The Davidson Brothers

Carolina Rose Monroe - daughter of late bluegrass king Bill Monroe - joined them on stage at her dad's annual festival on his farm at Rosine deep in the heart of Kentucky.

And bluegrass legend Del McCoury dedicated a bluegrass version of the Joy McKean penned Slim Dusty hit Lights On The Hill to them.

It's a long way from the Gippsland dairy belt hamlet of Yinnar to the Kentucky home of bluegrass.

But Hamish Davidson and younger brother Lachlan have made the joyous journey in the pluck of a banjo and caress of twin fiddles.

Now the Davidson Brothers headline our free Nu Country TV young guns concert at the Arts Centre lawn on Sunday January 30.

Hamish, 21, and Lachlan, 19, are joined by hotshot ABC Music guitarist and singer Jake Nickolai and Toowoomba troubadour Kim McKenzie, both 19, and acclaimed Camden chanteuse Corrina Steel.

Melbourne bluegrass band Barnlaid and veteran Sunraysia raised roots country band The T-Bones add a dash of experience to the lavish concert.

The Davidson Brothers are the latest in a brace of young Aussie country artists who have headed overseas to explore greener pastures - or bluer grass.

They joined fellow expatriates Keith Urban, Kasey Chambers, Catherine Britt, Jedd Hughes, Audrey Auld, Sherrie Austin, Jamie O'Neal and Greencards in the Aussie posse invading the biggest country music market in the world.

The duo represented Australia at International Bluegrass Music festival in Kentucky and the Bill Monroe festival after a gig at Nashville's famed Station Inn.

And back home they have made the finals of the Australian Country Music Awards in Tamworth for the second year in succession.

The independent instrumental Hunter Valley Breakdown, produced by former Redgum picker Hugh McDonald, was their entrée.

Now the lads are writing material for their second album to be produced by acclaimed producer and writer Rod McCormack - husband of country princess Gina Jeffreys and studio wizard for artists diverse as Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, The Wheel and Bella.

The Davidson Brothers have blazed a hot international trail since their late teens - and have a huge debt to their music loving parents.


Hamish and Lachlan were the eldest of three children born to schoolteacher Fay and business analyst husband Alan Davidson in the rich Gippsland dairy belt.

The family lived in the sleepy hamlet of Yinnar, population 531, where Fay taught at the local primary school and Alan worked in the paper mill in nearby Maryvale.

Folks worked from dawn to dusk and played music at night and weekends in the town that took its name from the Aboriginal word for Woman.

The town's web site describes Yinnar as Where Art meets Agriculture Yinnar, established in 1874, is a tranquil rural township that is home to an eclectic and successful arts community.
"Yinnar juxtaposes halcyon country life with a vibrant and modern creativity.

"A close knit and vibrant community with a superb range of facilities for all age groups.

"With many residents in the township originating from early ancestors and pioneers in the region, there is a sense of "living history" and continuity with the land.

"A dilapidated old butter factory has come back to life as the Yinnar Art Resource Collective (ARC), a centre of creativity and contemporary art.

"The collective includes private studios and public access areas for print-making, ceramics, metalwork, painting, and drawing. The large gallery holds monthly exhibitions.

"Like its neighbouring town Boolara, Yinnar was established with the construction of the historic Morwell Mirboo North railway line."

Yinnar is south of Morwell and renowned for its beef and dairy cattle.


Fay and Alan Davidson played bagpipes when the sun went down and at weekends in their town.

So it was no surprise that their genetics seeped through to sons Hamish and Lachlan.

When the boys were aged eight and six their parents treated them to their first fiddles - bought from a visiting music teacher.

And at 12 while still in primary school Hamish received his first banjo after Fay saw an ad in her school newsletter.
"Mum bought it for about $200," Hamish revealed on the eve of their Nu Country gig, "I still have it in my collection. It now bears Charlie Daniels autograph - I asked him to sign it on his 1998 tour."

The creativity of Yinnar, where the duo returns for triumphant homecoming concerts, was a fertile font for their music.

They soon became string wizards on banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitar with Hamish also mastering piano.

Hamish Davidson

The duo has been in big demand on studio sessions for artists embracing rock, pop, world, jazz, country and ethnic music.

And, of course, frequently hired for national tours by mainstream Australian country stars diverse as Lee Kernaghan, Adam Harvey, Sara Storer, Troy Cassar-Daley and Beccy Cole.

The boys also tour interstate as The Davidson Brothers in between occasional gigs in Victoria - often as hired hands for peers such as producer McDonald.


The Davidson family moved from Yinnar to Melbourne in 2001 and use the luxury of a pool in the leafy confines of their picturesque two-storey East Doncaster home for writing, picking and grinning.

It's their oasis in the big smoke where they retreat when not studying or on the road spreading the bluegrass gospel here and overseas.

The Davidson Brothers released their award winning debut independent album Stay All Night in October 2003.

They then released their EP Where I Want To Be, produced by Hugh McDonald of Redgum.

Original songs from that EP landed them in the finals of the Australian Country Music Awards in 2004 and 2005.

In 2004 it was the biographical title track, replete with a bonus bluegrass mix, and this year it was their original instrumental Hunter Valley Breakdown.

We won't list all their achievements here.

Check out their web site for that impressive CV at www.davidsonbrothersband.com

At the 2003 Tamworth Country Music Festival in January 2003 they won Country Entertainer of the Year.

Other highlights include graduating from the Country Music College in Tamworth and playing banjo and fiddle on a number of tracks for The Man From Snowy River soundtrack.

In October they also won Best New Act in Victoria at the Tertiary Recreation and Entertainment Awards.

They were came runner up in the National Final of the National University Band Competition, representing Victoria at which Hamish won Best Overall Musician. Hamish is also the current Australian Bluegrass Fiddle Champion.


It was a long winding road that led to them representing Australia a decade later at the International Bluegrass Association festival in Kentucky late last year.

And although the duo made the finals of the Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth in 2004 and 2005 they rarely work in adoptive home city Melbourne.

The Davidson Brothers plough greener fields in Kentucky, Tennessee and the Aussie bush.
"We rarely play here in Melbourne," Hamish confessed to Nu Country.

"Most of our work is interstate or in the country where we receive plenty of ABC and community radio airplay. It's harder in Melbourne where it's more word of mouth."

The Davidson Brothers performed Gympie Muster and Tamworth to crowds between 30-60,000.

"Ironically the biggest crowd we enjoyed in Melbourne was at Carols By Candlelight where there was about 30,000 people, " Hamish quipped.


So it was no surprise they made the most of their whirlwind tour of bluegrass state Kentucky and country music world HQ in Nashville.

The lads flew out of Melbourne in late September and returned home in October after a breathtaking entrée to the biggest music market in the world.

On their first night in Nashville they ventured to famed bluegrass venue - the historic star-studded Station Inn.

"We organised to meet Catherine Britt at the Station Inn," Lachlan told Nu Country,
"we wanted to have a look at this famous bluegrass venue. Josh, our mandolin player who arrived in Nashville earlier, said guess who's playing tonight - The Greencards. They were there as part of Americana Music Awards."

The not so cryptically named Greencards feature expatriate Australians Kym Warner and singing spouse Carol Young, originally from Dorrigo and Coffs Harbour.

Also in the band is English fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin.

The Greencards made their debut disc Movin' On in Austin, Texas, where Warner also produced Texan young gun Ben Atkins second album Mabelle.

Kym Warner hails from a country music dynasty with music credibility but little recognition in the big smoke.

Kym is the son of Trev Warner who was raised in Loxton on the Murray River and moved to Adelaide when he was 11.

The Warner tree roots were deep - Kym's grandfather was a yarn spinner and MC, his grandmother a pianist and great grandfather a fiddler.

Kym won four Aussie National Bluegrass Mandolin Championships before moving to Texas, while Young was twice nominated for Golden Guitars.


Although the band found plenty of session and live work in the Texan capital they have moved to Nashville to be closer to the industry and bluegrass action.

And further away from LA. from where Warner was deported after returning from Tamworth in 2004.

Warner and Young were heading to Austin and disembarked at LAX only to discover that, because Warner had previously filed for a change of status to his work visa, his passport was missing a necessary stamp from the American consulate.

As Warner was handcuffed and led to a holding cell to await a 17-hour return flight to Sydney, bassist Young had to beg the Feds to let her collect her house keys and credit cards from him.

"They just can't break the rules for anyone nowadays," she sighs, adding that officials got "a bit of a laugh" from the group's name.


Meanwhile back to the Davidson Brothers.

Bill Monroe
Despite living thousands of miles from Kentucky the duo won its role on the annual Bill Monroe bluegrass festival at Rosine through persistence.

"I heard the festival was on the week before the IBMA festival in Louisville that we had been booked for," Lachlan revealed.

"I kept emailing this bloke who lives on Bill's farm. But he was always out doing tours. He wasn't sure about booking us. He didn't know if we would fit the festival, So I sent him over our first album Stay All Night that opened with the Bill Monroe track Going Back To The Old Home.

It was all about going back to Rosine. He said that's exactly what he wanted. It was a real thrill, playing on the outdoor stage to 10,000 people. It ran all weekend so we went to the baseball with Dad in Cincinnati - two states away - and came back on the Sunday. We felt like picking again."

And it was no shock they were adopted by their hosts and other artists.

"We ended up getting back on stage again when we were rehearsing Bill's daughter Carolina Rose Monroe asked me to play fiddle with her," Lachlan added.

"We also played with Ronnie Stowman. She was a star on the Hee Haw TV series for 20 years."

But like many peers they were caught short with their modest supply of their music for sale.

"We sold out of CDS on our first night in Kentucky," Hamish added, "so next time we will have a new album and a lot more copies of it. Rod McCormack will produce it."


Getting booked at the IBMA festival in Louisville was a little easier - especially when veteran bluegrass band Hot Rize, who toured here in 1987, went into bat for the duo. Hot Rize and alter ego Red Knuckles & The Trail Blazers performed at the Mittagong bluegrass festival long before singer Tim O'Brien enjoyed solo success.

"It came about because of Hot Rize," Hamish revealed.

"It was Peter Wernick who plays banjo and steel guitar. I got to know him when he was president of IBMA. Being Australian stands out like dog's balls. We also got to know Tim O'Brien on this trip."

The festival was held at a 20-storey luxury hotel in the thriving city of Louisville. Inside was a huge auditorium and many other bars where artists jammed at the drop of a banjo.

"We were on the main stage in the ballroom," Hamish recalled, "we followed John Cowan from New Grass Revival on the same night as Rhonda Vincent, Del McCoury, Jim Lauderdale, Tom T Hall and many others. We played for 40 minutes. There were about 10,000 people at the festival. There was music on all 20 floors."

The duo was warmly accepted on and off stage.

"I walked up to Rhonda Vincent because the photographer who did her album cover also did ours," Lachlan confided.

"He had moved to Australia. She half recognised me before I started speaking. We also spoke to Alison Krauss's band and met Del McCoury."

It was McCoury, who toured with six times wed warrior Steve Earle until the Texan's profanities wounded his ears, who welcomed the duo in an unexpected way.

"Del did Lights On The Hill and dedicated it to us," Hamish revealed.

"We didn't know he was going to do that. He said he hadn't played Slim and Joy's song for six years and dedicated it to us. It took our breath away."

Rhonda Vincent


The Davidson Brothers are realistic about the competitive nature of the U.S. music scene and the need to build a power base at home.

Lack of metropolitan commercial radio airplay for country and bluegrass music has tempted them to follow their dreams to Tennessee and Kentucky.

But they are resisting offers to perform, record and tour overseas until they're ready. And they want to use Australia as their music launch pad.

"We like working in Australia but going overseas we realised we could be successful over there, even just working on the bluegrass circuit," Hamish added.

"But it's a matter of timing. We need a new album to sell at our concerts there. We also want to finish our professional courses here."

Hamish has spent four years studying chiropractics in Bundoora and Lachlan also has tertiary studies as an option.

"The week before my engineering course started at university I got a call from Lee Kernaghan to tour with him," Lachlan, now 19, confessed.

"I knew I would regret not taking Lee's offer so I deferred my engineering course."

Meanwhile the boys are planning their new album with Rod McCormack.

"We're writing material for the album right now," Hamish says,"The landmark local bluegrass album is Trev Warner's High Rolling recorded before Rod had a bigger studio. We're confident we could make another landmark album with Rod's expertise."


Although the Davidson Brothers rarely play in Melbourne they pull crowds on those rare occasions.

"We have doubled crowds in venues each time we play there but there is not a lot of work without radio exposure," Hamish says.

"We received more airplay on the ABC and community radio. We have had a lot of support from John Nutting on his national radio show."

And their exposure embraces outreaches of the unlucky radio country.

"In the smaller towns everyone listens to the local radio station,' says Lachlan, "in the cities like Melbourne they say 'how do you hear country music?' It's usually word of mouth for our music. We have done singles on the NFS disc that goes to radio all over the country. People in far North Queensland are hearing our stuff on radio and email us to get more."

The bluegrass boom has also been ignited by the huge selling Cohn Brothers movie O Brother that sold huge amounts despite being treated like a leper by commercial radio.

And, of course, occasional commercial TV variety shows like long time country fan Bert Newton's Good Morning Australia and Pay TV channel CMC now available in the big smoke for Foxtel, Optus and Austar subscribers.

The huge sales of Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss, Keith Urban and Kasey Chambers also opened the door to Ten Network show Video Hits.

Don't forget Nu Country TV - Saturday 8 p m and Tuesday 3 p m - C 31 for Series #3 of the Peter Hosking produced and directed and Michael Wormald edited epic.

Host Heather Rutherford interviewed Hamish and Lachlan for Episode 3 that airs on Saturday January 22.

It's a preview for our Nu Country TV Concert sponsored and presented by the Arts Centre.

The Davidson Brothers are joined on the concert by fellow young guns Jake Nickolai and Kim MacKenzie, both 19, Corrina Steel, Barnlaid and The T-Bones.

They perform the Arts Centre free Summertime Grooves concert series - 2.30-5.30 pm on Sunday January 30.

Info - www.theartscentre.net.au/summertimegrooves/

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