Shrewsbury Folk Festival reveals more names


Folk legend Richard Thompson is set to make an electrifying return to this year’s Shrewsbury Folk Festival after organisers announced a rare appearance by the musician with his Electric Trio.

The former Fairport Convention musician, named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, will headline the festival’s Bellstone stage on Saturday August 25.

More than half of adult weekend tickets have already been sold with over six months to go to the event that attracts around 7,000 people to the West Mid Showground.

Other names added to the programme include the new duo of Peter Knight (ex Steeleye Span) and John Spiers (Bellowhead) and singer songwriters James Riley and Edwina Hayes.

Already announced are American singer songwriter Gretchen Peters, Steeleye Span, Irish super group Usher’s Island, Show of Hands, Jon Boden and The Remnant Kings, Gigspanner, BBC Folk Award winner Daoirí Farrell and Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore.

Chinese flautist Guo Yue and Japanese drummer Joji Hirota will reunite for the festival with the London Taiko Drummers and Canadian band The Fitzgeralds – one of the hit groups of last year’s festival – will also make a welcome return.

Other performers include Welsh indie roots band Rusty Shackle, State of the Union – the duo of Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams, O’Hooley & Tidow, Megson, Blowzabella, Banter, Alden, Patterson & Dashwood, The Rogues Shanty Crew, Emma Morton & The Graces, Midnight Skyracer, FOS Brothers, Inlay, and Foreign Affairs.

Dance bands will be Blowzabella, Bedlam, Committee Band, Vertical Expression, Kirkophany and Out of Hand.

Shrewsbury Folk FestivalThe festival, which will run from August 24 to 27, has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, more than 100 workshops, a craft fair, food village, real ale, prosecco and cocktail bars and on-site camping.

There are also fringe events at town pubs with dance displays in the centre of Shrewsbury and a parade through the streets.

Director Sandra Surtees said: “We are delighted to have secured this rare appearance by the Richard Thompson Electric Trio for Shrewsbury. Richard is a folk legend but he doesn’t often perform in this format so it’ll be a real treat for our audience.

“The line up contains a wide variety of traditional and contemporary folk alongside singer songwriters and north American and Canadian acts so there is something to appeal to all tastes.

“That’s echoed in the strong ticket sales we’re experiencing with many of our visitors coming back year after year as they love the festival so much!”

Weekend and day tickets are now on sale and can be booked at www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

Knight & Spiers UK Tour March 2018

Knight & Spiers

In the summer of 2016, the organisers of FolkEast Festival had the grand idea of pairing Peter Knight (ex-Steeleye Span) and John Spiers (ex-Bellowhead) for a special ‘one off’ concert at that year’s festival.

In the event, it ended up being a genuine festival highlight, with no space to be found in the Marquee and people standing five deep in pouring rain. For a few minutes at the close of their performance, with a standing ovation and roars for more, it didn’t seem as though the audience was going to let them go….it was a genuinely spine tingling occasion. As the MC commented, it was one of those occasions when people could say “I was there”.

It came as no real surprise that the one-off special led to a more permanent arrangement, and with a studio album in the pipeline, Knight and Spiers undertake their first UK tour in March 2018.

February

26 Warwick Arts Centre
Special Double Bill with The Gigspanner Big Band (featuring Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin)
https://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/whats-on/2018/peter-knights-gigspanner-big-band/

March

01 London: Cecil Sharp House
https://www.cecilsharphouse.org/

02 Alfriston: The Old Chapel
http://spyboy.co.uk/

03 Ashford: Revelation St Mary’s
http://revelationashford.co.uk/

04 Hitchin: Folk Club @ The Sun Hotel
http://www.hitchinfolkclub.idnet.net/

05 Colchester: Arts Centre
https://www.colchesterartscentre.com/

06 Cambridge: The Junction
https://www.junction.co.uk/

08 Worcester: Huntingdon Hall
http://www.worcesterlive.co.uk/

09 Leicester: Guildhall
http://www.greenbirdpromotions.net/

10 Halesworth: The Cut, In Conjunction With FolkEast Festival
http://newcut.org/

11 Lincoln: Performing Arts Centre
https://lpac.co.uk/

12 Sheffield: Greystones
http://www.mygreystones.co.uk/

14 Hexham: The Queen’s Hall
http://www.queenshall.co.uk/

15 Leyland/Preston: Fox Lane Sports and Social Club
http://www.mrkite.org/benefits.htm

16 Settle: Victoria Hall
http://www.settlevictoriahall.org.uk/

17 Liverpool: The Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic
http://www.liverpoolphil.com/music-room

18 Bishop’s Castle: The Town Hall
http://bishopscastletownhall.co.uk/

19 Nettlebed Folk Club
http://www.nettlebedfolkclub.co.uk/index.html

21 Fareham: Ashcroft Arts Centre
https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/ashcroft-arts-centre

22 Basingstoke: The Forge at the Anvil
http://www.anvilarts.org.uk/whats-on/knight-spiers

23 Corsham: The Pound Arts Centre
http://www.poundarts.org.uk/pound/default.aspx

24 Calstock: Arts Centre
http://calstockarts.org/

25 Topsham: Matthews Hall
http://www.topshamfolkclub.org/

27 Bridgwater: Arts Centre
http://bridgwaterartscentre.co.uk/

Live at FolkEast:

 

Cambridge City Roots Festival – the line-up

Cambridge City

The spirit of the world-famous Cambridge Folk Festival will inject the city with winter cheer in February and March, when Cambridge’s second city-wide winter folk and roots festival opens for two weeks of exceptional music and events.

An all-encompassing Corn Exchange line-up includes: the soaring, Gambian sun-drenched chords of stunning Kora virtuoso and opening Festival headliner, Sona Jobarteh performing alongside Cameroon’s blues and jazz artist Muntu Valdo; the Americana-tinged sound of Wildwood Kin – crowned this year as legendary broadcaster Bob Harris’s ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’ –  supporting Cambridge Folk Festival summer headliner, Ward Thomas; award-winning comic Rich Hall performing Hoedown – a withering dissection of Trump’s America which finishes as a celebration of Americana with stand-up, improvised ballads, and amazing musicianship…’Blissfully funny’ (The Guardian) and Cambridge born Tom Robinson with the 2-4-6-8 Motorway 40th Anniversary show. Tom is one of the founding team for BBC Radio 6, where he hosts three shows a week and has become known as a champion of new emerging artists via BBC Introducing.

At Cambridge Junction, an array of City Roots music is on offer: Chouk Bwa Libète bring drums, poetry and trance from Haiti’s vodou heartland; BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winners Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys rediscover and renew the music of Sam’s gaelic heritage, transcending boundaries of trad and popular music; Cambridge Folk Festival favourites and three of the world’s finest folk musicians, Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle set the stage alight playing material from their latest album, The Wishing Tree and legendary ex-Steeleye Span fiddle player, Peter Knight joins forces with John Spiers, one of the leading melodeon players of his generation for an unmissable gig. Cambridge Junction also presents a very special evening at St Barnabas Church featuring BBC 2 Radio 2 Folk Award nominees Megson.

Appearing at renowned city music venue, The Portland Arms will be folk festival Club Tent sensation, Darren Eedens & The Slim Pickin’s – whether they’re held spellbound by a poignant ballad or jumping up and down as one to a stomping groove, Darren’s command of an audience is absolute!

Following the success of last year’s Creative Roots, the festival’s valuable professional development day will be held at The Portland Arms. Music industry professionals will once again gather to offer a career development day of workshops, talks and sessions, offering gems of advice and a wealth of experience.

Drop-in music sessions around the city; a special City Roots Family Day with free attractions including craft workshops, face-painting, storytelling, Come And Try’ ukulele workshop and fun walkabout characters; plus what promises to be a sell-out City Roots highlight – a fascinating live interview, in association with the Cambridge Union Society, with charismatic Canvey Island rocker Wilko Johnson – and it’s safe to say City Roots will be one of the most anticipated events in Cambridge in 2018!

Festival website: click here

ANGE HARDY – Bring Back Home (Story Records STREC 1701)

Bring Back HomeAnge Hardy’s new album Bring Back Home was released on November 28th. For the past few years, she has had nominations and awards a-plenty, both for her music and most recently her radio programme, Folk Findings.

If you’ve not come across Ange Hardy before (I was surprised recently to find an acoustic music promoter who hadn’t) Bring Back Home is her sixth album and her music is in the English folk tradition. Except, of course, she’s not predominantly a singer of traditional English folk songs. On this album only two of the fourteen songs (‘Claudy Banks’ and a lovely version of ‘Waters of Tyne’) are traditional. The remainder are written by Hardy. Lyrically, musically and through the arrangements, though, they are at the heart of the tradition.

Have a listen to ‘What It Is’ for Hardy’s recognition that in chasing awards, “I’d missed the point of music! Life is far, far too short to chase goals without enjoying the journey”. The track has a beautifully poised vocal on a song that, until I read the sleeve notes, I heard as a generic lyric about life rather than the specific meaning for a writer who has now come to understand that the clubs, singers and audiences, not the awards, are “the beating heart of folk”.

Hardy’s voice absorbs the listener. On ‘Sisters Three’ the different phrasings draw you in to a folk tale about the development of good and evil in the heart of mankind, whereas on ‘Chase The Devil Down’ the vocal dances with the guitar throughout the track. On ‘The Hunter, The Prey’ her voice breathlessly pulls us into the magical world of the song, but on ‘Once I Was A Rose’ it is more acapella and more delicate. I had the CD in the car last week and my passenger, a trained singer, described the voice as “fine”. Her meaning was not, as I would use the word to mean, ‘better than good’ (though it is); she meant it in the way a maker would use the word in describing fine needlework, fine silverwork et al – deft, delicate, precise (as well as rather good).

Ange Hardy arranged and produced the album and the arrangements bring in musicians (Peter Knight, Lukas Drinkwater, Evan Carson, Alex Cumming, Jon Dyer and Lee Cuff) who enrich the songs and centre them in folk music. Similarly, the lyrics generally deal with universal themes, set in the “fictional landscape that seems to permeate many of my songs. Willow trees and streams…dense woodlands….A sense of magic and mystery surrounding complex characters; each on their own journey” [sleeve notes]. This, too, is very much a traditional folk landscape.

I’m writing this in the first week of December. As a result, I’m particularly struck by ‘What May You Do For The JAM’. When the Prime Minister expressed her concern for those who were just managing, civil servants acronymed them into the JAM. The song knows people in this world and, as well as knowing the fear of failing, has detail, “The turkey alone would be more than our savings” humanity, “And so I play Mum…..I carry on making a home full of Christmassy cheer”, and positivity, “My point is the only rock left here to build on is that of a world which has hope”. It’s as far as you can get from an acronym. Watch the video below and you’ll hear that it’s a good song as well as one which makes a human and political point. It might be too late, but if you fancy the idea, there are under three weeks to get a folk song to Number One for Christmas.

In the next couple of months there are gigs and radio shows that will help take Bring Back Home to a wider audience. That’s good, it’s a fine album.

Mike Wistow

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: https://www.angehardy.com

‘What May You Do For The JAM?”:

PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER – Live at Farnham Maltings

Gigspanner
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

I’ve heard Peter Knight’s Gigspanner three times this year and it never gets old. Admittedly the first occasion was with Gary Hammond on percussion and the second was the Big Band but this was the turbo-charged F1 trio and they flew.

They began, as Peter explained: “Roger and I will play a few notes and then we’ll go into the first piece of music”. Those few notes eventually turned in ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ which, in turn, moved away into something else before returning to the main theme. It set the bar pretty high for the rest of the evening.

For a band supposedly launching their new album, The Wife Of Urban Law, they were remarkably reticent about mentioning it although with such a dedicated audience as this the hard sell wasn’t really needed. Peter mentioned the title once while explaining ‘Urban’s Reel’ and can I just say how lovely Roger Flack’s guitar intro is? The second song was ‘Seagull’, on the new record as ‘Penny The Hero’ for reasons unknown, and they have been playing it for while now anyway. That was followed by ‘Penny And The Soldier’ and the flow of new material was interrupted only by ‘The Bows Of London’. The first half closed with ‘The Blackbird’ which Peter learned sitting down so that’s how he plays it.

Part two began with ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ which is typical of a Gigspanner number. It began almost diffidently with Peter voicing wordlessly off-mic and then built up gradually before taking off into the blue only to return to the gentle mood for the final verse. More favourites then: ‘Spencer The Rover’, ‘The Butterfly’, with Peter and Roger circling each other waiting for the tune to emerge and dry its wings, and ‘Bonnie Birdie’ before one more new track ‘Bold Riley’.

At the Big Band show I was disappointed that Sacha Trochet didn’t get to do an awful lot but he’s made up for it since. With a synth kick-drum his percussion is big in the bass and the shallow tom-tom to his left didn’t get that much use. He has a hi-hat which sometimes carries other bits of hand percussion but less is more as far as that goes. ‘Bold Riley’ is a fine example of what else is different – he maintained a steady beat, both hands together, solid throughout, that both held the song together and drove it on. I fancy they have speeded it up a bit but still you probably couldn’t work halyards to it, although I suspect that the song was an invention of Bert Lloyd so that wouldn’t matter.

I still don’t tire of ‘Louisiana Flack’ – the pleasure coming from watching Peter’s eyes rather than his fingers – and the trio closed with ‘Sharp Goes Walkabout’ with Sacha given free reign to create a percussive soundscape introducing the tune. They didn’t really leave the stage before being called back to encore with ‘The King Of The Fairies’ – there was no point in false modesty.

The wonderful thing about Gigspanner is that it’s never the same twice and that, as Roger said, “is why I like it”. I’ve heard every title in the set previously but they played some music that I hadn’t heard before and probably won’t be able to hear again but that doesn’t matter for there will be new delights next time. I’m prepared to say that this was the best gig I’ve ever heard them play but I’m supposed to be a critic so here’s the criticism. My dear lady wife would like to hear a little more of Roger. Thank you.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.gigspanner.com

OK. We know it’s an old film and not the current line-up but if you haven’t seen ‘Louisiana Flack’ live just enjoy this:

PETER KNIGHT’S GIGSPANNER live at Forest Arts, New Milton

Peter Knight's Gigspanner
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

30th March 2017

During Vincent Salzfaas’ enforced absence from this tour, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner have replaced him with not one but two percussionists. On duty tonight was Gary Hammond of The Beautiful South and The Hut People – he’s got quite a track record – but the question remained: how would it sound? During the opening ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ the percussion was low and suitably sombre and it seemed that Gary isn’t as flamboyant as Vincent but during the course of the evening he proved that he has a huge arsenal of techniques and tricks to produce an extraordinary range of tones from a simple set-up.

Gary’s kit consists of two congas, a djembele and a cajon which concealed other items of interest including a modern version of a bullroarer which introduced the closing ‘Sharp Goes Walkabout’. Peter looks terribly fearsome these days – my first thought was “magisterial” superseded by “vengeful god” – and Roger Flack remains his imperturbable self and has now added a kick-drum and what seems to be a small synthesiser to his set up. And the music – the music rolls on evolving with every performance.

Second on the set-list was ‘Seagull’, now a far cry from the rather slight song that Steeleye Span recorded, followed by ‘Peggy And The Soldier’ and ‘The Blackbird’. While Peter went off to find a chair for the latter Roger and Gary indulged in a little settling into the groove. I probably haven’t said it often enough but I do enjoy Roger’s guitar playing and always look forward to his solos. ‘Too Late For Shadows’ opened with three solos; first Gary, then Peter and finally Roger with Peter joining in to bring the trio back together. The first set closed with the “bonny Biscay” version of ‘The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies Oh’ which is where the kick-drum came in. It was almost folk-rock!

Part two began with ‘Hard Times Of Old England’, ‘Bows Of London’ and the erstwhile opener, ‘The Butterfly’, before ‘Bold Riley’, which we might presume is destined to appear on the band’s next album (due before the end of the year, in case you’re wondering). To highlight the evolution of Gigspanner’s music, take ‘Louisiana Flack’. Familiarity may be breeding contempt but Peter doesn’t look anywhere near as worried as he used too and has even taken to moving about to make Roger follow him. Roger seems to be ever more confident and, as far as I know, it never ends in tears.

The encore was ‘King Of The Fairies’ and everyone left feeling very happy. The final date of the tour is tonight in Alfriston with two percussionists. As Gary observed – “Drumspanner!”.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://www.gigspanner.com/index.html

‘Hard Times Of Old England’ – official video: