Dirt Floor Alliance

Dirt Floor Alliance

About Dirt Floor Alliance from Nelson

In 1971 The Nelson Mail wrote, “New Zealand will miss the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band when it tours overseas this year but, at the same time, a group which has until now moved in the band’s shadow could receive the break it needs.”

The band from Christchurch was Stoney Lonesome and the vocalist and flat pickin’ guitarist that helped give the band its distinctive ‘Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’ sound was Jim Doak.

That was a while back now, but after a long break Jim, with long-time friends Steve and Ainsley Apirana and Mark Raffills, is back on the road with a brand of raw, foot-tapping, down home music in the tradition of the troubadour.

“Dirt Floor Music,” says Jim, “is that down home stuff played out on the verandah . It’s a mix of roots music and new songs with that same essence. It’s the Carter Family, Gillian Welch, Mississippi John Hurt, Levon Helm, Woody Guthrie and The Old Crow Medicine Show rolled into one – bluegrass, folk, rock, blues, gospel and traditional story telling.”

Contrary to the Nelson Mail’s encouraging prediction, Stoney Lonesome didn’t go on to become a household name. But they did release one album and play a raft of concerts and festivals as well as appearing on New Zealand television shows, Moving On and Country Touch before Jim took his evolving music into a new folk-rock line-up called Waite.

Waite graced the screens of Happen Inn and Popco as well as carving out a niche for themselves with lovers of Fairport Convention and The Band.

At the same time across town Steve Apirana was doing Jimi Hendrix and the blues proud in his band, Butler, fresh from the success of their 1972 appearance at New Zealand’s first ever three day rock festival at Ngaruawahia.

The two met up at some gig or another, so the story goes, became firm friends and eventually ended up playing in a new band called Judah in late ’70s and ’80s. That was around the time they both met Mark Raffills and Steve met Ainsley.

In the years following, Steve and Ainsley married and together they have co-piloted Steve’s professional solo career from their Australian base. Steve performs his warm and raw brand of gospel blues right across Australia, up and down New Zealand with the occasional jaunt through Europe and North America. He has released three solo albums.

Ainsley joins Steve on the road providing both harmony and lead vocals in performance. A singer /songwriter in her own right, she has released one full-length CD , Autumn.

Jim meanwhile stood his guitar in the corner, let it gather more dust than he should have, and focused on other pursuits. Some years back he became a Nelson resident and, affected by the creative juices that pulse through the town, decided it was time to dust off the guitar, flex the vocal chords and get back out on the verandah.

Mark also ended up in Nelson, where, among other things he helped establish a live poetry reading scene in the region. He has since performed at live poetry gigs around the country, house concerts, orientation events and the odd festival or two. He has published three volumes of poetry.

“Raffills draws his subject matter from his life and the people in it which gives the poems a generous humanity and a sincerity and warmth that it is hard not to respond to,” said the Nelson Mail on the release of his first volume of poems. “The live poet is obvious; the words have both a lyrical and rhythmic quality … there is a depth to the poetry but at the same time, its heart is on its sleeve.”

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