Thursday, 30 April 2015




There is some serious talent congregating in the Black Country this month for the Stourbridge Folk Festival.

Luke Jackson
Among the names playing over the five-night event are Luke Jackson and Lucy Ward. The festival which runs from May 20 to 24 is the brainchild of Sunjay Brayne and Eddy Morton who will both be playing at the event at Katie Fitzgerald's, 187 Enville Street, Wollaston, Stourbridge, DY8 3TB.
The festival kicks off on Wednesday May 20 with Ranagri and Eddy Morton.
Ranagri is a new venture from four musicians Donal Rogers (vocals and guitar), Eliza Marshall (flutes/ethnic whistles), Jean Kelly (electric-harp) and Tad Sargent (bodhran and bouzouki) who are looking to create some exciting, original sounds. The band fuse world folk music with contemporary song writing and haunting melodies, interlaced with storytelling.
As a solo performer, Eddy Morton has worked all over the UK, Ireland and the USA supporting many top acts including, The Saw Doctors, Manfred Mann, Ralph Mctell and Lindisfarne. He is also a founder member of the Bushbury Mountain Daredevils. Tickets for the show are £8 in advance or £10 on the night and the doors open 7.30pm
On Thursday May 21 Lucy Ward takes to the stage supported by local band Kim Lowings & The Greenwood.
Ward is an award-winning, 24-year-old artist from Derby who plays guitar, ukulele and concertina but considers her voice to be her first instrument.
After winning the Horizon Award at the 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Lucy’s career has gone from strength to strength.
If you can't wait to see her in Stourbridge then you can catch her at The Met Studio of the Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £12.50 or £10 with concessions. Ward will be supported by The Galleons.
Kim Lowings & The Greenwood have established themselves on the British Folk Scene. Stourbridge song writer and Appalachian Mountain dulcimer player Kim Lowings sings with a wonderfully pure voice. Tickets are £10 in advance and £12 on the night, doors open at 8pm. Booking is recommended.
On Friday May 22 Eddy Morton & The Bushburys are on stage supported by Sunjay.
Sunjay who runs the Stourbridge Folk Club has established himself as a respected singer and bluesman and recently finished a national tour with Steeleye Span. He is a well known figure around the Midlands and is a true showman live.
Tickets are £10 in advance and £12 on the night. Doors open 8pm and booking is recommended.
The next day on May 23 highly acclaimed singer/song writer Luke Jackson takes to the stage. Jackson, aged 20, is from Canterbury, Kent.
Lucy Ward
In 2013 he was nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for both the Horizon Award for Best Emerging Talent and The Young Folk Category.  He has recently released a new extended EP This Family Tree.
Tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the day. Doors open 1pm and booking is essential.
Then on the night Flat Stanley, with support from Danni G, will be playing in the cellar bar. This is a concert in support of the Stourbridge Foundation For Music, so entry is free and doors open 8pm
On the final day Sunday May 24 Chris Smither is in concert with support from Sunjay
Smither is an American original and draws deeply from the blues, American folk music, modern poets and philosophers.
Tickets £13 in advance or £15 on the day. Doors open 1pm and again booking is recommended.
Organisers urge anyone planning to go to the festival should check the details for each concert as door times and ticket prices may vary, and it’s important to note there is no Wheelchair access.
Stourbridge Folk Club is a small venue with 45 seats plus Standing in the cellar and there will be 100 Seats available in a marquee
Under-18s get free entry to all folk club events but the club welcomes donations.

Stourbridge Folk Club is also playing host to legend Martin Carthy on Thursday May 28. Tickets are £12 in advance or £14 on the night. Seating at the venue is limited so booking is recommended.

Kate Bramley
Staying in the Black Country The Woodman Folk Club at Ashwood Marina will be welcoming two real legends of the folk realm from the north in Bob Fox and Jez Lowe.
On Friday May 8, fresh from his tour with the massively successful War Horse, Fox returns to the club after more than two years. Entry for members is £8 and non-members £9. Doors open at 8pm and the show starts around 8.30pm.
On Friday May 15 the club also welcomes back fellow northerner and singer/song writer Lowe who is touring with fiddler and singer Kate Bramley. Entry for members is £10 and for non-members £11. Doors open 8pm and the show starts around 8.30pm.
The following Friday on May 22 Keith Hancock will be playing the venue after a gap of 12 years and has travelled many miles, from the Far East no less, to play the club as part of a tour. Entry for members is £7 and for non-Members £8. Times are the same as previously stated.
The Woodman also runs singers nights with one on May 1 and May 29 entry is £2 for members and £3 for non members. The singers' nights are popular and slots are limited so it's recommended to book a spot by contacting Debby or Derry.
Please note, if you pre-booked a spot you are asked to be at the club before 8.30pm to confirm, or the slot may be re-allocated

Moving to the Second City, the Kitchen Garden Cafe, King's Heath, Birmingham is playing host to an impressive array of artists.
Celtic duo Tir Na Nog will be playing the small venue on Tuesday May 19. Doors open 7.30pm for an 8pm start and tickets are £13.20 including booking fee.
Excellent guitarist  Matt Woosey will be playing there on Wednesday May 6. Times are the same and tickets are £11 including booking fee.
Tir Na Nog
Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin are there on Sunday May 10. Times are the same and tickets are £12 plus booking fee.
Following on from this Police Dog Hogan will be playing the Hare & Hounds on Thursday May 14. Times are the same and tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the door.
The Kennedys are coming to the venue on Sunday May 3 with times the same and tickets £12. The following night on Monday May 4 rising stars Lady Maisery play the venue. Times are as above and tickets are £10.

Just down the road The Red Lion Folk Club, Vicarage Road Kings Heath is hosting Chris Knowles & Catrin O’Neill with Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer on May 6. Then on May 13 winners of the best group award at the 2015 Radio2 Folk Awards The Young'uns bring their particular skills for singing and banter to the venue. Tickets are £11 and the trio is supported by Chris Quinn.
The following week on May 20 Chris & Kellie While will provide the entertainment with support from Louise Jordan. Tickets are £11. For all concerts, doors open 7.15pm and the show starts 7.45pm.

Staying in and around Birmingham the reinvigorated Nizlopi play the Glee Club on May 12. Tickets are £15 plus £1.25 booking fee. Doors open at 7pm and last entry is 7.40pm. The gig is standing room only and a minimum age of 16.

The MAC in Birmingham welcomes Irish group Altan to play on Thursday May 7. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £20 or £18 with concessions. The band is touring on the back of their latest album, The Widening Gyre.
Breabach are at the MAC on Saturday May 16 with the show also starting 8pm. Tickets are £12 or £10 with concessions.       

Symphony Hall, Birmingham welcomes music legend Don McLean who is on his The American Troubadour tour on Saturday May 16. Tickets are £33.50 - £37.50 plus transaction fee.
There is a £3 transaction fee, plus £1 (optional) postage, will be charged on all bookings except tickets bought in person at the Town Hall or Symphony Hall Box office.
Another American legend Tom Paxton with his 50 Years On tour comes to the Town Hall on Friday May 15. Paxton is touring with special guest Robin Bullock. Tickets are £26.50 plus transaction fee (see above).
As part of their farewell tour The Full English including Fay Hield, Nancy Kerr, Martin Simpson, Sam Sweeney and Seth Lakeman will be at the Town Hall on Thursday May 7. Tickets are £21.50 plus transaction fee (see above). All shows start at 7.30pm.
Simpson will also be playing an acoustic set at The Tower of Song, Kings Norton on Friday May 15 at 8pm.

Celebrated folk trio Lau have announced a Coventry gig. The band - who will be supported on the night by Siobhan Wilson - are playing Warwick Arts Centre at the University of Warwick on Sunday, May 24.
The band will be playing tracks from their new album, The Bell That Never Rang. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £18.

The Jigantics are playing Common People Folk Club, Walsall on May 21 at 8.30 pm. Tickets are £5.
Marie Little

Brewood Acoustic Music Club which meets at Brewood Cricket Club welcomes Marie Little to play  on May 7 then Bill Caddick takes to the stage on May 14.

Another festival which gets under way this month is at Upton-upon-Severn.
The festival runs from May 1 to 4 and will include a wide range of traditional activities among the guests who will be playing there are Steamchicken, The Snapes, Sunjay, Kelly Oliver, Ninebarrow, Alun Parry and Set 'em Up Joe.


A dramatic tribute is planned for Ewan MacColl who would have been 100 this year in the form of a production starring  Mike Joyce, Gerard Kearns and John Connolly as MacColl through various stages of his life.

Ewan MacColl
Ewan MacColl: His Life, His Words, His Music will be performed on Sunday May 10 at 2pm at the, Peel Hall, Salford University. Tickets are £12 or £8 for students.
The show will feature MacColl's songs and readings from his autogbiography. For those who don't know MacColl's work too well he is famous for writing worldwide anthems such as Dirty Ol Town and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Tickets are available from the University online shop (NB tickets are not available from the Library).

Californian folk rock band Dawes are another headliner who are coming to play at Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
The Los Angeles band will make its debut at the four-day event over August Bank Holiday weekend. Dawes has a huge following Stateside and in the UK has appeared on BBC’s Later… with Jools Holland; performed at Latitude, T In The Park and Hard Rock Calling festivals. Others headliners at the West Mids Showground from August 28 to 31 include the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, La Bottine Souriante, Sharon Shannon, Oysterband, Kate Rusby and The Spooky Men’s Chorale.
Tickets can be booked through or direct at
Children under four go free and onsite camping is available to weekend ticket holders at £25 per adult.

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards have released a double CD, featuring 27 of the artists nominated for this year’s award. Artists on the album include Cara Dillon, The Will Pound Band, and Maz O’Connor.
The awards ceremony itself took place last month at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. if you missed it, you should still be able to stream it on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after the event.
Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker
The winners of 2015 Folk Awards were:
Folk Singer of the Year – Nancy Kerr
Best Duo - Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Best Group – The Young ‘Uns
Best Album – Tincian – 9Bach
Horizon Award – The Rails
Musician of the Year – Sam Sweeney
Best Original Song – Swim to the Star – Peggy Seeger & Calum MacColl
Best Traditional Track – Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award – Talisk
Lifetime achievement award - Cat Stevens and Lowdon Wainwright III
Ewan MacColl was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Albums being released this month include The Bell That Never Rang from Lau which is due to be released on May 4 through Reveal Records. Blackhouse from Peatbog Faeries which is due out on May 25 through Peatbog Records. Sleeping Storm from April Maze is due out May 4. Manannan's Cloak from Barrule is due for release on May 11 and Layers of Ages by Gigspanner is due out on the same day.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


CD Review

A Day Like Tomorrow

Just by listening to Fabian Holland you would guess he lives on a river boat. His songs are languid, thoughtful and full of the observations you can only get by gliding gently through life espying and noting all that passes before you.

Fabian Holland
He is very contemporary and yet an old style folk singer whose guitar playing comes from the school of less is more.
His style is stress busting and, in some ways, almost other-worldly like Holland walks this earth not untouched by it but able to see it in terms of music and words rather than merely visually.
Holland's gentle voice is a lighter and slightly more laconic version of Chris Wood's, but like Wood his lyrics are spot on and conjure up pictures of the people and places he is singing about.
Opening with Four Inch Screen there is the juxtaposition of the ultra traditional opening words and notes but the subject is bang up to date where he's calling people to experience life instead of living and recording it through the lenses and screens of their phones and cams.
This gives way his first cover and his arrangement of The House Carpenter, the Latin-style guitar he employs is wonderful but the pace of the song takes a little getting used to and it is where Holland almost moves over into the territory of classical folk. This is an extremely refined version of the traditional song, the musical arrangement underneath his voice is full bodied without being intrusive.
You can hear the influences of his heroes such as Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson (which one is not discernible) on his own track Nobody's Fault But Mine. It's much more subtle than the blues legends but there is still that throbbing blues rift underneath Holland's voice.
With You is a pretty stripped back ballad and you can really get to grips with Holland's subtlety and the nuances of his velvety voice. It does have a feel of that other great balladeer on the circuit at the moment John Smith.
Again Holland's guitar playing is so understated and precise that it blends almost imperceptibly with his voice.
River opens with cutting lines such as "She's a drunk, a middle aged punk, she had children when she was too young.." and you would think you were in for something akin to Stereotype from The Specials but it's actually the story of when Holland acquired his boat.
The slow stream of people he was brought into contact with by buying and renovating it and adopting the life aquatic, are listed like something from Ralph McTell's Streets of London. This is just such a laid back song which belies its sharp, observational view of the world surrounding the river.
Like Wood, the lyrics are so deliberate and measured you are forced to listen to them in a deeper way than you normally would. Welcome to the Magic Show is such an example where Holland strips back the lies of marketing and the language of enticement, exposing the various trades almost as modern versions of the Sirens of legend.
Morning Mist, inspired by what its title says, again has all the intricacies and depth of Martin Simpson and is just a wonderfully enjoyable piece of guitar playing in two parts, the softer slower first giving way to a jig-style ending.
Staying with the weather this lighter ditty is Holland obviously being playful, while showing how the change of the seasons can lighten the mood and give a sense of anticipation. The lyrics are playful too with cheeky lines such as "out come the shorts and the lily white legs, the pasty bodies and the bottles of Becks." and "the dog's on heat and the pigeon is too, they've got their eye on your picnic food."
This is just one of those songs where the lyrics will lodge in your psyche and automatically lead to a smile as you either listen to or hum it time and time again.
The blues stomp comes back again for Old Tobacco Tin. The subject of the title belonged to his grandfather and with his words Holland tells how even the most mundane of objects can carry with them memories and emotions and with each passing generation who handles it they add a little of their own essence to it.
Holland's new album
Islay opens like something from Ry Cooder and is about a seasoned old woman in Italy who locals claim led what is best described as a colourful life, an inspiration Holland couldn't resist.
This gentle ballad again sounds uncannily like Simpson and incredibly as good as him too, even down to the expert nuances produced by his strings.
Holland's final track is The List, plucked out of nowhere and using something as mundane as making a list he produces yet another gentle ballad which is thoughtful, slightly playful and occasionally self deprecating.
The whole album is a perfect example of how less is more. The production is so good you hardly notice anyone's hand on it at all.
What this allows is all the strands of Holland's voice and playing, the subtle and unobtrusive input of Fred Claridge, Jacob Stoney and Mark Hutchinson to all come together to make it sound almost like Holland is on his own.
This album is about as laid back as you can get without losing consciousness but still carries vocal barbs which make you sit up and take notice like a noise in the night when you're alone in the house.

A Day Like Tomorrow is out now on Rooksmere Records.

Sunday, 26 April 2015


CD Review

This Family Tree

Luke Jackson's opener on this slightly longer than usual EP is mind-blowingly good. The heavy blues sound of Ain't No Trouble and his Richard Thompson-style singing and lyrics are impeccable.

Luke Jackson
Still only 20, Jackson is sickeningly talented and if it wasn't such a joy to listen to his music and lyrics you could easily become bitter and twisted and learn to hate him.
In contrast to the first track, Caitlin is a beautiful ballad where Jackson shows the soulful side of his voice which carries a real depth of emotion.
The simple guitar picking is just enough on which to glide the song along without getting in the way of Jackson's heart-melting tones.
The clarity and precision of Jackson's voice is incredible.
He goes back to the blues for The Reckless Kind where Jackson lets his voice off the leash and bangs his way through the song, but ends it with a nice little subtle touch that almost leaves the listener with a smile on their face.
These Winter Winds is another ballad with minimum accompaniment but when you have a voice like Jackson and can use words like he does, then sometimes you are in danger of gilding the lily.
The slick opening of Is it Me? and Jackson's style of singing has a 50/60s retro feel to it, harking back to the likes of Sam Cooke. The production on this track, as on the whole album, is spot on, clean, precise and gives a perfect platform for Jackson to shine.
Jackson picks up the pace for Misspent History going for a more rock feel but keeps it just the right side of acoustic. This is without doubt the fullest track on the album and despite the full works of the new trio of Andy Sharps and Connor Downs, Jackson's voice is clear, cutting and powerful enough to keep everything contained.
Jackson's new EP
The album goes out with Hometown Stories where Jackson again goes back to an unadorned ballad with minimum intrusion from the instruments.
Jackson's thoughtful and gentle singing and lyrics means the album ends on a track that is completely different to the opener but is every bit as good.
If you wanted to find a criticism about this CD it's that it's not a full album but anyone who can pout about seven tracks which are as good as these really is being disingenuous.

This Family Tree is released on First Take Records on April 27 and is available through Proper Music.

Saturday, 25 April 2015



David Eagle

There is a theory that if you lose one of your senses then the others heighten to compensate. Well if there is any truth in it, when it comes to David Eagle of The Young'uns, who has been blind since he was nine months old, speech has come to the fore.

David Eagle, Michael Hughes and Sean Cooney, The Young'uns
Eagle is an interviewers dream and if you have ever seen him in action on stage in full banter mode with his comrades Sean Cooney and Michael Hughes then you will know he is witty, concise, self deprecating, caustic, urbane and thoroughly engaging.
His strong Teesside twang gives everything he says a depth that translates to the singing as part of the North East vocal trio.
Last month The Young'uns have, to general approval from the folk world and fans, won the best group category at the 2015 Radio2 Folk Awards and now they are setting off on tour to promote their new album Another Man's Ground. If you heard their acceptance speech at the awards then you would know that his cheeky intervention hinted that their rather chance move into the world of folk music was more to do with illegal drinking than any desire to be an award-winning singing group.
"Michael and Sean have known each other from primary school and I met them through a mutual friend when I was about 16," relates Eagle.
"Then we just happened on our local folk club at a pub in Stockton which was one of the few places that would serve us beer even though we were underage.
"We just stumbled on the folk club scene and were completely taken aback by people singing harmonies and in Teesside accents; singing about Teesside stories and doing shanties and that kind of thing, we had never heard anything like it," he says with obvious enthusiasm.

The fact people just got up and sang in pubs and in local accents made a big impression on the trio and enthused them to give it go. 
"Michael and myself sang in choirs but it was nothing like this type of music, especially the unaccompanied stuff, which we had never really heard.
"First we started singing a lot of traditional songs based around a lot of what we had heard from The Wilsons, five brothers from Teesside who sing a lot of unaccompanied harmonies.
"Then as time went on we started singing a lot of local songs; there were a lot of songs about Teesside, songs from the pen of GraemeMiles and Ron Angel who was the founder of the folk club that we went to in Stockton, then this led us to write our own.
"Sean started writing songs about Hartlepool and history and as time's gone on we started writing about more modern day things, so we sing songs about today's issues as well now. We've progressed quite a bit I suppose."
The Young'uns in the studio

That progression over more than a decade has seen them become among the most popular and sought after groups on the folk circuit so do they see themselves now as part of that long tradition of community and folk singing?
"I don't really know, would it be arrogant to say yes?
"We feel a part of it and hopefully other people feel we are a part of it.
"We love going to singarounds and joining in, we love them in pubs, obviously we do this professionally, so when we get a day off the first thing we do isn't necessarily go to a singaround but when we're at festivals we still pop in to a singaround or a pub and sing these songs.
"We are not just doing this because it's a job, we have always done it, but it was never a job, it was never intended to be a job."

So what happened at your first gig?
"Our first was in October 2005 and it was at the Sun Inn which was our folk club, that's where it all began and Ron Angel, who wrote things like the Chemical Workers' Song and was in a group called the TeessideFettlers, gave us our first gig and it was probably a bit rubbish on our account.
"We tried to imitate The Wilsons and what they tend to do is talk a lot in between the songs, drink a lot of beer and sing very loudly.
"So we thought all right we will shout really loudly, which is what we did, we'll talk a lot between the songs, which we did only we didn't talk any sense, and drank a lot of beer."

With that episode behind them they eventually had to face the decision to turn professional but this proved to be problematic with one of the band almost leaving the idea dead in the water.
The Wilsons from Teesside
"I did voice over work, audio production. I then did a job for a charity teaching computers to blind people," explains Eagle.
"Michael was an RE teacher in a Catholic School. Sean did a lot of educational projects and was the resident storyteller in a Manchester school.
"Then we all decided it was untenable to finish a day's work at four or five o'clock then zoom down the motorway to do a gig or a festival or something all weekend, get back on Monday at something like 2am then go back to work again and maybe do a few evening gigs.
"If you are going to take it seriously then you have to make that decision. Do you continue in your job and exhaust yourself doing even more work or are you going to say right let's just give it a go as professionals and see how it goes?
"It's been nearly two years now and it seems to be going all right," he says with genuine modesty. "It was an easier decision for me because I was already down to three days to accommodate some of the other freelance work.
"Michael's was probably the hardest decision, I think he was in a bit of a dilemma. He was on a much bigger wage than I was, in a proper, respected job.
"But Michael nearly put the scuppers on it because we had just decided to do it and he said 'I have just seen this placement at a grammar school I might attend and the salary is much better but it would mean if I was going to do that then essentially I would have to knock the folk singing on the head entirely'.
"I think he had a bit of a crisis of confidence."
"It's a bit like when you're in a relationship and you decide you're going to get married, you've been going along for however many years, then you say you're going to get married then all of a sudden that decision gives someone a crisis of confidence and the entire thing breaks up.
"Fortunately Mike came to his senses, remained with the dark side and stayed true to folk music," laughs Eagle.

So is this the definitive line-up and if one of you decides to pull there would be no more Young'uns?
Ron Angel
"I do wake up periodically, until I've got something else to think about, and think God how fragile things are in a way.
"I don't know what I would do if I weren't doing this. I am experimenting and working on different freelance things, doing stand up stuff which goes well and I could still do some audio work, but yeah essentially it is very fragile because we are dependent on the other two people.
"One of us could decide to do anything, so it is a bit worrying, however, we are talking about plans for 2016 and even things for 2017 but yes it could all end at any minute.
"For all I know one of them might have decided already and this interview would be a waste of time," he adds with a hearty Teesside laugh.

What are you views on the album now it's finished?
"It's not very good but we had to make it anyway," he jokes.
"We are really happy with it. It's interesting because we have done a lot more unaccompanied songs on this album.
"It's very short, we put together 12 tracks and we thought that's enough for an album and it came to just over half an hour.
"I think the songs are very good and I can say that because I don't write the songs as such. I do the melody and occasionally help with a few words. I will say why don't we have an 'and' here instead of a 'but' and Sean will say, that's an excellent idea which is the contribution I have with the songs generally.
"The songs about the honour killing of Farzana Parveen and Benefits Street and the story of Pvt
Hughes and the message in a bottle and all of these songs, the subject matter is brilliant I really love the songs.
"Then we have a Billy Bragg song which, doing it unaccompanied, sounds really raw.
"With Benefits Street all the words were there from the start, they hardly changed. But the interesting thing was the melody.
"Sean had written it on the guitar and it was a very slow, languid kind of song and I thought it doesn't really fit the thing. So we experimented with something else, then I came up with a jazz kind of thing and we decided that wasn't right either so we thought we would try it unaccompanied.
"We did these harmonies and chord structure and again it worked quite well because when you sing unaccompanied it just sounds abrasive; in your face."

What about the opening song of the album?
"We are not really sure where it hails from, I think it's classed as a traditional Teesside song.
"We got it from this album which was a compilation of north eastern songs and it was from a singer called Mary Duffy, we tried to track her down and find out more about her but no one seems to know so it was like an undiscovered gem.
"It gives you an insight into the humour which I suppose is earthy. Think how many songs like that have been lost but this one had been passed down and recorded on an album so it's been preserved and obviously with us singing it, it's been preserved in that way as well."

Do you each have definite roles when putting together a song or an album?
"Sean is primarily the song writer and may come up with a basic melody and then I might change it, he might write three or four chords. I don't really interfere with Sean and the music but he may write something and then I might suggest putting a bit in the middle.
"The piano arrangement for example for something such as Pvt Hughes, that was a completely different chord sequence, it was a case of changing different chords around trying to make it sound more interesting.
"There's nothing wrong with making music with three chords, that's all well and good, but personally it's nice when you can have more of that.
"I think when Sean's writing a song it's more a case of he's getting the words down and he writes brilliant lyrics and so then I will try and inject some different chords and melodies.
"But even so the music is still very stripped back and in the background, and the lyrics are to the foreground and that's something that's quite interesting, it's something that Andy Bell, who produced the album and Sean are quite keen to do.
"Maybe if it was left to me then the songs would be more "spiced up". They would have all kinds of odd instrumentation in them and that kind of thing but maybe it's for the best that I am not.
"At first if I am not so sure I might say this sounds really stripped down, is that all you want me to do? Because I would like quite fancy arrangements for the songs but Andy is like, 'No, no, strip that back, take that chord out,' and I will say, 'All I am doing is plonking my hands down on the keys', but when I listen back to it I then think, he's done a good call there, it sounds quite good.
"Plus, it also means if I get arthritis I should still be able to play the songs," he states mischievously.

Why did you come up with a name with built in obsolescence?
"There was nothing we could do about that, it was given to us and as you get more popular, when do you change it? When you start doing gigs known as The Young'uns you can't really change it.

You could always drop the apostrophe and claim you were always The Young Guns?
"But there is already a band called the Young Guns who we get mistaken for and they're a popular sort of indie band and there is already a band in Canada called the Young'uns which we also get mistaken for.
"We could call ourselves The Young Nuns which is slightly similar that would probably bring in a different clientèle entirely, they would be expecting strippers."

You can read a review of the new album Another Man's Ground at

The Young'uns are appearing at Henry Tudor House, Shrewsbury on May 3. Doors open 8pm and the show starts 8.30pm. Tickets are £10 plus a booking fee. On May 13 they play the Red Lion Folk Club, King's Heath, Birmingham. Doors open 7.15pm and show starts 7.45. Tickets are £13.20 including booking fee.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


CD Review

The Creation of Noah

The debut album from Birmingham five-piece band Don't Touch The Walls is something of a strange hybrid in that they market themselves as a folk-rock group but there are a great many other elements at play and the folk strand doesn't seem to be the strongest of those on this album.

Don't Touch The Walls
Their songs also straddle the alternative, country and world music genres. The opener, Echoes, is an explosion of sounds where the band seems to be cramming everything into one song, almost as an overture for the whole CD, but the vocals do get lost a little.
It has the feel of a track from a West End show or a concept album.
The mish-mash of sound from Richard Buka, Holly Necchi, Milly Schmid, Adele Bailey and Luke Davies, continues with the following track, Running Like It's A Sunday.
This is about a refugee child in the Second World War however, the pop feel of the song seems a little out of kilter with what one presumes was intended to be a fairly serious subject. Perhaps it was coming from the child's point of view when they are naive and don't see the seriousness of the situation, just the adventure.
They seem to have pulled together a much more coherent sound by the third track, Staring Into Mirrors, sounds remarkably like a track from Swedish sisters First Aid Kit. This has a definite folk element to it and seems a much more clearly defined sound from the band.
With the production on In the Distance the vocals seems to be fighting with the piano backing. It is a much more stripped down sound than the previous tracks. The vocals are good but seem to be lost a little in the production.
By now what you get a feel for with DTTW is they have a full range of weapons in their musical armoury, they are versatile and not afraid to grab elements of other genres and incorporate them into their sound.
The singer on this track does have a strong clear voice although there is nothing in the sleeve notes to tell which of the female vocalists it is.
The debut album 
Following where the last track left off, with the undulating piano sound, the title track has the same problem of the backing music being a little intrusive
Once again the vocalist has a strong and clear sound and there are definite and strong harmonies in there too which are part of an unusual mixture of sound and it does have the feel of a song from a rock opera.
You and I opens with the same galloping-style rhythm of previous tracks which seems to suit their style of playing more than anything and once again it's based around strong vocals from both the male and female contingent and at the risk of sounding repetitive they seem to be trying to pack too many strands into one song. Individually they are all well done and strong but they don't always fit together as a symbiotic whole.
It's almost as if they are trying to cram every talent they have into one track and it sort of grates on the ear after a while.
DTTW do have a feel for a strong rhythm and don't skimp on giving the listener something to grab onto and this time the slightly funkier sound does give it a more coherent sound.
Opening with the single guitar, The World Is Over, is yet another divergence but the effects used on the vocals don't add anything to the whole and seem slightly amateurish. It's again that problem of having several strong elements that never quite fit properly to make a whole.
You get a better sense of their harmony and ability working as a whole with the ballad Growing Old and once again they are back to that galloping sound which they seem to like and is once more reminiscent of First Aid Kit
The penultimate track is a ballad which is mostly piano and vocal harmonies which again instead of working in tandem seem to be battling for supremacy. The female vocalists Necchi and Bailey do have strong voices but they sound as if they are singing separate strands without being aware the other is there too.
Io one of Jupiter's moons
The final track, Io, inspired by a moon of Jupiter as a metaphor for loneliness does have a feel of the early days of bands such as Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention who were exploring all kinds of ethereal themes.
What is really strange is that the 11 minutes plus track goes silent about half way for almost two minutes before the track resumes which makes you ask what they thought that added to the track.
It would be a difficult task to find a band, who are all in their early 20s, that has tried harder to cover all the bases on one collection. The parts which work, work really well however, the elements which don't give a fractured sense to the album.
There is certainly plenty to listen to on this album but whether it should all be on there is a question which needs to be asked.

The Creation of Noah is released on Fish Records on April 23 and the band is holding a launch party at the Met Studio of the Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £5.50.

Saturday, 18 April 2015



The Full English

When the English Folk Dance and Song Society(EFDSS) was putting together an impressive, online and searchable archive of folk music it took on a mammoth task. When it then decided it wanted someone to promote and take the project to the masses there was only one person on the list, musician and academic Fay Hield

Fay Hield
They entrusted the Sheffield singer, who had been on the ground floor with the scheme, with promoting the archive through playing some of the songs at gigs, but Hield had bigger ideas for the collection.

"I felt very lucky to have been offered it and grateful for it. They (EFDSS), would have happily had me turn up with two musicians and sing some stuff but that's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to get other people in so the band turned out to be a collection of voices and of people doing it in very different ways that would hold together as a group.

With such a mammoth collection to choose from and a diverse range of musicians around were you clear on the people you wanted to be part of what would eventually became The Full English or did you throw it out there and see who showed interest?
"Oh God no!
"I couldn't just throw it out, I knew then I would be inundated and I would have to turn people down. No, I decided who I wanted in it and then approached them individually and I did it by looking at what I wanted to be represented first.
"So rather than thinking who's out there, I had the female folk singer traditional thing covered, that's what I do, that ticked that box.
"Then I thought, OK I want someone who can take this in a sort of pop direction, what have we got there? I wanted someone who will take things in a slightly more American protest type direction and I want someone who does song writing as well as working with traditional material.
"I want blokes and women, I needed backing musicians; headliners and big names, so what have we got?"
The Full English

Did you match the music to the people or let them choose for themselves?
"The archive has 58,000 scans in there so I needed some kind of divvying up mechanism and work out what to do.
"I looked at who the collectors were.
"Martin Simpson was very keen to look at Lincolnshire collector Percy Grainger, so that was fine, bang, he can go off and do that.
"Nancy Kerr was very keen to look at the women collectors.
"I wanted some broadsides as well as ballads and thought Seth Lakeman would be great at them, which can be very narrative and very driving, so he took Frank Kidson.
"I wanted tunes as well as songs so Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron did some tune development. Ben came up with his own songs, he just dug around and found some things and I kind of scooped up the rest really.
"I wanted Alfred Williams represented definitely because he was a working class collector where all the others were pretty much highly educated and of a very different class.

Were you able then to take something of a back seat and let them thrash things out before you got them together to see what had been created?
"I sent Seth a dozen broadsides and Martin some recordings and things, and I sent Nancy some stuff as well, which I thought would be helpful, but nobody really used anything I sent," she says with a wry laugh.
"It was quite interesting really, I thought it was brilliant because it meant they all stayed in the same area they were interested in but they all wanted to find their own songs.
"The people really did invest in their songs and then they worked on them pretty much individually, I think Seth and Ben did a bit when they were on the road.
"Nancy, Martin and myself did a bit because we all live in Sheffield, and Rob and I did a couple of rehearsals when we were in a band so, we did little group things.
"Then we all came together and the material had quite a backbone to it by that point, everyone "owned" their own song and they had a feel for it, they had written a tune for it or a riff and then we just jammed it out and pulled them together."

Hield is still something of a rarity in that not only is she a highly respected and award-winning folk singer she is also a doctor of folk music, or ethnomusicology if you want the technical term.
She comes from a family whom she says were always into folk music but her academic interest was sparked partly by a thirst for knowledge about what she was involved in and partly by being looked down on by the "old guard".

"I have always sung as part of my social life and my parents were always interested in the folk club scene, they were the Morris dancer types.
"I am not a classically trained musician so it was quite a surprise when I went to study music at university. I did it because Newcastle set up a degree and by then I was a singer, singing floor spots and was big into the festival scene.
Hield and the Hurricane Party
"So when I was 23 I wanted to know what folk music was, what the folk scene was.
"I was getting quite a lot established folk singers telling me I didn't understand the music, and would get comments such as 'you'll understand that when you're a bit older', or 'this is the traditional version'.
"I wanted to know more about what tradition meant and what it was all about.
"The folk scene can be quite cliquey at times and that's what I went on to do my PhD in, the sense of community.
"People who are inside it care so much about what they do that sometimes they don't see how difficult it is for new people to come through because everybody already knows so much about it when they are already inside.
"I wanted to understand what they meant, because I maybe didn't agree with them but I didn't know anything myself to be able to contradict them. I am quite a critical person, I like to think about things.
"Because I born and brought up in the scene I love all those people, they are like family to me so it's not like I want to turn my back on them, or tell them off or say what they are doing is wrong in any way.
"What people do in the folk scene is phenomenal and they care so much, but it can be a bit of a closed shop."

To begin with, The Full English was in two distinct strands, there was the database and setting that up and then the creation of the group to promote it but there was a third string added to the bow.
The EFDSS put up a learning programme with an education database as well. So they did a lot of work with schools around England and now almost as an extension to the final tour some members of the The Full English will be running workshops based on the database through Hield's own scheme Soundpost in Sheffield.
With all this going on was it something of a logistical nightmare getting everyone together because all the musicians had their own careers?
"It was quite difficult finding dates that were suitable for everybody," she admits.
"We had to do it intensively really, but the good side about everyone being so professional and busy is that everyone is professional, so if they say they are available for those dates, they turn up and work very hard.
"Everyone was very committed to it, so we didn't have people letting each other down, or turning up unprepared or anything like that. In one way it was difficult but in another way I would much rather work with good, busy people.
"People think you must rehearse for hours, but a day of good, intense, focused rehearsal is much better than sitting around for three weeks and not getting on with anything."

Because there were quite a collection of different personalities, did you have to take charge or were there clashes over the material?
"Everything worked remarkably and surprisingly well. I had never met Seth before the first rehearsal so he was a real wild card.
Seth Lakeman one of The Full English
"Some people there are leaders, and it's quite characteristic of leaders of bands to have egos, so put four egos in a band and what have you got, a recipe for disaster but it didn't go wrong.
"There were a few artistic differences, but there was never any real conflict because everyone had ownership of their song, so it never had to be discussed really, personal issues never came into it.
"As a model for putting a collaboration together it was good," she admits with an obvious sense of pride in her voice.

So as it came together, was there a point where you listened to what they had done and thought Wow! This is going to work?
"Yes," she states emphatically. "We started playing and it worked so well. I knew the gigs were going to be good. But I didn't think we would still be touring now, so I think that has taken us all a bit by surprise."

So was The Full English always going to be a short-term project?
"It was, and it was going to be much shorter than it has been. We have always had to extend it a little bit because of success.
"When I turned it into the size band that it was I decided there was no point in getting enough material for just one gig, so we must make an album. If we are going to put all that work in we are going to record it, and if we are going to record it then we have to do a tour. So early on I knew we would do a launch gig, record the album quite quickly and then tour in the autumn and that would be it, that was all anyone had signed up for.
"Then because that tour went so well people agreed to another the following spring, but before that tour we got nominated in the folk awards and won that as well, but we also knew it was going to end because everyone has so many projects and irons in fires."

Nancy Kerr
Were you surprised by the reaction you got?
"I was overwhelmed by it but I don't want to take the credit for it, it's because it's tied to the archive and to the story, the response is for the project, it's not just for our music.
"It's a totally different kind of band, it's not just me going out and making an album and everyone adoring me. It's not even that everybody adores us, it's that they get that those archives and collectors are so significant to preserving this music, and they got to know the collectors a bit better through the shows."

Were you aware there was a danger the band could become bigger than the project?
"The sole purpose of the band was to tell people about the archive and get people to visit it, to me that was the only reason for doing it.
"If I wanted to be in a "super group" I would have started a super group, the band was about sharing the information."

What sort of people is the archive aimed at?
"Anyone who is interested in folk music can get to it. It's huge for social history, for education; for looking at how people lived; for evidencing the kind of songs people sang.
"It's a real document of bits of history. You can type in the name of your village or your town and things come up and kids love that, they love to see songs recorded here which their grannie might have known.
"They really get that and it helps them connect to an otherwise random kind of music, you know something from 200 years ago means nothing unless you give them a way in."

Has there been any way to gauge how successful it has been in pointing people towards it?
"One thing I would be interested to know from EFDSS, I know they have had a lot of success with it and they have had a lot of hits, is to see when we've gigged or toured if that's had an impact on how many hits they got."

Martin Simpson
With the amount of material available to the band it could have gone on, why stop now?
"We have got enough material to record a second album, it would be very easy for us to pull it together.
"We discussed whether we should do that and we decided not to. We would make a quick buck out of it and would sell loads, but the point of it was to show people what they could do with the archive and we don't want The Full English to be seen as the only people who can do stuff with the material.
"We wanted it as an example of what other people can do, that was one of the messages in the live shows, it's over to you now, go and look at the website; dig it out, find it and go and make your own music.
"We decided to be happy with what we've done and go out with a bang and just leave it there as a springboard for other people."

As it comes to an end, what has it been like touring with the band and what will you take from the experience?
"It's been phenomenal, everyone has got on so well. Living on the road with nine people and the techies as well can be quite stressful, but it's been a real giggle, it's been really fun.
"In terms of logistics it was a bloody nightmare because we didn't take a tour manager so because I was head of the project I did everything.
"I took on the merchandising and completely underestimated how many CDs we would sell, so I was completely knackered because at intervals and post gigs selling around 200 albums is hard work.
"I can't fault it and I am really looking forward to getting back on the road with them again. I haven't seen them really since last summer.

Did you become something of a matriarch of the group?
"I was the one who knew everything. I knew where the hotels were, how far it was to the next gig, what time we needed to leave, so in that respect yes, I suppose I was."

Is this then the end of The Full English?
jon Boden
"We (that's Hield and her partner Bellowhead's Jon Boden) run a workshop festival called Soundpost in Sheffield where people can learn folk music skills and we will be running workshops on The Full English and about half the band are coming and some people from EFDSS."

What would she like to see happen with the archive?
"That people keep using it and people keep finding out it's there and EFDSS keep getting money to improve it.
"If people don't use it then it will be just another website which nobody uses but people need to keep going there and building projects around it. It's been a phenomenal achievement."

As a special request, after being asked many, many times she would like it pointed out that Fay Hield is her real name.
"Yes, I was about eight when someone pointed out it was a Spoonerism. I get asked at least once at every festival."

As part of their farewell tour, The Full English will be playing Town Hall, Birmingham on Thursday May 7, tickets are £21.50 plus the usual booking fee which is on all transactions except where bought direct from the venue or the Symphony Hall. The show starts at 7.30pm.