Journey returns to Celtic roots

TWENTY-first birthdays signify a coming of age, and in Hobnail's case it feels just that - the stars are aligned and the world is their oyster. Twenty-one days or months can seem like a lifetime for some bands, but for Hobnail they're shining brighter more than ever as they put all of their two decades experience to great artistic effect.

 The Wellington four-piece, who blend rich earthly styles into a tasty cocktail of Kiwi Celtic alt-country, are on their 21st anniversary tour and pour out their musical souls at Howick's Uxbridge Creative Centre on Saturday, November 21.

A Hobnail concert takes listeners on an enjoyable ride of all the emotions and Uxbridge is always the perfect acoustic setting for them to showcase their talents.

Chief songwriter Rob Joass says it's been an amazing journey to get to the group's 21st birthday. It finds them in a very artistically productive, safe and secure happy place. They've all grown and got better, as people and musos.

And he's in a very good space, as there are a couple of joyful songs on the new album,String Things.

Rob recalls the sad yet optimistic reality of the last album, the country-Americana flavoured Baggage, a magnificent work from 2012 - in my brand new, second-hand, $500 car, and I kind of miss the old me.

"My wife gave me the challenge of writing a happy song," says an upbeat Joass.
He knocked out the title track in double quick speed, capturing the sweet union of guitar, mandolin, violin and Hamish Graham's tuneful bass, the instruments that Hobnail drummer Caroline Easther anchors with a swinging foundation.

String Things ends up being a wall of delightful sound, as steel guitar, accordion and keys swirl in to the mix, finding their spaces and going for it.

But it's Pot of Gold that Joass feels most content with because it's a genuine happy song that he took time to carefully compose. The result is as good as being at the end of a rainbow.

The album returns them to their Celtic roots, "we come round to where we came from", he says, "and I'm really proud of how it came out".

An essential ingredient in delivering the Hobnail sound is the vocals and the singing of the quartet is in outstanding harmony, with violinist Jo Moir delivering a beautiful performance that gently transports listeners to the Emerald Isle and the Highlands.

Joass is in super songwriting form, with Where the Wild Things Are, Jimmy, and the pub closing time lullaby Goodnight, while there are impressive covers of Shane MacGowan and The Pogues' Haunted, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson's Rattlin' Bones, and Mike Scott and The Waterboys' A Girl Called Johnny.

"Uxbridge is an excellent little venue with its cabaret style and ambience. Howick is really fortunate to have it and we look forward to playing there again," says Joass, as he sets out heading north to earn his pot of gold.

PJ Taylor

Review of the Album -"Baggage"

There is something refreshingly down-to-earth, direct and quite lovely about Hobnail.

The Wellington-based band with an ear for kiwiana country tunefulness strikes a chord not dissimilar to the capitals' Warratahs, whose Hands Of My Heart they cover so beautifully.

Curiously, drummer and occasional vocalist Caroline Easther, yes she of the Chills factor, recorded a version of the original for the Warratahs 25th anniversary album. Hobnail gathers steam and momentum in the identifiable observations of singer Rob Joass in songs such as the title track and the witty Old Me, mixing tunefulness and leaves-you-hanging vocals that are so tightly knit that they could be family.

Mike Alexander - The New Zealand Herald

"Highly spirited and entertaining…an illustrious fusion of bluegrass, Celtic folk, pop, and rock'n'roll"

Stewart Hunt, Nelson Mail

"Original songs with the authenticity of folk and the spirit of rock'n'roll

Nick Bollinger, The Listener

"On their way to becoming our next Warratahs"

NZ Musician (The Fortune Horses review)

"Jo Moir has one of those rare voices… a breath of fresh air"

Andy Donnelly, Radio CKUA, Canada

"In the same paddock as the Go Betweens, with nods to country and rock. Excellent all round"

Dominion Post (On With The Show review)

"An explosive mixture of folk and pop. Don't miss them"

SEE Magazine, Edmonton, Alberta. Canada

"Whenever I need a foot stomping good time, or to shed a tear over the glory of life itself, I go out and listen to Hobnail. I like good music!"

Gary McCormick