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Byron Shire
October 22, 2021

Bring on the Bluegrass!

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The Hill Billy Goats
The Hillbilly Goats

This weekend sees the third annual Bangalow BBQ & Bluegrass Festival hit the Bangalow A&I Hall and showgrounds.

With an old-time variety show scheduled for Friday night, a barbecue cook-off that starts in the evening and culminates on the Saturday, a pickers comp, games for the kids and a top lineup on the Saturday Stage. The Echo spoke with a couple of the bands performing on the day.

Hillbilly Goats

Kick yer shoes off, put yer hoe down, and hang on to yer britches with 2016 Golden Guitar nominees for Bluegrass single of the year The Hillbilly Goats.

Mahney Wearne spoke with The Echo.

What first attracted you to Appalachian music?

It was a love and passion for bluegrass music that set us on our journey deep into Appalachian history. Once we discovered the roots of bluegrass stemmed back to early immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and Africa predominantly, we found a new love. A love of researching stories and hunting through archives to find music that should be rebirthed and retold to new generations. Stringband mountain music was created by these immigrants’ being so isolated and influencing each other over the centuries with their rhythms, tunes and instruments. When the music came out of the mountains in the 1920s, it began to evolve into hillbilly, country and western, bluegrass, rock and roll and even certain strains of the blues.

How do you guys incorporate Appalachian Mountain music into your live set?

We twist traditional, old-time folk music into our own style, which is highly energetic, and present it onstage with colourful costumes and a whole lot of stories about the history of the songs. Fast and furious fiddle and harmonica with banjo, bones, double bass and a bit of Appalachian foot percussion (tap dancing).

What is it do you think that has seen so many people flocking to bluegrass? Is it part of the bespoke trend do you think?

I personally feel that music has become so electronic that for us we’re really passionate about taking it back full circle to the roots. People love to see real instruments with real harmonies and that’s what you get with bluegrass and old-timey music. The rhythms and the pace of this music put audiences into a really happy, feelgood space. How can you be sad when there’s banjo and fiddle? This music is insidious!

How was it recording your new album with Nash Chambers?

Working with Nash was a great experience for us as he grew up on the old-time country roots music. He has an understanding of how it was played and recorded all those years ago and he’s all about ‘the vibe’ and keeping it real. We didn’t use click tracks – all the recording was done in live takes and the percussion was all random bits and pieces that were lying around the studio – garbage cans, rusty cymbals and even an old horn from a Sydney double-decker bus! Nash is a fantastic producer and his influence has helped us to create a record that we’re really proud of and that saw us as finalists in the 2016 Golden Guitars for Bluegrass Single of the Year.

You were nominees for a 2016 Golden Guitar for Rabbit in a Log as Bluegrass Single of the Year. Tell me a little about the song.

Rabbit in a Log is an old hunting tune that was bluegrassed initially by Bill Monroe and Doc Watson.

What should we expect from your show?

Kick yer shoes off, put yer hoe down and hang on to yer britches! The Goats deliver this old-time music with passion and energy, interspersing stories and song to present a fun, family-friendly, feelgood show! Goat Boy plays three instruments at once – drums with his feet, harmonica in his mouth and strings in his hands! It truly is a visual feast!

The Stetson Family
The Stetson Family

The Stetson Family

Bluegrass five-piece The Stetson Family, who are high lonesome country folk, reached US chart status with tales of love gone wrong, snake-handling preachers and wandering down life’s crooked highway.

Nadine Budge spoke with The Echo.

How would you describe your approach to music?

Three of the five members of The Stetson Family have played music together in various forms since the heady glam-pop 80s in Schizo Scherzo when it was all about synthesisers, makeup and mullets, touring with Farnsy and playing with The Eurythmics and The Monkeys. We’ve individually traversed genres since then, until nine years ago after seeing O Brother Where Art Thou we all fell in love with the music, took up banjo and dobro and started writing our own style of mountain music. Three albums later (the latest, True North, spending seven months on charts in the USA) we’ve found our Americana-Bluegrassy groove!

