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Tony Hillier heads south this Easter long weekend for the Byron Bay Bluesfest

It began life as the East Coast International Blues & Roots Music Festival back in 1990 at the Arts Factory in Byron Bay – it’s now established as a major drawcard for Australian and international blues and roots performers.

This week, Tony Hillier’s World of Music features some of the acts appearing at Byron, starting with far north Queensland brother & sister duo The McMenamins. They hail from Cairns – they’re much loved for their delicious blend of country and folk, sweet harmonies, violin and mandolin. It’s story-telling music, sometimes intimate, sometimes high energy folk.

They released their first album to wide acclaim in 2005. The McMenamins have been successful on the Australian festival circuit and have toured the US several times in recent years.


Ben-HarperBen Harper juggles blues, folk, soul, reggae and rock in an eclectic but engaging musical mix. He has a couple of Grammy awards on his shelf and has been commercially successful in the US, Europe and Australia.

Ben hails from Pomona, California, where he picked up guitar as a kid. His grandparents owned a music store – its customers included Leonard Cohen and Taj Mahal. Ben played his first gig at age 12, and drew heavily on the slide style of blues legend Robert Johnson as an influence.


carlos-santana-Carlos Santana is one of those musicians who defies the labels that plague the music industry. He drew on Latin American music to create his own unique style of rock – and his prowess on guitar has inspired generations of teenagers to pick one up and reach for the stars.

Carlos hit the big time with his band Santana in the late 60s & early 70s. He wove his bluesy guitar lines into the band’s solid Latin & African rhythms, driven by congas and timbales. The Santana rhythm section was a mighty engine room and Carlos showed an uncanny knack for knowing when to go for a blistering solo or the subtle couple of note runs. Carlos Santana remains one of the most influential guitarists of the modern era. Which is interesting, because guitar is his second instrument. He learned violin first, at the age of five.



Way Out West from The McMenamins brand new album Sand & Stone

Steal My Kisses from Ben Harper’s 1999 album Burn To Shine

Oye Como Va from Santana’s 1970 album Abraxas


Tony Hillier is one of Australia’s leading music journalists and a musician of long standing here in far north Queensland. His informed and insightful coverage of music features in The Weekend Australian and Rhythms magazine .

Tony Hillier’s World of Music is also available as a podcast. Search for Tony Hillier on your podcast app or in the iTunes store. And you can stay in touch with the FNQ music scene with Tony at

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