C.W. Stoneking at the Coogee Bay Hotel

I was surprised in London last year by the old-time blues sound of Australian musician C.W. Stoneking. Earlier this year I bought one of his albums. Now Stoneking’s touring Australia, and I caught his Sydney show last night.

It was at the Coogee Bay Hotel. I’d not been to this pub before, but I’ve since learned it recently distinguished itself as the second most violent pub in New South Wales. Luckily for us the several sprawling rooms of the hotel were peaceful last night; or perhaps we bailed before the fisticuffs kicked off.

The first act was American banjo troubadour Al Duvall. His songs were old, moaning jazz, but telling funny stories. Anyone who throws in a kazoo solo now and then is tops in my book, so I liked Al. Although most of us were still socialising at this early stage there were others who liked what Al was doing too.

C.W. Stoneking brought the same authenticity as when I saw him the first time. He and his Primitive Horn Orchestra ran through all sorts of old swing blues, calypso, jungle music, and country jazz. It’s all played so smartly and so honestly that it never feels like it’s approaching parody. They played “Jungle Lullaby”, “Dodo Blues” (with a dig at the Dutch), the funny “Talkin’ Lion Blues”, “Brave Son of America”, “Jailhouse Blues”, “Goin’ Down the Country”, “Rich Man’s Blues” and more. They wisely kept the upbeat songs until towards the end, which kept the crowd lively.

My highlights were the two songs of his I enjoy most: “Don’t Go Dancin’ Down The Dark Town Strutters’ Ball” and “The Love Me Or Die”.

Stoneking only has one more Australian show at the moment – tonight in Brisbane – then he’s off to the UK and the rest of Europe. It seems he’s becoming something of a name there.

Here’s a video from the performance where I first saw him in London last year, and which contains the two favourite songs I mentioned above.

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Dead Letter Chorus loves Canada (and Canada loves them back)

It’s an Australian-Canadian love connection.

Some months ago Sydney band Dead Letter Chorus left warm Australia to do a chilly 6-week tour of Canada. Apparently they had a very good time. They met some local bands and wrote some songs for their next album, including one called “Covered By Snow” (you can hear it on their MySpace page). Hmm, not seeing the Canadian connection at all.

I heard some DLC tunes when I first moved here last year and liked them a lot. I caught them live at the Newtown Festival, but didn’t think their sound fit in well with the rest of the acts that day (plus, it was raining). I’d like to see them live in a more appropriate venue.

DLC are back in Oz now. But they had such a good time in the Maritimes, in my home province of Nova Scotia, and especially the northern city also named Sydney, that there’s a “Sydney-to-Sydney” exchange going on. Their Canadian touring partners, Two Hours Traffic, and Nova Scotian songwriterCarmen Townsend, are Down Under to return the favour. Isn’t that excellent?

I learned about this when I heard Townsend guesting on fbi radio‘s Tuesday noon cover-version show, Tune Up. It was a great setlist, mostly picked – and played – by Townsend.

(1) Rheostatics – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot) [Ed.: EPIC!]
(2) Carmen Townsend – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
(3) Thom Yorke – After The Goldrush (Neil Young)
(4) The White Stripes – Jolene (Dolly Parton)
(5) Fiona Apple – Across The Universe (The Beatles)
(6) Carmen Townsend – Nothing Compares 2 U (written by Prince, popularized by Sinead O’Connor) LIVE AT FBI
(7) Bjork and PJ Harvey – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
(8) Ray Charles – Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
(9) Jason Walker – I Wish I Were Blind (Bruce Springsteen)
(10) Carmen Townsend – Stolen Car (Rheostatics) LIVE AT FBI
(11) The Weakerthans – Bad Time To Be Poor (Rheostatics)

Because of all of the above I’m feeling much love for the country of my birth (Canada) and my country of residence (Australia). Isn’t it nice when we all get along?

There are a couple of tour dates left: you can see them here.

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Iotah

I heard of Iotah last week on triple j. They’re four school kids – and sisters – from Victoria. They sound too good to be so young. They’ve obviously got a love for classic rock. They’re not trying to be fancy or gimmicky, either, with a straightforward shuffling rock and clear, energetic vocals.

Songs can be heard at triple j; songs and live videos can be found on theirMySpace. The live recordings aren’t in the best quality, but give them a chance and listen to the MP3s.

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Bears

When I announced my intention to move to Australia it began: people warning me – as if I didn’t know – about all the deadly animals that exist here. You’d have thought that blue-ringed octopi were waiting around every street corner, the way people expressed their trepidation.

The fact is that Aussies take it all in stride. They’ve grown up knowing about these beasts. Most of these animals are extremely rare, or – like box jellyfish or saltwater crocodiles – usually easily avoided. Some, like the redback spider, aren’t all that dangerous: no one’s died from a redback in decades because of antivenin availability.

I’ve been amused to find, though, that several Aussies who have pooh-poohed concerns about these animals say to me, “Yeah, but you grew up in a country that has bears.” The thought of coming across a bear in the woods genuinely scares some people here, including a guy I know who has bow-hunted massive wild pigs.

And so the shoe was on the other foot. I probably saw more bears growing up than most people would; I think I’ve spotted about 4 or 5 in the wild. All of them walked or ran away as soon as they spotted me. Most Canadians would never see a wild bear. They don’t scare me at all, though I’m smart enough not to try to approach one, either. I know the old “they’re more scared of you blah blah” holds true. I don’t know anyone who was ever mauled by a bear.

And that got me thinking – and reading – about bears.

  • Australians are not the norm for lacking bears on their continent. The big hairy fellas are pretty widespread, and live everywhere except here, Africa, and Antarctica.
  • Despite being so widespread, there are only 8 species of bears in the world today: the Giant Panda, the Spectacled Bear (the only one in South America), the Brown Bear (which includes grizzlies), the Polar Bear, the American Black Bear (the kind I grew up around), the Asian Black Bear, the Sloth Bear, and the Sun Bear (the last three all found in Asia).
  • Bears have a better sense of smell than dogs.
  • Bears are the most massive land-dwelling members of the carnivore family, although most eat a varied diet of meat and plants.
  • Sure, almost all bears – being massive, and having claws – can seriously harm you. But they rarely do. In the two decades from 1980 to 2000, Yellowstone National Park saw only 2 people injured due to grizzly bears.
  • Despite having four legs, bears can quite readily stand and sit up, much like humans do.
  • The closest animal relatives of bears are seals.
  • There are something close to 400,000 black bears in Canada. There are about twice as many black bears in the world as there are all other species of bear combined.
  • Like many animals, they have more to fear from us than we do from them. Some Asian cultures prize bear organs for their purported medicinal properties.

Black Bears. Photo from Douglas Brown via Creative Commons license

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The Maladies – Without You By My Side Baby, The Deal Just Can’t Go Down

Another Australian band I picked up on from FBi radio is The Maladies; Imentioned them a couple of months back. I got their album – Without You By My Side Baby, The Deal Just Can’t Go Down – on the weekend.

It’s a fascinating mix of roots influences. Blues and country and gospel are the clear ones (they name-drop Dylan and Cash), but they rock in all sorts of jazzy, folky, punky ways too. “I Feel So Fine” goes through nearly all these genres in just one song; it ends so ludicrously you wonder if it was a mistake they decided to have the balls to just keep in. That’s the binding theme, pure guts and attitude and fearlessness. I love this album.

You can listen to, and download, “Song From A Hot Country” from my music Box on the right-hand side of my blog. I suggest you do.

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New Weird Australia, volume 5

From Discontent, A Mixtape Blog (click the link for two qualities of download, and album notes):

New Weird Australia Volume Five, March 2010, NWA005

1. MOOKOID, Hex River Valley (3:32) from ‘Fishy’ (Pimalia)
2. DOT.AY, You Knight (5:25) previously unreleased
3. PEACE OUT!, Running On Sand, Walking On Water (4:29) from ‘Peace Out EP’ (self-released)
4. BURNING PALMS, Mockery (2:12) previously unreleased
5. THE ATLAS ROOM, Iris (5:18) previously unreleased
6. ///▲▲▲\\\, Spit Shine (2:00) previously unreleased
7. KATE CARR, Textopera (3:06) from ‘First Day Back’ (Retinascan)
8. RED PLUM & SNOW, I Would Die 4 U (2:21) previously unreleased
9. DUNS, Bad Rythm (sic) (5:47) from Cowardly Attack (c40 cassette, Willaston Tapes)
10. VORAD FILS, Temple Leak (2:42) from ‘The Warmest Static – POWWOW Ten’ (Feral Media)
11. JUSTICE YELDHAM, March Of The Bodypumpers (4:54) previously available as a Wire Magazine download
12. GAIL PRIEST, Etchings (3:22) previously unreleased
13. CAUGHT SHIP, BlackHole/SweatBeat (5:32) previously unreleased
14. CRAB SMASHER, Skin Destruction (3:58) previously unreleased
15. RIPPLES, False Mission (5:06) from ‘Ripples EP’ (self-released)
16. BLAKE FREELE, Inside There’s Expectations (8:59) previously unreleased

New Weird Australia is a not-for-profit initiative designed to promote and support new eclectic and experimental Australian music. Our current projects include a free compilation series (available to download every two months), a weekly show on Sydney’s FBi Radio and an irregular program of live events. Contributions from Australian artists are welcomed and encouraged -submission details and terms can be found at newweirdaustralia.com/about.

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The Stabs – Dead Wood

A couple of months ago I blogged about Melbourne band The Stabs, and how I thought their song “No Hoper” rocked.

I picked up their latest album, Dead Wood, at Red Eye Records on the weekend. Red Eye is the sort of awesome music store I used to go to. Their selection of Australian music made it the natural place for me to find this album, and they didn’t disappoint.

Back to Dead Wood: it delivers. There’s probably not another song as furious as “No Hoper” – which you can hear and download from my music Box widget on the right-hand side of my blog page, there – but there’s lots of swagger.

It’s raw. It’s punk, it’s droning stoner garage-rock, but with the odd clear snare drum or piano bit that grabs your attention. And the bass is so dirty and heavy.

You can catch The Stabs around Oz in the next few weeks, including Sydney on 23-April.

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Scorcher Fest: Australia-wide local tour hits Sydney this weekend

From their web page:

BAND Together Incorporated is a not for profit organisation which gives a cooperative and collaborative framework to link and spread services, knowledge, talents and benefits by assisting in banding together people with common interests and goals.

Band Together Inc now has networks around Australia to foster large festivals for local original bands and acts in a state by state circuit.SCoRCHeR FeST has been honed over the last 6 years in Adelaide and is now ready to make a big splash Australia wide.

Tickets are dirt cheap, and you literally get to see dozens of acts. Several dates have already happened, but the Sydney show is this Sunday, and the Brisbane show is the following weekend.

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