Is there anything that cuts to the heart like 12-bar blues?
I’m thinking this as Jimi Hocking brings down the curtain on my Woodford Folk Festival experience for 2008.
The day was hot and muggy, clouds building for a cooling gloaming shower that triggered mist to rise from the brown ponds that dot the sprawling site in the green Woodford hills.
We start the day with Jimi Hocking, former guitarist of Screaming Jets and now blues man with a craving for mandolin, then work our way through the crowded dirt lanes searching for music. The air is filled with tribal drum beats and Gypsy violins, the smell of sate and frying onions.
We enjoy our fix of Brisbane Celtic band Sunas and get all the fiddle we can handle from Fiddlers Feast and Doch, Jigzag and Dev’lish Mary. We get guitar from Jeff Lang, with his band and later in a guest spot with Mama Kin. Katie Noonan’s high notes catch the ear from a lane away. Melodics and Matt Kelly and the Keepers are added to our list of bands to find out more about. Roz Pappalardo, of Women in Docs, is an absolute scream as she leads her Wayward Gentlemen through a country-ish set.
We weren’t quite sure why Kate Miller-Heidke’s at the folk festival, but we’re glad she is with her quasi Kate Bush act that packs the punters into a nighttime natural amphitheatre on the outskirts of the fest’s bustling village.
And finally it’s Jimi Hocking again, his audience sapped by Kate and TaikOz and The Barons of Tang and the burlesque girls of La La Parlour’s Tarnished. He doesn’t seem to mind as he belts out his mandolin blues and then picks up his electric guitar and blasts out the blues into the Queensland night.
It’s the music of a humid night, all sweat and mosquitoes and sluggish brown river and long, straight dusty roads through cane fields. It’s heartache and loneliness and desperate company lost too soon. It’s the echo of a soul that’s lost its way but still trying to be true. It’s that irresistible beat that convinces you that you can laugh and cry at the same time. And even with Hocking’s antics, his good-time vibe that has the punters up and dancing from the first mandolin note to the last fade-out of the guitar, it cuts to the heart.