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JOHN MOSEDALE – We’re Not Packing Parachutes (own label)

We're Not Packing ParachutesEarlier this year we reviewed Twenty Seven, the debut EP by Hereford singer-songwriter John Mosedale. Now he returns with his first full-length album, We’re Not Packing Parachutes. This is an entirely solo project although there are one or two uncredited extras which may come from library tapes – I’m damn sure they didn’t get a Spitfire into the studio. Three of the ten tracks are written by fellow solo singer Rob Carey and one, the best track on the album, is a co-write.

The title track which opens the record is a metaphor that I’m still trying to work out. I think it may be about mental health and feelings of the need to escape sometimes. It’s followed, neatly, by the first of Rob’s songs, ‘Not Every Parachute Was Made For War’. This is an exercise in nostalgia beginning in the apple orchards of Kent and soldier setting off for WWII. The narrative isn’t explicit about whether the soldier returned but the inclusion of the opening bars of ‘The Last Post’ suggests otherwise.

One of John’s specialities is the humorous song of the type popular in folk clubs back in the 60s. That was then and this is now and you can’t get near the knuckle anymore. ‘Always Putting My Foot In It’ may be a clever idea that works well in a live setting but shouldn’t be allowed inside a recording studio and Carey’s ‘Plastered In Paris’ seems lyrically illogical. ‘My Dog Has 3 Balls’, which appeared on the EP, is a tribute to John’s Labrador and not a triple entendre although still full of gags while ‘Doc Brown’s Car’ suggests humour but is full of nostalgia for the 50s. I’m sure that you can work out what make it is.

John isn’t the first singer to turn to music full-time after escaping the nine-to-five and ‘Old Man In The Mirror’ is a wry meditation on the aging process. Finally, we have ‘Remember Me’, the best song in the set. It begins oddly with the singer enumerating pi (but only to five decimal places) but develops into a contemplation of Alzheimer’s from the point of view of a carer. It deserves to reach the widest possible audience.

John has enjoyed a successful first year on the circuit and We’re Not Packing Parachutes certainly won’t do him any harm.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.johnmosedale.com

‘My Dog Has 3 Balls’:

Starting line-up revealed for the annual Towersey Festival

Towersey Festival

Folk favourites Kate Rusby, Steeleye Span and Show of Hands are some of the confirmed acts that will welcome festival-goers at Towersey Festival’s new home of Buckinghamshire, in August 2020.

The iconic folk and roots festival will celebrate its 56th year from 28-31 August 2020, in Buckinghamshire’s stunning Claydon Estate, in Middle Claydon.

Joining these folk greats are more contemporary names such as This Is The Kit, Grace Petrie, London’s ground-breaking Brass ensemble The Hackney Colliery Band and Scottish power trio Talisk. Also, on the initial roster are new band The Magpie Arc, featuring guitar great Martin Simpson, English folk singer Nancy Kerr and leading musicians from Scotland.

Four years since her last visit to Towersey, Kate Rusby was described by The Guardian as “one of the superstars of the British acoustic scene”. Forever proud to call herself a folk singer, Kate’s beautiful, expressive vocals never fail to connect the emotional heart of a song to that of her audience. The crossover appeal Kate enjoys is unprecedented for a folk singer and has been achieved without resort to compromise.

Among the most commercially successful and influential traditional artists, thanks to their hit singles ‘Gaudete’ and ‘All Around My Hat’, Steeleye Span changed the face of folk music forever. After 50 years, they are as creative and vital now as ever, with a new album that is garnering rave reviews and taking their live performances to new levels.

Also returning to Towersey 2020 is the multi-award-winning Show of Hands, with their new four-piece line-up including master percussionist Cormac Byrne, who returns with his blistering additions by popular demand. There’s no doubt that Show of Hands the four-piece, now something of a supergroup, and their combined musicianship is guaranteed to sound nothing short of magical.

Towersey is renowned for staging artists that are not often seen at bigger music festivals so it should not be a surprise to see one of the country’s leading choral groups, The London Welsh Male Voice Choir, amongst the first artists revealed.

Others joining the line-up include indie-folk band Laura Cortese And The Dance Cards, girl power bluegrass band Midnight Skyracer and 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award ‘Best Album’ winners, The Trials of Cato.

Towersey Festival Director Joe Heap said: “After a record-breaking 2019 festival we are very excited to be moving to an incredible new site and working with Claydon Estate. 2020 will be such a special year – our new and stunning location provides such a fabulous backdrop for our festival, and with these first-named artists, we have the beginnings of what could be our greatest line-up to date.

“There’ll be loads of other surprises and more great names to come in 2020, but we are so excited to be sharing these first artists now as well as announcing our exclusive Circus and Music Show ‘Circocentric’ which will premiere at Towersey.”

Towersey is the UK’s longest-running independent music festival, with seven venues featuring an extensive music programme, over 30 hours of ceilidh, and a packed schedule of daily workshops. 2020 will feature many of the regular favourites plus the introduction of new circus shows and workshops, well-being & mindfulness activities and outdoor experiences.

With a dedicated and acclaimed programme of activities for children and younger festivalgoers, as well as street theatre performers, arts and crafts, film screenings, late-night sessions, real ale and cider bars and street food, there really is something for everyone.

Tickets for Towersey Festival, which runs from Friday 28 to Monday 31 August 2020 at Claydon Estate, Middle Claydon, Buckinghamshire (claydonestate.co.uk), are now available from £144 (adult), £134 (concessions), £70 (young person 5-17). For more information go to www.towerseyfestival.com

The line-up so far

Friday 28 August

Steeleye Span
Show of Hands
Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards
Forest of Fools
Whapweasel
Honey And The Bear

Saturday 29 August

This Is The Kit
Talisk
Midnight Skyracer
The Trials of Cato
Jackie Oates & John Spiers
Smith and Brewer

Sunday 30 August

Kate Rusby
Hackney Colliery Band
The London Welsh Male Voice Choir
Ranagri
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra

Monday 31 August

Grace Petrie
The Magpie Arc
Matthew Byrne
Circocentric – EXCLUSIVE TO TOWERSEY! A newly created Circus show by The Chipolatas and The Pirates of the Carabina!

TICKETS:

Weekend Tickets with camping (4 days)
Standard: Campsite access from 9am on Friday 28th August.

Adult £169; Conc £159; Young Person (5-17yrs) £85; under 5s FREE.

Weekend Tickets without camping (4 days)
Standard: Site access from 9am on Friday 28th August.

Adult £144; Concession £134; Young Person (5-17) £70; under 5s FREE.

Day Tickets without camping

Fri Adult £45; Young Person (5-17) £30; under 5s FREE.

Sat/Sun Adult £50; Young Person (5-17) £35; under 5s FREE.

Mon Adult £35; Young Person (5-17) £25; under 5s FREE.

Day ticket camping Adult £15; Young Person (5-17) £10; Under 5s FREE

Box office: 0115 807 7900

Festival website: www.towerseyfestival.com

 

FolkEast announces first names for 2020

FolkEast

As Early Bird tickets go on sale for the eighth FolkEast, England’s most easterly folk festival, organisers have announced the awesome Afro Celt Sound System will headline Saturday night.

The Grammy Award-nominated supergroup are past masters at fusing electronica with traditional Irish and West African music, producing a scintillating, high energy stage set. Formed back in 1995 by producer-guitarist Simon Emmerson, they won Best Group at the 2017 Songlines Music Awards.

Explosively combining folk traditions from contrasting cultures to breath-taking effect their number includes The Dhol Foundation’s drumming sensation Johnny Kalsi (no stranger to FolkEast), vocalist, kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté, bodhrán player and percussionist Robbie Harris and Armagh-born vocalist and flautist Rioghnach Connolly (The Breath), winner of Folk Singer of the Year at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Now firmly established on the UK folk calendar, Suffolk’s decidedly quirky festival will return to the glorious Constable-esque grounds of Elizabethan Glemham Hall between August 21-23, offering diverse performances on no less than seven stages – from local acts to international stars. Early Bird tickets will be on sale right through the festive period, until January 6, representing great savings. https://folkeast.co.uk/2020tickets-3/

Alongside the festival’s hugely popular, multi award-winning patrons, The Young’ uns (Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle), FolkEast is delighted to announce eight top level acts from its highly anticipated line-up.

Heading for the main stage will be the sublime, seamless partnership of Welsh harpist Catrin Finch with Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita. The exquisite pair clinched the Best Duo/Group award at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, with Keita also winning the coveted Musician of the Year title.

FolkEast loves its Celtic connections and this year will be no exception. Flying the flag for Scotland will be three superb acts. Pedigree triumvirate Drever, McCusker, Woomble sees master fiddler John McCusker joining forces with Orkney-born singer songwriter Kris Drever and Idlewild’s lead singer Roddy Woomble.

Named the Best Live Act at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2018, quintet Elephant Sessions will head to Suffolk from the Scottish Highlands with their unique brand of indie folk while the powerhouse sextet of female instrumentalists that is The Shee (including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year 2017, harpist Rachel Newton) are sure to have the wow factor with their adventurous blend of Scottish folk, Gaelic song and bluegrass.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band takes folk legend Knight’s original Gigspanner trio (himself, Roger Flack and Sacha Tronchet) and fuses them with the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’ winners Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (Edgelarks) and erstwhile Bellowhead star John Spiers to make something truly special, bursting with invention, enigma and grace. Though all the musicians have played FolkEast in their separate guises (including the debut performance of Knight and Spiers as a duo) this is the first time the Big Band has headed to Glemham Hall.

Brighton’s big band with a difference, The Moulettes have also been confirmed – described as an “eclectic art rock band’ they journey their way through rock, prog, pop and psychedelic folk.

Finally new kids on the block The Trials of Cato will be coming to the party.

Formed whilst they were all living and working in Beirut, Tomas Williams, Will Addison and Robin Jones are one of the fast-rising acts in folk and earlier this year won the Best Album gong at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, for their hugely impressive debut CD, Hide and Hair.

One of the most singular events on the UK festival calendar, FolkEast was launched seven years ago by husband and wife John and Becky Marshall-Potter.

Rekindling the ancient Eastfolk moots on the Glemham Hall estate where for three days a year the folk from the East would meet kith and kin at harvest time for “a bit of a do”, this gathering celebrates Suffolk at every turn -from its locally sourced fare to its suppliers, arts and crafts.

Says Becky: “Our aim is to create three blissful, fun-packed days when the outside world can be forgotten, a community can be formed and quality time had with family and friends.

Whilst FolkEast may be one of the smaller, independent festivals, it’s an event with big ideas – and plenty of them. As well as the main Sunset and Moot Hall stages (programmed by The Young’uns Michael Hughes), four further stages are programmed by independent local promoters and music organisations – John and Lynne Ward’s Broad Roots stage, Fiona Davies’ dance tent, Xenia Horne’s Sanctuary Stage (at the Glemham Hall estate church) and Amy Wragg’s ‘Get Off The Soapbox’ stage, powered by a solar bus in a mystical woodland setting.

There is plenty on tap for children – the Folk Moot young folk club sessions, a Sports Day, animation workshops, den building, storybook making, a mud kitchen and a chance to create your own jellyfish for the Soapbox Sunday Jellyfish Parade.

The festival offers fine Suffolk fayre, two authentic ‘village’ pubs serving competitively-priced, locally sourced ales and ciders (including Suffolk-based Green Jack Brewery’s festival ale Green Jackalope) as well as the popular imaGINe gin bar and possibly the smallest pub in the UK, the 6 x 4’ Halfway Inn! This year will also see a return of Truly Traceable’s Jackalope pie – a salute to the festival’s mystical mascot The Jackalope (half antelope, half Jack Rabbit) which every year keeps a beady eye on the event from the centre of the site.

Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade, ‘Instrumental’, featuring a wide range of instrument makers, a packed dance programme, archery, donkey rides, the Eastfolk Kinodrome (showing folk and local interest films) and tours of Glemham Hall by estate owner Major Philip Cobbold.

FolkEast continues to embrace green initiatives. Says John: “Right from the inception of the festival we have worked hard to be as sustainable as possible and we are proud to hold Suffolk’s Gold Charter Award. Our ongoing aim is to further reduce our carbon footprint and 2019 saw a huge reduction in single use plastic on the site and hardly a trace of litter at the clear-up.”

On board again this year as a media partner will be BBC Radio Suffolk.

The Early Bird Festive Ticket offer is now open until January 6, 2019. Advance weekend tickets are available price £120 (adult), £108 (full time students, 65+) and £80 for Youth tickets (12-17 year old) which must be purchased with an adult ticket. Family weekend tickets for two adults and two 12-17 year olds (and up to 3 under 11s) are £365. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping under canvas is £20 and camping on wheels £30. More information: info@folkeast.co.uk

 

TRACK DOGS – Fire On The Rails (Mondegreen Records)

Fire On The RailsTrack Dogs’ Fire On The Rails is folky and funky with trumpets galore and the occasional violin that soars above the usual musical fray.

A flashback: there was a great world music band in the 90’s called 3 Mustaphas, whose motto was “Forward In All Directions”. And this album takes up that aegis and runs to score points into the goal posts of countless cultures. Yeah, this one is all over the geographical place.

The folk purity of ‘Love & War’ quickly morphs into a very Tijuana Brass and ethnic percussion mode, only to be matched with a fiery violin that checks the pop propulsion of the tune and shifts it into overdrive, while the vocals sing an earnest cause of, well, “love and war” passion. And ‘I Needed You’ is another urgent tune with a bouncy trumpet, great lyrics, and a vocal that pleads to the big heart of the world. The melody (sort of) conjures the memory of (the great) Phil Ochs and his song ‘Another Age’ from his Rehearsals For Retirement album. Nothing wrong with that! ‘Better Off  On Your Own’, again, has a vibrant trumpet and vocal melody that pulse the tune, while an acoustic guitar provides an unleavened anchor that recalls the human touch of a really nice Paul Simon Graceland period song.

And, quite frankly, the pop mastery of Billy Joel comes to mind. Again, nothing wrong with that!

It’s just an idea, but the trumpet graced sound will appeal to old folky types who loved Bruce Cockburn’s song ‘You Pay Your Money And You Take Your Chance’, from his Inner City Front record.

But the infectious mandolin graced ‘Dragonfly’s Castle’ makes all the crap I watched on the television today a distant and, thankfully, muted memory. It’s a really nice song.

Odd: the lyrics are often contemplative, but they are also laced with humour. ‘On The Last Night’ vibrates with ironic goodness, like a good Sir Raymond Douglas Davies tune that begs us all to “come dancing”. A banjo propels ‘Don’t Delay’. This is brilliant Nitty Gritty Dirt Band celebration stuff. Truly, Mr. Bojangles would dance to the tune. By the way, its banjo-fueled beauty rivals any song on CAAMP’s recent (and very nice) By & By album.

Now to be fair, ‘And The Piano Sings’ can’t even claim a distant cousin kinship to folk music, but it’s funky and gets tattooed in the brain. It’s a Freddie Mercury tribute. The chorus is catchy in a nice way and avoids any reference to Galileo, Figaro, or for that matter, anyone known as Beelzebub.

Ahh – ‘Abi’s Lullaby’ is a lovely acoustic folk tune that assures, “all your dreams are safe with me”. It’s a quiet respite from the quick pace of the album.

That said, the fast ‘When She Comes’ ups the ante, and with its folk-blues-ragtime combo-platter approach, recalls the music of The Red Clay Ramblers, who just managed to include every bit of America’s soul (and a trumpet!) in their music. That’s high praise.

The album ends with ‘All Clapped Out’, an all vocal and hand clap fest that puts a somewhat odd and enjoyable final punctuation point on the record.

Fire On The Rails bounces between the poles of pop and folk with trumpets and strings aplenty, all of which accent the urgent vocals and choruses that bob far and wide and make any Mustapha proud because this music, indeed, goes “forward in all directions”.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: http://trackdogsmusic.com/

‘On The Last Night’:

THE SERVANTS’ BALL – The Servants’ Ball (D.Wink CD13)

The West Sussex Gazette, December 15, 1938

The Servants' BallThe other evening, I had the good fortune to be assigned by this paper’s editor to attend a performance given at the Whittington Village Hall by an ensemble of performers going by the name of The Servants’ Ball. Individually, they comprise banjulele (a sort of banjo and ukulele crossbreed) player and step dancer Ewan Wardrop, fiddler Ben Paley, Rob Harbron on concertina, Ben Nicholls playing upright bass with Julian Hinton at the piano and Evan Jenkins providing assorted percussion.

Their repertoire ranges wide across a number of popular musical style, some steeped in the folk traditions of this country, Europe and the plantations of America, others harking back to the days of Victorian music hall or reflecting such contemporary fashions as the current enthusiasm for ragtime music. Indeed, they are well versed in popular passions, opening their programme with an instrumental number entitled ‘Egyptian Princess’ reflecting the current craze for Egyptology, it’s snake-charmer rhythms prompting several members of the audience to engage in what is termed a “sand dance”, its strutting movements modelled on tomb paintings, emulating the famous comedy routine of music hall act Wilson and Keppel who, you may recall, enjoyed a successful run at the London Palladium as recently as 1932. Had Howard Carter been among the throng, I feel sure he would have joined in.

Their repertoire for the night intermingling such dance tunes with songs of music hall vintage, they proceeded to delight, Wardrop, a ukulele player to rival George Formby, singing ‘The Bird On Nelly’s Hat’, a turn of the century vaudeville cautionary comedy ditty composed by Arthur Lamb and Alfred Solman about a lovestruck lad being fleeced of all his money by the titular golddigger.

Returning to instrumentals, led by concertina, they had the audience taking to the floor for the polka-influenced ceilidh tune ‘Number One Dance Step’ on which Wardrop demonstrated his foot tap talents to great effect before drawing applause and roar of approval as Hinton launched into the well-known ‘Champagne Charlie’, the lyrics written by Birmingham factory worker Joe Sanders who, under his music hall stage name of George Leybourne introduced the song, sponsored by champagne firms, into his act in 1868, boosting his income to almost fivefold to £120 a week.

Returning to dance tunes, introduced with a roll on the drums, next up was ‘Sultan Polka’, composed by Charles Louis Napoleon d’Albert for Sultan Abdulaziz I of the Ottoman Empire, this was followed in turn by ‘Pretty Little Dear’, not, as you might think, the 1926 comedy number by Frank Crumit, but rather another concertina dance tune, this of Sussex origin, which I understand the ensemble learned from the work of the renowed Scan Tester from Horsted Keynes, whose Country Dance Band often perform at such local functions.

Allowing the crowd to take a respite from their lively footwork, it was back to music hall for ‘I’m A Man That’s Done Wrong’, or, to give it the full title, ‘I’m a Man That’s Done Wrong to my Parents’, a sorrowful lament of a ne’er do well spurned by his family, Wardrop singing “I once wronged my father and mother, Till they turned me out from their door, To beg, starve or die, in the gutter to lie, And ne’er enter their dwellings no more” dating back to the end of the 1880s and reputedly written in Dorsetshire by one H. Strachey.

Having had time to catch their breath, the revellers were then encouraged back on to the floor for ‘Wild West Gallop’, a lively tune encompassing fairground whirligig, minstrel rag and quadrille and, from there, bearing the time of year in mind, straight into ‘Winter Cotillions’ medley before, accompanying himself on piano, Hinton returned to sing ‘Beautiful Boy’, an amusingly far fetched Victroian tale of no known authorship about of how a young lad was forced to undergo any number of surgical procedures, such as stretching his mouth wider, to make him to look more attractive to the opposite sex,with some unfortunate side effects. Let us hope the medical profession never encourages such nonsense.

Coming to to the close of the evening, they had time for two further tunes, Harbron leading them in the bouncing along ‘Les Rats Quadrille’, composed in 1844 by Gervasius Redler for student dancers or “les petits rats”, and returning to the fad for all things Egypt, Egyptian Ballet, an adaptation from Ballet égyptie by the composer Alexandre Luigini’s. Finally, it was the turn of Nichols to lend his stentorian vocals for a lugubrious six-minute variation of the children’s lullaby of ‘Old King Cole’ with the lyrics revised to talk of the monarch summoning Paganini, Paulo Spagnoletti and the London-born Nicholas Mori to satisfy his predilection for trios, the mock serious song continuing to talk of his secretary declaring a mole on his face as “boding something would take place but not what that something would be” and how the musicians parted company when the king started snoring on page 44 of Giovanni Battista Viotti’s ‘Concerto in G’, their dozing alcohol-doused patron then setting himself alight with his pipe and exploding, the number finally ending by inviting listeners to view the records at the British Museum in Bloomsbury.

A perfectly agreeable night of dancing, laughter and merriment that sent the party goers home happy and humming the tunes, I would not be surprised if, in say 80 years, some similarly enterprising folk musicians didn’t reprise the programme to afford equal delight to their own audiences.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.facebook.com/theservantsball

A (possibly) serious video about The Servants’ Ball:

GWEN MÀIRI – Mentro (Erwyd ER004)

MentroGwen Màiri is of Scottish/Welsh ancestry and, if you wish, you may explore the mysteries of Yr Hen Odledd for yourselves. Gwen is a tutor and author, singer and harpist and has performed with major orchestras as well as musicians in the Welsh tradition. Mentro is her first solo album, although solo is a relative term these days, and she is supported by our new favourite Welshman, Gwilym Bowen Rhys, on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and shruti and the dark tones of Jordan Price Willams’ cello.

Here we have traditional tunes and words, some original compositions and some poetry including a Welsh translation of ‘Rose Of Sharon’. Gwen opens with the traditional tune, ‘Yr Wylan Gefnddu’ followed by the first of the poems; ‘Tawelwch’ – quietness – written by Gwen’s mother, E Mary Jones. Gwen has written music for this and added the traditional ‘Si Hei Lwli’ to complete a beautiful piece. Next is ‘Rheged’, a tune which is so quintessentially Welsh you could tell that blindfolded. I’m still trying to decide why it is so but it is.

I’m guessing that the three pieces that make up ‘Y Dydd Drwy’r Ffenest’ are dance tunes – they sound good for dancing but the sleeve notes are not exhaustive. I’m amused that the title of the last of the three, ‘Llancesau Trefaldwyn’, is actually longer in English. ‘Rhosyn Saron’ is gorgeous, ‘Teifi’ anchors the music firmly in Wales and uses some notes that most harpers don’t get to. The third song is ‘Hwyr’, which has a hymn-like quality and after ‘Y Feillionen’ comes the fourth, ‘Y Deryn Pur’, a traditional lyric. Finally, Gwen takes a real solo with ‘Cyn Gwawr’.

I’ve said before that Welsh is a beautiful language for singing, even if I don’t have the knowing of it, and it is also a beautiful language for playing. Mentro is your proof.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.gwenmairi.co.uk/

‘Rhosyn Saron’ – official video: