Marathon autumn program continues at Cecil Sharp House


Tilston and Lowe
Wednesday 8 November, 7.30pm
£14 | £10 under 26s

Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe, two of the UK acoustic/folk scene’s finest songwriters join forces for a concert filled with songs and music, chat and banter and intimate insights into their approach to their craft. Listen in as they rekindle the spontaneity of their late-night living-room song swaps.


An Evening with the Seeger MacColl Family
Thursday 16 November, 7.30pm
£18 | £10 under 26s

The Seeger MacColl family are one of folk music’s most loved dynasties. Singer, songwriter and feminist icon Peggy Seeger performs with Neill and Calum, her sons with Ewan MacColl.

Peggy long-awaited memoir, ‘First Time Ever’ will be published in October. To celebrate, Peggy, Neill and Calum will be touring a special related show in which she’ll mix extracts from the book with the songs that have meant the most to her over the years. Expect anecdotes from her long and remarkable career together with performances songs new and old.

The Stray Birds
Saturday 18 November, 7.30pm
£15 | £10 under 26s

The Stray Birds started as a duo of acoustic buskers when Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven met with their instruments, their voices, and their songs. It didn’t take much convincing to get bassist Charlie Muench on board, and with the addition of a third unique and powerful voice, the group began to define its captivating sound. Since taking America by storm in 2013 they have gone on to win a huge fan base following appearances at big festivals around the world.

Trad Night – Thomas McCarthy
Wednesday 22 November, 7.30pm, £10

Thomas McCarthy is a man steeped in the tradition of Irish song, intoxicated by the music and passionate in his sensitivity towards them. He comes from a considerable dynasty of traditional singers, song-makers and musicians, and grew up surrounded by the singing of his late mother, her father and aunts and uncles. Having spent his life learning the songs of his family, in 2008 Thomas sang publicly for the first time at the folk club at Cecil Sharp House. By the following year, he had sung at the most prominent folk festivals and clubs in Ireland and England and had appeared on BBC radio.

Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys
Wednesday 29 November, 7.30pm
£14 | £10 under 26s

Sam is one of the most exciting young prospects in the folk scene, having gained a reputation for an incredibly high class and dynamic live show.

Coming from a family largely made up of Norfolk dairy farmers has left Sam with an unmatched experience of singing in front of hurtfully disinterested Friesians, and his meandering musical journey has ranged from reaching the final of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent as a teenager, to being selected for the first ever EFDSS Artist Development Scheme. Whether playing to 13 million people on prime-time television, or to 10 people in a tiny pub, Sam’s child-like fascination with music shines through.

Jess Morgan & Kitty Macfarlane
Wednesday 6 December, 7.30pm
£12 | £10 under 26s

Jess Morgan is a songwriter’s songwriter. Her performance is a tumbler of unfancied folk-roots music, with heart, passion and gusto.

Kitty Macfarlane’s songs are charged with a sense of place – more often than not her home county of Somerset – and her lyrics combine honest snapshots of everyday humanity with much bigger questions.

India Electric Co
Wednesday 13 December, 7.30pm
£12 | £10 under 26s

Sometimes folk, sometimes not. India Electric Company use traditional instruments in contemporary styles to explore diverse themes from Eastern Europe, Irish traditions and urban alienation to end up with something “quirky and glittery – a veritable musical magpie’s nest” (Mary Ann Kennedy, BBC Radio 3).

Belshazzar’s Feast

Thursday 14 December, 7.30pm
£15 | £10 youth

On tour with a Christmas-themed show that mixes traditional folk music, seasonal material, added to their usual touch of classical and jazz, with a bit of pop and music hall, all topped off with lashings of wry humour.  Paul Sartin (of Bellowhead and Faustus) and Paul Hutchinson (of Hoover The Dog) together wow audiences across the UK with their eclectic and eccentric mix of tunes and between songs chat that always sends audiences home with smiles on their faces.

Festive Gathering
Sunday 17 December, 7.30pm
£15 | £10 under 26s

Join for us our ever-popular, annual celebration of yuletide, with a chance to join in on the songs and merriment.

Cecil Sharp House Choir, led by Sally Davies, will perform joyful a cappella arrangements of traditional, seasonal songs, carols and wassails from the British Isles and beyond, sung in glorious harmony.  Folk dancers, singers and musicians will fill Kennedy Hall – the main space at Cecil Sharp House – with seasonal cheer.

For bookings go to:

THE STRAY BIRDS – Magic Fire (Yep Roc Records CD-YEP-2475)

Magic FireMagic Fire, The Stray Birds’ third full-length album, opens with three gloriously anthemic songs. They are rooted in the American tradition but explode from the speakers with such power. The band’s basic skeleton of guitar, fiddle, mandolin and banjo are augmented by drummer Shane Leonard and built on by the hands of producer Larry Campbell – the first time The Stray Birds have used an outside producer.

The first song, ‘Shining In The Distance’, a song-writing collaboration with Lindsay Lou, is already available in cyberspace and it’s the sort of song you put on a continuous loop as Maya de Vitry’s lead vocals are sent soaring by the harmonies of Charles Muench and Oliver Craven (and probably herself several times over). Second is the Dylanesque ‘Third Day In A Row’, a song with hints of Tom Petty in the vocal delivery and another one to add to that loop. In truth, I have trouble getting past the first few songs without wanting to go back to the beginning and start again.

Third up is ‘Sabrina’, a fiddle-led hoe-down of a song with an infectious chorus that must be a blast on stage. ‘Radio’ slows the pace down with a thoughtful metaphor about changing the station on your life and tasteful electric guitar. The next songs, ‘Where You Come From’ and ‘Fossil’ maintain that mood but each one builds imperceptibly towards a big finish – and we’re only at the mid-point of the album.

‘Hands Of Man’ features Appalachian-style fiddle and is followed by the sweet pedal-steel-led ‘Somehow’, a complete contrast, the rocking country-blues ‘Sunday Morning’ and the lyrical ‘Mississippi Pearl’. ‘All The News’ is definitely a song for our times and features organ – another first, I think – and finally we have ‘When I Die’, best described as a secular hymn and another anthem for the loop.

Magic Fire is a wonderful, uplifting record, destined to be one of my albums of the year.

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 THE STRAY BIRDS link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website:

‘When I Die’ – live:

THE STRAY BIRDS – Best Medicine (Yep Roc YEP-2408)

Stray Birds 2Music is the best medicine I sell.” How can you resist a sentiment like that? It’s the hook of the title track of the second album from The Stray Birds, a song that also links Beatles and bones in the same sentence, and if that doesn’t strike a chord you should get back to X Factor and leave this page to the grown-ups.

The Stray Birds are Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, and Charlie Muench from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who have been steeped in music since their days together in the school orchestra. They have distilled their musical influences into an evocative Americana which succeeds in holding a modern point of view. The first lines of ‘San Antonio’, for example, paint a picture of dusty streets under the desert sun but it’s really about travelling and isolation – or, at least, that’s what it says to me. There are two traditional songs: a powerful ‘Pallet’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Shoe’, neither are versions I’m familiar with which adds to the interest and both serve to touch base with the band’s roots. In truth, most of their songs do that with a carefully crafted line or two. ‘The Bells’ could have come from The Band’s brown album – I can hear Levon singing it in my head.

Musically, The Stray Birds are pretty phenomenal. All three have powerful lead voices – apparently this is the first album on which double bass man Charlie sings lead – which can also slot into harmonies. Maya plays fiddle, banjo and guitar and Oliver plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar, including a rather tasty-looking resonator and the whole thing just works. I can’t help thinking that if Peter, Paul and Mary had sounded like this the history of popular would have been radically different.

If you’re in the UK you’ve missed the chance to hear them live this year but they work a heavy tour schedule and we can hope that they will be back in 2015. And get this: they actively encourage audiences to tape (or digital?) their shows. I’m up for that.

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 helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: