Frank Gutch Jr: Aussies Pick the Aussies, Part Deux (My Favorite Musicians From Down Under Pick Their Favorites) and The New Journalism (Ethics Be Damned, Full Speed Ahead!)

Sometime back in the 1800s (actually, it was March of 2014), I posted a column which I  had hoped to update on a regular basis. I had titled it Down Under Down Under: Band Picks By My Favorite Aussie Musicians and it consisted of Australians choosing Australians in a musical landscape of sorts.

Hannah Gillespie (whose All the Dirt album still knocks me out) choosing Leah Flanagan, The Snappers, John Williamson (actually Hannah’s boy Kai Gillespie‘s pick); Munro Melano, whom I found through Hannah, going with Fink (who, as it turned out, was British but I always cut musicians slack), Ngairre, and Mechanical Pterodactyl; Bill Jackson favoring Raised By Eagles, The Weeping Willows (who are right now doing very well in The States), The Stillsons, and Shannon Bourne, who just recently released an album of experimental instrumental music I find quite adventurous and pleasing; Pete Fidler, cohort of Bill Jackson, picking out Jeff Lang, Andrew Winton, and Liz Frencham. Even a responder to the column, one Frank Davidson, chipped in with a list as long as my arm. (You can access that column by clicking here)

That column led to a ton of new artists and discoveries I might never have made. There is truly so much music out there awaiting discovery that I seem to be able to only chip away at the mountain, so I decided to do it again.  Here is the mole hill passed along by the likes of Bill Jackson (the only repeating contributor), Angharad Drake, Luke Plumb, Ruth Hazleton, and Kate Burke.

Let me preface this by saying that these choices with the exception of Pete Wild are all brand new to me and I know Pete’s music only through various posts made by Kate Burke, who has a personal attachment (she worried that a mention of him might scream of nepotism… I assured her that it did not). So while you (at least those of you living outside Australia) more than likely have never heard of these artists, they are more than worthy of your attention. Some have already locked themselves in my head and are playing in a loop— excellent stuff!

I would ask that you do me one favor. Because I spent a lot of time researching the artists and listening to the music, could you please bookmark this and return to it until you have listened to each and every one of these artists. True, they are only choices by other people but by the time I finished listening they were already part of my musical world. These artists are among the best I have heard in the past number of years, each one for their approach to music and recording. Outstanding does not describe them enough. It is only a start. If you’re among the no-good-music-out-there-anymore crowd, consider this a challenge.

Let Us Begin…

Angharad Drake:

Angharad, Angharad, Angharad. I have written so much about you but know so little. Your music struck home hard and is not diminishing but growing, and yet you are still so young. I constantly ask myself how one so young can look at life with a maturity beyond your years but you do. I can’t remember which song convinced me because you have so many, but there had to be one. Or maybe my conversion was a result of the mass of your output— song after song after song soothing me to submission. I want to ask if you are a star yet, at least down under, because you are certainly deserving.

Angharad gave me only one name but she didn’t need to give more. Tom Cooney is one of the real singer/songwriters, one who defines the term. While his earlier work reflects more of the standard folkie, his later songwriting is on another level— more depth, more surreal, more… more. On his latest album, Futureproof, he brings to mind artists like Nick Drake and John Martyn but only in places. The important thing is that his songs cut through the chaff, melding topic with music effortlessly.

This video is a bit longer than I like to embed, but it is live and gives you a good look at just how good Cooney is.

When I hear this, I am dragged back to  the magical days of the Modern Folk movement when it was coming into its own. The folk days of Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake and Gordon Lightfoot. When the acoustic began taking on the aura of psychedelia. I, for one, am thrilled to hear that those days are not over.

Luke Plumb:

Luke himself is all over the map when it comes to music, ranging from the straight folk to traditional folk to almost hard rock to jazz. Recently, he has recorded with Andy Irvine and has an album out by his own band, Luke Plumb & The Circuit, which enfolds folk, rock, and jazz and which at times coming off sounding like what Jethro Tull should have sounded like after Benefit instead of what the band actually did. Plumb is famous to me for his production and playing on Kate & Ruth‘s excellent Declaration album, as well. The following videos will give you an idea of what he does (and does very well, indeed). Here is a link to a review I wrote of his latest with The Circuit, titled Turn and ReTurn.

Luke points us toward Homegrown Quartet and old pard Peter Daffy. Let us start with the Quartet.

Luke has worked with these guys in the studio, I have heard, and there is no wonder he is enamored with what they do. They have a storytelling to their music and a unique way of presenting it, forsaking the standard modern folk lineup by including oboe amongst the instruments. The result is a mellow downhome feel married to a classical interlude here and there, if you will. The strings, besides acoustic guitar are violin and possibly cello(?). A wonderful setting for an afternoon tea or quiet evening at home. Very intriguing.

I get why Luke likes to play with Peter, and hide that smirk and chuckle. You’re acting like a child. Peter Daffy, it seems, loves to look backward for much of his inspiration, at least judging from his videos. There does seem to be a larger and larger number of musicians finding the music of the past home— most of them pulling from roots rock or vintage Country & Western. Or swing. Peter does not seem to differentiate, though. He prefers to go where the music takes him.

You don’t hear enough Rory Gallagher anymore, as far as I’m concerned.

Ruth Hazleton:

I rely on Ruth for a lot of the info I get about Australian music. She has her finger on the pulse of most of what is happening not only on the folk/Australiana scene, but also keeps up with the infrastructure, meaning the positives and negatives of the business itself. She is equal parts academician, musician, and human and takes all three seriously. The latest album with her name on the jacket is Declaration, recorded with Kate Burke and Luke Plumb, an amazing work in that it captures in modern sound the feel of the traditional music pasts of her native land. While she has not recorded much in the recent past, rumor has it that she is working on putting an album together in the not too distant future. When asked about artists who deserve more attention, she pointed to two who fit the bill perfectly— Alison Ferrier and Lucy Wise.

I could tell you things about Alison Ferrier but I won’t. She prefers that her music stands on its own outside of the world in which she normally lives and I respect that. First time through, I heard music I had not expected—slashing blues, rock, pop— much more depth than I had imagined. Different than the older videos I had watched earlier. The sound was fuller, sometimes steeped in reverb, sometimes straight-on powerful, sometimes plaintive, always on-the-edge emotional. Her taste and talent speak for themselves.

That was pleasant enough, but she has a harder side I enjoy even more.

Her new album is titled What She Knows and should be available soon, if not already. Good good stuff.

I knew somehow that Ruthie would go sweet on me with her other choices. She knows how much vocals, melodies, and harmonies are to me. Lucy Wise could not have been a better choice, to my mind. Her voice is sweet, her songs outstanding, and her aura golden. There is a return to the British trad folk revival of the mid-70s in her presentation, her music reminiscent of maybe June Tabor or Sandy Denny or Maddy Prior. You know, a couple of my female friends have mentioned that they think women on the whole get short shrift from men for one reason or another. If that is true, men need to open their ears because Wise’s new album, Winter Sun, is something to behold.

Evidently, Lucy isn’t the only talent in her family. Her father is a luthier and evidently a very good one, her mother is a musician as are her two sisters. It’s a regular Osmond’s fest down under, but with girls. You want to hear what runs in the family, check these out.

Bill Jackson:

Bill was my first contact with Australia. I grabbed one of his earlier albums, Steel + Bone, from an approved list when I was writing for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange a number of years ago and a number of emails later we were friends. Bill, in fact, spent a portion of his time promoting Australian artists to me and before I knew it, Australia became my second home (in my head, anyway) right up there with Canada. I love the fact that Bill and his brother Ross have a look to the history of the music as much as the music itself. Some of his songs should be played in classrooms as topical items. As always, Bill wants to give me a list comparable to the Magna Carta, but I limited him with a few harsh words and a ruler across the backs of his hands.  He, as I said, championed Alison Ferrier alongside Ruthie. He also champions Melanie Horsnell as does Kate Burke, and chooses Jed Rowe and King Curly as well.

I liked Horsnell right off the bat. How could you not love someone who records for Inflatable Girlfriend Records? I am hoping that is her own label and please don’t tell me if it is not because that’s the best laugh I have had all day.

Of nice voice and good songwriting skills, she seems to  cover the folk/pop genre well. The fact that she sings in French is a plus as it extends her audience. Very nice, indeed.

Jed Rowe would do well in The States right now. Seems singer/songwriters are very much in demand— if they are above the norm, of course, and Jed is above the norm. He is storyteller with an affinity for good music phrasing and strong songwriting skills. Put him in Nashville. Or Austin. No wonder Bill likes him. They have a lot of the same musical DNA.

And if that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

King Curly is something else altogether. Roots obviously folk, he turns most songs inward and down and gives me the same feeling I get when I hear Bill Pillmore‘s Look In, Look Out album.

Sometimes you have to let the music do the talking and this song talks aplenty. Truly worthy of more.  Should be getting hundreds of thousands of views. Big thumbs up.

Here’s a bonus, just because I am now a King Curly fan.

I met Ruth Hazleton through Bill Jackson. Luckily, she was working with Kate Burke at the time on a new album (Declaration) and they walked me through the process as it was being recorded. By the time it was completed, I was in love with them both. They both love what they are doing (Ruthie is working on a new album, among other things, and Kate is doing the same all the while playing in Luke’s band The Circuit. I always think I know someone until I find out they are a musician and then hear their music. This song doubled the respect that I once had for Kate. There is a purity here missing in so many songs these days.

She points to Heath Cullen and one video in, I am convinced she is right. Watch the difference between Cullen’s different versions of his song, Who’ll Ring the Bell.

There is a Down South attitude in this version, recorded in 2017. Now catch this one from his 2015 album Outsiders.

Cullen admits to altering songs each time he plays them. I sat through a couple of years watching the band Notary Sojac do the same thing. Some didn’t like it all that much. I loved it. To me it is a sign of creative consciousness. Cullen is loaded with it.

Pete Wild is one of those guys who can play just about anything, from trad jazz to heavy metal, I suppose, though his death metal videos are hard to find. His latest album, Calm, produced by Kate Burke, I understand (okay, Pete helped), covers a few bases and I admit to having turned a few. His lyrics are brilliant in painting musical pictures and his music varied, to say the least.

Getting the picture? When he tosses the sense of humor aside, his songs are true and to the heart. I love this guy.

You may not have heard of The Mae Trio from Australia (now calling themselves The Maes) if you live in The States but you soon will. What with the women in music thing happening and especially the worldwide acceptance of I’m With  Her, we’re set to not only hear them but embrace them as well. I am surprised I had not heard of them thus far, especially after watching numerous videos which blew my mind. This is perfect, I thought, but then remembered the many artists who, too, were perfect and how little reaction they got from various audiences. That certainly can’t happen with these guys, I think, but you never know.  Watch this and tell me what you think.

I mean, when it comes to the Americana (or Australiana) side of life, what could be better than The Maes doing a cover of a Dougie MacLean song?

When those girls sing, it squeezes my heart, the harmonies are so beautiful. Reminiscent of Gold Heart (also known as The Gold Sisters).

I want to end this on a high note so I will end it now. Just remember these artists and their music next time you want good music. Do a little YouTube diving. It will  be fun!

No Notes this week. You have enough to watch and hear without my adding to the load. Pop quiz next week, though. Don’t forget your pencils.



Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at

dbawis-button7Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at Frank bottle capone time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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