A-pickin’ and a-grinnin’ duo

LAST week I told you about some festival highlights – must-see events on the program, and I have some more for you to ponder on. It’s getting close to 20 years since Stuie French hosted the first Pickers’ Night at The Pub at 99 Gunnedah Rd.

It soon became known that this was THE gig to be at if you wanted to see the cream of the crop playing all the real country songs you know and love.  Stuie said it was a gig with a difference.“Each year we change the band around a bit,” he said. “This time we’ll have Brendan Radford sit in with the band which features myself, Michel Rose, Geoff Simpson on bass and Dougie Gallacher on drums.

“It’s where you get to see the who’s who of country get up and do a few tunes – but they’ve got to be picking tunes – no originals. The guests play songs that suit the band instead of the other way around. Troy always turns up and I’m not sure if Tommy Emmanuel will be there.”

On any given Pickers’ Night you might see Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, Troy Cassar-Daley, Kasey Chambers, Catherine Britt – just about any country star you could name. 

If they’re not up on stage, they will be out there in the audience just enjoying the evening like everyone else. And – like the best things in life – Stuie French’s XXXX Gold Pickers’ Night is free admission, so it’s definitely a must for your festival agenda. 

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A SORT of extended pickers’ night-style gig will be 2pm that day at North Tamworth Bowling Club when Stuie and Camille present their only full concert of the festival.

The husband-and-wife combination are Golden Guitar finalists in two categories of the 2013 Awards – Group or Duo of the Year and Alternative Country Album of the Year. At their bowlo gig, Camille and Stuie will showcase songs from their Golden Guitar-nominated disc, Big Days and Little Years.

While the album’s name reflects on the past decade they’ve been together and the young family they have begun, you could say they’ve had some pretty big days in the past year as well.

They promoted the album on an Australian tour in conjunction with Canadian singer-songwriter David Myles in May and then in July took their talents overseas to the Telluride Americana Music Festival in Colorado. Following that experience they flew to California where they opened for ex-pat Tasmanian Audrey Auld on three of her shows.

Then it was time for some fun in Nashville, Tennessee, before heading home, Camille said.“We got off the plane at 6.30pm and had tickets for a 9pm show of one of our all-time favourite bands, The Time Jumpers – and what a night that turned out to be.

“In between getting off the plane and going to the gig, we shot to our accommodation to freshen up and there was a parcel waiting for Stuie from Tommy Emmanuel. 

“Inside were two beautiful books from him, a lovely hand-written note and a very special package. It had a set of used guitar strings. 

“These were the last set of strings that Chet Atkins had on his guitar and when Tommy restrung it for him (back in 2000), he saved them for Stuie. 

“We were both very emotional and felt very privileged. The fact that these came from two of the greatest guitar players in the world and ended up in Stuie’s hands made it a very special moment.” 

The Time Jumpers’ gig was fantastic, of course, but when Vince Gill turned up, they thought it couldn’t get any better than that – but it did.

As Troy Cassar-Daley was in town songwriting, they all sat together and were in total celebratory mode when bandleader Kenny Sears called them up on stage to sing a few songs. 

Stuie has had a busy year in the studio, recording albums for John O’Dea and Dean Perrett, among others.

Then he hit the road with singer Daniel Thompson, bass player Arty Taylor and drummer Ben Elliott on Cash: The Concert, which celebrates the life and music of Johnny Cash in the late artist’s 80th birthday year.

It’s been a huge year for this golden pair and 2013 looks set for a rosy start for the couple who I believe will become the next generation’s Mr and Mrs Country Music. 

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ANOTHER show you really should consider for your 2013 festival dancecard is young Amos Morris. He’s just returned to performing after a short hiatus and has two concerts 

scheduled at Tamworth Community Centre.

Since he first came onto the scene eight years ago at age 16, Amos has amassed a legion of fans, with his authentic portrayal of Australian bush ballads. Now, at 24, he has come up with a new album, Amos Morris By Request, due to the amount of times he’s been asked to record certain songs.

Classic examples of these are Eric Bogle’s And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Jimmy Little’s Baby Blue, the Elvis Presley hit, The Wonder of You and Amazing Grace. For this album, Amos went back to the Macleay Valley and recorded at Red Lantana Studios, Temagog, with Alan Morgan, son of the legendary Sheik of Scrubby Creek.

From bush ballads to great big ballads, there’s something for everyone on this new album. Amos will perform with his band, The Firm, in two concerts at 2.30pm on Friday and Monday, January 18 and 21 at the community centre. Don’t miss your chance to catch this dual Golden Guitar winner in action for his only two shows of the festival. 

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BY THE way – it’s only 43 more sleeps – and 36 to the Countdown. Who’s counting? A gig this weekend that’s the final one for the year for one local combo is on Saturday from 9am to noon at Le Pruneau for the organic markets. John Muller’s handy little outfit, featuring the vocal talents of local songbird Kate Armstrong, Phil Reading on bass, Lou Farina on drums and the Muller Fulla playing keyboards, will provide some Christmas tunes, French songs and so much more while you browse for a bargain. 

It’s not country – but it’s cool music. Enjoy.

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