Mountaingrass reviewed

Courtesy Listening Through The Lens (LTTL)

by Jim Jacob

and by Rob Dickens, LTTL

TN160 Dec 23

Mountaingrass 2023, was held in Beechworth, Victoria from 10 to 12 November and it was presented by the Australasian Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association (ABOTMA).


Hailing from the seminal town of Galax, Virginia, Erryn Marshall and Carl Jones are a couple in real life and in music.

Old-time music specialists, they breeze between fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo doing what they call ‘new-sounding old-time tunes’.

Jones is a talented songwriter and his wistful ballad “Last Time On The Road” was an absolute feature.

The wry humour between songs was evident and they played with both speed and precision, easily manoeuvring sudden tempo changes.

Erynn Marshall & Carl Jones – Photo: LTTL


From the ACT, the Black Mountain String Band is an intergenerational outfit founded in the 1970s.

It is a five-piece jamming outfit certainly not lacking in musical diversity, as members segue between bluegrass, jigs, old-time, western swing and even a touch of instrumental mariachi.

Donal Baylor, Jacqueline Bradley, Matt Nightingale, Kevin Bradley and Pablo Shopen put on an entertaining show and their joy playing on stage together is palpable.

Speaking of putting on an exhibition, it’s pretty hard to top The Kody Norris Show, both musically, visually and stylistically.

With multiple award nominations including by the International Bluegrass and Music Association (IBMA), the band recently debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Their Australian tour has the slogan ‘g’day y’all’ and their unabashed home-spun and dazzling stage presence, with dollops of goofy humour, was met with a rousing response from the audience at the Golden Oak Room.

All four members (Kody Norris, Josiah Tyree, Mary Rachel Nailey-Norris and Charlie Lowman) took turns at the single vocal microphone with plenty of bluegrass hollering and their blended harmonies a treat.

Able to play at a thunderous pace and in an ever-so-tight formation, they glided off the stage in an orange and purple triumph.

Not to be missed.

The Kody Norris Show – Photo: LTTL


This was the third time I had seen Portland’s Caleb Klauder on stage, but the first as the Foghorn Stringband.

In 2014 and 2015, he appeared at AmericanaFest in Nashville under the banner of the Kaleb Klauder Country Band, which later morphed into the Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms Country Band, putting in impressive sets.

Tonight’s show, as part of the band’s third Australian tour, was a demonstration of the versatility of Klauder and affirmation of his exemplary mandolin playing.

Willms was pumping out hectic rhythm guitar and the ensemble was rounded out by Nadine Landry on bass and Sammy Lind on fiddle.

Four-strong vocals, lively fiddle tunes, a Carter Family cover, the delightfully frisky “Horseshoe Bend” and “Black Mountain Rag”, a couple of nice country songs, throw in a cajun waltz and some local references to Ned Kelly and Wombats and you had an immensely enjoyable set.

Foghorn Stringband – Photo: LTTL



Dave Diprose is a multi-award-winning songwriter with ballads like “Hillbilly Radio” and “Stranger In My Home”.

Stories of his life as he moved from the North West Coast of Tasmania to Stawell in Victoria and to other parts are both colourful and instructive.

His band, Hillbilly Radio, was comprised of Mark Pottenger on mandolin, Andrew Barcham on bass and Peter Somerville on banjo, and they adeptly provided latitude and pattern to these stories.

Dave Diprose – Photo: LTTL


Perhaps the high point of the weekend was a session curated by Colin Weight (The Colvin Brothers, Nine Mile Creek) in the Chapel on Saturday afternoon.

This tiny Chapel of the Resurrection was built in 1868 as the mortuary for the local, now closed, mental asylum and converted into a place of worship in the 1960s.

It is located two hundred metres down the hill from the main buildings, dwarfed by giant gums and not much else than substantial tended grassland.

The former altar works well as a stage, the glass panels on the roof provide glorious light beams and there’s even a curious and ornate phone and stand that may well be a direct line to whatever your supreme being is.

The acoustics are pristine, the audience hushed and there is not a whiff of a microphone for the entire session.

Chapel of the Resurrection built in 1868


The Cartwheels are one of Australia’s best roots music outfits who are in demand at Australia’s best music festivals of their genre and their short set demonstrated that, despite being two members short, their core material and musicianship prevail no matter what the circumstances.

Golden Guitar winners Wendy Phypers (guitar and vocals), Dave Patterson (bass) and noted bluegrass player, Jacob McGuffie (The Davidson Brothers) provided some classy playing around Phypers’ brilliant songs and vocals.

The Cartwheels – Photo: LTTL


Jacob McGuffie stayed on and was joined by Daniel Watkins (High Street Drifters) and we were treated to great bluegrass songs and fiddle tunes, but with just two finger-picking guitars working feverishly in sync.

Seeing two of Australia’s finest bluegrass guitarists together was immensely pleasurable.

The child prodigy founding members of You, Me, Everybody are Laurence and Sam Frangos-Rhodes and the duo performed some delicate material with flair and touch, including The Milk Carton Kids‘ gorgeous “Michigan”.

It was fascinating to see them in the same venue five years on.

Laurence and Sam Frangos-Rhodes – 2018 and 2023 – Photos: LTTL


Peter McLaughlin and Mark Miracle of The Sonoran Dogs provided some of McLaughlin’s originals with guitar and mandolin respectively, including his homage “Raise A Glass to John Prine”, “Rainy in Maleny” and the joyful ode to retirement (I can associate with this one!) “It’s A New Day”.

The Sonoran Dogs – Photo: LTTL


The Colvin Brothers, Weight and Vinny Russell (The Humbuckin’ Pickups) were drawn together by their love of bluegrass and old-time music but also with an eye to broader genres – ballads, country and standards.

Glorious harmonies.

The Colvin Brothers – Photo: LTTL


The closing act for this session was Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms of The Foghorn Stringband and the audience was treated to some new songs that will be on their six-piece country and honky tonk band record which is close to being finished.

A lonesome cowboy song “Far Away Sky” and the driving “Badger Mountain” resonated.

Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms – Photo: LTTL



The day’s highlights started with a full set from The Sonoran Dogs, with Bruce Packard substituting on bass for this show and the rest of the band’s tour, this is its start.

The extended, captivating opening instrumental was a stunner, allowing each member to demonstrate their prowess, followed by a lovely take on Townes Van Zandt‘s “Snowin’ on Raton”, “Dixie Hoedown”, the classic “Dark Hollow” and Bob Dylan’s lively “Nashville Skyline Rag”.

This is a seriously good band with depth and heart.

Don’t miss them on the rest of their tour.

The Sonoran Dogs – Photo: LTTL


Bluegrass Parkway trekked all the way from Western Australia and put on a hell of a show.

With over thirty years’ experience, the men, resplendent in big white hats and sharp suits, and the sole female, Maria Duff, looking gorgeously ready to make headlines on the dance floor, they took us through some classic bluegrass and country tunes.

It was a warm and entertaining set from this accomplished outfit.

Bluegrass Parkway – Photo: LTTL


Other notables were The Quarry Hillbillies (Chris Jacobs and Pete Fidler and are 3/5th of the bluegrass band Bluestone Junction) and the duo from New South Wales, StompKats, who dutifully revisit the rural sounds of the Mississippi Delta and other parts of America with music that never becomes unfashionable.

Another animated and crisp set from The Foghorn Stringband closed for us both the day and this highly successful, warm, community-based event.


A big thank you to the ABOTMA Committee for putting on such a wonderful event and looking after us.

Actually, we sat in on the AGM on Sunday morning and were exposed first-hand to the group’s achievements and a sample of just how much hard work is required to run an outstanding event like Mountaingrass.

The talented and diverse line-up on show and the smooth event management is a testament to this year’s event and which lays strong roots for successful festivals into the future.

We also heard the compelling rationale for having to relocate the event to Bright, just 50 minutes southeast of Beechworth, in 2024.

Save the dates: November 15 to 17, 2024.


TN158 P40-42

For    over    thirty    years, players   and      lovers   of Bluegrass and Appalachian old-time music have gathered in November in the high country of Victoria.

The beautiful Victorian high country reflects this music’s origins and the spring mountain air inspires folk who come to listen and play Bluegrass and

traditional country music.

People of all ages travel from across Australia and New Zealand to revel in an acoustic, string-band, music filled weekend that is the only solely Bluegrass and Appalachian music event of its kind in Australia.

It’s a not to be missed event for many musicians who attend year after year!

This traditional gathering is so much more than a festival.

There are: concert performances from top US, Australian and NZ performers; workshops to develop, improve and hone skills on guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dobro & bass, performance skills, harmony singing, jamming and more; curated, intimate acoustic concerts; a walk-up stage; a Sunday morning gospel concert; many spontaneous, informal jams; and, a luthier display featuring hand crafted guitars, banjos and mandolins where you can talk to the makers and try out their wares.

There’s something for everyone, beginners to aficionados.

The gathering is held in the stunning, heritage listed, parkland of Mayday Hills, in historic Beechworth, Victoria, from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th November and the festival base is the Grand Oaks Resort (the old George Kerferd Hotel),

The featured headline overseas artists for Mountaingrass 2023 include, The Kody Norris Show (US), The Foghorn Stringband (US / Canada), Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones (US), The Sonoran Dogs (US), The Pipi Pickers (NZ), and, You, Me, Everybody (NZ).

Come and listen to the exciting sounds of bluegrass, gospel and Appalachian old-time music.

Bring your instruments, tunes and songs and join our friendly and welcoming community of music lovers.

Beechworth, is an historic gold mining town full of heritage architecture and local history museums and boutique shopping.

It has two breweries, many wineries close by and great food. Beechworth is also well served by two beautiful caravan parks, one of which sits on the

edge of a lake.

On the same weekend as Mountaingrass, there will be a Beechworth Heritage Festival for those interested in learning more about what shaped the town, its history, heritage trades, forebears and traditional music.

Mountaingrass is presented by the Australasian Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association (ABOTMA), a not-for-profit organization formed in 2013 to support the teaching, performance and promotion of these styles of music in Australia and New Zealand.

Anyone who enjoys bluegrass and old-time music as either a performer, a player or a listener, is very welcome at Mountaingrass.



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