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Melbourne cosmic-country singer Ben Mastwyk takes to one of the most celebrated music venues, The Melba Spiegeltent, for a night of psychedelic honky tonk. Supported by cosmic contemporaries Freya Josephine Hollick and Chris Pickering Experience, Mastwyk is set to launch his sophomore LP "WINNING STREAK" featuring his swaggering all-star band, The MILLION$.
Melbourne based artist Ben Mastwyk is taking his unique blend of country, R & B and psychedelic honky-tonk on the road again in support of his forthcoming, full-length sophomore album Winning Streak. Fresh from touring with Cali-cowboy Sam Outlaw, Mastwyk released his new single This Country at the start of 2018, described by Post to Wire as 'a great horn-led slice of honky-tonk' and 'seventies country-soul glam' by The Country Update; Followed by a tour of the East Coast with Jersey troubadour, Luke Eliot.
Conceived and written on his fourth visit through the southern states of the U.S.A whilst struggling to make sense of his crumbling marriage, Winning Streak is the journey of a man piecing together fragments of a shifting and sometimes, difficult reality. Recorded upon his return to Australia at the Shrimp Shack, what was originally planned as a 7 inch turned into a full length album at the suggestion of bandmate and producer Michael Hubbard; as Mastwyk explains 'I felt a real trust with him and was really interested to see where he would take things. Some songs were completely re-arranged. He had really interesting suggestions on things like chord voicings, song structure and feel. I really enjoyed exploring the songs together like that. He has a great instinct.'
Like his 2015 debut, Mornin, Evenin, Mastwyk continues his unique trait of writing on the move taking the focus from planes, trains and highways to the myriad forms of modern communication; telephone lines, radio waves, text messages. With a knack for juxtaposing melancholy lyrical content with playful, up-tempo, country stomp he twists and bends traditional country tropes into new, expansive forms. Widescreen Americana drifts off into psychedelic daydreams. But as much as he borrows from the past he also invents. From gothic swamp-country (Sad Old Road of Lies, Quit Your Comin' Round), to high-octane hillbilly swing (Ring Ring Baby, Ain't Got No Time) and sax-accented country-funk (This Country), this broad diversity is glued together by Mastwyk's whiskey-tinged warble and the shuffling swagger of his band the MILLION$. Winning Streak showcases Mastwyk's ability to honour the traditions of the country genre, tracing a line from Willie & Waylon, through Gram Parsons and tipping his hat to contemporary outlaws such as Sturgill Simpson, Daniel Romano and Justin Townes Earle.
For a taste of what to expect from the forthcoming album check out the James Arneman (Small Town Romance) directed video for This Country, premiered by Post to Wire and likened to 'some lost footage from a 70s TV show'.
Freya Josephine Hollick is an Old-Timey, Country, Folk singer/songwriter from the Victorian Goldfields. Hollick has always had her roots in folk music, coming to earlier 20th Century folk, blues and country music through a hunger for knowledge of how and from where modern music evolved. Freya has followed a path back to a time that holds true to her voice, her songwriting and her story. Hollick's voice has been described as haunting, as both powerful and fragile, it is truly a voice unlike any other, and one that is of another time. Many conversations with Hollick centre around her uncertainty as to where her songs and stories come from, "They seem to fall out of the sky at any time of day, and they pester you 'til you sit down and write it out... makes for a pretty disorganised life". Hollick has said she often wakes late in the night, with a melody, or a line and, as commanded, stays up with the song until it is all out and whole. When asked about her process, she is certain that there isn't really a process, that any time she tries to write, without it coming to her "as an apparition of sorts", that the effort is audible in the song, and "that sure doesn't make for easy listening" which is what she is all about.
Her parents would listen to music almost constantly as she and her siblings grew up. They listened to everything from Emmylou Harris, to Etta James, Sonic Youth, Ed Keupper, Bill Frisell, Sun Ra, Beastie Boys, Brian Eno, Massive Attack, Townes Van Zandt, Yo La Tengo, Steve Young, John Lee Hooker, Gene Clark and many more. As a result of so much exposure to wide variety of great music, Freya found her way through noise bands, experimental improvisational music, folk and of course country music across the past twelve years performing throughout Victoria.
