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 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.



Wires & Wood: and Voice!

Wires & Wood

Wires & Wood (New Zealand)

Tui Award winning Wires & Wood is a four piece band inspired by the sounds of traditional and modern bluegrass music.  This versatile band plays a hard driving punchy style of bluegrass right through to heart melting slow waltzes. As well as striving for instrumental excellence the songs are infused with multipart harmony singing.

Banjo picker extraordinaire Bryan Christianson will be one of the few musicians at Kiwigrass was at the original 1970 Banjo Picker’s Convention at Claudelands, Hamilton and that’s where he says he fell in love with the 5-string banjo.

Bryan’s been involved in the music since then, playing in various bands with just about all the well-known names of the NZ Bluegrass scene, Peter Brocklehurst, Read Hudson, Graham Lovejoy, to name just a few. After a break of about 10 years (on and off) Bryan met up with Dave Warren and they began to pick a few tunes. At the Waharau Folk Festival in June 2003 they decided that having a band again might be fun.

Micheal Young became obsessed with the guitar at the age of 18, inspired by the likes of James Taylor, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Joe Walsh, Chet Atkins and the Beatles. His father used to drag him along to bluegrass festivals in the hills of the Missouri Ozarks and he gained an appreciation for the instrumental skills of the local pickers. While Micheal was never that moved by the old time bluegrass style, he was blown away by the (then) contemporary rock/jazz/blues/bluegrass fusion music coming from the likes of New Grass Revival, The Tony Rice Unit and The David Grisman Quartet. This simmered for years until moving to Auckland where he finally met a few other musicians who were both capable and willing to play in those styles. He has even started to gain an appreciation for the old time traditional bluegrass that the other band members love. They started jamming just for the joy of it, ended up doing a few gigs, and Wires & Wood was born. Micheal provides mandolin and lead vocals for Wires & Wood.

Dave Warren was introduced to Bluegrass music at about age six, when his father (Tom Warren) heard “Dueling Banjos” on the radio, and decided that was the music for him! ! He had a guitar put in his hands by the time he was seven or so and remembers well the National Banjo pickers Conventions, Mike Seeger, Bill Clifton, HCBB, etc etc. Dave’s interest in Bluegrass at a playing level was rekindled around 1998 and on his move to Auckland in 2000 he met and played with many wonderful musicians and eventually became a part of the coalescence called “Wires & Wood”. Plays guitar & occasionally mandolin.

Garry Trotman plays bass in Wires & Wood and is the newest member of the band. He has always been partial to trad country music, blues, folk and sub-genres, such as bluegrass, Cajun and western swing. Garry was previously in ‘The Terraplanes’ and ‘Southern Cross’ bluegrass groups with Bryan, and also played in a South Australian bluegrass band called ‘Highly Strung’.

To help relieve some of the winter blues of 2003 a few Auckland based musicians began having a Friday night bluegrass oriented jam session. Word leaked out, someone asked us to perform at a charity event and a band was born. Since then we have performed at events and venues all over New Zealand, including the Auckland Folk Festival, the Wellington Folk Festival, the Whare Flat Music Festival in Dunedin, Canterbury Folk Festival, Wellington Bluegrass Society, Fight for Life, TV commercials, Music Mountain Matakana and local music clubs and events around the country. We are still refining the Wires & Wood sound and expanding our repertoire of what we call bluegrass music. Wires & Wood released their debut album “Over The Moon” in 2010. “Over The Moon” is the recipient of the RIANZ Tui Award for Best Folk Album 2010/11.