Hailing from the Gloucestershire countryside, award winning Americana duo, The Black Feathers announce the release of a new single ‘Holy Water’, the first to be taken from their eagerly awaited second album, due for release in the spring of 2018; the band will also embark on a tour across the UK through September.
The ability to write songs that sound both ancient and modern is a rare thing; weaving in traditional influences so thoroughly that they become the very fabric of fresh creations. The Black Feathers, Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler, are two such talents. Americana, folk and acoustic sensibilities coexist comfortably in their musical world, with Hughes’ guitar work buoying the kind of gorgeously seamless vocal harmonies often heard only in family bands.
New single, ‘Holy Water’, is probably the duo’s most personal and revealing song to date; written following a deeply powerful performance in the chapel of a rehab facility for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in Nashville TN during their recent US tour – the extraordinary experience being made all the more poignant as it fell on the same day as Ray celebrated six years of sobriety.
The music industry has a long and difficult history with addiction. What starts out as an exciting and liberating experience – creative, even – can all too easily become an obsession, leading to a downward spiral of self-destructive behaviour and isolation. And whilst some, like Ray, are lucky enough to realise that they’re falling, others simply don’t see the ground coming, and then struggle to come to terms with what has happened.
“Many turn to God or religion at such times, but not everyone has that choice,” Ray explains. “Holy Water tries to highlight the fact that you don’t need to be religious to be ‘saved’”.
‘Holy Water’ follows an incredible year for the band; their debut album Soaked To The Bone met with critical acclaim, breaking into the Top 10 iTunes Country chart and the Official UK Americana Chart. Lead single ‘Down By The River’ received an exclusive first play on BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris show; and the band headed on tour throughout the UK & US winning over audiences from The Bedford in Balham to the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.
As part of this year’s Americana Music Association UK Awards, there will also be an evening of curated showcases from twenty new and established artists in the trans-Atlantic Americana Music scene, to be known as ‘AmericanaFest UK 2017’.
The Americana music genre has enjoyed steady growth in the UK and worldwide over the past few years, with music sales, tours, airplay all on the increase.
This year’s full AMA-UK Festival runs from 1st to 2nd February 2017 and consists of three strands; the second UK Americana Awards, the fourth AMA-UK Conference and, of course, AmericanaFest UK 2017.
Artists performing at AmericanaFest UK 2017 include: Angaleena Presley (US), Robert Vincent, Glen Phillips (US), Wild Ponies (US) and Jess Morgan. See below for full line-up.
Separate showcase only tickets are available at the early bird price of just £10 (rising to £15) and allow entry to all 3 venues. Buy tickets here
For more information on the Conference, Awards Show and AmericanaFest UK 2017 see www.theamauk.org
Hailing from the Gloucester countryside, award-winning Americana duo, The Black Feathers, are excited to release their eagerly awaited debut album Soaked To The Bone on February 26, 2016 on Blue House Music. The first single re-leased from the album, ‘Down By The River’, premiered on Folk Radio UK in late 2015, with the world exclusive first play on BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris show.
Soaked To The Bone, the first long player by the duo of Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes, really has been a lifetime in the making. It’s the perfect consummation of the early promise shown by their 2014 EP Strangers We Meet, or the incisive and warm live performances that have won over audiences all the way from The Bedford in Balham to the Bluebird Café in Nashville.
They recorded the album in March 2015 and co-produced with Richard Neuberg (Viarosa), the result of which is a Black Feathers record with shadowy sensuality and charming melodicism in equal measure, from the poignant ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ and ‘Homesick’ via the ominous ‘Blind’ and ‘Spider And The Fly’ to the sunny ‘Take Me Back’ and ‘All For You’.
They married in 2012, which also marked the beginning of their musical adventure as The Black Feathers. They designed the band logo on honeymoon and the music soon followed. This close collaboration became the backbone of The Black Feathers’ sound. Whether playing to a 1,500 strong audience at the Colston Hall in Bristol, or to 80 crammed in to the Green Note in London, The Black Feathers give an intimate performance that draws the listener in to a special, strong and unique bond between two people.
The band have wasted no time in getting their music heard in venues around the UK, playing a multitude of shows and festivals up and down the country. Within their first year they were awarded the ‘5 Valleys Folk Award’ and the following year also picked up the ‘Folkstock Arts Foundation’ award for best live performance. They have toured in Germany, Holland and in the USA including a sell out show at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee.
The duo will return to the US for another long engagement next May and June, but there are many road miles to cover at home first, fuelled by the exciting arrival of SoakedTo The Bone, a debut album to be proud of.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
Americana Folk duo The Black Feathers are excited to announce that their video
‘Strangers We Meet’ is now available to watch online. This follows the release of their critically acclaimed debut EP of the same name in February 2014, which gained plays on BBC Radio 2 and saw them appear in The Telegraph’s 51 Best Folk Albums of 2014 list, as well as feature in Sunday Times Culture.
The perfectly paired voices of Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes intertwine effortlessly to create a genre defying sound, combining elements of folk, roots, Americana, and southern rock. The duo have been touring all over the UK for the past 2 years, winning over new fans of all ages everywhere they go.
They have performed at festivals all over the country, including the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival, Stroud Folk Festival, and Maverick. They were awarded the 5 Valleys Folk Award in September of 2013, and the Folkstock Arts Foundation award for Best Live Performance in February the following year.
In May of 2014, they embarked on a 7-week tour in the US, including shows at Club Passim, Caffe Lena, the Red Clay Theatre, and a sell out show at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.
If you would like to order a copy of the EP, download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually available on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.