Bill And The Belles – live at Barnoldswick

Bill And The BellesBarnoldswick Music & Arts Centre, Mon. 26th August (Bank Holiday)

Influenced by bluegrass, hillbilly, classic country and honky tonk, Bill And The Belles have an attractive “vintage” persona, putting their own spin on a golden era of music, specifically the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. They were nominated for four IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) awards in 2017 and are a wonderfully entertaining and charming live band.

Kris Truelsen (aka”Bill”) earned a Masters Degree in Appalachian Studies and continues to share his enthusiasm for traditional American music as a presenter and producer for Radio Bristol in Bristol, Tennessee, housed in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Kris was nominated as IBMA Broadcaster of the Year for 2017 and 2018, and is a fabulous emcee and presenter as well a talented singer and musician.

Featuring lovely three part harmonies and exquisite musicianship on fiddle, banjo, guitar and double bass, Bill And The Belles also regularly play alongside America’s top country and roots music artists as the house band for the historic Radio Bristol showFarm and Fun Time. Guest artists have included Marty Stuart, Hot Rize, the Earls of Leicester and many more. Bill and the Belles bring to the stage an uplifting show unlike any other, full of engaging humour, high spirits, and all-around revelry!

Event website: https://www.barnoldswickmusicandartscentre.com/bill-and-the-belles

‘Never Get Along With You’ – official video:

Glackin and Flynn announce debut album

Glackin And Flynn

Irish traditional musicians Doireann Glackin (fiddle) and Sarah Flynn (concertina) are neighbours and musical partners who have grown up immersed in the incredibly vibrant traditional music scene in Dublin. At a house party on the eve of 2018 they asked themselves a question: Where were all the women in Irish Traditional Music during the last century? Thus began a two-year road trip as they attempted to find the answers.

And their inquiries certainly yielded the goods – a remarkable collection of music – rare tunes and unusual versions of more common ones, drawn from the repertoires of five extraordinary women – Aggie Whyte, Nora Hurley, Ella Mae O’Dwyer, Ellen Galvin and Mollie Myers Murphy. The results are to be heard on their debut duet album The Housekeepers. Informed by the playing of the five ladies and by the likes of Tommy Potts, Bobby Casey and Frank O’Higgins it is spacious and minimal; for the most part unaccompanied fiddle and concertina.

A 24-page booklet including their research and archival photos accompanies the CD. Designed by Black Rogue Design, it perfectly encapsulates the character of the album – playful yet making an important statement.

Since forming a duet in 2015 Glackin and Flynn have performed both nationally and internationally including Tunes in The Church, Expo Milan and Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca Della Musica, Bologna. Following the hugely successful launch of their debut album The Housekeepers in Dublin they are currently on the road with further launches in Galway, Cork, Clare, Electric Picnic, London and Birmingham, to name but a few.

Artists’ website: https://flynn-and-glackin.ie/

20 years of Baring-Gould Weekend

Baring-Gould Weekend
Marilyn Tucker, Peggy Seeger, Paul Wilson

Baring-Gould Weekend
25-27 October 2019
Okehampton, Devon

It has attracted and inspired some of the biggest names in traditional folk music, and, in October, the Baring-Gould Weekend celebrates its 20th year.

Today, the folk festival takes place at venues in the Dartmoor town of Okehampton in West Devon, but for the first few years, it was held in the nearby rural villages of Lewdown and Bratton Clovelly. An odd setting for a musical festival, perhaps, but one that made perfect sense.

The Baring-Gould Folk Festival – as it was then called – was named in honour of the prolific song collector from Dartmoor, the Rev Sabine Baring-Gould. The squire and parson from Lewtrenchard (1834-1924) spent many years in the latter part of the 19th century, travelling around Devon and Cornwall, collecting traditional folk songs directly from the voices of the people who sang them.

The volume of his song collection wasn’t realised until the founders of Devon-based music and education charity, Wren Music, started to do some digging. By the time they’d reached the end of their search, Paul Wilson and Marilyn Tucker had discovered almost 1,000 songs.

The collection forms a significant part of The Full English – a national collection of traditional songs managed by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. And, says Paul:

“In terms of the melodies, it’s the most beautiful of all the song collections in England. Baring-Gould saved them, and we found them.”

Which all goes to explain why, when Wren were asked to organise a folk festival, they decided to stage it in Baring-Gould’s parish. Among the performers at that first Baring-Gould Festival in 1999 were folk grandees, Martin Carthy & Norma Waterson, Anita Best, Cyril Tawney and Newfoundland folk singer Jim Payne.

Twenty years on, and the event has evolved into the Baring-Gould Folk Weekend & Song School. The 20th anniversary event takes place at locations in Okehampton on 25-27 October, with the song school on 21-25 October.

“We quickly outgrew the villages,” said Paul. “The country lanes couldn’t cope, and neither could the pubs!”

There have been other changes along the way, too. A few years ago, the event underwent a name change to dispel any idea that it was a typical festival in a muddy field: “It’s not like any other folk festival,” said Marilyn. “Our venues offer an intimate setting so the audience is really close to the performers, and you can appear alongside the festival artists at some of the gigs.  You can sit and listen, or you can take part. And we create an orchestra and a choir over the two days that anyone can sign up to, and they get to perform at their own special concert at the weekend. It’s the spirit of the event that’s so different and unique.”

While it might not be as big as some of the UK’s other annual folk festivals, its influence in promoting traditional music and providing a stage for emerging singers can’t be over-stated. It has been the inspiration behind many of today’s brightest young folk stars, such as Sam Lee. For Sam, the Baring-Gould Folk Weekend and Song School is something of a spiritual home. He attended the song school as a student several years ago and returned as a tutor in 2014 and again in 2016.

Regulars down the years include the festival’s patron, Phil Beer, from the folk duo, Show of Hands, and legendary American folk singer-songwriter, Peggy Seeger, who is patron of Wren Music. Artists from the new folk generation who have appeared include Georgia Lewis, Lady Maisery and Jim Causley.

There’s usually a different theme to the festival each year. Last year, it featured up and coming young folk singers; this year, it has an international flavour, with the return of overseas artists who’ve appeared before with great success:  Sos Cantores from Sardinia, Dandari from Latvia, and Funi (Chris Foster and Bara Grimsdottir) from Iceland. Also lined up is Thomas McCarthy from Ireland, multi-instrumentalist Lauren Eva Ward and English folk singer James Findlay, who took the song school last year.

The school is always led by a leading personality in the world of traditional song and this year, Wren have secured Tim Van Eyken, who was one of the first to play Songman in the stage production of War Horse. After years of acting in theatre and on TV, Tim is returning to his roots as a folk singer.

“The reason the festival is going stronger than ever is because folk music is now so huge”, said Marilyn. “There’s been a folk explosion in the past few years. When we started the festival, you couldn’t find a folk club anywhere. Now they’re everywhere. And we’ve got people like Jim Causley and Sam Lee bringing it to a big new audience.

“I think traditional English folk music is in safe hands. And the Baring-Gould Weekend is playing its part in the revival.”

A Baring-Gould weekend ticket is £50, with a 4-for-3 offer. Visit the Wren Music website to book tickets and for details of all the performances and individual concert prices. www.wrenmusic.co.uk

Gatehouse announce their second album

Gatehouse

“It is said that music lifts the spirit and this is so true on Gatehouse’s new album Heather Down The Moor. Garnering their repertoire from the North Connaught tradition, all the tracks are finely paced with the lovely choice of traditional songs in both English and in Gaelic, as in the title track; ‘Heather Down The Moor’, or the wonderful Connemara Sean-Nós song ‘Seán Bán’, interspersed with uplifting flings, hop jigs, a few reel selections, double jigs and barndances, all complimenting one another, making the whole recording a joy to listen to.  The arrangements are sophisticated, but not overdone, which proves how good taste strengthens and enhances the tradition, when done well.” So says Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh about the latest release by Roscommon based traditional group Gatehouse.

Since the release of their critically acclaimed solo album Tús Nua in 2016, the band has gone from strength to strength. Receiving a rare 5-star review from The Irish Times – the album was described as “an unerring gem” and “in that elusive ‘must have’ category for years to come”. Internationally famous fiddler Martin Hayes stated that Tús Nua was “beautifully arranged and recorded. Everything happening here is authentic.”

On this, their second record, Gatehouse have presented more intricate arrangements and augmented their attention to detail whilst supplementing their core sound with additional instruments, layers and colours, all adroitly guided by the hand of co-producer Dónal O’Connor. They have assembled some of Ireland’s finest musicians: John Joe Kelly on Bodhrán, Alan Kelly on Piano Accordion, Michael McCague on bouzouki and Conor & Paddy McEvoy on Fiddle & Piano. The band’s members John and Jacinta McEvoy, Rachel Garvey and John Wynne are steeped in traditional music and it’s no surprise that they are sought after to teach and mentor younger musicians at various Summer schools all over the country. The Wynne/McEvoy partnership goes back a long while. “Myself and John McEvoy really enjoy playing together and have performed at many festivals and events over the years,” says John Wynne. “In the last couple of years we thought about expanding and developing our sound so we decided to put the group together. We didn’t have to look too far because in addition to myself and John, we had John’s wife Jacinta on guitar and concertina.” When it came to a singer for the group, John McEvoy says: “We asked a young singer called Rachel Garvey to join us. She is also from Roscommon and is an All-Ireland winner in both Irish and English songs”.

The album features new tune compositions from the band’s fiddler, John McEvoy which were created especially for this record. With the tune arrangements the band wished to create an ‘on the edge’ feel hence the new tune title ‘On The Edge’. “John’s compositions give us a unique sound and by osmosis, they seem to fit in the musical style of north Connacht” Jacinta explains. “There’s a great lift, flow and rhythm to the music of Roscommon. There is great joy and heart in the musical style, I think.” Rachel adds “We chose some English and Scottish folk songs like ‘Heather Down The Moor’, ‘The Cocks Are Crowing’ and ‘The Death Of Queen Jane’ as well as going back to the roots and the source of the singing tradition with the Connemara Sean-Nós songs ‘Mo Cheallaichín Fionn’ and ‘Seán Bhán’. With the Sean-Nós songs we really worked on presenting them in a new and fresh melodic way”.

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Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/Gatehouse-1051993304819851/

‘Heather Down The Moor’:

Artificial intelligence may be used to reveal secrets behind traditional folk music dating back thousands of years

Artificial Intelligence
Photograph by Kelsey Meaden-Moore

The secrets behind traditional folk music from across the globe and dating back thousands of years are likely to be revealed by using artificial intelligence, according to a leading academic expert.

Speaking at Folk Music Analysis, a three-day event showcasing cutting edge technological research methods and findings using ethnomusicology and computational analysis at Birmingham City University, Dr Islah Ali-MacLachlan highlighted advances in the field which now allow for greater understanding of the cultural data embedded in folk music.

The senior lecturer in audio engineering and acoustics said, “In this era of streaming, music discovery, digitisation and algorithms, one of the last bastions of music to be extensively and accurately mapped as well as understood is traditional folk music from across the globe. Sounds that have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of years to evolve, are full of human, cultural, religious, societal and geographical intricacies that we will benefit from understanding. The Folk Music Analysis workshop is a chance to discuss worldwide folk music traditions and the tools we use to extract information about them.”

Twenty-siix papers were presented at the event covering a varied range of subjects including a case study on south Iranian bagpipe music; comparisons of human music, speech and bird song; multimedia recordings of traditional Georgian vocal music; visualisation of Hindustani classical music, and the importance of ‘the beat’ for tango dancers.

Tempo, timbre, step changes in melody, pitch, rhythm and other elements of song and music combined with different approaches to capturing sound through field research are all markers that researchers and machine learning – a form of artificial intelligence (AI) – use to define the origin, formation, history and lineage of a particular style of music.

Dr Ali-MacLachlan continued, saying “Computer analysis is often able to make links that are difficult to hear but offer an insight into music from the past or how traditions have changed. Imagine being able to understand how a musician from 200 years ago would play a piece that was written last week, or understanding how Scottish, Irish and African styles eventually transformed into Bluegrass. Computational ethnomusicologists are working on tools that will provide the answers to these questions, and many more.”

Folk Music Analysis is an idea sharing forum delivered in partnership with the Analytical Approaches to World Music journal, and saw attendees from South America, Asia, North America and Europe attend discussions and live music sessions at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Millennium Point, The Woodman and The Spotted Dog, including from the acclaimed 50+ member band Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, led by Joe Broughton [pictured in attached].

Website: www.bcu.ac.uk/news-events

Belinda Kempster and Fran Foote – album and live dates

Belinda Kempster and Fan Foote

From Here Records release On Clay Hill, Stick In The Wheel harmony singer Fran Foote’s debut album with her mother, Belinda Kempster.

Belinda began singing traditional songs in the 1960s:

“Our family has a history of farming and working on the land; these songs come from that way of life – at work and at play”.

She met her husband in a folk club, and Fran grew up immersed in the local folk scene, learning songs from her parents from a very young age. As mother and daughter, Fran and Belinda have sung together privately for years, but it’s only now we all have a chance to hear Ian Carter’s recordings of their unique interpretations of mostly Essex-collected traditional songs. Encouraged by band and label founders Nicola and Ian, they bring timeless renditions without frills or fuss to a repertoire that is rich and varied.

Many of their songs were learned from Fran’s great uncle and farm labourer Ernie Austin, who was recorded for Topic’s Voice Of The People release Flash Company in 1974. Austin lived and worked in the small village of Bentley, just outside Colchester, and sang songs related to his work and recreation. Stuff you’d sing down the pub.

‘Ernest Austin is now 83 years of age and he lives in a small village to the east of Colchester in Essex. He left school at 12 to work as a kitchen boy in a farmhouse, earning 3/6d in return for a 60-hour week. For most of his early life he worked on the land as a farm labourer until, with experience, he became an agricultural engineer, retiring at the age of 70.’ Flash Company, Topic Records sleevenotes

This collection of songs are made up of those taught to Belinda by Ernie and from private family recordings. Also included are personal favourites from Belinda’s repertoire: “we want our family’s music to be documented – this is the tradition of our family and singing these songs together feels like coming home”. Clay Hill Road is an area of Basildon that Belinda and Fran have always lived near.

Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter set up From Here Records to release their own Stick In The Wheel material. This has expanded into a label concerned with the transmission of English folk music and culture into the wider world, including the critically acclaimed and ongoing project English Folk Field Recordings, and now their harmony singer Fran Foote.

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‘Dark Eyed Sailor’ – official video:

Live Dates:

Saturday 29 June Leigh Folk Festival

Tuesday 16 July Hoy at Anchor Folk Club

Wednesday 17 July Green Note, London ALBUM LAUNCH

Sunday 15 September Cressing Folk Festival

Saturday 28 September Cellar Upstairs, London