Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via 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.

ROB HARBRON & EMMA REID – Flock & Fly (own label ROBRECD002)

Flock & FlyFlock & Fly is the second album from Rob and Emma and I have to confess that the first one escaped me. Rob Harbron is a musician with a hand in so many projects, particularly where Sam Sweeney is involved, while Emma Reid is best know here as a member of Methera but also works in a least six other combos both in the UK and in Sweden where she now lives.

The album was recorded in Sweden and is mostly traditional drawing from both shores of the North Sea. The geographical exception is ‘Pretty Saro’ which is coupled with the wonderfully titled ‘Shove The Pig’s Foot A Little Further Into The Fire’ as one of two tracks which feature Göran Wennerbrandt on Weissenborn guitar. The division of the spoils is even-handed with each player sometimes playing support to the other’s party pieces and the lead often switching between concertina and fiddle as a set moved from one tune to another. So Emma’s viola adds depth to Rob’s ‘November Waltz’ for example and Rob plays some guitar but usually it’s the main instruments underpinning the lead or playing pure duets – the ‘Polkas’ set is particularly fine.

We don’t often hear Rob Harbron singing lead but he pops up unexpectedly on ‘Master Kilby’ which segues from ‘Da Unst Bridal March’. Having lulled into a false sense of security he returns almost at the end of the album to sing ‘Pretty Saro’. He has a warm unaffected voice and I would suggest that he shouldn’t continue to hide this particular light under a bushel.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ websites: www.robertharbron.co.uk / www.emmareid.se

PHIL HARE – The Twilight Tone (March Hare Productions MHPCD01)

Twilight ToneThe Twilight Tone is something like Phil’s ninth album although many of his early recordings are now lost in the mists of antiquity. This record is entirely solo with no overdubs and according to Phil ought to played late at night. Actually, I’d like to think it was recorded then, probably in the company of a bottle of Bushmills.

I wasn’t taken with the opening track, ‘The Pound Man’, probably because I’d just come off reviewing two albums of blues. Phil uses the blues structure for a song about pound shops or the new breed of door-to-door sellers but for me it doesn’t work. There’s a point to be made in song here but not this song.

Phil is at his best with a more reflective style. ‘Catherine Conway’ is a beautiful song with a hint of Irish ballad about its tune and ‘Lady London’, a hymn to the capital, has more than a touch of Ralph McTell about it. It’s odd, though, given that Phil is from The Wirral but I guess that Greasby and Birkenhead don’t have the cachet that a songwriter is looking for. ‘The Day Thatcher Passed Away’ sounds remarkably even-handed at first listening and Phil is right in that it was a day that divided the country along partisan lines. ‘Benefit Street’, set to the tune of ‘Here’s The Tender Coming’, should be broadcast hourly on all channels. It won’t happen, of course.

Phil is a fine guitarist with a mastery of styles. The slide of the title track leads into the finger-picking of ‘Red-Headed Boy’ echoed in his own composition, ‘Planxty Byrne’ and, later, ‘Si Bheg Si Mor/Planxty Davis’. He even adapts the jazz piano of Horace Silver’s ‘The Preacher’ and the melodic pop of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’.

If you try to analyze it, The Twilight Tone is a bit of mixed bag but I listened to it first while driving at night and Phil is right – that’s when it works best.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.philhare.co.uk

‘The Pound Man’ live:

Plans for new archive of Shropshire folk tunes revealed

archive of Shropshire folk tunes
John Kirkpatrick

Plans to create a unique archive of traditional music from Shropshire have been revealed by Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

Organisers of the annual music event have commissioned county folk musician John Kirkpatrick to pull together the first ever collection of music that has its origins in the county as part of its All Together Now project.

All Together Now is the festival’s two-year programme of activities for musicians, dancers, schoolchildren and communities to introduce a new audience to folk and world music.

The project received an £86,410 investment from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, a £5,000 Arts Development award from Shropshire Council, and £2,000 from Shrewsbury Town Council. The festival will meet the remaining cost. 

John, who lives near Bishops Castle, will put together a collection of tunes that are specific to Shropshire. It will form an online teaching resource pack including music, notes and short video demonstrations that will be available to Shropshire schools and others and he will perform some of the music at the 2017 festival.

John is one of the most prolific and respected figures on the English folk show, known for performing solo and with groups including The Albion Band, Steeleye Span and Brass Monkey. He also formed one of the county’s leading morris sides, the Shropshire Bedlams.

John said: “I am honoured to have been asked to take on this important project that will preserve and share the music from our amazing county with future generations.

“Part of the appeal of folk music is its ability to give us an insight into how times have changed. Some of this music has been played for dances and social events for many years. Having lived in the county since 1973, I consider myself a Salopian and I am delighted that the festival is making history with the first ever formal collection of Shropshire dance music.”

All Together Now Project Manager Joy Lamont added: “The archive will be a wonderful legacy of this project. As well as commissioning new pieces of work, we felt it was important to make sure that tunes that originated in our county were not forgotten and could be permanently recorded in an archive so they didn’t disappear from our history.”

The All Together Now project has already included new music and dance commissions performed at the 2015 festival, music workshops and mentoring opportunities and the launch of the Shropshire Youth Folk Ensemble for gifted and skilled young musicians.

Future initiatives will see percussive dance workshops in Shropshire schools and dance schools, with a premiere showcase at the festival in August 2016. There will also be a two-week music residency in two Shropshire primary and two secondary schools that will result in a short performance piece to be shown at the festival.

For more information about the festival, go to www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk. Tickets are on sale now for the 2016 event that will be held at the West Mid Showground, Berwick Road, Shrewsbury, from August 26 to 29.

Headliners including Grammy Award winning American singer songwriter Rosanne Cash, folk rockers The Levellers, Eliza Carthy And The Wayward Band, Tom Robinson, and world music star Raghu Dixit.

PAUL McCLURE – Songs For Anyone (Clubhouse CRUK0035CD)

Songs For AnyoneLess than two years on from the release of Smiling From The Floor Up, the warm-voiced Rutland troubadour (formerly frontman for The Hi and Lo) returns with an album he freely admits is not the one he set out to make. By this he means that he handed over the reins to Joe Bennett of The Dreaming Spires who both produces and contributes keyboards, lap steel, bass, violin, banjo, trumpet and vocals.

The result is much more of a band affair, albeit a band limited to Joe, drummer Mike Monaghan and himself on guitars, mandolin, ukulele and harmonica. Not to forget Hannah Elton-Wall from The Redlands Palomino Company on vocals (her hubbie Alex and Lola-Rose McClure also adding their voices to the mix). It’s also a more directly roots-country album, opening up with the brisk and breezy, pedal steel underpinned ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ setting the blueprint for songs “about love, trying to get it, trying to keep it, trying to understand it, and just getting on with it.”

Harmonica wails its way into ‘Unremarkable Me’, an up-tempo stomp that conjures thoughts of Guy Clark (and mentions doing the shopping) while, sounding like it was improvised in the studio, especially its line about Joe on banjo, ‘I Could Be A Happy Man’ (one of three songs revisited in slightly different shapes from the Hi and Lo album) as a drunken sway walking rhythm that reminded me of a slower ‘Battleship Chains’. A melancholic, fingerpicked acoustic ‘Don’t Take Me Under’ is the first ballad, designed for a honky tonk with the beers lined up in a row, the mood carried over into the raggedly reflective ‘Everyday Is Mine To Spend’, Hannah’s harmonies adding an extra layer of hurt.

Harmonica picks the pace up for the shuffling break up number ‘Holding A Ten Ton Load’, then it’s into waltz time for more goodbyes with Hannah duetting on ‘So Long’, following by the Dylanesque bustling ‘My Big Head Hat Of Dreams’ with its mariachi trumpets and a (unfortunately radio unfriendly) lyric about building walls against those who’d bring you down.

It’s finger-picking ballad time again with the vulnerable, catch me when I fall ‘Yesterday’s Lies’, the album hitting the final stretch with ‘My Little Ray Of Sunshine’ that surely tips the hat to the jug band side of The Lovin’ Spoonful and the slow, organ-backed six-minute ‘A Song For Anyone’ hymn to the power of song to bring friendship, comfort and healing, the melody of which, unlikely as it may seem, actually recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. I did say this was more roots-country, but, as with ‘Lola-Rose’ on ‘Smiling’, for the last track he drops in a whimsical vaudeville-esque ukulele retro pop number, tip-toeing through the tulips with Lady Flossington. McClure says these are songs for anyone, go ahead and help yourself.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below 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.

‘Holding A Ten Ton Load’ – live:

Robert Lane – new album

Robert Lane
Photograph by David Jones

Robert Lane is a guitarist, songwriter and singer based in Birmingham. His new album, Ends And Starts is released very soon.

Robert was chosen by the LG Arena to perform in the Forum Live area of the arena before concerts by Eric Clapton, Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler, BBC Sound of 2010 winner Ellie Goulding and international superstar singer/songwriter John Mayer. In July 2015 he once again performed at the newly re-branded Genting Arena before a concert by Fleetwood Mac.

In August 2013 he was selected to attend a song writing retreat/course with Kinks front man Ray Davies.

He has supported a wide range of performers including Nell Bryden, O’Hooley and Tidow, Steve Tilston, Polly Paulusma, Caddy Cooper, Gary Nock, Lotte Mullan, Paul Liddell, Alice Gold, Cattle and Cane, Jazz Morley, Edwina Hayes, Dan Wilde, Jess Morgan, Steve Gibbons, Jay Leighton, Dan Whitehouse and Steve Ajao.

Robert has appeared at Beverley Folk Festival, Cornwall Folk Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Fishguard Folk Festival, Birmingham Artsfest and The Tenby Blues Festival as well as venues including Birmingham’s Glee Club and Jools Holland’s famous venue The Jam House. He has performed at Folk and acoustic Clubs across the UK including Leith Folk Club, Edinburgh Folk Club, Royston Folk Club, Ely Folk Club, Lymington Folk Club, Downed Folk Club, Doncaster Roots and Folking Live in Bracknell.

Artist’s website: robertlanemusic.co.uk

‘You Want It Both Ways’ – official video: