OCTOBER 2, 2017




It seemed very appropriate that Old Crow Medicine Show flew from the upper extremity of the majestic Thornbury Theatre down deep stairs without dropping a note or their instruments to open the inaugural Australian Americana Awards show .

This was a momentous and joyous launch for the Australian branch of the fastest growing roots music genre of the millennium.

The sizzling sextet, touring to promote its Bob Dylan tribute CD/DVD 50 Years Of Blonde on Blonde , opened with Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 before multi-instrumentalist Ketch Secor expanded on his ill-fated mission to meet his mentor who debuted here at Festival Hall in 1966.

“We're cultural ambassadors from Nashville, Tennessee ,” Secor revealed.

“That's the state where all the good moonshine and music comes from.”

Secor expanded on his hilarious hankering the previous night at the equally historic Forum theatre on his mission to meet his co-writer on their career song Wagon Wheel .

“We're indebted to Bob who performed Blonde On Blonde here in Melbourne in 1966,” said Secor who added his lyrics to Wagon Wheel 37 years after Dylan began it as Rock Me Mama in recording sessions for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid movie soundtrack in 1973.

“It's 37 years between pen strokes on this song but I still haven't met him.”

So it was serendipitous that tonight during the first verse of Wagon Wheel that Secor noted his banjo player and old Virginia seventh grade school-mate Critter Fuqua broke a string.

Fuqua had found original recording of Wagon Wheel , nee Rock Me Mama , and passed it to Ketch.

So the string was broken but not the circle.


The Crows set the mood for the evening that began earlier downstairs at the cocktail party in the Velvet Room with beverages diverse as Jack Daniels from Lynchburg, due south of Nashville, and fine wines from Soumah (South of Maroondah Highway) at Gruyere in the Yarra Valley.

They handed the baton, appropriately to Jordie Lane , who was raised in Thornbury and now travels the wider world.

Jordie and his band The Sleepers showcased an appetiser from third album GLASSELLLAND that he is promoting on a spring tour that includes Dashville Skyline, Fremantle, Mullum and Queenscliff festivals.

They were followed by Rockhampton raised duo Busby Marou who have just released their new video for Paint This Land that they filmed at Mt Tambourine in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Tom Busby and Wayne Blair wrote it as a celebration of the under-appreciated war efforts of indigenous soldiers.

For Newcastle born singer-songwriter Catherine Britt it was a welcome reunion with house band virtuoso Bill Chambers, who discovered her at 14 and produced her debut EP, and his son Nash - musical director for the event.

That was long before she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30 and underwent 12 months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment just two weeks after releasing her sixth album Boneshaker .

Britt, now 32 and in remission, performed You And Me Against The World - recorded as a duet with Steve Earle and featuring Busby tonight - and the title track of Boneshaker .

Catherine was followed by expatriate West Australian Emily Barker who was born in Bridgetown and has lived in the UK for 15 years.

Emily performed her Rosetta Tharp tribute Sister Goodbye from her third solo album Sweet Kind Of Blue

Barker, now 36, has had her music featured as the theme to BBC dramas Wallander and The Shadow Line.

She also composed music for The Keeping Room starring Sam Worthington and Brit Marling and her first feature-length soundtrack for 2015 UK movie Hector starring Peter Mullan.

That followed four albums with the trio The Red Clay Halo , before releasing her second solo album The Toerag Sessions in 2015.


Expat Californian born frequent Australian tourist Kevin Welch added to the Americana theme with his welcome return.

But it was a bitter-sweet occasion for Welch, now 62, who lives in Nowra with his Australian wife.

Welch also has a home in Wimberley in the Texas hill country where his son Dustin and singing actress daughter Savannah followed in his musical footsteps.

On a trip home to the Wimberley Farmers Market in November last year Kevin was with Savannah and her four year-old son Charlie when she was struck by a car and had a leg amputated.

She is a member of The Trishas and also had acting roles in The Tree of Life, The Virginity Hit and Oscar-winning Richard Linklater film Boyhood.

It was a tragic twist for Kevin whose altruism emerged after he arrived here for his 11th tour in 2009.

He was so moved by the horrific Black Saturday bushfires that he wrote anthemic song Marysville that he recorded for the Vinnies bushfire relief CD After The Fire .

After the smoke and heartbreak the singer beefed up his tribute with guest vocalist son Dustin and tour partner Fats Kaplin for his belated sixth solo album A Patch of Blue Sky after three trio discs with Kieran Kane and Kaplan.

Welch was followed on stage by Americana Vanguard award presentation to Dandenong born and bred festival promoter Brian Taranto.

Taranto operates Love Police whose many Americana events included the popular Out On The Weekend Festival on October 14 at Seaworks in Williamstown, and side shows by touring artists.

Brian proved timing is everything with his award coming two days after his football team Richmond won its first premiership in 37 years.

Taranto was also a worthy winner for another major altruistic act.

He helped stage the Nu Country FM fire resurrection concert in 2000 with singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman, Little Jewford and Lucky Oceans at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda.

Taranto 's speech was a highlight with anecdotal flashbacks to family bands in South Gippsland and thanks to the traditional owners of the land with a little help from Shipwreck Coast guest Shane Howard.

He was followed by Ruby Boots whose song-writing began while working as a pearl sheller and deckhand off Broome and Exmouth.

She now lives in Nashville and returned home on the eve of releasing her new album on Bloodshot.

Ruby, nee Bex Chilcott, has been a regular performer on Nu Country with video clips from her debut 2015 album Solitude .

Mount Waverly born Henry Wagons picked up the baton with humorous prophecy - “you might find me face down in a puddle of water in Nashville .”

His energetic performance, that even surpassed the Pierce Brothers doing somersaults on the Margaret Court Arena stage when opening for dual Grammy winning Georgian octet the Zac Brown Band in April, was a crowd pleaser.


Former Goanna singer Shane Howard, raised in an historic worker's cottage beside the Nestles milk factory in west Warrnambool suburb of Dennington, also reached back to his time in the outback with indigenous bands and musicians.

Howard OAM, and living further west of Warrnambool at Killarney, performed his Goanna hit Living On The Razor's Edge , before introducing another of his protégés Yirrmal Marika for their duet on spiritual anthem The Bridge .

Yirrmal, from Yirrkala, is inspired by his grandfather Dr Yunupingu - the former lead singer of Yothu Yindi.

It was fitting that Howard and Yirrmal performed together more than 30 years after Goanna began in Geelong.

Yirrmal has lived in Geelong for the past five years where he has been continuing his education and participating in the Marrma' Rom Two Worlds Leadership Program.

Yirrmal worked with mentors Shane, Neil Murray, Archie Roach and Steve Teakle for his 2016 EP.

Kasey Chambers, who grew up further west at Southend coastal fishing village and the Nullarbor, was presented with her Vanguard award for promoting roots Australian Americana music here and on her diverse world tours.

It enabled her to front the band anchored by Poppa Bill to deliver recent hit Ain't No Little Girl from her epic 11 th album Dragonfly - a double disc.


Queensland born former Powder Finger singer Bernard Fanning, now 48, also joined Kasey for their duet on Sooner Or Later from his 2016 CD Civil Dusk.

Memphis belle Valerie June followed with her hirsute quartet delivering two evocative songs from her five album catalogue.

The Jackson born singer began with Tennessee Time and ended with Got Soul .


It was no surprise the show ended on an incredible high with all cast rendition of Will Be The Circle Be Unbroken.

With the Old Crows, Kevin Welch, Valerie June, Kasey, Shane, Henry, Ruby, Jordie and the crew it heralded a musical marriage with longevity and hopefully mainstream exposure.

The evening's MC nuptials were consummated by 3RRR-FM Twang show host Denise Hylands and Nashville Americana executive director Jed Hilly.

Hilly, a New York born bassist, father of three and driving force of Americana 's international expansion for more than a decade, punctuated the music with anecdotes about the genre's growth.

Another benefactor was Van Diemen's Land born promoter Michael Chugg whose support of the genre includes major tours - including Old Crow Medicine Show - and festivals.

It all began for Chugg in Launceston in the sixties as a live concert promoter with latter day Tasmanian DJ, Logie winning TV host and State Minister For Police Jim Cox.

As a teenage Launceston Examiner cadet journalist and country music columnist I enjoyed midwifery roles in their musical birth.

The circle is indeed unbroken.

Photos by Carol Taylor

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