OCTOBER 11, 2018
AUSTRALIAN AMERICANA AWARDS
FLORIDIAN JOSHUA HEDLEY LANDS IN THORNBURY
“I got rambling fever down deep in my bones/ from back roads and byways to places unknown/ from wasteland to Graceland or ever I roam/ and I'm never alone on the road/ I've got Willie and Waylon/ and Haggard and Jones/ Lefty and Shaver and Kristofferson/ passing by white lines reminds me of home.” - Weird Thought Thinker - Joshua Hedley.
The Australian Americana Awards promoter Michael Chugg had good reason to delay the start of this prestigious awards show at the majestic Thornbury Theatre.
He advised guests that the horrific traffic had gone forth and multiplied and was causing both artists and guests to be running late as they headed north and south.
But the wait proved worth it for those downstairs at the cocktail party in the Velvet Room with beverages diverse as local wines from the Yarra Valley and Jack Daniels from Lynchburg, due south of Nashville provided by show sponsors - the Tennessee Tourism Bureau.
It may have been more than déjà vu when Joshua Hedley & His Hedliners kicked the dew off the glass at the second Australian Americana Awards at the Thornbury Theatre .
The Florida born honky tonk hero was on his ninth drip to Australia but took us back in time to his traditional Americana roots with his quintet, replete with pedal steel.
Hedley, now 34, arrived in Nashville in 2004 as a renowned fiddle player and became a popular staple in Lower Broadway venues including Roberts Western World as he explored song-writing on tunes that reeked of country's golden past.
Joshua opened with octogenarian mentor Shotgun Willie Nelson's classic Night Life.
“I'm an extreme narcissist, this next song is about me,” Hedley quipped as he previewed his road song Weird Thought Thinker from his debut album Mr Jukebox.
Hedley, whose previous touring partners included Justin Townes Earle and Johnny Fritz, handed the reins to William Crighton.
Crichton, 32, lives in the Hunter Valley with his musician wife Julieanne and their two daughters, so it was fitting he opened with 2,000 Clicks (from the Queensland border.)
“This song is about living in western NSW,” explained Crighton who has also lived in Nashville .
He followed with Let Love Come First from his second album Empire.
Highett bluegrass The Weeping Willows , formed in 2012 and augmented by a banjo player, opened with House Of Sin from second album Before Darkness Comes a Calling.
Andrew Wrigglesworth and Laura Coates inject their bluegrass with Gothic imagery so it was fitting they followed with Devil's Road where the characters perform in the shadows of a black crow.
KEVIN WELCH DUST DEVILS IN A PATCH OF BLUE SKY
“Honey this ain't my first rodeo/ been a month of Sundays/ since you said goodbye/ all I'm waitin' on now/ is a patch of blue sky.” - A Patch Of Blue Sky - Kevin Welch.
Welch sang he was “one step ahead of the storm” in his album title track Dust Devil.
The singer may have taken an eight year break between albums but Kentucky Coalminer's son Chris Stapleton topped charts with Welch song Millionaire in his hiatus.
The dynamic soulful spiritual performer, entranced the crowd as he reached back to his sixth album as he sang “all I'm waiting on is a patch of blue sky” - the title track.
The singer, whose music is steeped in life, loss and redemption, was a hard act to follow but Kasey Chambers picked up the baton with ease.
Chambers, one of last year's Americana Vanguard winners with Love Police and Out On The Weekend festival promoter Brian Taranto, was accompanied two of her Fireside Disciples - guitarist Brandon Dodd and Broome based Alan Pigram.
“The other Disciple - my dad Bill - is on a ship to Noumea , Kasey, 41 and mother of three, explained as she introduced the title track of her 12th album Campfire Tapes .
Kasey, Bill and Pigram wrote the song that draws from the indigenous Yarawu spoken word in Broome and fuels the evocative video.
Chambers powerful persona fuelled their riveting rendition and an equally inspired delivery of Now That You've Gone from the same album.
It was aural bliss as Kasey's vocals soared without any need for electric amplification or assistance from brother Nash - co-promoter of the awards show.
Equally accessible was the duo Little Georgia - Justin Carter and Ashleigh Mannix - whose second album is due for release this year.
They recorded their debut disc Bootleg in a farmhouse at Narrawong near Portland where Carter grew up across the border from the Chambers family at Southend near Mt Gambier.
They kicked off with Heartbreak - a single from that album with Carter adding harmonica to his double necked guitar playing.
“This song was written on Justin's property in south west Victoria at Portland ,” Mannix explained before her vocals ignited their second song illustrated by their vision of “looking up at the stars and getting stoned on the mountain side.”
They were followed by Diesel, born Mark Denis Lizotte , who was accompanied by co-writer Imogen Clark on their tune Give Me Saturday Night from his 30 years of hits compilation.
Diesel, 52, said “we're here for a short time, not for a long time” as he introduced his second song.
SHANE HOWARD VANGUARD AND MARGO PRICE PAPER COWBOY
“Well you're nothing but a paper cowboy/ made out of glue and old news/ and all your bravado and your drug-dealing ways/ that only gives us the blues/ well you're nothing but a paper cowboy/ made out of glue and old news/ and all bravado and your drug-dealing ways/ well that only gives us the blues.” - Paper Cowboy - Matt Gardner.
Americana executive director Jed Hilly - co-host of the show - presented 3RRR-FM Off The Record host and Rhythms Magazine publisher Brian Wise with his Vanguard award for his 30 years exposure of roots music and tours to New Orleans , Nashville and way beyond.
Jed also read a written tribute from expat Australian producer and musician Mark Moffatt - one time member of Saltbush and latter day Americana president in Nashville - to second Vanguard award recipient Shane Howard.
Moffatt co-produced Howard's 1990 album The River in the early stages of his 40 year career.
The former Goanna singer, now 63, developed his love for music when he was raised in an historic worker's cottage beside the Nestles milk factory in west Warrnambool suburb of Dennington.
Howard, OAM, traced his musical roots back to his love of singer-songwriters diverse as Bob Dylan, James Taylor and John Prine.
He expanded on his support of indigenous music through his trips to the outback and nurturing artists diverse as Yothu Yindi, Black Arm Band and the Pigram family in Broome.
And also influence of Irish music through tours of Ireland and recording with Mary Black, who had a Top 5 hit his song Flesh & Blood .
Howard's explanation of the roots of Americana embracing Europe and the U.S. enabled him to marry the diverse influences on the genre.
His Goanna era produced memorable songs Solid Rock, Living On The Razor's Edge and Let The Franklin Flow and his solo career also created another song while touring with Carol King in 2012.
He told of meeting legendary drummer Russ Kunkel - one of his mentors - on the King tour and writing another song with him.
“We sat around talking and I wrote a song with one of my heroes,” Howard explained as he introduced You're The Love .
Howard was joined by one of his daughters Myra for a spirited rendition You're The Love and Love Is A River from Moffatt produced 1990 album The River.
Howard was a hard act to follow so the task was handed to Mid-West Farmer's Daughter Margo Price and her hot band.
MC Hilly recalled that when Price played Blackberry Farm near Nashville she was invited on stage by Loretta Lynn, now 86, to join her on her classic hit Coalminer's Daughter.
Tonight she opened with her anthemic Equal Pay from her second solo album All American Made.
The singer, competing with her band for aural access, closed the show with vitriolic new tune Paper Cowboy.
It was a brief but powerful preview to her headlining role at the fifth Out On The Weekend Festival at Seaworks in Williamstown.
Review by David Dawson
Margo Price - Kip Karpik
Shane Howard - Jeremy Lee
Kevin Welch - Carol Taylor