Country legends and folk concerts in NZ

By: Winston Watusi

Winston Watusi
Music Plus

So here we are on the long road back from winter; it’ll be summer before you know it...

Yep, last weekend marked the year’s shortest day – June 22 – an auspicious sort of day if only for the thought that it should get a little bloody warmer now we’ve passed that milestone.

If you’re a follower of astrological hi-jinks you’ll probably know that word from the cosmos has it that people born on June 22 are known for great artistic abilities and strong drives to succeed. They also possess a very stubborn streak and are dedicated perfectionists. Yeah right.

There are a bunch of famous people born that day, including Meryl Streep, Cyndi Lauper (only six years younger than Meryl), Todd Rundgren, without whom we wouldn’t have Bat Out Of Hell, and country singer Kris Kristofferson, who is now – happy birthday for last weekend Kris! - a healthy 83.

It happens that Mr K is returning to New Zealand later this year.

Tickets went on sale a few days ago, the closest of five shows being Auckland at the Logan Campbell Centre on Sunday, October 13.

I assume Kris needs no introduction. He and Willie Nelson are at the top of the tree when it comes to still-living legends of country music, both having written several classics of the genre. In Kristofferson’s case that includes “Me And Bobby McGhee”, “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and a slew of others.

On screen

Kris is also an actor of some note, famously playing Billy The Kid for Sam Peckinpah and taking the male lead in the A Star Is Born movie that came before the Lady Gaga one.

It’s worth watching again to compare the different treatments of a singer in a downward spiral. Whereas Bradley Cooper delves into issues of depression and so-called “toxic masculinity” which is so very fashionable these days, Kristofferson presents very much as a straight-ahead, over-the-top, just-say-yes-to-another-excess, rock god.

I reckon he’s a lot more fun.

There was talk a few years back that Kris was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease but that has since been corrected: “Kristofferson struggled with memory problems in recent years and was told he had Alzheimer’s disease, but it appears he was misdiagnosed and all along has actually been suffering from the tick-borne illness Lyme disease”.

That was a worry when he visited in 2014 but I was there and can confirm a fantastic show, played largely solo, with 40(!) songs and without a dry eye in the house.

Tickets for October are available from

Folk shows

Closer to home there are two shows next Friday (July 5) that merit attention, both small and both folky.

Firstly, at The Jam Factory, coming all the way from Dunedin, is Jenny Mitchell, a past winner of the NZ Gold Guitar Awards and this year named NZ Country Artist of the Year. The minute you hear her music you’ll know this didn’t happen by accident. She’s really good. And, damn, so young.

Her new album, Wildfires, is quite remarkable, with great musicianship and songs with a depth and wisdom that belie her age. Great voice too.

I can’t recommend Jenny Mitchell highly enough. The show starts at 7pm, tickets are $15 and I believe still available.

As soon as people hear her online they won’t be.

Meanwhile, out in Katikati, three well-known faces and voices from the folk scene are gathering at The Arts Junction – which is just opposite the Memorial Hall on the main road - where the Katikati Folk Club is presenting Martha Louise, Brenda Liddiard and Mark Laurent.

They’re all friends from Auckland who have been on the folk scene for decades and each write and sing songs that could be described as Americana, folk and blues.

The idea is that it’ll be a bit of a songwriter showcase with all three of them taking turns to strut their stuff, backing each other on various instruments, and telling the stories behind the songs.

The concert starts at 7.30pm, adults $20, members $15, school-aged free.