The Sweet Water Warblers – Dave Freak talks to Rachael Davis

Sweet Water Warblers

Hailing from Michigan, May Erlewine, Rachael Davis and The Flatbellys’ Lindsay Lou have all carved successful careers as individual artists.  But an invitation to sing together left both audiences and the trio stunned, leading directly to the formation of The Sweet Water Warblers.

Specialising in three-part harmonies and with a set-list that spans gospel, bluegrass and soul, the three multi-instrumentalists (mountain fiddle and banjo, uke, guitar and double bass) released their debut EP, Without You, in early 2017, and now follow the release with their debut UK tour – which includes an appearance at Towersey Festival, Oxfordshire, on Monday 28 August 2017.

Between planning for the transatlantic trip, and her own solo dates, Rachael found time to chat to folking.com.

You all have pretty successful and distinct solo careers. So what bought you all together?

There’s a music festival in northern Michigan [Hoxeyville Music Festival] run by friends of ours. In 2014 one of the presenters of the festival, Kristen Robinson, asked if we’d all be interested in doing a trio set on the main stage. We all happily agreed and worked out a 45 minute set of some of our songs. During the set, half way through our first song, we realised that something special was going on. We decided to keep it up, so we booked a tour, then made an EP called With You that was released in January of this year!

Did you approach Hoxeyville initially a one-off performance? Or did you envisage Sweet Water Warblers has having a longer life?

When we were working up a set for Hoxeyville that first year, we didn’t envision it becoming a project until we saw the feedback that Evans received from that show. After that day we were like “Well, we HAVE to make a record now!”

For the uninitiated, how would you describe your sound?

I’d say we’re traditional roots music in three-part harmony. We play traditional folk, blues and gospel along with original songs influenced by all those genres.

You’re all based in, or have roots in, the mid-west state of Michigan – would you say that you’re influenced by the state?

Yes! There is a stronghold of traditional American folk music in Michigan. The Great Lakes have attracted so many different types traditional music from across the world throughout history. So the traditional music that thrives in Michigan comes from so many cultures that it has created its own style of traditional music. The other aspect of that is the community of musicians this tradition had given birth to. It is a family. A broad village of music connected through numerous traditional arts festivals and events. Our music comes from the Michigan tradition, as does our philosophies on music and art being an invaluable contribution to the world around us.

What’s your favourite track on the EP, and why?

That’s a tough one! I’m not sure how the other gals would answer, but, personally, my favourite is House of Amazing Grace, only because I’ve wanted to record that for so long. I got the idea to sing Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun ages ago, but never had the right opportunity to do it. And with singers like May and Lindsay, this was exactly the opportunity I was holding out for. I love how the track turned out as well. It’s raw and unrefined in the best way. Accessible and hypnotic.

You’re all accomplished singers AND multi-instrumentalists – what’s the division of labour when you play live? Who does what?

There’s a bit of a rotation of instruments when we play. On stage we’ve got two guitars, a banjo, a fiddle, an upright bass, a ukulele and various auxiliary percussion instruments and they all get passed around as the show progresses.

What strengths do you see in the other two band members as bringing to the trio?

We are all lead singers in all of our respective bands, always singing the melody and leading the band while others sing harmonies and accompany us. But each of us secretly wants to be the side guy, singing harmonies and playing back up. And I think that each of our strengths is singing harmony. It turns out that this is the perfect element for band dynamic.

I know Lindsey made an appearance at Celtic Connections earlier this year, but is this the band’s first trip to the UK?

Lindsey had toured with her band, Lindsey Lou and The Flatbellys, in the UK several times. I toured in England and recorded with a friend in Wales about a decade ago and haven’t been back since. And I think this will be May’s first trip there!

As part of your trip, you’re visiting Towersey Festival, which has its roots in traditional [UK] folk music – is it a style of music you’re familiar with?

Oh yes! One of my favourite bands is Fairport Convention and I consider Sandy Denny one of my biggest influences. I know May has an affinity for John Martyn. I know these musicians are more from the British folk revival era, though. The old British Isles music shows up in some of our individual repertoires sometimes. My mom used to play Black Jack Davey and other centuries-old folk songs from England, Ireland and Scotland on the dulcimer when I was growing up.

Are there maybe any artists on the bill who you’d be keen to check-out?

I am not familiar with most of the bands in the line-up, which is so exciting to me! I’m so looking forward to hearing music that is new to me!

What are your plans for The Sweet Water Warblers now?

We just released our EP this year and May and Lindsey both have new records that they are rehearsing within a year. May is releasing her latest in fall of this year, Lindsey is releasing the next Lindsey Lou record next January, and I’m working on my next record – due out August 2018. After that I’m sure there will be discussion about a Sweet Water Warblers full length album. And I sure do hope we get to come back to the UK again and get to share our music for a bunch of new audiences!

If you would like to order a copy of the “EP” then click on the The Sweet Water Warblers link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artists’ website: https://sweetwaterwarblers.com/

‘Tell Him’ – live:

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JON PALMER talks to Folking

Jon Palmer

The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band is based in Otley. They have a loyal following across the region and four albums to their name, the most recent of which, The Silences In Between, was released earlier this year. Although based now in West Yorkshire the musical story of the man who gave the band their name began much earlier and further south.

“I was a drummer when I was in my teens but I had this thing about wanting to write songs so I taught myself guitar. By the time I was eighteen or nineteen I started to join bands with more established musicians and gravitated towards bringing my own songs along and picking up some of the vocals. By my early twenties I was fronting my own band down in Southend on a full-time hobby basis.

“It was a good time to be doing music in Southend. It would have been towards the late 70s so you had all the punk and new wave stuff and Dr Feelgood so it was a nice scene. You could pretty much do what you wanted. It was a pretty eclectic mix of stuff going on and lots of places to play.”

It’s a long way from Southend to West Yorkshire. “I moved north in about 1990, first to Newcastle and three years later to Yorkshire. I’ve been here since 1994 and I’m here to stay now, I love it here.” So where did the Jon Palmer Acoustic band appear from?

“I was in an electric band, sort of folky but more electric, playing pubs and that sort of gig but at the same time there was a bunch of us who would meet down the folk club and, on the spur of the moment, I put a bunch of mates together with a view to getting some really acoustic stuff going and doing a couple of nights down the folk club. It was just meant to be an occasional, part-time band but we did the folk club and we got booked for the folk festival and before we knew where we were it was a proper thing.

“This was about six or seven years ago and a few members have changed over the years but at least half the band were there on the very first day. There was no master plan but I realised that there was an audience for that sort of music and gave up everything else I was doing.”

That band was Big Fat Kill (not to be confused with the US band of the same name) and Jon released a solo album, Walk Into Your Dreams, while still with them. I’m distraught to say that I didn’t have a terribly high opinion of it back in 2010 although I’m comforted that I recognised the quality of his songwriting. When I first came across Jon’s Acoustic Band, I couldn’t help wondering about the Electric Band so why persist with a name that seems, in part, redundant?

“At the start it was to distinguish us from Big Fat Kill because people knew that was me and my band. Even now there are some festivals that will book us just as The Jon Palmer Band, by their own choice. The way I justify it nowadays is to say that, if you stuck us in a room or even a small hall with just our acoustic instruments, we would do you an unplugged gig. We can still do it unplugged and sometimes we do. We played at Moorcock Acoustic the other week – that’s just a big room but everybody’s quiet and it’s nice to be able to do that kind of thing.”

Jon Palmer Acoustic Band

Jon and the band seem happy at the moment to be big fish in their own regional pond and play some festivals but do they have ambitions for greater things?

“There are practical considerations. I have a full-time job so music is a hobby and it always has been – but a serious hobby – so I don’t really want to be travelling all round the country at weekends but a couple of hours around where I live is quite acceptable. It does mean that we’re pretty much a north of England band but we’ve reached the point now that, if you’re into acoustic folk music in the north of England there’s an outside chance you’ll have heard of us.

“We try to do as many festivals as we can – we’re designed to be a festival band, really – and sometimes we do stopovers. I think we’re doing three or four this year but it all depends on what’s going on in our private lives. My twins are studying for A-levels and even with gigs I’ll be coming home just to be here.”

As he says, Jon has been a songwriter since his late teens and has written some quite angry songs – ‘Working For The Gangmaster’ and ‘Eton Mess’ spring to mind – that will get an audience on its feet but it strikes me that his writing has become increasingly nuanced.

“I can understand why you say that in relation to The Silences In Between. I don’t want to be known as a political songwriter. I want to be known as a songwriter who can write about anything he likes, as a songwriter who sometimes writes political songs. For this album, I could have forced one or two more political-type songs in but I just went with the one that we’ve been playing as a band and there are songs about all sorts of things on there.

