Steeped in history, folk tradition and unapologetically political, Melbourne-based singer, banjo player, guitarist and songwriter Ruth Hazleton has remained a prominent figure in Australia’s folk music scene since she began performing in 1995.
Ruth’s music career began as a member of Canberra-based band Closet Klezmer, whose vibrant Eastern European dance music quickly led them becoming local cult favourites. It was during this time she also developed an enduring passion for traditional musics from around the world.
In 1998, Ruth took to the stage with Kate Burke (Trouble in the Kitchen), and the rest, as they say, is history. Two of Australia’s most respected and renowned folk musicians; their vocal harmonies, exceptional musicianship and unique interpretations of traditional song have won them national and international acclaim over the years.
Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton have toured Australia and internationally and recorded five studio albums. They’ve picked up awards (‘ScreenSound Australia Award for Best Folk Album’ 2002 & ‘Lis Johnston Award for Vocal Excellence’ 1998), and have been described by The Australian as “Why folk music is cool again”. The duo’s fifth and latest release Declaration (2015) was nominated for a genre award at ‘The Age Victorian Music Awards’, announced as ‘Album of The Week’ on ‘The Daily Planet’ ABC Radio National, and also on Blues & Roots Radio internationally.
Throughout her career, Ruth has also performed American old-time & Americana music (another enduring musical passion); initially with Canberra-based band The Horses’s Leotard (you did read that right), and later Dev’lish Mary.
Equipped with an electric guitar tuned to DADGAD and an open-back 5-string banjo, Ruth began her solo journey in 2019, releasing Daisywheel, produced by acclaimed musician and composer Luke Plumb (Shooglenifty). The album was nominated for ‘Best Folk Album 2020’ at the Music Victoria Awards and has been described as “…compelling and intimately fierce” (Living Tradition – UK).
Daisywheel is a lyrical voyage of history, struggle & resilience in song; a confluence and collision of ancient and contemporary and a cross-cultural zeitgeist. At times unapologetically political, the repertoire incorporates the many influences that have shaped Ruth’s musicianship over the years, escaping strict boundaries of genre. There are flavours of Celtic trad, old-time American music, Eastern European & Middle Eastern music and folk-rock with washes of electronic programming and beats.
Among the many acts and musicians Ruth has recorded and performed with are: Andy Irvine (Ireland – Planxty, Mozaik), Bruce Molsky (USA – Mozaik), Nancy Kerr & The Sweet Visitor Band (UK – BBC Folk Singer of the Year 2015), Luke Plumb (Shooglenifty), James Fagan (AUS/UK), Rens Van der Zalm (Netherlands – Mozaik), James Keelaghan (Canada), Martyn Wyndham-Read (UK), Fred Smith & Liz Frencham (Australia), Bill Jackson (Australia) and Shane Howard (Australia – Goanna).
In her non-musical life, Ruth Hazleton is a mum, rogue folklorist, oral and social historian. Currently employed by The National Library of Australia, she is also an occasional blogger at The Hidden Culture, volunteer for The Australian Magic Research Project, and Reference Committee member for the Australian Children’s Folklore Collection at Museums Victoria. She is also an activist for Australian independent musicians and passionate campaigner for women in the Australian music industry.