The Jed Rowe Band.
The Jed Rowe Band.

From Uki to the stars

"We're going everywhere except Western Australia and the Northern Territory," he said. "We're pretty excited."

He's promoting his second full-length album, The Ember and The Afterglow, produced by international touring artist Jeff Lang, who's working in the vanguard of the Australian alt-country/blues and roots music scene.

"He's an inspiring character," Jed said. "He's definitely influencing my sound, which was already kind of laid-back. It's in the song selection. I sent Jeff about 30 songs and he chose those he thought were the strongest."

Lang's impeccable instincts paid off, with the first songs released from the album receiving strong support with airplay on Triple J and community radio throughout Australia.

Melbourne has embraced Jed's music, the lively blues and roots scene proving fertile ground. Jeff Lang became a mentor and supporter of the band, playing on the album, which was produced in Lang's own studio.

Guest performances from Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie - among the royalty of the Melbourne music mafia - along with a cracking string section, have distinguished a powerful recording.

Jed plays electric, acoustic and lap slide guitars with a masterful hand, powered by a sturdy rhythm section in double bassist Michael Arvanitakis and drummer Michael DiCecco. The trio's raw energy transcends their foot-stomping rock and blues with flashes of bluegrass and folk, high and lonesome alt-country balladry and strains of gospel, soul and world music.

The songs on The Ember and The Afterglow demonstrate a steady evolution in song-craft, charted through Jed's previous releases; 2006's solo EP Life and the band's 2009 critically acclaimed debut Midnight Sun. Their subject matter has broadened considerably since Jed left the Northern Rivers and became a young father.

"My first EP had a song called Waterfall, inspired by the property where I lived. But the new album is much less autobiographical. It's involved with either imagined characters or people I've met, rather than me telling my own personal story - although there are a couple of songs from a woman's perspective, including one about a woman who's pregnant. I've got two small children, so even though those songs aren't telling my personal story there's definitely some empathy there."

Growing up in the shadow of Mount Warning, with two musicians for parents, couldn't help but impart a rustic, North Coast-style to his songwriting.

"My parents' record collections had a definite influence, and when I first started to play it was all around the Coast - Byron, the Rails, Lennox Head pub, Yamba… It wasn't till I moved to Melbourne that I really started to pursue music. That's where I did most of my early gigging."

The support of artists such as Lang has fostered remarkable intent and ability in Jed, who's responding with a prolific output of songs and high-calibre musicianship that has its own momentum.

"Before we went into the studio I had a few extra lyrics I wanted to record. In doing so I accidentally wrote a couple of new songs that made it onto the album."

The Jed Rowe Band plays the Byron Bay Brewery beer garden for free this Friday, July 6, from 8pm.

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