BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018 – Winners Revealed

Photo Credit BBC

The winners of the Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018 have been announced in a ceremony broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Ulster, from Belfast Waterfront in Northern Ireland.

A key highlight of the music calendar – now in its 19th year – the awards produced by 7digital saw a host of music stars come together in Belfast for an evening of recognition and show-stopping performances. The ceremony was presented by Radio 2 Folk Show host Mark Radcliffe and world renowned Gaelic singer, Julie Fowlis. Talented artists received prizes including Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year, Young Folk Award and many more.

Music legend Van Morrison presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to musician and producer Dónal Lunny for his massive contribution to folk music.

Photo Credit BBC

The Good Tradition Award went to the Armagh Pipers Club to recognise their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and progression of traditional music over more than 50 years.

Folk Singer of the Year was awarded to Scottish singer-songwriter and musician, Karine Polwart, a talented artist who is also a theatre maker, storyteller, spoken-word performer and essayist.

Photo Credit BBC

Dónal Lunny took to the stage to perform with acclaimed musician Zoë Conway on the fiddle, and earlier in the evening Cara Dillon performed accompanied by Sam Lakeman on piano and John Smith on guitar.

Photo Credit BBC

Opening the show with a rousing performance of Devil In The Woman was Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, driven by brass and electric guitar. And across the night there were also fantastic performances from Lankum, with their song What Will We Do When We Have No Money?, Paul Brady with a solo acoustic rendition of the ballad Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender, and finally, a nine-piece from the Armagh Pipers Club brought the evening to a close with a performance of three specially composed new songs.
The evening included the presentation of the 20th annual BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, an educational contest that exists to discover the next generation of folk acts. Mera Royle, a young harpist from the Isle of Man, was the recipient.

Photo Credit BBC

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2 said: ‘I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners – the calibre of nominees was extremely high and the wealth of talent that was seen on stage across the evening in Belfast was spectacular. The Radio 2 Folk Awards is an annual celebration of the thriving folk music scene – supporting both established and burgeoning folk musicians – and part of our specialist music content that Radio 2 is proud to broadcast across the year.’

Influential singer-songwriter Nick Drake was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame to celebrate the lasting impression he has had on folk music, despite passing away at the age of just 26 in 1974. Had he lived, he would have turned 70 this year.

Olivia Chaney performed a special tribute with a sublime piano-based interpretation of Drake’s essential song, River Man. Olivia is a great fan of Nick Drake and a multi-talented singer, musician and songwriter. Her collaboration with The Decemberists, called Offa Rex, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2017. Her second solo album, Shelter, will be released in June 2018.

Photograph courtesy of Village Voice

Although Nick Drake’s music didn’t garner commercial success during his lifetime, decades after his early death, his music would find a wide and reverent audience. Featuring sublime and original guitar work which is heavy with meaning and mood, his work has been highly influential on singer-songwriters of all kinds. Actor Gabrielle Drake, Nick’s elder sister, was present at the Radio 2 Folk Awards to tell the audience how her famously shy brother might have felt about the occasion.

Later this evening (4 April) at 11pm on Radio 2, Lost Boy: In Search Of Nick Drake will be re-broadcast. In the documentary which originally went out in 2004, Hollywood film star Brad Pitt shines a light on the life and work of the cult singer-songwriter. Featured in the programme are contributions from producer Joe Boyd, engineer John Wood, Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, Gabrielle Drake and Nick’s late mother, Molly Drake.

The Folk Awards will be broadcast on Sunday 8 April on BBC Four at 9pm and on BBC Two Northern Ireland at 5.30pm, plus selected highlights will be available to watch at after the show.

The full list of winners:

HORIZON AWARD presented by Jamie Lawson

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK presented by Val McDermid
Banks of Newfoundland by Siobhan Miller

BEST DUO presented by Rab Noakes
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR presented by Leo Green
Mohsen Amini

BEST ORIGINAL TRACK presented by Ralph McTell
The Granite Gaze by Lankum

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD presented by Van Morrison
Dónal Lunny

BEST GROUP presented by Finbar Furey

Nick Drake

YOUNG FOLK AWARD presented by Lynette Fay of BBC Radio Ulster
Mera Royle

Strangers by The Young’uns

GOOD TRADITION AWARD presented by Tommy Sands
Armagh Pipers Club

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR presented by Karan Casey
Karine Polwart

CHRIS STOUT & CATRIONA McKAY – Bare Knuckle (own label)

Bare KnuckleIt’s been seven years since Fiddler’s Bid duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay released White Nights. They haven’t wasted the time of course: two albums with other collaborators and lots of touring have brought them to this point and Bare Knuckle takes up pretty much where they left off in 2010. Just fiddle and harp with most of the material being original compositions – the exception being Heitar Villa-Lobos’ ‘Bachianas Brasileiras No 4 Prelúdio’ which closes the set.

The inspirations for the music come mostly from people and places. The opener, ‘Seeker Reaper’, comes from Loch Fyne, or rather from a long poem by George Campbell Hay celebrating a fishing boat named Sireadh in which you’ll find the line: “she’s a stem-teerer, keel-teerer, seeker, finder, reaper”. There’s a whole story in this tune and it is a gorgeous piece of music. Chris writes about ‘Tingaholm’, the seat of the ancient parliament of Shetland and together they meld two tunes about Moscow and pianist Barry Douglas, a man who combines a love of classical and traditional music in his work. Catriona wrote ‘Louise’s Waltz’ for a friend who died too young; Chris’s fiddle sounding as mournful as wind in the trees with Catriona’s harp weeping beneath it. Together they honour Jonathan Morton, leader of the Scottish Ensemble.

Other tunes celebrate moments in time. ‘Time To Retreat’ is just that and ‘Stealthy Schooner’ tells of time given over to oneself, undisturbed by the world and I’m coming to suspect that the title track is about themselves and the creative tensions between two musicians working together. Although their music is rooted in the tradition, Chris and Catriona continue to push the envelope in both their composition and playing and their albums are always a delight.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Louise’s Waltz’:


IAIN MORRISON – EasIain Morrison is a musician, singer and composer from the Isle of Lewis. He is also the son of a distinguished piper but he’s moved some distance from the tradition – but not as far as you might think.

Eas, which means “cascading waterfall”, is Iain’s sixth solo album and each track is based on the classical music of the pipes or piobaireachd. Here my expertise runs out but I do understand that, traditionally, the music consists of a theme and variations. Iain introduces the first track as “Piobaireachd number 47” but the track is actually called ‘Siubhal (47)’, siubhal being one of the formal variations. Any further explanation gets a bit technical.

Piobaireachd is traditionally taught by singing or canntaireached and two tracks, ‘Too Long In This Condition’ and ‘R. Morar’, include Iain’s father both singing and, in the former, explaining the finer points of his teaching. If this sounds terribly heavy, believe me it isn’t. Iain uses his father’s canntaireached as the basis of his own compositions beginning both very simply on piano, stating the theme if you like.

Iain is a songwriter too and was a member of the indie band Crash My Toy Car and all these pieces are songs in English. ‘To The Sea’ and ‘You’re My Letting Go’ are particularly good. Iain is a multi-instrumentalist – everything from bagpipes to banjo – but he does need some help and supporting musicians include Chris Stout and Marc Duff. Iain’s voice is well down in the mix and getting to grips with his lyrics can be difficult but I’m more taken with Eas than I was with its predecessor, To The Horizon, Sir.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

We’ve not found anything from the new album on video but you might like ‘A Lewis Summer’ with Eddi Reader and Danny Thompson among others:

DUNCAN McCRONE – Colourblind (Circular Records CR1039)

This CD had remained on my ‘to do’ list for quite a while so I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to Duncan for the lateness in the review’s eventual arrival…and also to PR man Bob Buchan for reminding me to check it out. Opening with the bright and breezy “Days Like Today” with its Bluebells “Young At Heart” country ‘feel’ (particularly thanks to the swooping fiddle of Chris Stout’s fiddle) it’s obvious that McCrone has a happy, optimistic outlook on life. Surely this track alone should be worth National Radio play (is anyone at BBC Radio 2 listening?) although knowing the industry’s foibles it will more than likely fall through the cracks. Judging by the songs included on the album he has taken the time to craft each track with the help of some fine musicians including the afore-mentioned Stout, his songwriting partner Cy Jack (bass), Stevie Lawrence (most things stringed), Finlay MacDonald (highland pipes) and Lindisfarne’s drummer Ray Laidlaw. For soft Southerner’s like me, you might be interested that Mr McCrone has included the song “Baltic Street” by Carol Prior of Carol & Alan Prior fame and obviously shows discerning choice as he also includes the wistful “Ae Fond Kiss” by Robert Burns for good measure. This is the kind of album that you will put on and think why haven’t I heard more of this fine singer? Established I presume in his native Scotland, Duncan really should be more widely acknowledged as a performer of great merit by a discerning audience (which I know you are) and I suggest you buy this recording as proof. You won’t be disappointed.


Artist’s website:

CHRIS STOUT’S BRAZILIAN THEORY – Live In Concert (Chris Stout Music CSMUSCD001)

OK so I might, on listening to the opening strains of this album have been a bit too prepared to write Chris Stout’s Brazilian Theory project off as a technical step too far but on reflection I’ve been totally seduced by the allure of a cultural mix that was just waiting to be exploited by a member of the ‘folk’ community. If memory serves me right I heard the link of Jazz/Brazilian/Celtic some 20 years before performed by the harp player Deborah Henson-Conant but here it’s Stout’s violin that takes the lead aided and abetted by an A-Class team of musicians including amongst others Catriona McKay (harp), Thomas Rohrer (sax) and Carlinhos Antunes on guitars. For me, not everything goes according to plan particularly when the jarring octave leaps of the violin almost rip the ears off those of us with a gentle disposition but all in all this is an innovative experience that will perhaps take root after repeated plays. In a way, much like Davy Spillane & Andy Irvine’s “East Wind” and The Future Trad Collective these excursions might be taking things a tad too far for the ears of Philistines like me but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out with a wider audience.