Woodford Gets the Blues

The magical gateway to Woodford
The magical gateway to Woodford Folk Festival

On opening the Woodford Program for 2014 and seeing the lineup it created a familiar sense of excitement. A rich array of Australia’s best blues artists, and a few internationals, meant that Woodford Folk Festival would continue to recognise the origin of folk music in the Blues.  Some of those appearing were Devil’s Kiosk, Shaun Kirk, Matt Andersen, Jeff Lang, Jo Jo Smith, Mia Dyson and it goes on.

Aria award nominee and winner of Double J artist of the year 2014
Mia Dyson winner of the Double J inaugural artist of the year 2014

Jo Jo Smith had secured a place at this year’s festival. When I asked Jo Jo how she felt about playing at the festival her response was –  ” I feel honoured and am totally stoked to be playing at Woodford. I’m glad I never gave up applying for this one. Can’t wait.” Here is a clip of the title track “Standing in the Love Light” if you haven’t heard it.

The album Standing in the Lovelight is a mix of smooth Jazz/Blues/Soul and Jo Jo has a unique persona on stage. The title track “Standing in the love Light” was written for all the wonderful musicians she has had the joy of working with over her musical career spanning almost 5 decades. Jo Jo manages to bathe the audience in that Lovelight each time she performs. Jo Jo was one of the original performers at The East Coast Blues and Roots Festival 25 years ago; she has done the miles and continues to attract a loyal following wherever she plays.  Her first performance at Woodford on the Blues Stage was solo. The audience soon became the back up singers and the tent came alive with dancing and joy. At Bill’s Bar Jo Jo had found a friend and was obviously thrilled to be at Woodford while admitting, with a big grin that the weather usually presented challenges at festivals.

Jo Jo Smith finding Queensland weather a little different
Jo Jo Smith finding Queensland weather a little different

Glenn Wright of Vitamin Records describes Jo Jo by saying “Although slight in stature she has a massive voice that is full of musical history and a life lived well, and plays guitar and drums as good as anybody. If you are into music, check her out, you will become a fan.” I believe that Jo Jo went away with a lot more fans and gave her existing fans more reasons to rave about her music after Woodford. As part of Woodfords program, there are workshops with some of the artists. One of these artists this year was Devil’s Kiosk front man Jamie Symons giving Harmonica Workshops. Jamie has been the winner of the Hohner Golden Harmonica Challenges at the Tamworth Country Music Festival for the last 5 years. Jamie said ‘My workshop consists of basic playing techniques for all beginners ranging from single notes and how to bend certain notes used in the blues.’ I went down to take a look at the workshop and found a mixed crowd all intent on learning something new about the ‘harp’. Everyone had brought a ‘C’ harmonica, kids shared, partners gently coaxed each other with the techniques and Jamie willingly shared his knowledge and secrets. Devil’s Kiosk always gives a great performance and the smoothness of the mics used by Jamie fill any room with the rich soulful blues commonly heard in the Mississippi Delta. When I asked Jamie about the microphones he informed me that ‘The Mics I use are vintage Mics specifically set up for playing harp through them. They help with the rusty sound that you commonly here with the blues music in the past. They are, however, refurbished so they look new. Great collector items!’ Devil’s Kiosk have been on the bill at Woodford two or three times and said it means a lot to them. Jamie said playing here has such a great vibe and the majority of people are open to all styles of music, which makes it very pleasurable to be playing live. Here is a clip of Devil’s Kiosk playing live at Blues on Broadbeach this year.

Later in the week Bluestown showcased a few modern blues vagabonds. These two young players show the future direction of blues while encompassing its history. Shaun Kirk and Tom Richardson have fun and remind you that if it rains you have to get your feet wet. You can listen to Tom on Soundcloud here.

Jumping in on each other’s sets, they played to an eager crowd. Once again harmonica features in lifting your soul. Both these musicians are reminiscent of the old boxcar vagabonds, barefooted, tattered guitars and duck tape. But don’t let their ragged styles or age throw you off listening.

Tom Richardson models for his paparazzi
Tom Richardson models for his paparazzi

Tom Richardson takes his music to the world via The Tom Richardson Project. His songs and lyrics show a compassion and zest for life well beyond his years.

Shaun Kirk
Shaun Kirk

Shaun Kirk has a thirst for music.  I once read an article I  Charlie Musselwhite that revealed he felt absorbed by the music and just had to be around it. At festivals I often see Shaun standing, watching and admiring other artists and he seems transfixed by the moment – I imagine him as a young Charlie Musselwhite. When he plays there is a beautiful mix of styles, tones and the history of music. Woodford has a laid back feel to it and it is not unusual to see the artists roaming the streets on their way to a gig or checking out other artists

Matt Anderson finds magical fairies on the path
Matt Anderson finds magical fairies on the path

Matt Andersen happened to be on his way back stage when two of the face and body painting artists found him. He graciously posed for a photo with Kelli MacAlpine from Misk Designs. Kelli was a recent fan having heard him play for the first time at Woodford.

For those who love music and blues in particular give Woodford Folk Festival a look. Some folk spend their entire festival at the Bluestown, there is even a blues New Year’s Eve Party.

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