2022 has been a big year for fans of Canadian folk-rocker Neil Young.
(Arguably it’s been a big year for Neil himself, but he wasn’t available for comment prior to press time.)
It’s been 50 years since Young’s seminal album ‘Harvest’ was released in February 1972. (The column author was in first grade at Rosary Demonstration School at the time and was sadly oblivious to this moment in musical history.) ‘Harvest’ was the best-selling album of 1972 in the USA and has remained Neil Young’s best-selling album to date.
‘Harvest’ was remastered and re-released on 2 December 2022, and not surprisingly in this digital, multi-platform age, it comes with a host of extras. The reissue comes in either vinyl or CD box set form, with both including two DVDs. Young’s much-bootlegged ‘BBC In Concert’ is included on CD and vinyl in the respective packages, and three ‘Harvest’ outtakes are also made available in physical form for the first time – on a third CD or a 7-inch record in the vinyl set.
And early December 2022 saw the debut limited release of the 1971 film ‘Harvest Time‘, a documentary covering the ‘Harvest Barn’ sessions at Young’s northern California farm, his performance with the London Symphony Orchestra in London, and in Nashville there are scenes of Young working on various album tracks.
Support act is the wonderfully talented local singer-songwriter Carla Geneve.
MTRC have a new seven-track EP out and about – ‘Back In The Day’. It’s a mixture of reworked Weddings, Parties, Anything and Mick Thomas and the Sure Thing tracks, plus some others from The Saints, Johnny Thunders, and Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It’s a teaser for a 2023 album in the works titled ‘Where Only Memory Can Find You’.
On Monday 12 December in Fremantle time for the interviewers, and just a tick or three of the clock into Tuesday for the interviewee in Melbourne, Mick generously gave some of his time at the witching hour to talk with Frank Hodges and Bill Quinn from 107.9FM Radio Fremantle about the upcoming dates in WA.
Bill Quinn: Hopefully on Saturday we can bung on some balmy weather, but joining as from the cold, Siberian-like/Arctic wasteland that is Melbourne, we can say hello, good evening, Mick Thomas.
Mick Thomas: Hello to you.
BQ: Is it as bad over there as we’re hearing? Is it really, really cold?
MT: It’s too cold for this time of year, in my opinion.
BQ: Mick, before we dive into questions about the EP and the upcoming album and the gigs, I’ve got a bit of a confession. In the last ten years or so, I’ve lost track of the Mick Thomas story since the days when I was part of the furniture at the Illawarra Folk Festival – where you were always a very welcome visitor to the Slacky Flat Pavilion.
Can you just fill us in with what you’ve been up to in the last ten years or so?
MT: I’ve been making records and putting together bands, different bands. Yeah, I just kept making music; that’s my thing. That’s why I keep making records.
The new thing is The Roving Commission which is me and Wally [‘Mark “Squeezebox Wally” Wallace] who was in the Weddings with me – Weddings, Parties, Anything. Wally came back into it and had a big part – a big role in it.
We thought we wanted a second singer in it, so we’ve run through a bunch from Shelley Short to Ayleen O’Hanlon to Jac Tonks to Brooke Russell. And we finally ended up with Brooke Taylor who’s there at the moment, and she’s sort of killing it, and we really like that.
So I really like that second singer. We’ve played lots, we’ve made some records during the lockdowns of Melbourne, which is something you guys in Perth didn’t get.
But we got it. It was pretty big and it was pretty strong, and it really affected us. But we made a couple of records. And we made them in our back rooms and we sent our files to each other. It was a big deal.
Having not ventured from Perth/Fremantle since landing in Western Australia in April 2022, it was great to zip off for two weeks in a rented campervan to see the great south west, mostly to take in the 2022 Albany International Folk ‘N Shanty Festival. Heading off towards a weekend of music, song, and good people is hard to beat.
It was my first time driving in Western Australia and proved quite the revelation. WA for me conjures up images of stark rocky ranges, miles of pindan dust, and a harsh, dry climate. But Freo to Albany and return via Denmark, Nannup, and Margaret River has the look and feel of south east NSW or Victoria. Dairy cow, vineyard, and tall tree country.
Albany is quite stunning. Turning up early and staying late was wise. A boat across Oyster Harbour and up Kalgan River, a morning zip around King George Sound on a whale-spotting boat, a spin out to the wind farm, and wanderings around the tops of Mounts Melville and Clarence (Corndarup) – all recommended diversions. Bring a jumper.
Add in a trip to a local brewery and the giniversity and that was a pretty full first visit. Now add 2.5 days of a shanty festival and stir liberally.
This article also appeared in edition 151 of Trad And Now magazine in September 2022.
Here in south west Australia, and in niche but growing enclaves around the country and the world, many of us are starting to get a little excited for the upcoming Albany International Folk ‘n’ Shanty Festival which takes place from Friday 30 September to Sunday 2 October 2022.
“From fireside folk sessions and concerts, to full blown pub shanty singing, from tales of pirates, whales and shipwrecks; the Albany International Folk ‘n Shanty Festival turns historic Albany/Kinjarling into a playground of maritime culture.” – shantyfest.com
Albany may not lay claim to the most remote festival venue on the continent, but there would be few that could beat it. Albany is 3,335kms by road from Melbourne, 3,864kms from Sydney, and about a five hour drive south from Perth.
But more of the festival itself in a future edition. I mention it here for context to say I’ve been booked in to attend for a while, so when news of a CD launch of sea shanties and songs of the sea* bobbed up, my interest was already piqued.
* There’s a difference between the two. All shall be revealed hereunder.
Band members were understandably taking any chance to plug the CD and gig around Fremantle in the lead-up, and group member Jon Cope spent some time during ‘Folking Around’ on Radio Fremantle to talk in detail about the recordings’ evolution and background.
Normally, I would have been one of the interviewers, however, I was struck down by a debilitating (non-plague) illness that week, so my colleagues of the airwaves manned the bridge and took the wheel: Frank Hodges (asking the lion’s share of the questions) and Alan Dawson (on the panel, knobs, buttons, and light comic relief).
One of the joys of landing in a new locality is the gradual discovery of new venues, local watering holes, gigs, and music sessions.
After a self-imposed hermitical existence in Brisbane for three and a half months at the start of 2022, I jumped in to south west Australia with both boots upon arrival in April, and have since been to stacks of lively places for all manner of events.
It helps to be filling in as co-host of ‘Folking Around’ on 107.9FM Radio Fremantle on Mondays from 9-11pm AWST – go to www.radiofremantle.com.au to listen live or on-demand to months of previous shows. (Spot the subtle plug? No? Good.)
Host Frank Hodges starts every show with an extensive run-down on gigs in the Greater Perth and Fremantle areas, and it’s been great to zip out and experience some of these first-hand.
On a chilly July Sunday afternoon, I set off to the Inglewood Bowling Club in Mount Lawley. For the sensible, it’s a drive to the back of Inglewood Oval and a park right outside the venue on Stancliffe Street. For me, it was a bus to Fremantle, train to Perth Station, then a very pleasant hour’s walk north in pale, wintry, late afternoon sunshine.
Folk On The Road – Fieldsy: A Divine Slice Of Dublin Via WA
This article also appeared in Trad & Now magazine in July 2022.
Back at last behind a typewriter (for Trad & Now) after a break of about six months.
Those months have gone by in something of a blur. Mparntwe, Brisbane, and Perth are all now in the rear view mirror. Darwin seems like a lifetime ago. (It’s been nine months in earth years).
Crash-landed in Fremantle in late May and looking to drop an anchor here for a while, it occurred to me I’d gone the year without any live original music gigs in the calendar. (With the exception of Bushtime at Woodfordia on New Year’s Day.)
Soon after making that realisation, social media chimed in with an alert to say that perennial favourite Daniel Champagne was appearing at Freo.Social in a few days’ time. One quick online transaction and some changed social plans later, and come the first Friday in June, I was plonked in the band room at this wonderful WA venue.
Just before the gig, I noticed the support act was ‘Fieldsy’, and with no other information to go on, I pictured a bald bloke in a blue singlet with three chords, six teeth, and the truth.
The reality was something (and someone) quite different.
Fieldsy comes from Dublin, from a large, rowdy family. A Catholic schoolgirl who went on to become a singer-songwriter recording artist in several guises. Then in the early 2010s when the Celtic Tiger had roared, reared up, and been well and truly tamed, Fieldsy and family decamped to Australia in search of better economic fortunes.
Cut forward to 2022, with even more musical incarnations under her belt, Fieldsy is making a return to performing after a few months off with vocal maladies and a dose of the dreaded corona plague.