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Old age and cunning - defeat youth and strength - not this time grandad you’ve been Duhksed!

March 24, 2008
Old age and cunning - defeat youth and strength - not this time grandad you’ve been Duhksed!

Robbie Burns would be proud to know Eddi Reader. Not just because Scotlands beloved peoples poet appreciated remarkable women, but Eddi appreciates Burns.

She has just come through a peak in her career a Robbie Burns interpretation which earned Eddi an MBE. That means she made an outstanding contribution to the Arts and the dour Scots of the University of Glasgow took a dram to honour the lass and awarded her an honorary doctorate in music.

At the National Folk Festival at Exhibition Park a few kilometres from Canberra's CBD Eddi, Boo Hewerdine and a bloody Irishman would you believe, Alan Kelly, set the packed Budawang Pavilion crowd tapping and swaying.

Kelly loves his accordion and it responds to his touch. Boo Hewerdine and his guitar complete a backing which frames Eddi's sound.

You have to hear her to understand, but as your correspondent offered earlier Burns has a true disciple. This is a vocal red rose without a thorn.

When Eddi laid down her lines with Wild Mountain Thyme only the completely tone deaf would not be moved.

There is depth in this singer and Eddi listens to and watches her audience.

What they want is delivered, but what they get is a voice which demands attention and deserves respect.

Later she partnered the startling Rory McLeod and added a polish to the chatty Orkney Islanders delivery.

Good laddie Rory, but canna ye gab less between songs lad and let your magic words do the talking?

You can always save the world another day.

Alan Kelly makes accordian an art form
Alan Kelly makes accordion an art form

But chat aside you have to give it to Rory. Later when the break-through group from Canada The Duhks fitted their fiercely fresh sound to the demands of young and old at the Nationals - there was Rory.

This time with a trombone adding to the Duhks undoubted impact on the Nationals.

They are fast learners these Canadians.

On their first night appearance at the National Folk Festival they grabbed the audience by the throat. Some, mostly older listeners, choked on the rich mix of full volume, full on fun sound.

Certainly it was not standard fuel for the Folk Festival faithful. Overnight the Duhks read their audience and came back with a result which set the Budawang Pavilion crowd arm waving and dancing.

True it was achieved with a certain amount of trickery.

Some of the grey haired among us will be familiar with the wise words which run - old age and cunning will outwit youth and strength every time.

Your correspondent is pleased to report that at the Nationals The Duhks rewrote the book.

With great guile they lifted the audience from their comfy plastic seats on the pretext of exercise.

Rory on song his lyrics ring and sting
Rory on song his lyrics ring and sting

Raise your arms they said, move your hips like this - left, right, good!

Before they really knew they had been Duhksed the place was rocking.

Old age and cunning - defeat youth and strength - not this time grandad!

The Duhks from Winnipeg, Manitoba are in the present and they pulse with a raw sound with an edge to it.

They are five young adventurers who are obviously worthy of their Grammy nomination.

EPIC, which translates into Exhibition Park In Canberra, delivers the goods for an audience which is expected to reach 60,000 before GoSee hits the road again bound for Mogo Zoo and a meeting with our GoSee sponsored White Lion cubs - The Gangsters.

The National Folk Festival is a gentle place with a sense of humour. GoSee got a Big Rory walkabout hello from the 9ft (metres don't cut it in this case) wandering Scotsman and his dog Ochie. Ochie is excitable and pissed on us to make us feel part of the whole festival thing.

Cloudstreet, Nicole Murray and John Thompson gave harmony a beautiful voice as they stepped up at the opening session.

A wild fiddle  leads to Duhks music message
A wild fiddle leads to Duhks music message

Again humour is in the mix with a realistic view of the purpose of wine.

Never mind Dr Lindeman's politically correct statement that wines one purpose is to bring happiness Nicole and John cut to the chase.

Without instrumental intrusion they lifted their considerable harmonious talent to inform the Folk Festival faithful that wines greatest benefit is complete relaxation.

This is of course without benefit of brand or bottling pretences.

Cloudstreet lifted the audience to a higher level.

They took us beyond harmony to another place then gently returned us to earth and left us wanting more.

Genticorum is native Canadian music with a French twist. It sings about a naughty monk. Unfortunately he thinks his naked lady is the devil.

This is brought on by misadventure when she mistakes black ink for perfume, dabs it on and scares our monk witless enough to shout for help.

Cloudstreets Nicole Murray
Cloudstreets Nicole Murray

His monastic life takes a musical turn for the worse when his failure to keep the faith is discovered.

Flute, fiddle and acoustic guitar plus an astonishing jaw harp overture produce original sound. In a word distinctive.

Opening night was like an online shopping cart. It is a taste it and see of what is on offer at the National.

Take it or leave it, there is no pressure. There are days of browsing multiple venues on the huge National Folk Festival site to sort it all out

Pacific Curls is a wild fiddler wearing tartan slacks. In the middle is a Maori Princess who puts in the Kiwi u when she chats about Fush and Chups and along with the Maori maid and the wildly effective bow of the Scots lass the trio includes blinding finger work on ukulele and guitar.

Then Rory McLeod has a message. Its strange and compelling, out there and on the edge. It is like being hit by a Scots gale, a slap in the face with words and tempo which jars with its raw look at the not so fortunate life..

It is about a baby abandoned by its frightened young mother. There is a Nick Cave like dark side to this entertainer.

His music is wielded in a combination of claymore clout and socio sting. It is the point of themessage which comes with the dirk under the ribs which is so compelling. His music is in your face and McLeod's Flying Scot assault on the harmonica takes the word skilled to a new level. Extraordinary!

Genticorum from Quebec flute fiddle and acoustic guitar
Genticorum from Quebec flute fiddle and acoustic guitar

Then Eleanor McEvoy came as a complete surprise. We were wandering between musical venues and her voice drew us to her. She was singing Ave Maria. Not the traditional pious version. Eleanor makes insightful comment on the Catholic faith but without actually burning Rome down. Eleanor's approach, however,burned her music into the Festival fans. Her CDs sold out.

Like a pilgrimage The National Folk Festival was powered by goodwill. People just want it to work, it's like a coming home through all forms of music to celebrate humanity in all its diversity.

This Easter music festival is truly The National Folk Festival. The focuswas a celebration of Rock 'n' Roll, Blue Grass, Jazz, Country and Western, Celtic and many diverse national styles plus the many traditional folk styles.

Australias festival flagship, the National, draws together people from all around Australia and the world at Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC).

Theycame to share in the songs, dances, tunes, and verse that have flowed through the ages from many communities into Australian folk culture.

Children had their own Festival venue every day where quality performers and arts workers introduce them to the fun of the Festival.

Eleanor McEvoy has broad range
Eleanor McEvoy has broad range

The Kids Festival inside the main grounds was a purpose-made area for children's performances and participation for children, and professionally supervised child care was also available in the Childcare facility.

Every year more and more young people are being drawn to the Folkie, as performers, audience and volunteers. This is a Festival that is fun for every age. The themes for 2008 were - Music of the Celtic Nations and Australia at Play. New South Waleswas this year's feature state.

Acts include:

Bob Fox (England), Women in Docs, The Duhks (Canada), Wheelers and Dealers, Cloudstreet, George Papavgeris, Mike Compton (USA), Genticorum (Canada), Faerd (Denmark/Sweden), Pacific Curls (New Zealand/Scotland), Marcia Howard, King Curly, Les Barker (England), Dancehall Racketeers, Big Rory and Ochie (Scotland), Truckstop Honeymoon (USA), Judy Small, The Wheeze and Suck Band, Jan Wositzky and Tim Heath, Voicepopfoible, Pekka Pentikainen and Catherine Strutt (Finland/Australia), Devlish Mary, Rory McLeod, Peggy Seeger (USA), Jim Conways Big Wheel, David Arden, Fabio da Lapa (Brazil), and the return of The Spooky Men's Chorale. The first National Folk Festival was held in 1967 making this the 42nd with music to suit every taste.

The festival breaks down artificial cultural and social barriers and brings people to a sense of belonging to an extended family with common interests.

The National Folk Festival is noted for its annual dance program from all around the world - Africa, Spain, China, Ireland, Egypt, Scotland, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Lebanon, the Balkans and beyond colonial and Scottish balls, bush dancing, square dancing, clog dancing dance workshops and dance displays.

Having a good time
Having a good time
Jam time at The Sessions Bar
Jam time at The Sessions Bar
Cloudstreet and bass player friend Rebecca Wright  (left)
Cloudstreet and bass player friend Rebecca Wright(left)
Scots reel at Eddi Readers concert
Scots reel at Eddi Readers concert
Eddi Readers band puts the jig into Burns poems
Eddi Readers band puts the jig into Burns poems
The Sessions bar set take their work seriously
The Sessions bar set take their work seriously
John Thompson pours out the Cloudstreet sound
John Thompson pours out the Cloudstreet sound