Wickham 2017 Reviewed

Click on the photo below to see the full set…

Wickham 2017

‪Squelch… Wickham Festival finally kicked off to a great start with sets from ‪Low, Barker, Morris & Tunstall which sounds like a firm of solicitors instead of musical, dance and poetry partners in festival law; Andy Fairweather Low, Les Barker, the Wickham Morris Sides and KT Tunstall.

Now tell me… where are you going to get a “bend me, shake me, a sermon from the church of the holy undecided, a strip the willow and a black horse and a cherry tree all the the same place!

Here is the moment when the sun came out and everyone forgot about the thirteen days of rain that fell on the site the day before it opened which caused the “elf and safety” three hours delayed start.

The main Thursday night event on the All Time Grates Stage was 10CC, who played all their hits, which they performed as a masterclass in song-writing. They even offered us the following words of wisdom from their extensive mantra…

Life is a minestrone
Served up with parmesan cheese
Death is a cold Lasagne
Suspended in deep freeze …

Friday afternoon had a definite garden party feel that went off with a Wizz, bang and Spooky side-splitting Tickell. It all started with the legendary Wizz Jones who rolled out all his hits including ‘When I Leave Berlin’ which Bruce Springsteen covered.

The Spooky Men’s Chorale followed, the Antipodean Blue Mountain settlers, that worry local livestock to such a degree that the local farmers club together to pay for their international tours (so long as they agree to do reworked Abba and Bee Gees choral arrangements). Luckily, Kathryn Tickell was there to restore order, Northumbrian Pipe Style, who together with The Side brought Wickham back into the hear and now with evocative slow airs that could break your heart one minute and then fling you seamlessly into life-affirming jigs and reels the next.

In between Tickell and the Spookies (great idea for a band name!) I managed to dash across to the Hapi Stage to catch a bit of the fab Portsmouth based band Bemis. I also managed to grab a copy of their excellent new album A World of Difference that I encourage you all to go and check out for free here

There was barely enough time for a quick change over before it was pedal to metal down the West Country highway in search of Fishy Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands.  All three did the West Country proud and I think its was a great bit of programming to put Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands all on the same stage and evening bill.

Here is my favourite moment of Friday night, when Show of Hands treated us to a slowed down version of the Don Henley classic “Boys of Summer” . Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday opened with more Wickham Festival goodies… Alas, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie didn’t make it for the reunion but folk legends, Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe turned up on the All Time Grates Stage in the afternoon. Then it was a quick hop and skip across to the Hapi Stage for a blistering set from Gilmore & Roberts with festival energy in a bakers bun-dance. Then back again to the All Time Grates Stage as master Dhol drummer, Johnny Kalsi fired up the furnaces of the drums of the mighty Dhol Foundation to create a high-energy, pulsating folking brilliant musical soundscape of Punjabi beat, rhythm and intensity. ‬

‪If that was not enough excitement for one day, there was a just enough time to sponge down before the main evening event of the big punk-folk-rock 3. I’m sure you will all know who they all are, as the Saturday evening, three in a row line-up, for many, was one of the dream festival programming highlights of this year (dreamt up by the mind of that festival organising genius, Mr Peter Chegwyn) which even included a returning Chopper as part of the Oysterband mix. For those who have not worked it out, it was of course The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Oysterband and The Levellers. I also legged it across to the Hapi Stage to see some of my old mates Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley set with the lovely Emily.

Time had flown by and before anyone knew it, it was “Sunday folk fun-day” and the fourth day of Wickham.

I’ll start with Ray “Chopper” Cooper who opened on the Hapi stage…

Fay Hield then blew in with the Hurricane Party on the All Time Grates Stage and Glasgow boys Imar followed and got the main stage dancing. Wickham festival favourite Duncan Chisholm followed with his Gathering before the afternoon slot was brought to a riotous close with Tankus The Henge (a great festival band).

LAU opened the Sunday evening slot which felt like a kaleidoscope of colour washing over the All Time Grates Stage. The power went off at one point so we even got a couple of un-amped numbers.

‪The finale for me was the crowned Queen of the Wickham Festival crowd, Eliza Carthy with Sam Sweeney & the rest of her merry Wayward Band.‬ Unfortunately, I had to leave early so missed the Peatbog Faeries set but Eliza said that they tore the place apart, so I have been lamenting the early departure ever since.

I was bitten by a Ferocious Dog on the way out and am looking forward to repeating the experience at one of their other gigs soon.

Darren Beech

Festival website: www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

Afro Celt Sound System announce new album

Afro Celt Sound System
Photograph by Tom Oldham

With sales now topping one and a half million albums and two Grammy nominations to date, Afro Celt Sound System celebrate their 20th anniversary with a stunning new album, The Source.

This European and African based collective have been a ground-breaking force in music ever since they started, along the way finding kindred spirits across international talent and forging a reputation for exhilarating shows. Afro Celt Sound System have an accomplished catalogue of albums, dating back to their 1996 debut, Volume 1: Sound Magic and continue their adventures on ECC Records, with the band’s first studio recording for a decade: The Source.

As its title suggests, all 13 tracks on The Source summon the original Afro Celt energy, while simultaneously yielding fresh and creative inspiration. Grammy-nominated multi-instrumental founder and producer Simon Emmerson recalls the creative spark that occurred from his early-’90s work with celebrated singer and guitarist Baaba Maal in Senegal, and a meeting of minds with Dublin-born musician Davy Spillane. It led to a jam session of African and Irish musicians laced with electronic beats at Peter Gabriel’s Real World’s studios in Wiltshire (with the surreal backdrop of the likes of Johnny Depp, Kate Moss and Iggy Pop milling around), from which Afro Celt Sound System’s debut album took flight.

The Source, is perhaps the most expansive and exuberant Afro Celt Sound System work to date. Its track-listing brings together core members Simon Emmerson, Guinean vocalist, kora and balafon virtuoso N’Faly Kouyate and charismatic dhol master Johnny Kalsi, along with long-standing collaborators such as Davy Spillane and Emer Mayock on uillean pipes and whistles, Moussa Sissoko on djembe and talking drum, and members of Scottish folk fusion Shooglenifty (who contributed to the very first Afro Celt album).

There are also welcome newcomers to the family, including the gritty, witty rhymes of Gaelic rapper, musician and language activist Griogair (an exponent of “ghetto-croft”, with a nod to his off-grid base in the Scottish Highlands), and the hauntingly soulful delivery of Armagh-born vocalist and flautist Rioghnach Connolly (Realworld), who leads Beware Soul Brother, inspired by a homage to legendary Nigerian poet Chinua Achebe, with a powerful song about what happens when something you love is stolen.

The Source, is very much a collaborative effort, embracing devotional harmonies (notably the exquisite sound of Guinean female quintet Les Griottes, who contribute to songs including opener ‘Calling In The Horses’), with protest songs, rockabilly guitars (‘Desert Billy’) and powerful electronic rhythms.

The Source was recorded at various locations across Europe, including Davy Spillane’s own studio by the Cliffs of Moher, an experience which the band liken to a Game Of Thrones quest (“Go and seek out the wise man on the remote cliffs”). The adept mixing skills of David Bottrill and Mass are credited for their “alchemical art” in bringing the album’s varied elements together.

One of the most celebratory numbers is ‘The Magnificent Seven’, a stirring reunion with the mighty Dhol Foundation, with the vital percussion spurred along by a vocal chant which translates as “courage” in Kouyate’s native tongue of Mandinka. The Source also rounds things off in spirit-soaring style, with Kalsi Breakbeat.

The Source features artwork by Jamie Reid, highly regarded artist, best known for his designs for the Sex Pistols including the Anarchy In The U.K poster – a ripped and safety-pinned Union Flag and the God Save the Queen single.

The new album’s characteristic energy will certainly translate to Afro Celt Sound System’s latest live sets, which kicked off 2016 in style with a sell-out show at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Artists’ website: www.afroceltsoundsystem.org.uk

‘The Magnificent Seven’ – live at Celtic Connections: