2016 events are listed below
(either page down or click on specific event for more detail)
Second Sunday each month – Old Time Music or Bluegrass Jam Sessions
16th December – Songs From the Ash Grove
10th December – No Bones About It
10th December – Workshops – Alex Rubin and Catherine BB Bowness
19th November – Jake Meserve Blount
18th November – The Jim Perkins Group
28th October – The Cattlestops
14th October – Eva and Chris Prowse
8th October – Andrew London Trio
16th September – Jack MacKenzie
3rd September – The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band
19th August – The Melling Station Boys
15th July- Donna Dean
25th June- Sean Donald and Flora Knight
17th June- The Kelburn Viaduct Municipal Ensemble Jug Band
11th June- The Frank Burkitt Band
20th May – Holloway Inmates
14th May – Mark Mazengarb
15th April – Don Milne
2nd April – Jan Preston
18th March – Legal Tender
27th February – Dan Walsh
19th February – Rhodeworks
18th February – Fiddle Pie
6th February – Old Time Music Workshops – Fiddle Pie
9th January – Celebration of Clive Chambers’ Life
Second Sunday each month – Old Time Music or Bluegrass Jam Session
This is a new venture for the WBS, having come together after years in the making.
It will be held on the second Sunday afternoon of each month between 2pm and 4pm at the Petone Community Centre. See Event Detail page for more information.
Over many years the WBS has organised Old-time banjo camps, then Old-time music camps and many Old-time instrument and Bluegrass workshops. There has been a calling for jam sessions to also be held.
Embrace this opportunity and the jam session will flourish accordingly. For this year, Bluegrass jam sessions are on “even” months, and Old-time Music jam sessions are on “odd” months.
Friday 16th December – society night – Songs From the Ash Grove
Carol Bean and Jack MacKenzie have teamed up to perform songs and stories from their time in Los Angeles during the 60s and 70s. It will be a night of fine guitar pickin’, harmonies, and the low down on the legendary music venue the Ash Grove – including a short film, as well as the best Californian acoustic music store and live venue operating today – McCabe’s.
The Ash Grove was established in 1958 by Ed Pearl as a folk music venue in West Hollywood, California. The club was a beacon for people who were searching for music that had meaning and made a difference – music you wouldn’t hear on the pop charts in those days. Ed promoted Mississippi blues, Kentucky bluegrass, as well as folk, jazz and rock. Hundreds of artists appeared on the Ash Grove stage, including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Odetta, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, the Byrds, Taj Mahal, the Chambers Brothers, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Sleepy John Estes, Pete Seeger, Oscar Brown Jr., Chuck Berry, Jackson Browne, Ravi Shankar, Miriam Makeba and the Virgin Islands Steel Band, to name a few.
The club became associated with the cultural and political ferment of the 1960s. In the coffee house tradition, Ed Pearl encouraged a mix of music with poetry and comedy; Mort Sahl, Steve Allen, and The Fireside Theatre for comedy, and poets Charles Bukowski and Lenny Bruce provided the edge. There were also artists protesting about the Vietnam War, a Cuban Crisis, and Chilean coupe. This involvement caused conflict and the club was burnt to the ground several times before it finally closed in 1973.
Many personal success stories were born at The Ash Grove. Chris Hillman and Clarence White (the Byrds) met there while both were in high school. Ry Cooder first played back-up guitar there as a teenager while teaching guitar at McCabe’s. This is where Carol Bean comes in. It was 1964 and Ry was her guitar teacher. He was sixteen and she was fifteen. Carol Bean grew up in Manchester England, Hamilton Ontario, and then Los Angeles in 1958, the year the Ash Grove was founded. At 15, influenced by Bob Dylan, she began to learn guitar, first at McCabe’s and then a year later at the Ash Grove, where she was also taught by Dave Cohen from Country Joe and the Fish. “The first musician I ever saw at the Ash Grove was Doc Watson. I am pretty sure that was in 1963. He played his guitar runs so perfectly and so fast that the audience would moan. Then he would smile that blind-man smile of his and mumble “Eat yer hearts out”.
In 1971 Carol moved to New Zealand to raise a family, teach school, and play electric blues with her band Blue Highways. She has since formed the Dirty River Band, the Mt Misery String Band, has performed with Dave Murphy, Richard Klein, and Ray Ahipene-Mercer. She plays with Neil Worboys and the gang in the Kelburn Viaduct Municipal Ensemble Jug Band and has recently formed a new country rock band The Clean Getaways. Carol has also recorded three CDs of original songs.
It was at this time, 1971, that Jack MacKenzie was working for McCabe’s Guitar Shop as a manager until 1980, when he too began his migration to New Zealand. McCabe’s opened in 1958 – the same year that The Ash Grove opened. Their motto is “We have rentals for the cautious, lessons for the eager, truth-telling for the fearful, repairs for the clumsy, concerts for the devoted & free coffee for all”. McCabe’s sells the best guitars, mandolins and banjos in the world. The back room still holds the excellent concerts featuring renowned acoustic musicians. Jack was well positioned to participate in impromptu jam sessions with musicians who came to play at McCabe’s – Doc Watson included. At the time Jack had a hot band called Peach Fuzz.
Jack lived in the San Gabriel Valley amid endless orange groves from 1956 to 1968. In 1968 he enrolled as an undergraduate at UCLA, a university located quite close to McCabe’s. In 1972 Jack left the Graduate School of Linguistics at UCLA, when permission was denied to write his Masters Degree thesis on the linguistic aspects of American folk music. So much for academia.
Prior to landing at McCabe’s, Jack was an avid musician playing songs absorbed from Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. However that all changed one night when Jack attended a Doc Watson concert at McCabe’s. The command and presence of this master musician forever changed Jack’s outlook on music. For the next 40+ years, Jack steadily pursued the skills needed to play like Doc. Jack was also influenced by musicians playing at McCabe’s often through exposure on a personal level.
Jack officially moved to New Zealand in 1984 and for the following 16 years worked as a full time white water rafting and fly-fishing guide, until he re-discovered his music and began to pursue recording and performing again with a new-found passion. During the next decade and a half, Jack performed at folk clubs, Wellington Bluegrass Society, and various music festivals, as well as other venues. Throughout that time Jack has recorded four CDs, including many original songs and tunes, as well as Americana style covers.
Saturday 10th December – concert – No Bones About It
Catherine (BB) Bowness started the banjo thirteen years ago in her hometown, Koitiata, New Zealand and soon after was accepted as the first banjoist at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington. After completing a Bachelor of Music in jazz performance in 2012, BB moved to Boston, Massachusetts and as since been in demand as a teacher and performer throughout New England. BB has performed with bands across the United States as well as in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and Canada. Her newest band, Mile Twelve, has quickly been gaining recognition for their outstanding performances throughout the USA.
Alex Rubin is a Boston based guitarist and educator. At the age of 17, Alex turned his musical interests from classical violin to bluegrass guitar, and has yet to reconsider. After completing an undergraduate biology degree at Cornell University in 2011, he returned to the vibrant Boston music bluegrass scene, studying privately with Berklee professor John McGann. In March 2016, Alex joined the renowned Canadian fiddler April Verch and her band, with whom he tours full time.
Since June 2014, Alex and BB have been performing together around Massachusetts, including shows at Club Passim, The Harvard Square Folk Festival and at the Freshgrass Festival as one of five finalists in the 2014 duo contest. Together as No Bones About It, they explore the roots of acoustic music, playing a collection of folk songs, bluegrass tunes, and their own compositions which reflect their wide range of influences, including bluegrass, jazz, old-time and celtic music. Using diverse styles of banjo, guitar and vocals, they seamlessly blend genres in their arrangements of traditional and original tunes.
Saturday 10th December – workshops – Alex Rubin and Catherine BB Bowness
Guitar Workshop – Alex Rubin
This workshop aims to provide the building blocks for you to reach the next level of guitar playing, no matter your starting point. We will discuss the basics of the right and left hand, tone, finding your way around the fretboard, and learning melodies and chords by ear. We will not only learn what the essential skills are, but how to practice and improve on them, and how to really integrate them into your playing. For the more advanced players, we will cover flatpicking fiddle tunes and improvising solos in bluegrass and old-time. Any and all skill levels are welcome and the topics discussed will absolutely be tailored to the attendees.
Banjo Workshop – Catherine BB Bowness
This class will cover the fundamentals of 3-finger bluegrass style banjo playing and is suitable for all levels of players from absolute beginners to banjo players who have more specific questions about bluegrass banjo. The workshop will be run similar to a masterclass where we will explore the questions of attendees and i’ll give feedback on technique or tune arrangements. But some topics we will more than likely cover include: right and left hand technique, roll patterns, moveable chord shapes, learning tunes, playing with others and some good ways to practice efficiently
Saturday 19th November – concert – Jake Meserve Blount
Jake Meserve Blount
Washington, DC is where Jake Blount grew up. The product of a marriage between a black father from southern Virginia and a white mother from outside of Boston, he grew up at a musical intersection of white and black, urban and rural, and Northern and Southern. After years of playing funk and metal music, friends inspired him to take up banjo three years ago. Fiddle followed one year after. Under the tutelage of old-time luminaries including Bruce Molsky, Rayna Gellert, the Horseflies and the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jake is quickly and steadily gaining prominence in the old-time world.
Jake is a member of The Moose Whisperers, who won the 2016 Traditional Band Contest at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia. He is known for his groovy, driving musical style and blues-influenced vocals. Jake recently collaborated with singer/songwriter Emma Joy on an EP titled Rise Again, and intends to record a full-length old-time record in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, he is sailing from Pago Pago, American Samoa to Auckland, New Zealand in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree in Ethnomusicology.
Friday 18th November – society night – The Jim Perkins Group
“The band is a recently formed ensemble of talented musicians from around the Wellington region, assembled and led by the fabulous Jim Perkins, a guitarist, singer, songwriter and teacher at Whitireia School of Music. Playing his beautiful New Zealand-crafted Benavides guitar, Jim brings dazzling guitar-picking skills to the stage, at the same time using his compelling voice to sing an array of great Americana music.
Never far from Jim’s side is the beautiful Roni Perkins. Evocative of the influences of Alison Krauss, Eva Cassidy, Roni’s voice is smooth, silky and straight from the heart. Roni is Head of Music at Mana College and has a long history of singing both solo and with vocal groups such as Lady Soul and Soul Sistas. Her journey as a musician began with the fabulous and popular band SoulCake in the 2000s.” – Wayne Mills
“I got into bluegrass three years ago through George Packard, after he gave me a Tony Rice CD of bluegrass guitar. George got into bluegrass a few years before that, when one of his students wanted to learn mandolin. I was sharing the workplace with George, and he had asked me to play with him a few times, We played a range of stuff including some Celtic. George gave me a Tony Rice CD which went on the CD shelf, as at the time I was so preoccupied with studying and playing jazz. I didn’t really get what the music had to offer. At the time I was already playing in a bunch of bands including jazz, reggae, blues, filling in for covers bands from time to time, and also getting my own jazz fusion band together. The fusion stuff really was a challenge as we were exploring songs by bands such as Steps Ahead, The Brecker Brothers, Mike Stern, as well as writing my own material for this group. There were complex arrangements and discordant chord structures as well as rhythmic things that make your mind bend. Let’s just say I was busy. Late in the year in 2014, after I had taken my leave from Whitireia, I was enjoying the time off and felt like exploring something new. Out came the Tony Rice CD…
After that, things were different for me. Blackberry Blossom was the first tune I learnt and I spent three months woodshedding on that one tune. I managed to get that one song down but something about playing that music really struck a chord. Tony Rice led me onto others including Brian Sutton, Tim O’Brien, Sarah Jaroz, Eric Bibb, Chris Thile, Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenberg, Jake Workman – who is now playing for Ricky Skaggs, Chris Eldridge, George Shuffler, The Steeldrivers – too many to mention here. There were a lot of similarities between what I was currently doing in jazz (especially bebop) and bluegrass, also blues and bluegrass. I can’t quite say what it was that made me like it [bluegrass] so much. Maybe it was the Celtic roots (I am part Scottish and part English) in the music that resonated with me because for some reason I just felt at home in that genre. Maybe it was for the first time I felt like I wasn’t trying to be anything other that a guy singing some songs and playing guitar.” – Jim Perkins
The lineup is:
Jim Perkins – guitar and vocals
Roni Perkins – mandolin and vocals
George Packard – mandolin
Wayne Mills – bass
Garrett Evans – dobro
Tristan Carter – fiddle
Friday 28th October – Concert – The Cattlestops
After almost a decade’s hiatus, local band The Cattlestops re-emerge with a new line up and a new album ‘Dance in The Rain’.
Originally formed on the Kapiti Coast back in 2005, The Cattlestops focused on a country-rock and Western swing repertoire, consisting mostly of original songs penned by bass player James Cameron and guitarist Andrew London. Legendary Hamilton County Bluegrass Band fiddle player Colleen Trenwith provided a signature sound, combined with fiery lead guitarist Dave Berry and drummer Evan Williams, and they can be heard on their first two albums – Cattlestoppin’ (2005) and Back to Rosetta Road (2007). The latter contributed significantly to the soundtrack of the local feature film ‘Second Hand Wedding’ and was nominated as a finalist for Country Album of the Year. The band played Arts and Music festivals around New Zealand and featured at the Norfolk Island Country Music Festival in 2007.
The Cattlestops went into recess around 2009, however Cameron and London continued to work together, often with other local musicians including Wayne Mason (keys), Ross McDermott (steel guitar), Lance Philip (drums) and guitarist Nick Granville. This new line-up has recorded 11 Cameron/London songs at Audiosuite studios in Paraparaumu, two of them boasting some wonderful vocals by Natalie Black of Rangiora, and one featuring original fiddler Colleen Trenwith.
The new album ‘Dance in the Rain’ shows both songwriters in pensive and occasionally nostalgic mood, with genres ranging from rural acoustic country and J.J. Cale-style ’swamp’ grooves, to driving blues and country rock reminiscent of B.B King and the Allman Brothers.
‘Dance in The Rain’ was officially launched at The Paraparaumu Golf Club on Friday 26th August. The entire six-piece played songs from the new album, also selections from their previous albums and a few of the band’s current western swing and blues-based favourites.
A great night was enjoyed by all and we look forward to playing these new songs and others to audiences around the country.
Friday 14th October – society night – Eva and Chris Prowse
Every now and then Eva gets together with her father Chris to play some of their shared music. They plan to have such a reunion at the Wellington Bluegrass Society, to play some of their favourite country tunes. Audiences can expect a wide variety from contemporary alt. country to some of the great old timers. Some of their favourite artists are Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, The Carter Family, Bob Willis and The Texas Playboys, and Hank Williams.
Eva Prowse has entranced many with her charming presence, mysterious folk-pop-country styles, and impressive skills on violin, guitar and vocals.
Eva has performed sell-out shows through out New Zealand and in Australia (including WOMAD and Byron Bay music festivals) with New Zealand super-group Fly My Pretties and on their two live albums – A Story (2009), Fly My Pretties IV (2011). She has supported the legendary American singer Wanda Jackson, sung for the Royal NZ Ballet, sung and played violin on the 2009 NZ Music Award Folk Award winning album Trouble on the Waterfront.
Her debut album I Can’t Keep Secrets, released in October 2010, was produced by Samuel Flynn Scot of The Phoenix Foundation. Whilst living in London in 2012, Eva wrote and recorded an EP Crazy Eyes with fellow NZ Musician Henry Marks (Mon Ami). Eva has just finished recording her new album, due for release later in 2016.
“Her songs offer a distinct geography of matters of the heart, with lyrics universal yet tangibly specific – a mark of great songwriting.”
– Stephen Allely, Groove Guide
Chris Prowse is a veteran of the Wellington music scene. He started his “part-time” career as a teenager playing in the Wellington coffee bars. Since then he has alternated between blues, folk, country and jazz. He has been a long time accompanist for Marg Layton.
In 2010 he was award a New Zealand Music Award Tui for his album Trouble On the Waterfront, a musical documentary about the 1951 waterfront dispute. In 2012 he released There Goes The Shiner recorded with the Rouseabouts. The album uses a variety of music genres to provide a musical back drop to Robert A. Lee’s stories about swagman Shiner Slattery. His favourite instruments are guitar, Cuban tres and C6 lap steel guitar.
Expect a night full of variety, energy and fine musicianship.
Saturday 8th October – concert – Andrew London Trio
“Let’s Talk About Me”, “Country’s Buggered”, “I Hugged My Mate” – the titles say it all. Andrew London‘s whimiscal songs reflect mainstream culture with gentle irreverence and playfully lampoon many of society’s obsessions and taboos. Themes run the gamut from rugby fans, driving habits, youth culture and weddings to male insecurities, technophobia, household appliances, pretentious socialities and various other issues of concern to the average middle-aged, middle-class Antipodean baby-boomer.
Delivery is wrapped in an easy-going and accessible 1940s era ‘Hot Club’ style swing package, with occasional sallies into folk, blues and western swing; and London’s easy-going banter holds a two hour show together with stories that draw the audience in and set up the songs.
Recent reviewers of London’s lyrical skills have made comparisons to John Clarke, Tim Minchin, Flanders and Swann, Tom Lehrer, Mose Allison… even Noel Coward, and after a recent live appearance on NZ’s National Radio, one commentator remarked “The Andrew London Trio are like Flight of The Concords for rest homes”.
According to Downbeat USA, his 2004 album ‘Toasted’ “…lures listeners in with eccentric edges and devilishly clever wordplay”. A decade later the same publication reported that his album ‘Ladies a Plate’ “…reaches high levels of poise and affability while imparting witty lyrics that would draw quiet laughs or agreement from Mose Allison and Dave Frishberg”.
His songs have been included in a national year 13 English syllabus, two feature films and European CD compilations. His trio have performed at festivals in Australia and Norfolk Island and is the only Kiwi act in recent times to have performed in Saudi Arabia.
Woodwind exponent and songwriter Nils Olsen contributes to the Trio with swing era influenced saxophone and clarinet, and more introspective original songs that provide a contrast to London’s characteristic levity. The bass chair is occupied by Kirsten London, who also contributes occasional standards from the Doris Day and Blossom Dearie songbooks.
Friday 16th September – society night – Jack MacKenzie
When Jack MacKenzie arrived from the States in 1984 he brought a wealth of knowledge and experience with music that years later came to be labeled “Americana”.
An intensive decade in the Los Angeles music scene as manager at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, had given him a solid background in both performing and guitar repair. During those ten years, Jack played with many current and past Americana heavyweights including Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Vince Gill and John McEuen to name a few, absorbing techniques and ideas that have influenced his current style and continue to sharpen his skills.
Thousands of hours of “woodshedding” and performing have made Jack a uniquely gifted flatpicker. He also plays beautiful finger style guitar, clawhammer banjo and upright bass. These skills are well suited both to display his core repertoire of Doc Watson, and to bring new songs to the Americana genre. Jack also performs original songs and tunes, many of which spring from 32 years of life and work in New Zealand.
Recently, Jack gave up his day-job as a flyfishing specialist and went full time with music and guitar repair. His cottage industry is called Simian Ridge Enterprises, where current work in progress includes a run of flat-top guitars using New Zealand woods.
Jack has performed many times at Wellington Bluegrass Society in various forms: solo, duos, trios and bands. He unfailingly delights audiences with sparkling guitar work and great song choices.
You can have a look into what Jack is up to musically and otherwise via:
Saturday 3rd September – concert – The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band
Since the late 1960s, the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band have been a unique part of the NZ entertainment scene. Playing their vibrant, fast-paced and precise music based around a driving banjo sound, with great vocal harmonies, the band have continued to delight audiences throughout NZ and Australia.
Some 50 years later, and with occasional changes of band members, the band maintains a high standard of musicianship with each line-up change introducing exciting new additions to their repertoire.
In recent years, the band have been an integral part of the Topp Twins Summer Hoedown Tour, performing concerts in vineyards throughout NZ; were featured guests at the Redlands Bluegrass Festival in Brisbane, Australia in July 2012; and were one of the Australasian bands featured on the First Australasian Bluegrass Cruise in 2013. In 2014, the HCBB featured on the Dame Malvina Major Diamond Jubilee Tour, and were guests at the Morrinsville CM Club’s ‘Spectacular’. In 2015 they visited the real outback of Australia, taking part in the White Cliffs Music Festival, a unique experience. They have recently released a 2-CD Anthology with Universal / EMI, containing a broad selection of their recording history, and are currently preparing for a new album of mostly original songs, prior to a trip to the Mountaingrass Bluegrass Festival in Harrietville, Victoria, Australia in November.
Their concert at the Wellington Bluegrass Society on Saturday 3rd September will feature two original members of the HCBB – Alan Rhodes (guitar) and Paul Trenwith (banjo). They’ll be joined by long-time friend Keith MacMillan on mandolin, bass player Tim Trenwith and Pam Crowe on vocals and guitar.
The many friends of the HCBB have also been delighted with the announcement that Paul Trenwith was this year awarded a QSM (Queens Service Medal) for his ‘services to country music’ and especially bluegrass music, with recognition of the role the HCBB has played in furthering bluegrass music in NZ.
Friday 19th August – society night – The Melling Station Boys
In the late 60s Todd Foster was a teenager with unruly hair and driving his mother mad by playing banjo in the lounge. After putting up with this for a while, and after failing to persuade him to play drums instead, in despair she bought a television. Despite having only one channel, as luck would have it, at practice time there was also a programme on called The Country Touch, featuring the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band. Todd was hooked! Putting down his banjo to watch the TV, at last his mother had peace in the household.
At about that time Alastair McCarthy stowed away on a Scottish fishing boat and during a dark and stormy night was shipwrecked on the Gisborne coast. With the boat gone he had no passage home, so had to make ends meet by busking in the town with his only surviving possession – a guitar. There he met banjo picker Don McLennan and they played together in the group the Feudin’ Dudes. Taking a bet in the pub one Friday afternoon, he won a trip to Hamilton on a Road Services bus. Upon arrival he saw a poster announcing the 1968 National Banjo Pickers Convention, happening that weekend in Hamilton! Alastair couldn’t believe his luck and headed off to the festival. There he saw the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band and learnt his first bass run from Dave Calder. Some time later, like a moth to the light, he moved to Wellington.
As a teenager in England, Ian Smith was fed up with digging coal, so emigrated to NZ in the early 70s. Coming from a coastal town, he was attracted to both Dunedin and Wellington, but decided to settle in Wellington, which had a thriving folk music scene including the National Folk Festival. In the early 80s he moved into a musical flat including Liz Merton, where he first played bluegrass with flatmate Bruce Thompson.
Meanwhile, in the 80s Andrew Bicknell was so inspired by bluegrass music that he struggled to finish his studies at Victoria University in favour of playing banjo. However five strings had to give way to lectures and upon completion, and with Fidel Castro in mind, he set up the Wellington Bluegrass Society to keep the bluegrass flame burning in the region.
Despite Todd, Alastair and Ian living in the same town, they didn’t get to know one another until many years later. After all having been married for some time, they respectively were getting tired of writing Dominion Post reviews, fixing oil leaks in vintage cars and assessing how to build under the house. Following a meeting of kinds at a blind date performance at the folk club, they decided to start jamming together and rekindle their interest in bluegrass. This became a regular happening and after a while they became focused on a weekly jam which included a customary break part way through for Dilmah tea and date loaf.
Now it just so happened early one evening, only a few months ago, Andrew was heading to Lower Hutt to attend a meeting at Hutt City Council. He caught a train from Petone and hopped on the first one, thinking that all trains head to the Hutt, however the train he boarded was for Melling. After arriving, hopping off and then realising he was in the wrong place, the train was gone. It was the last train for the day(6:30pm) and in despair, he painted on the back of his bass “desperately needing a ride”, and with State Highway 2 beside the railway line, was hoping a passer by would be able to help.
Coincidentally, it was also practice night for the three gents in Normandale. After rehearsing some songs and then breaking for tea, the three realised they were out of Dilmah, so made a speedy dash to the supermarket. On the way back they saw Andrew standing by the side of the road, holding his bass, and couldn’t believe their eyes. He looked parched so they offered him a cup of tea, to which he heartily agreed. They squeezed him into their car and went back to their practice. Thus the Melling Station Boys were formed.
Friday 15th July – society night – Donna Dean
When Kiwi film-maker Bill Morris followed Donna Dean on tour through the Southwest U.S in 2013, she thought the footage might end up on a USB stick buried in a box with other mementos. Instead, Morris’s footage became a feature film ‘The Sound Of Her Guitar’, an in-depth story of Dean’s early life challenges and her musical journey. The award winning film was selected as one of the top ten documentary films by the 2016 New Zealand Docedge Film Festival which had it’s world premiere in Wellington N.Z on the 6th May 2016.
“The Sound of Her Guitar is brave and beautiful. This is must-see documentary film-making”
– Simon Sweetman
Dean’s first musical heroes were her parents, grandfather and aunts she heard sing and play around the kitchen table as a child. Her mother mimicked the unmistakable guitar riffs of Jimmie Rogers and Maybelle Carter which had a profound and lasting impression on Dean. Her mother taught a young Donna a few chords on guitar so that by age 11 she was composing songs and playing them for her school friends. In her 12th year, Dean’s uncle introduced her to bluegrass music when he bought a vinyl copy of the 1972 release ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’ by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which features legends Roy Acuff, “Mother” Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis and others. That early musical influence turned to gold when Donna’s song ‘Destination Life’ was chosen as the title track of American artist Rhonda Vincent’s 2009 Grammy nominated Bluegrass album.
Live stage performance wasn’t to come until a troubled, stifling relationship which began in her teens, ended in her 20s. It was then that the flood gates opened. Her debut album ‘Destination Life’ was released in 1998 followed a year later by ‘Between You & Me’. Her fourth album ‘Money’, featuring American country-rock band The Amazing Rhythm Aces, won both 2004 RIANZ Best Country Song and Best Country Album. A double win came again in 2011 for Dean’s album ‘What Am I Gonna Do?’. ‘Tyre Tracks & Broken Hearts’, produced by John Egenes, was nominated Best Country Album 2013. The album features Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, Redd Volkaert and Gurf Morlix. ‘Rosebud’, her 2014 album, also produced by John Egenes, consists of 11 stripped back tracks recorded in a single day whilst on tour.
A true pioneer of the Americana singer-songwriter scene in New Zealand, Dean has opened shows for Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, Don McLean, Jimmy Webb, Katy Moffatt, Bert Jansch and Eric Bibb, to name a few. A regular on the German singer-songwriter circuit since 1998, Dean has a healthy European fan base. While touring Germany Dean has been a feature artist on the same bill as Willie Nelson and opened shows for Texas artists Eric Taylor and Terry Allen.
In summer 2013, Dean was a guest at Nashville songwriters Mecca The Bluebird Cafe, alongside Australia’s Paul Kelly.
She was a guest at the 2016 Illawarra Folk Festival, Australia and the Auckland Folk Festival.
“She writes with the poetic economy of musicians like James McMurtry and Dolly Parton, and authors like Appalachia’s Ron Rash, in that she can sketch in a story in a few words…”
Graham Reid, Elsewhere
“Not many artists have the imaginations of a Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Or the creative lunacy of a John Prine, Randy Newman or Tom Waits. This is why many good musicians have short careers. After their initial album there’s nothing left to say. It is not as easy to be consistent and creative as you may think”
U.S Freelance Journalist
“Needless to say, you don’t attract the attention of musicians like these (Albert Lee, Red Volkaert, Gurf Morlix, Amos Garrett) without having something worthwhile to bring to the table. Dean is a masterful songwriter whose best work packs a real emotional punch.”
Karl Du Fresne
Saturday 25th June – concert – Sean Donald and Flora Knight
“After kicking off 2016 by embarking on a two month square dance tour around New Zealand with North American stringband ‘Fiddle Pie’…. Flora Knight and Sean Donald are pairing it down and doing a few shows around the lower South Island this June.
Since their first hand shake, it wasn’t long before the two slipped into a kindred musical bond and began singing close country harmonies and digging out dusty old fiddle tunes. In respect of such things in common they have travelled and played in more than four countries together, fighting off bears, getting around however which way they can and doing their best to soak up a small part of a musical history through the communities that they encounter along the way.
The music that Sean and Flora play stirs the parts of the body and soul that cant hide, the parts that stomp along and holler out when one feels it in their bones, music of a bygone era that resist the wear of time. Whether it’s a rip roaring ragtime fiddle tune, a mournful country classic, or a sweet and silly waltz played in an old dance hall, in a living room, on a street corner or by a bonfire, Sean and Flora will play their weary hearts out for whoever’ll take a minute to stop and listen.”
Friday 17th June – society night – The Kelburn Viaduct Municipal Ensemble Jug Band
In July 2013 Pip Payne who made a name for himself in various blues, gospel and swing jazz combos in Wellington as well as far off lands like Mother England, foolishly spoke to Neil Worboys, ex-Bull Dogs All Star Goodtime Band, about the possibility of getting a jugband together to play at the Kelburn Village Pub. Neil immediately contacted other sometime juggers Bill Wood, Maurice Priestley and Stevo Carlyle, and told them that they were in the band. Pip designed a poster and the Kelburn Viaduct Municipal Ensemble Jug Band (KVMEJB) was born.
Before the band had their first practice they were booked to play at Jazz and Blues Festivals in Palmerston North and Upper Hutt in 2014 by entrepreneur Roger Fox. Irregular gigs at the Kelburn Village pub and the Thunderbird Cafe kept the requisite kazoo and tea-chest bass skills honed and they added gigs at the Rogue and Vagabond, The RoomFullaBlues at the Bristol, MOON, and the Cross Creek Blues Club in the Wairarapa later that year.
2015 started with a Meridians Gardens Magic Concert at the Wellington Botanical Gardens sharing the bill with the afore mentioned reformed Bulldogs All-Star Goodtime Band. This led to the KVMEJB being invited to entertain the film crew on the set of Disney film Pete’s Dragon. Another highlight for the KVMEJB that year was being invited to present their own concert on the programme of the Wellington Folk Festival.
The year finished off with the band recording and releasing a Kelburn Viaduct Municipal Ensemble Jug Band LP CD “Stomp Around the Floor”. The songs on the album represent a sample of the music they play including songs of Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and other inspirational pioneers of blues and jug band music, alongside original material by Pip, Neil and Stevo.
The end of 2015 saw Pip moving out of the KVMEJB and 2016 sees Carol Bean moving in and installing her own trunk load of jug band/string band songs and experience.
Neil Worboys vocals, banjo, mandolin, blues harps, kazoo, jug, whoops
Carol Bean vocals, guitar, mandolin, hollers
Maurice Priestley mandolin, guitar, banjo, vocalisations, kazoo
Bill Wood vocals, tea-chest bass, Dobro, harmonised vocalisations
Stevo Carlyle vocals, guitar, washboard, tea-chest bass, squeeze box, harmonised vocalisations
Saturday 11th June – concert – The Frank Burkitt Band
After moving from Edinburgh to Wellington in 2014, Frank Burkitt was quick to form The Frank Burkitt Band which includes Cameron Dusty Burnell (mandolin), Krissy Jackson (fiddle), Kara Filbey (vocals and percussion) and James Geluk (bass).
The Frank Burkitt Band has a very unique sound and feel at it’s core. Although heavily influenced by blues, country, bluegrass, swing and Burkitt’s love of his native Scottish folk – it is good old fashioned original song-writing backed up by a band that understands perfectly how to add infectious rhythm and groove (Geluk’s bass), varied and skilled solo breaks (Burnell and Jackson on fiddle and mandolin) and harmonies from Filbey.
They have impressed audiences across New Zealand after a sell out 27 date national tour in late 2015, promoting their first album ‘Fools and Kings’. With Burkitt’s entertaining story telling, tightly arranged songs and his original vocals, the band provide vibrant instrumentation and delicious harmonies.
Intelligent and thought provoking lyrics that have great anecdotes to go with them. This is music that is as emotive as it is foot-tapping.
Friday 20th May – society night – Holloway Inmates
Holloway Inmates – most of us have been interned up the valley for a life sentence, some have managed to evade the warden and make a break, some sentences have gone beyond the grave. Among the remaining, our stated crimes are:
Andrew Campbell: guitar pillaging
Don Franks: bass racketeering
George Rose: fiddling with minors
Jo Mackay: flute embezzlement
Odessa Owens: guitar assault
Simon Carryer: banjo extortion
Zane Oosten: lagerphone/harmonica conspiracy
Instead of sitting around drinking chardonnay, we decided to play some music together. The hardy, more experienced musos keep the rest of us in line.
House parties up and down the road are our usual tour circuit, but we relish the opportunity for a pass out and a night at the WBS.
Saturday 14th May – concert – Mark Mazengarb
Mark Mazengarb began his formal musical training in Wellington where he completed his Bachelor of Music Degree, majoring in classical guitar (performance). In his final year, Mark undertook an exchange to the University of North Carolina where he discovered the world of Bluegrass and the music of guitar greats Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed. He became hooked on finger-style guitar playing, and has also become a highly accomplished jazz, folk and bluegrass musician.
Mark met Loren Barrigar in 2005 when they spent a few days working with Tommy Emmanuel at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch guitar camp in Ohio. Mark was completing his degree in classical guitar on exchange at the University of North Carolina; Loren was already a seasoned performer, but it was his first serious look at acoustic guitar.
After graduating from University in 2006, Mark re-visited the USA several times, where he learned from a variety of guitarists including Tommy Emmanuel. At the Auckland Folk Festival in 2008, he was the recipient of the Frank Winter Memorial Award, given to aspiring young musicians with clear musical goals.
In 2009 Mark and Loren met again in Nashville at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) convention, an international gathering of hundreds of guitarists. They began performing together, setting the stage for the 2010 CAAS convention where, although not originally listed to play on the Saturday night finale, they were added to the show due to popular demand. They received a standing ovation, and were invited to perform concerts across the USA and France.
Since then, the pair have toured extensively within the USA, Europe and New Zealand, and have been invited to headline festivals in both Europe and the USA. All three of their duo albums have won SAMMY awards (Syracuse Area Music Awards) for Best Album, and the title track of their second studio album ‘Onward’ won best instrumental at the International Acoustic Music Awards in 2013.
Mark is now based full time in the USA where he has a busy schedule touring with his duo partner Loren Barrigar.
Friday 15th April – society night – Don Milne
(From recent feature article in the Otago Daily Times:)
Dunedin man Don Milne is a noted old-school craftsman and engineer. He is also a banjo player of some repute and has played with the best. Recently, he has begun to make his own Tui branded banjos.
“I have always worked with my hands. I grew up in my father’s workshop; he was a very clever man. As a teenager I first heard a folk banjo, played by the Kingston Trio. I thought, ‘I like that’. It was a bright, cheerful sound.
I then got a banjo that needed to be repaired. I went to a local man who made them, Rawe Hawkins, in Wellington. He showed me how he made them. But it is only recently that I’ve made them myself.
In the intervening years, working with wood and in engineering, I gained the skills to have a proper go at it. I’ve made ten Tui banjos, all based on the same ideas. I use some of the best ideas that have come out of research work done 100 years ago. They’re light in weight and I’ve got a feel for what works. I like building them, it’s a synthesis of work and art. And it’s brilliant to make something other people take pleasure in”.
Don also says:
“Old-time banjo has been my consuming interest for 50 years now, playing clawhammer style tunes of the Appalachian mountains and music from the Minstrel era of 150 years ago. Before the arrival of the internet, finding good music was always difficult – vinyl albums were expensive, travelling old-time players few, especially where I lived later on, out on Great Barrier Island. These days it’s the other problem with so many wonderful recordings and videos available. We are spoilt for choice.”
“On Friday 15th April I’ll reprise a few of the old songs that were around in the early days of the old-time scene in Wellington, songs that are surfacing once more in performances of the young musicians of today. There will be some music from the Minstrel era, brought to you on a Gourd banjo, plus a sprinkling of tunes, crooked and straight from the contemporary old-time repertoire. A hornpipe may rear its head so beware.”
“All the instruments played will be of my own making. The gourd was grown in Takaka.”
“I look forward to being back at the Bluegrass Society.”
Saturday 2nd April – concert – Jan Preston
Known as Australia’s foremost female Boogie and Blues Piano player and singer, Jan Preston delivers high energy performances which, together with her candid and communicative personality, has given her longstanding popularity in Australasia and overseas.
Winner of five Music Awards, Jan plays festivals and concerts throughout NZ, Australia, the UK and Europe, tours her own shows, and writes music for films and television, such as the music to her sister Gaylene Preston’s Film Home By Christmas. On returning from New York in 1980, Jan formed NZ band Coup D’Etat who had the No1 hit single ‘Dr I Like Your Medicine’.
Studying for many years as a classical pianist, Jan’s childhood memories of hearing her Aunt in Greymouth playing boogie and ragtime in the style of Winifred Atwell, caused her to cross over into this style.
Her acclaimed autobiographical music show Adventures in Pianoland has sold out seasons in Australia and NZ, and her popular performance on ABC TV’s Spicks and Specks can be viewed on Youtube.
Just as a troupe of Circus performers present layers of colour, movement and emotions, Jan Preston and Mike Pullman will take us on a musical journey using layers of timbres, rhythms and moods to create a concert which starts with Jan’s trademark Boogie Woogie and flows into piano ragtime with washboard accompaniment, some boogie songs of humour (as well as sadness) and even a touch of Chopin!
“Jan Preston is surely Australia’s Queen of the Piano. She and the instrument come as a package and anyone who’s seen her perform live has witnessed a perfect partnership. Her playing is as flawless as it is loose and joyful”
Rhythms Magazine Australia
Friday 18th March – society night – Legal Tender
The Legal Tender duo of Ian Campbell and Moira Howard-Campbell have been performing an eclectic mix of rural/folk originals and covers around New Zealand for many a long year. They have featured at numerous country and folk festivals, concerts and are frequent collaborators with various members of the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band and other well known Kiwi musicians. With their blend of alternative rural/folk down-home original songs and alt covers, they have entertained audiences from the Bay of Islands to the Deep South. Legal Tender present sensitive guitar and bass arrangements of songs by artists including Guy Clarke, Hank Williams, Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, along with their own songs, which are rendered with earthy integrity and powerful vocal harmonies.
2015 saw them win three Gold Guitar Awards at the iconic Gold Guitar Awards in Gore—including the NZ song award with an original of their own, best duet and the coveted best group award. They also won the “Freeze Ya Bits Off” busking competition at Gore.
Saturday 27th February – concert – Dan Walsh
concert featuring Dan Walsh – this is his second tour of NZ. Clawhammer exponent Danjo will be performing his last show at the WBS before departing for Australia the following day. Catch him while you can!
“Touted as one of the finest banjo players in the UK as well as being a superb singer, songwriter and guitarist, Dan Walsh is described as ‘the real deal’ (UNCUT). He now has three solo albums with new album Incidents and Accidents lauded as ‘absolutely terrific’ by Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio 2. As well as many tours of the UK, he also has recent successful trips to USA, Canada, Germany, India, Norway and New Zealand. Having made his name with duo Walsh and Pound and now a member of the award winning Urban Folk Quartet, as well as guest appearances on stage and on record with the Levellers and Seth Lakeman, this unique and eclectic musician has stunned audiences across the world.
His eclectic and innovative approach has led to many exciting collaborations alongside his solo work and the UFQ including tours with Northeast concertina legend Alistair Anderson and recent work with sensational Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan as well as Canadian country singer Meaghan Blanchard. He also retains a passion for outreach work and through the prestigious Live Music Now scheme has performed throughout the UK in hospices, hospitals, special schools and care homes. He also teaches banjo both in person and over skype.”
Friday 19th February – society night – Rhodeworks
“Their music sounds great. Laurence plays good guitar rhythm on a guitar he made himself, with finger-style and flat-picked lead breaks, Sam plays strong rhythm and innovative breaks on mandolin or fiddle (sometimes both in the same tune) and Nate keeps steady time with percussion. Songs from a wide repertoire, including classic bluegrass and contemporary rock songs, with some harmony on the choruses, all underpinned with some solid acoustic bass from Tracy. Now and then Laurence plays banjo too.
A typical acoustic band you might think – but you’re wrong.
Laurence is 14, Sam is 12 and Nate is 9.
The Frangos-Rhodes family has been playing their music at Farmer’s Markets, fair days, folk clubs and Hamilton’s monthly bluegrass club ‘Back Porch Bluegrass’ for a few years now, honing their performance and presentation skills, and delighting all who have been watching them. They have a clear understanding of the music they’re playing, not just reproducing something learned by rote; and like most acoustic bands, watch each other closely for those subtle changes that happen all the time during a performance. Their Father Bruce sometimes gets to play rhythm guitar, but mostly he gets to drive the wagon and be the roadie. Very necessary when you see the arsenal of instruments they carry with them.
Performances by youthful bands usually pre-empt some wonderful musical treats in the future, so now is the time to catch Rhodeworks, so you can say “I saw them when they were just…..” Paul Trenwith”
Thursday 18th February – concert – Fiddle Pie
Fiddle Pie’s OLD TIME COUNTRY MUSIC and DANCE VARIETY SHOW
Fiddle Pie set sail for New Zealand in January 2016 to tour the country, after which they are onto Australia towards the end of February. This group of rowdy young musicians bring forth an epic array of traditional American string band tunes, classic country buckle shiners and jokes cornier than Illinois in the summertime. From their respective homes across the US, Canada and New Zealand, these folks have a commitment to keeping alive the fun and youthful spirit of traditional music and dance everywhere they venture. With their sights set on the lambent countryside of New Zealand, these talented multi-instrumentalists have joined forces to bring dance parties to a town hall, wool shed, soda bar, main stage, barn-raising, fish-fry, bandstand, public park, swimming hole, boat dock, or gravy kitchen near you. You will see fiddles, banjos, and guitars, trumpeted by all combinations of mixing and matching with their American old-time expertise.
Expect a chorus of voices singing in harmony and a smattering of hollering hokum. Hop aboard the Fiddle Pie Train and prepare to party, country style!
Flora Knight (Dunedin, NZ) – fiddle, mandolin, bass
Cornelia Overton (Smithville, Tennessee) – fiddle
Sean Donald (Toronto, Canada) – guitar, banjo
T. Claw (Nashville, Tennessee) – fiddle, banjo
Burdock (Millfield, Ohio) – fiddle, banjo
Hannah Johnson (Keezletown, Virginia) – fiddle, banjo
Whilst presenting county dances for the bulk of the venues, the WBS will be their only concert gig of their tour, so a very special show.
Saturday 6th February – workshops – Fiddle Pie
Old-time workshops, Saturday 6th February
This is an exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in old-time culture!
and to learn from some exponents and tutors of old-time music.
beginner and intermediate five string clawhammer banjo
beginner and intermediate cross-tuned dance fiddle
square dance calling
dancing and history
playing old-time music on an upright bass
beginner and intermediate old-time guitar
country blues finger picking guitar
Carter Family songs
finger picking banjo
fiddle bowing techniques
classic country fiddle accompaniment
old-time Kentucky fiddle tunes and styles
old-time Appalachian Ballad singing
flat foot dancing
old-time string band workshop
crooked old-time fiddle tunes
T. Claw teaches beginner and intermediate five string clawhammer banjo, beginner and intermediate cross-tuned dance fiddle, square dance calling, dancing and history, biscuit baking, southern cooking, and playing old-time music on an upright bass.
Sean Donald teaches beginner and intermediate old-time guitar, country blues finger picking guitar, Carter Family songs, and finger picking banjo.
Cornelia Overton teaches fiddle bowing techniques, classic country fiddle accompaniment.
Burdock teaches old-time Kentucky fiddle tunes and styles.
Hannah Johnson teaches old-time Appalachian Ballad singing and flat foot dancing.
Flora Knight teaches old-time string band workshop, harmony singing, and crooked old-time fiddle tunes.
“Most of us can teach beginner banjo, guitar, or fiddle.”
The schedule is:
10:00am – 12:00pm: workshop 1
12:00pm – 1:00pm: lunch break and informal session
1:00pm – 3:00pm: workshop 2
Workshops will run in parallel during the workshop slots and will be run depending on demand, so it is essential to book asap and specify what workshops you would like to attend.
This an exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in old-time music.
Saturday 9th January – Celebration of Clive Chambers’ Life
Clive Chambers frequently attended the WBS and many will know Clive.
Here is Clive, in his basement workshop at home.
and here is Clive enjoying the results of his hard labour.
Clive was privately cremated on Friday 19th December.
A celebration has been organised where those who wish to can get together to remember Clive. This is open to everyone, including family, friends, neighbours, past workmates and other acquaintances, to have the opportunity to speak, reminisce, relate a story, perform a song or tune, and to reflect on their time with Clive.
This is the opportunity for many to help tell his story. Come along and be part of this – Everyone welcome
(photos courtesy of Julian Ward)