The 2017 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2017 Folking Awards. Last year’s inaugural poll was such a success that we had to do it again. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with sweat, tears and not a little blood by the Folkmeister and the Editor.

There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have been featured in the pages of folking.com in 2016.

As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes. However, its not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.

Soloist Of The Year

Luke Jackson
Ralph McTell
Kelly Oliver
Steve Pledger
Alasdair Roberts


Best Duo

Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater
O’Hooley & Tidow
Ninebarrow
Show Of Hands


Best Band

Afro Celt Sound System
Fairport Convention
Harp And A Monkey
Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitor Band
Merry Hell


Best Live Act

The James Brothers
Robb Johnson and the My Best Regards Band
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Mad Dog Mcrea
Megson


Best Album

Tall Tales & Rumours – Luke Jackson
Ballads Of The Broken Few – Seth Lakeman/Wildwood Kin
Preternatural – Moulettes
Somewhere Between – Steve Pledger
Dodgy Bastards – Steeleye Span


Best Musician

Ciaran Algar
Phil Beer
Rachel Newton
Gill Sandell
Kathryn Tickell


Rising Star Act

The Brewer’s Daughter
Hattie Briggs
Said The Maiden
Sunjay
Emily Mae Winters


Best International Act

Applewood Road
The Bills
David Francey
Michael McDermott
Eve Selis


Public Vote

The public vote closed Midday Saturday 22 April 2017 and the winners have now been announced HERE


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.

MOULETTES – Preternatural (Craft Pop Records CRAFTPOP1CD)

PreternaturalI was fortunate enough to hear Moulettes preview some of Preternatural live last year and even more fortunate to grab a word or two with Ruth Skipper after the set. I confessed that, while I loved the band’s sound, I didn’t always know what they were about. With alarming candour Ruth admitted that sometimes she didn’t either! I felt better then.

And so we again dive into the Moulettes’ strange world with their fourth album, which is inspired by “strange beasts”. I’ll say right now it sounds wonderful, big and powerful, multi-layered instruments and voices delivering a real smack to the musical psyche. The opening track is ‘Behemooth’, which has been circulating as a video for a while. It starts with some words from what sounds like an over-excited American film trailer of the 50s giving a feeling of otherness from the off. With two synths and a Moog player in the line-up, the record is awash with strange sounds and it can feel that newest member Raevennan Husbandes is the grounding influence. She plays guitar and takes lead vocal on some tracks and shares harmonies with Hannah Miller and Ruth as well as some percussion.

Ollie Austin’s drums drive the music, giving a solid foundation to the welter of sounds being produced around him – and by him: he also plays guitar and synth. The album washes over you in powerful waves and the lyrics are sometimes hard to pick out, particularly with subjects like ‘Pufferfish Love’, ‘Medusa’ and ‘Parasite’. There isn’t a conventional frame of reference. “I was born curious” is a repeated line in ‘Rite Of Passage’ and it seems to me that it can be interpreted in two ways while ‘Coral’ is perhaps the most straightforward song – “We are the force of nature we cannot control” tells it like it is. The final song, ‘Silk’, is another standout track. I think it’s about spiders.

I really like Preternatural but I admit that I’m several more plays away from fully understanding it. And I will say to anyone who has not yet had the pleasure that there is no substitute for hearing Moulettes live on stage.

Dai Jeffries

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.

CD…

LP…

Artists’ website: http://www.moulettes.co.uk/

‘Behemooth’ – live studio version:

Moulettes unveil Behemooth video

On May 27th Brighton based collective Moulettes, continue their journey into the alt.pop/rock/folk universe with the release of their most accomplished album to date – Preternatural.

It was in early 2015 when reading an article in the New Scientist that lead singer Hannah Miller first starting thinking about a concept for the new album.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world” says Hannah. “But this article compelled me to look deeper and start exploring all the surreal and beautiful diversity that exists. There’s so many phenomenal creatures out there we thought they deserved their own album.”

Continue reading Moulettes unveil Behemooth video

Moulettes – new album

Moulettes
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

On May 27th Brighton based collective Moulettes, continue their journey into the alt.pop/rock/folk universe with the release of their most accomplished album to date – Preternatural.

It was in early 2015 when reading an article in the New Scientist that lead singer Hannah Miller first starting thinking about a concept for the new album. “I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world” says Hannah. “But this article compelled me to look deeper and start exploring all the surreal and beautiful diversity that exists. There’s so many phenomenal creatures out there we thought they deserved their own album.”

Fast forward to 2016 and the result is Preternatural – an eclectic but cohesive 11 track collection, which marries the thought provoking concept with elements of prog, pop, alt-folk and rock. It’s a beautifully orchestrated piece of work, experimental in parts but still accessible, fusing rich vocal harmonies, persuasive melodies, and elaborate compositions to make a genre defying album that explores the moving gaps of electronic and acoustic; DIY and big production.

Highlights include the epic opener ‘Behemooth’, a heavy, drum-driven progressive anthem inspired by a loud and unidentified sound recorded in the pacific, and electro-rock lead single ‘Underwater Painter’, which explores the way Octopus-chameleons of the sea can switch between camouflage and a psychedelic electric light show. “The solo was recorded in one take” recalls Hannah, “and was definitely a homage to Prince!”

There is currently no video releases for any of the new material yet but ‘Behemooth’ is available to listen to via soundcloud here:  https://soundcloud.com/moulettes/behemooth-singleedit

One of the album’s finest moments, the sublime ‘Pufferfish Love’, drew on recent ground-breaking Attenborough footage of the Japanese mandala-making Pufferfish, whilst the groove-based Art Pop of ‘Coral’ describes the crises facing coral reefs, – “A beautiful illustration of symbiosis between animals, minerals and plants” says Ollie.  Other standouts include the addictive ‘Patterns,’ the ethereal vocals of ‘Medusa’ and the album closer, ‘Silk’ about spiders who pluck harmonics on the strands of their webs to tune them…

“There are so many things to write about,” says Hannah, “Lost love is sad, but a lost species is a tragedy for us all.”  “Presenting your own sort of eclecticism is the aim,” says Ollie. “Zappa, Gentle Giant to current bands like Field Music, John Grant, Snarky Puppy, My Brightest Diamond, Tuneyards, Tortoise etc would all agree. These were all references for the record.”

Moulettes are a Brighton based British band of multi instrumentalists that weave in and out of several genres with 3 part harmony female vocals, amplified Cello, distorted Bassoon, Auto-Harp, Guitar, Drums, Bass and Synths into an incomparable alt.pop/rock/folk universe.  Singles from their eponymous release in 2010 (****Mojo), their follow up The Bear’s Revenge in 2012 (**** The Guardian) and third studio album Constellations (No.7 Indie Charts, Best Album: Spiral Earth Awards) have been played across BBC6 and BBC2 with support from Cerys Mathews, Mark Radcliffe, Mary Anne Hobbs, Bob Harris, Tom Robinson and Lauren Laverne.

Since playing together at school in Glastonbury to residencies on Tin Pan Alley, to a multitude of festivals including Glastonbury, Bestival, Cropredy, Cambridge Folk, End Of The Road and Green Man along with relentless world touring, the band have become renowned for their breath taking live shows. On the way the band have shared both the stage and studio with many well-known artists in Folk, Prog, Pop and Rock, including Mick Jagger, Nick Cave, Seasick Steve, Bonobo, Gentle Giant, Mumford and Sons (Ted Dwane was a founding Moulette), Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Bellowhead, and The Levellers.

Moulettes are: Hannah Miller (Cello, vocals, guitar) Ollie Austin (Drums, guitar, piano, vocals) Ruth Skipper (Bassoon, vocals, autoharp, synths) Jim Mortimore (Double bass, Guitar, vocals) Raevennan Husbandes (Electric Guitar, Vocals, Percussion).

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.

Live at the Great British Folk Festival last year. Guess where the photograph was taken.

 

Artist’s website: www.moulettes.co.uk

THE GREAT BRITISH FOLK FESTIVAL, Skegness, 4th-7th December

The idea of holding a folk festival in Skegness in December probably raised a few eyebrows when it was first mooted. The suggestion that it should be held at Butlin’s may have caused a pursing of lips but it makes perfect economic sense. The artists have a major venue and a captive audience to add to a winter tour and the camp and its staff gets extra use and revenue. There are two main venues, both are very large and both were packed on Friday evening.

Friday

THE GREAT BRITISH FOLK FESTIVAL, Skegness, 4th-7th December
False Lights

Entering the Pleasure Dome, sorry, Skyline Pavilion trying to figure out where everything was it was nice to be greeted by the harmonies of Said The Maiden on the Introducing Stage – the third open venue in the middle of the pavilion. It was nearly the end of their set, unfortunately, but we stayed to hear Kings Of The South Seas before insinuating ourselves into the Centre Stage for False Lights. Live, they are less reliant on Jim Moray’s synth wizardry and proved themselves to be an exceptionally good folk-rock band in the classic style. They may prefer to think of themselves as mould breakers but they are actually doing what some bands seem to have forgotten how. Their attempt to perform ‘How Can I Keep From Singing’ without PA was not a success, however; the natural acoustics of the room are not as good as they believed.

Wayward Band 2
Eliza Carthy And The Wayward Band

At an event like this you can’t hear everything so I was now faced with a decision – Eliza Carthy And The Wayward Band or Billy Bragg? The fact that we now had decent seats settled it and we stayed put for the first half of Eliza’s set. Her twelve piece band are set to be the next Bellowhead (whatever anybody says) and are more than up to the task. As well as old favourites, including a “duelling fiddles” interlude with Sam Sweeney in ‘My Boy Billy’, there was a new song, ‘Devil In The Woman’, slated for their first studio album. Bragg called, however, and we arrived for what seemed like the mellow end of his set with ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ and ‘Greetings To The New Brunette’. No! Amongst the polemic he sang ‘Between The Wars’, still powerful and relevant, and ‘There Is Power In A Union’. I reflected that the latter needs some revision with the unions battered down. We may discover that there is power in unity. ‘A New England’ wrapped up his set perfectly.

Richie Prynne 2
Richie Prynne

CC Smugglers followed with the sort of set that only a band as youthful as them could have the energy to play but shouldn’t have the chops to pull off. They have played so many gigs since I first saw them, even ones they weren’t invited to, and have become so tight and slick. Richie Prynne prowled his stage like a circus ringmaster, never still and rarely silent, cajoling and haranguing the audience, the songs and even his band-mates like a true showman. If the idea of the last set of the night was to wind the audience down then CC Smugglers were not the right choice.

Saturday

Moulettes
Moulettes

The first and last time I heard Moulettes was at very uncomfortable gig and I was looking forward to hearing them in a nice chair. Actually, the best seating for the band is a bean bag with a lava lamp, joss-sticks and a guy dishing out small squares of blotting paper. Sadly the only mind-altering substance available was a pint of Hobgoblin. This was the final gig of the Constellations tour and Moulettes were also previewing their new album, Preternatural, with songs which, for want of more specific titles, we’ll call ‘Octopus’, ‘Nematode’ and ‘Behemoth’. I love the sound of the band, I love their instrumentation and their style but I really don’t know what they are about a lot of the time. “Surreal dreamscapes” were mentioned and I guess that’s about right.

I chatted to Ruth Skipper after the set to ask her impressions of the festival. It turned out that they had only just arrived and gone straight on stage, which accounted for some of the sound man’s problems. At their simplest Moulettes can be two guitars, bass and fiddle but at various times will be added electric cello, bassoon, autoharp, some meaty drums and keyboards and a balance that’s right for the beginning of a song may be wrong by the end. I did discover that the band were looking forward to the water-slide and hearing more music later which proves that I have no future as an investigative reporter.

Chris Simpson
Chris Simpson

Next up were Magna Carta. Chris Simpson on-stage is pretty much the same as Chris Simpson off-stage – he’s a raconteur, discursive and philosophical and Doug Morter is his perfect right hand man. Chris has surrounded himself with some very fine musicians but the set felt loose and the decision to give Morter a solo of one of his own songs seems questionable. Back on the firmer ground of The Fields Of Eden things were much more sure-footed and ‘Airport Song’ was a nice encore.

Sam Carter
Sam Carter

The queue for Tom Robinson curled twice round the pavilion and things were clearly running late so what might have been another difficult decision was made easier and we settled in to hear Sam Carter. He opened his set with ‘Yellow Sign’, the song he began with when I first heard him, and I was shocked to realise that that was six years ago. He has grown as an artist so much. Just when we were settling into the style of his own songs he switched to ‘The Wife Of Ushers Well’, which he sings with False Lights, and ‘Rocking The Cradle’. He played a superb set which showed the power of one man and his guitar. Sam was probably the highlight of the weekend for me.

The Unthanks
The Unthanks

We got back just in time to catch the end of Tom Robinson’s set so I did get to sing ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ again before The Unthanks appeared on the Centre Stage. With the full ten-piece band on stage it’s easy to overlook the contribution of Niopha Keegan to the group but her trumpet playing was the fondant icing on several songs. The technical problems rolled on so The Demon Barbers XL were thirty-five minutes late on stage, almost taking the gloss off their excellent set which began with traditional songs and ended as a dance display featuring hip-hop, interpretative dance and a fearsomely fast rapper. It’s quite disconcerting to see a stage bare of wires, mic stands and other clutter but they needed all the space they could get. I got to bed by 2.00 am, more or less – it was a long day.

Sunday

By midday the pace was beginning to tell and the queues for the afternoon sessions were noticeably lighter and some people I spoke to were planning a power nap in preference to more music. No such luxury for your man on the spot.

TradArrr
TradArrr

TradArrr were excellent. They can really rock and with Marion Fleetwood on lead they can turn in a bittersweet ballad like ‘My Laggan Love’ or ‘Silver Dagger’. Between them they boast five lead vocalists, a full string quartet, a keyboard player who frequently added unexpected flourishes and two drummers, one of whom plays cornet. There were hints of high camp as PJ Wright planted a foot on the foldback and Guy Fletcher prowled the stage hunched over his mandolin but they restrained themselves well. It was then a choice between waiting for Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle or scurrying off to catch The Band From County Hell – sorry Jacqui.

The Band From County Hell
The Band From County Hell

The Band From County Hell are a Scots/Irish group from Lincolnshire and are huge fun – ‘The Day My Granny Died’ is a song everybody should hear at least once. They have been around for a quite a while, with six albums to their credit and it seems odd that they aren’t better known – although they don’t lack for support. The first notes played by Blazin’ Fiddles were on keyboard and guitar which is, I’m sure, their little joke. It’s not logical to find them restful but they are so tight and their music is so hypnotic. I promise that I didn’t nod off but I was definitely on a different plane of existence for a lot of their excellent set.

Chris Cleverley
Chris Cleverley

I returned to the Introduction Stage to hear Chris Cleverley whose debut album, Apparitions, I really like. His set, mixing traditional songs and his own compositions didn’t disappoint and he’s already working in new songs including ‘All I Want’ which will send me back to Joni Mitchell’s Blue as soon as time allows. I stayed for Polly And The Billets Doux, who won the day’s vote for a main stage slot next year, and The Black Feathers, who really needed a more sympathetic environment.

Vo Fletcher
Vo Fletcher

The Ric Sanders’ Trio have finally come out as a fun band with their new album and set of old blues, string band and swing numbers. It might be called the Vo Fletcher Trio since it is his guitar that forms the foundation and his voice that sings the songs but when the singing stops it is Ric’s flights of instrumental fancy that take their music to another place. The album is a lot of fun and their set reflected that. Then it was decision time again. I’d been told that Fotheringay would be playing the same set that they had toured all year “only better”. That was true but I missed the excitement of the earlier gigs when the band were still finding their way into, or back into, the music. Nevertheless, theirs was the set everyone wanted to hear.

Steeleye Span
Steeleye Span

Since they lost Messrs. Knight and Zorn I really wanted to hear what Steeleye Span would do. With two new musicians to induct the answer was to go back to first principles so ‘All Things Were Quite Silent’ was followed by ‘Blackleg Miner’ and ‘Weary Cutters’ was teamed with ‘New York Girls’ featuring Maddy Prior on ukulele. And they rocked. Julian Littman added a rap to ‘Boys Of Bedlam’ and Spud Sinclair played the sort of electric guitar that we haven’t heard in the band since Bob Johnson’s time. As a final touch they closed with an a capella version of Rick Kemp’s ‘Somewhere Along The Road’.

Nick Gibbs
Nick Gibbs

There is no getting away from the fact that playing the final set of a festival after Steeleye Span have gone off to rapturous applause is a daunting task but Folklaw threw themselves into it with energy and aplomb. Fiddler and songwriter Nick Gibbs was joined by Gaz Hunt on a minimalist drum kit, Martin Vogwell on bass and mandolin and Bryn Williams on guitar and bodhran – not to mention crossing the venue floor on the backs of chairs! They sent the crowd off exhausted but happy.

So does a December festival work once you get over the culture shock of rocking up at 5.00 pm on a Friday in the dark? This is still Skegness and with Storm Desmond blowing around us “bracing” just didn’t begin to describe it but when the wind dropped on Sunday it was mild and pleasant. The accommodation and facilities were excellent and the unsung stars of the weekend were the Butlin’s staff who were friendly and helpful and worked long hours. However, this was folk music adapting to Butlin’s not the other way round. The artists existed in a bubble of stage/backstage/ accommodation or arrived, performed and left and there were quite a few I would have liked to have spoken to so I apologise to them. A bulletin board for messages or to arrange meetings wouldn’t take much to set up and would be a big help, too. But, yes, it works and if you have considered going but not done so I can recommend it.

Dai Jeffries

Heg & The Wolf Chorus – new single heralds debut album

Heg & The Wolf Chorus new single heralds debut albumHeg & The Wolf Chorus are a band showing the world of folk that they are one of the best narrators around. Approaching songs like aural fairytales, the exciting avant-garde four-piece entices and entertains the listener as storytellers of old.

The enchantingly mythical single ‘The White Witch’ out 26th October, tells the awe-inspiring story of a witch who was wrongfully burnt at the stake and casts her spell that brings the world, as we know it, to its demise. The scale and grandeur of the mythological sites of the Isle of Skye, Scotland that inspired Heg’s song writing can be heard in every breath-taking musical flourish.

The band bring the first single from their debut album Raising The Fires fresh from playing a horde of summer festivals, supporting BBC Sound of 2013 winners HAIM, performing live at Bristol’s Colston Hall for the BBC and being selected for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent long-list by Helen True from For Folks Sake. BBC Introducing and fRoots magazine are firm supporters of the uniquely theatrical four-piece with the band performing a showcase for fRoots at Sidmouth Folk Festival.

The folk rhapsodist’s showcase their beautiful and distinctly different sound on ‘The White Witch’, set for release 26th October. As epic and dramatic as the landscapes that inspired it, Raising The Fires is set for release in 2016.

Heg & The Wolf Chorus will be special guests to folk heroes Moulettes and Nizlopi this Novemberember on their co-headline tour.

Artists’ website: www.hegandthewolfchorus.com

‘The White Witch’ – official video: