Imagined Isle Festival announces headline names

Imagined Isle

Birmingham music festival returns for second year.
Headliners include Fairport Convention and Jon Boden.

Fairport Convention, Jon Boden and The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble are among the acts headlining folk and roots festival Imagined Isle, which returns to the Birmingham’s iconic Town Hall from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 May 2017.

Formed in 1967, Fairport Convention are lauded as founding fathers of the British folk rock movement, with their seminal Liege And Lief considered one of the most influential albums of the 1960s. The band’s appearance (13 May 2017) is part of their year-long 50th anniversary celebrations, a landmark which is accompanied by new album, 50:50@50.

Acclaimed writer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Jon Boden (14 May 2017) was, until recently, lead singer with the multi-award winning Bellowhead. Away from the band, his career ranges from compositional work for the RSC and the theme to TV’s Count Arthur Strong, to the year-long A Folk Song A Day project, and collaborations with artists such as John Spiers and Eliza Carthy. His return as a solo artist is marked by the re-release of 2006’s debut, Painted Lady.

Hailing from Birmingham’s historic Conservatoire, The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble headline the contemporary flavoured late night Urban Folk Night (12 May 2017), which also includes appearances from roots/ fusion combo The Urban Folk Quartet and cinematic septet The Fair Rain (both from Birmingham), Stafford’s banjo maestro Dan Walsh, and South Wales’ indie-fused Rusty Shackle.

Founded in 1997 by Joe Broughton (The UFQ, The Albion Band, Joss Stone), the 50-strong Conservatoire Folk Ensemble line-up features a 15-piece horn section, four cello players, five percussionists and five electric guitarists, plus fiddles, flutes, clarinets, double bass, even a harp! As they mark their 20th birthday, past members are to re-join the ranks for the ensemble’s biggest ever performance.

Other Imagined Isle highlights include a Family Ceilidh with Rabscallion (13 May, 10.30am), and appearances from Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Faustus), and Boat To Row’s Michael King.

Weekend tickets, for all Imagined Isle performances, are on sale now for just £58. Individual concert tickets are also available. For more information and bookings, see: www.thsh.co.uk

Urban Folk Quartet – new album and tour

Urban Folk Quartet Live III

Reflecting their reputation as a forceful and electric live act, The Urban Folk Quartet return with an extended tour and new live album.

As the title suggests, The Urban Folk Quartet: Live III is The UFQ’s third live album, and follows the previously released Live (2011) and Live II (2013).

Recorded in concert during their spring 2015/ 2016 tour – at venues in Chester (Alexander’s), Maldon (Town Hall), Stafford (Gatehouse Theatre), and Bristol (Folk House) – the nine tracks see the quartet revisiting material from 2014 studio album, The Escape, and road-testing new tunes.

A perfect showcase for the four-piece’s breath-taking musicianship, Live III embraces their full scope, from the full-on ‘Upward Spiral’, to quieter ‘Resiste’ and ‘The Language Barrier’.

New tracks (pencilled in for their 2018 studio album) underline the quartet’s quizzical restlessness and globe-spanning sense of adventure: inspired by a trip to India. ‘Whiplash Reel’ transports a classical Indian scale into a Celtic setting, while the grooving ‘Long Time Traveller’ presents a distinctly UFQ take on a song adapted from famed American 19th century tunebook, The Sacred Harp.

In the concert environment, tunes familiar from ‘The Escape’ (which featured in several prominent ‘best of 2015’ lists) take on a newfound power and direction, as The UFQ feed off the crowds’ enthusiasm and energy, extending and transforming their growing catalogue.

“The pieces are arranged to deliberately get the audience going, with improvised passages that respond to the audience’s reaction, the vibe,” explains fiddle-player Joe Broughton. “That’s the whole reason we like to do live albums. In ‘Control Zed’, Tom does a phenomenal percussion solo – it’s those special moments of interaction where we use the energy from the crowd …”

While other bands may use the live album format to fulfil contractual obligations or as a filler, the prolific UFQ see their in-concert releases as an integral part of their creative process – hence their plan to follow each studio album with a live counterpart (something which their growing international fan-base have now come to expect).

The UFQ’s sixth album over-all, Live III, however, takes a different approach to its predecessors, I and II.

“Our previous live albums have very much been presented as one night”, says percussionist Tom Chapman. “Even though Live II was recorded at two gigs, when you listen to it it’s easy to hear it as one gig. Live III is very definitely an album collected over months, with varied rooms and audiences giving the album its unique dynamic drive.”

The release arrives at a time of increased UFQ activity. 2016 saw the band perform a series of jaw-dropping sets at various UK and international festivals, including Green Man, Towersey, Cropready, Shrewsbury, Ringsted in Denmark, and Lakeland Festival, in Erlach, Switzerland. They were also personally invited by singer Joss Stone to appear at children’s charity Barnardo’s 150th anniversary concert at London’s The Roundhouse.

The Urban Folk Quartet have been dazzling audiences with their brand of ‘electrifying acoustic music’ since 2009. Galician fiddle player Paloma Trigás has shared stages and recorded with the likes of The Chieftains, Sharon Shannon and Altan, and toured the stadiums of the world with Spain’s biggest folk star, Carlos Nuñez. Long established on the folk scene as a fiery English fiddler and showman, Joe Broughton (Albion Band), is also an exceptional guitarist and mandolin player. Dan Walsh is regarded as one of the finest banjo players in the country, as well as being a gifted singer and guitarist, while percussionist Tom Chapman is widely considered to be the most accomplished and innovative cajón player the UK has to offer.

Artists’ website: http://www.theufq.com/

‘The Language Barrier’ live:

Remaining Live dates…

Friday 24 March 2017
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester WR1 3LD
7.30pm, £16.50

Thursday 30 March 2017
Alexander’s, Rufus Court, Chester CH1 2JW

Friday 31 March 2017
Town Hall, Maldon, Essex CM9 4PZ

Saturday 1 April 2017
Folk House, 40a Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JG

Thursday 6 April 2017
Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3HZ

Jack McNeill & Charlie Heys TWO FINE DAYS

“The Birmingham-based, Young Folk Awards-nominated duo’s free-spirited music sounds centuries old. It’s not, and their fresh guitar and violin set-up adds a rare sparkle to traditional hues.” Q Magazine

Jack and Charlie’s well-known idiosyncratic approach to folk music and song writing has earned them an enviable reputation as two of the most exciting, heartfelt and challenging musicians around. Writing songs that seem to grow out of the ground and tunes that tell stories in their own right, Jack and Charlie’s original music strings together the past, present and what might yet be of folk music. Continue reading Jack McNeill & Charlie Heys TWO FINE DAYS