2014 events are listed below

(either page down or click on specific event for more detail)

12th December – The Wilding Pines
5th December – No Bones About It
21st November – The Mighty Billows
1st November – Valley Bluegrass
17th October – Ruahine Rangers
27th September – Unsung Heroes
19th September – Kim and Dusty
13th September – The Frank Burkitt Band
31st August – Old-time fiddle and banjo Workshops
30th August – Sawmill
15th August – Frank Sillay
18th July – Helen Dorothy
16th July – The Eastern
20th June – Mike Hopley
16th May – Gravel Road
10th May – The Federal String Band
11th April – Cabin Fevre
21st March – Bob and Kate
23rd February – Alaska String Band
21st February – Old-Timey Opry – Helena Faust
12th February – Flora Knight and Ben Woolley
8th February – Tattletale Saints and 10 String Symphony
1st February – Other Roads
18th January – Tami Neilson and the Neilsons
11th January – Camille and Stuie


Friday 12th December – society night – The Wilding Pines

141212 The Wilding Pines1




“The Wilding Pines are a three-piece string band from Wellington. Playing old-time, country blues and gospel standards, as well as some more recent classics, they focus more on the dark and spooky portion of the canon. With banjo, mandolin, cello, and vocal harmonies, they have a classic string band sound.”




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Friday 5th December – concert – No Bones About It

141205 No Bones About ItNo Bones About It are Alex Rubin and Catherine (BB) Bowness, who have performed around Massachusetts since June 2014, including shows at Club Passim, The Harvard Square Folk Festival and as as one of five finalists in the 2014 duo contest at the Freshgrass Festival. Together 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.

Since picking up the banjo at age 12, Catherine (BB) Bowness has travelled throughout New Zealand, Australia and the United States playing and teaching bluegrass music. At age 15, she received the Frank Winter memorial award at the Auckland Folk Festival allowing her to travel to the USA, where she won the Uncle Dave Macon banjo contest in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was the first banjo player accepted to the New Zealand School of Music, receiving a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance. In 2013 BB was one of just sixteen young musicians selected to attend the Savannah Acoustic Music Seminar in USA, studying with world-class artists such as Julian Lage, Mike Marshall and Darol Anger. Since re-locating to Boston last year she has kept busy recording, performing and teaching in and around Massachusetts.

At age 17, Alex Rubin turned his interests from classical violin to bluegrass guitar, and has yet to reconsider. As a high-school student in Boston, he quickly formed a band, The Wooden Spoons, and recorded at Hi-n-Dry, the Cambridge recording studio founded by Morphine frontman Mark Sandman. Making use of the vibrant Boston bluegrass scene, Alex studied privately with Berklee professor John McGann as he completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He has since moved back to Boston, where he works as a performer and guitar teacher.

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Friday 21st November – society night – The Mighty Billows

141121 The Mighty BillowsThe Mighty Billows

Jill Brasell (guitar and vocals), Andrea Coop (fiddle and vocals) and Don Franks (banjo and vocals), have been playing together, in various groups and hundreds of jam sessions, for a couple of decades.

This latest trio grew out of a regular Monday night get-together to play and sing for fun. They’ll have a go at anything that takes their fancy, which is most often old-time country songs from the Carter Family, the Stanley Brothers, and the like. (Hence their tongue-in-cheek band name, taken from one such song.)

Their repertoire also includes (slightly) more recent songs and the odd jazz standard – anything that they can harmonise and that’s fun to sing.

For this gig they’ll also present a couple of Don’s own compositions, which are well known for their quirky social comment.

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Saturday 1st November – concert – Valley Bluegrass

141101 Valley Bluegrass poster final

Valley Bluegrass are based in Dunedin. They say they are the southernmost bluegrass band in the world. This may actually be true.

It is just a year since they played their first gig and since then they have been in demand to play at festivals and featured concerts as well as the usual round of bars and private functions – weddings, parties etc. In keeping with the spirit of the music, they busk most weeks at the Otago Farmer’s Market where their upbeat tunes and songs have customers and stall-holders tapping their toes and smiling. They entertained the crowds at the Dunedin Craft Beer Expo in September and will be featured guests at this year’s Whare Flat Folk Festival

Read Hudson (guitar, Dobro) is a legend in New Zealand country and roots music circles. In the days when local television played real music he was a regular on live music shows. He has toured in New Zealand, Australia and the United States with various bands. Most recently he has received standing ovations from audiences around New Zealand and Australia for his Dobro and pedal steel playing, whilst touring with Bevan Gardiner’s John Denver tribute show “Take Me Home”.

Robbie Stevens (banjo) is the beating heart of the band. He has been playing banjo and listening to bluegrass for 45 years. His regular trips to the US keep him in touch  with the roots of the music. Bluegrass legend Jens Kruger once told him “You are a good banjo player.”

Richard Dingwall (mandolin) keeps the backbeat and plays the odd rattling solo on his new custom-made Berghman mandolin, made by Steve Barkman. He wrote the only original song in the group’s set, being the infernally catchy Step Aside.

Erin Morton (bass) is known to most through her other band Delgirl. In Valley  Bluegrass she holds down the beat on the bass fiddle and enriches the vocal diversity of the band, adding rich harmony to the traditional tunes.

“We practice twice a week and have a regular gig at our local wine bar, the Pequeno Lounge Bar, where the usual fare is cool jazz – but they love us. We play out most weeks at the Otago Farmers Market. Our first gig was last year at a charity dinner for the Howard League for Penal Reform, where we shared the billing with Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Since then we have performed concerts, house parties, dances and plenty of busking… playing any place we can.”

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Friday 17th October – society night – Ruahine Rangers

141017 Ruahine Rangers
The Ruahine Rangers formed in 2013, entirely by accident, meeting through the Palmerston North Folk Music Club and joining the club’s performance band at different times. Rosemary van Essen began training as a classical flautist and after realising she had fallen in with the wrong crowd, switched to fiddle and mandolin. Josh Campbell was a guitar player before he was given a banjo by a far-sighted uncle and has never looked back. Nicola (Nikki) Hooker is a piano teacher by day, guitar player by night, also teaches guitar and ukulele.

Josh and Rosemary started getting together once a week to jam and after working out some tunes, they decided to try their hand at busking. The first time they played on the street they were invited to play at the Fielding Rural Day. Realising they needed something extra in their sound, they co-opted Nikki into the group and put on a performance. It was so much fun playing together as a group they decided the arrangement ought to be permanent.

Their repertoire ranges from slow, sweet ballads to toe-tapping breakdowns, including bluegrass favourites like Sitting on Top of the World and Gold Rush, as well as folk music gems including Wayfaring Stranger and Bayou Noir. As well as playing banjo, Josh is the lead vocalist for the Ruahine Rangers. Nikki provides the guitar backbone for the band and vocal harmonies, as well as some lead vocals. Rosemary plays fiddle and mandolin for the band. They provide two and three part harmonies, they play a mixture of classic and modern bluegrass, with a leavening of old time, folk, and original music.

“The Ruahine Ranges are part of a mountain range in the lower North Island, forming one of the boundaries of the Manawatu region where we live. They are part of New Zealand’s Forest Park network, and are a great place for tramping, camping, hunting, and the general goodness of the outdoors. “Ruahine” apparently means “wise woman”. Apart from Josh, this may be a reference for two of the band, but if not, we’re learning.”

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Saturday 27th September – concert – Unsung Heroes

140927 Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes results from a project initiated by Chris Priestley, involving many musicians, a Creative NZ grant application, recording a CD and concerts. The resulting CD was a Tui finalist for the 2013 Folk Album of the year. Songs portray the heroes and heroines, villains and rogues, magicians, disasters and events that helped shape our nation. Songs are sung in English, two will have some Maori language content and one song will be sung in Maori. The songs recall and bring back to life stories of our past that have been either largely ignored, overlooked, or forgotten.

Half of this concert will feature completely new songs, on top of those recorded for the album in 2013. The lineup for this Wellington concert are:

Chris Priestley is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and music and hospitality entrepreneur. His professional life has supported his development as a fine musician, singer and song writer in a musical career spanning over 30 years. All of Chris’s three solo albums are collections of songs written by New Zealand artists.

Nigel Gavin has long been a featured player in New Zealand’s music scene, particularly in Auckland, playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass – indeed, almost anything with strings – with the Nairobi Trio, the Fondue Set, the Jews Brothers, the Blue Bottom Stompers, Lorina Harding, Wayne Gillespie, Below the Bassline, Jonathan Besser’s Bravura and his own Snorkel, among others. He has also found time to create and mentor the multi-guitar Gitbox Rebellion and to perform in collaborative ventures such as the free-jazz Vitamin S, often using other instruments such as the Chinese sheng.

Gavin is a guitarist with remarkable versatility who is respected by other players around the world, and who excites audiences with jaw-dropping solos. He continues to work both in New Zealand, Europe, Australia and the United States.

Cameron Bennett is a media consultant and previously a News & Current Affairs journalist based in Auckland. He is one of New Zealand’s most experienced journalists, with a wide-ranging journalistic career from 25 years of television reporting. He was Television New Zealand’s Europe Correspondent through 1991-95 and presenter for a range of foreign affairs and news programmes, including Sunday, 60 Minutes and Foreign Correspondent.

In tandem with a journalistic career, Cameron has also nurtured a passion for making music, which has recently blossomed into songwriting. Along with old friends Richard Kelsey and Wayne Gillies, they form an acoustic based trio called “One More Dollar”, playing an eclectic mix of folk and Americana style music with strong three part harmonies as their point of difference.  Cameron plays and performs regularly on acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar and fiddle.

Also supported on the night by Neil Billington and Julian McKean.

CD cover artwork by Chris Grosz.

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Friday 19th September – society night – Kim and Dusty

140919 Kim and Dusty updated

Acoustic duo Kim and Dusty have been bringing their whiskey harmonies to Wellingtonians since November 2013 when Dusty moved to Brooklyn – the heart of the Wellington’s country music scene.

The duo play a blend of country, blues, bluegrass and folk. Audiences are captivated by their tight harmonies and easygoing nature onstage. Kim and Dusty always deliver something for everyone in their sets, from dirty blues and lonesome ballads, to high paced bluegrass standards. As regular performers at several venues around Wellington, they also make time to tour to other towns around the lower half of the North Island.

Kim Bonnington has been a very active member of the Wellington music community, playing in different lineups with several of the city’s favourite musicians. Kim grew up in Tapawera and was heavily involved in the Country Music Club scene and has been singing since the age of four. Kim is known throughout New Zealand for her stunning voice and beautiful harmonies. Her biggest influence is Emmylou Harris, however Kim also draws heavily from other country singers including Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss.

Cameron “Dusty” Burnell cut his teeth and wore down his boot heels in Taranaki. He has established himself as a versatile musician, currently playing mandolin and guitar in a number of acts, including The Federal String Band. Whilst based in New Plymouth, he played with and learned from some of the stalwarts of the New Zealand folk scene, including Mike Harding, Janet Muggeridge and David Calder. Dusty is known for his onstage energy and high lonesome voice. He originally grew up in the Far North, learning to play blues and folk standards, and has also played in Irish, rock and punk bands. Dusty picked up a love of bluegrass, during several trips to North Carolina and has developed his own unique style of playing and singing.

Kim and Dusty also play alongside Rob Joass and Hamish Graham as the Hardcore Troubadours.

“You guys were really, really good!”
Iris Dement

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Saturday 13th September – concert – The Frank Burkitt Band

140913 The Frank Burkitt Band

featuring The Frank Burkitt Band

Frank Burkitt has written a catalogue of songs and credits John Martin, Tim O’Brien and James Taylor as his biggest influences. American genres such as New Orleans blues and the Bluegrass of Appalachia have shaped his music.

One of the main reasons for Frank’s deviation from Scottish Folk to all things American was the formation of ‘Big Red’, a previous band that Frank formed in Edinburgh. This served chiefly as a tribute band to contemporary bluegrass or ‘newgrass’ as it is sometimes called. Artists like The Steeldrivers and The Devil Makes Three provided a lot of the repertoire for Big Red and a handful of their songs are still performed by The Frank Burkitt Band. As a result of discovering these acts, Frank inevitably dived deeper into this genre and Doc Watson, Hank Williams and Tony Rice have also had an enormous impact on his guitar playing and repertoire.

In 2009 Frank toured folk clubs and festivals in New Zealand, Australia and the U.K to promote his debut album ‘A little less care’. Touring the Antipodes inspired Frank to write a new album of songs, which he did in 2011. This album entitled ‘Valley of Gold’ is based on Golden Bay, a beautiful area at the north-west point of the South Island. This album on the whole tried to get across Frank’s love of the natural world and the peace which he believes it can give to everybody if they take the time to look at it.

Frank has recently relocated to Wellington, where he formed The Frank Burkitt Band, featuring Kara Filbey on backing vocals, Cameron Dusty Burnell on mandolin and James Geluk on double bass. Together they perform a varied mix of Frank’s original songs and some choice contemporary Americana.

“Original material sung with clarity and emotion… a fantastic live folk singer”

“Frank led the show with song after wonderful song delivered in his own confident, easy style”
Leith Folk Club

“His understated balance of softness and sinew variously recalled James Taylor, Josh Ritter and Dougie Maclean”
The Scotsman

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Sunday 31st August – Old-time fiddle and banjo Workshops

140825 Sawmill

* fiddle workshops by Andy Fitzgibbon, from West Virginia
* banjo workshops by Don Milne
* Helena Faust will be available to give banjo tips too!

This is an exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in Old-time music!! and to learn from some exponents and tutors of Old-time music.

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 catering for beginners, intermediate and advanced will run in parallel during the workshop slots. The workshops have been tailored so that you can attend as much or little of the programme as you want. However for maximum benefit, it is recommended you attend both workshops.

The Workshops
Andy will use West Virginia traditional tunes to teach fiddle techniques that will help you achieve a true old-time sound. The first workshop will cover simpler tunes and bowings, and the second workshop will tackle slightly more advanced material. Students are welcome to take one or both workshops.

Don will teach beginning and intermediate old-time banjo.

What to bring:
banjo or fiddle
something to drink, e.g. water in a bottle
music stand
pen and paper
recording device
lunch, or food is available at the many cafes in Petone

This an exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in old-time music.

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Saturday 30th August – concert – Sawmill

140825 Sawmill

Saturday 30th August, 8:00pm – concert featuring Sawmill – the band from the Old-time music festival “Up The Mountain” are touring the North Island, ending in Wellington. The lineup includes fiddler Andy Fitzgibbon from West Virginia. $20/$15 members or children.

Andy Fitzgibbon, award winning fiddler from West Virginia will be joined by fine NZ Old-time musicians to form an old-time string band “Sawmill.”

This is shaping up to be a fantastic opportunity for kiwis to not only hear a full Old-time string band, but one that is deeply connected and true to the traditional lines of music passed down through the generations, little changed for hundreds of years.

Andy Fitzgibbon – Fiddle
Helena Triplett Berger Faust – Banjo and vocals
Naomi Buttermilk – Guitar and vocals
Andrew Bicknell – Bass

Andy moved to West Virginia in 1999 to begin working as a restorer of antique banjos in Elkins, WV. He was quickly immersed in the traditional music community there and began playing fiddle. Initially, he learned from younger masters of the art but they provided him with field recordings of many of the elders of West Virginia’s traditional music. Andy was also lucky enough to study with some of these older masters directly which helped to shape not only his musicianship, but his connection with the tradition as a whole. Andy believes that central to the playing of these Old-Time styles is an understanding of the area and culture where they come from.

Andy has played at dances, taught fiddle and banjo at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, was a featured performer at the Chicago Folk Festival in 2007, and performed at Berea College, Kentucky in 2013. He’s collected ribbons from banjo and fiddle competitions at the WV State Folk Festival, the Randolph County Fair, the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop, WV (where he came second in banjo and first in string-band in 2013), and more.

Andy is a member of the ‘Iron Leg Boys’ and has released a recording of tunes that unique to old West Virginia fiddle players and rarely recorded. Of this album the Old Time Herald wrote: “(Andy) fiddles beautifully, and in his bowing one can hear the depth of his immersion in the fiddle dialects of West Virginia,’ and that “The Iron Leg Boys are…. loving caretakers of, West Virginia music.” The record is for sale by both County Records and Elderly Instruments.

Helena Faust discovered the banjo when she went to America to meet her father Luke Faust who introduced her to Old Time music. Luke was a musician with the “Holy Modal Rounders,” an old-time string band from the 60s. She began learning and playing at every opportunity and going to many Old-time music events. She met fiddler Jimmy Triplett and they spent the next 10 years in West Virginia learning and playing the local old-time music. Helena acquired a large repertoire of rare tunes and ballads and developed what has been called “an exceptionally pure traditional mountain style.”

Helena has performed at festivals and lead banjo and singing workshops at events including the Augusta Heritage Centre, Cliftop Appalachian Music Festival and the West Virginia State Folk Festival, both solo and as a member of the award winning old-time string band “The Raincrows”. She also formed “The Raging Acorns” whose final radio show was proclaimed by the producer as “uniquely authentic” old time music. Helena’s recording “Green are the Woods” has been described by the Old-time Herald as having “a ghostly timelessness” and “the Tripletts’ devotion to authenticity presents new challenges to the old-time music community…”

Forming the Sawmill Band
Helena and Jimmy were friends with Andy when they were living in Elkins, WV. She was recently loaned a copy of the Iron Leg Boys CD and was very moved by the sound of it. “It sounded like WV to me and I was very stirred.” She found out it was Andy’s band and contacted him. This lead to his invitation to be the guest at Up the Mountain.

In order to maximise Andy’s visit a tour was planned and a support band had to be formed. Helena contacted Naomi Middleton, a Wellington guitarist who has studied Old-time music in North Carolina and sings beautifully, and Andrew Bicknell of the Wellington Bluegrass Society also known as an accomplished bass player, and both agreed to the project. In the absence of the actual Andy, they met regularly to practise Andy’s recordings and sent songs over for Andy to learn, resulting in a CD recording of their collected songs. As a result, the sound came together with all the booms, wails and sparkles doing just as they should, raising the hairs, stomping the boots and opening the vortex to draw you back in time.

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Friday 15th August – society night – Frank Sillay

140815 Frank Sillay
Frank Sillay
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, educated at MIT, the US Marine Corps, and public bars throughout the world, and brought to New Zealand in 1966 by the Ministry of Works, Frank is claimed by two nations; The United States claims he’s a New Zealander, and New Zealand claims he’s an American.

Frank played in various bands around San Diego in the early 60s (old time and bluegrass) and had to be content with woodshedding on his own, and collecting old material until the first National Banjo Pickers Convention at Te Rapa in 1967 put him in touch with kindred spirits in New Zealand.

He formed the Buckhead Strugglers with Colleen Bain and Don Milne in 1967, and played with various combinations off and on until forming The Antipodean Serenaders with Colleen Trenwith and Graham Lovejoy in 2004. A band that has proved to be very satisfactory in every way except geographically.

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Friday 18th July – society night – Helen Dorothy

140718 Helen Dorothy
Reviewers call Wellington-based Helen Dorothy “an acoustic folk artist in an honest sense” (NZ Musician, 2009), writing “beautifully-crafted, intelligent songs rich in memorable imagery” (fRoots Magazine, 2014). Her original material, often inspired by the natural world, is supported by some innovative guitar playing and a “clear, melodious voice”.
The UK’s essential folk, roots and world music guide fRoots selected her second studio album ‘Watching Ghosts…and Other Songs’ as a favourite in January 2014, and featured the quirky ‘Tractor Jean’ on their radio playlist and compilation album.

On this latest release, Helen Dorothy collaborates with other Wellington artists, primarily double bassist Richard Prowse and violinist Fiona Smythe. Their instruments, in various combinations with Helen’s acoustic guitar, mandola or piano, form the album’s song foundations, and there are musical contributions from award-winning jazz musician Kevin Clark, multi-instrumentalist Oscar West and guitarist (and sound engineer) Robbie Duncan.

The Wellington Bluegrass Society hosted the launch of Helen’s debut album ‘The Going Away’ back in 2009. Now she returns to play a concert of originals and covers that she feels reflect the American folk and country styles that she first explored long before she moved to New Zealand. It was back then that she also discovered one of her great musical inspirations, acclaimed acoustic guitarist and songwriter Martin Simpson who successfully combines the diverse elements of British traditional and American old-time music.
Come see Helen Dorothy playing in the intimate acoustic setting of the Wellington Bluegrass Society. “Live and solo she rivets the audience’s attention…”

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Wednesday 16th July – concert – The Eastern

140716 The Eastern
The Eastern are a string band that roars like a punk band, that swings like a gospel band, that drinks like a country band, that works like a bar band, that hopes like folk singers, and sings love songs like union songs, and writes union songs like love songs, and wants to slow dance and stand on tables, all at the same time. Whether roaring as their big six piece string band or swinging the loud lonesome sound as a two piece and averaging over 200 shows a year, The Eastern can hold it down in all settings and for all comers.

Constantly on tour, The Eastern have played in every nook and corner of the good isles of New Zealand, and have broken strings and dented floors in parts beyond. From Papanui to Portland, Shirley to Sydney, they have seen more than their share of bar rooms and street corners, but treat any opportunity to hold it down and play as a gift and one they would be fools to waste. They play like they mean it, like its all they know how do…because they do and it is.

They have toured twice with both Steve Earle and Old Crow Medicine Show, with Lil’ Band of Gold, as well as opening for Fleetwood Mac, the Jayhawks, Jimmy Barnes, Justin Townes Earle as well as Jim White, Victoria Williams and Vic Chestnut.

Over the past six years having delivered up three albums – ‘The Eastern’, ‘Arrows’ and ‘Hope & Wire’, three EPs and near on 1000 shows, The Eastern have garnered a reputation as NZ’s hardest working band. They gather converts and friends wherever they or their records land.

They make friendships and family wherever their songs and stories ring out. The trust they’ve built between themselves and the folks who come and hear them is something they’re rightly proud of and they remain thrilled and amazed it’s that relationship that has been able to keep their wheels on the road and their bellies fed, not least the fact that as the years pass the threat of their former day jobs coming back to capture them fades back into the ether.

Plans to start recording their third album in February 2011 were waylaid by the Christchurch earthquakes. Instead they gathered up friends and singers alike in their home town of Lyttelton (the port of Christchurch) and began work on the charity record ‘The Harbour Union’, which has proved to be a wonderful vehicle through which The Eastern and their friends can trade music for donations to the Christchurch earthquake fund.

March 2014 saw the release across New Zealand and Australia of their third and most realised record yet ‘Hope and Wire’, a double album rolling out at a single album price, loaded with stories, heart and harmony, as well as grand bar room philosophising and old time fury the band are known for. The title song for Hope and Wire became the inspiration for Gaylene Preston’s new six part television drama series ‘Hope and Wire’ which has been screening on TV3 from 3rd July.

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Friday 20th June – society night – Mike Hopley

140620 Mike Hopley
Mike Hopley spent time in Japan in the mid 80s. The old timey music is strong there and he made his first contact with live fiddlers and clogging at festivals. He came second equal in the Kobe Old Timey banjo picking convention in 1987. From there he lived in the Midwest USA through the 90s, where he was influenced hands on by an array of summer school teachers in West Virginia and North Carolina – including Jody Stecher and Kate Brislen, Joe Newbury, Bob Flescher, Jeff Goering, Dwight Diller, Laura Bousinger. Shiela Adams and Dan Gellert.

He played dances in The Raisin Pickers string band several times a month and they taught him how to play tight feet-lifting rhythm for sets and line dances. Also Doc Hopley’s Caboose Kickers, a string band, arose from Pub gigs and parties in the Ann Arbor and Chelsea areas of Michigan.

Now settled in Dunedin, following a few years of travel in Australia, which is rich with the music and he crossed paths with an abundance of Americana, Old timey and bluegrass musicians in Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne – including Liam Wratten, who appeared at the WBS with Mike on two occasions over the last few years as The Old Red Rooster String Band.

When not playing them he builds custom open back and minstrel style banjos. He is an inveterate collector and restorer of 19th Century banjos, their published paper and their music, especially from and the antibellum period through the American Civil War era into the late 1800s

“For this concert I will play a selection of pre war tunes and songs from the Appalachian and North Carolina areas, on clawhammer banjo and the mountain fiddle. Anticipate some playing on the low pitched gut strung fretless Minstrel era banjo, some driving mountain fiddling dance tunes and some string band era singing. Of course will rope in some local whiskey sippers for quality support.”

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Friday 16th May – society night – Gravel Road

140516 Gravel Road
Gravel Road are a five piece Wellington band where all members have had considerable history performing in many different lineups. Lead vocalist Neil Worboys rose to notoriety fronting the Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, who had several hit records during the seventies. Aside from his uniquely powerful and gravelly voice, Neil also plays harp, banjo and guitar. Dave Allen plays lead guitar and combines great feel with spectacular technical skill.

Peter Allison started with Dave McCartney and the Flamingos and provides the distinctive ringing treble tones and rhythms of the Tacoma Papoose as well as guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. Wayne Mills plays bass and accordion and has performed at the WBS with Dixie Lix. Luther Hunt is the band’s drummer and has a great feel for the rhythms and unique country-folk sound of Gravel Road. In addition all band members sing.

Gravel Road have just released their debut CD Heartland. Wayne and Peter have worked in collaboration with lyrics and musical arrangements respectively, to develop and produce most of the songs on the CD, which features a collection of stories about New Zealand life, history and places that have inspired the band. The songs are composed and arranged across a variety of genres and styles. Two songs featured on Maori Television’s recent ANZAC Day live coverage. In the past few weeks Colin Morris and Jim Mora at National Radio have also featured a track and commented favourably on the Heartland album.

Their performance at the WBS will feature their songs which have been especially arranged for the occasion on all acoustic instruments – guitars, papoose, banjo, harmonica, accordion, percussion and fretless acoustic bass, with a special focus on strong vocal harmonies.

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Saturday 10th May – concert – The Federal String Band

140510 Federal String Band

Discovering their shared passion for guitar music and cowboy boots, the guitar/banjo duo Frank John and Erin Manu teamed up with mandolin player Cameron ‘Dusty’ Burnell to form The FEDZ, in the small seaside/mountain town of New Plymouth, Taranaki. After recognising they had “a sound”, in 2012 they ventured to the Wellington Folk Festival, where they were introduced to bluegrass bass-player Andrew Bicknell, who was then co-opted to fill the lineup.

Originally from Amsterdam, guitarist Frank John brings his technical brilliance to the group, which is underpinned by driving rhythm guitar and banjo provided by his wife, local Taranaki gal, Erin Manu. Mandolin and vocalist Cameron Dusty Burnell, who grew up in the Far North of New Zealand, has recently rediscovered music after a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. Andrew brings a wealth of experience to the group, and is passionate promoter of the Wellington Bluegrass Society, and Americana music.

The band feature tight three part harmonies and sing a unique range of styles, from railroad hollers and gravelly delta blues to country, gospel and the high lonesome sound typical of bluegrass music. They play a combination of acoustic stringed instruments and bring together a delightful collection of their favourite old and new Americana songs, from the traditional to the alternative. Their sound is heavily influenced by traditional American roots music. They perform in the styles of high energy bluegrass, lonesome blues, heartfelt ballads and country-swing, including rousing standards and their own compositions.

Photo courtesy of Warren Watson.

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Friday 11th April – society night – Cabin Fevre

140411 Cabin Fevre

Cabin Fevre are based in Hawke’s Bay. They began as a duo in December 2012, when Setha Davenport and Roddy Branagan decided to rebrand themselves with the new name. They had been playing both together and in other bands for six years, including Mountain Chain, which included Helena Faust and who appeared at the WBS in 2010. In January 2013 Katie Charleton-Jones joined them, after playing on the same programme at the Otane Folk Festival. Shortly thereafter Marty Forrer casually asked if they wanted a bass player. “That was a no-brainer” says Setha, “especially given his depth of experience in every musical genre from jazz to country.”

Cabin Fevre present their own brand of American Roots music, along with some original compositions. Collectively the group credit a wide range of musical influences, from Dylan to Robert Johnson, Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, Howlin’ Wolf, Eva Cassidy and Bruce Springsteen, not to mention New Zealand’s own Dave Murphy and Hard Candy.

Katie brings both rhythm guitar and a distinctive vocal style to the group, while Setha’s harmonies add depth and colour and her banjo supplies a period authenticity. Roddy is the songwriter in the group and weaves the music together with his improvisational mandolin style. Marty rounds off the group with solid bass.

Setha and Roddy lived in the Wairarapa for four years where they worked for a horticultural business. They moved to Hawke’s Bay, where they set up Setha’s Seeds, producing high quality New Zealand Heritage vegetable and flower seeds for both home gardeners and small scale producers. They also grow several varieties of NZ Heritage garlic – both seed and eating grades are available. “Our seeds have been grown in cooperation with nature, using methods that build soil and regenerate the land. Each batch has passed our germination test.”

Photo courtesy of Greg Thompson.

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Friday 21st March – society night – Bob and Kate

140321 Bob and Kate

“Kate and Bob play American Music – where Blues meets Western Swing, Country, Tex-Mex, Jazz and Jive and redneck ballads of love, death and armed robbery.”

“We’ve been playing together for eight years now, regulars at festivals, and Folk and Blues clubs around the North Island. We’ve been with The Dodge Brothers, The B-Side, Grits and Gumbo and now Hard Candy, and always just Bob and Kate (or sometimes Kate and Bob). Guitar, slide, banjo and mandolin on the one hand and fiddle, flute and accordion on the other, two voices and a repertoire of songs from the last century up to yesterday.”

Kate is a classically trained pianist; she studied at Auckland University and Royal Northern College in Manchester. She also sang in the National Youth Choir. When Kate moved to the Wairarapa she discovered a whole lot of musicians who were very happy for her to stand in the background with no amplification and learn their songs. There was a freedom in the styles which she really enjoyed, as her previous attempts at improvisation whilst playing Mozart Sonatas in concerts had been frowned upon. Kate has gradually worked her way to the front line and is now an equal partner on the Bob and Kate show.

Bob played in blues, jug and rockabilly bands in the UK before moving to New Zealand in the mid eighties. He had a permanent gig every Friday and Saturday night at South of the Border in Willis Street, Wellington, which he used as a catalyst to learn new songs – two each week. He has a large repertoire of songs in his jukebox brain and has done a lot of band time too, including: Midnight Creepers(with Dave Murphy, Caroline Easther and a bass player whose name I don’t recall), Southbound(with Max Winnie, Andrew Delahunty, Peter Rochford – bass, Trudy Benham – drums), Slick Nickel(with Geoff Wright and Liz Merton (fiddle)) and a sojourn into loud tasteless “Pork Boiling Poor Boy” music, during some years in Colorado.

“Incidentally the Operation back in London in the 80s included lead singer Andrew Rankin, who is now the drummer for the Pogues.”

“Both of us are, by inclination, backing musicians; we complement and contrast and have fun playing off one another and stealing each others’ solos.”

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Sunday 23rd February – concert – Alaska String Band

140222 Alaska String Band

The Alaska String Band are a dynamic five member family band making their home on the last frontier of the USA and are the subject of much curiosity and inspiration for all who see one of their shows. Moving along at a lively pace, American-roots music favourites are showcased, including bluegrass, swing, jazz, pop, gospel, Celtic, Cajun and original. The family often swap instruments throughout a performance where they have an impressive collection of acoustic stringed instruments including guitars, fiddles, mandolins, dulcimer, banjo, bass and ukuleles; knitting it all together are the signature vocal harmonies of the “Z” family.

The Zahasky family are husband and wife Paul and Melissa and their three children, Laura 22, son Quinn 20 and Abigail age 16. When not recreating in the magnificent wilderness setting of their remote home town of Juneau, Alaska, which can only be visited by either boat or plane, as there are no roads for access, this family perform on board cruise ships in Alaskan waters and at the Chilkat theatre among the alpine slopes of a mountain top destination during the Alaskan summer months. On board a forty-foot bus, the Alaska String Band ventures further abroad and are quickly gaining an enthusiastic following, as they tour internationally each Fall and early winter, bringing their extraordinary music and fascinating Southeast Alaska Odyssey show to thousands. The Zahasky family narration brings to life ancient customs and stories as well as an intimate peek at the lives of contemporary Alaskans – laced with humour, scandal, tragedy and celebration.

With the help of a match making friend, music eventually brought Paul and Melissa together in Juneau. Happily wed, this couple soon recognised their differences, at least on the music end of the spectrum. Paul was a strongly motivated guitarist and song writer, learning mostly by ear. In contrast, Melissa’s training was steeped in the classical tradition of violin and voice. Their children, all born and raised in Juneau and growing up in a household where music is a celebration of everyday life, have naturally absorbed their parents enthusiasm to play and sing. As each child reached their tenth year, Paul and Melissa began to formally instruct them on stringed instruments of their choice. These have included guitar, violin/fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, banjo, bass, ukulele, along with percussion and voice. Of particular delight to audiences across the nation and abroad, the Alaska String Band appears in this season’s gorgeous and authentic Alaskan native Yu’pik Eskimo tribe (Kuspuk) costumes.

“The Alaska String Band are one of the most entertaining groups you will see.”
Byron Berline,
Founder & Director of the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival


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Friday 21st February – society night – Old-Timey Opry – Helena Faust

140221 Old Timey Opry

Way back in 1925, folks across the US of A gathered round their radios for the first ever Grand Ole Opry; a country music concert broadcast from Nashville. TV came along and the Grand Ole Opry came with it, amusing and entertaining audiences with music, banter and a double helping of good times. On Friday 21st of February, those good times are coming to Petone with a little point of difference; the focus will be on old-time music. This means the old traditional fiddle and banjo music from the Appalachian Mountains of America.

Join Helena Faust, Dan Moth, Naomi Middleton, Fiddlin Eddy Abraham, Andrew Bicknell, Hugh Brown, Catriona Stuart, and Frank Sillay, as they bring you, dear viewer, the Old Timey Opry.

Most of these musicians met either at the WBS old-time music camps or at the 2013 ‘Up the Mountain’ Old-time Appalachian Music Festival. When Andrew offered the 21st to Helena to do something old-time, she looked at the early radio shows and saw that the first Grand Ole Opry musician was a 70 year-old fiddler. This sparked the idea to create the Old-time Opry. She rifled through her contacts and got in touch with some of the local old-time musicians and the show developed from there.

Helena Learned banjo from her father in New Jersey and then spent 10 years in West Virginia immersed in Old-time music. She was a member of the award winning string band the Raincrows. She will be playing banjo, singing, and playing a little fiddle.

Naomi has travelled by from the mountains of Golden bay the hills of North Carolina where she studied old-time guitar at Mars Hill College in 2010. She now plays authentic, solid and driving old-time style guitar.

Fiddling Eddy already plays Irish fiddle but got pressed into Old-time when he met a fiddle-toting Naomi at the #1 bus stop a few years ago. After attending several Old-time fiddle workshops at the WBS and the 2013 Up the Mountain, Ed is now committed.

Andrew Bicknell is well known around Wellington and the rest of NZ for his fine and frequent appearances supporting many a musician on the double bass. He will be playing bass and co-hosting.

Dan Moth was a death metal electric bass player until he was seduced by the dulcet tones of old-time banjo fairly recently. He has already developed a fluent, melodic and full sounding style. Dan has taught banjo at several Old-time music camps at the WBS and at the 2013 Up the Mountain, and played for the square dance.

Several special guest musicians will be dropping by and might be persuaded to sing and play for us. Hugh plays banjo and sings the most authentic old mountain style ballads, in a style that is rarely heard these days, even in America. Catriona, a local music store operator, left to her own devices has developed her own lovely and unusual banjo tunings and sings like a morning dove. Frank Sillay has been a purveyor of fine old minstrel music and folklore from the region of Georgia for many years and was the founder of the Buckhead Strugglers – which must have been NZ’s first Old-timey music group.

Prepare to be dazzled by the sparkle of the banjo, puzzled by scratchy fiddles, soothed by sweet harmonies, spooked by ghostly ballads, lifted off your seat by thumping rhythms and amused or enlightened by country wisdom. This show is brought to you by our very special sponsor: Bicknell’s Mixed Company Sippin’ Whiskey. Tune in and we’ll see y’all there!

Ed: Helena has put a considerable amount of time into getting all the participants together to rehearse their music, creating stage props and backdrops, and the poster above, whcih is a condierable effort. This will be an extravaganza of Old-time music for one and all!

Prizes will be awarded for:
1. best frock
2. best men’s Old-timey outfit

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Wednesday 12th February – concert – Flora Knight and Ben Woolley

140212 Flora Knight and Ben Woolley
Wednesday 12th February, 8:00pm – special concert featuring Flora Knight and Ben Woolley – both are from Lyttelton, this is a one off concert supporting Flora Knight, previously of The Eastern, who is heading to West Virginia in March to study and learn from Ben Townsend, who is steeped in the traditions of West Virginia. This concert is a fundraiser for Flora to travel to the US, so come and support Flora and get to see a great evening of Old Time and Country music into the bargain. $15 entry.

Ben Woolley and Flora Knight first became acquainted in 2011 when touring New Zealand with Lyttelton collective, The Harbour Union. Flora had finished high school and joined New Zealand’s hardest working band, The Eastern. Ben spent his teens singing in the boys choir and singing and playing with Christchurch’s country band The Unfaithful Ways, fronted by Marlon Williams. Over three years of relentlessly touring with The Eastern around New Zealand and Australia, Flora fell deeply in love with the traditional music of the United States, specifically the Appalachian region. She then decided she needed a banjo player who lived just around the road and called on Ben who had been singing and playing double bass in Lyttelton swing band Devilish Mary and The Holy Rollers. Ben swiftly picked up the banjo and together they are a union of fiddle and banjo music, close harmonies and old time country songs.

Flora and Ben will be joined by Helena Faust, who has spent 10 years immersed deep in the mountains of West Virginia learning the old music of the region. Helena has been living in New Zealand since 2003 and is now keen to share the traditions that she learned from her time in West Virginia.

This will be a great night of Old-time music, Country music and honky-tonk featuring Flora on fiddle, Ben on banjo and guitar and Helena on banjo, with some lovely close harmonies.

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Saturday 8th February – concert – Tattletale Saints and 10 String Symphony

140208 TTS and 10 String Symphony
Tattletale Saints

Finalists in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards 2013 and New Zealand Music Award for Folk Album of the Year 2014. Originally part of London based four piece band Her Make Believe Band, Cy Winstanley and Vanessa McGowan recorded their debut album How Red Is the Blood in January 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee with Grammy winning producer Tim O’Brien. Funded with the support of over 220 of their fans, the album came out in New Zealand on 29th March 2013. How Red Is the Blood includes the song Complicated Man, written by Cy Winstanley, which was a finalist in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards 2013.

Cy Winstanley cut his musical teeth in New Zealand, singing, playing guitar and harmonica. While playing in local rock and jazz bands he found an unexpected love for country and bluegrass, and met fellow New Zealander bassist Vanessa McGowan in a jazz big band. From there Cy moved to London in 2004 and spent seven years busking, writing and perfroming around the UK. In 2005 Vanessa left New Zealand to study for a Masters of Music in Jazz Bass through a scholarship at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas she performed with some of America’s most revered jazz musicians including Chris Potter, Joe La Barbera, Marlena Shaw and Ruth Brown, as well as touring Costa Rica and performing in New York City at the International Association For Jazz Education Conference and Dizzy’s Club at The Lincoln Centre.

Upon their reunion in 2007, Cy convinced Vanessa she could sing, showed her how to play country 2-feel. Performing as a duo, Cy and Vanessa presented Cy’s songs in their rawest form, with just acoustic guitar, double bass and voices described as “love letters between Amy Mann and a slip-sliding Paul Simon”.


10 String Symphony

Christian Sedelmyer (formerly of the Farewell Drifters) and Rachel Baiman (formerly of Belfry Fellows and Rockin’ Acoustic Circus) met in Nashville, and realised a mutual love for the range and depth of the five string fiddle. Their desire to see just how far a two fiddle, two vocal instrumentation could take them, was the inspiration for the 10 String Symphony project. By the time their first full length album was released in November 2012, their instrumentation had expanded to include clawhammer banjo and resonator mandolin, though still maintaining a stripped down, tightly woven and carefully arranged duo sound.

Decidedly contemporary in their musical approach, they showcase Sedelmyer’s virtuosic improvisation and creative harmonic soundscape ideas, alongside Baiman’s old-time rhythm and emotional melodic sensibilities. Just over a year old, the duo have already gained recognition and attention from some major festivals, landing slots at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s River Of Music Party Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky and the Strawberry Music Festival in Yosemite, California in the U.S. summer of 2013.


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Saturday 1st February – concert – Other Roads

140201 Other Roads

From the UK and having produced five albums of their own music, they are now touring NZ for the first time, incorporating fine harmony singing and an eclectic mix of music, from soft lilting ballads to foot stomping celtic fiddle tunes and choruses, creating an exciting, vibrant original sound.

Other Roads are an accomplished and successful band who tour throughout the UK and all over the world.

Pete Abbott, Gregor Borland (from the John Wright Band) and Dave Walmisley are musicians and singer songwriters from Scotland and England, who play a wide array of instruments including fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin, a variety of guitars, incorporated with fine harmony singing. They perform an eclectic mix of music from soft lilting ballads to foot stomping Celtic fiddle tunes and choruses, creating an exciting and vibrant original sound.

Pete Abbott is a highly regarded and respected songwriter and guitarist, and an exceptional singer. Pete is the driving force behind the band and leads from the front with his own relaxed and confident style. Whilst being a seasoned solo artist, his sheer enjoyment of sharing the stage with two great musicians and friends is there for all to see, and that enjoyment is transmitted to the audience in abundance. The emphasis of Pete’s performances is always on entertainment, ensuring that the band not only deliver high class musicianship but also a good time for their audience.

Gregor Borland’s fiddling heritage is definitely impressive – he was taught by two absolute legends of Scottish fiddle and won many competitions all over Scotland, but it fails to convey the way in which his fiddle dances and sings, captivating the listeners. He makes it look easy, almost effortless. Combine this with his secret desire to be a rock star bass player, his mean mandolin skills and sympathetic backing vocals and you have a brilliant all-round musician. Greg is also the principal musical arranger for Other Roads.

Dave Walmisley was born on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, moving to the UK at the age of 17, but still holds dear his African roots. Well known on the UK folk scene for his association with the band ‘Risky Business’, having played with them for 13 years, he was delighted to be asked to join Other Roads and continue his real love of getting out there and playing music. A talented musician, singer and songwriter, he adds his own touch of class to the band’s arrangements and has a great ear for harmonies as well as taking the occasional lead vocal. Dave’s wonderful on-stage humour has made him a very popular member of the band since his introduction.

The band have produced five albums of their own music, including a selection of songs made popular by the original band leader John Wright.


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Saturday 18th January – concert – Tami Neilson & The Neilsons

140118 The Neilsons

Almost seven years ago, Tami Neilson arrived in New Zealand with her guitar and one very large suitcase to marry a Kiwi, leaving behind her family and her homeland of Canada for love.

While this sounds like a common enough tale, The Neilsons were no ordinary family. When most children are still singing nursery rhymes in the bathtub, Tami and her brothers Jay and Todd were travelling across North America with Mom (Betty) and Dad (Ron) in a 34-foot motor home, performing their blend of country and old-time gospel music, sharing the stage with the likes of Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. The Neilsons toured North America for almost ten years, releasing two top 40 singles on the Canadian music charts.

Fast forward a decade and Tami Neilson is now regarded as one of New Zealand’s top Americana/indie-country artists, winning multiple Tui awards for Best Country Album in 2009, 2010 and 2012 at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards, as well as Best Female Artist in 2010 and 2011 at the NZ Country Music Awards. In 2013 Tami also opened for Emmylou Harris at the Vector Arena in Auckland and toured NZ with The Gunslingers Ball and the Grand Ole Hayride.

Each year she travels back for the Canadian summer, to perform shows with her family or to record, including her “Kitchen Table Sessions” albums (Vol 1 & 2) with her brother Jay producing and the rest of the Neilsons playing or singing. So, when Ma & Pa Neilson decided to fly out to spend their first Christmas in NZ, Tami decided to put them to work and hit the roads in January 2014 for a ten date NZ tour.

In the tradition of The Carter Family, this will be a night of three part harmonies, acoustic guitars and blues harp duets while swapping stories of family life on the road. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Tami Neilson performing with her parents Ron and Betty Neilson, for the first time in NZ.


“Best Country Album 2009”
“Best Country Album 2010”
“Best Country Album 2012”
“Best Female Artist 2010”
“Best Female Artist 2011”

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Saturday 11th January – concert – Camille and Stuie

140111 Camille and Stuie

When Tasmanian guitar whiz Stuie French was touring Australia in 1996 with Merle Haggard, little did he see a sign foretelling that in years to come he would fall in love with a Maori woman who sang like an angel and they would end up together, making both beautiful music and a family.

Camille Te Nahu arrived in Australia in 1999 and her vocal talents were immediately recognised by Kasey Chambers and Beccy Cole, who employed her as their backing singer, both on the road and in the studio.

Over the following years, Camille and Stuie individually released their own albums – Stuie with the Feral Swing Katz (Come out Swingin’, Feral Swing Katz with Peter Busher and Round 3) and Camille’s solo album (Camille Te Nahu). Their paths would often cross as they both toured with Australian country greats including Troy Cassar Daly and Gina Jeffreys. In 2002 their stars aligned and they fell in love.

“I’ll never forget the first time I heard Camille sing. It took my breath away as well as the rest of the guys in band, and suddenly our musicianship went up a couple of notches. Over the years she has taught me a new way to approach guitar playing. After all, why would you want to get in the way of a voice like that? Our different musical backgrounds over time has combined to give us a fresh yet traditional sound.”
– Stuie French

At the 2013 Tamworth Golden Guitar Awards, Camille and Stuie won their first Golden Guitar Award together for Best Alternative Country Album of the Year. Big Days & Little Years is their fourth and finest album together.

‘On that balmy evening when your work is done and all you want to do is pop a beer and admire the sunset: no conversation, just want to let your mind drift; no visitors, your girl is by your side. What CD will you put on? Camille and Stuie’s ‘Big Days & Little Years’. It’s like a cool breeze.’
– John Williamson

Camille and Stuie have also had two of their songs – Gone For All Money and Pretty Katalina, featured on the hugely popular new drama “A Place to Call Home” on Australian television Channel 7. Camille also featured on New Zealand television in 2013 with a full episode of her musical life on “Unsung Heroes of Maori Music”.

Stuie is a master of the country/jazz guitar style, with Les Paul having invited him up to play in New York, and his smooth voice harks back to the days of Tommy Duncan singing with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys – no pretense or exaggeration. Camille has a gentle, velvet voice and is a unique singer with a style that is effortless, rich, deep and very easy on the ear.

“Camille and Stuie are truly a musical marriage made in heaven.”

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