The UK’s biggest country/ Americana act completes Towersey Festival’s massive 2018 line-up
Acclaimed British country duo The Shires are the final headline act to be announced for the 54th Towersey Festival (24-27 August 2018, Thame, Oxfordshire).
Hailing from Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, aka The Shires, are the biggest selling UK country act of all time, and the first UK act to be honoured with a Country Music Association (CMA) Award. Winning over US audiences with their lauded take on the revered genre, they’ve even performed in Nashville’s hallowed Grand Ole Opry, the very heart of country music.
With two record-setting Top 10 albums behind them (Brave and My Universe), their much-anticipated third collection, Accidentally On Purpose, is released on 20 April 2018. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, the album combines massive country-pop choruses with emotive lyrics inspired by their whirlwind journey, relationships, and their time in the States.
The duo close Towersey Festival on Monday 27 August 2018, and join previously announced headliners Richard Thompson Electric Trio (Fri), The Proclaimers and Big Country (Sat), and Beth Orton (Sunday). The line-up also features the Americana-tinged Wildwood Kin, songwriter/ guitarist Blair Dunlop, William The Conqueror, and the bluegrass influenced Bella Gaffney and Polly Bolton.
Towersey Festival Director Joe Heap said: “We’re so pleased to finally announce The Shires as the last of our headline acts this year. They’re quite simply the biggest UK country/ Americana act there is, and they’ll be making the August Bank Holiday Monday a day to remember!”
Situated in easy reach of London and Birmingham, on the Oxfordshire/ Buckinghamshire border, and established in 1965, Towersey is one of the UK’s longest continuously running independent music festivals. Boasting 11 venues, alongside an extensive music programme the festival also features 24hrs of ceilidh, daily workshops, a well-stocked real ale bar, street food, spoken word, film screenings, events and activities for children and younger festival-goers, and more.
Tickets for Towersey Festival, which runs from Friday 24 to Monday 27 August 2018 at Thame Showground in Oxfordshire, are available now (Tier 3) from £129 (adult), £115 (conc), £91 (youth), £59 (child) for the full four days. Day tickets are also available (adult £40; youth £28; child £18). Under 5s are free.
The City Roots Festival shakes open its umbrella (and hauls on its snow boots) for a second year of folk and roots events. As before, a loose collection of venues and artists are brought under the festival banner, from the already-scheduled to the specially commissioned.
New this year is an extended, two-week timespan. With something happening just about every evening and a few of the daytimes too, is there enough to keep fans busy? Well, it is hard to imagine it being a destination for the whole festival fortnight. But for those within travelling distance (admittedly a pretty wide area) – or those who don’t enjoy the whole festival experience – coming along to individual events seems to work well enough. The potential downside of this is that it tends to favour bigger names who might be touring here anyway. The challenge remains, as ever, to expose upcoming acts to wider audiences.
Inevitably, it’s also harder to keep up continuity across a multi-venue, multiple day festival. Branding is generally more visible this year, which is a definite plus. Some of the artists, though, seem barely aware that they are part of the festival – at least they don’t mention it. In fact, one act, busy lamenting a lack of inclusion (so far) in the summer Cambridge Folk Festival schedule, seems blissfully unaware that they are part of the winter one!
Last year’s closing acts, Sona Jobarteh and Muntu Valdo open the festival this time, bringing welcome African warmth. Haitian voudou from Chouk Bwa Libète goes head to head with a live interview at the University Union with Wilko Johnson. Other acts featuring in the main line-up include Megson, Tom Robinson, Rich Hall, Wildwood Kin and Ward Thomas. As with traditional festivals, there are overlaps, forcing a decision about which act to see!
Although headline acts have been flagged up for some time, a lot more, smaller, ‘fringe’ gigs are still being announced right up to the last minute. This means keeping in constant contact with the website is essential, to pick up on late changes. A lot of the smaller events are admirably free of charge too, cementing the impression of a confident local music-making community.
A family fun day at the Guildhall hosts live acts, children’s activities and a well-attended ukulele workshop. It’s heartening to see so many youngsters taking up their brightly coloured ukes. The downside is that they missed out on a superbly intimate follow-up gig by Muntu Valdo in the hall next door.
In this vast space, his tiny colourfully-dressed figure is surrounded by pedals, coaxing unexpected sounds from his guitars and building up intricate loops. He delivers an impeccable slide blues with an unmistakeably African slant – oh, and he plays a mean harmonica, too. It’s like watching Jimi Hendrix play a Sunday afternoon tea dance: thrilling and strange. As the sun streams in through the civic stained glass, it’s tempting to run out and drag the shoppers in from the streets outside to make them listen to this highly original talent.
Barbara Wibbelmann delivers some fine a capella Gaelic songs and finishes, accompanied by Quentin Rea on guitar, with a delightful ‘La Vie En Rose’. Martin Baxter’s Alternative Arrangements lend some mid-afternoon Americana as well as an upbeat ‘John Barleycorn’. The miles of empty space between seating and stage finally makes sense as ceilidh band Frog On A Bike whip up the dancers to wrap up the afternoon.
Buskers too, are apparently abroad on this cold and sunny day but, despite several slogs around town, they remain stubbornly invisible. Only stalwart singer-songwriter Matt Hammond can be found chilling his fingers, engaging passers-by with his percussive guitar style and promoting his new single, ‘Skylines’.
One of the hazards of a winter festival is always going to be inclement weather and, as with most of the rest of the country, the big hit of snow takes its toll on players and audiences alike. Still with a few line-up tweaks, it seems that all the shows go ahead, which is very impressive.
Following an afternoon masterclass in Miller’s Music shop, CC Smugglers (currently crowdfunding their new album), squash themselves into a tiny corner of the 1815 bar on a snowy evening. Playing a relaxed, mainly acoustic set, this cheery crew deliver their own bluesy, skiffly songs with some great join-in choruses, alongside lounge standards. The keyboard player in particular brings a distinct jazz style to the set, as a small crowd of Lindy Hoppers push back the chairs to whirl around the floor.
SJ Mortimer (now also performing with Morganway) And Her Flying Pigs bring lashings of country, the monthly New Routes night at the Junction features several Americana artists, and traditional music goes on in pubs and clubs across the city. Even the serious business of making a living is once again the subject of a workshop day to encourage musicians to focus further than the next creative impulse.
With such diversity of music to choose from, with venues from snug to cavernous, seated or standing, the organisers have plainly tried to cater for many tastes within the broad spectrum of folk and roots. There is something for everyone here and, as well as the national/international artists, it’s a valuable reminder of what incredible home-grow talents exist across the Eastern region at the moment. See you in 2019!
The Proclaimers, Richard Thompson, Beth Orton and Big Country are among the acts headlining the 54th Towersey Festival (24-27 August 2018, Thame, Oxfordshire).
Joining them at one of the UK’s longest running festivals are Fishermen’s Friends, the Sharon Shannon Band and Daphne’s Flight.
It’s been 31 years since Scottish twins Charlie and Craig Reid, aka The Proclaimers, came to widespread public attention. Calling on folk, country, rock’n’roll and punk, the brothers have built up an impressive back catalogue, with such hits as I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Letter From America, King Of The Road, and more. They’ve even inspired a musical, the play and film Sunshine On Leith.
Richard Thompson is no stranger to Towersey, having last appeared at the festival solo/ acoustic back in 2015. For his latest appearance, the Fairport Convention co-founder brings his acclaimed Electric Trio.
Singer-songwriter Beth Orton‘s enticing mix of acoustic and electronic elements have won her huge acclaim. Her 1999 record Central Reservation picked up the BRIT Award for Best Album, and her recent releases, Sugaring Season and Kidsticks, continue to beguile.
Celtic rock band Big Country‘s hits include Field Of Fire (400 Miles), In A Big Country and Wonderland. The Live Aid veterans visit Towersey to perform their acoustic set.
Other notable acts on the bill include award-winning Irish accordion player Sharon Shannon; Cornwall’s chart-busting eight-piece Fisherman’s Friends, who are credited with kick-starting a revival in shanty-style choral singing; singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph; and a reunited Daphne’s Flight, featuring five of the most acclaimed female singer-songwriters from their generation (Helen Watson, Melanie Harrold, Julie Matthews, Chris While and Christine Collister).
They’ll be playing alongside 10 times winners of the National Brass Band Champions of Great Britain, the Brighouse and Rastrick Band; rising Americana/ roots trio Wildwood Kin; a collaboration between Peter Knight (Steeleye Span) and John Spiers (Bellowhead); and Whetstone Brinsford Kirkpatrick, recreating Dave Whetstone’s landmark mid-90s folk album The Resolution for an exclusive Towersey appearance.
Towersey Festival Director Joe Heap said: “We’ve got a great mix of big names making their Towersey debuts this year as well as some real returning favourites, such as Richard Thompson. We’re especially pleased to welcome The Proclaimers for the first time – they always put on a great show and have so many fabulous songs.”
But as Joe states, one final piece of the jigsaw puzzle is yet to be revealed: “There is one more incredible headline act to announce for August Bank Holiday Monday. We’ve just confirmed and will be announcing officially very soon – so keep an eye out for some exciting news …”
Situated in easy reach of London and Birmingham, on the Oxfordshire/ Buckinghamshire border, and established in 1965, Towersey is one of the UK’s longest continuously running independent music festivals. Boasting 11 venues, alongside an extensive music programme the festival also features 24hrs of ceilidh, daily workshops, a well-stocked bar, street food, spoken word, film screenings, events and activities for children and younger festival-goers, and more.
DAY BY DAY LISTINGS (key acts only):
FRIDAY 24 AUGUST 2018
Richard Thompson Electric Trio
Sharon Shannon Band
Whetstone Brinsford Kirkpatrick (Exclusive Towersey appearance)
SATURDAY 25 AUGUST 2018
Big Country (Acoustic)
William The Conqueror
SUNDAY 26 AUGUST 2018
Brighouse and Rastrick Band
The Rheingans Sisters
MONDAY 27 AUGUST 2018
[Headline Act To Be Announced]
Blackbeard’s Tea Party (Festival Finale)
Peter Knight and John Spiers
Tickets for Towersey Festival, which runs from Friday 24 to Monday 27 August 2018 at Thame Showground in Oxfordshire, are available now (Tier 2) from £119 (adult), £115 (conc), £84 (youth), £59 (child). For further information, and to book, see: www.towerseyfestival.com
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!
Seth Lakeman has re-released his Top 20 album Ballads Of The Broken Few, with five added bonus tracks via Cooking Vinyl. Recorded during the original album sessions, with producer Ethan Johns, the previously unreleased bonus tracks are: ‘Gambling Man’, ‘Everything’, ‘Days Are Longer’, ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Bury Me Deep’. The new album will be available on CD and digital.
This November, Seth will tour the UK as special guest with Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, where he will play as part of Robert’s band and also open the shows with his own set.
Looking forward to the dates, Seth commented: “‘I’m honoured to be touring and performing with such a fantastic band and one of the world’s greatest music legends.”
Widely-praised on its release last year, Ballads Of The Broken Few showcases Seth’s dynamic song writing and playing; his soaring vocals perfectly matched by the sublime harmonies of Wildwood Kin. An epic, soulful album of compelling songs, stripped back to their essence.
Since the Mercury Prize nominated Kitty Jay (recorded in his kitchen for £300), the follow-up gold selling Freedom Fields and his last, highly acclaimed offering, Word Of Mouth, a deft collection of mini musical biographies of colourful West Country characters, Seth Lakeman has relentlessly pushed his musical boundaries and those of folk and roots music. His innovative approach, ground-breaking albums and powerful live performances have put him at the forefront of the re-emergence of British folk and successfully steered it into the mainstream. With Ballads Of The Broken Few Seth demonstrated yet again that, far from being complacent, he is constantly exploring new and bold musical paths.
If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).
So here they are: the Folking Award winners of 2017.
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who voted – more than 20,000 votes were cast. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the runners-up, although all our nominees are winners to the writers who enjoyed their music, either live or on record, over the last year and placed them on the short list. Here are the public vote winners and now, may I have the first envelope please… no, not that one!
Soloist of the Year – Ralph McTell
Listen to the Darren Beech/ Paul Johnson interview with Ralph at Cropredy 2016 here
Best Duo – Show Of Hands
Read all about Show Of Hands’ Big Gig at the Royal Albert Hall here
Best Band – Harp And A Monkey
This was a very close vote but we’re delighted that Harp And A Monkey triumphed in the Best Band category even though they narrowly beat another of our favourites.
As before, there are no actual trophies to present (but if anyone would like to tender for making some in the future please let us know). However, everyone on the long lists and on the short lists as well as the winners can rejoice that they made an impression on a lot of people during 2016.
Have another great musical year!
The Folking team
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