ANNA'S COUNTRY MUSIC NOTES: Too country for this country

ONE of the biggest hits from Wanita’s latest album was the first single, Too Country For Country.

It now appears Australia’s queen of honky tonk is too country for this country as the Tamworth-based diva is heading to Sweden next week for the first of what is believed will become a series of concerts throughout Europe.

While songs from her album, The Original Wanita, have been largely ignored by the Australian country music industry, that’s anything but the case in Europe and the UK, where her songs have been consistently charting and the disc has received five-star reviews.

Working solidly before her departure, Wanita took some time out to speak about her impending trip and future plans.

For almost two decades she’s been a huge drawcard at pubs around Tamworth during the festival – the dream-come-true of publicans, drawing in drinkers and dancers to their venues.

In January, Wanita said her audiences were larger and it seemed the venues were becoming smaller and hotter.

“I had so many people come up to me before my shows, buy my CDs, some merchandise and say they couldn’t stay due to the heat and the cramped conditions – and this wasn’t at just one venue,” she said.

“That’s why I must regrettably announce I will not be performing at the 2015 

Tamworth Country Music Festival.

“Once I can organise some bigger venues so my fans are better accommodated, I’ll go back to performing here. Right now, it’s not fair to the people who want to see my shows, but can’t do so in comfort.”

She’ll have plenty of time to ponder that situation as she flies out to Sweden next week on an open-ended ticket.

Wanita was invited there as the guest of the Smaland Country Music Club at Ingatorp, in southern Sweden.

Most club members are already familiar with Wanita’s music as one local reviewer, Lars Thell, gave it five hats – out of five.

In the UK her album was named in the Smart Choice Music Top 10 best country albums, and it was the UK’s best honky tonk album of 2013 and the #1 online selling import.

Her Swedish hosts have arranged a five-piece band, appropriately called the Stockholm Honky Tonk Band.

“Some of the players have pretty impressive credentials,” Wanita said.

“The pianist plays for Wanda Jackson whenever she visits Europe and a couple of the members have played with ABBA.”

The original plan was to be away for 10 days, but it now appears she may stay on as she’s expecting confirmation of a festival in Germany any day.

Then in June and July she’ll be back on a plane to do some summer festivals in Germany.

Asked how she felt about the whole European adventure, Wanita was still in a state of disbelief with the trip only days away.

“After the way I’ve been treated by the Australian country music industry, I’m a bit hesitant to get excited about this opportunity until it actually happens,” she said.

“I’m totally humbled by the way the people in Sweden have embraced me and my music. They’ve acknowledged me as one of the greatest honky tonk singers of all time and are thrilled to have me perform for them.

“So, quite frankly, apart from my fans here in Australia, I have no real emotional ties to this country. If something really positive eventuates from this trip, I’ll stay there as long as they need me to and go where I’m appreciated.”

With an expected three-month stay for the European summer, Wanita will continue to chase the sun back home when she makes an encore performance at the Airlie Beach Music Festival, where she stole the show in November 2013.

The second annual festival in the beautiful Whitsundays features 74 bands over three days from November 6-9.

Heading the all-star lineup are The Screaming Jets, The Easybeats, Mark Seymour, Richard Clapton, The Eurogliders, Jon English, The Radiators, Shane Howard, Normie Rowe, Phil Emmanuel, Angry Anderson, Phil Manning, Kevin Borich and more.

The Honky Tonk Bar Dwellers joining Wanita at Airlie Beach will be Michael Vidale, Phil Emmanuel, Jason Tyler, Ronnie Rindo and Buddy Knox.

As she prepares for her European experience, Wanita wanted to restate her absolute gratitude and love for her Aussie fans, who she said had always stood by her, through thick and thin.

“I’d like to say thank you to everyone in the Australian country music industry who has supported me – and to my fans all over Australia – and for that matter, the world,” she said.

NASHVILLE-based Aussie artist Natalie Howard was proud and delighted to be announced a finalist in the 13th Annual Independent Music Awards in America for her album, Under {Love’s} Umbrella.

“To represent Australia and be nominated for Country Album of the Year is a high honour,” Natalie said.

“I am very thankful to all the collaborators and stellar musicianship and production efforts and heart lent to my project and for all the support I’ve received thus far.” 

It’s not the first accolade for this gifted singer-songwriter. Several years ago Natalie won Country Song of the Year with I Don’t 

Want To Live Like That  from her album, Yesterday’s Makeup.

She’s the only Aussie in the finals, with the four other finalists from the USA.

The winners of the awards will be announced by Music Resource Group in May.

Under {Love’s} Umbrella has produced three consecutive top 10 hits in the Country Tracks Top 30 and won the gong for Best Production (Engineer/Arrangement) at the Canberra Country Music Awards.

Her video clip, The Girlfriend, filmed on location in Nashville and directed by Thomas Newton, is airing around Australia in country music venues and on CMC.

This fun clip features fellow Nashville-based Aussie Kristy Cox cast as “the girlfriend” while Natalie doubles as the club performer and the girlfriend’s nemesis, Jezebel. Check it out on YouTube.

You might even catch sight of Aussie George Jackson playing banjo in Natalie’s band.

Natalie’s earlier single, Hit The Hay, won Contemporary Country Song at the 2013 Canberra Country Music Awards, was in the Top 10 in the USA Songwriting Awards and reached the #9 spot in the Top 100 Country Hits of 2013. 

The video clip, directed by four-time Golden Guitar winner Duncan Toombs, took out the Australian Independent Music Video Awards Best Cinematography Music Video – Australia 2013.

As a top 10 winner in the USA Songwriting Awards, Natalie will perform in a showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe with her fellow finalists.

You can keep up with Natalie Howard’s activities through her website, www.nataliehoward.net   

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