BLUES & FOLK STARS LINED UP FOR GATE TO SOUTHWELL 2018

There’s a perfect blend of rising stars, festival favourites and music legends lined up for next year’s Gate To Southwell.

Already booked for the East Midlands’ premier roots and acoustic event are hugely-successful veteran Geordies Lindisfarne, award-winning folkies The Young’uns, one of Ireland’s greatest singers Cara Dillon performing with special guests, Danish roots stars Habadekuk, brilliant Devon guitarist and singer-songwriter John Smith, acclaimed Canadian fiddlers The Fitzgeralds and 2017 BBC Folk Singer of the Year Kris Drever. There’ll also be a special Blues Night featuring Britain’s number one R&B band Nine Below Zero, Louisiana bluesmen The Lil’ Jimmy Reed Band and the UK’s best slide guitarist Johnny Dickinson.

Early Bird tickets (at discounted prices while stocks last!) are now available for the four-day event in beautiful Nottinghamshire countryside from Thursday June 7th to Sunday June 10th. Just follow this link to Gate To Southwell 2018 and grab a bargain – www.gtsf.uk

Also joining the eclectic, international bill there’s Scotland’s Blue Rose Code, the Canadian jazz-meets-klezmer-meets-folk of The Boxcar Boys, acclaimed Southwell regulars Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, 2017 BBC Group of the Year The Furrow Collective, the megafolk of Birmingham’s The Destroyers, much-loved global troubadour Rory McLeod, highly-rated harmonious Celts Mongoose and award-winning songstress Vikki Clayton.

Plus, with more names still to be announced, there’s the East Anglian Americana of The Shackleton Trio, Derbyshire’s Rogue Embers and promising folk duo Harbottle & Jonas, who’ll all add to the party atmosphere at this most family-friendly of festivals, which also features music workshops, ceilidhs, dance displays, children’s entertainment, a craft fair plus great food and drink stalls.

Still led by Rod Clements, one of their original singer-songwriters, it’s 45 years since Lindisfarne’s first hit ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ cracked the UK charts and made their second LP ‘Fog On The Tyne’ the best-selling British album of 1972. Since then the Geordie folk-rock kings have scored with hits such as ‘Lady Eleanor’, ‘Run For Home’ and ‘We Can Swing Together’. Headlining the Big Top on Friday June 8th, with the late Alan Hull’s son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm joining the latest line-up, Lindisfarne are guaranteed to get the Southwell audience singing and swinging along.

Gate To Southwell 2009 was The Young’uns first “proper festival” and since then they’ve returned to great acclaim in both 2011 and 2015. Described by Mike Harding as “one of the best live acts I have ever seen”, the life-enhancing North Easterners will headline the festival on Saturday June 9th. Following the great success of their ‘Another Man’s Ground’ collection, their 2017 release ‘Strangers’ looks certain to gather even more folk awards.

Topping the bill on Sunday June 10th, Cara Dillon is regarded as one of the best vocalists and interpreters of traditional songs on the planet. Mojo magazine stated she possessed “what may well be the world’s most beautiful female voice” as showcased on her seventh studio album, this year’s ‘Wanderer’. Cara will perform alongside her husband and musical partner Sam Lakeman plus some very special guests.

Making his first appearance at Southwell, the acclaimed singer-songwriter and innovative guitarist John Smith has become a star of the British acoustic music scene over the past 10 years, performing alongside artists such as Jackson Browne, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker and Rodney Crowell, and guesting on albums by David Gray, Lisa Hannigan and LeAnn Rimes. His recent album’, ‘Headlong’, is a fine example of a “master craftsman at work” (Folk Radio).

Anyone who caught Habadekuk’s last visit to Gate To Southwell will welcome them back with open arms and dancing feet. Regarded as one of the most exciting live folk bands, the Danish nine-piece mix it up with salsa, polkas and big band jazz. Appropriately, their motto is “we blow you away”.

Kicking off the festival on Thursday June 7th, there’s a great feast of blues from Nine Below Zero, Lil’ Jimmy Reed Band and Johnny Dickinson. NBZ formed at the height of punk and went on to become one of the most respected blues bands on the Eighties and Nineties, working with artists such as Eric Clapton, Gary Moore and Chuck Berry. Their extended eight-piece big band appearance at Glastonbury in 2016 won them a new generation of fans and recently they’ve toured extensively with Squeeze.

21st century bluesmen don’t come much more authentic than 77 year old Lil’ Jimmy Reed, who was born on the Mississippi and who’s been playing harp and guitar since the early 1950s, sharing stages with blues legends such as BB King and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland. He’s guaranteed to bring the gritty sounds of the deep South to Southwell and his band will feature acclaimed blues and boogie pianist Bob Hall. Also on Thursday, while Johnny Dickinson might hail from Morpeth rather than Baton Rouge, he’s rightly regarded as one of Britain’s best blues and slide guitarists. Having recovered from serious illness, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a rare talent.

To buy tickets and find out much more about all the artists who’ve been booked so far, visit the Gate To Southwell 2018 website – www.gtsf.uk.

CARA DILLON – Wanderer (Charcoal CHARCD009)

WandererFollowing last year’s release of her first Christmas album, Upon A Winter’s Night, Dillon returns to secular form with a predominantly traditional collection, again produced by and featuring husband Sam Lakeman.

Pivoting around an underlying theme of transition and departure, whether that be through emigration or the search for love, it keeps the instrumentation spare and intimate, predominantly built around Lakeman’s piano and/or acoustic guitar, but also with occasional contributions from Ben Nicholls on double bass, Niall Murphy on fiddle and both John Smith and Justin Adams on acoustic and electric guitar, respectively.

There are two original numbers, the first up being the piano-accompanied ‘The Leaving Song’, inspired by “living wakes” held for those about to emigrate in pre-war Co.Derry with its lyric about a mother bidding farewell to a son seeking his fortunes in some other land, with a reminder that he can always find his way home. The other, the penultimate track, the simply styled metaphorical ‘Lakeside Swans’ touches a similar note, here concerning migrants and refugees and the decision to leave their homes.

There’s also a cover, the album’s final track being their dreamily lovely piano-led arrangement of ‘Dubhdara’, the slow-swaying sailing out Celtic anthem written by Shaun Davey for his 1985 album Granuaile.

The remaining seven numbers are all traditional, some familiar, others less so, case in point being the opening Ulster thoughts of home folk song ‘The Tern And The Swallow’ with its references to Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Northern Ireland, and Slieve Gallion, the mountain in Co. Londonderry. Also with their roots in Derry and nostalgia for home, ‘The Banks Of The Foyle’ concerns a girl forced to leave her true love by cruel misfortune but then learning he’s remained constant in her absence, while, featuring just Dillon and Lakeman’s guitar, ‘The Faughan Side’ conjures memories of an emigrant to America of happy days spent by the bridge of Drumahoe over the titular river.

A fine, yearningly crestfallen reading of the much recorded ‘Blackwater Side’ leads the charge for the better known songs, with its tale of a young lad lying his way into a maiden’s bed with false promises. This is complemented by ‘Both Sides Of The Tweed’, a traditional number given a makeover by Dick Gaughan, here presented in simple style with Dillon’s pure vocals and Lakeman’s piano. She’s joined by Kris Drever who duets and plays guitar for ‘Sailor Boy’, the album’s obligatory death song (you know the plot, maiden dies from grief when her sailor lover drowns) with Murphy on wheezing fiddle. Which just leaves a haunted interpretation of ‘The Banks Of The Bann’, which, combining emigration and thwarted love and arranged for piano and fiddle, is fittingly set to the tune of ‘Lord Of All Hopefulness’.

Her most reflective and most musically introspective album to date, the spare arrangements putting the spotlight on her warm, crystal clear vocals, it is arguably also the best of her career.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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

Promo video:

SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy (Navigator NAVIGATOR 102)

Pretty PeggyBased in Bristol, but born in Norfolk, Kelly stakes a claim for a Best Album nomination in next year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards to add to this year’s Horizon win. Backed by his six-piece live band, comprising Jamie Francis on banjo, fiddler/guitarist Ciaran Algar, percussionist Evan Carson, Graham Coe on cello with Toby Shaer and Archie Churchill-Moss providing woodwind and melodeon, respectively, Pretty Peggy their first album together, also features contributions from folk stalwarts Cara Dillon, Damien O’Kane, Mike McGoldrick and Geoff Lakeman.

Save for three numbers, all the material is traditional, refashioned and refurbished, opening with a rousing haul away tempo take of the whaling shanty ‘Greenland Whale’ that can’t help but bring Seth Lakeman to mind. Dillon and McGoldrick’s Uillean pipes complement ‘Bonnie Lass Of Fyvie’, the pretty Peggy-o of the title, a jaunty Celtic-hued version that successfully avoids sounding like any of the many previous recordings.

A tale of lost childhood love regret, the equally lively, thigh-slapping, fiddle-driven ‘Angeline The Baker’ has Appalachian roots and then comes the first of the original numbers, ‘When The Rievers Call’, a Jamie Francis song about the raids on the Scottish borders during the middle ages featuring, unsurprisingly, some fiery banjo work and again recalling that Seth Lakeman sound.

Returning to the traditional repertoire and featuring O’Kane on electric tenor guitar with a melodeon solo, ‘If I Were A Blackbird’ is a lovely, lilting and gently ripping take on the Irish love song, reversing the lyric’s genders and set to a tune based around Chris Wood’s ‘Ville De Quebec’. This is followed by the darkly menacing ‘The Shining Ship’, a suitably spooked and nervy six minute tale, sung in low, at times whispery tones with swirling sonics, of a woman lured aboard a ghost ship by her long lost lover and based on the 17th century Scottish ballad ‘Demon Lover’.

Featuring himself on piano and Shaer on fiddle, the only Kelly original is ‘Chasing Shadows’, another lively tune about understanding that “the deepest dark comes just before the dawn”, and one of the more contemporary sounding tracks. Then comes the comic relief, ‘The Close Shave’ being New Zealand singer Bob Bickerton’s variation of the traditional romp, ‘Barrack Street’, about a gold miner relieved of his treasure by a man posing as a woman.

The obligatory instrumental track comes with ‘Shy Guy’s Serve’, a jaunty fiddle medley of Shaer’s ‘Josh’s Slip’ and Algar’s ‘Rookery Lane’, before they dig into the more obscure pages of the Dylan songbook and turn up the volume for ‘Crash On The Levee’, a punchy and driving version of ‘Down In The Flood’ off The Basement Tapes. The penultimate number is another traditional English folk song, drums, fiddles and flutes pumping along sexually euphemistic ‘The Keeper’ with its call and response derry derry down chorus, the album ending with the intitially subdued but gradually gatheringly strident strains of The Rose, Kelly’s translation of the French song ‘Le Beau Rosier’, originally by Belgian outfit Naragonia with whom he played mandolin last year.

Having practised his art as a youngster singing to the family’s cows, in 2012 Kelly was a finalist for Britain’s Got Talent (the one won by Pudsey), at which time he said “I don’t want to make a mediocre album of covers just to sell as many as possible on the back of BGT…musical integrity is really important to me.” He’s clearly lived up to his words.

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 SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy 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: www.samkelly.org

‘Angeline The Baker’:

GEOFF LAKEMAN – After All These Years (own label GLAK-01)

After All These YearsGeoff Lakeman isn’t quite as famous as his sons but he is a much regarded singer and songwriter, particularly in the West Country. At 69 Geoff has finally succumbed to the temptation to record an album, After All These Years, produced by son Sean. Geoff usually performs solo with concertina but with friends and family like his it must have been impossible to resist getting them on board, although the contributions of Jim Causley, Cara Dillon, Kathryn Roberts, Sam Kelly, Ben Nicholls, Jamie Francis, Seth Lakeman and Nic Jones are commendably restrained except when it comes to choruses. Geoff himself has the voice of, if not a young man, then a young man who has seen a bit of life – strong and characterful.

If you were a folk club regular in the sixties and seventies you will be entirely at home with this set. Not that Geoff is locked in the past as his cover of Reg Meuross’ ‘England Green & England Grey’ proves but the mix of material is such that if you don’t care for a particular song you’ll like the next one.

The set opens with ‘The Farmer’s Song’. It was written by Roger Bryant but easily could be one of Geoff’s as he demonstrates with the next track, ‘Tie ’Em Up’. Both are about the decline of traditional rural industries and while both writers were preoccupied with the plight of Devon and Cornwall the same stories are true all around the country. ‘Rule And Rant’ is a bit of obscure Cornish history involving an ingenious mine rescue. The traditional songs include ‘Ye Lovers All’, a song of romantic teasing from Ulster, the well-known ‘Jim Jones’ and ‘The Green Cockade’ a Cornish version of the song that may have arrived from Ireland and ‘Bonny Irish Maid’ – there’s a pattern developing here.

There are a couple of oddities. The first is the original version of ‘Galway Bay’ – not that song and certainly not the celebrated parody (I confess that I was rather hoping for that) – and the closing ‘Doggie Song’. This is the sort of encore that you’ll still find in folk clubs and probably means a lot more in Cornwall but is best not recorded. That aside, this is a splendid album to unwind with, think about and sing along to.

Dai Jeffries

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

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

‘Tie ‘Em Up’ – live:

CARA DILLON – Upon A Winter’s Night (Charcoal CHARCCD008)

upon a winter's nightIn the absence this year of a new Kate Rusby festive collection for folk fans to warm their chilly cockles, Cara Dillon, aided and abetted by husband, musical partner and producer Sam Lakeman, steps up to the seasonal plate for her first Christmas offering, Upon A Winter’s Night, an 11-string stockingsworth of traditional nuggets, hymns and originals.

It’s one of the latter, the title track, written by Sam and Noah Lakeman, that kicks things off, a jaunty Nativity scene setter that also features Uilleann pipes, Luke Daniels on accordion and Kathryn Roberts on backing vocals. There’s three other originals, Cara and Sam providing the piano backed ‘Standing By My Christmas Tree’ with its interpolation of ‘Silent Night’ and bells-pealing keyboard notes as well as the simply arranged lullaby closer ‘Mother Mary’, he on acoustic guitar and she joined on vocals in the final refrains by a family affair of Colm, Noah and Elizabeth Lakeman. The third is Sam’s own instrumental contribution, a lively woodland romp with ‘The Huntsman’, again featuring Jarlath Henderson on Uilleann pipes and Daniels on accordion alongside fiddle from Niall Murphy and James Fagan’s bouzouki with Ben Nicholls providing stalwart bass.

The other numbers are the couple’s arrangements of, by and large, very familiar seasonal tunes, first up, introduced by Murphy’s fiddle sounding like a hunting horn, being a traditional folk-sounding reading of ‘The Wexford Carol’ that gathers to fulsome fiddle finale. Rather less known, based on a traditional Polish carol, ‘Infant Holy, Infant Lowly’ is another lowing lullaby and introduces John Smith on guitar. Considerably better known is the evergreen ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, here taken at a swayalong tempo on the back of fiddle, pipes and accordion and featuring guest viocals from both Roberts and Sam’s father, Geoff.

By contrast, while often given a rousing chorus flourish, here ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ is an altogether more contemplative affair etched out by just her voice and Sam’s piano, a fine companion piece to the wholly a capella ‘O Holy Night’, Adolphe Adams’ 19th century setting and translation of a French poem (Midnight Christians) on which she duets with older sister Mary, their version joining a list that includes Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Bing Crosby and, more recently, Ellie Goulding.

This is, in turn, followed by another breath of fresh winter air with ‘Mary Bore A Son To God’, one of the earliest known Irish language carols and sung here in the original Gaelic (‘Rug Muire Mac Do Dhia’),a slightly softer reading than that previously done by Horslips with Henderson’s Wilson taking the fiddle parts.

Finally, once whisperingly recorded by Bono, there’s another traditional Irish carol, ‘The Darkest Midnight’, which taken from the Kilmore Carols collection of South Wexford (albeit a trimmed down version) is again arranged for just her voice and Sam’s acoustic guitar and piano, another lovely grace note to a collection that very much has its mind set on celebrating the real meaning of Christmas. A touch more contemplative than Rusby’s South Yorkshire offerings perhaps, but likely to prove an equally enduring bauble on folk’s festive fir.

Mike Davies

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

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

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Folk Awards 2015 (Proper PROPERFOLK16)

FolkAwards2015It’s that time again when the folk world looks back and hands out gongs to the great and good while conspiracy theories abound. Actually there have been far fewer of those this year; the detractors must have finally decided that the BBC keeps the names of the voters secret to avoid them being showered by gifts of Rolexes and vintage champagne in attempts to win approval. As if!

All in all, we’re looking back on a vintage year. I listen to more new music than the average punter and I’d heard only ten of the twenty-three tracks chosen to represent 2014 in this collection, so I’m clearly not trying hard enough. As ever the double-CD is well programmed by the four compilers – this is not just an audio catalogue: it has to stand as a listenable collection in its own right, which it does.

The opener is the sprightly ‘Moorlough Mary’ by Cara Dillon which breaks the ice nicely. Next is ‘It Would Not Be A Rose’ from Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker sounding rather more bitter taken out of the context of their album. You might expect The Will Pound Band to rock the rafters but the selection here is the rather down-beat ‘Jimmy Ward’s’ given a bluesy, slightly jazzy persona. That eases into Jez Lowe’s almost lullaby ‘The Pitmen Poets’ and a traditional Gaelic song from Cruinn. By now you’re settled back into your armchair and drifting, only to snapped back to wakefullness by Nancy Kerr’s ‘Never Ever Lay Them Down’ a super song from an album that has somehow managed to elude me so far.

The first set closes with The Young’Uns’ ‘John Hill’ with its borrowed tune and piano sounding almost like a hymn and second opens with the similarly powerful but restrained ‘Waking Dreams (Awake, Awake)’ from Martin & Eliza Carthy. Then, from out of nowhere, comes Naomi Bedford with ‘The Spider And The Wolf’, a song written by her partner Paul Simmonds and taken from her album A History Of Insolence. The other in-yer-face track here is ‘Bedlam’ by Stick In The Wheel and if you haven’t heard them yet you’re in for treat and you won’t be able to forget ‘I Saw The Dead’ by Martin Green with Becky Unthank in a hurry either.

Finally we have the four nominees for The Young Folk Award: Talisk, Wildwood Kin, Roseanne Reid and Cup O’Joe. Impossible to say who the winner will be but I’d like to hear more of Roseanne Reid.

Dai Jeffries