Hollick immerses herself in her songs and the stories they tell, and it is no secret that she has certainly come through trials of her own in recent history. Her own life story, tells tales much like those in the heartbreaking country tunes of yesteryear that she has come to love so much. Her live performances are often candid, her banter between songs becomes more of a refreshingly honest and often darkly humorous account of her lived experience. Her own songs such as Way Over Yonder With You and A Heart That Burns are truly stunning examples of her heartbreak in song. To hear her perform live is not only an exceptional experience because of her own stories but also what she brings to the songs of others. Her rendition of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You, is enough to both chill you to the bone and wrap you in a warm embrace. This song in particular highlights what a powerful voice Hollick has and her aptitude for phrasing and tone.
Hollick returned to music late in 2015, after the birth of her daughter Opal, with a string of shows around the country through 2016 upon the release of her latest album The Unceremonious Junking of Me, including supports for Willie Watson (ex Old Crow Medicine Show), Joe Pug (USA) and appearing as a guest singer with Robert Ellis and The Perfect Strangers after shows at Out On The Weekend. The album was recorded over three days in Ballarat's Historical Main Road building, The Main Bar, by engineer Myles Mumford (Rolling Stock Recording Rooms, Collingwood). This record bears particular significance for Freya as all the tracks on this album were recorded live to tape, no overdubs, no fancy business, just beautiful old equipment, intimate playing, and a first musical venture for her post-birth. The collection of songs that appear on The Unceremonious Junking of Me are full of old-world charm and heartache, spawned from the experience of childbearing, motherhood and failed relationships. The follow up to 2014's Beauty and Sorrow, is steeped in the darkness of the country and blues of yesteryear, intertwined with a saccharine of fragile folkisms.
The Unceremonious Junking of Me is an album of sweet sounding country tunes written and performed by Hollick with accompaniment from Pete Fidler on Dobro and Mandolin, and Kat Mear on Fiddle.
This story starts somewhere around here: in 2008 Chris Pickering decided to pack his bags and guitar, and relocate to one of the most competitive music cities in the world, Nashville, Tennessee. It was working and recording in Nashville that began to shape the future direction of his own unique songwriting style, a style that is to be found all through his latest releases, the EP Corners, and the release of his latest album Canyons in August 2016. This album contains all new material recorded in the United States in Nashville, TN, and Joshua Tree, CA.
The five years that Chris spent in Nashville were a pivotal point in his evolution as a songwriter, the results of which will be become apparent on his new album, Canyons. Whilst in Nashville he befriended and played alongside many of the finest up-and-coming crop of songwriters and performers in Nashville, including Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Kelsey Waldon, Caitlin Rose, Cale Tyson, Kelsey Waldon, and numerous others. The album is the result of recordings that have been made at Bomb Shelter in Nashville, and Hicksville Studios in Joshua Tree, CA. Accordingly, Chris engaged the services of producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes) and up-and-coming Australian producer and artist Adrian Mauro (Machine Age) to help administer the final touches to his latest work.
As with many of Chris's recordings, he plays almost all the instrumentation on the album, with guest appearances from fellow Nashville musicians and band-members (Caitlin Rose, Mark Fredson, Grant 'Big Smokey' Johnson, and Michael Flanders), and Australian collaborators too (Ben Tolliday, Savannah Jo Lack, Chloe Turner).
The title track from the new album, 'Canyons', was released as a single in July 2015, and garnered a positive reception and airplay on community radios and the ABC and Double J network around the country. The album 'Canyons' was released in August 2016 and has been steadily racking up acclaim around the country for its combination of cosmic psychedelia and well-crafted pop songwriting. Here are just a few notable quotes:
"...a grand Americana vista. The twang of guitar lands smack between surf and prairie...Unhurried, welcoming of light and space...From thrilling cyclonic peaks to languid trickles of spring rain."
- Chris Lambie, Rhythms Magazine, May 2017.
"A melding of warm desert-rock with tinges of old country...heavy on the guitars, floating vocals, pedal steel and a smattering of strings. There's a shimmer to songs like Canyons...its guitar line carrying a subtle '60s surf motif as the steel moves in the background like heat-haze off bitumen, Pickering's voice swirling with it."
- Samuel J Fell, Sydney Morning Herald, November 2016.
"A Morricone esque guitar line at the beginning of the opening title track [Canyons] suggests the scope of Pickering's vision and his impressive skill. He is capable of almost single handedly creating captivating music in a variety of styles. His influences are impeccable: Neil Young comes to mind when his guitar goes into overdrive, Paul McCartney when the melodies get under your skin, Big Star with his DIY pop sensibility and even Rufus Wainwright at times."