What song are you most enjoying playing on stage at the moment?

Run Daddy Run is our favourite to play at the moment – a dark tale of what happens when mumma’s not happy and sends daddy headin’ for the hills. 

How do your three-part harmonies add to the musicality? Can you always sing like that with people, or does it help to have their voice tonally different from yours in some way?

The natural harmonies of frontperson Nad Budge and John Bartholomeusz is what brought them together back in the 80s. Harmonies are a really important part of The Stetson Family sound and give us all a huge buzz when we get the four parts happening.  Luckily our voices are tonally different so we can hit the bottoms, mids and highs. Harmonies are our soul food!

Who are the musicians who have influenced you?

Our musical influences are varied and certainly not all traditional, ranging from The Carter Family of old through to Emmylou Harris, Old Crow Medicine Show and Lucinda Williams. It’s all part of ‘newgrass’, which is a blend of traditional style and contemporary influences.  

What should we expect for your live set at Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass Festival?

We love to take the audience on a journey down life’s crooked highway, have them dancing in the aisles through to crying in their beers with songs of murder, mayhem and tales of the human heart.

The Cartridge Family
The Cartridge Family

The Cartridge Family

Known for their breezy, sunshine-filled hillbilly harmonies of death, and for their strong affiliation to public radio, firearms and printing, The Cartridge Family bring their three-part harmonies and two-part jokes to town.

Sussanah Espie spoke with The Echo.

Tell me about the Cartridge Family?

The Cartridge Family was born out of an iconic radio show called Twang, which airs on Melbourne’s Triple R FM every Saturday afternoon. Three or four times a year they put on a show called Grand Ole Twang (à la Grand Ole Opry) which is two hours of live music in a theatre, featuring touring artists from both Australia and abroad.

All the members of the Cartridge Family were members of the Grand Ole Twang house band, and we had so much fun together that we decided it was time to get ourselves a gig so we could see each other more often. That was about five years ago. The original inspiration musically was The Carter Family and country music of that era, so the material goes way back. And these days we play a lot of originals with a definite comedy bent penned by our bass player and singer Rusty Berther, who was one half of the Scared Weird Little Guys for more than 20 years. I don’t remember a Cartridge Family gig where I haven’t cried with laughter. I’m getting very good at singing and laughing (and crying) at the same time.

Your Pozible campaign raised your target in 24 hours. Tell me a bit about AmericanFest in Nashville and why you want to play there.

The response to my Pozible campaign has been amazing, and it’s still rising! Every September Nashville plays host to Americanafest. This year it’ll be happening over 20–25 September. The event brings together fans and music industry professionals alike, offering six days of celebration through seminars, panels and networking opportunities by day, and raw, intimate showcases each night. I have been asked to join the Sounds Australia contingent of singer/songwriters who will play shows at some of Nashville’s most iconic venues during the festival. I am arriving a week before the festival to meet with industry professionals and friends I’ve made over the years who reside in Nashville. I’ve been there before, many years ago, for the first time with my old band Git in 2002 and then again when I went to Memphis to represent Melbourne in the International Blues Challenge in 2008. Being surrounded by so much incredible music day after day was such a creative shot in the arm, but it was also an enormous boost to my confidence to have my performances and songs received so warmly in the place where the music I play was born. I just can’t wait to get back there to be immersed and inspired.

Why do you think we’ve had such a spike in our appetite for Americana and Bluegrass? What does it offer the listener that straight-up folk or country don’t?

As far as I’m concerned they are all one and the same; folk, country and bluegrass all fall under the banner of Americana. It’s a pretty vague term.

What song are you most enjoying playing at the moment?

Have just started playing one of my songs on electric guitar with my band The Last Word; they’re pretty fun.

What should we expect for your performance at Bluegrass Festival?

Hilarity, heavenly harmony, ho-down fiddle and a little bit of colourful language

Friday: Old-Time Variety Show at the Bangalow A&I Hall from 6pm with Saturday’s 10am–5pm full day of barbecue meat, craft beer, music, food and fun.

For more information and tickets go to bbqBluegrass.com.au.

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