Seven amazing artists discovered at the second annual Australian Music Week

Now in its second year, Australian Music Week took over Cronulla over the weekend from a run of showcases featuring artists from Australia, Canada, Scotland and the USA. It was an impressive three days, and along the way I discovered a pile of amazing artists – primarily of the Folk / Country / Blues / Roots / Americana persuasion, the music of which dominated the event’s curation. The event also served as the official launch of the Americana Music Association of Australia (AMAA)!

Matt Stillert
Hometown: Adelaide, SA

Adelaide artist Matt Stillert performed solo, with his guitar sounding more like a slide than an acoustic. He was loud, with great energy, but pulled it back for a number that would be best compared to Conor Oberst. He even did away with the  guitar all together for an acapella version of his track “A Devil in My Shoes”, while he shone on a Skip James cover and Tom Waits’ “Lucinda”. A very fine talent indeed, and an artist to watch.

Amber Rae Slade
Hometown: Detroit and Nashville, USA via Sydney, NSW

Though she’s spent much of her life in Nashville and Detroit on the other side of the Pacific, this Americana artist, who performs in sparkly pants and as a two piece with Matt Fell, was magical to say the least. Her 20 minute set was over far too soon as she traversed a selection of music both energetic and sad. And then there was a cover of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air theme song, which may have just been the highlight of the whole festival! You need to experience this artist for yourself.

Colin Jones and the Delta Revue
Hometown: San Diego, USA via Sydney, NSW

This Sydney based outfit – a seven piece – are one we’ve covered before on the AU, and Colin’s voice and blues prowess has always come across as an enjoyable strength. But this was the first time I’d seen him with the full band, and with two saxophones, it felt like a jam session straight out of the swamps of Louisiana. A unique yet authentic experience and one that is definitely worthy of your time.

Tomato Tomato
Hometown: New Brunswick, Canada

This duo from New Brunswick features John and Lisa McLaggan, who deliver their take on the bluegrass genre with washboard, guitar and the “Banjolini”. They’re an intoxicating pair to watch, and among their own tracks, they also pushed out an impressive version of Steve Earle’s “Baby’s Just As Mean As Me”. If this is a genre you’re a fan of, definitely give them a listen.

Sarah MacDougall
Hometown: Sweden via Yukon, Canada

With impeccable guitar work, stunning lyrics and a great voice, it’s hard to believe Sarah MacDougall was battling through a cold as she was pushing through her brief showcase set. Indeed, her voice struggled at times, but the power she was able to put out was staggering – illness or not. I believe one of her songs was sung in Swedish, and this epic track may have been the highlight of the set.

Poor Nameless Boy
Hometown:  Regina, Canada

Regina-based folk artist Joel Henderson is a powerful performer.  His music and his lyrics stay with you long after he leaves the stage, with a perfect, powerful voice, that feels uniquely Canadian.

Tay Oskee
Hometown: Darwin, NT via Byron Bay

Tay Oskee is a prime example of the great talent coming out of Darwin in the Northern Territory. He lives in Byron Bay now though and definitely seems like a kid from the region – as he sits on the slide, accompanied by a bassist and drummer, and makes some beautiful music.

And then there were the artists I already knew were brilliant…

I also have to shout out to the incredible Canadian five piece Youngblood who I was already familiar with, for putting on a killer set during the Canadian Blast event. Lead vocalist Alexis Young is a stellar performer, and I particularly love their track “Alone With You”.

The same can be said for Canada’s Rich Aucoin, who somehow managed to get his iconic parachute up in the tiny Brass Monkey (breaking only a few glasses along the way). He’s such a fun performer – fans of Dan Deacon and The Polyphonic Spree need to check him out. He exists somewhere in a world between the two I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him many times over the years and hope this is the first visit of many from the artist. By the way, here’s a bit of an idea of what the parachute is all about:

And finally a shout out to Demi Louise for a stellar performance with her band, the always wonderful Fanny Lumsden and excellent performances from both Allan Smithy and William Crighton.  All in all, Australian Music Week proved to be a phenomenal three days of music, talks and beautiful sun by the beach.  If you missed it this year, don’t make the same mistake for 2017.

Featured Image: Tomato Tomato, taken from their official website.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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