This year’s Kingston Harvest festival features a varied and interesting lineup of country inspired acts, from mainstream stars through to rockabilly rebels, old-school country crooners and boisterous bluegrass upstarts. Melbourne act Mustered Courage could fit all those classifications, but most particularly the latter. I spoke recently to co-founder and guitar-player Julian Abrahams about the ‘bluegrass monster’ the guys have created on the Melbourne music scene.

“It’s always good to have an influence people’s listening practices,” says Abrahams, on a rare day off in Melbourne. “Good music is good music though – and we’ve already been shunned by most of the bluegrass traditionalists for our ‘evil’ newgrass/rockgrass take on the style.”

I suggested that perhaps being shunned isn’t such a bad thing, particularly at a time when country music is battling to remain relevant to a younger audience. Abrahams agrees. “Yeah we’re OK with that – although we respect the tradition as much as most traditionalists, we don’t tend to try and replicate that as a band”.

This liberal approach to the bluegrass form has allowed the band to pick up electric, amplified instruments in recent times – much to the delight of inner city audiences. “It was actually just an idea to give our Melbourne followers something different,” explains Abrahams. “We were trying to think of a concert that was out of the box as we’ve done a lot of Melbourne gigs in the past three years. We came up with the idea for an electric show – and called the electric version of ourselves ‘Crusty Mustard’. The advertising for the show confused everybody – but it was really just an acoustic set followed by an electric set – us opening for ourselves. It was really awesome to hear the songs played like that – so I doubt we’ve seen the last of Crusty Mustard”.

That’s not to say that Mustered Courage are prepared to completely abandon their bluegrass roots. In fact, Abrahams recognises the importance of new artists leading listeners on to rediscovery of the old masters. “I think it’s great that we are able to turn more people onto bluegrass music and the tradition of jambands,” he says. “Most of the time people go backwards when discovering a style of music, they don’t always start with the forefathers. Hopefully some folks will hear Mustered Courage, figure out that they love this banjo/mandolin sound, and make their long way home to listening to Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin and Del McCoury. Sometimes it takes a modern take on things to direct you back to the gods”.

With the continued success of their new, Golden Guitar-nominated album Powelines, and a new single and video (for the title track) hitting the airwaves, it’s hardly surprising to hear that overseas touring in high on this band’s agenda. “We’ve been working on another American tour since we returned from our maiden voyage to the states in October” says Abrahams. “Looks like we’ll be driving from one side of America to the other. It’s all still in the works, but we’ve secured a couple of fairly amazing festivals and gigs along the way that should make for a pretty exciting tour. America was really kind to us the first time around, so hopefully the kindness keeps on coming”.

One thing that’s sure to keep coming for Abrahams and co. is the great crowds that are showing up at all their local gigs. Kingston Harvest Festival will be no exception, when the guys join headliners McAlister Kemp, The Go Set, Rory Ellis and many others in a fun filled, environmentally-conscious and highly countrified day out. It’s all happening on Saturday May 10 at the Roy Dore Reserve in Carrum.

For further details on the Kingston Harvest Festival as they come to hand, keep your eye on and the pages of PEARL.



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