If Chris Aronsten wasn’t born on the west coast of Ireland, he should have been. For his latest collection of songs The Road to Ballyvaughn strikes to the heart of the English and Irish folk tradition. Yet this sensitive singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, based in Byron Bay, remains a unique and unashamedly Australian voice.
Aronsten plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle, harmonica, spoons and stomp-box. And there is no shortage of energy in his solo performance. A typical concert includes original songs and a few selected covers played on the various instruments. He blends the songs with fiddle tunes, American-style bluegrass flat-picking on guitar, and instrumentals on mandolin.
In recent years Aronsten has begun making headway into the UK festival circuit. He has spent the past few northern summers there, playing folk clubs, country halls and house concerts across England, as well as some time in Ireland’s County Clare playing in sessions and meeting some great musicians. He appeared at the Warwick Folk Festival and the Broadstairs Folk Week in Kent In the U.K., and back in Australia at the Maldon Folk Festival and the National Folk Festival in Canberra.
Aronsten did two Australian tours with Maddy Prior in 2000 and 2002 and has supported Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Bert Jansch, Christy Moore, Seamus Begley and Jim Murray, Lunasa and Fairport Convention when they’ve toured Australia.
What makes The Road to Ballyvaughn so special is that Aronsten has pared back the instrumentation to produce what is essentially a live recording of 12 finely-crafted, simple melodies and stories. First he recorded the guitar and voice together – only keeping first or second takes from start to finish – then adorned them only as needed with lines from the mandolin or violin, which weave images of countryside through which he has wandered, thinking of loves lost and love within reach. His time spent playing in England and Ireland with the masters of traditional form is evident in the skill he brings to the lyrics and tunes.
“I wanted an honest presentation of the songs, without any cutting and pasting. Then it becomes a true reflection of my performance.”