Revolution CallsI’ve listened to a good deal of Chris While and Julie Matthews over the years but I don’t think I’ve heard them produce anything as powerful as Revolution Calls. The title track which opens the set screams folk-rock and I quickly checked to see who they had imported. No, it is played by their core band of guitarist Johnny Heyes, bassist Neil Fairclough and Neil Marshall on percussion with extra harmony vocals from Chris’ daughter Kellie. The fact that Julie recorded, mixed and mastered the record after tragedy at the turn of the year means that she has certainly put her stamp on it.

It’s not all as head-banging as ‘Revolution Calls’ and you wouldn’t expect it to be. Chris’ songs are, for the most part, gentler. ‘Long Lost Friend’ looks back to her childhood years and ‘Two Halves Together’ is a delightful story of two people…well, I won’t spoil it for you. In between these is the ecological protest of ‘Landfill’ and following on is the self-explanatory ‘Coming Out’ which starts out quietly but builds to a big finish.

Chris supplies a lighter moment with the rolling country of ‘This House On The Hill’ about the joys of coming home but then Julie pours her heart into ‘Black Dog’ countered immediately by Chris’ ‘Reaching For The Stars Above’. Julie provides the final three songs beginning with the political ‘Shake The Money Tree’, another rocker with howling guitar and uncompromising lyrics. I won’t attempt to interpret ‘Seven Seconds’ and ‘Stardust’ here but I have my own thoughts.

Revolution Calls is a personal and powerful album. I love the cover design drawn by ‘Brysy’, who I suspect is a thinly disguised Bryan Ledgard and sums up the determination of two women who have been doing what they do now for twenty-five years.

Dai Jeffries

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More artists revealed for Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2019

Shrewsbury Folk Festival has added a host of new acts to its line up as organisers reveal ticket sales are already surpassing 2018 levels.

Renowned singer songwriter Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders will make a return with a special show featuring the Hi Riders Soul Revue. Scottish supergroup Capercaillie and American trio Birds Of Chicago are also new to the bill of the four-day festival that takes place at the West Mid Showground from August 23 to 26.

This year’s festival will feature a special day of programming on the festival’s Pengwern Stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate 25 years of their musical relationship. They have chosen Blair Dunlop, Burden Of Paradise, singer songwriter Charlie Dore and former Fairground Attraction lead singer Eddi Reader to perform on Sunday August 25, which will be topped off with a show by the While & Matthews Big Band.

Other new artists signed up included Áine Tyrrell, AKA Trio, Boxwood Chessmen and the Exmouth Shanty Men. Dance groups confirmed so far are Whapweasel, the John Spiers Ceilidh Band and Relentless. There will also be performances from the Corryvrechan Scottish Dance Display Team.

Already announced for the 2019 event were Kate Rusby, Oysterband, Martyn Joseph, Daphne’s Flight, Skerryvore, Daphne’s Flight, Gary Stewart’s Graceland, Phil Beer Band, Steve Knightley, Merry Hell, Edgelarks, Grace Petrie and many more.

The festival’s first tier of adult weekend tickets sold out in less than five minutes after they went on sale on December 1. It is now selling weekend tickets at its third price tier. Day tickets are also available.

Festival Director Sandra Surtees said: “Last year our weekend tickets sold out a month before the festival and many people were disappointed they couldn’t come for all four days despite regular warnings that we were going to sell out.

“We have sold more to date in 2019 than we had by the same time last year so, as ever, our advice is to book as early as possible. There’s so much more than just music for people to enjoy including dances, music and other workshops, great food and drink and a brilliant atmosphere!”

The festival, now regarded as one of the most popular UK folk events, has four main music stages, a dance tent with a programme including ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, workshops, craft fair, food village, real ale, cocktail and gin bars and on-site camping and glamping. There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays in the town centre and a parade through the streets on the Saturday afternoon.

Weekend and day tickets can be booked at

Shrewsbury Folk Festival – tickets are now on sale

Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Kate Rusby

Tickets have gone on sale for the 2019 Shrewsbury Folk Festival as organisers have shared the first names to be added to the bill.

Weekend tickets to the four-day event, that will take place at the West Mid Showground from August 23 to 26, are expected to be in high demand. Last year the first tier of tickets were snapped up in less than 30 minutes and weekend tickets sold out a month before the August Bank Holiday event.

Two of the UK’s top solo stars Kate Rusby and Martyn Joseph will be topping the bill along with the legendary Oysterband and female supergroup Daphne’s Flight, who are returning after a triumphant performance in 2017. Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore have also been invited back after wowing crowds earlier this year.

Grace Petrie – photograph by David Wilson Clarke

Gary Stewart’s Graceland – a reworking of the Paul Simon classic – has also been signed up along with solo shows from Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley, singer songwriter and activist Grace Petrie and appearances from The Phil Beer Band and Merry Hell.

Exclusive to the festival will be a special day of programming on its Pengwern stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their musical partnership. The While and Matthews Takeover will see the pair curate performances on August 25th that will culminate in a big band show to close the night.

Granny’s Attic

Other acts will include Chris Elliott and Caitlin Jones, Edgelarks, Geoff Lakeman, Granny’s Attic, Mankala, Paul Downes, Rapsquillion, Reg Meuross, Track Dogs, the Urban Folk Quartet, and Winter Wilson. Festivalgoers will also be able to watch folk opera Here At The Fair by Mick Ryan.

Festival Director Sandra Surtees said many more artists are yet to be revealed.

“As ever the Shrewsbury line-up will feature some of the biggest names in folk, some popular performers that have been requested by our audience and a number of world and Americana acts.

“But the festival is about so much more than just the music – there’s so much to do during the weekend for all ages. The festival has its own magical atmosphere and we have many visitors who wouldn’t class themselves as ‘folkies’ but they just come to enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere with friends and family and listen to great music.

“The festival continues to go from strength to strength with a devoted audience who return year after year, demonstrated by the fact that we regularly sell out in advance.”

The festival has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, workshops, crafts, food village, real ale, cocktail and gin bars and on-site camping and glamping.

There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays held in the town centre and a parade through the streets on the Saturday afternoon. Weekend and day tickets can be booked at


A round-up of recent EPs and singles that have come our way

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ANGE HARDY releases a seasonal single, ‘When Christmas Day Is Near’, all multi-tracked a cappella full of joyous optimism which is something we all need plenty of these days. The tune insistently reminded of something I couldn’t quite identify but which I eventually pinned down as ‘Three Jolly Rogues’. It’s coupled with ‘William Frend’ from her album Esteesee leading neatly into a short plea for ‘Solidarity’ written in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ROSA REBECKA is a Swedish-American singer who came to Devon to study and stayed to work for Wren Music. Home is her first recording for Folkstock records although far from her first outing. The opening title track has a beautiful melody. That’s followed by the traditional Swedish ‘Det Står Ett Träd’ which is a complete contrast. The top is probably ‘Jonah’s Song’ in which Rosa is reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell as her voice soars into the stratosphere. The final track is the traditional Jewish ‘Sh’Ma’, as Rosa pulls the threads of her heritage together. For collectors, Home is also available as a guitar shaped USB stick with bonus tracks from her debut album.

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS take a hard-hitting approach with their single ‘Are We Human?’. Written by Matthews it’s an attack on our collective inhumanity in the face of the refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. It features Neil Marshall, Ken Nicol, Liz Frencham and Christine Collister and all the proceeds will go to Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The song put me in mind of ‘Jewel In The Crown’ which she wrote more than twenty years ago and similarly attacks the political mind-set of this country.

SINGLES BAR 15 Dec 2015 ‘Lampedusa’ is a download single from EWAN McLENNAN – another not very festive seasonal offering – but its proceeds will go to Médecins Sans Frontières. Lampedusa is also an island roughly midway between Sicily and the North African coast and a place where many refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean find themselves. With songs of migration a major feature of Scottish song this is a natural subject for Ewan and although the title is very specific the theme and sentiments are universal. Finger-picked guitar is backed by slide and fiddle – ‘Lampedusa’ is a fine song, a serious subject and a worthy cause.


Who We AreAfter 20 years and nine albums, Chris While and Julie Matthews, the undisputed queens of British female folk duos, continue to come up with the goods, delivering songs about human frailty and human endurance that showcase their seemingly inexhaustible creative talents as both writers and performers.

They get the ball rolling in vigorous style with ‘If This Were Your Last Day’, an uptempo, fairly self-explanatory titled don’t put off until tomorrow number from Matthews that blends folk and country with mandolin and accordion, before joint composition ‘Gone Girl Gone’ takes the tempo down slightly for a bittersweet tale of a free spirit always moving on in search of herself. Joined by daughter Kellie, While’s first track is ‘Get Through This Somehow’, a mid-tempo song about having to make a life on your own that conjures a cross between Kathy Mattea and Christine Collister before ‘I Don’t Know’, another shared credit brings in banjo for a bluegrass tinged number that casts them as the UK’s answer to Lady Antebellum and The Indigo Girls in one package.

The album then takes on a more serious mood, beginning with the uplifting ‘Dancing Under The Gallows’, written and sung by Matthews with While on lap steel, that (with a faint musical echo of ‘Born Free’) pays tribute to the fortitude and courage of Alice Hertz Sommer, the oldest survivor of the Holocaust who died this year, aged 111. Then comes While’s history lesson, ‘Heaven Is Changing’, a tender acoustic guitar and piano number which recounts the plague that devastated the Derbyshire village of Eyam in 1665 as a passer-by rescues an unaffected baby, one family’s sole survivor.

Two songs mark both World War I and II. The first is While’s worksong-like ‘Drop Hammer’, sparse percussion backdropping her lead vocals and a female chorus that features daughter Kellie, Kit Bailey, Mel Ledgard and the ubiquitous O’Hooley & Tidow on a song that celebrates the women of Sheffield that kept the steel mills running during both wars. A rather less upbeat narrative informs ‘White Feather’, which, featuring Bryan Hargreaves’ hand percussion and a fierce electric guitar solo from Howard Lees and penned by Matthews for the BBC’s Radio Ballads, recalls the notorious white feather movement of WWI whereby women would cast a white feather in at men in civvy street, accusing them of being cowards for not enlisting.

Changing focus, ‘Mad Men’ is a bluesy and bluegrass co-written environmental protest about global warming featuring While on bowed psaltery before, for the final two numbers, things return to a lighter more optimistic and intimate note for the hymnal-like piano shimmering ‘That’s Not Who We Are’ about putting aside differences and pride “to recover our senses and heal this scar”. Introducing brass, strings, glockenspiel and ukulele, the carousel-swaying, oompah rhythms of ‘Under A Button Moon’ brings things to a lovely, pick me up romantic conclusion, linking back to the opening number’s seize the day theme and, ever so subtly, recalling the theme music to the 80s children’s programme of similar title.

So, first class songs of female fortitude, the iniquities of the world, history, heart and humanity, delivered with to die for harmonies, immaculate musicianship and melodies that lodge themselves in your brain. Pretty much While & Matthews business as usual then.

Mike Davies

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‘Drop Hammer’ from the album Who We Are live in Bristol: