Friday, 25 April 2014


Shows & News

Iconic flautist and lead vocalist of Jethro Tull Ian Anderson is coming to Symphony Hall, Birmingham on May 3. He is touring on the back of his new album Homo Erraticus. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets range from £27.50 to £32.50 plus a £2.50 transaction fee which can be avoided if you buy the tickets in person either from Symphony Hall or Town Hall, Birmingham.

Staying in Birmingham, the always entertaining Martyn Joseph will be playing Rowney Green Village Hall, Rowney Green Lane, Alvechurch, B48 7QP on May 10. Tickets are £15. The following month, June 26, you can catch him at Stourbridge Folk Club, Katie Fitzgerald's, 187 Enville Street, Stourbridge, DY8 3TB. Tel: 01384 485 238 Joseph will be supported by local acoustic/blues player Sunjay Brayne. Tickets are £15.

Stourbridge  singer/songwriter Kim Lowings & The Greenwood will be playing the venue on May 29 and tickets are £7 + 70p booking fee and doors open 8pm. She will be joined on stage by the members of the collective Andrew Lowings and Tim Rogers.

David Gibb & Elly Lucas will be playing the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham on Sunday May 11. The Derbyshire duo will be on stage at 8pm with doors opening 7.30pm. Tickets are £8 + 80p booking fee. Playing the same venue on Monday May 26 will be Irish duo Tir na nog again the show starts 8pm with doors open at 7.30pm. Tickets are £11 in advance but are subject to a £1.10 booking fee while paying on the door is only £12.

The Joe Topping  Trio will be playing the The Red Lion Folk Club, Vicarage Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham on May 7 at 7.45pm with doors opening half an hour earlier. Tickets are £11 and £1 more for non members. The trio which is Joe, Steve Parry and Jack McCarthy will be supported by Kelly Oliver who is making a big splash on the folk circuit and who is currently supporting folk and Fairport Convention legend Dave Swarbrick. It's worth noting that the Spiers & Boden gig at the venue on May 21 is sold out however, you can catch them at the Theatre Severn, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ on Tuesday May 20. The show starts 7.30pm. Box office: 01743 281 281. Tickets are £15 and may be subject to a booking fee.

Also playing the Shropshire venue on Saturday May 3 will be duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West another great duo will be playing there on Wednesday May 7 when Sam Sweeney & Hannah James take to the stage as part of their Farewell For Now tour. Both highly regarded and acclaimed duos will be playing the Walker Theatre from 8pm. Tickets are £15 and may be subject to a booking fee.

It will be a family affair at the MAC Birmingham when two of the most well-know names in folk Martin and Eliza Carthy play there on Saturday May 3. Tickets are £17 or £15 with concessions and the show starts at 8pm.

Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Dan Whitehouse, who is based in Birmingham, will be playing the  Old Joint Stock (Attic Theatre) on Friday May 16. The real ale pub is at 4 Temple Row in the city centre and the attic is a small venue and so tickets are likely to be limited. The concert starts 7.30pm. Tickets are £8 in advance or £12 on the night.

Fellow Wulfrunian Daniel Kirk will be playing an outdoor concert and fundraising gig on Sunday May 4. Daniel is on the bill with a host of other musicians and bands for the Hey Ho! event for Roy Castle's Lung Cancer Foundation. The event is at Highfields Social Club, Barnes Road, Stafford ST17 9RL, from 3 to 10pm. Entry is £2.50 with children going in free.

Granny's Attic
The Newhampton Folk Club which meets in the upper room of the Newhampton Inn, Riches Street, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton will be playing host to Granny's Attic on May 10. The trio Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, George Sansome and Lewis Wood were Radio2 Folk Awards finalists this year. The show starts at 8.30pm and tickets are £8.

Also coming to Wolverhampton is folk legend Martin Simpson who will be playing the Newhampton, Arts Centre, Dunkley Street on May 9. Simpson is a recent Radio2 Folk Awards winner as a member of The Full English. The show is at 8pm and tickets are £15 + a 10% booking fee.

There will be an arts and music night The Junction Festival Fundraiser being held in Wolverhampton on May 2. The event is being staged at the Clarendon Hotel, Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton. On the bill will be Faye Brookes, Timothy Parkes and Rob Fellows. The fundraiser is a taster for the main Junction Festival in the city which will be help a various locations on July 11 to 13th.

Singer and all round raconteur Jez Lowe will be playing the Willenhall Folk & Acoustic Club at The Victory Club, Lichfield Road, New Invention, WV12 5BE on Wednesday May 21 with the show starting at 8.15pm. Tickets are usually £5.

The Woodman Folk Club, Ashwood Marina, Kingswinford will host Worcester father and son duo Keith & Tim Judson on May 16. Club members pay £5 and non-members £6. All shows start at 8.30pm. The following Friday on May 23 Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston will be playing the venue. Members pay £8 and non-Members £9. Prior to this on Saturday May 10 the duo will be playing the Birch Meadow Centre, 4 Birch Meadow Road, Broseley, Shropshire. TF12 5LP. Call 01952 882 684. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £10.

Bellowhead, who are enjoying their 10th anniversary tour, have announced the release of their new album Revival which will be released on Island Records. The disc can be pre-ordered now but will be officially released on June 23 in a range of formats.

Northern Ireland singer Cara Dillon also has a lot going on with her forthcoming album, A Thousand Hearts. From her recently created online store where you can order signed copies of the album as well as get hold of all her previous discs. There is a full review of the album at
It is due for release on her own label on May 19.

Newcastle fiddler Tom McConville is due to release a new album in the not too distant future so check back for the review on this site.

The Robin2, Bilston is looking for musicians for its Black Country Day Bash on July14. Proprietor Mike Hamblett is looking for musicians to contact him so he can put together a show on the evening at the Mount Pleasant venue. The event will be a charity night so he is asking musicians to give their services for free and he is also looking for local charity nominations for the funds to go to.
Mike wants any bands or musicians to send their brief details to him including any links to websites and videos of performances.
If you are interested then email your details to Mike at

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


CD Review

In A Box

Unlike Pandora's, opening Megson's box will expose your world to all that is good with folk music, and to overstretch the analogy, husband and wife team Stu and Debbie Hanna obviously started with a big box to cram so much good music on to one album.

Debbie and Stu Hanna
This is a great folk album, their sixth for those counting, opening with the haunting voice of Debbie which is juxtaposed with the sharper sound of hubby on Clifton Hall Mine, the story of a mining disaster. It is a somber song and underpinned with the appropriate mood music which gives you a taste of the severity of the event.

"At 9.20am on Thursday 18th June 1885, a massive explosion occurred. The ground shook for half a mile around, guardrails on two sides of the pit mouth were blown away and the cages were rendered useless. It was thought that around 200 men were underground at the time."

It almost has the feeling of a hymn and just as you find yourself becoming pensive they pull you up by your bootstraps with a complete change of pace and sound, and it's then you realise, musically they are going to keep you on the hop.
Bet Beesley & Her Wooden Man has a wonderfully devilish narrative about a wife who finds out on her wedding night that her husband is not all he seems. The Hannas' voices are carried along by the decadent and almost mocking music.
Once again as your toes have got into tapping mood the pace is changed with the gentle voice of Mrs Hanna bringing in Charlie The Newsmonger which evokes all kinds of connections from Sandy Denny to Jethro Tull. Vocally Mr Hanna takes a back seat on this one, adding harmonies and mandolin, and, when she is not singing, Debbie throws in the silky sound of her recorder.
Just on this one track alone there is so much to enjoy and listen to, much like the whole album - there is no way you can take it all in by just listening to it once.
Mr Hanna comes to the fore on The River Never Dies which is a musical history lesson set on and around the River Tees and takes you through half a century of living alongside the snaking waterway. This is the first track on the album where the Hannas, who are now based in Cambridgeshire, are responsible for both the music and lyrics and they have captured their Teeside roots perfectly in their sound.
Tommy Armstrong
Another of their own compositions follows with Songs To Soothe A Tired Heart. As you can guess from the title it's a gentle ballad, originally designed to be a lullaby. This time their voices are helped along with the talents of Ben Savage on dobro, Jade Rhiannon on backing vocals and the really lush sound of the fiddle from Cliff Ward.
They get ultra-traditional with Old Folks Tea, not surprising really since the lyrics come from Pitman Poet, Tommy Armstrong but they do it proud with their modern but sympathetic music. The song is about something as mundane as a tea party and yet there is nothing ordinary about the upbeat tune which paints a vivid picture of all the people gathered for the tea outing in Durham, how much more British can you get?
Dirty Clothes will defy you not to get nostalgic about your childhood and how we all succumb to the passage of time. This is just a wonderfully simple song that will strike a chord with everyone who listens to it. It has very much the feel of a Lindisfarne song which is not really surprising considering they sing in their native North Eastern twang.
Many will find Still I Love Him very familiar but Debbie's lilting voice backed up by the equally sweet sound of Jess Morgan and underpinned by the gentle strumming of the guitar give it a new lease of life and stamps the Hannas' mark on it.
The album
Moses Carpenter is another song based in true and local events about a native American Mohawk who was part of a travelling medicine show in the 19th century. Storytelling doesn't get much better than this with Mrs Hanna's sweet voice gently telling his life story. This is how news bulletins should be put together.
Too soon the final and title track comes around but In A Box is a man's song, it's not for you girls. It's too near the truth to listen to with someone else around. Every man should sit alone and listen to this sporting a self-satisfied grin knowing you still have most of the stuff the gentle ballad sings about.
In A Box is a fantastic album evocative, thoughtful, original and so many more adjectives you could fill a box with but more than anything it's a testament to the Hannas' insightful music making and lyric writing. This is one album that isn't going to stay in the box.

In A Box is released on May 12 on EJD Records but there is an earlier digital release on April 28 through Proper Music.
You can see Megson at the Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury on April 27. Tickets are £15 and the show starts 7.30pm.

Other links:

Monday, 21 April 2014


CD Review

A Thousand Hearts

Let's face facts, Cara Dillon has such a sweet and stunningly melodious voice she could be using the text from an electrical appliance manual as lyrics and it would be worth listening to.

Cara Dillon
This is Dillon's first album for five years since the highly acclaimed Hill of Thieves and if you stretch a point you could call it a concept album in that it's all loosely based around the feelings and affairs of the heart.
Husband/producer Sam Lakeman has recruited some impressive help for this album not least of which is Aoife O'Donovan and John Smith.
Hearts is a very restful album, the fastest of the tracks is the opener Jacket So Blue which sets out Dillon's stall straight away, showing off why her silken Northern Irish tones have made her one of the leading vocalists on the folk circuit and a favourite of the Transatlantic Sessions. The song nails its colours to the mast as a straight-up folk narrative about lovers being separated by a life at sea.
Although this track does have a Celtic feel to it, song for song the album, as a whole, has less of that feel than the previous offering from 2009. This is not a criticism and it does show Dillon is exploring and introducing a variety of influences into her repertoire.
Bright Morning Star is the first of the softer ballads on the 11-track album. It is a soulful rendition and if there is one criticism of this album it's that most of the tracks sound similar and there is little change of pace or musical style. But chances are Dillon fans have been waiting five years so they won't really care about such detail.
If you didn't know it already then the quality of Dillon's voice is unquestionably top notch and if you wanted just one track which showcases just how mesmerising and almost spiritual her voice is then My Donald is it. In between the musical interludes, which take a back seat when she is singing, you get the full scope of just how much of an aural indulgence listening to Dillon is, she is chocolate for the ears.
Moorlough Mary is one of the more obvious Celtic offerings and is among the faster-paced tracks on the album, it is about the nearest you will get to a foot tapper.
Cara Dillon's new album
Shotgun Down The Avalanche leans more towards the country side of things and has some nice ethereal sounding musical inserts especially from the flute.
Probably the most thoughtful and evocative track on the album is River Run where Dillon sounds like a mix of Dolly Parton and Kate Bush. It's a cover version of the song from a little known band called Suddenly Tammy! from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and is a tribute to River Phoenix. On this track the simple piano notes are the perfect accompaniment to her luscious voice and you can see this being a big romantic hit.
With Erigh Suas A Stoirin (Rise Up My Darling) the Celtic strand returns quite strongly and is carried along like a light dance through the mandolin and squeezebox when Dillon takes a backseat to let the instrumental take it to the end of the track.
It's back to the traditional folk with Eighteen Years Old with a narrative of suitors and maidens wanting only to find their true love. Dillon uses a much stronger and precise singing style on this track with every word being let go only when perfectly formed.
Singing once again in her native tongue for Taimse Im' Chodladh (I Am Sleeping Don't Wake Me), Dillon's silken voice is perfectly accented by the soft sound of the piano.
For the penultimate track, The Shores of Lough Bran, Dillon adds almost a smoky tone to her voice for yet another slow ballad which is true to the folk tradition. This time it's the guitar and mandolin which adds the strands of tonal colour to the song.
Most of those who listen to folk or Irish music will know As I Roved Out but Dillon has added her own particular gentleness with her voice rolling up and down in soft, undulating tones which are almost hypnotic.
This album is somewhat frustrating in that you want to find a WOW! factor but there isn't one.
However, Dillon has a voice which is worth listening to whatever she sings and as her fans have been starved of an album for five years it's guaranteed they will overlook any shortcomings and just enjoy listening to her gorgeous tones.

A Thousand Hearts is out on May 19 on Dillon's own Charcoal Records label and you can preorder it at

Sunday, 20 April 2014


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton

Complete with stainless steel screws in his foot and a radiator key for tuning his mandolin, which he bought for £2 - the mandolin not the key, Wolverhampton's own Bill Caddick was back on home turf at the Newhampton Folk Club, in the upper room of the Newhampton Inn, Riches Street.

Bill Caddick
In one form or another Caddick has been on the folk scene for half a century but he was taken out of action, certainly from touring, for just over a year due to a problem with his foot which has, hopefully, been overcome through surgery.
Raconteur and 12-string guitar player Caddick was warmly received by his home crowd as he opened with Chaconne which was the first glimpse of his impressive fret work on his guitar, he segued this into the light tune of Donkey Jack from his Unicorns album.
To say the least Caddick is a talkative performer and the pretty much packed audience were entertained between the song too with tales of his mishaps, backgrounds to the songs and the many people he has been fortunate to work with over the last half century.
He did put on a remarkable performance considering he was obviously still suffering a little ring rust from his layoff and battling a croaky throat courtesy of a virus, none of which detracted from the show.
Caddick has that old-school folky sound which isn't exactly tuneful but what you would call an honest voice.
His next offering Poor Pig was an almost medieval sounding song about animal trials, that is actual legal trials in courts if you were wondering, and how they have been recorded and executed in the past.
With Winter Fair, Caddick made the mistake of asking the audience to get in on the chorus and it has to be said they were truly awful but it didn't put him off his stride at all, although towards the end they did redeem themselves a little.
Caddick again used this song to show his fingering skills on the 12-string although the difficulty of tackling the fretwork did take its toll later on in the performance.
Letter To Syracuse was the softer of the ballads so far and he did seem to struggle with some of the fretwork on this one. Then on Lili Marlene Walks Away his voice was showing a little strain although he did manage to battle through keeping the beat of his strumming going just as strong which overcame any shortfall in his singing.
How the Express & Star once appeared
due to industrial disputes in 1980s.
Picture courtesy of
The Loaded Hour-A history of the Express & Star
 by Peter Rhodes
He let the gentler side of his voice free reign with Flat Earth before moving onto his mandolin from which he produced the most gorgeous sound but then he put the icing on the cake by using a blues bottle neck which made the instrument sing an incredible and emotive sound for Waiting For The Lark. It was the sort of music that he could have been singing any old nonsense and it wouldn't have mattered because the wailing of the strings was just mesmerising.
The next song took the audience back to his and their own childhoods and was a lament to the freedom youngsters enjoyed by being able to play in the streets. Oller Boller refers to the name of a game which was played with his mates in Bilston along with others such as Kick The Can, Queenie Eye and Tip Cat, feel free to take a trip down your own memory lane if those names evoke the past for you. Caddick took a chance on his voice and sang it a cappella although it was more like a poem or rant.
Another of his softer ballads was Cloud Factory which is a rather romantic pseudonym for cooling towers many of which, for good or ill, have now disappeared from the Midlands skyline although there are some wonderful examples still in Nottingham.
Caddick opened his second half with King Of Whimsey which is a lovely jaunty and playful tune which had some wonderful wordplay in it.
He was brave enough to go for another a cappella song in The Reaper which has some extremely poignant lyrics about the slaughter of young soldiers in World War One and merged into The Writing of Tipperary which is about Jack Judge who claims to be the author of the iconic war song It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary.
There was the traditional offering of Long Lankin which is an archetypal folk song of subterfuge, revenge and murder which he decided to again sing unaccompanied and he did struggle at times both with his voice and with remembering the verses. 
Bill Caddick
He moved into the passionate sound of Ernest Jones' Song Of The Lower Classes, which is an indictment of the inequalities of society with great lines such as "Only the ranks and file, we're not too low to kill the foe, Too low to touch the spoil." Caddick introduced a reggae beat to this.
He brought the music right home with The Day They Busted Superman which is about a day in Wolverhampton during the Thatcher regime and turbulence of the 1980s where even the local paper, the Express & Star was hit by strikes over pay and the cuts being introduced due to new technology.
This was followed by Stay On The Line which is a party song sung partly in Spanish. He slowed things down again with Aqaba Quixote (The Old Man's Song) by now he was labouring a little with his playing due to cramp and his voice was showing more signs of strain.
He brought the night to a close with Latter Days which was almost an old time spiritual.
Caddick has had a long and varied folk career and is widely respected on the music circuit and it was good to see him back in harness and if you want to catch him then on May 2 he is playing at the Black Diamond Folk club, Birmingham

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


CD Review

Something To Take The Edge Off

Every now and again the cogs of the universe mesh, lock up, shudder and shake until something gives and a wonderful piece of originality goes flying off into the ether. In this case it's the eccentrically named Edd Donovan & The Wandering Moles.

Edd Donovan
Their new album, Something To Take The Edge Off which is out later this month, is just a gloriously different collection of songs.
Although saying that the tracks have this same "trademark" beat, a travelling dum ditty dum ditty dum like the soundtrack to every Western film you have ever watched. There are times where you can almost see Clint Eastwood walking down a dusty street with his cheroot and the sun high in the sky.
It's one of those albums that from the first bars you find your foot tapping along and bizarrely it carries an obvious originality yet at the same time there is an instant familiarity that will hook you.
Donovan, who has migrated from the North to Cheltenham, has such a gentle voice which comes in after the Road To Nowhere-style introduction of We Are The Wandering Moles. There are wonderful strands which creep in and out of your hearing such as the subtle twang of the Jew's harp which adds the highlights to the rolling beat that becomes almost a catchphrase by the end of the album.
Woke Up This Morning sounds like it should be a blues song but Donovan's lyrics dance along over the top of the beat with a gentle sound which may not register on the power scale but has a clarity which would carry it across mountain ranges.
Donovan pushes the tempo a little faster for House On Fire and his lyrics seem to be playfully trying to race the guitar which is providing the main rhythm throughout.
There is something restful and extremely friendly about Donovan's voice and none more so than on Don't Be Afraid (parts 1&2) which in the second part moves into sounding more like something from Fairport, it has a freshness which somehow carries a retro feel with it as the beat builds up.
There are some honest and thought-provoking lyrics throughout this album such as "don't be afraid to dig up your past and investigate."
Something To Take The Edge Off
The Show Goes On evokes thoughts of that great anthem made famous by Pete Seeger Little Boxes which looks under the veneer of society's respectability. Donovan has fuelled it with lyrics such as "the curtains hide what's really going on" and "you may think you're the Son of God or someone better." This has all the hallmarks of the protest songs of old and if you could travel back in time you could drop this into Joan Baez's, Bob Dylan's or Joni Mitchell's repertoire and it wouldn't feel out of place.
Staying on a retrospective note, The Stone has more than a hint of Simon & Garfunkel about it in terms of its sound while Donovan's singing sounds very much like his name sake's and once again there are those subtle strands of sound from the percussion which you don't always notice but when you do you realise the colour they add to the whole.
With Glasses And A Beard we even have a little bit of Buddy Holly-style thrown in with the introduction of some clever and playful electric picking giving it a gentle rockabilly sound. Although if you listen to the lyrics, had they been released during Holly's era the band would have been run out of town by a torch and pitchfork bearing mob.
The tempo is cranked up again for Call Me Old Fashioned and never lets up, you feel like you have to jump on this rattler as soon as it comes along otherwise it will leave you behind.
I am A Social Worker is a wonderful example of what modern folk music can be, with so much inert acoustic music riding the tide of folk's current popularity, this is a song which speaks directly of the modern condition.
Edd Donovan
It has some really thoughtful lyrics such as "I am a social caretaker, a remedy of kind. I am a social medicator, I'll give you something if you like." The great appeal of these songs is Donovan's subtle and unassuming voice is so easy on the ear and yet time and time again your senses will be jerked by the barbs and poetry of his words.
With an album such as this the only thing that seems missing is a harmonica but the last track, You Can Do, sorts that out which is an uplifting ballad and provides that often overlooked quality of going out on a CD  as strongly as you come in. There are even shades of Oasis in his voice on this track, very subtle as most of his work is, but there nonetheless.
Donovan can be proud that there isn't a weak or bad track on this album and it's refreshingly different and original. It is a great example of how folk music can be thought-provoking and shine a light on modern life while still being extremely entertaining without being cynical.

Something To Take The Edge Off is released on April 21 as the first album of the new Paper Label Records.
If you want to see Edd Donovan & The Wandering Moles live you can catch them on April 20 at The Prince Albert, Stroud. The show starts at 7pm. The following night, April 21, they play at LAMP, Leamington, the show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £5+fees and then April 24 at The Guitar Bar, Nottingham.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Live Review

The Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford

If there is one thing you can say about the Woodman Folk Club it's that you certainly get your money's worth with a support act opening each half before the main attraction Flossie Malavialle

Flossie Malavialle
You also get audience participation whether you want it or not. Malavialle was making a return to the Black Country folk club.  From her 2010 album, which she made with Keith Donnelly, she eventually opened with Dark Horses Dancing after a lengthy introduction in which she fended off the hecklers who throughout the show were determined to be part of proceedings.
Although now a native of the North East and a British citizen Malavialle hails originally from Nimes in the south of France which is the cause of her hybrid accent that hasn't quite evolved into a full Geordie twang nor lost its softer French lyricism.
There was an even lengthier introduction before Malavialle got around to her next song Teddy O'Neill. This was a slow and soft Irish ballad. Malavialle is a very solid and versatile singer and her guitar playing is precise and her notation crystal clear.
But then Malavialle showed where her real talent lies; singing in her native tongue. Her voice when singing in her mother language takes on a whole different persona. There is something magical, evocative and emotional when you hear a tune such as La Vie en Rose sung in its original form. Malavialle's voice has so much more depth and vigour when she sings in French.
With perhaps the longest introduction so far she eventually got around to On The Road Again, a song which many now associate with Donkey from the Shrek films. Malavialle's version was sound enough but was a fairly ordinary rendition of the song.
Donkey from Shrek
It is obviously a club tradition at the Woodman where people have maracas and shakers of various types to join in with certain songs but bizarrely Malavialle appeared to lose control of her faculties because someone was using a tambourine with flashing lights on.
This was followed by I Know You By Heart which was made famous when it was covered by the tragic Eva Cassidy. Unfortunately Malavialle's version had neither the power, passion or conviction of Cassidy's offering.
She then did, as a request, an upbeat country number called World Of Hurt which was followed by one from her latest album simply called X. From Fawney Cross is a story set to music of the youngest Irish soldier killed in World War One and the journey of one of his ancestors to honour him. It was one of those country-style songs where parts of it were in the Deck of Cards vein
Malavialle opened the second half of her set with with the original version of If You Go Away which was sung by Dusty Springfield. The original upon which that was based was Ne Me Quitte Pas and written by Belgian Jacques Brel. This once again showed how different Malavialle sounds when she sings in French, the depth of emotion and evocation in her words is just incredible.
She followed this with a cover version of Go Leave which is again from her latest album and was written by one half of the McGarrigle sisters Kate. The slow air did have a slight pub singerish taint to it.
Malavialle then turned her talents to a harder blues offering with The Road's My Middle Name from Bonnie Raitt, which, in complete contrast, was followed by the song made famous by Roberta Flack, Killing Me Softly which of course gave the audience the perfect vehicle to join in.
Almost A Year was sung like the soundtrack to a 70s tearjerker such as Love Story or Kramer v Kramer and in the vein of something penned by Burt Bacharach.
Towards the end Malavialle went out with one she knew everyone would join in with, Wonderful World and then of course Edith Piaf's signature tune Non, Je ne regrette rien.
Malavialle has adapted to the English folk circuit wonderfully, she can and did hold her own against some severe heckling on the night, most of it good natured of course. She is an extremely talented singer but when she really soars is when she sings in French.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014



You have just turned 73 and, if you go by the span of man's years as three score and 10, you are already on borrowed time. Ten years previously you had a double lung transplant after suffering for years with emphysema so what do you do to mark another birthday?

Dave Swarbrick
Picture courtesy of Rob Bridge
A: Put your feet up and listen to The Archers
B: Enjoy a sedentary existence for the remainder of your days
C: Pick up your fiddle and start a UK wide tour?

Folk legend Dave Swarbrick opted for the latter and his birthday, April 5, will be spent entertaining the people of Caerphilly and giving some young hopefuls the sort of exposure many would die for.

So when he could be taking life easy what keeps the former member of Fairport Convention going?
"The prescription department of the NHS," he suggests with an obviously wicked chuckle. "Why should I stop? As a musician there is no reason to stop, as long as you can do it there is no reason to, and even if you can't do it there's still no reason to stop."

Even after five decades of gigging it seem his enthusiasm for touring has not diminished one jot.
"Sometimes I feel more motivated because I am much more aware of time, and how much time one has left. That's a very motivating factor. You want to leave behind as much as you can. I still get a buzz from touring."

It's understandable that a man who has been close to death, and indeed was famously killed off by the Daily Telegraph in 1999, would be aware of how short life can be.
"It does tend to focus you, but then on the other hand most of my contemporaries are still playing. We all have the same kind of belief in that you are happy when you are doing what you do best. Really, if you stop work you become unhappy because you are not doing what you do best. I will croak on the road."

Swarb, originally from London has been a Midlander since the age of eight when his family moved to Birmingham and now lives in Coventry. The highly respected fiddle player may be in the autumn of his career but he still wants to stay involved and pass the baton, the title of the EP of emerging acts he has put together, to the next generation of folk musicians.
This is a great part of the motivation for his tour which is sponsored by the Folkstock Arts Foundation which wants to nurture and expose up-and-coming talent to the realities of working on the road as well as giving them some much needed time gigging and experience with one of the greats.

"I want to keep involved and know what's going on," explains Swarb in a voice which has been severely affected by the emphysema and lung transplant. "You tend to know a lot of stuff about your own generation and maybe the next generation, but the latest generation falls a little bit beyond your horizon really.
"We don't play the kind of music that everyone knows, although more people are becoming more interested in it now. It's very helpful to know where this music, that you have been involved with for so long, is going.
"Folkstock is one of the few organisations which works almost exclusively with young kids. I don't know of any other organisation which does that.
Sunjay Brayne
"It all stemmed from when I put an ad up on Facebook asking what's going on? Then Helen Meissner got in touch with me and said I should come have a listen to what's going on?"

Folkstock Arts Foundation is the brainchild of Meissner and exists to promote and nurture folk and acoustic musicians from all walks of life and to create a community linked by a passion for music and performing while being all inclusive and family friendly.

As part of this ethos Swarb has thrown out an invitation to artists who are local to the venues, he will be playing, to join him. He will be joined on his Shrewsbury leg of the tour by Stourbridge singer Sunjay Brayne who is making quite a name for himself, recently supporting Steeleye Span nationwide and Spiers & Boden in Wolverhampton.

"I made an EP with them," Swarb explained, "I got everyone to send in a track and I actually picked six or seven and was going to do an album but I was hospitalised so only had time to do four.
"So that's out on my birthday as an EP called Pass The Baton. That was quite fascinating really finding out what these people were up to. One of them was like Pentangle and there is a guy called John Farndon, who wrote a lovely song called Peace In Our Hearts."

Also on the album, which will be available on the tour and from Swarb's own website, are The Blue Pig Orchestra, Said The Maiden and Kelly Oliver.

So was the old workhorse pleasantly surprised by what he found in the new generation of folk troubadours?
"I was, I was taken aback a bit, but out of all the entrants only one was solidly traditional and that was Said The Maiden who are now on the tour with me."

Kelly Oliver
Swarb's name and reputation will draw people in and give youngsters an exposure they wouldn't get on their own, so does he think all established folk musicians, his peers, should do a similar thing?
"Yes I do, it would be very good. We will wait and see if it catches on, these kids need somewhere to play, they need an opening. I hope these kids take advantage of the opportunities."

And now he is mixing with this new wave of musicians has he noticed any major differences in the sounds or performance?
"There is a big difference in the belief. When I started out almost inevitably you became political, the whole scene was on the left, I don't know if it still is. I am not out there sufficiently enough to know. I'm a cynical old bastard and I doubt it's there to the same extent. You can tell by the stuff people are writing really. I don't hear too much protest."

So is he on a mission to get people back to linking their songs to politics?
"It would be good yes, we could do with a few young Ewan MacColls."

Being involved with the folk scene for so long does he think things have changed for the better?
"Yes, it's much more recognised. I have gone through various folk booms, there is always a folk boom coming. But this is the first time I have seen anything tangible in terms of the kids, it reminds me of skiffle where everyone was having a go."

Swarb is certain the experience of working with young, relatively unknowns will benefit both parties.
"I hope I will learn something from all these kids I am meeting and playing alongside. I will learn a lot and not just about the music, I will learn a lot about the generation. I will learn a lot about technology. There will be a lot of stuff going on that I don't have a clue about. And I will learn what they think of us.
"I am playing now with people who have never heard of me. That in itself is going to be interesting. and I am also going to be showing them some things, so it's a two-way street. Attitude is also something that is going to be interesting. When I started, being a professional was something that crept up on me."

So what was he like when he was starting out?
"I was always aware of my shortcomings but the idea of making a living out of doing it would have seemed impossible really. I was working with the Ian Campbell Group and at the same time I was an apprentice printer with a six year apprenticeship. To go pro, because the Campbells had decided to, meant I had to come to some agreement with I.C.I it just seemed impossible."
Said The Maiden

By then his interest in folk music was already deeply ingrained but where did it start?
"I heard it when I was young and that was it, I loved it. If you hear it you love it. I thought it was really exciting stuff and for years I played in a ceilidh band it was led by one of the greatest musicians of her generation, a woman called Beryl Marriott. She died a couple of years ago in her eighties."

And what about choosing to be a fiddle player?
"The fiddle kind of chose me. When I was a kid I played it for a little while but I shoved it in the attic and played the guitar but when I played with Beryl I happened to mention I had played a bit and she said in horror 'And you're playing the guitar?'
"She said guitar players were two a penny, you must get the fiddle out and she enthused and convinced me to get it and play. That was it really. I started playing at the back of the band with the drummer then when I got a bit better I played with the accordion player and then moved to play with the guitarist and then I moved to be with the fiddle player and finally ended up in front of the mic."

Does the fact other people see him as a master of the fiddle sit easy with him?
"I try to steer away from all that really. It's daunting. If you've got those thoughts in your head when you're playing you fuck up. So I try and stay away from it."

The Blue Pig Orchestra
You would need a roll or two of wallpaper to list the musicians, bands and singers Swarb has been involved with and he was part of one of the most influential bands of his generation, Fairport Convention, so was he aware at the time he could be having a massive impact on the world of folk and music in general?
"I wouldn't say a massive impact but I did feel something was going on that hadn't gone on before. Definitely in the Liege & Leif stage and towards the end of my time there. Around about that time it was going in a direction which was breathtaking really."

So is there anything he would have liked to have done or anything that he has missed?
"You know I can't think of a single thing. I have been very blessed really, I have played with some wonderful people. They were wonderful musicians and good all round people. I have had a blast really."

And one piece of advice to someone who is just starting out or trying to get on to the circuit what would it be?
"I would definitely tell them to look at the business side of things. Then for goodness sake enjoy it, practice and play what you enjoy. Don't worry about trying to make it big. Play what you enjoy, if you enjoy it then others will. No one wants to spend their hard-earned money looking at a sour puss."

Dave Swarbrick will be at the Walker Theatre, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury on April 17. Tickets are £12 and the show starts 8pm. Box office 01743 281281. On April 25 Swarb will be playing The Musician Pub, Leicester, Tickets are £11 in advance and £13 on the door. Call 0116 251 0080

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