Hot Diggity: Looking good and playing even better

Hot Diggity Bluegrass Band (New Zealand)

When it come to band photos the blokey bands try, but Hot Diggity are way more photogenic. Could it be that they smile and laugh and generally give the air of real live fun?

Hot Diggity is the only all female bluegrass band in New Zealand, but that is not why you should go see them at Kiwigrass. You should listen to them because they are one of the best bluegrass bands in New Zealand and as the photos imply, their shows are lots warm-hearted fun.

They play original songs by Heather Carrigan (mandolin, guitar and vocals) and Deborah Mackenzie (guitar and vocals) along with plenty of bluegrass favourites. If you were not told who wrote these songs you would probably go home and Google them to see where they came from because they totally sound the part.

Kiwigrass identity Jenine Abarbanel supplies bass and vocals, with Sue Drake on banjo and vocals and Krissy Jackson fiddle and vocals, combining to make a powerful five piece with a lively sound, hot chops, and tight harmonies.

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band: The ties that bind

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band (New Zealand)

The Hamilton County Bluegrass are quite simply the foundation on which New Zealand Bluegrass is built.

Hamilton County became overnight stars in New Zealand as the resident band on the NZBC’s The Country Touch in the late 1960s. That show’s host Tex Morton lured them to Australia where they toured for two years with the massively popular Slim Dusty.

In the middle of their stay across the Tasman they travelled to Nashville and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and on their return to Sydney recorded the Kersbrook Cottage LP, still a touchstone of Australian bluegrass music.

Hamilton Country Bluegrass Band Discography

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band (Festival)1966
Live at the Poles Apart (KiwiPacific) 1968
Country Touch (KiwiPacific) 1968
Yesterday’s Gone (KiwiPacific) 1969
Fifth Season (EMI) 1970
Live at the Wynyard Tavern (EMI) 1970
For You (EMI) 1971
Kersbrook Cottage (EMI) 1972
Country Road (EMI) 1973
Hamilton County Bluegrass Band (EMI) 1976

Legends Alive (Festival) 1992 (four tunes)
Hamilton County 1968-1973 (KiwiPacific) 1993
Encore (KiwiPacific) 1996
The Very Best Of the HCBB (EMI) 2002
Highway of Legends (Rajon) 2005 (four tunes)
The Tavern Revisited (EMI) 2006
Highway of Legends 11 (Rajon) 2006 (four tunes)
Anthology (EMI/Universal) 2014

The Pipi Pickers: You’ll never get bored

The Pipipickers

The Pipi Pickers (New Zealand)

“The best newgrass band in New Zealand … They always have an interesting and high quality show – doing songs no one else in the bluegrass world does. Never get bored at a Pipi Pickers show.” –
Mike Kear, Music from Foggy Hollow  

The Pipis Pickers, know affectionately as the Pipis,  don’t take prisoners, they get out there with contemporary and traditional hard-driving bluegrass that puts a smile on everyone’s face and infuses even the most dreadful murder ballads with a sense of joy and energy.

The Pipis bring a love of the genre and a desire to share that love with as many people as possible. Out front is Jenine Abarbanel on bass and vocals while husband Nat Torkington is a standout New Zealand 5-string Scruggs-style banjo player, who is ably supported by his father Barry on guitar, and Garry Bigwood on mandolin.

The Pipis have become favourites at New Zealand and Australian music festivals through their vibrant performances, open and inclusive jam sessions, and slow jam workshops. You’ll also recognise  Jenine Abarbanel, Nat Torkington, and Barry Torkington as the folks we need to thank for starting the Kiwigrass festival.

Pipis are a delicious edible shellfish gathered when the tide is out in around Whangateau and Leigh, the Pipi Pickers’ home town.

The Downunderdogs: Embracing Bluegrass’s Country Roots

The Downunderdogs perform a three-part harmony and instrumental blend of bluegrass, old-timey, country, and swing, mixed with originals penned by guitar players Jack MacKenzie and Peter Dyer. Supplying the heartbeat, extra cheery smile, and third vocal part, is Cathy Dyer on bass.

Like one of those old radio show taglines they are likely to chorus that they’re not happy until we’re happy, and it is hard to imagine any other outcome when you hear them perform.

As it happens, they are genuine, made-in-America imports.

MacKenzie hails from Southern California where he perfected his evocative, flowing, cross-picking style of guitar playing, influenced by legends such as Doc Watson and Tony Rice. In the 1970s he managed and performed at the famous McCabe’s music store on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica before moving to New Zealand in the early 1980s.

Peter Dyer’s roots are in Little Dixie, Missouri where his dad’s Virginian and Kentuckian ancestors date back to the early 19th century.  Dyer is a guitarist and an accomplished songwriter with titles such as Go Ahead and Cry, and Immigrants’ Song, one of several that come with his distinctive high-mountain yodel.

Michigan gave rise to Cathy Dyer’s accent, where she grew up learning classical violin, while on the side taking in that funky Motown groove. Peter and Cathy Dyer moved to New Zealand in 2004 and a few years later teamed up with MacKenzie to form the Downunderdogs.