This column, some blasphemous talk about the delights of the evil empire to our north, specifically Way Out West.
They have their home at the Newport Bowls Club, just down from the Newport railway station.
At one time it would have been simplicity itself to get there, but now it’s not so good. Instead of travelling direct, as it was in the olden days before our rail services were improved, you now have to get to Footscray, then change to the Werribee line, thus doubling the time taken to about 2 hours!
Why am I spruiking a trip to Way Out West?
Well, on Sunday the 15th of September, they are hosting Phil Wiggins and Dom Turner.
Dom Turner we know well. He is best known as guitarist/ vocalist, founding member and key songwriter of the iconic Australian blues group, Backsliders and has toured the Australian festival circuit since the 1980s regularly appearing at most major blues related music festivals including Bluesfest, Woodford Folk Festival and Blues on Broadbeach to name but a few. In 2004 Dom was voted ‘Blues Songwriter of the Year’ at the Australian Blues Awards. Given it’s current topicality with a new season, it worth noting that his songs have featured on the ABC TV programme ‘Seachange’. Will they be on this season?
One project Dom has had is working as a duo with overseas bluesmen and this time he’s touring with Phil Wiggins.
Phil Wiggins is from Washington DC and is an impressive player. He’s from Takoma Park, Maryland, where he’s a resident, blues musician, teacher, and artistic director, a two-time winner of the prestigious WC Handy Blues Foundation awards, is only the third harmonica player to receive the lifetime honour of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Today he is the only living player of the instrument to hold the prestigious honour of being a “Master of Traditional Arts.”
That’s a very impressive CV.
Phil Wiggins is a versatile traditional harmonica player, continuing the Piedmont blues tradition, a gentle and melodic blues style of the mid-Atlantic region. He plays the diatonic ten-hole harmonica in the country blues style, cupping both hands around the instrument and playing acoustically. His sound is not shaped by the gear, the microphone or amplifier when performing on stage, instead by his complex syncopated patterns, breath-control and rhythm, stylistic virtuosity and fiery solo runs.
Phil has performed with numerous musicians including Nat Reese, Corey Harris, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, Sherman Holmes, the Rev. John Wilkins, Jerron Paxton, and long-time friends Eleanor Ellis and Rick Franklin. He fronts the acoustic swing/roots/blues ensemble, the Chesapeake Sheiks, and is actively engaged in reuniting the Piedmont blues with its origins of African American buck and tap dancing.
He’s appeared or provided music for a number of films – Matewan, Blues Houseparty, Portland Mojo: How Stumptown Got the Blues and Letters from Mound Bayou.
It’s going to be a while before a musician of this calibre again graces our region.
I don’t often tell people to get out of town, but this will be worth it. Way Out West, Sunday 15th September.