Almost a late night footnote on the extensive Easter Blues Bender program is a new name on the Bendigo music scene, Highway 79.

Good Friday at the Golden Vine sees the first public performance of this long-time-coming collaboration between Rattlin’ Bones Blackwood and Colin Thompson.

“Yeah, Highway 79 is a reference to the Calder.” Bones tells me, “I live in Sunbury, and Col is in Bendigo. It’s the highway that connects us. It’s simple and honest.”

It’s a collaboration that was probably always going to happen. The story starts early in 2011.
“We were introduced by Scott Seymour,” says Colin Thompson, taking up the story, “Scotty had been banging on to me saying I had to see this guy Bones Blackwood; that I won’t believe the show he puts on. Sure enough, when I got to see Bones in action I was blown away by the raw energy and grooves he laid down with his vintage guitars, kick drum and over-sized hi-hats. That he kept it up for three sets was astounding. This guy leaves nothing in the tank.”

Fast forward a few years.

“A couple of years back I was crashing at Col’s place after a late Saturday show,” continues Blackwood, “he said he’d love to jam sometime. I was a fan of his drumming and somewhat humbled that he’d wanna play with me. I wasn’t sure about playing my one man band material with a drummer, but it always stayed in my mind that if I ever got something else together I’d look to him straight away.”
Blackwood started experimenting with new material. “I was really loving this new music but just couldn’t seem to make it work as a one man band. It needed more, and it occurred to me that I had to play this music with a drummer if it was really going to work.”

Thompson continues: “It seemed like a pipe-dream though, given geographical restraints and how busy we both are already. But he messaged me offering to come to Bendigo to rehearse. From the first time I laid into the drums underneath his raging guitar sounds, it felt natural and fun and a little spooky.”

“You don’t think you actually need to be any louder do you?” I ask Blackwood.

“Haha! Well I always thought I could be louder, so that’s where Col comes in. The whole reason for wanting to play this music with a drummer is so I can focus more on guitar. It really needs drumming far beyond what I can do with two feet. It’s a completely different energy, and Col has the feel, swing and instinct that makes it all click.”

“Is this going to be a long-term collaboration?” I ask.

“If the punters get half as much enjoyment out of it as we do, I can see it being an indefinite thing.” Thompson says. “As long as suitable bookings present themselves, we’re both available and still enjoying jamming together, I can’t see any reason we wouldn’t keep it up.”

Highway 79 play their debut gig at the Golden Vine on Friday, March 25.