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ALL TASSELS NO HASSLES FOR FOLK UKE


“The costumes we are working on for this tour, the dance moves, it’s going to be quite the show.”

It’s a big promise from Cathy (daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody) Guthrie, one half of the Texas-based Folk Uke, her duo of witty, foul-mouthed, uke-and-guitar, harmonising folkish songs with Amy (daughter of Willie) Nelson.

Can they really be called costumes given just how little there are of them? Do three flimsy pieces of cloth count?

“They’re tax-deductible that way,” says Nelson cannily. “Just nipple tassels, that’s all we need.”

It’s all they need as these are solid gold tassels claims Guthrie, which is an impressive feat given the weight. Some of us, let’s be honest here because we’re among friends, struggle with keeping regular ones on, let alone swinging them.

“There’s no point having tassels without swinging them,” a practical Nelson says. “I just use copper pennies though. Solid gold’s a little too rich for my blood.”

It’s been a decade since Folk Uke piped up with songs such as Knock Me Up (“I just want your babies/It’s not like it’s your Mercedes”), Shit Makes The Flowers Grow (“You’re not good for nothing, don’t let them tell you so …shit makes the flowers grow.”) and the pre-50 Shades ode to S&M, I Miss My Boyfriend.

Yet their most recent album, Starfucker, is as funny and so-wrong-it’s-right as ever. How are they still able to have this much fun and to give an audience this much fun, even if the flimsy outfits and tassels are more gag than real?

Surely cynicism has to have set in somewhere.

“That’s all that’s left for us,” says Nelson, marking cynicism and nipple tassels as the final signs of achievement in any career. “All tassels, no hassles.”

Look for that on a t-shirt on the tour they’re about to undertake with Dog Trumpet. Maybe a t-shirt with that line and built in tassels.

It could sit alongside their current shirt which was painted by the 8-year-old son of their designer friend, and described by Guthrie as “a unicorn puking a rainbow”.

There’s another option for poster or t-shirt: Folk Uke say be the unicorn, not the puke. Maybe it could even be a motto for the new president’s administration.

If anyone could find the funny in the face of the deepest pit the world had been in for some decades, it could be Folk Uke.

“I started a song for Trump but Cathie doesn’t want any part of it,” says Nelson.

Not enough swearing in it?

“That’s the problem right there,” says Guthrie. “Get back to it Amy.”

A possibly mad, very likely bad and certainly dangerous to know presidency could well be a good time for comedians and folk singers. As long as they don’t step too far out of line.

Remember what happened when another Texas outfit, the Dixie Chicks, took issue with an American president: blocked by radio, cut from tours and dropped by sponsors.

“They better not take away our tassels,” declares a defiant Guthrie.

First they came for the tassels and I didn’t speak up …..

However, I promise them that Folk Uke fans will put our bodies on the line for their tassels.

“Oh thank you,” says Guthrie. “That’s the most beautiful thing anyone’s ever said to us. Are you dating right now?”

With the title track of Starfucker a clever, sickly funny song about their fathers’ stalkers, is there anything that Folk Uke won’t sing and laugh about?

“Not a topic necessarily,” says Guthrie. “I’d like to say that we try to keep it tasteful but that is not totally true.”

While she searches for a no-go area Nelson chimes in. “We’d never do polka.” But Guthrie isn’t so sure. “Speak for yourself Amy. I think we are going to be Polka Uke next.”

That may be a step too far. We might go to the wall for their nipple tassels but fighting for polka?

It’s important to advise them that while Texas may have plans for an open carry law for polka, in Australia most states forbid polka in public places, before children or, in Sydney, after 10pm.

“Even when Lady Gaga had that song, Polka Face?” asks Nelson innocently.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she’s here all week. Try the veal.

Folk Uke and Dog Trumpet play Newtown Social Club on March 16 and Blue Mountains Folk Music Festival on March 17-19

Folk Uke and Dog Trumpet also play Lighthouse Theatre, Warnambool, March 9, Port Fairy Folk Festival, March 10-13 and Gasometer Hotel, Collingwood, March 15.

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