Gold guitar winning trio Bella and Michael Carr headline the 15th Bunyip Country Music festival on Sunday February 29.

Bella won the best group award in Tamworth on January 24 after releasing its debut EP Tumbling Down on indie label Ocean Road.

Carr, son of veteran ABC Play School pianist Warren Carr, scored acclaim for his writing for Adam Brand and Melinda Schneider before releasing his debut solo CD for Compass Bros in 2002.

The singer-songwriter had a tough act to follow - his dad played on Bandstand and 6 O' Clock Rock in an era when rock and country were much closer genre siblings.

Bella and Carr follow multi-award winning Adam Harvey and Catherine Britt who used the laid back festival as their Gippsland launch pad.

Harvey and Newcastle novitiate Britt have since written a batch of songs with Nashville writers after their shows at the Bunyip bash in 2003.

Britt is finishing her second album with hit writer, singer and producer Keith Stegall and Bill Chambers in Music City.


Nu Country TV will film highlights of the famed festival - one of the few survivors on the insurance-savaged country circuit.

Bunyip is about an hour east - even under spurious speed camera revenue rustling - of the Melbourne GPO on Highway One.

Just follow the cattle country festival signs erected by dairy belle Joy Batchelor and her rural volunteers at the gateway to the Gippsland milk belt.

The festival is held due south of Highway One on the local footy oval where, unlike the latter day denizens of the inner suburbs, the good burghers don't object to music in their back yard.

It kicks off at 8 am with a poets' breakfast and doesn't end until dusk when guilt driven dairy farmers return home for their second milking of the day.


Bella comprises Tamworth Country Music College graduates Karen O'Shea and Lynn Bowtell and Kate Ballantyne.

All had solo recording careers before forming Anam Cara (Celtic for soul mate) just six months ago before morphing into Bella.

Lynn won Star Maker in 1997, Kate in 1998 and Karen was a finalist in 1999.
The trio recorded the O'Shea-Bowtell original I Can Fly - originally cut by the writers in 1998.

They also recorded gospel standard Way Beyond The Blue and the Jerry Salley title track.

Salley, a Nashville hit writer, has collaborated with many Australians and some of his songs have been recorded by Britt.


Karen met Kate through Lyn and they worked on similar shows in Tamworth.

When Karen moved from Darwin to Sydney, they all lived nearby and worked for the same agency.

"We loved each other's company and started singing together and thought, 'why not do a trio?," says Karen who made her live debut in the first series of Nu Country TV in 2003.
Karen performed at the Armadale Hotel on a show with Luke O'Shea - no relation.

"It started off as a bit of fun, but it was really special to all of us," Karen revealed.

"We did a few shows in Newcastle under the name of Anam Cara, and people just loved us together. Everyone kept asking when we were going to record a single, or an album, so we recorded the single and it's kind of snowballed from there."


"Doug Trevor has been a huge help," Karen said. "We couldn't have asked for anyone better. We're very, very lucky."

Bella is managed by Doug Trevor - an acclaimed veteran rock and country musician, writer and producer.

Trevor made his name with The Cherokees and has also managed Troy Cassar-Daley, Gina Jeffreys and Wolverines singer Darcy LeYear as a solo artist.

Bella is making its debut album on Ocean Road - a label created by producer, writer and multi-instrumentalist Rod McCormack, The Wheel singer Kim Cheshire and Trevor.

McCormack, a prolific writer with local artists diverse as singing spouse Jeffreys, Adam Harvey and Lee Kernaghan, has hired bassist brother Jeff, drummer Mitch Farmer and fiddler Mick Albeck to play on Bella's album.

"This was a great win for the girls, it capped off an amazing Tamworth for them - they were definitely the 'talk of the festival," McCormack said after the trio beat a tough field for best group.

"There was a great buzz about for them. We see it as a wonderful start for our new label."


Lyn Bowtell

Queensland born Bowtell won her state's Champion Of Champions award in 1995 and cut her debut album Headed South with her band Southern Steel in 1996.

She scored regional radio airplay and won the 1997 Star Maker Quest and released two singles The One You Love and Searching For Jane written by Lyn and Margie Mason.

Bowtell also won Female Vocal section of the 1998 Victorian Country Music Awards.

At 23 she launched her second album Hearts In The Country for Canberra label ACMEC and promoted it with a live performance on Nu Country FM at its Beer Can Hill studio in summer of 2000.

Bowtell had earlier accepted a marriage proposal from fiance Duncan Toombs on stage at the 2000 New Year's Eve festival at Pittsworth near Toowoomba.

She later became a finalist in the 2001 Gold Guitars in the female vocals with Where In The World and Heritage Song with Pride Runs River Deep.


Karen O'Shea
O'Shea hails from south of Darwin where she and husband Leo own a mango plantation.
As a teenager she performed on shows with Richard Clapton, The Bushwackers, Darren
Coggan, Lyn Bowtell and The Feral Swing Katz.

During her first visit to Tamworth, she won the Jazzer Smith Memorial Talent Quest and later graduated from the CMAA College of Country Music.

In 1996 Karen recorded an album of original compositions, titled Cat In The Hat, with Janet Hay.

In 1997 her co-write with Bowtell of I Can Fly was included on compilation CD Outback Adventures.

She was also a backup vocalist for Arthur Blanch, Denise Morrison, Allan Caswell and Jean Stafford at the CMAA Awards and attended the College of Country Music.

In 1999 and 2000 Karen made it to the grand final of Star Maker.

Karen wrote the song She Didn't Mean To for her double-sided CD single, My Love Goes That Far.

It earned Karen a place in the Top 10 of the Gold Guitars for both Female Vocal and New Talent.

During 2001 Karen won a Frank Ifield Award that earned her promotion in Europe where My Love Goes That Far was #7 on the EMS European Top 40 Independent Airplay Chart for 2 weeks.

In September 2001 Karen recorded an album Wish with Rod McCormack as producer.
Karen and her husband Leo left their mango plantation to move to New South Wales in early 2002.


Kate Ballantyne

Hunter Valley singer-songwriter-guitarist Kate Ballantyne was born Katrina Aitken in February 1970 and has been performing since her pre-teen years.

Ballantyne lives at Shortland, first won airplay in Newcastle in 1991 and became a Star Maker finalist in 1993.

In 1994 she started working on songs for her first album Tomorrow's Girl recorded at her family's recording studio in Kurri Kurri, NSW.

It featured 12 songs written by Kate & others.

The title track won Kate an award at the Australian Songwriters Association National Song Contest held in Melbourne in November 1995.

She later released other albums Too Hot To Handle (1998) and Flowers For Love (1999).


Michael Carr earned his stripes as a songwriter before he released his self-titled debut disc for Compass Bros.

He wrote several songs for recent discs by Adam Brand and Melinda Schneider.

Michael also duetted with Melinda on Wearing White on her award-winning second Compass Bros album, Happy Tears.

He also landed three songs including APRA song of the year finalist ANZAC and New England Highway for Brand's third album Built For Speed.

This earned him a deal with Compass Bros - home of both Brand and Schneider.

The video for Carr's single While The Wife's Away - not necessarily about wife Nikki - was featured in the first series of Nu Country TV.

In 2003 prior to the release of his debut album, Michael received three nominations in the 2003 CMAA Golden Guitar Awards.

They included the single A Little More Love.

The album has won him national exposure - especially the tribute to his dad Warren who played piano on music shows dating back to the birth of Aussie TV in the fifties.


Michael's sire was a member of the band that rocked Australia on shows such as 6 O' Clock Rock and Bandstand and later the ABC Play School phenomenon.

"I always wanted to write a song about my father but sometimes you feel so deeply about
something it is hard to get it right," says Michael of his song The Greatest Man.

"You never say the things you want to, but on this occasion I just sat down and got it. He didn't actively discourage my brother and I from following in his footsteps but he tried to make us aware of the pitfalls. Unfortunately we saw firsthand that he was having a wonderful time and that was pretty much it."

Michael Carr

Carr started on a honky tonk piano in the family garage while his dad toiled inside on musical arrangements for the recordings, live work and television shows.

"It was an old upright painted white and I used to thrash it" Michael recalled, "dad would stay right out of the way."

Carr worked honky tonks and pubs from Sydney to Perth where he lived and played in country bands and embellished his song writing.

He wrote all 13 songs on the album including two each with Schneider and Play School and Outback Club star Col Buchanan.


Bunyip has long been a young talent launch pad.

This year it features a showcase at 10.15 am with home grown artists Victoria Baillie, Nicholas Laing, Penelope Somerville and Casey Dawes.

Moe based Baillie, 17, is making her third Bunyip performance after gigs at Gympie, Tamworth, Mildura and beyond.

She has shared stages with Fosterville fiddle and violinist Somerville whose hometown is 25 kilometres from Bendigo.

Bunyip will be therapy for the multi-instrumentalist whose father died while she was in Tamworth in January.

Slightly younger is Bunyip belle Dawes, just 14, who performs when not studying at Drouin High whose graduates included the Ablett clan including Gary Sr who was word and note perfect on the Kenny Rogers songbook during his Geelong era.

Wonthaggi student Laing, 17, has also performed throughout the station when not beating books at Newhaven College.

The singer belies his years when he performs Don't The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time - made famous by singer and movie star Mickey Gilley, cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and disgraced preacher Rev Jimmy Swaggart.

Other acts on the bill - in performing order are -


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