Little compares with the fun and sophistication of a winery music festival. None more so than a Day on the Green at wine legend Peter Lehman’s Barossa Valley vineyard in Tanunda. Sadly Peter is no longer with us but his legacy lives on. Situated in a natural amphitheatre in full view of the vines, this must be the most intimate boutique festival of the season. On the bill: Marlon Williams (NZ), Kasey Chambers, Lucinda Williams (USA) – no relation, and perennial Aussie favourite Paul Kelly with his Merri Soul Sessions.
With seductive Jeff Buckley-esque vocals and a folk-roots-blues idiom, Marlon’s opening performance was mesmerising. Kasey Chambers, far from stereotype, was very funny and energised by her multi-instrumentalist and youthful band (whom she first saw playing in a local pub). Heavyweight country songstress Lucinda Williams, looking more rock star than country queen, gave a surprisingly gutsy and rocky performance, ending with Neil Young’s Keep on rocking in the free world. For a supposedly folk and country-based event, there were more Gibson SG guitars than you’d see (and hear) at an AC/DC gig.
Headlining, the Merri Soul sessions is something of a supergroup gathering of vocalists: Vika and Linda Bull, Kira Puru, Clairy Browne, the ever popular Dan Sultan, and Mr Kelly himself. The project, named after a polluted industrial creek in the north of Melbourne near to where the sessions took place, showcases Kelly’s songwriting to match the full talent and range of each of the vocalists, spanning blues, soul and even gospel. Being so close to Christmas provided the ideal opportunity for a rendition of one of Australia’s best loved songs, Gravy, but with the rest of the set showcasing the incredible collaboration that is the Merri Soul Sessions, a fitting finale to a near perfect Day on the Green.
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See also: West Coast Blues and Roots.