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:

MARTIN SIMPSON – Trails & Tribulations (Topic TSCD593)

Trails & TribulationsMartin Simpson never disappoints, whether live or on record, but rarely does he surprise. Rather he evolves over time and emerges with something new and different as he has here. Trails & Tribulations is his 20th solo album in a career going back to the early seventies. You sort of know what to expect – Martin is equally drawn to the English and American traditions; he will have borrowed a song or two and written a couple more; there will be a variety of guitars plus banjo and ukulele and it will probably all come together with a fine group of musicians supporting him. And, of course, you’ll be absolutely right.

What’s new is a richness to the music which I suspect comes from working with The Full English and Simpson Cutting Kerr. Both Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr feature here as does percussionist Toby Kearney, guitarist John Smith, Ben Nicholls on bass and Martin’s daughter Molly on vocals. Toby is generally restrained but the percussion is more noticeable than I remember. Take the first track, Jackson C Frank’s ‘Blues Run The Game’. It’s a short song but Martin takes his time over it, warming up his fingers as he does on stage as the introduction emerges. Bass and percussion provide an unobtrusive foundation and Martin tops everything off with Weissenborn decoration. Next is Emily Portman’s ‘Bones And Feathers’, which he has been singing for a year or so now, and which features banjo – not one of Emily’s chosen instruments. Martin owns it now.

From the Americas we have ‘Thomas Drew’, which would appear to be a distant cousin of ‘John Hardy’, ‘East Kentucky’ and ‘St. James Hospital’ but the first two are written by Martin and perfectly match the period feel – he had me fooled. From the English tradition come ‘Rufford Park Poachers’ and ‘Reynardine’. That leaves four others. Charles Causley’s ‘A Ballad For Katherine Of Aragon’ – music by Alex Atterson – has also been in Martin’s live repertoire for a while and it sounds like a song he would have written if someone hadn’t already done so. ‘Maps’, ‘Jasper’s/Dancing Shoes’ and Ridgeway are three more of Martin’s songs, continuing the semi-autobiographical style that began with ‘Never Any Good’.

Trails & Tribulations will be available in multiple formats including a deluxe double CD with six extra tracks including my all-time Simpson favourite, ‘Joshua Gone Barbados’. I’m holding out for that!

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.

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

‘Blues Run The Game’ – live:

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Martin Simpson announces his 20th solo album

Martin Simpson
Photograph by Elly Lucas

World renowned guitarist, singer and songwriter Martin Simpson releases his 20th solo album in 40 years Trails & Tribulations on September 1st 2017 via Topic Records. The brand-new studio album, his first new solo work since 2013’s widely praised Vagrant Stanzas, will be available in standard and deluxe CD, digital download and standard vinyl (the latter through Vinyl 180).


Trails & Tribulations
is a collection of songs about nature, about travels and about real life stories. There are traditional songs, poems and contemporary songs by great writers, and songs that I had to write because nobody else knew what I wanted to say. I travel, I learn songs, I write and try to get better at the skills required for me to do my job. I look at the world as I pass by, on the road, out of the train window, or as I stop and pay close attention to the square foot under my nose. There is so much to see and to hear and to inspire and to try and understand. I had a huge amount of fun playing and recording these songs, using different instruments, different noises, old friends and new ones, all of whom brought so much to the mix. Martin Simpson, April 2017.

Produced and engineered by Andy Bell, Trails & Tribulations features some of Martin’s most inventive playing yet, showcasing his virtuosity on a variety of instruments including acoustic guitars, resonator guitars, Weissenborn lap steel guitar, electric guitars, 5 string banjo, ukulele – and voice.

Guest musicians on the new album are: Ben Nicholls (string bass and electric bass guitars), Toby Kearney (drums and percussion), Nancy Kerr (fiddle and viola), Andy Cutting (diatonic accordion and melodeon), John Smith (electric guitar and backing vocals), Helen Bell (strings), Amy Newhouse-Smith (backing vocals) and his daughter Molly Simpson on vocals.

Martin will tour extensively this year, including a headline set at Cambridge Folk Festival in the summer and London’s Kings Place in autumn, following the release of Trails & Tribulations.

Hand in hand with his long and storied solo career, Martin has been central to seminal collaborations like The Full English, The Elizabethan Sessions and Simpson Cutting Kerr. He has worked with a dazzling array of artists from across the musical spectrum: Jackson Browne, Martin Taylor, June Tabor, Richard Hawley, Bonnie Raitt, Danny Thompson, David Hidalgo, Danú, Richard Thompson and Dom Flemons, to mention a few. He is consistently named as one of the very finest acoustic, fingerstyle and slide guitar players in the world and is the most nominated musician in the history of the BBC Folk Awards, with a remarkable 31 nods. A true master of his art.

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.

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.

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: http://www.martinsimpson.com/

‘Blues Run The Game’ – audio stream:

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.

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

MARTIN GREEN – Flit (Reveal Records, REVEAL062CDX)

flitGreen, you may be aware, is the accordionist and electronic experimentalist with Lau, and his new solo album, Flit, is no less an inventive, boundary-pushing affair that, inspired by accounts of human movement across the globe, focuses on the zeitgeist folk scene theme of migration. As the title suggests it’s a restless piece of work, one for which he’s called on the vocal talents of Becky Unthank, John Smith and Adam Holmes as well as Mogwai’s Dominic Aitchison on bass and Adrian Utley from Portishead providing guitars, bass, synths and percussion. Green’s also collaborated on the material, co-writing with Karine Polwart, Anais Mitchell, Sandy Wright and Falkirk-born former Arab Strap founder, Aidan Moffat.

It’s the latter who opens proceedings, speaking his own words on the scratchy, pulsing ‘The Living Wind’ , a narrative essentially about the colonialist destruction and displacement of indigenous peoples, before the first of four Polwart numbers, the brooding, atmospherically ominous ‘Strange Sky’, breathily sung by Unthank, with its sudden sonic storms. By contrast, the second Polwart collaboration, ‘Wrackline’, is a sparse and ghostly thing, ebbing and flowing like the waves washing up on the shore that it references, gathering midway into a tribal clatter that gradually slows before a hushed close.

Sandwiched between the Polwart tracks is ‘Roll Away’, Holmes’ deep voice wrapping itself around Mitchell’s lyrics about being transported far away from home across the ocean, inspired by the story of his grandfather and grandmother, and a folksy melody that vaguely recalls ‘Shenandoah’. The Polwart/Green material returns with ‘The Suitcase’, electronic effects backdropping Moffat’s spoken introduction about the narrator’s memories of his father (‘respect money, money keeps you safe, he told me once, as if to explain a decade and a half of absence….he was alone, even with us’) before a resonant pulsing bass note takes over along with a duet by Unthank and Holmes. ‘Laws Of Motion’ again strikes a contrast, returning to more familiar folk strains, sung by Holmes accompanied by a resonant circling bassline. The only track to which lyrics are printed on the insert, it specifically references the migrant crisis with lines about being “cast adrift on open seas” and “searchlights at the tunnel gate, barbed wire at the harbour. Restless men and women blow like sands across the border”.

‘Clang Song’ and ‘Smallest Plant’ are solely written by Green, the former a collage of seething, dark electronics and the latter, featuring him on accordion with sonorous and disorienting synth noises, a more mournful traditional folk lament duetted by Unthank and Holmes. Finally, with words by Wright, a brooding repeated guitar line from Utley and Devonian folkie John Smith on vocals, ‘The Singing Sands’, the shortest track at under three minutes, is a spectral, minimalist sketch of loss and ‘the mocking waves’.

Immediate and accessible it most certainly is not, but, while it may be challenging, if you open yourself to experience it, it’s a hauntingly powerful piece of work.

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: http://www.martingreenmusic.co.uk/

‘Strange Sky’ – official video: