Interview: Michael Johnathon of Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.
Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.

Image courtesy of Woodsongs dot com and Michael Johnathon. Photo by Larry Neuzel.

From humble beginnings in 1998, from a small venue that sat just 20 people in the audience, Michael Johnathon has built the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour into a public broadcasting colossus. Woodsongs is heard and seen around the globe each week from its current home in the Lyric Theatre, Lexington KY.

The program showcases bands, performers and troupes from across the broad spectrum of bluegrass, Americana, roots, acoustic and alt-country, and a few others around the blurred edges of folk.

It’s a 100% community and volunteeer-run operation, making its longevity and sustainability all the more remarkable. And laudable.

It gets even better than that – but you’ll have to listen to the interview for the part that rocked me back on my heels.

And upturned kayak.

The show has reached an eye-watering 750+ episodes as of April 2014, many of which are freely available from the Woodsongs website in audio and video formats. Apart from its legion of individual listeners, Woodsongs has spawned a string of coffeehouse groups which meet to experience the show as a community.

The log cabin. Image courtesy of Michael Johnathon.
The log cabin. Image courtesy of Michael Johnathon.

And it’s not like Michael has anything else to do with his spare time.

Like being a singer-songwriter of many years standing. Or touring. Or arranging other concerts. Or building a log cabin and surrounding structures plus landscaping and bridges etc. bare-handed. Or being a father of two adult children (and two more on the way in one hit).

No, I lied. He’s all of that and more.

An just get a load of where he got his folk beginnings from. I can only interpret my silence at hearing who his neighbour was in upstate New York as a little mild shock and awe.

On a chilly autumnal morning in Sydney, I stepped off the Manly* Ferry and found a suitable-ish place to record an interview over the shaky airwaves from Australia to Lexington, Kentucky. A picture of my luxurious chair in the ‘recording studio’ appears below.

* For international audiences, ‘Manly’ refers to a suburb and location on the north side of Sydney Harbour named ‘Manly’. We don’t believe in forcing gender stereotypes onto our aquatic transport vessels. Actually, if anything, we refer to them as ‘her‘ for the most part. Continue reading

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Taliska On Tour In ACT, NSW and Victoria

Taliska. Image courtesy of Taliska.
Taliska. Image courtesy of Taliska.

Taliska On Tour To Eurobodalla, Jenolan Caves, ACT and Victoria

Taliska is bringing a taste of Scotland to a taste of parts of New South Wales and the ACT this month, and then plying their Celtic trade closer to home in Ringwood and Portarlington (Victoria) and many steps beyond.

Hopefully they’ll be near you, and if they’re not, well, that’s just all the more reason to start loving their music and get them to your town next time they’re back this way.

OR get yourself on a Greyhound or Murray’s bus to one of the three venues, stat!

Definitely like them on Facebook and follow the trails, talents and travails of Taliska.

Who are Taliska?

Claire Patti has a voice that has to be heard to be believed and she plays the harp (the stringed one), french horn and piano accordion. Claire sings harmonies with the guitar-playing band leader Marcus de Rijk (note the strong Scottish influence in that name — mmm, maybe not so much), while Geoff Jones plays pipes, whistles and bodhran. Angus Downing makes the whole thing fly with his wonderful fiddle playing. Taliska’s traditional Ceilidh will have your feet pounding the tiles. 

The mini tour will take in a gig at the always popular Merry Muse in their new home at the Burns Club in Kambah, a performance at the majestic Jenolan Caves plus a wonderful house concert in one of the best locations on the Eurobodalla Nature Coast at Congo (just south of Moruya).

COMING SOON: Billy Quinn from Overheard Productions and Ducks Crossing Publications spoke with Marcus de Rijk early this week, and here’s what Marcus had to say about the band and the coming performances.

[Insert dirty great big embedded link here with lovely contrasting orange, white and black — like Greater Western Sydney or Wests Tigers or that really professional-looking pumbing mob down in Sorrento — right here when it’s ready to rock. Scheduled to do it between 10.30am and 11.00am AEST. It’s 01:44am now so if it all goes to plan, will be up before midday.]

Oh, look. Ready at 11:32am. Always delight the publics, we say at Overheard Productions!

Gig for Taliska on their mini-tour of NSW and ACT plus upcoming Victorian gigs:

Friday 23 May — The Merry Muse, Canberra
Sunday 24 MayJenolan Caves, Jenolan (NSW)
Saturday 25 May — House concert in the Congo area (email: howejp@bigpond.com)
6-9 June — National Celtic Festival, Port Arlington (Vic)
Tuesday 10 JuneVic Folk Music Club, Ringwood (Vic)
Saturday 21 June — Battle of Bannockburn promo event (Vic)
Sunday 22 June — Battle of Bannockburn (Vic)
27 – 29 June — Camperdown Burns Festival (Vic)
Thursday 21 August — Mamma Vittoria, Fitzroy (Vic)
Friday 29 August — Conservatory Café, Wyreena (Vic)

Full details of Taliska gigs is at their website.

Eleanor McEvoy On Tour In Australia

Eleanor McEvoy with Danny Priestley and Lindsay Martin of Riogh. Image courtesy of Danny Priestley.
Eleanor McEvoy with Danny Priestley and Lindsay Martin of Riogh. Image courtesy of Danny Priestley.

Eleanor McEvoy landed in Australia this week on tour from now until…. well, until Ireland warms up again in roughly six weeks’ time.

On St Patrick’s night, Monday 17 March 2014, Eleanor was a very special guest of Riogh and the Illawarra Folk Club at what’s starting to look a lot like a Paddy tradition in this south coast of New South Wales town centre. Accessible from anywhere and a short walk from the train station 😉

(Our correspondent Bill Quinn later that night ventured down the road to another raucous Irish venue, and couldn’t help but notice that, despite the number of prone young bodies decked out in over-sized corporate green Irish hats, the music on the tannoy was Canadian Scots.)

But before that, and after one or three very large jars of piping cold very special St Patrick’s Day tea, Bill spoke a little with Eleanor about the tour:

Eleanor McEvoy’s tour is in the country up to and including Fairbridge Folk Festival in late April. Click here for a full list of tour dates.

Interview: Tolka (Victoria)

Image courtesy of Tolka
Image courtesy of Tolka

Interview with Tolka (Victoria)

I was initially attracted to the sound of Tolka as they reminded me strongly of one of my favourite Australian folk bands. I won’t say which one, though it was mentioned in dispatches and a subject of some discussion when we spoke — press ‘Play’ below to find out more.

When we spoke earlier in the year, on a sultry Saturday evening when the Illawarra Folk Festival was fairly humming, strumming, beating and dancing, Tolka hadn’t at that point put one foot inside the recording studio for their debut album.

However, last weekend, ‘Tunes From The External Hard Drive’ was launched with appropriate fanfare in their hometown of Melbourne.

There are more chances for you to see Tolka for yourself via their gig listing. The album will be available soon at Bandcamp, or contact Tolka directly about where to snaffle a copy.

Upcoming festival gigs for Tolka:

3 to 4 June – Robert Burns Scottish Festival, Camperdown (VIC)
20 to 22 September – Turning Wave Festival, Yass (NSW)

There’s also an exhibition of the album’s artwork at the Brunswick Arts Space from 13 to 28 July.

Dr Gilbert’s Set from the National Celtic Festival, Victoria, 2013:

Interview: Johnny Huckle (ACT)

Image courtesy of Johnny Huckle
Image courtesy of Johnny Huckle

Interview with Johnny Huckle (ACT)

I first saw Johnny Huckle playing in Woden in the late 1980s or early 1990s. My girlfriend/fiancée at the time was working at ATSIC (née Department of Aboriginal Affairs), and more than the odd Friday afternoon would have us plonked at the Aboriginal Club or the Contented Soul watching Johnny belt out a blend of covers and originals.

His rendition of ‘Do The Hucklebuck’ was always a crowd-pleaser.

Fast forward twenty years or more, and I only manage to run into Johnny at festivals. As was the case earlier this year in Illawarra where we finally made some time to gather around the MP3 recorder and have a chat.

Hopefully you can decipher most of the conversation despite the cacophony of competing sound spillage.

Johnny Huckle performing Spiritman:

Johnny jamming with Canberra music and recording legend Trev Dunham:

Interview: Rick Nestler (USA)

Image courtesy of Rick Nestler
Image courtesy of Rick Nestler

Interview with Rick Nestler (USA)

at 2013 Illawarra Folk Festival

Posting this one up just a little bit late in the piece, so hopefully late is better than never.

I had the pleasure of talking with a number of interesting locals and visitors to Australia at the 2013 Illawarra Folk Festival back in January, and Rick Nestler was one of those.

It was a classic piece of going in cold as I knew little more about Rick than his name and how to pick him out of a line-up. However, as is often the case, the interviewee was interesting, obliging, funny and articulate.

Hear Rick talk about skiffle, jug bands, and yes, we talked about ukuleles.

Rick performing at the Illawarra Folk Festival:

National Folk Festival – Wheeze and Suck Band – interview with Tony Pyrzakowski

Image courtesy of the Wheeze and Suck Band
Image courtesy of the Wheeze and Suck Band

As I’ve said many a time on stage and in print, I don’t even try to have a veneer of objectivity when it comes to some bands.

They’re just my favourites and I adore their music and I’ll hunt them down at every festival and sing along, and sometimes dance along, and that’s just the way it is and ever shall be, Wheezer World without end, amen.

So yeah, I quite like the Wheeze and Suck Band.

There, we’ve got that bit established.

If you think age shall weary them, just click on the video link below and suspend disbelief. What says so much with music and dance in this shaky clip I took at St Albans Folk Festival a couple of years ago (Anzac Day weekend — put it in your calendar now; thank me later) is the range of ages the Wheezers appeal to.

What child could resist jumping around to a bunch of men in funny hats and cloaks? And that’s for the young at heart and the young in the head.

And the young.

It’s enough to even make you groan with empathy (and maybe a little sympathy) to John ‘Red Tips’ Milce’s jokes, trotted out at irregular intervals in pure Lancashire-ish.

Fiddler-player Tony Pyzarkowski is one third of a regular trio along with Butch Hooper and Kevin ‘Bodhranworld dot com‘ Kelly who form “Kelly’s Heroes” and bash out three hours of stuff you probably know, stuff you may know and stuff you may not have heard of in PJ O’Brien’s pub in Sydney every Sunday night from 6-9pm. (No chance on Easter Sunday — that’s National Folk Festival central.)

After last Sunday’s session, Tony had a bit of a chat about what’s going on with the Wheezers and looked forward to the National Folk Festival starting this Thursday 28 March 2013 in Canberra.

The Wheeze and Suck Band at the National Folk Festival:

Friday 29 March – The Majestic, 10pm
Saturday 30 March – Scrumpy, 10pm
Sunday 31 March – Marqee, 5pm