Bush Ballad Judging Guidelines
The following compiled and approved by A.B.B.A. Committee,
Bush Balladeer identities and Judges.
GUIDELINES - JUDGING OF AUSTRALIAN BUSH BALLADS AT FESTIVALS ETC.
There should be 2 CATEGORIES for BUSH BALLAD CONTEMPORARY &
TRADITIONAL BUSH BALLAD.
The Traditional Bush Ballad should be judged from songs deemed
to be sung in the traditional way, ie: in the style of artists/albums
from Stan Coster, Glenn Jones, Dean Perrett (The Real Thing, Kings
In Grass Castles), Reg Poole (When The Big Mobs Come Down To Bourke),
Brian Young, Ernie Constance, Ian Quinn, Keith Jamieson (Picture
Of Australia), and Slim Dusty (West Of Winton, Cattlemen From
The High Plains, The Man Who Steadies The Lead)
The songs 'Leave him in the Long yard' and 'Ballad of Camooweal'
in the original Slim Dusty arrangement are true bush ballads and
should be used as part of the platform to judge a Traditional
The Lee Kernaghan version of 'Leave Him In The Long Yard' from
the album 'Three Chain Road' is delivered in a Contemporary Bush
Ballad style. The best way to distinguish between the two is to
study the two versions at the same time, the difference is obvious.
There are contemporary versions of these songs eg, Slim Dusty's
version of the 'Rain Tumbles Down In July' is delivered in Traditional
Bush Ballad style, whilst the Graham Connors version is Contemporary
'Diamantina Drover' is a Contemporary Bush Ballad in its original
form, unless played with pick and strum in bush ballad style then
it would become Traditional Bush Ballad.
Hillbilly Ballad is typified in many of the songs of the late
Buddy Williams/Tex Morton often with references to 'prairies'
yodelling, "ranches" etc, and artists performing such
works are deemed 'hillbillies' and not in the category of either
Bush Ballad sections.
Australiana/folk/Bush Music does not constitute a Traditional
Rodeo songs have always been a part of Australian Bush Ballad
music. Examples; "Isa Rodeo", Old Riders In The Grandstand",
"Warwick Rodeo". The word 'cowboy' has been excepted
the world over since rodeo stepped onto the international stage.
Therefore, if the song is delivered curtailing to the above requirements
and not in the context of ' Mama's Don't Let Your babies Grow
Up To Be Cowboys' then that may be accepted as a bush ballad song.
WHAT DEFINES A TRADITIONAL AUSTRALIAN BUSH BALLAD
The Australian Traditional Bush Ballad lyric/music is drawn from
the Slim Dusty/Stan Coster style and this can either be a song/narration
in verses plus choruses (refrains) or just verses alone. The same
song structure applies to the Contemporary Bush Ballads.
The Pick n' Strum is one of the dominating factors regarding a
Traditional Bush Ballad, while the Contemporary style guitar (finger
picking/strumming/rock styles) move the song from the Traditional
Bush Ballad realm to the Contemporary Bush Ballad.
Pick n' Strum' (Bush ballad guitar) is defined by the thumb/flat
'pick' striking the top root note of the chord and the following
'strum' playing the remainder of the chord, followed by an alternate
root note and the following 'strum' playing the remainder of the
No ' Americanisms' should be used in the Traditional Bush Ballad
or the Contemporary Bush Ballad.
ALL AUSTRALIAN BUSH BALLAD TRADITIONAL OR CONTEMPORARY
SECTION VOCALISTS -
MUST USE AUSTRALIAN ACCENT (unless the performer is of international
To define bush ballad musical backing, starting at the bottom;
Firstly - Pick and Strum Guitar. Ballads may contain Drums, Electric
Guitar, Electric Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Fiddle, Harmonica, Steel
Guitar, Piano, Dobro or any instrument providing the bush ballad
song structure indicated above is adhered to in the style of the
albums mentioned above.
TRADITIONAL BUSH BALLAD (EXAMPLE)
Stan Coster "Fire Of Gidgee Coals', Slim Dusty "Leave
Him In The Long Yard", Reg Poole, "When The Big Mobs
Come Down To Bourke" Slim Dusty ' Things Are Not The Same
On The Land', Slim Dusty ' Paddy William', John Williamson 'Three
Sons'. Material relating to heritage/past/present/country or city
life within the above style of delivery.
CONTEMPORARY BUSH BALLAD (EXAMPLE)
John Williamson, "A Bushman Can't Survive", Graham Connors
"Let The Cane Fields Burn" Lee Kernaghan eg, "Three
Chain Road', 'Boys From the Bush' Sara Storer eg, album ' Beautiful
Circle'. Material relating to heritage/past/present/country or
city life within the above told in Contemporary style.
TRADITIONAL BUSH BALLAD REFERENCE ALBUM;
Slim Dusty - West Of Winton - defines most subject matters in
the definition of Traditional Bush Ballad.
Festival Organisers should ensure the backing band for the traditional
Bush Ballad section is supplied with a copy of this guideline
so that they may present the contestant in either of these sections
with the correct backing.
A Solo Bush Ballad vocalist (who does not play accompaniment to
him/herself) would still be required to sing in the style of Slim
Dusty/Stan Coster when performing in Traditional Bush Ballad section.
The above guidelines are for judging live performance or recorded
Australian Bush Balladeers Association Incorporated. ABN : 75798