“I’ve just been looking at a possible listing for the next album because most of that’s written and about half of that is quasi-political songs so it just depends on when the songs come along what album they go on. Maybe I am a bit more nuanced but that’s just development in songwriting because I’ve been writing for quite a long time and I think I’ve written a few decent ones in the last few years because I’ve concentrated a lot more on it. I’ve got a Brexit song, I’ve got a Donald Trump song and I’ve got songs about one or two other modern subjects and they’re starting to feature in the live set list but I’ve got songs about other subjects, too.”

I suppose that we’ll have to wait patiently for the next album as the ink has hardly dried on The Silences In Between. “Three-quarters of the songs I’m looking at are already rehearsed up to a certain extent and I think four of them alternate in and out of the live set, so we’re well on the way. I’m not in a mad rush but I’m already in discussions with somebody who has expressed an interest in producing it and we might start the process sometime quite soon – we could potentially start it at the back end of the year.”

And with that tantalising glimpse into the future we’ll leave Jon to get back to work. If you haven’t encountered The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band yet have a listen to the video below and check out their festival bookings for the summer. You won’t regret it.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.jonpalmeracousticband.com/

‘Where The Mountains Meet The Sea’ – live:

Shirley Collins talks to Dave Freak for Folking

Shirley Collins
Photograph by Eva Vermandel

“It’s been a sort of fairy story!” is how Shirley Collins describes her unexpected return to the spotlight with a studio album and live tour after 30 years of silence.

The singer and song collector was at the forefront of the so-called folk revival, releasing a string of well-received and influential albums in the 1960s and 1970s as a solo artist, and with Davy Graham (the seminal Folk Roots, New Routes), sister Dolly Collins, and the Albion Band. But the shock of her marriage break up to Fairport Convention and Albion Band’s Ashley Hutchings in the early 1980s led to dysphonia, and she effectively lost her singing voice.

But after 20 years of polite pestering David Tibet, of Current 93, managed to get Collins on stage in 2014, at London’s Union Chapel, and the (former) singer (and a hushed audience) discovered she could hold a tune after all!

“Then two filmmakers approached me at one of my talks about gypsies, and wanted to make a film about me, so this started up as well,” Shirley reports on her surprising return to the spotlight. “I guess people wanted to meet me before I died!” she laughs, before quickly adding: “No! I don’t mean that … but there seemed to be enough people out there that remembered me, and it all snowballed.”

Hence the home recording and release of Lodestar at the end of 2016 – via the ever excellent Domino label – and a run of hugely acclaimed live shows.

“I couldn’t tell you how, but it’s been such a surprise. I’m glad it happened, it’s lovely to sing again,” enthuses the 82-year-old. “Domino have been so supportive. They do help promote the album and support you, unlike some record labels that just put out a record and watch it slip away. They’ve all become such friends, I’m so happy to have made this at this point … I do feel so blessed by it all.”

After so long away from recording and singing (Collins says she didn’t even sing at home, in private), it was decided to record Lodestar in the comfort of the folk doyen’s own home in Lewes, Sussex. Pulling together a collection of English, American and Cajun songs from the 16th century to 1950s, highlights include ‘Death And The Lady’, which Collins initially recorded over 45 years ago on Love, Death And The Lady.

“Yes, that was recorded with my sister, Dolly, in nineteen-sixty-whenever-it-was. I always loved that song and I sang that at the Union Chapel, so it was my first song in public again. Of course the key had to be lowered. When it came to doing it Ian [Kearey, Lodestar’s producer] wrote a new arrangement – I love the slide guitar.

“I love Muddy Waters, I love the blues, and there was a point when it suddenly turned into a Muddy Waters song where I’ve spelt death – D.E.A.T.H.” she chuckles. I did that song at Rough Trade [store in London] for the record launch and I did ‘Death spelt … T.R.U.M.P! It got a great cheer! I shouldn’t do it to that song, it’s a bit of mischief … I love the song anyway. It felt so right with the slide guitar on it, it made it sound mysterious, but strong.”

Taking Lodestar out on tour, Collins has created a full show which sees her perform the album in its entirety, plus film shorts, Morris dancing, and guest musicians.

“We’ve had guests like Graham Coxon – it’s unbelievable. Here’s this guitarist from Blur, and he sings, and plays, so beautifully – who’d have thought he’d be so into folk music? When we visit Warwick Arts Centre [29 April 2017] we’ll have John Kirkpatrick [who] is just about my favourite singer, and Lisa Knapp – she’s a really gorgeous singer. At other shows, we’ve got Olivia Chaney, who is very good too, and others.”

In her time away from music, it would be wrong to suggest Collins was invisible. She published a memoir in 2004, America Over The Water, documenting her song collecting expedition with Alan Lomax; picked up an MBE for her Services To Music in 2007; curated a South Bank festival in 2008, and received a Good Tradition Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards the same year; and created a series of spoken word-based shows exploring Gypsy singers, Bob Copper, music from Sussex, and her trip to the USA.

Now back as a bona fide ‘recording artiste’, she’s full of praise for many younger performers (such as Knapp, Chaney, Alasdair Roberts and others), but finds the current popular use of the term ‘folk’ to seemingly describe anyone with an acoustic guitar somewhat misleading.

“People who write their own stuff – that’s not traditional music. I have to say that I don’t find it very interesting, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s not traditional folk music.”

Perhaps ‘singer/songwriter’ would be a better term?

“Exactly!” she agrees swiftly. “I get these messages from Amazon, and there was one about Folk Singers and number one on the list was Adele! Adele!” she repeats, exasperated. “I do like her as a singer … but she is not folk music!

“So I have to put proper folk songs in front of people – that’s my challenge. Folk … it gives us our music, it’s not global, it’s not about making money. I don’t like globalisation – everything is the same everywhere. I want variety. I want choice. I hear these kids singing with American accents and that saddens me … everything becomes a blur to me. I like difference, I like distinctiveness, I like the fact [folk is] still surviving, it’s working class music … and I don’t care if it’s not working class people recording, but I work to be part of that.

“It’s music from the labouring classes provided by people who’ve kept it going, learning it off by heart and passing it down. That’s a great achievement – people who’ve been exploited by the wealthy providing this glorious music.”

She agrees that the rise of gloablisation and dominance of pop music would make a song collecting exercise like she embarked on in 1959 virtually pointless today.

“Big business has encroached on everything and everywhere. I don’t think I want to go there now. It was bad enough in 1959, but now? I wouldn’t feel safe – would you? America feels sad to me now. It was dangerous in 1959,” she recalls of her trip as an outsider in her mid-20s. “It was right on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement and we were going to places like Mississippi State Penitentiary, where we recorded these work songs, and black communities, but we were always welcomed, we always felt welcomed by the old blues men and the true, old mountaineers. They wanted to meet us, they wanted to meet people from the old country. But we were held up at gunpoint – we stopped to take a photograph of a chain gang. There we had a gun pointed at us and we were told ‘get those wheels rolling!’”

Collins also recalls a run-in with an aggressive Kentucky Baptist who took offence to her short hair and clothes

“I had to run to escape,” she says. “There was something scary … but if we’d been there a year later, I might have ended up as a pile of bones in the Mississippi mud. There was this sense that people were watching … always watching …”

Dave Freak

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Shirley Collins – Lodestar link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.shirleycollins.co.uk

Fay Hield talks to Folking about touring, banjos and working in the shed

Fay Hield
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

Last year Fay Hield took her Hurricane Party on tour to promote her new album, Old Adam. They are on the road again soon so I had to ask if there was anything particularly significant about this tour.

“I’m hoping to bring my banjo along, actually.” I had to ask! “You’re the first person I’ve mentioned this to; not even the band yet. I’m hoping to do one solo, just me and the banjo and I’ll be bringing some older material back. There will be lots of Old Adam but lots of other things as well.”

The Hurricane Party will feature one line-up change. “The drummer will be Andy Tween because my regular drummer [Toby Kearney] is part of the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and he couldn’t get time off. So it’s Sam Sweeney. Rob Harbron, Ben Nicholls, Roger Wilson and Andy. He teaches at Wells Cathedral School and he’s great.”

As well as being an outstanding performer, Fay is also a distinguished academic combining her singing with teaching, writing and research which may explain why she works in a shed at the bottom of the garden away from domestic distractions.

“My Ph.D was about the folk scene and folk-singing communities and how they function – and why they’re brilliant because I was born and brought up into it. My family is the folk scene and I love it and get so much out of it. It’s what I like to do and it’s what I want to bring my kids up in and feel comfortable with. I wanted to understand why it’s so brilliant and yet why is everybody worrying about it dying out; why do people find it difficult to get in; why does it have a reputation for being a bit cliquey and how has that happened?

“My research is certainly not negative in trying to find all the badness in it and why it doesn’t work because it really does work for a lot of people. I’ve been working a bit on how audiences listen to folk music and I’m building that up into a book at the moment.”

Fay lectures in music management and ethno-musicology. “I love teaching. I cover all sorts of genres and parts of the world and it’s more about method and how to study music rather than standing there in front of a score.”

As a life-long devotee of folk music I still find it difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t get it what the appeal is. What does the expert think?

“Something in the songs catches me. Some songs you just think, ‘wow, that’s amazing’ and some songs you just have to sing over half a dozen times until you get inside it and then it doesn’t leave you alone. I find them very powerful, you build a bit of a relationship with them and you understand them – and you understand a bit about yourself because of how you understand them.”

And what about the melodies? To me, they just feel right, somehow. “A lot of people get very excited about modal tunes but a lot of them are straight major and the minor sometimes goes into Dorian. If I write a tune myself – I’m not a classically trained musician so I don’t really think in terms of major and minor – it doesn’t come out straight. It’s often pentatonic in a weird kind of way or there is something there. I do love that colour note stuff or when a melody drops and the bottom note is never the tonic, it goes to something a bit random but it fits.

“In classical music, if you put in a modal note it just feels a bit stuck in there but in this kind of music the tunes are so organic so they settle and fit – colourful but not in a dramatic way. People sing or play the tunes in a way that makes sense to them and rounds off the corners in different ways for different people so, yes, they do feel right.”

I’m not sure if any of that will help me. Perhaps I’ll just stick to ‘wow, that’s amazing’.

Artist’s website: http://www.fayhield.com/

‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ live:

Tour Dates

Friday 31 March                West End Centre, Aldershot
Saturday 1 April                Theatre Chipping Norton
Sunday 2 April                   The Stables, Milton Keynes
Monday 3 April                  Red Lion, Birmingham
Tuesday 4 April                 The Lights, Andover

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Fay Hield link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Kara reflect on a year of changes

Kara
Photograph by John Maw
l-r: Phil, Daria, Pete, Kate

Dai Jeffries talks to Kara about their comings and goings

This has been a turbulent year for our friends Kara. It began with the departure of Gary Holbrook and the search for someone who could learn the repertoire in a very short time. It ended – well almost ended – with guitarist and songwriter Ben Honey leaving the band because of work commitments and relocation and another search was underway. In the middle of all this Kara recorded their second album, Some Other Shore. Daria Kulesh picked up the story for me.

“The second album was a make-or-break moment. Replacing Gary was much trickier than we thought – we tried a couple of people and things were not working out – nobody’s fault, it just seemed that the stars we against us – and we knew that we couldn’t lose all that momentum. At the same time we knew that we had to make the album and the album launch tour happen and we only just managed to get the record out on time.”

Kate Rouse, singer and dulcimer player, reflected further. “In the end, the year has turned out really, really well. Gary’s work was building up and up and I think he was always going to be the first person who struggled. His was a tough role to fill but we completely fell on our feet with Phil Underwood. There are lots of musicians round here – Russians – but they want to do something very, very pure and are not so interested in the creative element.”

And then came the enforced departure of Ben Honey. Daria again:

“Hopefully, as a songwriter, Ben will remain very much a part of Kara – that was the first question that we asked him, that and whether we could play his songs with the new line-up. His answer was a resounding yes.

“When we cast our net in searching for a new band member our first approach was to ask the guitarists on the scene because we already had Ben’s songwriting in the bag so how about we find a really, really amazing guitarist? But the problem there is that the amazing guitarists tend to be very, very busy so we thought that sometimes you have to think outside the box and look for another songwriter and once we started asking songwriters the response was much more encouraging. Then I thought ‘why don’t I ask one of my favourite songwriters who, I think, encompasses a bit of the madness of Kara’ [and who happens to live a few miles down the road]. I called him and by the next morning he’d said yes.”

Kate: “Before, Daria kicked herself that she’d known Phil for ages and hadn’t thought to ask him so this time we thought ‘sod it’. I didn’t matter how cheeky it was – if you don’t ask you don’t get. Pete, bless him, practically bit our hand off. The creativity of the project appealed and, certainly, our early rehearsals have gone really, really well. Even when he’s winging it it all goes “whoop” and when he nails it completely it’s going to be pretty special.”

Cue Pete Morton.

“A number of things have come along that make it a perfect idea for me. I do so much of being a front man; predominantly solo and a few other things like the Christmas show, but it’s mainly me and I’m always playing that same role. What was lovely was that I got a phone in the middle of the day from Daria and for the first time in my life someone has asked me to join their band and it was one of the most beautiful feelings I ever had.”

I should say that our meeting was in danger of falling apart at this point in a welter of emotion and hugs but Pete held it together. “I’m not being over-dramatic here, there is substance to this. Being a front person people think that you’re the person in authority and I don’t always see things like that. I like the idea of being in the situation of playing the guitar, being in that different dynamic; it just fits in with everything I want to do now.”

Dare I ask how Pete sees his role in the band developing? “I just like the idea of playing Ben’s songs on the guitar and playing along with the tunes. I’ve played a lot in ceilidh bands and it’s nice to do that. I’m interested in being involved in the vocals but that’s Daria’s role. I like the theatrical aspects and I like the idea of occasional duets but that’s further down the line.”

Phil Underwood arrived – Kara were meeting for a photo-shoot and rehearsal – and chaos almost reigned but I did want to ask Phil how he felt about joining a band, learning the back catalogue and recording an album within the space of a few months, only to find a key member leaving.

“There was a lot of work to get into it but Ben made the decision that was right for him and I think it’s timely in a way. It’s wonderful that Pete has come along and I think we’re going to go in a different direction. Ben saw himself as the engine-room of Kara and that helped me because it settled me into the band and gave me enough leeway to put my mark on the band.”

So was there a feeling of ‘oh, no, what have I let myself in for now”? “Absolutely! It’s that kind of band. It’s a great band. It’s a very quirky and lively sort of band and everybody in it is quirky and lively which reflects in the music. I’m really looking forward to what Pete’s going to bring.”

The light was beginning to go, there were wardrobe decisions to make and Phil was eager to show off his newly-acquired 1963 long-necked Pete Seeger banjo so it was time for me to go. We’ll hear the results of all their efforts when Kara return to live performance next month. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Artists’ website: http://www.karafolkband.com/

‘Lovers’ Tasks’ – a demo from the new line-up:

The Fairport Convention Interview from St George’s in Beckenham

Fairport at St George’s Festival for Beckenham 2016

It’s funny how some things turn out, when your path takes you somewhere that you were not expecting to go. It all started in the Kensington Village Hall (as Mr. Steve Knightley would call it) at that amazing Ralph McTell Albert Hall concert on the 12th May. I found myself sitting next to Ken Maliphant completely by chance. We got talking, and he told me about the St George’s Festival for Beckenham and mentioned that Fairport were playing on the 4th June and Ralph McTell on the 24th as part of it.

Now, Ken can spin many a “Tipplers Tale” and his story is very much interwoven with Fairport’s and the album of that name. Ken actually worked for the final record label the band was signed to at the end of the Seventies. In fact, as Dave Pegg mentioned last night, the Cropredy festival has a lot to thank Ken for as he was the main driving force behind organising the settlement figure when the label refused to fund another Fairport album. It was that settlement that financially built the first building blocks for the Cropredy festival we so love today.

After receiving the news on Friday about the sad loss of one my of my all time musical heroes Dave Swarbrick, this concert and the journey to it became a personal pilgrimage to celebrate the man and his music.

In my opinion, Swarb was the finest of English folk fiddlers and one of the most colourful characters that you will ever find on the English traditional and folk/rock music scene. He was a major facet to the gem that set me on my folk music journey all those years ago and a true inspiration to all of us at folking.com. Rest in Peace Swarb, you will be greatly missed. Keep those angels feet a dancing and that timeless twinkle of mischief in you eyes.

David Cyril Eric Swarbrick RIP
5th April 1941 – 3rd June 2016

Paul Johnson and I caught up with Gerry Conway, Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders before the concert last night and we recorded the interview below. Click on the play button to listen.

Interview reference links:

A truly wonderful tribute to Swarb from Maart

Darren Beech