Thursday, 26 December 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club

If you are bold enough to sing House of the Rising Sun to the tune of Little Town of Bethlehem and sing Rock Around the Clock by Bill Hayley & The Comets in medieval Middle English then, if only for novelty value, you are worth listening to.

Chris Parkinson
The one thing you can say about the trio Chris Parkinson, Pete Morton and Emily Sanders, is they are certainly not traditional in their delivery of a festive show but they are certainly fun.
They opened with The Mountain Road and then Christmas Eve with Parkinson on the melodeon, Morton on guitar and Sanders on fiddle and you could see they had come to have a good time right from the off.
The magical Christmas tree of the title was a rather pathetic looking specimen which looked like it had been desperately grabbed as the last one on the shelf of a Poundland. But it didn’t matter it was really only there to get the audience involved as it was passed around for them to pick scrolls from the branches which had instructions for the group to play.
One such was for music from around the world so they pulled out music from Africa, Moldova, Israel and Australia.
Parkinson opened with his Moldavian tune on accordion then Morton took over singing in Swahili Malaika, which means angel. This gave way to Sanders playing a gorgeous version of the Yiddish Hava Nagila showing off her impressive fiddle playing. Parkinson then took over again with the Aussie dance tune Click Go the Shears, this time using the gob iron, that’s a harmonica for those who want to get technical, and to add to the eclectic medley Morton did actions to the Aussie strand using his feet while upside down on stage. Morton and Sanders then pulled out a lovely duet with the Cherry Tree Carol.
Pete Morton
As individual musicians they are all excellent but as singers none of them are particularly strong - Morton is head and shoulders above the other two, musically and physically, however as a trio their voices harmonise beautifully. There was a lovely Christmassy song in the style of a medieval hymn with lyrics about the nativity and benefited from the perfect blending of their instruments.
Morton then showed his agility with a Lincolnshire broomstick dance to George Green’s College Hornpipe which was wonderfully fundamental folk entertainment you could imagine families in cottages during the dark winter nights doing this sort of dance to candlelight to both keep themselves warm and entertained.
To give Morton a chance to get his breath back Sanders took over with an 11th century tune The Wexford Carol. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the strongest or most tuneful of voices, which wasn’t helped on this occasion by them doing the entire set unplugged, and she didn’t really do the beautiful song justice.
In a complete change Sanders changed her boots for clogs to give a traditional dance to the tune of Byker Hill, it wasn’t clear why, whether the audience joining in seemed to put her off her stride but there seemed to be the odd occasion where had difficulty keeping rhythm, but this didn’t spoil the impressive spectacle in any way. Parkinson then decided it would be fun to play the stripper theme while she changed back into her boots and Sanders joined in the joke and now for many of the men in the room they will never look at clogs in the same way again, but it was all done in the best possible taste.
Once again the trio showed how well their voices blended and harmonised on The King which was followed by the surreal moment from Morton with what started out as Green sleeves but then quickly moved into the Middle English version of Rock Around The Clock, you have to hear it to really appreciate it. Morton carried on with a lovely, soulful version of In the Bleak Mid-Winter.
They then did a Steeleye Span cover of The Beggar followed by When the Snows of Winter Fall which as you can guess from the title is a traditional winter song from the North East which the multi-talented Morton sang in the appropriate accent.
Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen
 in White Christmas
Parkinson was then left to do a solo which to say the least was a unique experience with his pub singer version of White Christmas which would have had both Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin spinning in their respective graves. This was followed by a harmonica/accordion version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and then it got more bizarre with his version of Silent Night on accordion and swanee whistle a bit like a drug-induced episode of Sorry I Haven’t A Clue but it was all good festive fun.
A much-covered song followed and on this occasion Who’s going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet? was sung A Capella which gave way to some lovely instrumental blends. Morton then indulged in some “Frapping” which has several meanings but on this occasion was a musical whinge as in F(olk)Rapping. Morton’s machine gun lyrics which were reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s Homesick Blues were pretty impressive and showed really what a versatile and entertaining guy he is.
Sanders again showed her gorgeous fiddle skills with a 17th century tune Maiden Lane which move into
Golden Tango on melodeon where Parkinson was again left on his own with the European sounding tune which gave him the opportunity for some tomfoolery.
Towards the end of the night Sanders sang a French carol which didn’t really work because of her voice and the fact it didn’t really have the feel of a carol.
The film which spawned a number one hit
Morton and Parkinson then decided it was time for their version of Strictly Come Dancing so they did the famous Laurel and Hardy routine from Way Out West which precedes their number one hit Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia which was accompanied again by the luxurious fiddle playing of Sanders.
In keeping with the night they each donned rather cheap looking Father Christmas hats and beards for the fun tune Seven Billion Eccentrics top off a great night's entertainment.
This was the last show of the year for the Newhampton Folk Club and thankfully it will be back, albeit in a truncated form, next year.


Live Review

Town Hall, Birmingham

There are two words which sum a Cerys Matthews show, great fun. The Welsh singer/songwriter and BBC Radio 6 presenter rarely stops talking, with the exception of when she is singing but she is such an enthusiastic and engaging character she could be reading out the small print on a complex insurance document and people would listen.

Cerys Matthews
She opened the first of her two part show on the banjo with a Woody Guthrie song, Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?, which was a soft ballad, accompanied by Frank Moon on ukelele. Immediately Matthews’ valley spring tones filled the Town Hall auditorium with a gorgeously haunting version of the tune.
Moving to her guitar she followed this up with Ruby, a faster, slightly more upbeat song with a nice change of chord halfway through. Most of her songs have a lengthy introduction and she openly boasted that the longest preamble she has done to date was at the neighbouring Glee Club where she chatted for 21 minutes.
And Johnny Come Lately, from her Catatonia days, was no exception, and when she finally got round to singing there was more than a hint of Kate Bush about her sound.
Matthews was also determined the audience was going to earn its keep and following a fun version of the kite song from Mary Poppins she started splitting up the audience, like a school teacher in a music lesson, and got them involved. One half of the audience sang Pack Up Your Troubles while the other side sang It’s Long Way To Tipperary and it wasn’t a bad effort both sides finished at the same time.
It was inevitable that there would be some Welsh language songs and the first was Moliannwn from her Hulla Baloo album which is totally in Welsh. The song is about spring, and is sung to an African American minstrel tune.
She even cajoled three members to get up on stage and add the sound effects as she read out a Dylan Thomas poem. She kept the mood light with some unusual choices such as Banana Flip from the 1930s, You Are My Sunshine and her own version of Oh My Darling Clementine.
This was followed by a slight more pop version of the old Irish traditional Galway Shawl where she seemed to struggle on the higher notes.
Matthews opened the second half of the set with another from her Catatonia days from their International Velvet album, Don’t Need The Sunshine, and then with the other band members Andy Coughlan, Gwenan Gibbard, and Patrick Rimes she did her second Guthrie song with Take A Wiff On Me which was excellent and full of verve. Together they managed to produce a skiffle/jugband sound using the fiddle, harp, double bass and probably the world’s most animated gob iron player who produce some magical sounds which really got the crowd clapping.
Skiffle was the punk music of its day, not so much in the radical and politically provocative content but in the fact it was from grass roots where most of the instruments were home made or everyday items such as a washboard or stone jar. In Britain the movement was popularised by "The King of Skiffle" Lonnie Donegan. 
King of Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan

Matthews then treated the audience to the wine song Chardonnay, from her Cockahoop album, which was followed by a great version of Jingle Bells which was full of fun and enthusiasm after which came a wonderfully traditional version of Deck The Halls accompanied by the harp and fiddle before the band joined in to slide into a funky version of Ding Dong Merrily on High, again with the audience dragged in to provide vocal support.
Changing the mood a little she brought out old time spiritual Go Tell It On The Mountain which she sang with all the gusto you would expect from someone brought up in the traditions of the chapels in the Welsh valleys.
There was a move back to the secular with a ragtime blues number Come On Around To My House Santa which was also woven with Western-style country sound. The song was originally done by Blind Willie McTell and Matthews tweaked the lyrics for the festive season, the original version being Mama not Santa.
The band really got going with Blueberry Hill with some marvellous gob iron (that's a harmonica for those who wondered) and bluegrass fiddle playing.
In complete contrast they moved to a medieval sound using the fiddle, harp and drum with Matthews leaving the mic to dance around for the medley which quickly moved into a hoe down.
She got the Welsh contingent, and everyone else for that matter, going with a fantastically rousing version of Ar Ben  Waun Tredegar again from her album Hulla Baloo.
One of the highlights of the night was some incredible harmonica playing for Guthrie’s going down the road and towards the end she brought out her own version of Elvis’s Love Me Tender.

Friday, 13 December 2013


Live Review

Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

If the angelic tones of Kate Rusby and her Christmas show don’t get you in the festive mood then you have probably never experienced the magic of the season.

Kate Rusby
The last time she brought her festive sound to Wolverhampton, with teacup in hand, she was heavily pregnant with her second daughter, Phoebe, who is now 19 months old.
Curly haired as ever and with a voice that seemed a little more gravelly than usual she opened with the first of three versions of While Shepherds Watch, Cranbrook which she sang to the tune of On Ilkley Moor.
If you have never heard it sung this way before then it can take some getting used to. But it is a gentle version to ease people quietly into the Christmas mood and introduced the brass quartet which gave it more of a festive feel as well as adding a strong Yorkshire twang.
Sounding a little like a headmistress giving an address at a school assembly she gave the gathered fans the background to the carols, and more specifically how folk in God’s Own County make use of the songs now, mainly in pubs.
It was a night of carols, Christmas ditties and wassailing songs all done with Rusby’s gentle and friendly manner which is so endearing. Her lovely voice gives a certain magic to the festive sounds which continued with a Cornish wassailing song. Wassailing is an ancient tradition steeped in pagan beliefs where locals, mainly in rural areas, would walk the bounds of the land making a noise and singing to both scare off any evil spirits and to give thanks for the previous and coming harvest.
They would also put some of the produce from the land back into it as a thank you and as a way of ensuring the coming harvest would be bountiful. In some Church of England congregations this tradition is carried on but is often called Beating the Bounds where the incumbent clergy and church members would walk the bounds of the parish offering prayers to God in thanks for the previous and coming year and to protect their parish from the works of the devil.
Between the songs Rusby gave a vivid picture of growing up in Yorkshire and the homely traditions she was a part of and wants to preserve. She moved into Hark Hark What News? in which her caramel voice was accompanied by some lovely melodeon playing from Julian Sutton which added a European feel to it.
For the next number she picked up her guitar for Home, another gently ballad which benefited from the pleasant warble in her voice, she was joined on strings by Aaron Jones on bouzouki and Duncan Lyle on double bass.
This was followed by the traditional Holly and Ivy, which she had mistakenly introduced a couple of songs earlier. Rusby’s version had a much folksier, almost Morris dance tune which was perfect for her voice and was filled out again by Sutton’s soft music.
Her excitement about Christmas was obvious and she moved away from the traditional carols for Kris Kringle from her While Mortals Sleep Christmas album, which featured Gary White on trumpet. It was a cheerful sound which had the feel of a Disney song and could easily have been the soundtrack to one of their full length animations. It was stuffed with every Christmas cliché you could think of and liberal amounts of Ho Ho Hos and jingling jingles. It has that strange fusion of being mostly traditional but has a strand of 50s easy listening running through with parts of the tune picked out nicely by the brass element.
Starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara
and Natalie Wood
To many the alternative name for Father Christmas, Kris Kringle will always be associated with the sentimental and perennial film, Miracle on 34th Street.

A lot of the songs were given that authentic northern sound with the four piece brass section which really added colour to the music.
She took her appreciative audience through Poor Old Horse, which is another northern tradition which seems to have been lost. It was a straightforward ballad and a modern sound for something which is an old tradition.
Rusby went back to the more traditional carol of Little Town of Bethlehem which was a throwback to her childhood and probably to many of those in the audience. Rusby’s gentle and respectful voice turned it into a gorgeous song which was given an added sprinkle of magic by the brass section.
In the second half of the set she pulled out another wassailing tune, this time from her home turf and was a much skippier tune with light lyrics which wouldn’t have been out of place while dancing around a maypole let alone a Christmas tree.
She digressed from the festive theme for a couple of songs the first being the Lark and while introducing the story behind the song and the album 20 she actually used the phrase by gum. The new version recorded for the album featured Nic Jones, who hadn’t been in a studio for close on 30 years, but she managed to persuade him to get him on the disc.
The song is a dreamy ballad, the kind which shows how good, clear and soft Rusby’s voice really is.
Her next song, The Wishing Wife, was a more traditional storytelling folk tune about the relationship between a husband and wife complete with the obligatory moral tale which Sutton opened on the melodeon.
She followed this with Holmfirth Anthem a slow and gentle ballad where Rusby’s voice soared over the hall filling it effortlessly with clear tones.
The slightly bizarre mixture followed where they did a version of Joy To The World with a Mexican twist. The brass quartet laid it down perfectly and you could almost smell the fajitas over the mince pies.
Fathers Dougall McGuire, Ted Crilley and
Jack Hackett aka Ardal O'Hanlon,
Dermot Morgan and Frank Kelly
Rusby then left the stage for the "men’s section" which was presided over by hubby Damien O’Kane who never seems to that comfortable being the frontman and managed to mess up a joke about the Wolves’ manager Mick McCarthy.
They eventually launched into a Sutton-penned tune originally called Mac the Horse but subsequently changed to My Lovely Horse in tribute to Father Ted which was followed by O’Kane’s Dancing in Puddles, inspired by his and Rusby’s four-year-old daughter Daisy who enjoys the activity of the title then ended with a traditional Irish tune.
All of this was liberally peppered with traditional Christmas inserts starting with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The trilogy was an opportunity for O’Kane to show his excellent banjo playing skills. After which he sheepishly explained where he had gone wrong with the Mick McCarthy joke.
Rusby came back on stage with Walk The Road which although not a carol the band liked to play it during their Christmas shows. It has that rousing, anthem feel where it conjures up images of people travelling across the Yorkshire moors with wind blowing through their hair and clothes.
To end the night and just to make sure everyone was feeling festive she went out to We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Rusby’s Christmas show definitely has that feel-good factor about it regardless of the troubles and financial hardships of these times. It is just so pleasant to sit in the musical bubble she creates and enjoy and think of all that’s good in the world.

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Thursday, 12 December 2013


Live Review

Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

The lucky fans of Show of Hands were given a double treat at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton as the Devonish trio of Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes provided their own support with each doing a solo spot as "warm up" acts.

Show of Hands, Miranda Sykes with
Steve Knightley and Phil Beer
Knightley, who opened the first triptych, was suffering somewhat from a chest infection which was evident as his voice occasionally struggled but he battled on, only having to leave the stage once and still provided a good performance both solo and with his fellow musicians.
Company Town was his first offering, his gravelly voice perfect for the gin house blues sound which moved smoothly into Hook of Love, a gentle ballad which showed off Knightley’s precise guitar work and for his final offering he did an A Capella version of Low Down in the Broom, before introducing Phil Beer what was jokingly referred to as the main course, Knightley of course being the starter.
Beer opened on the mandolin with a song from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, Weathercock, before moving on to the guitar for some fantastic blues picking with Cocaine Blues from the Reverend Gary Davis and finished his set with a bluegrass sound on his fiddle and Devil’s Right Hand. Then of course on came Miranda Sykes, as the “desert” for her trilogy which included the gentle sound of Window box and the haunting My Sister the Moon.
When they were back together on stage for the second part of the set they pulled out the traditional and haunting Crows on the Cradle with Beer on mandolin and Knightley on bouzouki. His voice holding up remarkably well and filling the hall with his clear tones. Knightley then gave a lengthy explanation on the events behind their next song, The Napoli before playing the light-hearted tune about a cargo ship which ran aground and caused all sorts of problems for the authorities as opportunists tried to get their hands on the goodies which spilled from the ship.
The jaunty opening was followed by Knightley’s easy and jumping lyrics as he told of the procession of people who descended on the stricken vessel hoping to make a killing, which of course included gangs from the North and lads from the moor.
He handed over to Beer who took the opportunity to treat the fans to some incredible slide guitar and finger picking with a romantic number, well as romantic as Sidmouth can be, with You’re Mine. Beer’s guitar playing introduced sounds akin to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross but overall the song had the feel of a Bruce Springsteen special which may have been a conscious move because it gave way to their version of The Boss’s Youngstown with Knightley handing the vocals over to Beer, whose sound is slightly more raucous than Knightley’s, having a gravelly edge to it. Knightley with Sykes, on her double bass, provided the harmonies as Beer also filled the hall with the sound of his slick fiddle playing.
Phil Beer on fiddle and Steve Knightley on guitar

Which was not bad considering that it fell to pieces while Knightley was introducing the song. Beer was behind trying desperately to put the parts back together while maintaining some sense of dignity.
Youngstown, Ohio is known as the incredible shrinking city as it’s reported to have lost more than two per cent of its population in just two years.
Beer moved back to the guitar for The Blue Cockade which was a slow ballad that was filled out wonderfully by Syke’s voice and Beer’s precise finger picking. Tradition says a cockade is a braid of ribbons or threads with a variety of signifying colours often worn by those in the military and in this case it was a cockade worn by a seafarer.
Knightley then left the stage to give his throat a rest and Beer took the opportunity to show off his fantastic skill playing blues guitar. Knightley came back on and between him and Beer they indulged in some musical tomfoolery with a fantastic hoedown sound which had the hall toe tapping and clapping along.
Without doubt the next song was the highlight of the night, the trio’s version of Katrina, inspired, if that’s the right phrase, by the incredibly destructive storm, the after effects of which are still being felt.
The sound the trio made was highly evocative and emotive and featured a genuine storm which they recorded as wild track when laying down the song in their studio. Sykes provided some highly effective sounds on the double bass as Knightley sang the song and the lighting, although quite simple, was superb and perfect to the mood set by the band.
The band's latest album
It had thought-provoking lyrics such as “We never saw it coming, until it was too late. Some would call it arrogance and some would call it fate.” Beer’s slide guitar added an incredible strand to the tune and he gave a final flourish with The Lakes Of Ponchartrain of which Christy Moore does a fantastic version if you want to check it out
They then toughened up with the biting lyrics of Country Life which was followed by another session of tomfoolery from the patio of sound in which Isla St Clair was in the firing line, (you had to be there).
They closed the set with a damn good version of No Woman No Cry, thankfully not in Jafaican, and blended it seamlessly into Are We Alright? Show of hands will be off the scene for a while now but don’t worry too much as if you start to get withdrawal symptoms, you can get hold of a DVD which was filmed at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and they will be back in circulation towards the end of 2014.

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Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Live Review

Glee Club, Birmingham

The Old Dance School came home for this rescheduled gig at The Glee Club from what has been an extensive tour. 

The Old Dance School
TODS is one of those bands in the vein of, among others, Bellowhead which have their feet firmly in the folk tradition but have expanded into a fusion strand introducing other genres of music into their sound.
The septet, who take their name from the Betty Fox School of Ballet in Selly Oak, Birmingham, opened the gig, which was being filmed for a coming DVD, with Helen Lancaster introducing the slow air The Enlli Light from their album Chasing The Light. 
It had elements of the Celtic amid all the other layers which included a funk-jazz style with the individual sound from each of the members being gradually intertwined and like so many of their tunes just teeters on the edge of a big a finish but never quite goes over. This gave way to Craigie Hill from the great singer and political raconteur Dick Gaughan and his song about Irish migration, a soft ballad which had a funky opening from Aaron Diaz on trumpet providing a mellow, laid back brass sound with Jim Molyneux on drums and Robin Beatty on vocals.
The next offering, The Taxidermist, came from their second album Forecast which is a story about what it says on the tin. The story goes that Beatty came across a recently deceased hare in the snow and took it to the taxidermist of the title in Llangollen, Wales - and there can't be too many of those - and had it stuffed, which just goes to show folk musicians can be inspired by the most bizarre of events.
It opened with an ethereal, bluesy feel similar to something from Ry Cooder and seemed to take ages to get going. It was another of those long instrumentals which TODS does so well, there were nice strands of fiddle provided, along with the serpentine movements of Samantha Norman, and her partner in strings Lancaster. It’s again one of those numbers in which you can definitely identify folk elements but there was also a very strong strand of jazz running through it.
The Old Dance School from Birmingham
From the same album Beatty brought in Strange Highway which had a feel of Rod Stewart’s version of Gasoline Alley. His high pitched but slightly gravelly voice gave a nice edge to the ballad.
The traditional sound of John Ball written by Sydney Carter once again gave Lancaster and Norman a chance to show how well they play together whether on fiddle or viola. Their sound was flawless from the pizzicato opening to the full-on string sound they executed so perfectly.
Again using their trademark method, each musical layer was added with Carter bringing the sound of the flute to the strings in a playful and musical dance which then gave way to Molyneux on the drums and when it had reached a crescendo the band then started to unpick the sounds bringing it back down to just the two stringed instruments and Diaz adding the electronics for the background before Carter picked it up again and then in came Beatty with the words.
They opened again after the break with Norman and Lancaster playing pizzicato before giving way to the rapid sound of Carter with an upbeat jig-style sound which was filled in by Diaz on electronics and then Lancaster introduced a new strand, the viola, adding a deeper rasp to proceedings. Lancaster again showed perfectly the precision with which she wields her instrument.
Silver Tide followed this which is a tune written by Lancaster and inspired by a seascape she once witnessed in Wales. It’s a thoughtful, slow and doleful air which is gorgeously atmospheric and uses the notes to paint mental landscapes.
Beatty introduced one of their new songs, Where I’m From, inspired by a family’s dream being shattered by a fracking company in Pennsylvania who paid off the family and gagged both parents and the children so they couldn’t speak about where they had grown up or why they had moved without facing legal penalties.
The tune was a jaunty rhythmical hare hopping up and down with an almost reggae beat underneath it. But even though the tune was light-hearted and extremely catchy, don’t be fooled the lyrics are sharp and telling.
They went from this into another instrumental, From The Air which is a track off their third album, Chasing The Light, opening with the strings it was a smooth jazz-style sound which wouldn’t be out of place in a smoky nightclub of the 1950s. This was again another of their trademark lengthy instrumentals which incorporates other elements along with the folk strand, such as electronics and a variety of percussion instruments with a smattering of muted trumpet thrown in for good measure.
Their album Chasing The Light
Another from the same album was Sula Sgier which is a granite rock in the Atlantic where there is tension between the locals and the RSPB because a local tradition sees an annual harvesting of gannets which are caught and eaten by locals on Ness. The trumpet featured more in this mixed in with the flute before giving way to a funkier sound created by the fiddles and guitar.
Molyneux came up with new song inspired by everyday things and the drummer didn’t take himself too seriously in explaining the origins of Blue Horse which is his Citroen Berlingo. The tune once again showed that TODS are willing to experiment and bring in new sounds and combinations to create their defining sound. It started with quite a psychedelic feel but then the more tradition sound of Carter and Lancaster came in over the top and it is perhaps one of their shortest instrumentals although it does have several phases where the instruments and soundtracks weave in and out.
Whether anyone actually would connect it with a blue French car without the opening explanation is anyone’s guess. But that’s the fascination of TODS music, is it has so many strands you can pretty much jump from image to image as each new sound comes and then rolls over for the next one.
The Real Thing from their Forecast album gave Beatty another chance to give his voice an outing and while he doesn’t have the strongest of voices it is distinctive and he has obviously worked hard so it meshes seamlessly with his fellow musicians.
The players who make up TODS are precision musicians and you can see it in the attention to detail in everything they do, if there was one criticism then they need to lighten up and have a little more fun while playing. They try and keep the mood light in between playing with their banter but it’s while executing their complex and intricate tunes that they need to let a little air into their performance. But when it comes to playing their respective instruments they could hold their own against the very best and if you want to see the legacy of bands such as Fairport Convention where folk musicians are willing to experiment and move away from the traditional without abandoning it completely then you could do a lot worse than spend a night at a TODS concert.

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Monday, 2 December 2013


Live Review

Town Hall, Birmingham

There are worse ways to mark St Andrew's Day than sitting in the wonderfully ornate surroundings of the Town Hall, Birmingham to enjoy the sound of Scottish band Capercaillie as part of their 30th anniversary tour.

Capercaillie celebrating 30 years
It was worth fighting through the endless sea of bodies which had descended on the Second City to enjoy the German Christmas Market, Birmingham Eye and skating rink to listen to the eight piece band which is Capercaillie, not least for the gorgeous sound of singer Karen Matheson.
For 30 years they have been bringing the haunting sound of The Highlands; of Celtic legend and their own blend of folk music and interpretation to appreciative audiences all over the world.
They are perfect examples of how music transcends all boundaries because most of the lyrics were either in Scottish or Irish Gaelic but that didn't make an iota of difference to the audience. It didn't matter that they couldn't understand the lyrics only that the music spoke to them.
Matheson moved in and out of the concert sitting out tunes such as the Jura Wedding Reels, Jura being an isle which is part of the Inner Hebrides, while the rest of the band showed their skill with their respective instruments.
The tune opened with the Manus Lunny on bouzouki and was quickly filled out by Michael McGoldrick on flute, for this occasion, and the accordion played wonderfully by Donald Shaw.
This was followed by Fainne An Dochais, which means Ring of Hope and started off with a gentle opening thanks to McGoldrick and Shaw, this time on the harmonium.
This gave it an almost church-like quality but the sound was soon filled out by Lunny and Charlie McKerron on the fiddle before Matheson came back in with her haunting voice singing in that gorgeous Gaelic tongue which sounded as clear as a mountain stream running through the highlands.
Their anniversary album
Shaw then introduced the Quimper Waltz which is a dance and music which derives from Brittany, this then gave way to the Hare's Paw and moved on to Rose Cottage. Shaw opened on the accordion with a hint of Frenchness but not quite enough to stop it just sounding European. Again the rest of the band waited their turn to fill in the tapestry of sound.
As you would expect after three decades together each member of the band can almost second guess the others and their music and sound blended beautifully building each time to a rich waterfall of sound but without drowning out each individual musician.
This said Rose Cottage brought in a fantastic duet with the two macs McKerron and McGoldrick as they picked up the pace and sent the Celtic sound washing over the audience.
Matheson then came back into the proceedings for the title track of their anniversary album At The Heart Of It All which was penned by Shaw and is about the hope and future of Scotland. It was one of the few Matheson sang in English and was a straightforward ballad that was quite commercial sounding but did give McGoldrick a chance to show his expertise on the uillean pipes.
The band went out into the interval on a high with Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda which was a real toe tapper with Matheson's voice jumping around the hall like a march hare in full flight and beautifully harmonised with the male voices before unleashing the full sound which conjured up images of an army heading to war and was sent out to the whole audience clapping along.
They opened the second half with Ailein Duinn which is the story of two warriors who met in battle. It opened with Matheson's wonderfully melodic voice soaring around the hall and providing a fantastic interlude for the flute.
Abu Chuibhl (Spinning Wheel) flowed along with Matheson's up and down lyrics which sounded almost like a market cry and was then filled out by the rest of the band. Matheson then again took a back seat.
McKerron got his chance to shine with some stunning fiddle playing which was as close to classical folk as you will ever get and at times had the feel of Ralph Vaughan Williams'  The Lark Ascending.
Then before the audience had finished clapping his efforts McKerron was straight into the next reel with the band backing him up every inch of the way.
Karen Matheson
Matheson then came out with a great story about Prince Phillip and Aly Bain which you need to hear from her lips rather than read it written down.
The band moved onto a funkier sound with Nil Si I Ngra which means She's Not In Love amid the funk beat was Matheson's voice, haunting like the sound of Clannad.
Matheson then did a wonderful version of a Dick Gaughan song, Both Sides The Tweed, about tolerance and understanding her voice rose and fell like the Scottish mountains and were coloured beautifully by the male harmonies.
The band then again showed their prowess on the range of instruments with a set of marches including Alasdair Sutherland The Sound of Sleat which opened expertly with the flute, then as before like dancers in a ballroom the other member musicians Ewen Vernall on double bass, David Robertson and Che Beresford on drums and percussion came swirling in to build the sound up to the climax.
Capercaillie has been playing and making records for three decades and not just as a band but they have found time to do solo projects too and the reason they have lasted so long is the quality of their playing, clarity of their music and the organic way their sound can transport you to a different place - long may it continue.

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Sunday, 1 December 2013


Live Review

Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton

Martyn Joseph performs like he came out of the womb holding a guitar and at the risk of sounding Zen-like his "piece of wood with steel stretched across it" is almost an extension of his character.

Martyn Joseph
Without any fuss he not only did his own set, but became his own support as the scheduled act had to drop out for personal reasons. 
So if you were lucky enough to get there early you enjoyed a double dose of this articulate and engaging performer.
Joseph walked on stage unannounced and launched straight into his impromptu warm up and apart from the clarity of his playing and insightful lyrics one of the first things you notice is the history in his main guitar.
You can clearly see, even from the back of the dark, cellar-like Slade Rooms, where a great swathe of varnish has been worn away to expose the bare wood of his instrument by the hours and years of strumming.
It kind of gives the impression that were he to go for another 30 years then the sound hole of the guitar will be twice the size it's supposed to be. As he opens his set he has that demeanour of an old style hobo balladeer, in the same vein as Seasick Steve only not as dishevelled, who travels from town to town being a medium not just for his music but for a view on the world that comes from caring about the human condition.
Joseph is not full-in-your-face overtly political but when he does talk about situations we should all be concerned about his honesty and passion make you want to take notice.
The Welsh singer, originally from the coastal town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, still has a clear hint of his Glamorgan roots but is hidden behind a strong US/Canadian accent both in his singing and speaking voice.
Joseph's 30 years of touring and recording gives him a comfortable stage persona where you get the impression no matter where he plays, as long as there is a stage, then it's home from home for him. 
One of his opening songs Beyond Us from Songs for the Coming Home album was a much gutsier sounding version than the recording but set out his stall for his precise and thought provoking lyrics.
It would be unusual to find a Welsh folk singer who didn't include at least one song about mining and Joseph brought out Dic Penderyn (The Ballad of Richard Lewis) which is the story of a miner and activist in the 19th century who was involved in the Merthyr Tydfil unrest and arrested for an alleged assault and eventually hung outside Cardiff Gaol.
Joseph's, on this occasion, coarse voice conveyed the story of these events in the traditional storytelling way which marks some of the best folk songs.
The man in action
His strong voice and precise picking produced a great ballad in All This Time which was given a nice flourish at the end with The Beatles Here Comes the Sun through which he drew in the appreciative audience on the act to become the sum of all the parts. This was one of his songs which had those wonderful meandering musical interludes where he seemed to go into a world of just him and his guitar.
Joseph moved into a bluesier number, Everything Is Grace, which is somewhat of  a favourite with his fans. It had a Dire Straits-style interlude and a big key change which he made a big thing about, apparently it doesn't happen that much with folk musicians.
The late great, Paul Robeson was well known for his social activism especially around workers' and civil rights. What is less well known is he had a particular passion for the plight of the Welsh miners. Joseph's Proud Valley Boy is a tribute to the singer through the eyes of a Welsh pitman.
It's one of those hard political songs which hit you between the eyes and his clear, strong voice did it justice and conveyed the passion which Robeson felt in raging against injustice.
Joseph is a towering figure on stage but his friendly and sometimes irreverent manner shows he is there to have fun and enjoy the show as much as his audience.
Throughout the whole set, and bear in mind he was doing a double turn so his fans got their money's worth, his passion and enthusiasm, and it has to be said a certain spirituality, was evident in every song.
One of the most poignant songs of the set was Clara, again from Songs for the Homecoming. It was another of those straight up, storytelling songs about a black woman who rears a child rejected by his parents before he is wrenched away from her and when on the verge of suicide the song Clara wrote about him comes to his mind and gives him hope again.
Joseph then pulled a rather bizarre stunt with a ukulele on which he played Bruce Springsteen's No Surrender, one of several of The Boss's covers he did on the night. The apprehension about this combination was soon dispelled with Joseph's strong voice over the top of the tiny guitar which he made sound more like a harp and gave it that ethereal quality.
He then threw out a request for the next Springsteen number; The River came back and although his version was a little too nasal it was still a good rendition in a voice so gentle it belies the manly figure that is Joseph.
The singer cultivates this Springsteen connection and could easily be mistaken for a tribute act but this would do the man a disservice as he is so much more than that.
He showed his versatility with his voice and his guitar playing with the gentle ballad Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here and then the more upbeat Feels Like This which had a rant-style rhythm to it before moving into his well known Dolphins Make Me Cry which perhaps more than any on the night showed just how precise and expert his picking is.
Joseph, in classical guitar pose, sang Dancing in the Dark and then Fragile World which was in tribute to the human spirit in general and the Phillipines disaster survivors but there then followed a couple of bizarre episodes during the set which Joseph handled with a certain style.
In lieu of a raffle, which is a hallmark of many folk clubs, Joseph pulled out his version of wheel of fortune with the wheel of "Do We Have To?" which owed more to Vic Reeves Big Night Out's Wheel of Justice than the imported American game show.
Nevertheless he tossed a homemade gaffer tape ball to the audience, the recipient of which then came up on stage, spun the wheel to get a prize, simple in theory. However, it came back with a man who didn't seem to grasp either the concept of the game or that it was just a bit of fun. This all became amusing if a little chaotic.
Great novel and film
Fortunately, it was soon over and Joseph was back on track with a great dustbowl version of Springsteen's The Ghost of Old Tom Joad which is inspired by the central character in the classic book The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This was followed by another of the Boss's, The Promise, which Joseph sang as a really touching ballad.
Joseph does have a Christian grounding being part of a church youth group in Wales when he was one himself and his spirituality is still evident both in his songs and in his compassionate and non-condemnatory views on the world and its events.
His upbeat blues sound on Not A Good Time for God about the misuse and abuse of religion and the atrocities which are carried out using God's name was a reminder of many of the troubles in the world.This led nicely into Five Sisters which was a heart-rending personal account of incidents in Palestine and Israel and one in particular in 2009 when five sisters were killed in a rocket attack and their father who refused to let the incident be used for political or propagandist ends. Despite the interruption from "Mr spin the wheel" which didn't faze Joseph, he managed to once again convey the passion and biting lyrics which get under your skin and grip your emotions.
This gave way to the gentler ballad of Let Yourself before winding down the set he pulled out a life affirming ballad, Still A Lot of Love Around Here.
Joseph is one of those performers who has several axes to grind but is not a preachy, cynical, ram it down your throat type of performer. He says what he has to say through his music, song, talent and positive personality and before you even know it within a few songs and without even realising it, you get where he's coming from. The lyrics from Springsteen's Thunder Road sum him up perfectly: "Well I got this guitar, and I learned how to make it talk."

Other links:
Paul Robeson

The Phillipines disaster

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


CD Review

One Night Only

To put out a live album you either have to be very big or very good. Sunjay Brayne is in the early stages of his career so that rules the first criteria out, fortunately he scores on the latter, he is that good.

What's more the recording captures Brayne's smooth voice and certainly, as much any recording can, reproduces faithfully his dexterous talent with the guitar.
Sunjay Brayne from the Black Country
Award-winning Brayne breaks the mold in a lot of ways, first he doesn't have a grizzled or smoke stained voice, he is Anglo Asian, his mother comes from New Delhi and his father from the Midlands, and he has added a touch of blue to the Black Country.
To be completely frank he looks as much like your archetypal blues singer as Jimmy Carr but like they say never a judge a book by its cover. There is also more to Brayne than blues, his skill with a guitar is wonderful to listen to and you know from this point, as his career grows, he is only going to get better. What's more his versatile voice, which often sounds like the late great Jake Thackray, is so clear and precise it's almost cut glass.
Right from the opening track, Love You Like A Man, you will either be shaking your head from side to side and stomping your feet or you really don't get the blues at all.
Brayne is an unassuming character but for someone who is only 20 his mature presence and confidence on stage is really impressive.
The switch on the second track to the more jaunty folk/acoustic sound of Scarlett Town will reinforce the association with Thackray.
His playing is precise and comes across so on Street Riot, which is almost onomatopoeic in the rhythm as the words travel along "run run before the hounds come". Strangely enough, and quite playfully, he finishes off this track with a Camberwick Green-style melody where you can almost see Windy Miller coming up out of that music box as Brayne picks away at his guitar.
Definitely among the best tracks on the album is Can't Shake These Blues, from the opening bars you are hooked and Brayne's silky voice is just so easy on the ear without being bland. The album is a recording of two sets Brayne did at the Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford, Dudley in the West Midlands which has seen some great names pass through its doors over the years.
His soft and easy version of Paul Anka's It Doesn't Matter Any More is really just a musical treat on the album, a bit like the strawberry on the top of a cake. This is followed by Don't Breathe A Word which is probably the weakest track of the "first half" but even at that it's still a pleasure to listen to because Brayne just has one of those voices which you enjoy.
Brayne who was born in Derby but moved to the Black Country with his parents at an early age has been playing guitar since he was four and those 16 years of playing is what shows in his maturity of sound which far outstrips his youthfulness.
The final track of the half is Fire Down Below which is the single from the album. It's an excellent track but there is just something about it which makes you feel like he should whack it up even more and give it just that bit more oomph or as they say in the Black Country, gee it sum 'ommer.
Sunjay Brayne's live album
Opening the second half with Statesboro Blues from the legend Blind Willie McTell Brayne takes it up another notch and you hear how at home he is playing the blues.
Sittin' On Top of the World is just a gorgeous track with Brayne's caramel voice at its best and even the fret noises from his finger movements add something to the track. It also has those great lines "if you didn't like my peaches, why'd you shake my tree, you get out of my orchard and let my peaches be" .
Brayne was hit recently with some bad luck. On the release gig of One Night Only he was suffering with throat problems and was all geared up to support Steeleye Span on their Wintersmith tour but he developed full blown laryngitis which thankfully he is now recovering from. But to temper the bad news he is on the bill at next year's Shrewsbury Folk Festival which has an impressive list including headliners Bellowhead.
There really isn't a bad track on this album and Seems So Real sounds so authentic he could be sitting on a porch with his guitar in the Delta region with the sun bearing down and crickets chirruping in the background.
With the Devil May Ride once again you can almost hear Thackray in the background egging him on and for anyone who has never listened to Jake then you won't know how much of a compliment it is to be compared with him.
Mark Knopfler's Sailing To Philadelphia is a somewhat strange addition to this album, it's obviously a favourite of Brayne's but he doesn't quite pull it off and there is something not quite convincing about his rendition of the ballad, it seems somehow like the tempo is never quite right.
He is soon back on track though, pun intended, with Help Me Now. It's a foot-tappin', finger-pickin', heel-stompin', head-bobbin', slick song which suits Brayne's style of singing and playing like a glove.
The last track One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer is a perfect example of how Brayne has broken the mould it should really be sung by someone who sounds somewhere between Tom Waits and Howling Wolf and he sounds like neither but he manages to pull it off.
If this album was a stick of rock then written right through the middle of it would be talent, buy it, you won't regret it.

Further links: 

Twitter @sunjaybrayne


Live Review

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

There was little which escaped Bragg’s scrutiny before an appreciative and packed Symphony Hall audience, from the serious subject of fascism and financial greed to the usefulness of beards, which according to our Barking balladeer covers a multitude of chins - groan at will,  and rebellion against DIY.

Billy Bragg in Birmingham
Looking like a mannequin from the window display of a Nashville gentleman's outfitters and fighting a throat infection which had dogged him from the German leg of his Tooth and Nail tour, Bragg’s self-deprecating and relaxed manner gave the concert the feel of a much cosier gathering down a local pub.
With what seemed like enough guitars to kit out a small militia Bragg treated his fans to some urban country with Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key and then Chasing Rainbows which was a full-on country & western ballad, complete with pedal steel about the trials of love, about the only elements of country it didn't have was failed crops and having to shoot your faithful dog.
These kind of made his later remonstrations about the press saying he had gone country a little hollow, but it was all in good fun.
With a change to his electric Fender, which was a cue for a lengthy explanation about the dilemma in buying it and how a message from Woody Guthrie helped him make up his mind, the Bragg of old emerged with All You Fascists Bound To Lose. 
It did what it said on the tin, a straight between the eyes, punk rock song of anti-fascism. It was a great example of how, after 30 years of being on the road, Bragg has lost none of his fire for pointing out injustice and for rallying people to work together to change things.
The partisan audience appreciated it too of course, they had come for some of the "radical" stuff.
This linked in nicely with a song from his hero Guthrie and I Ain’t Got No Home In This World which was a soft dust bowl ballad to which Bragg brought a deep, clear sound.
Bragg brought back the country sound with You Woke Up My Neighbourhood before unleashing Scousers Never Buy The Sun, a scathing rant against the media in general and newspapers in particular - referring to the boycott which still exists for many Liverpudlians over Murdoch’s tabloid coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
In the wake of the phone tapping scandal, The Leveson Inquiry and the not exactly lamented demise of the News of the World it's one of those songs that all journalists on all sides of the political spectrum should listen to periodically.
Bragg did the middle section of the set without the band covering She’s Got A New Spell, explaining his penchant for visiting museums in the many periods he has time on his hands while waiting to play a gig.
It would be difficult for anyone to disagree with his stance on the importance of Remembrance Day because collectively our record of learning from the past is a disgrace.
Bragg's latest album which gives its name to his tour
This was followed by Milkman of Human Kindness, Levi Stubbs Tears and Sexuality which again was introduced with Bragg's brand of subtle, sarcastic wit with the barb of making people think about tolerance.
He was back on the acoustic guitar for Goodbye Goodbye before moving on to the harder rock sound of There Will Be A Reckoning. 
This song took its toll on his voice which up to this point had held up fine but, fortunately it proved to be a minor blip.
Bragg had pre-warned his fans about his condition and had worked out an effective system with the help of special tea, which he claimed if your drank enough of it would make you sing in tune;  an industrial sized box of tissues and a clever way of getting his drummer to cover his expectoration like a vintage BBC sound man coming up with a euphemistic sound for having sex. His plaintive rant about his lack of DIY skills and even stronger lack of enthusiasm for learning any led into his Handyman Blues, from his latest album from which the name of the tour is taken.
Bragg is a great raconteur and his barely believable story about Kraftwerk, which was really just an excuse to bring in an electronic parody of their sound, he eventually came out with one of his classics New England and heading towards the end of the set he pulled out another with Accident Waiting to Happen.
The singer/songwriter is such an engaging character with an easy, friendly blokey manner - which even in the midst of his political meanderings makes you think but never makes you feel uncomfortable - that time spent watching him perform passes too quickly. 
Bragg lives by what he believes and has never got too big to lose that common touch and is still willing to busk, which he will be doing on December 17 on the streets of London to raise money and awareness of Shelter.

Other Links:

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club

With the smell of fresh paint still hanging in the air Sam Carter was the first act to enjoy the newly decorated surroundings of the Newhampton Folk Club.

Sam Carter
Carter opened at the upper room of the Newhampton pub with a light-hearted love song which has a refrain similar to one of those bizarre named country & western songs such as Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life. Carter's offering was Pheasant which was loosely inspired by roadkill and has the line "You flattened me like a pheasant on a country lane".
Straight away you see how precise Carter's guitar picking is, he has probably the most flexible fingers on the circuit. Unfortunately a lot of the time his voice doesn't match the quality of his playing and he is not the easiest of singers to listen to.
Carter's range is limited and he doesn't seem as at ease with his singing as he does with his guitar playing and it certainly doesn't match his skill with words and song writing.
His voice struggled at the upper end of his range which was evident with his ballad Separate Ways however,when he drops his voice down to the lower, softer end of his range it is quite smooth and silky and much easier on the ear.
He does have a confident stage presence and keeps his sets moving along with anecdotes about the inspirations behind his songs some of which are quite moving.
Hired Hands is an ultra-relevant song about they way businesses treat their loyal workers as a commodity and was again a great showcase for his excellent and almost mesmerising finger picking. The sad thing is that it would have been just a relevant had he written it 20 years ago and will probably still be so in 20 years time.
His skilled hands carried on the exact playing into another ballad She Won't Hear you.
The touching tale behind Here In The Ground, a tribute to his elder sister who died aged three when he was a very young child, gave it pathos and it had a lovely gentle opening, the lyrics conveyed the effect such a tragedy has on a family but, and at the risk of sounding harsh, unfortunately the tone of his voice didn't really convey the sentiments too well.
Carter's voice did seem much more suited to Lumpy's Lullaby which was a present to his sister and her, at the time, unborn child. It had a chirpy Camberwick Green-style lilt to it with a bouncy beat similar to Right Said Fred - the Bernard Cribbins version not the band.
Sam Carter

A less jaunty ballad followed As Long As You Hear Me which is about growing old together and showed how Carter can paint mind pictures with his words you could almost see the couples he was singing about.
He pulled out a couple from his Keepsakes album with Oh Dear, Rue the Day which is a traditional ballad with Carter's own arrangement and then Yellow Sign another of his own songs observing the events of a tangled love affair which ended in violence.
Carter, like several other folk musicians, has become enamoured of shape note which originates from the gospel traditions and church choruses of the 1800s and is designed for community singing relying on adding shapes to the musical notations to make it easier for singers to identify the pitch.
This style he transferred to Made of Money and was a perfect foil for his guitar playing and actually suited his voice better. It had a feeling of a slower version of Hollywood Beyond's Colour of Money.
Carter then mixed the styles up a little with a soft ballad again from Keepsakes, Spill Those Secrets, which was followed by No Other Side from his latest album No Testament and had a feel of a 1960s beat sliding occasionally into a jazzy sound which again showed off his clever guitar play and his ability to jump in and out of chords without blinking.
As Carter said a folk sessions without a song about a sea disaster just isn't cricket and his offering was Bones which was a simple tale of a shipwreck simply told, this moved into a more bluesy song Where Can I Go Now, Carter is not bad when it comes to singing blues he just needs a little more spirit in his mojo.
The One was a somewhat fatalist song about the doomed nature of love and relationships which was followed by another of his shape note offerings, The Garden Hymn, with a rich spiritual sound to it but unfortunately again his voice was creaking at the top end of the range.
Towards the end of the set came Taxi, unsurprisingly about a taxi journey it's not the best of his ballads and had the feel of a Chris Wood ditty but not as fluid, insightful or witty but again the song was redeemed by his guitar picking.

Certainly worthy of mention is the supporting duo Velvet Green who are husband and wife Sue and Paul Matthews from Wolverhampton who frequent the Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford in the West Midlands. They work together very well as a duo but it has to be said Mrs Matthews has a gorgeous and waterfall clear voice which is perfect for folk and traditional music.


BBC Radio2 Folk Awards 2014

Royal Albert Hall

The nominees for the BBC Radio2 Folk awards have been announced and this year the ceremony is being held at the Royal Albert Hall, London on February 19.

Entertainment which is lined up so far for the night includes Bellowhead, who are noticeably absent from the nominees list this year, Irish band Clannad, family musicians Eliza and Martin Carthy, Suzanne Vega and Fisherman's Friends and no doubt this list will grow before the big event. The nominees are listed below.
Fay Hield one of the nominees
for Folk Singer of the Year
Folk Singer of the Year: Bella HardyFay HieldLisa Knapp and Lucy Ward
Best Duo: Ross Ainslie & Jarlath HendersonJosienne Clarke & Ben WalkerCatrin Finch & Seckou KeitaPhillip Henry & Hannah Martin
Best Group: BreabachThe Full English*, Lau and Melrose Quartet
Best Album: Child Ballads – Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer, The Full English – The Full English (see previous link), Hidden Seam – Lisa Knapp (see previous link), Vagrant Stanzas – Martin Simpson, Won’t Be Long Now – Linda Thompson
You can cast your vote for the best album category and to do so you must register on the BBC website
Horizon Award: Olivia Chaney, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (see previous link), Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar and Georgia Ruth
Musician of the Year: Aidan O’RourkeWill Pound, Martin Simpson (see previous link) and Sam Sweeney
Best Original Song: Love’s For Babies and Fools – Linda Thompson (see previous link), None the Wiser – Chris Wood, Swimming in the Longest River – Olivia Chaney (see previous link) and Two Ravens – Lisa Knapp (see previous link)
Best Traditional Track: Codi Angor – Georgia Ruth (see previous link), Les Bras de Mer – Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita (see previous link), Mary Macdonald’s – Rant and Willie of Winsbury - Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer (see previous link
BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award: Hattie BriggsGentlemen of FewGranny’s Attic and The Mischa Macpherson Trio.
From this year, which is the 15th the awards have been running, there will be an induction into the new Hall of Fame which is for individuals who have made a great contribution and lasting impression in the world of folk music. The first inductee, although personally I think it should have been a dual induction which included Ralph Vaughan Williams, will be rightly enough Cecil Sharp.
Ticket information is available from the BBC site and the Royal Albert Hall's own site.
Presumably as in previous years the whole proceedings will broadcast on radio and televised on the red button.
* other websites

Seth Lakeman - Word of Mouth
In the same month, February 3 to be precise, as the Folk Awards Seth Lakeman’s new album Word Of Mouth will be released. Fans of The Full English will have already had a taster of one of the tracks, Portrait of  My Wife, as Seth has played it while touring with the band and it is included on The Full English album.
 You can pre-order your copy and there are several versions and bonus packs to be had so worth looking at the deals on Seth's site.

Katie Melua will be releasing the second single, The Love I'm Frightened Of, from her new album Ketevan. The album was released in September on Katie's 29th birthday and the single will be out on October 28.

Michael Kiwanuka will be playing two intimate acoustic gigs in London next month which will be at the Effra Social, SW2 on December 5 and The Troubadour, SW5 December 9. Tickets for the shows are on sale through and are £12.50.

A Carnival of Carols is a weekend workshop for singers and instrumentalists which will feature the music of Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band and will be led by Andy Watts of the band. The weekend will feature of repertoire of around 60 carols and traditional Christmas songs.
The number of places is limited to 50 and will be at St Gwladys Church Hall, Church Place, Bargoed. CF81 8RP on December 7 & 8. For more details contact 01443 836600.

Jackie Oates
Folk Weekend Oxford have announced the dates of their festival next year which will be April 25 to 27, so far the weekend will feature patron Jackie Oates, York band Blackbeard's Tea Party and Chris Sarjeant. Next month the organisers are staging a fundraiser with A Very Folky Christmas on December 18 and will feature Rising Voices Community Choir who will be joined by Jackie OatesJames Bell, and duo Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing. If you can't make the fundraiser there are plenty of other ways to support the festival through links on their website.

Warwick Arts Centre is hosting John Cooper Clarke. The machine gun poet whose words are as loaded as a bandit's rifle will be bringing his brand of odes to the centre on November 28. Next month the centre also welcomes Steeleye Span who are on their Wintersmith tour in collaboration with Terry Pratchett. They will be playing on December 3. Following this is Yorkshire sweetie and songstress Kate Rusby who brings her heart-warming Christmas show to the centre on December 6 and then the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton the following night.

Next year it will be 10 years since Bellowhead did their first concert at Oxford Folk Festival and to mark the anniversary the band is going to put on two special shows, one in Manchester and one in London. The first will be at the Bridgewater Hall on April 19 and the second will be on the following day, Easter Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall no less. Tickets are on sale now
The Manchester box office is on 0844 907 9000 or visit while the London box office 0845 401 5034 or visit You can also buy tickets through

Headliners, Fairport Convention
The Great British Folk Festival is being staged at Butlin's Skegness at the end of the month. Some of the acts lined up for the four day event from November 29 to December 2 include headliners Fairport Convention along with fellow folk rockers Steeleye Span with Maddy Prior, Cara Dillon, Bob  Fox & Billy Mitchell, Martyn Joseph,  Judy Tzuke, Richard Digance, Barbara Dickson and many more. For more details visit

Radio2 Folk Awards best singer nominee Bella Hardy will be coming to Wolverhampton next month. The trio will be playing at the Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Whitmore Reans on December 20. The doors open at 7.30pm and tickets are £12.50.

Before heading up to Skegness Martyn Joseph will be bringing his songs and music to the Slade Rooms, Broad Street, Wolverhampton on November 29.

Earlybird tickets are now on sale for next year's Moseley Folk Festival which runs from August 29 to 31. Lau is the only band which has been confirmed so far. Submission for bands and artists must be in by January 15 2014.