Imagined Isle Festival announces headline names

Imagined Isle

Birmingham music festival returns for second year.
Headliners include Fairport Convention and Jon Boden.

Fairport Convention, Jon Boden and The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble are among the acts headlining folk and roots festival Imagined Isle, which returns to the Birmingham’s iconic Town Hall from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 May 2017.

Formed in 1967, Fairport Convention are lauded as founding fathers of the British folk rock movement, with their seminal Liege And Lief considered one of the most influential albums of the 1960s. The band’s appearance (13 May 2017) is part of their year-long 50th anniversary celebrations, a landmark which is accompanied by new album, 50:50@50.

Acclaimed writer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Jon Boden (14 May 2017) was, until recently, lead singer with the multi-award winning Bellowhead. Away from the band, his career ranges from compositional work for the RSC and the theme to TV’s Count Arthur Strong, to the year-long A Folk Song A Day project, and collaborations with artists such as John Spiers and Eliza Carthy. His return as a solo artist is marked by the re-release of 2006’s debut, Painted Lady.

Hailing from Birmingham’s historic Conservatoire, The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble headline the contemporary flavoured late night Urban Folk Night (12 May 2017), which also includes appearances from roots/ fusion combo The Urban Folk Quartet and cinematic septet The Fair Rain (both from Birmingham), Stafford’s banjo maestro Dan Walsh, and South Wales’ indie-fused Rusty Shackle.

Founded in 1997 by Joe Broughton (The UFQ, The Albion Band, Joss Stone), the 50-strong Conservatoire Folk Ensemble line-up features a 15-piece horn section, four cello players, five percussionists and five electric guitarists, plus fiddles, flutes, clarinets, double bass, even a harp! As they mark their 20th birthday, past members are to re-join the ranks for the ensemble’s biggest ever performance.

Other Imagined Isle highlights include a Family Ceilidh with Rabscallion (13 May, 10.30am), and appearances from Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus), and Boat To Row’s Michael King.

Weekend tickets, for all Imagined Isle performances, are on sale now for just £58. Individual concert tickets are also available. For more information and bookings, see: www.thsh.co.uk

FAIRPORT CONVENTION – 50:50@50 (Matty Grooves MGCD054)

50:50@50Opportunities for celebration come round with increasing frequency when you’ve been in the business as long as Fairport Convention has. The current line-up has been together for almost twenty years and before that they have a back catalogue so large that they can never hope to play it all. This year sees the band’s fiftieth birthday and the title of 50:50@50 describes its contents: seven new recordings and seven live tracks. Fairport haven’t done anything obvious, though. You’ll look in vain for the old favourites that their audiences demand they play every gig – no ‘Matty Groves’ and no ‘Meet On The Ledge’.

The album opens with the first of Chris Leslie’s new songs, a return to his favourite maritime themes. ‘Eleanor’s Dream’ feels like a sequel to ‘Lord Franklin’ and indeed it mentions Lancaster Sound, part of the fabled Northwest Passage. But Lady Franklin was Jane so Chris has given us a puzzle. The first live track is ‘Ye Mariners All’, originally from Tippler’s Tales, recorded at The Mill in Banbury, venue for the famous Cropredy warm-ups. In fact the band returns to the tradition on this album more than they have done in recent years.

‘Step By Step’ is a pretty but rather slight song and it’s followed by ‘The Naked Highwayman’ also live and a real vocal tour de force by Simon Nicol. So far so not unexpected but don’t sit back and relax just yet. Ric Sanders has re-recorded his ‘Danny Jack’s Reward’ subtitled “expensive version!” with a host of friends, woodwinds and brass and a guest appearance from Joe Broughton. It’s a superb reading of the piece but the surprises aren’t over yet. Next is another live track, ‘Jesus On The Mainline’, with Fairport taking on the role of Robert Plant’s backing group!

I’m not sure if Chris Leslie’s ‘Devil’s Work’ is autobiographical – I can’t see a professional musician doing manual work any more hazardous than fettling a fiddle. That’s another puzzle he’s set us. The next live track, ‘Mercy Bay’, is another of his epic sea songs and that’s followed by ‘Our Bus Rolls On’, a song in praise of the band. It’s a bit twee for my taste but if you can’t blow your own trumpet when you’re fifty when can you? A rewrite of ‘Angel Delight’ would have been great fun – Simon and Peggy remain from the original but I expect that their tastes have matured over the years.

Next is a superb live version of ‘Portmeirion’, possibly the best I’ve heard, and then another surprise. Fairport Convention don’t really do traditional songs like they used to but here is a new addition, ‘The Lady Of Carlisle’, with lead vocal by Jacqui McShee followed by a live version of ‘Lord Marlborough’, originally recorded a mere forty-six years ago. Unexpectedly, PJ Wright contributes ‘Summer By The Cherwell’ – self-referential, of course, but I can see it being a live hit at every Cropredy from now on.

The final live track and the album’s closer is another surprise. Guess what it might be and I bet you won’t say ‘John Condon’. This is a sensitive, thoughtful reading of the song as befits its subject matter with Gerry Conway’s brushes holding the rhythm but not intruding on Ric’s fiddle or Simon’s vocals. One second thoughts, a song of reflection is an appropriate way to send this set. We all have more to look back on than look forward to.

Dai Jeffries

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 FAIRPORT CONVENTION 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.fairportconvention.com

‘Mercy Bay’ – live at The Union Chapel:

Petula Clark to headline Fairport’s Cropredy Convention

Petula Clark

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention music festival announces four more acts to complete the roster of nineteen previously announced.

Petula Clark will headline on Friday 11 August. With three Grammy Awards and millions of record sales to her name Petula’s stellar career stretches back to 1949 yet Cropredy will be her first-ever UK music festival appearance.

Petula Clark’s string of Top 40 hits in the UK and around the world includes ‘Downtown’, ‘I Know A Place’, ‘My Love’, and ‘This Is My Song’.

“We’re really proud to be the first British festival that Petula has played,” says Fairport bassist and Cropredy co-organiser Dave Pegg. “I saw her show in Birmingham recently and it blew me away – she is a wonderful live performer. I was surprised how many of her hits I knew and her contemporary songs are really great too. Our audience will love her, I’m sure.”

The Trevor Horn Band plays on Thursday 10 August. Considered to be one of the most influential record producers in popular music, Trevor Horn started his career as a bass guitarist. A co-founder of The Buggles (Video Killed The Radio Star), he has gone on to work with – among many others – Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Seal, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Genesis.

For Cropredy, Trevor will front a 14-piece all-star band featuring fellow producers Steve Lipson and Lol Creme. The setlist will be packed with songs the trio have produced – between them they’ve had over 200 hit singles – and there may be guest appearances from some of the musicians they have worked with.

Quill take the stage on Friday 11 August. A six-piece fronted by the charismatic Joy Strachan-Brain, the Birmingham-based band embraces many influences in its energetic brand of Celtic-hued rock.

Also appearing on Friday, CC Smugglers play good time music inspired by American and world folk. This exciting young six-piece of talented multi-instrumentalists perform with infectious enthusiasm.

As well as the four acts announced today, Cropredy announced the first fifteen in December. Between them, the nineteen acts will present more than thirty hours of live music over three days.

Other artists appearing include:

Feast of Fiddles, Show of Hands, The Divine Comedy, Gerry Colvin, Gigspanner Big Band, CC Smugglers, Pierce Brothers, Judy Dyble and the Band of Perfect Strangers, Plainsong, Cats In Space, Marillion and Dougie MacLean.

Festival website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

Fairport Convention celebrate their golden jubilee

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention, the legendary band who originated British folk-rock, celebrate their golden anniversary this year. When Fairport takes the stage on Saturday 27 May 2017 for their birthday concert at the Union Chapel in Islington it will be fifty years to the day since their first-ever gig.

Formed by Ashley Hutchings in 1967’s “summer of love”, Fairport Convention is one of the few touring bands with an unbroken history stretching back five decades. They have been performing and recording more or less constantly since their inception.

Fairport Convention has been one of the most influential UK bands in popular music and has nurtured the careers of some great names, among them Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick.

The band saw many changes of personnel during its early years but Fairport Convention’s current line-up has been together since 1998. Simon Nicol, lead singer and guitarist, is the only founding member still with Fairport; bass player Dave Pegg has been in the band since 1970.

To mark its fiftieth anniversary year, Fairport Convention will be releasing a new album. Titled 50:50@50, half the tracks are studio recordings of brand-new songs and half are live performances from Fairport’s core repertoire. The album features guest vocals from Robert Plant and Jacqui McShee.

Fairport will hit the road in January on a UK-wide tour which starts at the prestigious Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow. A second tour in early summer will include the birthday concert on 27 May before the band’s year culminates at their own music festival at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, in August. Fairport’s headline set will see past members joining the current line-up on stage for a reunion performance.

“Fifty years after I first heard them the mighty Fairport Convention still sound as good as ever.” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

According to the BBC Music website, Fairport Convention is “…undoubtedly one of the most influential folk collectives to have ever existed.”

Fairport’s seminal albums Unhalfbricking and Liege & Lief (both released in 1969) originated a whole new genre of music, British folk-rock, which celebrated English roots by combining traditional folk songs and tunes with amplified rock instruments.

This genre’s influence has percolated down the years touching artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Devendra Banhart, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons, Seth Lakeman and Ryley Walker.

Radio 2 listeners voted Liege & Lief  “The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’”

Mojo magazine listed Liege & Lief at number 58 in its list of “100 Records That Changed the World”.

Fairport’s story has been celebrated with several radio and TV documentaries and the band has won a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award.

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

We couldn’t resist this. Three tracks from the band on French TV in 1968 and featuring Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews:

First acts announced for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2017

Cropredy Convention

Fairport Convention has announced acts booked so far to appear at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention music festival in 2017. The line-up is not yet finalised and late additions will be announced in January. The three-day event takes place on Thursday 10, Friday 11 and Saturday 12 August 2017.

The festival will celebrate Fairport Convention’s Golden Anniversary with performances by many former members as well as the band’s current line-up.

Thursday’s headline act is The Divine Comedy. Fronted by Neil Hannon, the band’s repertoire is rich in Top 40 hits and their sumptuous orchestral sound is complemented by acerbic and sophisticated lyrics.

Former Fairport member Richard Thompson is a regular at Cropredy and this year will be playing on Friday evening.

Show of Hands features Steve Knightley and Phil Beer. The duo return to Cropredy after a ten-year absence.

Feast Of Fiddles presents six of Britain’s finest fiddlers backed by a five-piece band in a musical extravaganza of dazzling instrumental virtuosity.

Multi-instrumentalist duo The Pierce Brothers return by popular request. Jack and Pat Pierce stormed their Cropredy debut in 2016 earning themselves a repeat invitation.

A Cropredy first appearance for composer, songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Dougie MacLean, one of Scotland’s best-loved solo performers.

Making a welcome return to Cropredy, Marillion pioneered the British ‘neo-prog’ genre and remains one of the most innovative bands on the UK prog scene.

Formed in 2016 Cats in Space is a power-pop seven-piece playing high quality 1970s ‘commercial rock’ with a contemporary twist.

Former Steeleye Span fiddler Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band makes its first appearance at Cropredy.

Characterised by his energy and enthusiasm on stage, Gerry Colvin performs beautifully-crafted imaginative songs.

Cropredy will also present a set by the winner(s) of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award.

Golden Anniversary performances at Cropredy

Saturday’s afternoon programme will start with a triple bill of performances from ‘early years’ former members of Fairport – Ashley Hutchings, Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews – as part of the anniversary celebration.

Ashley Hutchings founded Fairport Convention and at Cropredy 2017 he will present Morris On, a spectacular of traditional music and dance. Fairport’s original female vocalist Judy Dyble will be performing with Band of Perfect Strangers, her regular musical collaborators. Iain Matthews, Fairport’s first male lead singer will be joined by Andy Roberts and Mark Griffiths to present Plainsong, a harmonic blend of English folk-rock and American alt-country.

There will be two chances to see Fairport Convention co-founder Richard Thompson. He will play a full set in his own right on Friday then join Fairport on Saturday evening.

Fairport Convention will celebrate their fifty years with a marathon performance to close the festival on Saturday. Joined on stage by former members and guests, their set will feature the very best from half a century of musicmaking. Fairport will also play on Thursday when the festival will open with a short welcoming set by the band’s semi-acoustic line-up.

Cropredy tickets on sale for Christmas

Fairport Convention is putting three-day festival tickets on sale in time for Christmas. The online box office will open on Sunday 11 December 2016 and tickets will remain on sale for one week. UK orders will be mailed Special Delivery at no extra cost to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.

The box office will re-open on Wednesday 1 February 2017 when all concert tickets and camping tickets will be available.

Pre-Christmas three-day concert tickets cost £125 and are exclusively available from Fairport Convention’s website fairportconvention.com. Camping tickets cost £45 for three nights.