The Byron Bay festival’s 20th Birthday Anniversary is hotting up!

bluesfest09sml The next round of artists to perform at the 20th Anniversary Bluesfest has today been announced. Read on to see why it’s going to be a joyous musical celebration to remember when Easter hits Belongil Fields in Byron Bay between April 9 and 13, 2009.

The huge name here is American Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, a genuine super star in the making who has been near the top of the Australian charts for 35 weeks, and like Jack Johnson and Ben Harper before him, was discovered and introduced to Australian audiences last year via Bluesfest.

This entire artist announcement is a cross section of big stars and cult heroes; a quality-rich ‘something for everyone’ affair – with roots folk and country-rock, one or two soul legends, some exciting contemporary songwriters, hip-hop party boys, world music and much more.

The NEXT Bluesfest announcement for 2009 includes:

Jason Mraz, Xavier Rudd, Paul Kelly, Drive-By Truckers, Booker T Jones, James Hunter, Blues Traveller, CW Stoneking, Ash Grunwald, AYO, Rodney Crowell, Dallas Frasca, Spectrum, Pete Cornelius & the De Villes, Hot Club of Cow Town, Resin Dogs, Tijuana Cartel, Son Veneno, Mic Conway’s National Junk Band, and Morning Of The Earth – Cult Surf Movie and Concert featuring Brian Cadd, Lior, Old Man River, Mike Rudd & Tim Gaze.

The new names join those announced in late 2008 which included:
BEN HARPER and RELENTLESS7, John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Lucinda Williams, Zappa Plays Zappa, Angelique Kidjo, Tinariwen, Eric Bibb, Seasick Steve, Tony Joe White, Ruthie Foster, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Watermelon Slim & The Workers, Toni Childs, Luka Bloom, Alpha Blondy, Alabama 3, The Easy All Stars, Special Beat, Augie March, Blue King Brown, Saltwater Band featuring Gurrumul, Sonny Landreth, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Benny Gallagher, Bob Log III, Eugene Hideaway Bridges, The Bamboos, Watussi, Lowrider, Nu Yorican Nights.

Festival Director Peter Noble said, “There’s a great range of super-talented international and local artists in this announcement, established names and thrilling newcomers. We’ve got Booker T Jones backed by the fantastic Drive-By Truckers, who’ll also play their own sets. Paul Kelly returns following his very strong recent album, plus CW Stoneking, Xavier Rudd and Jason Mraz will impress people big time.

“And make sure you catch Spectrum –a classic Aussie original Jam band from the 1970’s that will rock the house. We’ve even got Morning Of The Earth, a cult early 70s surf movie screening while the soundtrack is performed live in concert alongside it. Some of our very own creaky Byron Bay surfing locals including 1965 USA surfing champion Rusty Miller actually feature in the movie footage. I imagine it will be almost impossible to keep Rusty from climbing on stage to perform one of his legendary, impromptu harmonica solos!”

Festival Director Peter Noble has confirmed however that extra security will be on hand to prevent the local surfing fraternity from rushing the stage to catch an onscreen glimpse of all their former glory!

Peter Noble concluded, “It’s going to be a lot of fun. And stay tuned and watch out for more big name artist announcements to come, and news about our brand new Bluesfest stages!”

Tickets selling out fast!
The Bluesfest office reports that tickets are selling very well this year across all days. With advertising ramping up, and more exciting artist announcements to come, festival goers planning on heading to Bluesfest over Easter 2009 really need to secure their tickets and finalise their plans now!

There are still some Camping Tickets left, but these too are almost gone – for more information on all accommodation options, and to buy tickets, visit ASAP.

Tickets can be purchased by: Phoning the Bluesfest office on 02 6685 8310
or visiting the website at

Echoing the way Jack Johnson and Ben Harper were first introduced to Australian audiences via Bluesfest, Jason Mraz first played Bluesfest in 2008, and is now a genuine super star in the making. The American singer-songwriter quickly earned a reputation as a clever and inspired wordsmith. His first album with Elektra records Waiting for My Rocket to Come was certified platinum and reached No.2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. His follow up album, the 2005 Grammy Award nominated Mr A-Z for Atlantic records, entered the Billboard 200 album chart at No.5. Chart successes from those albums such as “Remedy (I Won’t Worry)”, “Curbside Prophet” and “Wordplay” re-inforced that reputation. But Jason took a well deserved break because, as he says himself: “I want to go to the grocery store again, to do my own laundry again, to raise a cat.” Something unexpected happened after a few months off. “I suddenly woke up and real songs started coming out of me. They were inspired by moments of self-realisation, self-empowerment and self-improvement. I was happy to write an album as I was coming back to earth.” That 2008 album We Sing, We dance, We steal Things is a self-assured blend of 12 tunes wrapped in clever, observant lyrics and strong engaging pop melodies. The debut single from it “I’m Yours” gave Jason his first Top 10 hit in the Billboard Hot 100 charting in September 2008. The song’s live recording from an acoustic show became famous by notching millions of hits on his Myspace. Bluesfest will get the chance to hear exactly why this new album has already sold more than half a million copies in the US alone.

An absolute Byron festival favourite, Xavier Rudd’s performances are captivating and his talent unmistakable. His sincerity and frankness are clearly reflected in his music, which explains the huge level of support that his rhythmic and rootsy sounds have been met with wherever he tours. Hailing from Torquay on the southern Victorian coast in Australia, Xavier has a strong affinity for the beauty of his surroundings. A multi-instrumentalist – including a breathtaking proficiency on didgeridoo – Xavier applies rhythms on the stomp box with his bare feet as he glides his Weissenborn guitar through fluid melodies on songs like “Let Me Be”. A must-see live experience, Xavier was honoured at the 2006 ARIA Awards’>ARIA Awards with a nomination for Best Blues And Roots Album for his 2005 release Food In The Belly. His latest album, Dark Shades of Blue, the first to be recorded in Australia for years, was made here in Bryon Bay. “I can hear the humidity in the didgeridoos, and in the guitar”, says Xavier. “I can hear….the warmth of the climate in Byron Bay.”

From very early on in his career, Paul Kelly has been recognised as one of the most significant singer/songwriters in the country. His influence over Australian music and Australian culture is wide and significant. As well as issuing an enduring body of work with his own bands, Kelly has written film scores (Lantana and the Cannes 2006 highlight, Jindabyne), and produced albums for and written songs with some of Australia and New Zealand’s finest artists. His most recent albums have included the Bluegrass inspired Foggy Highway, the extraordinary Tchad Blake produced Ways and Means, and his latest album Stolen Apples, released in Australia in July 2007. In November 2008, reviewer Noel Mengel, wrote about Kelly’s music: “the way it sounds, feels, the way it captures not just the stories but the space and the light. This is music written by someone who knows and understands all of Australia, from the baking bitumen streets of Darlinghurst to nights by the campfire deep in the scrub. Yet, human nature being what it is, the listener need never have set foot in this country to understand the art and depth and emotion of our greatest songwriter.”

It’s taken around three years for this Southern band from Athens, Georgia to re-invent itself from an alternative country and Southern rock band to one whose music sounds more like that of the early British rock scene of the ‘70’s. They’ve had to work through massive type-casting following the huge success of their 2001 double album Southern Rock Opera which used the rise and literal fall of American Southern rock band Lynryd Skynryd as a conduit through which they explored the cultural demise of the American South during the 1970’s, and which earned them bouquets galore including a 4-star review from Rolling Stone magazine. Their follow-up albums followed the trend – outlining the lives of drifters and exiles trying to make it in an economically deprived small-town America, a sadly familiar theme these days. Now, after years of re-branding and re-organising, losing band members, and gaining new ones in their quest to shake the Southern rock image, they’ve re-emerged with a new album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. The band remains as intriguing as ever. Drive-By Truckers will perform their own shows and also back the mighty Booker T Jones for his appearance this year. Catch the whole exciting thing at Bluesfest 2009.

And the legends of our time keep coming. Performing at Bluesfest with the kind and extremely talented assistance of Drive-By Truckers as his backing band, this is the man from Memphis Tennessee who as Booker T and the MG’s helped create the indelible Memphis/Stax sound, the man who has recorded with the likes of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Rufus Thomas, and Sam and Dave from way back in the early ‘60’s. He is the child prodigy, playing five instruments while still at school, going on to study classic music composition at Indiana University, running back to Memphis and the MG’s to play and record at weekends. It was the instrumental Green Onions, written while still at High School in 1962, that put Booker T and his band on the music map, followed up with Time Is Tight and Hang ‘Em High. Years more of songwriting, producing – Willie Nelson’s multi-platinum Stardust among others – and recording with everyone from Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan to Ray Charles, Neil Young and George Harrison, won him the 2007 Grammy lifetime Achievement Award, and an induction into Nashville’s Musician’s Hall of Fame a year later. Now he’s performing again with his own band, showcasing those super impressive vocals with original songs along with the tried and true. A class act, pure and simple.

James Hunter, Essex boy with American Soul in his veins and a voice to equal his hero Sam Cooke, released his first US album “People Gonna Talk” in 1996. The Los Angeles Times praised James Hunter’s “extraordinary soul voice,” while Rolling Stone called it “a treat not to be missed.” By the end of the year it was nominated for a Grammy for Best New/Emerging Artist in the annual American Music Awards. Not bad for the ex-construction worker, the “newcomer” who had been playing and plying his music for twenty years. In his latest album release, “The Hard Way,” James Hunter digs deeper into the R&B roots he loves, going back to basics, recording in an East London studio on an 8-track tape with vintage amp and mikes (no headphones here) to achieve a sound that could pass muster for mono. His great coup on this album, New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint playing keys and singing backup on some tracks. The result is a bit more wild, a bit more edgy. “This time around,” he says, “we were able to let loose a bit more.” All of which goes to show that growing up in London’s Essex may not have been “quite like growing up with the blues in Alabama, but,” says James Hunter, “ in my part of England, anywhere south of Watford would be considered Alabama.” Luckily for all his fans.

They started out as a High School garage band, the young boys from Princeton, New Jersey who eventually would become Blues Traveler. That was back in 1987, and into the garage they brought into play all their influences from a variety of music genres. There was blues rock, psychedelic rock, folk-rock, soul and Southern rock. On stage they really rocked out, becoming loved for their mad segues and massive improvisations. Their live performances grew into legend. By 1991 they were well-known in the new wave of jam bands of the early 90’s and had appeared more than any other music artist on David Letterman’s The Late Show. He called them his “favourite band.” Then in 1994 they hit mainstream with their fourth album, called, appropriately enough, Fourth. They recently released a ‘best of’ collection of their older songs, Cover Yourself, and their latest, a new album North Hollywood Shootout. Guaranteed to blow away audiences at Bluesfest this year.

He is “The incomparable, inexplicable blues savant, C.W. Stoneking“, says Mohair Slim from PBS F.M. C.W. Stoneking, is a musician fast gathering a substantial following, who draws influence from pre-war blues, jazz, 1920s calypso, folklore, and personal experience to produce his intelligent and original songs. He took a fateful passage on a boat from the Caribbean and was shipwrecked off the West African coast. Surviving that experience gave the Melbourne-based guitar and tenor banjo player the inspiration to write the songs housed on his new album Jungle Blues. It highlights his skill as a composer, musician and arranger. Backed by his live band, Primitive Horn Orchestra, this follow up to his critically acclaimed debut album King Hokum, draws on influences that include; blues from Southern USA, calypso music from Trinidad, hillbilly music of the 1930s, and 1920s jungle jazz. If it sounds compelling, that’s because it is.

Ash Grunwald is reinventing the blues genre for a modern audience. Combining delta blues with hypnotic ‘phat’ grooves, this one-man band has played his unique songs on his resonator guitar to audiences from the Mississippi Delta to the furthest reaches of coastal Australia. More than just a powerhouse vocalist, Grunwald is sliding, stomping and hollering his way into the lives of fresh audiences around the globe. Grunwald’s second album, I Don’t Believe, is a landmark modern blues and roots album which took out the much coveted Album Of The Year at the 2005 Australian Blues Awards. Much of the album features percussion, which Grunwald creates on the spot using his foot-controlled sampler and pots, pans, hammers, spanners, guitars, beat boxing and claps. He then brings in his foot percussion, which consists of stomp box and foot tambourine. Over this Grunwald layers his trademark guitar grooves, stunning vocals and relevant lyrics. After winning the Melbourne Blues Performer Of The Year in 2003, Grunwald headed to Memphis in 2004 to compete with over 50 blues artists in the International Blues Challenge, where he was extremely well received, reaching the finals. In August, 2006, Grunwald released his fourth album Give Signs before embarking on a national tour of Australia. His latest album Fish Out of Water has earned glowing reviews from Rolling Stone magazine who write, “Gospel, funk and hip-hop all make an appearance – combining the traditional elements Grunwald does so well with a rhythm that takes the classy effort into territory fresh and familiar.”

Her performing name is the Yoruba translation for her christened name Joy. This soul, folk and reggae artist, was born in Germany of a Nigerian father and a Romanian gypsy mother. Her rich cultural background is also reflected in her musical influences. She grew up amidst Pink Floyd and Fela Kuti, the Soul Children and Bob Marley. When her father, who worked part-time as a DJ while studying engineering in Germany, discovered her singing talent he recorded a first demo tape with her in a studio and allowed her to drop out of school at the age of eighteen. Her nomadic lifestyle has since been split between London, Paris and New York. She co-produced her second album, Gravity at Last, and wrote all 13 tracks. Recorded over five days in the Bahamas in the fabled Compass Point Studios, alongside the ghosts of past recording sessions by such greats as Bob Marley and The Rolling Stones, the album is more complex than first appears. It was released in late September 2008. Just like its predecessor in 2006, Joyful, it has stormed the European album charts.

Although best known as a singer-songwriter of alternative country music, the Houston born musician was once married to Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne, and for fourteen years had a great influence on her career, producing most of her albums during that time. That’s not to say he was overshadowed by her. On the contrary, during the ‘80’s and ‘90’s he enjoyed huge mainstream popularity – his 1988 album Diamonds & Dirt produced an unprecedented five No 1 hits, and a year later he won a Grammy for Best Country Song After all This Time. He broke with mainstream country with his semi-autobiographical album The Houston Kid in 2001, and in 2003 he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame. And now Rodney Crowell has written a new set of songs. His latest album Sex & Gasoline is all about women – lovers, daughters, wives, friends, Madonnas and whores, often told from an imagined female point of view. With one ex-wife, one current, and four daughters, that makes for a certain curiosity. Maybe at Bluesfest we can all learn more.

A modern day troubadour is surely the right way to describe this energetic and remarkable live performer. Her commitment to touring and live performance is there for all to see, and seeing Dallas Frasca is believing. She has lapped the country spreading an epidemic of down and dirty roots. A native of Nick Cave’s home town of Wangaratta, Dallas started singing at age 19, nailing her debut solo EP “Acoustic Slide Groove” in 2005 which lead to her taking out Triple J‘s Light Your Fuse competition from over 500 entries. She has played numerous major festivals in Australia including Bluesfest, Falls Festival, Apollo Bay – and more. Dallas has an undeniable stage presence. Her powerful and commanding vocal style is one of a kind; raw, gritty and unrestrained, this woman is a force to be reckoned with. Described as “The Modern Day Janis Joplin”, Dallas sure appreciates the comparison.

Many well informed fans will tell you that Spectrum’s music is some of the greatest progressive psych rock recorded in the 1970s, and nominate the band as purveyors of a uniquely Australian sound and identity. MILESAGO, the web-based resource about Australasian music, pop culture and social history in the period 1964 – 1975 nominates Spectrum as one its favourite Australian bands. It says that during their brief but illustrious career Spectrum were in the vanguard of progressive rock in Australia, and they left a legacy of innovative and imaginative music. Spectrum re-emerged in the late 90’s with original founders singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Rudd and bassist Bill Putt being joined by drummer Robbo Robertson. Excitingly, here at Bluesfest, they will treat fans to a guided tour of classic Spectrum tracks, inevitably including the legendary I’ll Be Gone. Mike will be working hard for audiences at Bluesfest, because he of course also features in the surfing cult movie and live concert performance of Morning of the Earth.

As one reviewer expressed it… “This band has no problems releasing the inner dancer in most listeners”. They recently picked up two Bluestar Awards: for Best Australian Blues Band and Best Australian Guitarist. Pete has come of age since his debut album: “Live@Narooma” was recorded at the 1999 Great Southern Blues and Rockabilly Fest when Pete was just 15 years old. Pinning down their sound has resulted in a wide range of opinions. From Californian blues to Chuck Berry channeled rhythms; from flashes of 1940s big band swing to raunchy rock; from surf guitar to genuine OZ blues. But is has also been labeled vintage R&B, West Coast Jump Blues, and Tough Texan Shuffles. Another reviewer put it this way: “the experience he’s had overseas, he’s put his stamp on the ‘global’ meaning of blues, and that’s a good thing.” Your best bet, then, is to come along and judge the enjoyment for yourself.

In the mid-Nineties Elana James, fiddle player and vocalist extraordinaire was in New York, looking for fame, or more realistically, a band to gig with. So she put an ad in “Village Voice”. Whit James and Jake Erwin answered the call, and off the trio went, busking and gigging and playing the music they loved – a mixture of old hot swing and Texas hillbilly – a little bit of ole’ hoedown, a little bit of Django Reinhardt and a little bit of whatever took their fancy from the 1920’s through to the Forties. A lot of hard work and more than a little bit of luck later, they had gained a fair following as the world’s greatest little Texan swingband. They made a few albums, played tours backing the likes of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and then broke up. Elana James joined Bob Dylan solo on tour and the others did their own thing. But pure and simple, they missed one another. Now they’re back together, this time as a quartet with a drummer. They’ve just toured Europe to great acclaim including a 4-star rating from the London Times newspaper, have recently released a new album, The Best of Hot Club of Cowtown and have become the youngest members to be inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. It’s all pure Americana. And it’s all great music. Don’t miss them at Bluesfest this year.

Mixing live music, turntables and guest MCs, Resin Dogs produce a mash up of sounds; from modern hip-hop to breakbeat, dance hall, dub and funk. Importantly, in the revolutionary spirit of hip-hop they have created their own style. Resin Dogs have been described as “a loose collective, a cut and paste sample band who use live drums, live bass, and elements of hip hop via turntables and samplers to create all forms of ritual dance sounds.” Their reputation has been built on the back of infectious and memorable live performances and collaborations at all the major Australian music events. For three consecutive years, Resin Dogs won the Australian Dance Music Awards (Best Hip Hop Act, 2001; Best Live Act, 2002 and Best Live Act 2003). In 2004, Resin Dogs began playing internationally, with sell-out shows at some of the UK’s hottest clubs, including Fabric and Cargo. They also performed at various European music festivals: Womad (UK), Sziget Festival (Hungary) and Colours Of Ostrava (Czech Republic). Reacquaint yourself with the Dogs at Bluesfest.

The funky flamenco dance tunes of the Gold Coast’s own Tijuana Cartel provided a thrilling backdrop in Beijing’s hottest bar during the Olympic period. This energetic live act brings their musical energy and unrestrained delivery to audiences wherever they perform. The Tijuana Cartel sound is a concoction of multi-layered grooves, splashes of Middle Eastern vocals, lilting Moby-esque soundscapes, Flamenco and slide guitar, trumpet, electronic world beats and percussion all randomly supported by poetic social commentary and song courtesy of MC Regan Hoskins. They have just completed 12 new tracks for their follow up album ‘They Come” which will be launched nationally in February 2009 and is available for limited release now through It captures the energy of their live performances and introduces an expansion to their song and beat writing skills developed in their constant gigging for the last 18 months. Their 2009 plan is to spread their energetic flamenco dance wings to the United States, Canada and Europe.

It’s impossible to easily label the style and sound of Son Veneno (or Poisonous Son, the traditional Cuban rhythm that is a pillar of the Afro Cuban music experience). This 11-piece Sydney band, unchained by musical boundaries takes it audiences on a blistering ride through afro-Latin rhythms, hip-hop ferocity, trance like drum and bass, head-banging funk, driven ska and playful reggae. Their showmanship has allowed them to build a very serious and eclectic following across Australia, packing out venues and moving into major festivals where they continue to unleash their talents. This is how Cubanismimo Radio summed up the Son Veneno experience: “Young, energetic, entertaining and tight, Son Veneno successfully fuse salsa cubana, funk, jazz, rap, reggae and pop styles in a way not heard here before. Son Veneno‘s original compositions will push the boundaries of Latin music in Australia”. Judge for yourself at Byron.

Expect the unexpected! These “virtuosos of the bizarre” create a live stage experience that must be seen and heard to be believed. Wielding National guitars, ukuleles, a sousaphone, a phono-fiddle, actual garbage cans and metal sinks, these rhythmagicians make venues rock, pure and simple. The music and antics of the National Junk Band defies catagorisation. The fans have described them as: “the Sex Pistols meets Bing Crosby”, “bluesy with a touch of Monty Python”, “extreme entertainment”, “layer upon layer of insanity, lunacy, and anarchy”. For several years the National Junk Band has had toes tapping and jaws dropping at festivals, pubs, joints, radio, and TV. With two death-defying albums to their credit, and the music to “Badcop Badcop” (ABC TV) in the can, they are about to kick over another with their latest CD “Tin Can Alley”. Bluesfest fans can witness firsthand the band’s unique potpourri of fire, illusion, passion, irreverent satire, singing saws, flying chooks and musical mayhem.

Extra special Bluesfest treat: Fresh from 2008 and summer sell-out performances, the all-time classic surf film Morning of the Earth – the second highest grossing surf movie in history – will be screened at Bluesfest performed with a live music concert. A treasured Australian icon, Morning of the Earth captured the spirit of a generation of surfers on release in 1972. Directed by Albert Falzon, also the founder of Tracks surfing magazine, it portrays famous and unknown surfers alike (including Nat Young and Gerry Lopez) living in spiritual harmony with nature, making their own boards (and even their own homes) as they traveled in search of the perfect wave across Australia’s north east coast, Bali and Hawaii. Special guests, Lior, Mike Rudd and Old Man River, will perform alongside singer songwriter Brian Cadd who constructed the original top 10 rock soundtrack. This is an event within an event, not to be missed.