[Text Interview] Check the water and oil! Lime and Steel on the road

Image courtesy of Lime And Steel
Image courtesy of Lime And Steel

A shorter version of this article appeared on Timber and Steel on 14 September 2015.
This article appeared in full in the September edition of Trad and Now magazine.

To tell the full tale of this article would be to sing you a mournful ballad of disappearing Facebook event shares and a 12 minute interview, ambitiously recorded on a Nokia dumb-phone so old it needs hand-cranking.

Suffice to say that the audio of that chat between the artist (in Katoomba, NSW) and the interviewer (in Nelson Bay, NSW) is available now on eBay on a listing called ‘Marcel Marceau’s Greatest Hits’.

Technology is a fickle mistress, sharing pain and pleasure in equal measure, and my thanks to Paddy Connor from Lime and Steel for his assistance and good humour.

Blue Mountains-based folk band Lime and Steel have hit the road, making sacrificial offerings to the gods of automobile reliability and ‘keepgoingability’ from Melbourne’s CBD up the east coast to Brisbane (with a stop-off in the nation’s capital).

Lime and Steel began as a rootsy folk duo of Paddy Connor and Ben Scott, but over the years, their composition has changed, and indeed, their compositions have changed.

Look, as much as a banjo and a set of uilleann pipes are going to keep you firmly catalogued under ‘F’ for ‘Folk’, if you go and add a pub rock drummer and a jazz bass player, you’re bound to start to develop a stellar groove somewhere along the road.

Paddy says that the band definitely has a love for bluegrass and Americana (with two-fifths of the line-up from the US of A, that’s more or less inevitable), but always with an Australian intonation.

“The Irish thing is still a part of what we do but yeah, we’re definitely into the bluegrass and Americana thing. Other big influences would be US bands like Devil Makes Three, Split Lip Reyfield, Bad Livers, and Truckstop Honeymoon.”

“We have two Americans in the band now, which probably is part of our Americana thing too.”

“We found ourselves playing in rowdy pubs as much as we played to folk clubs. We still play both, but we love the pub scene. With pubs you have to win the audience, and every time is a new challenge. It’s great.”

“When we’re not singing a bogan bluegrass love song, it’s always about the underdog and the dirty stories in Australia’s culture. We’re all about Howard’s black armband view of Australia’s history: who the hell cares about a happy white armband mateship story of who we are?”

Anyone who’s seen or heard Lime and Steel will know that their music is delivered with a generous scoop of political commentary, though Paddy feels this comes across more in the stage banter and intros than the actual songs themselves. The last two years has particularly provided an embarrassment of riches for pondering our political landscape.

“There’s definitely a rich vein for anyone into the protest side of politics right now. You can look at Australia as the crooked redcoats vs. convicts and blackfellas. It really is the bent redcoats all the way at the moment.”

“There’s plenty of material for political anthems,” Paddy agrees. “That said, I’ve always been a bit wary of really overtly political songs: at least when there’s an easy message to read.”

“I’m always drawn to writing songs that paint a few shadows and make you think about what might be hiding there in the dark. There the songs I can listen to over and over: when my imagination is sparked. That’s the genius of writers like Paul Kelly.”

Lime and Steel are on the roll with their current record, Won’t Back Down, and to tell the tale of it is to recite something of an epic ballad of its production and realisation.

“We took quite a few hits at it, and there were some major obstacles along the way. A [band] baby was born, the studio was at one point evacuated for bushfires, our recording producer (jazz musician Neil Duncan) got cancer and ended up with an arm amputation. We had to persevere!”

“But we’re loving this CD. The mastering (by Michael Lynch) was sweet too.”

Lime and Steel are equally suited to both the festival scene and to intimate pub gigs, as anyone who’s seen them at The Turning Wave Festival, or The Old City Bank in Katoomba can attest.

They’re also having a secular world-sized punt on attracting a crowd to the re-imagined Smith’s Alternative venue in Canberra on the evening of the AFL Grand Final, so they’d love their Canberra fans and newbies to get along to that one. Pop in after Floriade?

“We’ve had a busy old touring year in 2015, and it’s not letting up. We do talk of taking our American band members back to their homeland, but that’s talk at the moment. Our next mission is always the next gig.”

Upcoming gigs for Lime and Steel:

Saturday 24 to Sunday 25 October – Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival, NSW
Saturday 31 October – Oktoberfest at the Old City Bank, Katoomba, NSW
Friday 13 November – Trade Winds Folk Club, Newcastle, NSW

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