a marathon 125-night consecutive stint at the Daly Waters Pub, playing to an average of 120 people each night – and that’s not counting the countless coach-loads passing through during daylight hours. His Australiana songs and wood burning and wood turning souvenirs were eagerly snapped up by patrons of the outback pub, where Frank feels right at home. He didn’t get to Tamworth for the festival in January 2006 – his first absence in around 20 years, but rest assured, the Chookman has promised to return for the 2007 event, with wife Diane, and his wild wedgetailed eagles. And he has a prime Peel St perch secured for his daily performances right outside his good mate, Shot By Jake’s studio – right near Toyworld.

KARL Broadie fans (and there are stacks of us) should take a little internet trip to iTunes, where you’re in for a real treat. Karl has released a three-song CD exclusive to iTunes Australia, titled The Woodsmoke EP. The three-tracker opens with Paul Kelly’s classic, How To Make Gravy, which Karl originally recorded as his “Christmas song of choice” as a BBC exclusive for their 2005 Christmas specials, broadcast throughout the UK. Two gorgeous KB originals, Mostly By The Sea and Too Heavy, complete this little gem of a disc. I think Paul Kelly got it fairly right when he said: “Anybody who covers a Christmas song that doesn't have a chorus, that's set in prison and that contains a recipe for gravy with tomato sauce, is alright by me.” I couldn’t agree more. This Sydney-based poet, lyricist and troubadour, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland first appeared on the Australian scene in 2002 and has since earnt global recognition for his skills as a craftsman of songs. Karl took out first prize in the prestigious 2005 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) in the AAA/Roots/Americana category, and to his delight, one of his heroes, Tom Waits, was on the judging panel. His “sweetly cracked” voice is a tonic for the senses, so make sure you visit iTunes, where you’ll find these three tracks exclusively. And if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for Christmas, how about Black Crow Callin’ – where you get 13 KB classics to enjoy. For more info, visit Karl’s website, www.karlbroadie.com   or www.myspace.com/karlbroadie

A FIVE-piece band from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular has come quite a Distance to perform at The Albert in Tamworth on Wednesday, November 1. The Distance have had a pretty incredible year, according to band spokeman Gavin Leadbetter. “We virtually went from nothing to playing big shows all over the place,” Gavin said. “We’ve toured throughout Victoria, NSW and we had a ball in Tamworth in January for the festival. I think it was our success in Tamworth in January that got everything going for us.” They’ve released an album through MGM, Don’t Look Back, with the title track put out as the first single and video clip, which received high rotation on CMC. Gavin described their second single, This Land, as “a real country song”. Playing the Deni Ute Muster this year was more than just fun for the band. They were spotted by Steve Forde, who was so impressed by the band he invited them to do their thing at the rodeo, staged during the 2007 Tamworth Country Music Festival. Get along to The Albert in downtown Peel St next Wednesday night if you’d like to check out The Distance - Mitchell Dean, guitar, vocals; Darren Shiels, drummer; Jim Mournian, bass guitar, vocals; Rob Moe, pianos, saxophone, vocals and the aforementioned Gavin, who’s the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist.

A feast of music: Now you can enjoy the Fiddlers Feast when you're flying high - or better still, check out their website and download the track.
 
RECEIVED an email from one very excited fiddle player during the week.
Marcus Holden, one of the members of Fiddlers Feast, a unique group of fiddle-playing musicians, is a very happy chappy. Marcus has just learnt that the Concert Hall channel on Qantas Airlines, will feature Eine Kleine Nutmusik – “a decomposition of Mozart’s famous piece” – recorded by Fiddlers Feast, in their December programming. So if you happen to be flying in the month leading up to Christmas, check out the Concert Hall channel and discover what happens when a bunch of crazy fiddlers get hold of a beautiful piece of classical music and run over it with a steam roller! If you can’t afford the airfares, simply visit www.fiddlersfestival.com  where you can have a listen to this looney tune without having to fork out for a plane ride.
 
Country Music Notes Saturday, October 21st, 2006
VIP visitors: Arthur and Berice Blanch with good friends Bob and Cathy Montgomery, on their tour of Tamworth.
Photo: Bob Kirchner.

A MAJOR player in the history of American music passed through Tamworth just recently – but he could easily have been just another overseas tourist. This quietly spoken American gent, Bob Montgomery, is a man who lived through the heady rock’n’roll era when bobby socks ruled and Elvis was not yet known as the king. When Bob was a young bloke in junior high, he met another young fellow who loved music as much as he did and they formed a solid friendship. At 12 Bob picked up the guitar and a few years later, with his mate formed a duo called Buddy and Bob. His friend was the late rock’n’roll legend, Buddy Holly. The music they played was labelled “western and bop” and their act was “no big deal … we were just trying to get some girls”, Bob told me. “There was lots of bluegrass around – Flatt and Scruggs, a lot of Louvin Brothers stuff, so we would play wherever we could,” he said. “If you got five bucks for doing something you’d be sitting in the catbird seat. We would see the big Cadillac's pull up behind the big auditorium in Lubbock and do some dreaming, but we never imagined our music would take us to those heights.” 1955 was a big year for the Buddy and Bob outfit. The two friends were joined by fellow musician Larry Welborn and opened for Elvis Presley at the Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock on several occasions. Later that year they featured in a show starring Bill Haley and The Comets, where Eddie Crandall, a Nashville agent for country singer Marty Robbins, watched their performance. This led to them opening for Marty Robbins at that same venue and an association for Bob and Marty that would last until Marty’s untimely death. Throughout his career Bob has been involved in many facets of the music business – as a publisher, record producer and musician but this humble man of few words made his most significant mark as a songwriter. The first song Bob ever wrote was called Flower Of My Heart and he and Buddy included that song in their repertoire – and the royalties are still rolling in. Another tune made famous by Buddy, Heartbeat, is heard regularly these days as the theme song from the popular UK series of the same name – another regular earner for Bob. And it wasn’t only Buddy Holly who loved the words Bob wrote. Patsy Cline had a smash hit on her hands with Back In Baby’s Arms, which has been recorded by many people since, including Arthur Blanch, who together with wife Berice, brought Bob and his wife Cathy, to the Country Music Capital on a sightseeing tour. Misty Blue, another song from Bob Montgomery’s pen, was recorded by more than 200 artists and was a huge hit for Eddie Arnold. As a record producer, Bob cut and produced albums for some of the biggest names in the business – Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, Vern Gosdin, Janie Frickie, who had eight #1 records and was named CMA female vocalist of the year twice while Bob was producing her. Bob also made albums for Bobby Goldsboro and was producer of the magical hit, Honey, and he formed House of Gold Music with Bobby. From that early association with Marty Robbins, Bob has the distinction of producing Marty’s final album and was responsible for production of his last hit, Some Memories Just Won’t Die.  Bob has been nominated for Grammys on seven separate occasions and was at one time the head honcho of United Artists. Earning a Grammy is a wonderful accomplishment. The Grammys can be seen on television once a year. Most people watch them in the comfort of their own living room with entertainment centers for flat screen TVs.

. So with all the roles he’s played in the music industry, I asked Bob what he loved most. ”I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed producing records and I loved the publishing business – writing as well,” he said. “I still write and do some production. I still have some publishing interests. These days I’ve slowed down a bit, but I love it here in Australia. There’s a lot of potential for the music business here.” During their trip to the Tamworth district, Berice and Arthur had delight in allowing their American friends to experience part of the real Australia – visiting a large sheep property in the New England. Of course they took in the must-see country music landmarks in Tamworth – the Big Golden Guitar, the Australian Country Music Foundation, Hands of Fame, Roll of Renown and more. Apart from a flat tyre they discovered on arrival in Tamworth, their trip was totally enjoyable, so it may not be the last we see of the Montgomerys in the land down under. If you get the opportunity, google Bob Montgomery and read some more about this fascinating man who has played such a vital role in the American music industry.

Andrew Clermont will play all things musical in the fine company of The Lawnmowers in his big
bluegrass spectacular at the North Tamworth Bowlo next Friday, October 27.
 
I HAD a little psychic moment last week. I was wondering when Andrew Clermont would stage his next Supper Club evening at North Tamworth Bowlo and the next day I got an effusive email from the man himself telling me all about his latest adventures. The Supper Club is on next Friday night, October 27, from 9pm. This one is a beauty for all the bluegrass fans out there as it features one of the numerous groups Andrew plays with – The Lawnmowers, who are reputed to be on the “cutting hedge of bluegrass”. Joining Rob Long on guitar, Dave Hellens on five-string banjo, Tony Eyers on harmonica and Andrew on just about every other instrument you could imagine, is the delightful Liz Frencham on double bass. And they have a brand new CD fresh out of the catcher – Second Cut. It promises to be a night full of rip-roaring bluegrass tunes, songs and mind-bending new acoustic music. Can’t wait. Tickets are $25 and $20 and can be obtained from the club in Bligh St, phone 6766 1987.  
Country Music Notes Saturday, October 14, 2006
Snapping the snapper: Dale Duncan's wife Di, right, with her sister, Cathy Buckley, left, and in the middle Tamworth photographer June Underwood – caught in front of the camera for once!
 
Tamworth blokes: Graeme Mills, Michael McHugh and Noel Bennet caught up over a quiet beer at the launch.
 
ACMF contingent: ACMF volunteers Joe Foley, Judy Loffel, Dee and Cliff Giles were there to support the bloke who's supporting their organisation.
 
True blue supporter: Dale Duncan's #1 fan, Phil Barnett, from Quirindi, wouldn't have missed this gig for quids. Phil's pictured with
Dale and MC for the night, Nick Erby.
Musical connections: Paul Steer with Vicki Brown, who is from the distinguished Brown family, very much a part of Tamworth's country music history.
The Butler clan: Award-winning producer Lindsay Butler and wife Shaza Leigh, with their
gorgeous son, four-year-old Lachlan.

I HAD the pleasure of previewing Dale Duncan’s new clip, Malabar Mansion, at LBS Studio, Tamworth on Thursday night, together with a select group of friends and supporters. Ross Wood certainly knows how to shoot clips as this one has come up a treat and should be featured shortly on CMC. The track was recorded at LBS and is an absolute classic, featuring vocals by the late GP and the clip features rare footage of GP in performance mode. I told you a few weeks’ back that Dale was shooting the clip at Maitland Jail, and the stark décor of that institution only adds to the magic of the song, which was written by Dale’s dad, Dave. It came about some 25 years ago when Dave was “working off” some parking fines, serving time in Long Bay Jail, alongside murderers, rapists and other blokes just like him, who didn’t have the money to pay their fines. At the time he wrote it Dave said he thought it would be the kind of song he could sing at a barbecue with a few friends. Little did he know how far from that barbie the song would actually travel. He made a demo tape of the song, which was played by Barbara Morison and Brian Howard on a fledgling community radio station in Sydney, 2SER-FM. Shortly afterwards, Gordon Parsons recorded the song, as did several other artists, including esteemed Aboriginal performer, Roger Knox, on one of his early ENREC recordings. This event on Thursday night was quite an emotion-charged experience, as everyone there was told the story of how the song came about – as well as the second track, Three Words Daddy, on the EP, Back To The Future. Dale’s parents separated when Dale was only 12 years old, and this song relates how he felt without his dad, and how all he wanted to hear from him was three words – I love you. Dale started writing the song as a teenager and put it in the cupboard until a few years ago, when he and wife Di were expecting their first child. He finished it and it proved an incentive for him to re-establish contact with his father after a long time apart. They’re now the best of mates, which was evident on Thursday night. Proceeds from the sale of Dale’s EP will be directed to the Australian Country Music Foundation’s Country Music Hall of Fame. Wendy Bennet from the Big Golden Guitar has copies of the disc and she very kindly offered to forego her commission on sales, directing all proceeds to this very worthy cause. Here’s a few happy snaps from the night.

THE Australian Country Music Foundation’s monthly gathering will be held on Monday from 6.30pm. As these October nights have been a little chilly, the event will be staged indoors in the warmth and comfort of the Smoky Dawson Room. The featured guest artist at this month’s gathering is Tamworth’s own bush balladeer Tom Maxwell. Tom has just returned from an extensive tour so this will be the first time his Tamworth fans have had to catch up with him in quite a while. You won’t go short of musical entertainment, but to ensure you don’t go hungry, a sausage sizzle will be held and there are refreshments available. It will cost you a mere gold coin donation to enjoy all this fun and music, in fine company in the Country Music Capital. The ACMF is located diagonally opposite The Northern Daily Leader, at 93 Brisbane St, Tamworth.

IT’S A big week on the box for three of Tamworth’s home grown stars. On Monday morning The Baileys will feature on The Today Show; then on Tuesday morning Felicity Urquhart will make a special appearance. Tune in to Mornings with Kerri-Anne on Wednesday, where you will see Paul Costa and Aleyce Simmonds performing their great new duet, The Way You Make Me Feel.
 
Rewards of dedication: Angus Marshall from Fender Australia presents Emma Roberts with her brand new Fender Telecaster and welcomes her to ‘the Fender family’.

THROUGH all the years I’ve written for The Northern Daily Leader, Tamworth Times, North West Magazine, Capital News and other publications, some of the stories I’ve enjoyed writing most are the “local girl/boy makes good”. These are the bread and butter yarns that touch the hearts of readers, many of whom may know the subject, making the story all the more meaningful. Even for those who don’t know the subject, those stories can be inspirational. Often these stories have come to me via proud but nervous parents and most are reluctant to make a fuss, and have to be encouraged to do so. One such story came my way this week and it involves a young lady who lives in Tamworth who’s never been a publicity seeker. She’s quite content to get on with her life, her schooling, her studies, her sporting interests and chasing her dreams of becoming a great country guitar player. For Emma Roberts, those dreams now have a silver lining, since she was spotted by a representative of the Fender guitar company at Tamworth Camerata in July, playing sizzling lead guitar and singing her heart out. Fender is a great sponsor and friend of Camerata, and has been since its inception five years ago, so it was only natural that Clay Algie, one of their key personnel, should be there for the Camerata graduation concert. Clay was knocked out by the then 13-year-old’s performance and how she effortlessly found her way around the fretboard of her guitar. Some time after the concert Clay approached Emma and asked if she would consider taking on a Fender endorsement and sponsorship. For a young lady who wants to follow in the footsteps of Keith Urban, becoming Australia’s premier female guitar player, it was a huge gesture from the big bloke from Fender. Last Tuesday, Emma and her family (proud parents Dave and Sharon, and sister Sarah), travelled to Sydney where Emma signed a contract with Fender Australia. She was presented with a new Fender Telecaster guitar, some other great Fender gear and can now look forward to lots of performance opportunities with her newfound sponsor in the future. As you can imagine, she’s over the moon, being given a chance like this at such a young age. (Emma turned 14 in August). To reach this stage, Emma has been an avid student, taking lessons with Brett Dallas at Tamworth Regional Conservatorium of Music and making sure she gets on-stage performance experience each month at the CCMA Showcase and Pub Jam. She’s performed at big shows in Sydney clubs and loves to be invited onto local stages, with her friends and fellow performers. Her father Dave said role models were very important in Emma and Sarah’s career, and it was wonderful that they had artists around to look up to and be inspired by. Emma and her sister Sarah’s love of country music has been nurtured along through the family’s membership of the Capital Country Music Association. Her parents are extremely supportive of both their daughters’ love and interest in country music. They both regularly compete in talent quests to hone their skills and receive feedback from judges, helping them along in their chosen career path. For Emma, Camerata was the catalyst that has led to this opportunity – and her association with one of this country’s most respected guitar companies. Keep watching this space folks. I hope to be reporting on Emma’s achievements for many years to come and look forward to watching her grow into a major star.

Troy with Tommy at the 2004 Tamworth Festival
 
AUSTRALIAN country star Troy Cassar-Daley has had a bigger year than most, expanding his profile even further with some exciting opportunities presented to him. When he started the year off picking up four Golden Guitars, he’d have to have known he was in for a biggie – but little did Troy know at the time just how big it would be. He and Home and Away star Kate Ritchie sang their way into the hearts of Aussies via the hit series, It Takes Two – and he’s been interviewed by everyone from Andrew Denton to cartoon host, David Tench, screened on Thursday night. Possibly the icing on the cake for this Grafton-born guitar slinger was getting the chance to tour America for three weeks with guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel. Tommy had invited Troy to tour with him some time ago, but because of a hectic schedule of performances and tours, promoting his highly acclaimed Essence album, Brighter Day, this wasn’t possible until just recently. Before the tour with Tommy, Troy described it as “the best three week guitar lesson I’ll ever get” – but it became so much more in reality. “The people over here in America just love Tommy. They worship at his feet, so it’s been such an amazing experience,” Troy wrote in an e-mail. By the Baton Rouge leg of the tour, Troy had received four standing ovations from five performances, so he was pretty chuffed, to say the least. “This is about having fun with one of the world’s greatest guitar players in a country where much of our collective musical roots come from,” Troy said earlier. “It’s not so much an attempt to break into the US market on a grand scale but rather gain some experience, get inspired and generally put my toe in the water over there.” I’d say he would have been well and truly “dunked” after 10 shows over three weeks, in theatres and festivals from Waco, Texas to Denver, Colorado and all points in between. Go you good thing!    Click here Troy Cassar-Daley Artist Report         Click here Tommy Emmanuel Artist Report
 
Understated man of words: Chris Callaghan is a great singer, songwriter and a top bloke.

FROM the opening bars of Big Picture Big Country on Chris Callaghan’s album, Outback Idle, it’s very apparent he’s a man who loves his country. You’ve probably seen Chris in Tamworth during the annual festival performing daily at Wests’ Diggers in the fine company of guitar picker extraordinaire (and very funny fella) Tim Rickards, outback singer Scotty Dawson and Tamworth’s own Stewie Hawthorne. Chris reckons Stewie not only organises their annual Tamworth shows on and off stage, but given a lagerphone solo, “he goes off like a frog in a sock”. But back to the album, you’re transported to the very heart of Australia with track two, In Alice Springs. Chris knows firsthand quite a bit about Alice, as he and Scotty have a residency at the Heavitree Gap Tavern Palm Circuit from May through to October, which is where you’ll find them both after their Tamworth shows in 2007. They play five nights a week, creating a real ambience for visitors to the Red Centre, and giving them an authentic taste of real Australian music in a laidback, easy listening style. There are 10 tracks on Outback Idle, from all of which you’ll get a real insight into Chris Callaghan, the man and the songwriter.
Earlier this year Chris toured Ireland and received a rousing reception from residents of the Emerald Isle, who were given that taste of Down Under, Chris Callaghan style. He’s not the sort of bloke to blow his own trumpet, but if the truth be told, there should be fanfare wherever Chris goes. He’s an absolute gem. Steve Newton of Enrec Studios, formerly of Tamworth, and now Epping in Sydney, produced, engineered and mastered Outback Idle and it’s a beauty. It’s cleanly recorded so Chris can faithfully reproduce that sound at live gigs. Steve will be on hand during the boys’ shows in January at Wests’ Diggers to record two shows for a live DVD and CD. You might remember their shows from several years ago in the front bar of the Good Companions Hotel, where the place was so packed you could hardly jam a sardine in sideways. The reason for the tight squeeze could well be their warm, sense of humour, and relatable songs. Whatever it was, Rod Laing recognised it and grabbed the boys three or four years back to play at Diggers on a daily basis, knowing he would pack out his venue, courtesy of the four, easy going blokes who draw audiences like bees to a honey pot. Make sure you check them out in January 2007 and see what I mean. You’ll love ‘em. In the meantime, visit Chris’s website, www.chriscallaghan.com.au , to catch up with his latest news.

Making a name for herself in the USA, Australia’s Natalie Howard. Photo: Joe Hardwick.

