Live ’n’ loud: Mullum Music Festival pulls the right strings ...
COMBINING four-part a cappella harmonies with virtuosic pickin’ on all-string instruments, Mustered Courage is the modern answer to a bombastic bluegrass band.
Nick Keeling, Julian Abrahams, Josh Bridges and Paddy Montgomery make up the quartet which has mustered its sound from a medley of musical backgrounds – including RnB, Greek folk, jazz, country, classical and Brazilian music.
Banjo player and lead singer Keeling says the absence of a drummer means Mustered Courage is mindful of its rhythm.
‘‘The hardest thing is making the audience feel the beat with no drums,’’ he says.
‘‘We have to lay it down and make it really strong. (The music) needs a pulse and that can be a challenge with only string instruments. It’s twice as exerting. We are all about multi-tasking.’’
Keeling says that the energy and drive behind the traditional genre ensures Mustered Courage is always developing its sound. ‘‘We listen to a lot of new string-band music,’’ he says. ‘‘I guess we take on a lot of high-country, new acoustic and modern string sounds as well. It’s traditional and more progressive with a lot of melodies. The music holds a lot of opportunities – there are many places to be taken.’’
Mustered Courage formed three years ago in Melbourne and has released two albums – a self-titled debut in 2011 and more recently ‘‘innovative bluegrass’’ album Powerlines.
Keeling says the band is working on a new record which will encompass ‘‘the good old’’ classic bluegrass themes: ‘‘Love, loss, murder and trains’’.
‘‘They say it’s not bluegrass unless you are killing someone you love,’’ says Keeling.
‘‘The songs can get poppy at some points or others are built into rock and bluegrass.’’
Keeling says the fact everyone in Mustered Courage can sing gives each member a chance to express themselves.
‘‘We are all singers and we all do four-part a cappella harmonies now – not a lot of people are brave enough to attempt that,’’ he says.
‘‘I love how it seems to push the intensity all the time – whether we take it down to a ballad or acapella, there’s scope for entertainment.’’
Last year, the band took out the MusicOZ Country Artist Of The Year award.
Mustered Courage’s jazz and folk elements and improvisation skills have made them festival favourites around Australia, including hyped gigs at Woodford Folk Festival, Gympie Music Muster and Tamworth Country Music Festival.
The band has some new songs ‘‘ticking along’’ which it hopes to showcase at The Mullum Music Festival.
The four-day ‘‘biggest little music festival in Australia’’ sees Mullumbimby come alive with music and Keeling says Mustered Courage can’t wait to be part of that magic.
‘‘Our live show is very energetic with lightening fast finger picking on guitar, banjo and mandolin,’’ he says. – ROSE SADLEIR
Mustered Courage, The Basics, Raul Midon, and more play The Mullum Music Festival, at Mullumbimby, in northern NSW, from November 21-24. Visit mullummusicfestival.com for the full program.
Mustered Courage’s Nick Keeling, Julian Abrahams, Josh Bridges and Paddy Montgomery.