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
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 Bush Ballad.
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 Bush
'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 Bush Ballad.
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 chord.
No ' Americanisms' should be used in the Traditional Bush Ballad or
the Contemporary Bush Ballad.
ALL AUSTRALIAN BUSH BALLAD TRADITIONAL OR CONTEMPORARY SECTION
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
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
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 material.