GOLD Coast singer-songwriter Natalie Howard is apparently making waves in the United States, as she is the featured artist in the 'Who's New' section of America's Country Weekly. September 25 edition. The article covers Natalie's new single, You Never Knew Me, on the US airwaves, her second #1 video clip on the Country Music Channel Top 30 Countdown. Interviewed by Country Weekly's Chris Neal, Natalie talks about how country music was introduced to her through her father's record collection and how she overcame her shyness to sing. She tells of getting her first trip to Nashville through a Regional Arts Development Fund grant and how Olivia Newton-John was her childhood idol and how much inspiration she gets from artists such as Keith Urban. Natalie was also featured in the 'New Artist Spotlight' section of the August/September issue of CMA Close-Up. CMA Close-Up is the official bimonthly publication of the American Country Music Association. “Her rousing performance in the Chevy Sports Zone at this year's CMA Music Festival was proof that this Australian import is definitely on the right track,” wrote Peter Cronin, in CMA Close Up Magazine. Natalie's current Australian single, I Can’t, which won her the MusicOz award for CMC’s Best Country Artist, has now been released to radio throughout Australia. The song was co-written by Natalie with Nashville songwriter Brian Maher (Lonestar/You're Like Comin' Home). This emotionally charged ballad showcases her unique style and vocal ability. Her previous Country Music Channel Top 30 Countdown #1 video clip and Country Tracks hit, You Never Knew Me, is included on The Best of Country Music Channel 2006 DVD and CD, released by EMI Music Australia.
Natalie's duet, The Long Night, with Nashville artist and top hit songwriter James Dean Hicks, won an honourable mention in the country category of this year’s International Songwriting Competition (ISC). It was co-written by Natalie with Tommy Lee James and Terry McBride. The video clip was Natalie's first #1 on the CMC Top 30 Countdown and the track was included on 2005’s The Best of CMC double CD released by EMI Music Australia. Natalie is the 2006 IMA (Independent Music Award) Country Song of the Year winner with her rockin’ country track, I Don't Want To Live Like That, which was released to USA radio and charted on The Music Row chart. Her video clip aired on Great American Country TV and CMT.com in the USA. CMA Week in Nashville was very successful for Natalie. She also performed at The Wildhorse Saloon, The Bluebird Cafe, In The Circle at The Country Music Hall of Fame plus other great venues. The fans loved her and came to her debut signing at the GAC (Great American Country) TV and Y'all Magazine booths. American Broadcasting Corporation TV interviewed her while signing at GAC booth. Natalie's album, Yesterday’s Makeup, is available from www.nataliehoward.net  and is distributed by MGM Distribution, One Stop Entertainment and now iTunes. You can also catch up on Natalie’s latest news by visiting her myspace page, http://www.myspace.com/nataliehoward 

Country Music Notes, Saturday September 23, 2006
Cam and Stu
 
Carter and Carter
 
 Mildura starters: Clelia Adams, Carter & Carter, Camille and Stuey French, Alex Watt
 
THIS weekend is the start of the mighty Mildura Country Music Festival – Australia’s premier showcase of independent artists. It kicked off yesterday with a swag of great music in venues all over the Sunraysia district. I haven’t visited Mildura for a few years, but my memories of it remain strong. Not only do you have a bunch of fun there, it’s just so well organised. There’s only a handful of people on the organising committee so that could be the secret. The highlight of the annual 10-day event in Mildura is the Telstra CountryWide Southern Stars Australian Independent Country Music Awards, staged on the final Saturday of the festival at the Mildura Arts Centre Theatre. Some of the artists you can enjoy in Mildura include: Clelia Adams, Victoria Baillie, Olive Bice, Owen Blundell, Billy Bridge, Carter & Carter, Nathan Charlton, Darren Colston, Costa Brothers, Tracy Coster, Tom Curtain, Sharnee Fenwick, Craig Giles, Peter Horan, Sandra Humphries, Jetty Road, Michael King, Neil McArthur, Michael O’Rourke, Alby Pool, Reg Poole, Peter Pratt, Graham Rodger, Roland Storm, Camille and Stuie French, Mark Tempany & Alison Hams, Rodney Vincent, Jeanette Wormald, Rob Wilson and flying the Tamworth flag, Alex Watt. That’s only a few of the acts on the program – so you’d best check the website to see what you’re missing out on. If you’ve never ventured to Mildura, you’ll discover it’s a beautiful city, and getting around all the venues, which are spread within a 50km radius of Mildura itself, you get to see some of the countryside. The best thing about Mildura is all shows are free as the artists are paid a fee by the organising committee and rostered to appear at a range of venues throughout the 10 days. It’s certainly well worth considering putting on your annual calendar of country events to attend. Find out more by visiting the website, www.milduracountrymusic.com.au

Alex Watt                                                     Clelia Cowgirl
 
IT’S rather a scary thought but the Tamworth Country Music Festival is only a mere 17 weeks away. It’s possibly not scary if you’re an avid country music fan counting down the sleeps but if you’re trying to complete your program of entertainers it can be a daunting concept. Trying to determine just who will draw the crowds to your venue from the hundreds of applications received is almost like a minefield – one bad choice and you’ve blown it! Spare a thought for the publicans, club managers, promoters and booking agents doing their utmost to ensure the country music loving public has the best time ever at Australia’s finest celebration of all things country. While festival time may be busy everywhere around town, the months leading up to it are just as busy and sometimes more stressful than the actual event itself. This year you can buy your tickets to some shows quite early. Tourism Tamworth will have a range of shows on sale on October 1 – and that’s just a week away. These tickets can only be purchased online during October, and from November 1, they can be bought over the counter, over the phone via credit card and also online. Wests’ shows also go on sale on November 1, so if you’re thinking of a great Christmas present – Christmas is a mere 13 weeks away and that is REALLY scary – concert tickets could be just the shot for stuffing some stockings for the “hard to buy for” people on your list.

Double header: One of Tamworth's favourite party bands, Well Primed, (pictured) will join with
The Rockerfellas to get Well Rocked on Sunday afternoon at Diggers, to aid St John Ambulance.
 
ST JOHN Ambulance will be the beneficiary of a gorgeous gig in Tamworth tomorrow afternoon. Two of the city’s favourite bands, The Rockerfellas and Well Primed, will combine their personnel for an afternoon of fun and fundraising at Wests’ Diggers from 3pm to 7pm. Last time these two bands got together, it was an absolute hoot, so they’re hoping for some more fun and games in Tamworth tomorrow. Get along and take the family. There’s no charge to get in, but they will be seeking donations during the afternoon for this very worthy cause. How many times have you been at a community or sporting event and witnessed firsthand these fabulous volunteers who save lives on a regular basis? Do your bit for St John and you’ll have a great afternoon getting Well Rocked.

Hot stuff: Travis List out front of his hot band in Tamworth 2006,
with Al Tomkins on bass and big Redd on lead guitar.
 
I HAD a call during the week from a young man who’s been living in Nashville for the past four months. Travis List spent six months in America last year and enjoyed the experience so much he headed back again this year. There might have been more to this magnetic attraction than just the concept of writing songs with some of the best writers in the States, as Travis married an American girl.
Since he’s been there, Travis has secured a publishing deal with Bobby Rymer though BMI. He’s heading back to Australia for a series of concerts in January, so there’s every chance you will catch up with him somewhere around Tamworth at festival time. Last year I had the good fortune of catching Travis at a gig in Legends Bar at Wests, and he had a red hot band behind him, including instrument maker supremo Alan Tomkins on bass and Canadian guitar virtuoso Redd Volkaert. It was a great show and the big crowd loved it. You can be assured of more of the same this year, although Redd may not be here. Redd’s trip to Australia was sponsored by Tomkins Guitars owner Alan Tomkins. I wonder if Al is bringing someone else wonderful Down Under next January? You can check out Travis’s achievements and latest news by visiting his website, www.travislist.com . He’s really enjoyed the songwriting aspects of his American experience, and this should show in his set list in January.
 
Country Music Notes, Saturday, September 16, 2006

 
Adam Harvey’s big voice and even bigger presence will help ensure
Quirindi’s big birthday bash goes off with a bang.
HAPPY 150th birthday to Quirindi – that pretty little town on the Liverpool Plains. The party is happening next weekend and they’re really going all out to celebrate the sesqui-centenary of the town’s discovery. Glenn “Real” McCoy, a Quirindi-ite who works with Rod Laing at Wests during the annual festival making sure all the outdoor venues are in order, was charged with the responsibility of securing entertainment for the bash. “Real” has come up with a great lineup, including Adam Harvey as the headliner, Sydney bands Jonahs Road and covers act Cameo, along with our very own Baileys band from Tamworth. It should be quite a hoot, with a street parade starting around 11am and the music starting in Anzac Square from 1pm ‘til late. If you haven’t visited Quirindi lately, do yourself a favour. It’s a gorgeous little town with a lot to be proud of. And if you don’t quite get enough entertainment on Saturday, you’d best head to the Quirindi racetrack on Sunday, September 24 where The Baileys will entertain in between races.

NEXT weekend is a busy one music-wise in the north and north-west, with some beautiful music featuring in even prettier surrounds. The Rotary Club of Tamworth First Light is hosting Music in the Botanic Gardens on Sunday, September 24 from 11am to 4.30pm. While it’s not country – you can be assured of some wonderful music in one of the nicest settings the Country Music Capital can offer. These gardens are tended by members of the community who just love to get their hands dirty, while selflessly doing something for their city. You can do something for the young people of your city too by simply attending, as all proceeds from the event will be directed to Youth Insearch, a wonderful organisation founded by Ron Barr in Sydney 21 years ago. Youth Insearch helps young people from troubled backgrounds get their lives back on track. Check out their website, www.youthinsearch.org.au and you’ll see what I mean. It’s just $10 admission for adults, $5 for pensioners and children 12 and over and children under 12 are admitted free. On hand to provide the music are talented young people from the city including Rob McDougall and other students from Oxley High and Tamworth High, Tamworth RSL Brass Band, Tamworth Regional Conservatorium Concert Band and the Tamworth Big Band. Renowned musician Di Hall is co-ordinating the musical side of proceedings so you can be assured it will be something special. Don’t miss this gig.

THIS weekend isn’t all that shabby in the Country Music Capital either, with famed soprano Annalisa Kerrigan in town for her annual concert for AFAP. While there’s nothing remotely country about this petite little package, she certainly has one of the most compelling, magical voices I’ve ever heard. Tickets are just $40 from Country Capital Newsagency for Sunday’s 2pm concert at Calrossy auditorium.

THEN there’s this afternoon’s concert in Bicentennial Park, which is the realisation of the late Anna Disher’s dream. Anna was a gifted violinist until her life was cut tragically short in an horrific road accident in 2005. Andrew Clermont loved to hear Anna play and discovered her talents at his supper club shows at North Tamworth Bowling Club and during the annual fiddle competition held during the festival. The event, Wake Up to Anna’s Dream, will be staged in Bicentennial Park Saturday from 1pm to 6pm. It will cost you just $10 to get in and enjoy all the music and fun. Proceeds will fund the employment of a Fusion youth worker for the city.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of our country artists who are finalists in the prestigious ARIA Awards. When you look at The Flood’s website, you may note that when the news of their Golden Guitar win is reported, along with other nomination activity, they make the tongue-in-cheek observation that they don’t have an ARIA in their collection. That may soon have to be amended as The Flood was named in the best blues and roots album category. Go you good things. Also in the country album category, you’ll find Anne Kirkpatrick Showman’s Daughter, Adam Brand What A Life; Catherine Britt Too Far Gone; Lee Kernaghan The New Bush; and Troy Cassar-Daley Brighter Day.

MONDAY night if you’re chasing some country in the capital, you don’t have to look far. The Australian Country Music Foundation in Brisbane St will feature local girlpower band, Those Gals at their Country in the Courtyard series.
During the warmer months, the event is held in the courtyard, but in chillier weather, they take the concert indoors to the warmth and cosy comfort of the Smoky Dawson Room. It kicks off at 6.30pm and will feature the host act, as well as other local performers on the night. You can enjoy a cuppa and some great company just by offering a gold coin donation to the ACMF.

NEXT Friday night Tamworth Services Club will present hot country band, Sovereign, free in the lounge from 8.30pm. You don’t get to see Sovereign in this neck of the woods unless it’s January, so if you’re a fan, best make tracks to the Servies. While Sovereign are doing their thing in Marius St, one of Tamworth’s favourite country sons, Brett Dallas, will present a night of superb country music at The Pub, along with his family band, Dirtwater. This band is composed of Brett’s brothers Jeff and Colin and Brett’s son Lindsay on bass guitar. Country is in the Dallas genes, as Brett’s beautiful daughter Ashleigh also appears as a special guest on the night, playing fiddle and singing. Who knows? The Dallas patriarch, Rex, may even turn up and sing a song or two.

WHATEVER music you listen to, make sure you enjoy it. It’s an absolute gift. See you next week.
 
Country Music Notes Saturday, September 9, 2006  Gympie Muster 2006 and Dale Duncan at Maitland Jail

Brush with the past: Dale filming the clip in Maitland Jail, with the haunting image of his late duet partner, Gordon Parsons, projected onto the wall behind him. Photo: Trent Southworth
 
TAMWORTH-based performer Dale Duncan spent a day in Maitland Jail this week – and he didn’t even commit a crime. Dale was in the fine company of award-winning film-maker Ross Wood, who was shooting Dale’s new videoclip to accompany his history-making new single, Malabar Mansion. Malabar Mansion is a song written by Dale’s father, Dave Duncan, which the late pioneer Gordon Parsons recorded many years ago. When he rediscovered the song just recently Dale sought out the services of award-winning producer Lindsay Butler, who produced the single as a duet with the late GP. “Dad and GP were mates and Dad used to travel around with him, singing and entertaining,” Dale said. “When it came to making the film clip, we decided on Maitland Jail as the setting. It’s really stark and quite haunting. We got there early and were taken on a 15-minute tour of the jail. It was pretty eerie, I can tell you.” Dale was able to obtain some rare footage of Gordon, courtesy of Selection Records’ boss, Eric Watson, which was woven in to the new clip, projected on to a wall behind Dale. Dale said he expects the clip to be completed in a week or so, so watch out on CMC. It should be on air very soon. Because of the historic nature of the recording, and its ties with GP, proceeds from the sale of Dale’s new EP, Back To The Future, will be donated to the Australian Country Music Foundation for the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. A launch for the new EP and special screening of the video clip will be held at LBS Studios, Tamworth, in early October.
Click here for Dale Duncan Artist Report Page
Easy on the ears: Karl Broadie knows how to craft a song and capture the listener’s attention.
 
LAST week I shared a few images of my three days at the Gympie Muster. It really is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. But be warned. Once you go, you’ll possibly become a Muster convert for ever. Karl Broadie was one of the acts I managed to catch a couple of times. His voice is something quite unique – it’s got that gravelly, throaty quality that really gets you in. And he’s a great songwriter too. Just have a listen to his Black Crow Callin’ album if you have any doubts. Karl’s great news is there is finally a video clip to accompany the title track of that album. Keep watching CMC and you’ll see it pretty soon.
Click here Karl Broadie Artist Reports Page
Go girl: Katrina Burgoyne did Gunnedah and Tamworth proud at the Muster, with her
stunning main stage performance.
 
I WAS really impressed with how Katrina Burgoyne presented herself at the Muster this year, as a follow-up to her big win in the Maton Talent Search at last year’s Muster. She had two shows on the Friday – one in the Muster Theatre and another later that day in the Bellbird Café – a songwriter gig. But when she took the main stage on Saturday afternoon at 2pm, she absolutely shone. Katrina recruited a top class band to accompany her on main stage – Chris Haigh (bass), Mitch Farmer (drums) and Michael Muchow on lead guitar. Not only did she deliver a powerhouse 45-minute set but she spoke glowingly of how thrilled she was to be there – and the reason for it. She encouraged everyone out in the audience who wanted to be an entertainer to enter the talent search, and expressed her gratitude to organisers for helping her get to the main stage.
The winner of this year’s Maton Talent Search was Tamworth Camerata 2006 graduate Sinead Burgess, who was sponsored locally by Nectar Body Care and Beauty on White. And it seems I wasn’t the only one impressed by Katrina at the Muster. Tim Holland, who writes a regular column for The Music Network, had this to say in the latest edition: “Of the many young up and comers performing at the Muster, I was most impressed with Katrina Burgoyne. She performed on the main stage courtesy of her talent search win the year prior. At just 18 she’s already a very polished performer and writer and I reckon she’ll be one of the artists to watch out for in the next couple of years.” You can see Katrina’s style firsthand at The Pub next Friday night. Showtime is 8pm. She will be joined by Aaron Bolton and special guest, Michael Muchow.
Click here Katrina Burgoyne Artist Reports Page
Country Music Notes Saturday, September 2, 2006
 Gympie Muster  2006
Tradition continues: The Webb Brothers, who started the Muster 25 years ago on their property Thornside,
were honoured at a special silver anniversary function on Saturday morning.
 
THE 25th annual Toyota National Country Music Muster was a “dam” fine affair with record crowds attending the now six-day event at the Amamoor Creek State Forest Park just outside of Gympie. The Muster’s silver jubilee celebrations incorporated numerous messages about the imminent damming of the Mary River, which would effectively wrench 900 families from their homes and livelihoods. Hand-painted banners were ubiquitous. They were like shopping trolleys, as Vic Lanyon once wrote. Everywhere you looked was a sign or a slogan, or a plea for help. Of the reported 70,000 Muster goers you would have to have been made of stone not to feel something for their plight – and that wasn’t just restricted to the punters, like me. From the Sensitive New Age Cowpersons, to Audrey Auld Mezera and the Two Songmen – Shane Howard and Neil Murray, songs were sung for Mary. Pour Me (Another Drink) came courtesy of the SNACs at their Muster Club gig on Friday night and Neil Murray and Shane Howard pulled out a few Aussie gems from their respective repertoires to “hail Mary” at their gig. Audrey Auld Mezera bowled me over with her moving rendition of the Patti Griffin song, Mary (about her mother) dedicating it to the river in peril. The similarities of the song with a mother nurturing her children drew haunting parallels to the plight of the men, women and children who depend on the river Mary for their very lives. If you’d like to find out the full story, visit www.savethemaryriver.com

DAM politics aside it was a fine and dusty Muster with barely a sprinkle of moisture from the skies and the music was very much in keeping with the weather – hot, hot, hot. The Sensitive New Age Cowpersons from WA are such snappy dressers and leave no popular song un-bluegrassed by the end of their action-packed shows. Each song was introduced with lead singer Jim Fisher’s tongue planted firmly in his cheek - “in the manner God intended it to be sung – bluegrass”.
 
Sensitive, snappy men of style: The Sensitive New Age Cowpersons – Adam (Doc Adams) Gare, Fred Kuhnl
(Stan Pede), ‘Calamity’ Jim Fisher and Ian ‘Kid’ Simpson -
were an absolute hoot at the 2006 Toyota Muster.
 
From ABBA, AC-DC, The Rolling Stones and Elvis to their Sound of Music medley, no tune was left without a sizzling banjo workout from Ian Simpson or those amazing four-part harmonies lashed with SNACs humour. Leaving the venue with aching stomach muscles, I knew this was to be one of the many highlights I would experience at the 2006 Toyota Muster. I had the good fortune to be on hand when the SNACs traded their fancy threads for blue singlets and t-shirts and showed their good christian upbringing at Sunday’s gospel show in the Muster Theatre. Frontman Jim would know firsthand lots about faith, as he shared some of his story with the audience at the conclusion of their set. Seven and a half years ago Jim received a liver transplant and said every day since had been an absolute bonus. Now ain’t that the truth? At that same show Clelia Adams brought me undone – and several others around me – with her beautiful take on gospel favourites Amazing Grace and Will The Circle Be Unbroken and the Bob Dylan-penned Forever Young.

Seen the light: ‘Those blokes who love to play bluegrass’ (sometimes known as the Sensitive New Age Cowpersons),
sang up a harmonious storm at Sunday’s gospel show.
 
MORE Muster highlights for you next week, folks. For now, enjoy a few of my happy snaps and don’t forget to tune in to ABC-TV’s Talking Heads program on Monday at 6.30pm. Anne Kirkpatrick is this week’s special guest.
 
Right at home: Troy Cassar-Daley made the Muster stage his own on Friday night, playing to a
massive crowd on the hill.
 
Serious business: Superb bass player Chris Haigh was in high demand at the Muster, playing in a number of
different lineups – and he showed his proficiency on acoustic guitar at one of Bill Chambers’ gigs over the weekend.
 
True blue Scot: Scottish-born Karl Broadie delivered some quality shows during the Muster –
this one was in the Grove on Friday night.
 
Old journos stick together: Former Leader sports diva Vinnie Todd found a spot on her rug for me to rest my
weary feet … and other bits.
Local Tamworth yokels: Kelly Nicholas and Louisa Trowbridge watching Troy Cassar-Daley on main stage
Friday night from their perch on ‘the hill’.
 
Country Music Notes Saturday, August 26th, 2006
TWO hugely successful Australian singer-songwriters will combine their talents and take to the road in September. Anne Kirkpatrick and Graeme Connors will appear in a series of shows titled appropriately, Two Of Us, beginning at Mt Evelyn, Sale and Hallam in Victoria. Both are widely respected “storytellers” who paint word pictures of the Australian landscape and its inhabitants. Audiences are in for a real treat, as this musical partnership will share songs and stories of their inter-related history in an informal atmosphere. Anne was born into the country music industry as the daughter of Joy McKean and Slim Dusty and life on the road was very much a part of her formative years. She first appeared on stage at age 10 with her parents on their travelling country show. With the release of Anne’s eighth album, Out of the Blue, in 1991, she secured an ARIA award and two Golden Guitars and was hailed as “a true revolutionary”. This year’s release from Anne, The Showman’s Daughter, is her first solo studio album since 1997 and it’s already earnt high praise for its authentic roots style.
Graeme Connors is a gifted songwriter who captures people, place, a mood and our hearts through his evocative lyrics and distinctive voice. Since his quite remarkable album North was released over a decade ago, Graeme has notched up some considerable achievements and introduced Australia to a whole heap of great songs of the heartland. He has achieved gold and platinum album sales, won 12 Golden Guitars, MO, APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association), ARIA and PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) awards and international accolades. Visit Graeme’s website, www.graemeconnors.com  to learn more about this dynamic pairing of iconic wordsmiths.

ANOTHER dynamic duo set to take the highways and byways on their How Wrong Is It? tour is Beccy Cole and Adam Harvey. Now this will be one seriously entertaining experience for those out front, as Beccy doesn’t know how to deliver an ordinary performance and Harvey is one of smoothest operators in the business. Together they’re simply dynamite. They have created a show which allows them to perform separately and also combine their extraordinary talents – which is a double bonus for the paying public.
Beccy is riding high in the charts with her new single, Poster Girl (Wrong Side of the World). It’s rather a sweet irony that Poster Girl has been such a hit for Beccy as it was inspired by a fan who literally ripped Beccy’s poster off their wall in protest at her going overseas to entertain Australian troops in Iraq, believing she was endorsing Australia’s role in the war effort. While not condoning Australia’s role in the Middle East conflict, Beccy said she felt such a sense of pride after meeting so many of our troops and wanted to convey that in her song. "When I returned from the Middle East earlier this year, I felt so proud of the Australian troops I had met,” Beccy said. “I was extremely inspired by these hard working and enthusiastic young Australians and I wanted to write a song that would pay tribute to them. I'm delighted that Poster Girl has reached the number one position, I hope I've been able to spread the pride.” It’s been top of the Country Tracks Top 30 chart for the past few weeks and the accompanying video clip held down the #1 position on the CMC charts.
Adam Harvey is no stranger to Australian audiences, having toured the length and breadth of the country on many occasions. And his trophy cabinet must be fairly weighty these days with all the awards he’s accumulated in recent years. His most recent accolade came from the Contemporary Country Music Coalition (CCMC), winning their Artist Excellence Award for his contribution to country music during 2005 when he ventured to Canada, the US and China. In his current role as ambassador for the Telstra Road to Tamworth 2007 talent search, Adam is kept pretty busy. Add to that his new single, Lady Lay Down, riding high in the charts, and life in Adam Harvey’s world is pretty hectic.
This tour with Beccy is sure to be lots of fun for the pair, who are good friends, and as Adam’s wife Kathy once laughingly commented: “Adam and Beccy are the male and female equivalent of each other”. Songs from Beccy’s new album, Feel This Free, and Adam’s Can’t Settle For Less, will no doubt get a good airing on this tour, so make sure you catch their act when they visit your neck of the woods. If you’d like to have a preview of the Poster Girl clip, it’s on Beccy’s website, www.beccycole.com and you can find out all about Harvey’s latest adventures by logging on to his site, www.adamharvey.com.au In September they’re performing at clubs in Revesby (Sydney), Bathurst, Dubbo and Condobolin. Then in October Beccy takes a break from touring to star at the CMAA Achiever Awards in Sydney before taking the road again with her mate, Harv.
AS you read this column I will have spent my second day at the Gympie Muster, having arrived on Thursday evening. Eight-time Golden Guitar winner Adam Brand will be whipping up a storm on main stage tonight, having just completed a tour of NSW accompanied by Felicity Urquhart. His new album, What A Life, was released in July and debuted on the ARIA country charts at #1 – a not so shabby entrée for the Dirt Track Cowboy. It remained in that spot for several weeks confirming Adam’s place as one of this country’s most popular and successful artists. Each of his previous four albums have achieved either gold or platinum status and his Built For Speed – Live in Concert DVD is also gold certified. I will have a full report for you with pictures next week after the party in the rainforest. Cheers!
 
Country Music Notes Saturday, August 19, 2006
HAVE you got a favourite driving album in your collection? It’s really important to make sure you take along some good music when you’re travelling on a lengthy road trip. After all, your selection of music (and company) could mean the difference between putting you to sleep and keeping you driving the miles. For the past few years I’ve been collecting The Best of CMC compilation CDs simply because they’re awesome. Sometimes you hear an album and it’s got an absolute standout track or a single you just can’t get out of your head. Well – these are the ones CMC puts on their annual two-disc set.
One disc is Australian artists and the second is the best of American country. Now my two sons, James, 11, and Jordan, 10, aren’t major country fans – they’re more into the head-banging variety of music – but even they enjoy … or perhaps tolerate is a better word … the CMC discs as we head on down the road. This year’s collection is a beauty, opening with Troy Cassar-Daley’s Lonesome But Free, followed by Beccy Cole’s hit, Better Woman. Then it just keeps on getting better and better, with hits from John Williamson, Adam Brand, Steve Forde and the Flange, Catherine Britt, Adam Harvey, Natalie Howard, Luke O’Shea and Medicine Wheel, Aleyce Simmonds, Travis Collins, Bill Chambers, Ronni Rae Rivers, Bill Chambers, Jake Nickolai, The Flood, The Sunny Cowgirls, Karl Broadie, Felicity Urquhart, Tania Kernaghan, Amber Lawrence and the closer, Harley Smith. That’s a whole heap of great Australian country that will take you at least 100km further along the road in fine style. Switch to disc two and Brooks and Dunn tell you to Play Something Country, which is the whole point of the exercise really, isn’t it? On the US side there’s also that gorgeous Joe Nichols’ song, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off, Cheatin’ from Sara Evans, Gary Allan’s Best I Ever Had, Brad Paisley’s Alcohol, You’re Like Comin’ Home from Lonestar, Something More from Sugarland and from that hunky Canadian who’s such a great friend of Aussies, Corb Lund – The Truck Got Stuck. This year there’s also a Best of CMC DVD with 40 fat tracks and they’re not all the same songs as on the two-disc CD. There’s some terrific offerings such as Trisha Yearwood (Georgia Rain), Jamie O’Neal (Trying To Find Atlantis), Samantha McClymont (Heart of a Man), Hot Apple Pie (We’re Makin’ Up) and Reba McEntire (Love Needs a Holiday). You’d better see if you can source out the previous editions of the CD when you go shopping. The 2005, 2004 and 2003 versions of CMC’s best are more than worthy additions to your collection, and give you that great mix of Aussie and American country.

WHILE you’re browsing through the racks of DVDs see if you can find Farm Aid. Farm Aid was a multi-artist fundraiser founded by Willie Nelson in 1985 and this DVD is footage of the 2003 Farm Aid concert. It features some of the biggest names in American music, including Brooks & Dunn (Red Dirt Road, Only In America); Hootie and the Blowfish (Only Wanna Be With You); EmmyLou Harris (Pancho and Lefty); Sheryl Crow (Steve McQueen, The First Cut Is The Deepest); Billy Bob Thornton (The Desperate One); Trick Pony (Pour Me); John Mellencamp (Stones in my Passway, Death Letter, Pink Houses); and the old long-haired, bearded outlaw himself singing classics such as Good Hearted Woman, If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time, Beer For My Horses and Whiskey River. There are 19 songs on the DVD, with five bonus tracks – pretty good value for just one disc.

WITH all the Johnny Cash hype since his death three years ago (concerts, movies and the like), I found there’s an excellent DVD on his life and times. It contains a lot of background on The Man In Black and some terrific songs he’s made famous over the years. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and can recall sitting in front of the TV set in Keera St, Bingara with my family, all of whom loved their country, watching Johnny Cash Live in Folsom Prison. It wasn’t all that long after TVs became a part of most Australian households, so that wasn’t yesterday but the memory is still very strong in my mind. The DVD is called Johnny Cash – The Man In Black and it’s released through MRA Entertainment. That label has some fabulous titles. Why don’t you get on their website, www.mraentertainment.com  and check them out. They’re available at your favourite music outlet.

THIS week I received a copy of Lorin Nicholson’s new album, Only You.
It’s the third album of guitar instrumentals from the former Tamworth-based remedial therapist, who is now taking his music far and wide. There are 12 tracks – and of those 12 there are five Lorin Nicholson originals in the mix. Very easy on the ears, I can tell you. Bet you’ve never heard a version of Classical Gas, like the one Lorin dreamed up with producer John Roy. It’s a beauty and gives new life to the old classic. There’s even a touch of country on it, as Lorin pays respect to Shorty Ranger with Shorty’s signature tune, Winter Winds. If it’s not at your favourite record store, visit Lorin’s website, www.seesharp.com.au  where you can purchase it online. You won’t be disappointed. It’s a gem.  Click here Artist Report Page
 
Country Music Notes,
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Travis Collins is one of the stars you'll find at this year's Muster.
 
Katrina Burgoyne will return to the Muster as part of her prize package for
 winning the 2005 Muster Maton Talent Search.
 
Camille Te Nahu and Stuart French have got a guernsey at this year's 25th anniversary Muster.
 
IN TWO weeks’ time, like thousands of Australians, I’ll be heading to Gympie for the 25th annual Toyota Muster. This job of mine really is a chore at times. Fancy having to go to one of the biggest and best country music festivals in Australia for four days and enjoy all that great music. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! A silver anniversary is a big occasion and this year’s event will have a touch of nostalgia, in keeping with the significance of the milestone. The blokes who started it off all those years ago – The Webb Brothers – Fabian, Berard and Marius, will be one of the final acts at the Muster this year. Following the Maton Muster Talent Search final on Sunday, The Webb Brothers will take the stage for a Back to Thornside concert. Thornside was the family property where the event began 25 years ago. And the music is starting earlier than ever now, with many acts taking to four stages from Tuesday, August 22, right through until Sunday, August 27 when all venues are operating at full strength. Lots of people ask me how Gympie compares to other festivals, but it’s quite different in that it’s all in the one area – not as spread out as the Tamworth or Mildura events. It’s virtually a mini-city within a rainforest – now that’s different, isn’t it?
Organising an event like the Muster is a feat of mammoth proportions, and it wouldn’t run without the huge voluntary army of Apexians, who donate their time and talents so the 50,000 or so Musterites can party ‘til the cows come home. With a great lead-up, the main activities commence on Friday, with all venues kicking in to high gear with the opening of the main stage at 6pm and the famed Crow Bar at 9.30pm. Big names, small names, different names – they’re all on the Muster’s comprehensive program. And you have to make some tough decisions. At any given time there could be seven or eight shows you really want to be at, so in that respect, it is a little like Tamworth in January. The good thing about the Muster program is that quite a few of the acts have more than one show, so if you miss them on one day, you’re bound to catch them the next. It just comes down to planning. There’s blues, dance shows, theatre events and so much more, you really should experience it for yourself, if you haven’t already.
Troy Cassar-Daley, Catherine Britt, Jimmy Barnes, Shannon Noll, Graeme Connors, Adam Brand, Lee Kernaghan, The Wolverines, Fargone Beauties, James Blundell, Sara Storer, The Sunny Cowgirls, and one of the most successful showbands of the 70s, 80s and 90s – Wickety Wak – return for the 2006 event. And that’s only some of the main stage artists. Gunnedah’s own Katrina Burgoyne will take to the main stage at 2pm Saturday, as part of her prize for winning last year’s Maton Muster Talent Search. Katrina is also performing in the Muster Theatre at 1pm Friday so if you’re up there, call in and say g’day. Some of the acts to take the Crow Bar stage include Travis Collins, Cat Southern, Steve Forde and the Flange, The Audreys and Pete Murray. Now that’s not too shabby, is it? The Muster Club features bush poets, singer-songwriters, bluegrass, bush bands and so much more including Pixie Jenkins, Cash Backman, The Davidson Brothers, Anne Kirkpatrick, Sensitive New Age Cowpersons, Topp Twins, Felicity Urquhart, Chad Morgan, Audrey Auld Mezera, Camille Te Nahu and Stuart French and Clelia Adams. If you want to take an active role in Muster activities, there’s always the Muster Dance Club where you can learn clogging, rock’n’roll dancing, line dancing, bush dancing and more from some of the best instructors in the business. Just watch out for that clogging – it’s very hard on the knees by the look of it. If you would like to have a peek at what the Muster’s all about, visit their website, www.muster.com.au  and you can see photos from the previous year’s event, and check out the full list of artists on the 2006 program. It’s probably one of those Normie Rowe things, you know. It’s one of those things all Australians should do at least once in their lives – visit Gallipoli, the Tamworth Country Music Festival AND the Gympie Muster. You will be caught up in the sea of Drizabones, Akubras and party-loving Aussies soaking up the entertainment at one of the best events you could ever hope to attend.

Sara Storer will test her music knowledge tonight on RocKwiz on SBS.
 
TONIGHT’S episode of RocKwiz on SBS will feature two famous Australians who are known to have a way with words. Multiple Golden Guitar winner Sara Storer and legendary singer-songwriter Archie Roach are this week’s stars. Sara and Archie will lead their respective teams in the usual rock trivia challenge and perform their own songs, along with a duet to close the show, which starts at 9.15pm. If you miss it or want to know more visit www.sarastorer.com.au  or http://www20.sbs.com.au/rockwiz/ .

Flood alert: The Flood will play at The Pub in Tamworth on Friday, August 18.
 
FLOOD victims take note. If you would like to book a table for next Friday night’s gig at The Pub, you can only do so if you’re eating dinner. Phone Tara on 0439 605 843. Otherwise you’ll have to take your chances and hope for a seat like the rest of us
 
Country Music Notes, Saturday, August 5th, 2006
Audrey Auld Mezera: From Tassie to Texas, California - and back home again.
 
WHAT do you get when you take a girl from Tasmania, place her in northern California and add some American country and folk into the mix? Audrey Auld Mezera, who is this year’s winner of the MerleFest Chris Austin Song Contest. Audrey is coming to Australia later this month for an extensive tour that will see her cover a lot of territory and take in some pretty exciting gigs – from the Gympie Muster to Harrigan’s Irish Pub at Pokolbin and the Scully Room at SouthGate Inn, where she will perform on Thursday, September 7. The two-time ARIA nominee is coming home to promote her new album, Lost Men and Angry Girls – a follow-up to the highly successful Texas.  Audrey describes it as “Ameri-kinda music” – traditional American country and folk, with Australian roots. Produced by Bill Chambers and recorded in Australia, the album chronicles the past two and a half years Audrey has spent living on the coast of Northern California, near San Francisco. “My writing has evolved to be less about the state of my heart and more about the path we all share as human beings in this time of great political upheaval and global imbalance,” Audrey said. “I'm living in Hippy Central, California, but it's still the Wild West. The San Andreas fault line runs through our living-room, onions are a fashion accessory, the cops wear bullet-proof vests, the wealthy look ‘homeless’ and you can give and get whatever you want from The Freebox. There's got to be a song in that!” Audrey tours internationally and has performed and/or recorded Fred Eaglesmith, Buddy Miller, Kim Ritchie, Jim Lauderdale, Bill and Kasey Chambers, Tom Russell, Charlie Louvin, Nina Gerber, Kimmie Rhodes, Carrie Rodriguez, Kieran Kane, Mary Gauthier and Dale Watson. Gabe Meline, a music journalist from the North Bay Bohemian, in California, wrote of Audrey in this way: “She not only sounds like she grew up on Music Row in Nashville, but she writes the kinds of songs that built Music Row in the first place. Second to her songwriting is her expressionistic phrasing, something that Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin share.” That’s not a bad wrap for a little Tasmanian devil, making her mark in the music world on the other side of the globe!
When she arrives in Australia, there will be another international component to her act – a trio from Finland called Hoedown. On a 2005 European tour, Audrey met up with the Finnish threesome and worked extensively with them. Hoedown formed in 2001 with their foundation a common love for roots music. Sweet harmonies are a feature of Hoedown’s overall presentation as they play the music of Jackson Browne, Dixie Chicks, Little Feat, Kasey Chambers, JJ Cale, Julie Miller and their own originals thrown into the mix. Hoedown’s beautiful singer, fiddle and accordion player is Ninni Poijarvi, who has released two solo albums. Then there’s Mika Kuokkanen, who goes by the artist name of Khane.  Khane is a singer-songwriter and is no stranger to urban and sharp edged rock. His acclaimed solo debut Khane enjoyed rave reviews and a new solo album is imminent. Olli Haavisto, who plays pedal steel, lap steel and mandolin is legendary in his homeland as the professor of stringed instruments, the no-nonsense master of roots music and guru of pedal and lap steel. His 30-year career was crowned with a brilliant solo album, Music For Bus Stops, in 2002. It should be quite an experience to see Audrey and Hoedown bring their internationally flavoured tunes to the land down under. Tickets for their performance in the Scully Room of SouthGate Inn on Thursday, September 7, are priced at $12 and will be available at the door, on the night. If you would like to check out the full tour itinerary for Audrey Auld Mezera and Hoedown, visit the Reckless Records website, www.recklessrecords.com

Young man on the move: Brett Clarke has set his sights on a berth at the 2007 CMAA College of Country Music before he competes in the national final of the Telstra Road to Tamworth talent search.
 
A FEW years back I reported on a young man who’d won a karaoke competition – Brett Clarke. I was delighted to receive an e-mail from Brett recently telling me he’d won the Dubbo heat of the Telstra Road to Tamworth (TRTT). Brett began his career on Kim Adams’ karaoke stage and it was wonderful to learn how far his journey had progressed. Since his early karaoke days, Brett has gone on to perform with some terrific acts, including Col Finley, Donella Waters, Those Gals, Brian Young and Brian Howard, all of whom have been very encouraging and supportive of Brett’s abilities and talent. One of the turning points for Brett was taking the road with the Brian Young Show in 2005, where he learnt how to entertain any audience and adapt to all manner of performance situations. On this tour he shared the stage with Toyota Star Maker winner Cat Southern, Nashville Songsearch winner Shandell Tosoni, singer-songwriter Wayne Law, tour manager/lead guitarist Darren Howard, bass player Micah Reimers and drummer Dave Thompson. “While on tour with the Brian Young Show I learnt how to keep in time and beat and to write my own songs,” Brett said in his e-mail. “While in Katherine, NT, I wrote my first song, called Movin’ On. A year later I have written more than 20 songs, so that experience certainly inspired me and got me on the right track.” In 2006 Brett entered the TRTT, trying out at the Moree heat, where he was beaten by Katrina Burgoyne. Not to be deterred, Brett kept at it and travelled to various places to enter the nationwide talent search. This paid off for him a few weeks ago when he took out the Dubbo heat of the TRTT. Brett has applied to enter the 2007 CMAA Australian College of Country Music, to hone his skills prior to the big finals event of TRTT in January 2007. Before that happens, Brett has been gaining exposure in the media, being interviewed on various radio stations, and has been writing more songs, and performing every chance he gets. Good luck to Brett in his quest to take out the TRTT. He’s going to be up against some amazing competitors from right around the country when they meet in Tamworth next January. If you’d like to know more about Brett, visit his website, www.brettclarke.net .
 
Almost sold out: You’d better move it if you want to get tickets
for Dwight Yoakam’s Blame The Vain concert tour of Australia.

Dwight Yoakam  
 
CONGRATULATIONS Tamworth! You are amazing. The Dwight Yoakam concert at TREC on November 5 is all but a sellout. When tickets went on sale on Monday Tourism Tamworth staff had rarely seen anything like it before. By the time lunchtime rolled around, a whopping 1400 tickets had exchanged hands! You champions! You realise now that this would have to be a major sign to any promoter considering bringing an international act to town that it just has to be someone we want to go and see, so the floodgates could well be opening. And it’s about time. Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre is a wonderful venue and should be utilised much more often than it is presently for touring acts. And it wasn’t just Tamworth that responded so warmly to the bloke who sings all about guitars, Cadillacs and hillbilly music – Melbourne loves him too. While Tourism Tamworth staff were attempting to field the avalanche of phone calls and over the counter ticket sales, within an astonishing 60 minutes Melbourne’s Palais Theatre sold out at 3000 seats – and now a second Melbourne show has been put into the itinerary. Can you believe it? There are more hillbillies in the Victorian state capital than there are in the Country Music Capital – and they’re all going to see Dwight. Elsewhere around Australia the public has warmly embraced the man who burst onto the country scene in 1986 making no apologies for his take on the wild side of country. Country Music People magazine said of Dwight: “… only country’s greatest showmen have toyed so boldly with the genre while simultaneously sounding like such purists.” But that’s all part of his charm. It’s the way he moves. His whole attitude is just bigger than Texas. Dwight’s Australian publicist Chrissie Camp is absolutely delighted with sales right around the country. Chrissie knew she had to get the word out and no expense was spared to promote Dwight’s tour down under.
“He has one of the silkiest voices this side of George Jones, one of the funkier hip swaggers since Elvis and a crack band that will make any one of you get up to bust a two-step,” wrote Outside Left Magazine. Nationwide the results have been very positive – with Sydney close to a sellout, and the possibility of a second show being added; Wollongong, Newcastle, Toowoomba and the North Queensland shows all selling strongly. He is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and influential superstars of country music. It’s little wonder he’s sold more than 23 million albums worldwide. He holds a unique place in the country music world. Shunning the traditional home of country, Nashville, he cut his teeth in Los Angeles playing as many rock’n’roll clubs as country bars. His debut, the brutally retro Guitars, Cadillacs Etc Etc, blew Nashville apart and sold two million copies. Rather than riding on traditional country coat tails, right from the get-go Yoakam honed his own style with Telecaster guitar leads and sharp, rock-flavoured rhythms. His influences come from pop, punk, soul, swing and honky tonk and his stylish image and sassy rock’n’roll attitude was just the shot in the arm country needed. Hits like Honky Tonk Man, Streets Of Bakersfield, Little Ways, Little Sister, A Thousand Miles From Nowhere and Ain’t That Lonely Yet, have seen Dwight fearlessly stretch country’s boundaries, securing his stature among country’s elite. He’s achieved a staggering 21 Grammy nominations, earning praise from the likes of Time Magazine, hailing him as “a renaissance man”, Rolling Stone noting “he has no contemporary peer” and Vanity Fair proclaiming “Yoakam strides the divide between rock’s lust and country’s lament”. And it’s not only the music world that has taken to this modern day James Dean. He’s also secured major roles in movies, The Three Burials (written and directed by Tommy Lee Jones), Bandidas (starring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz), and delivered a great cameo in the Vince Vaughan/Owen Wilson movie, The Wedding Crashers. Since his acting debut in Nicolas Cage’s Red Rock West, he’s appeared in Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade, The Panic Room, The Newton Boys and South Of Heaven West Of Hell (which he wrote and directed), amongst others. Dwight is so impressed with Blame The Vain, his first album of new music since 2003, he’s taken his band to Europe, where they will be touring for the next three weeks, before heading back to the States. Then it’s full on touring and promoting the disc until he arrives here in October. A huge vote of thanks to promoter Andrew McManus for having the faith to bring this star down under – and more importantly – to bring him to Australia’s Country Music Capital. Let’s hope Dwight’s sellout success is a big indicator to other promoters that Tamworth audiences do love their country. If you haven’t already got your ticket, don’t let any grass grow under your feet, or you could well be seeing the “sold out” sign hung at Tourism Tamworth – or at your local ticket outlet. If you’d like to keep up with Dwight’s latest activities, visit his website, www.dwightyoakam.com .

DON’T forget to tune in to Southern Cross Ten today Saturday at high noon for State Focus, where Felicity Urquhart will be interviewed and perform a song from her stunning My Life album.
 
Country Music Notes Saturday July 22, 2006

Jedd at Tamfest 2005
 
Chasing that dream: Jedd Hughes is a fine example of a young man on his way to the top, and – he has the stickability, talent and dedication required to get there.

A LITTLE while ago I wrote a piece for Capital News on a group of young stars making a name for themselves in country music. One of my subjects was Jedd Hughes, a young man born in South Australia, who is now living and working on a professional country music career in America. Jedd had some fairly insightful answers to a list of questions I posed him, which didn’t quite make the deadline for the original article, but they’re more than relevant reading for anyone aspiring to a career in country music. Like many others, Jedd began his on-stage performing at talent quests, and found it a great starting point where you could get feedback and experience. He competed for around seven years on the talent quest circuit and said talent quests were a great place to meet other kids who loved music as much as he did. “Coming from a somewhat remote place, it was really inspiring and fun to play music with people my own age,” Jedd said. But there are no “secrets” to success, as you’d imagine there could be – it all comes down to hard work, with the emphasis on really hard work. Jedd has had many memorable moments since moving to the US, and one of the highlights was touring Europe with Rodney Crowell. “Another one of my most favourite moments was playing the Greek Theatre in LA on the Down From The Mountain Tour with Patty Loveless in front of my mum and dad,” Jedd said. Just imagine how proud Lil and Glen would have been sitting there, knowing the investment they’d made in their son’s future – was paid in full. Like many parents, Lil and Glen have encouraged, nurtured and assisted him in his goal to make a career out of music. They have driven the miles and paid the price, and were always there to support and cheer him on every step of the way. Unless you’re a parent of a child who’s musically gifted, you probably can’t really comprehend the feeling Lil and Glen experienced in that audience, watching Jedd on stage. For Jedd to reach that point, he spent many months on the road, touring and making sure the stranger from down under became a familiar face to US audiences. However that’s not quite as glamourous as it may sound – because when you’re out there doing it, there are many sacrifices you have to make along the way. “Touring is bloody hard work when you’re starting out,” Jedd said. “You have to make sure you really like everyone you’re working with because you’re basically all living together for most of the year.” And when you’re on the road, night after night, town after town, there’s not much time to spend with the people you love. “Being able to achieve that balance between your personal and professional life is something that comes easier with success, as you become a little more in control of your time,” Jedd said. “I find it very hard to make both work. It can also be hard to find someone who understands the massive amount of time it takes.” Right now though, Jedd’s immediate goal is to make a great album for Capitol Records – and this is a project he’s totally immersed in. He’s a young man who has always had big dreams – and now he’s showing everyone who’s ever had faith in him that he has the stickability to achieve those aims. Jedd has been inspired by many people in his life, beginning with his supportive family, but it was a fellow South Australian who inspired him initially to take the road less travelled. “Bill Chambers was the first guy I really wanted to be,” Jedd said. “The Dead Ringer Band really encouraged me a lot and I got to hear about a lot of cool artists through them, like Steve Earle. Now, Tom Petty is my all time fave.” Keep an eye out in your favourite record store for Jedd’s new album, which should be an absolute stunner, if Trans Continental is any yardstick to go by. For the past week or so Jedd has been on the road with fellow Aussie star Keith Urban. After months of songwriting in preparation for the new album, Jedd jumped at the chance to get out on the road for an enjoyable tour with his good mate, Keith. Check out Keith’s website to see some of the territory they’re covering. You can find out more about Jedd’s road to success by visiting his new website, http://www.myspace.com/jeddhughes

BILL Chambers, the bloke Jedd “wanted to be”, has been doing the miles and keeping busy at home when not touring with his new Frozen Ground album.
In his studio this week, Bill is producing an album for Australian country music pioneer, Rick Carey. At 79, Rick is singing better than ever, according to Bill, and the album is shaping up beautifully. The procession of special guests coming in to the studio to join Rick should make for a wonderful finished product. It is anticipated the album will be launched during the 2007 Tamworth Country Music Festival.

AS a postscript to last week’s column featuring Troy Cassar-Daley, I had a lovely email from Troy during the week. Troy said he and Kate Ritchie were having a ball on It Takes Two and said Tamworth gave Kate something special that night which she was able to carry into the competition. “It just goes to show the place [Tamworth] still is very special to me and others who venture there,” Troy wrote in his email. Make sure you tune in on Sunday night to see what song they will do next. It seems Kate has really found her voice and is shedding many of the nerves she experienced in the first couple of episodes and letting her hair down. Didn’t she make a great “rock chick” with that AC/DC number? And don’t forget to vote. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they won it?
 
Country Music Notes, Saturday, July 15, 2006
Photos Courtesy of Peter Lorimer
Intimate experience: Troy, Damian, Luke and Kate on The Pub stage for Troy's Up Close and Personal concert, singing Jackson – the duet they performed on It Takes Two
a few weeks back. Photos: Peter Lorimer.
Troy Cassar-Daley and Kate Ritchie
 
 
That’s gold: Nick Erby presents Troy with a gold record for Long Way Home achieving
huge sales in Australia,  as Kate Ritchie looks on.
Backstage: Rehearsing for the cameras – in the band room at The Pub, just prior to showtime.
Kate was nervous about singing, but said later on It Takes Two, it was “the best thing I ever did in my life, playing to that audience in Tamworth”.
*****
FREQUENT flyer Troy Cassar-Daley gave – and then gave some more last week when he jetted into Tamworth for the Hats Off to Country Festival. I say frequent flyer because Troy certainly clocked up some miles to get here and then put in thousands of air miles before appearing on It Takes Two on Sunday night in Melbourne. When he arrived in the Country Music Capital last Friday for his Up Close and Personal concert at The Pub, Troy showed his new friend, Kate Ritchie, around the town he loves to call home each January. They went to the Big Golden Guitar and saw his wax likeness, did some filming for It Takes Two, and then wandered out to The Pub for sound check around 7pm.
The place was packed from the afternoon show – The Young Balladeers – and the room had to be cleared so preparations could begin for Troy’s only concert of the Hats Off festival. This was no mean feat – and once the Music Room was cleared Troy jumped up on stage in that familiar scenario, tuning his guitar, running through a few songs making sure the sound was just right. Behind the control panel was an old mate of Troy’s – Greg Brown, from Tamworth – son of Beryl and the late Geoff Brown – Gentleman Geoff. By the time that room filled with almost 300 patrons, Greg had the sound nailed so none of those in the room missed a word or an utterance from the stage.
Aleyce Simmonds’ half-hour set was the perfect entrée to the main meal – Troy up close and personal. For each and every person in the room, it was certainly an intimate experience with Troy, almost like sitting in his loungeroom or over the kitchen table, as he delivered song after song and explained the meaning of most of them in his off the cuff introductions. Troy is very much at home performing at The Pub. He’s usually on hand each year for Stuey French’s VB Pickers’ Night, along with a lot of his mates in the industry who love the atmosphere that’s in the walls and floorboards of the Gunnedah Road hotel.
One of the surprise elements of the night was the appearance of his on-screen duet partner, Kate Ritchie, who wasn’t sure at sound check if she would have the courage to get up and sing to the capacity audience. With just two players behind him – Damian Whitney on drums and Luke Austen on bass, it was a stripped-back, acoustic sound, and Troy was in his element – singing songs for the people who love them. Rhonda Astill, from the Hunter Valley, was in the audience and was waiting for “her” song – The Red Headed Stranger, which Troy had performed live on John Nutting’s Saturday Night Country a few weeks earlier. Rhonda didn’t know it at the time, but it was a song that had significant meaning for the woman on the door – me.
Around 25 years ago I was a huge Willie Nelson fan and his Red Headed Stranger album was one of the most-played vinyls in my collection. Troy gave Damian and Luke the opportunity to grab a cool drink while he delivered the song with just his guitar and a whole heap of emotion that comes from studying and loving the music since childhood. In around 1980-81, I can clearly remember approaching the Goodtime Band at Dominoes Nightclub, where they held a Thursday night residency, and asking each band member if they knew the Willie Nelson song that had become my favourite. Only one member of the band knew it – and was keen to learn the words for the fan in the audience – and that was Jazzer Smith, my late husband. Twenty-five years later I’m still a fan in the audience – and still loving the music I grew up with, only now I have the privilege of writing about it.
You could say Troy’s song choice was ideal for evoking wonderful memories – but then again, each of the songs had special meaning to someone sitting out there in that room. After the show ended, not one person left feeling sad. They were all smiling and pleased they had been there for that magical experience. Troy signed autographs, CDs, photos and chatted to fans before heading home to his Tamworth accommodation for a quick sleep, before boarding an early flight out for Melbourne. It was Saturday morning and he had rehearsals for It Takes Two. Following rehearsals Troy hopped on another plane, from the bottom of Australia to the top – bound for Cairns, where he and his band performed at a big show that night. Sunday morning a weary Troy jumped on board another plane and returned to Melbourne for the It Takes Two live show.
To hear him and Kate sing as wonderfully as they did and to gain the top score of the series was something special after the week Troy had put in – and the miles he’d travelled. I’m just delighted he agreed to be part of Hats Off to Country at The Pub – and there’s about 300 others who would wholeheartedly agree with me on that score. Thanks to Gunnedah photographer Peter Lorimer for his gorgeous pictures of the night. Photos of this and other Hats Off shows can be found at www.tamworthragepage.com

SOMETHING well worth a second viewing recommences at Tamworth’s Regent Cinema this Thursday – the Neil Young movie, Heart of Gold. Grant Lee from the Regent said the film ran for a week and was due to be sent on to other cinemas, but the public, who were busy over Hats Off seeing live shows, were keen to see the much talked about concert made by Young last August at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Paul Byrnes, in the Sydney Morning Herald, described the film as “an absolute stunner, a poised, almost hypnotic summation of what makes this man one of the greatest who ever picked up a guitar”. I reckon it’s worth catching, when you factor in EmmyLou Harris and that great band. Don’t miss this film.
 
Country Music Notes, Saturday, July 8, 2006
Gina and Dad 'Graham'
 
WELCOME to Tamworth for Hats Off to Country – the coolest little festival around! With an abundance of free and paid shows all over town, the choice is yours. Grab a program from Tourism Tamworth and go for it. Hope you have a lovely time in the Country Music Capital – and come back and visit us again soon. If you’re a local, get out there and enjoy this midyear feast. It beats staying at home watching the telly!

IT’S been an amazing week musically in this fair city. The fifth annual Tamworth Camerata concluded on Thursday night with a fabulous concert in Blazes at Wests. Twenty-two young people, aged 10 to 18, from Australia and New Zealand spent six days learning how to pursue their country music career from the very best in the business.
And it wasn’t only the students who were on the receiving end of lessons. Each student was accompanied by at least one parent, and each day there were sessions for the parents to hit the books, with a range of excellent speakers lending their expertise.
One speaker who had a phenomenal impact was Gina Jeffreys’ dad, Graham Hillenberg. Graham spoke purely from a parent’s perspective – straight from the heart – giving a warm, humorous and at times, very emotional viewpoint from the father of Australia’s first female true country music superstar.
He spoke about the early days of Gina’s career, when she played small gigs for little money, and a great yarn about when Gina played at a wedding. Apparently it was the first gig Graham and Nola hadn’t been able to attend, so determined to see her daughter sing, Nola stood on Graham’s shoulders outside the church, peering in the window.
With no one else in the family being musical, all Gina had to go on was the unfailing belief, love and commitment of her family, who told her from the start she could do anything. “We didn’t have a family history, like the Kernaghans, or the Dustys, so we were really quite green,” Graham said.
“What we lacked in technical knowledge we made up for in belief and enthusiasm, so by the time we brought Gina from Toowoomba for Star Maker in 1991, we had her convinced she would win it. Then when we saw the competition up against her, we really felt we’d thrown her to the wolves – but as it turned out, she won it.”
The next step for the Hillenberg family [Gina was Hillenberg when she won Star Maker, but changed her name to Jeffreys, after her brother Jeffrey], was letting their little girl make the move to Sydney. At that point 22-year-old Gina had been living at home with her family so she wasn’t about to go anywhere without mum, so Nola left her two hairdressing salons in Toowoomba and went with Gina to the big smoke.
“Nola literally scrubbed floors to ensure Gina was able to stay in Sydney for that initial six months,” Graham said. “Then for the next three years we scrimped and saved, sending her $5 notes in the mail with letters from home and bags of food to keep her going.”
One of the greatest blessings, according to Graham, was surrounding Gina with good people, starting with her manager, Doug Trevor. Allowing another person to “take control” of their much loved daughter was a wrench, but after giving Doug a real “grilling” and then checking on his credentials, Graham found no one had a bad word to say about him, and that partnership has lasted 15 years to date.
“We fell on our feet, unguided, finding Doug Trevor. I once had the very naïve idea I could manage her, but thankfully we discounted this very early on,” Graham said. “I firmly believe good people attract good people – and that continued to be the case, with Gina finding the right agents and promoters, then finally, finding her future husband, Rod McCormack.”
Camerata parents were moved to tears, at times, as the father’s love was so apparent in every word he said, which they could relate to on such a personal level. He spoke of the bad times, as well as the good, and how the show must go on, even when your heart is breaking, or when you become ill before a gig. That’s all part of the big picture of being a country music star.
From the experience he has gained over the past 15 years, Graham said he felt he could spot who was going to make it and who wasn’t, as he could easily identify “the X factor”. “If your child has that all consuming passion to be a star, there’s every chance they will achieve that goal,” Graham said. “Now, with such things as Camerata, it will make the road so much easier than it was for us. It was a real learning curve back then.”
Following Graham’s talk, there were many questions from the floor, but one parent summed up what everyone there had been feeling. Graham said at one point he didn’t know where Gina’s talent came from, but Daryl Chaplain, of Mareeba, Queensland, said he knew its source. It came from the unswerving love, devotion and belief her parents had instilled in her, which drew a huge round of applause – with most people diving for the tissues.
Thanks to all the guests, tutors and musicians who so generously and willingly gave of their time and expertise. The country music stars of the future will remember your contribution for many years to come.
 

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