KELLY OLIVER – This Land (Folkstock FSR 14 004)

Kelly OliverReturning from Brazil determined to pursue her ambition of becoming a professional musician, Stevenage-based Oliver has had a busy and fruitful year. Since playing her first folk club gig in June 2013, she’s opened for such acts as The Urban Folk Quartet, Gilmore & Roberts and Dave Swarbrick, played numerous festivals, Cambridge included, released an EP and won a Help Musicians UK Emerging Excellence Award. Now comes her debut album, a simple, uncluttered affair predominantly constructed around her guitar playing and occasional harmonica that bears witness to her traditional influences (she’s been often likened to Annie Briggs) as well as her songwriting prowess on a largely self-penned set, drawn, the blurb says, from her Irish grandparents and “a dose of indignation”.

It’s one of her own that gets the ball rolling with ‘The Witch of Walkern’, an acoustic strummed number that mine the folk tradition of tales about women falsely condemned for witchcraft, though here, as in the titular case of Jane Wenham, a Hertfordshire woman whose 1712 ordeal is claimed to have been the last witch trial in the UK , the accused secures her pardon.

The perversion of justice is also at the heart of the bluesy, harmonica blowing ‘Mr Officer’, a song about witnessing a murder built around a repeated line, as she declares “that boy you have taken in is not the guilty man you seek” while righteous anger burns through ‘Off To The Market’, a familiarly traditional styled tune that addresses the cruel trade in human organs, guns, animal hides and horns, and girls abducted to be sold into prostitution.

She spins engaging stories, though most are haunted by dark shadows; the light, shimmering melody of ‘Grandpa Was A Stoker’, on which Swarbrick contributes fiddle, conceals a lyric about the hardship of life in a ship’s engine room that drove men mad, ‘Playing With Sand’, on which she harmonises with herself, talks of a prejudiced education system that assumed Irish immigrants to be ignorant and in ‘Diamond Girl’, a lovely rippling, descending chords ballad on which Luke Jackson provides harmonies, although the girl could do no wrong in her devoted lover’s eyes, she proves less forgiving of his mistakes. An a capella version is also hidden away at the end of the album.

There are, however, some patches of light. Although in the steady strummed ‘Dear Daughter’, the father refuses to let his daughter follow her lover to America, he does so because he won’t let her waste her life on a banished ne’er do who “shamed the girls and .. stole from all around’ and ‘only wants a wife to keep him from the cells’” And, while the gentle ‘A Gush Of Wind’ documents, rather like some Victorian ballad, how a milling family falls on hard times with the baby dying, being made homeless and the father accused of theft, they retain faith in prayer to deliver then which, in the ambiguous final line, seems to have been finally answered.

The remaining two numbers are non-originals, the first a crystal pure reading of the traditional ballad ‘Mary And The Soldier’ and the second, on which Sunjay Brayne provides guitar accompaniment, a heart-aching stripped down version of Dougie Maclean’s much-covered ‘Caledonia’ that makes me recant my desire never to hear it again.

With a full tour almost completed and featuring on November’s anti-war charities fundraiser cover of Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ by folk supergroup Armistice Pals, alongside such leading folk names as Judy Dyble, While & Matthews, Reg Meuross, Dave Swarbrick, Christine Collister, Johnny Coppin, Merry Hell and Edwina Hayes, it’s been a remarkable year for Oliver. On the evidence so far, that’s just the tip of what promises to be a very big iceberg.

Mike Davies

‘Diamond Girl’ – the official video featuring Luke Jackson

The Armistice Pals

armistice pals header non internetEveryone remembers the charity version of ‘Perfect Day’ with its myriad of voices from the pop and rock world.

Let’s hope everyone will also remember the upcoming answer from the Folk World – ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ – with a plethora of voices from across the acoustic folk and roots spectrum representing the great and the good, young and the old, seasoned and emerging, all on the same single. The group is called The Armistice Pals and is releasing a fitting tribute to Pete Seeger, who sadly passed away this year as well as marking the 100 years anniversary of the breakout of the First World War. All profits will be distributed between four peacekeeping charities.

However, perhaps it’s not a perfect world after all and the late Pete Seeger’s classic anti war song, ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’, points a finger at the carnage, supposedly ‘ the war to end all wars’ which tragically mislead us to believe it was worth the sacrifice.  The sacrifice, not only of the lives of those who died, but the resultant desolation and struggle of the loved ones who were left behind. Whole swathes of communities were left bereft of their young men-folk who trustingly signed up into ‘Pals Battalions’, many of whom were never to return, with those who did too often spending lives blighted by the experience.

Armistice Pals is the name of the folk community ‘super band’ who are all performing on this single, which is due out on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November 2014. It was the brain child of Damian Liptrot (manager of folk-rock band Merry Hell), who, as the project expanded, has invited Folkstock’s Helen Meissner on board as co-organiser. The project has attracted over 30 names including Chris and Kellie While, Julie Matthews, Judy Dyble, Christine Collister, Dave Swarbrick, Ray Cooper, Sally Barker, Peter Knight, Boo Hewerdine, Gavin Davenport, Blair Dunlop, Lucy Ward, Ken Nicol, Merry Hell, Luke Jackson and Kelly Oliver. A line up so good that, were it to be a festival, it would undoubtedly be the event of the summer.

The single will be released via the usual digital outlets as well as a physical CD and as a nod to the historical element, a limited edition vinyl 45, on new community label, Folkstock Records.

As this is intended to be a community project, we are inviting Folk Clubs across the country to contribute by organising an ‘Armistice Pals Night’ during the week of the release of the single. This can take any form but should include a collective version of ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ at some point during the evening, followed by a passing round of the hat to support the Armistice Pals charities.

If you would like to know more about the project, all the artists, the charities and the inspiration can be found at http://www.armisticepals.com or contact us direct via armisticepals@hotmail.co.uk

We hope that you will feel able to enlist and offer your support.

Helen and Damian
for The Armistice Pals

THE ARMISTICE PALS: A FULL LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

Attila The Stockbroker (poet/musician and sheer force of nature, whose father survived the Somme).

Billy Mitchell (one time Jack the Lad, ex-Lindisfarne and much else besides).

Blair Dunlop (One of our brightest, youngest singer-songwriters, currently telling tales from the ‘House Of Jacks’, he also found time for a stint in The Albion Band..).

Bob Pegg (Storyteller, singer-songwriter and member of the legendary Mr Fox).

Boo Hewerdine (one time Bible basher, all time songwriting phenomenon).

Chris While and Julie Matthews (singers, songwriters, multi-instrumentalists, award winners in their own right and members of more prestige bands and projects than you can shake a stick at).

Christine Collister (one time She Devil, ex-Daphne’s Flight, much sought collaborator and loved by Q magazine).

Dave Mather & Peter Robinson (singer/songwriters (one of them has written an opera you know), ex-Houghton Weavers, stand up comedy and currently presenters of Salford City radio’s first folk show).

Dave Swarbrick (simply a living legend. As it says on the flyers, ‘needs no introduction’).

Edwina Hayes (multi-million You Tubed singer-songwriter with the ‘sweetest voice in England’).

Eric Bazilian: (Hooter, hitmaking songwriter worldwide for self and others, now he’s One Of Us!).

Flossie Malavialle (multinational singer et chanteuse aussi, gig travelling traffic reporter).

Gavin Davenport (much vaunted solo singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, award winning, ex-Albion band member).

Gren Bartley (the spine tinglingly beautiful guitarist, banjo playing poet).

Helen Watson (Singer/Songwriter, multi genre artist, producer and erstwhile member of Daphne’s Flight, Carmel and Sons of Arqa, as well as taking a great photo).

Johnny Coppin (broadcasting singer-songwriter, ex-Decameron and now sufficiently multi-faceted to be considered a true diamond).

Judy Dyble (singer/songwriter, ex-Fairport, nearly King Crimson and Facebook dog blogger).

Kellie While (singer-songwriter considered to have one of the outstanding voices of her generation, ex-member of The Albion Band and so much else, her arrival makes The Pals a family affair as her mother and sometime singing partner Chris is also involved).

Kelly Oliver (singer/songwriter, guitarist and harmonicist who has taken Boots Of Spanish Leather to places most of us can only dream of).

Ken Nicol: (globetrotting, guitar endorsing, ex-Albion Band and Steeleye Span virtuoso).

Kevin Brennan MP (an accomplished musician, fan of folk music and passionate supporter of live music).

Lavinia Blackwall (the vocalist who is both a Trembling Bell and a Crying Lion).

Linda Simpson (singer/songwriter, ex-Prog/Folk/Rock legends Magna Carta and supplier of some ideas that are so good that I’d like to present them as my own).

Lucy Ward (singer/song writer and possibly the current heart of British Folk Music as she gets played on virtually every folk show I listen to regardless of the other tastes of the presenters!).

Luke Jackson (bright young purveyer of Fumes and Faith).

Merry Hell (8 piece folk-rocking explosion of melody and joy).

Ninebarrow (award-winning, Dorsetshire folk duo).

Patsy Matheson (singer/songwriter, spent time Waking The Witch, now The Domino Girl).

Peter Knight (singer/fiddle player, Gigspanner, Feast of Fiddles, Steeleye and holder of the world record for continuously playing the violin whilst travelling up and down the lift in the Empire State Building).

Phil ‘Swill’ Odgers (30 Year veteran of punk-folk luminaries, The Men They Couldn’t Hang).

Ray Cooper (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, ex-Oysterband and now a pearl in his own right).

Richard Ryall (singer/songwriter, member of the band Litmuss and he comes from a land Down Under).

Robb Johnson (Irregular singer/songwriter and social conscience).

Said The Maiden (3 rising doyennes with harmonies the envy of angels).

Sally Barker (folk singer and by popular acclaim, the true winner of The Voice).

Sian James (Singer, writer, harpist, composer, conductor and actress from Wales, a big Armistice pals ‘Creoso’ to her).

In addition, there is also The Pals Chorus, made up of friends and members of several folk clubs who will be recorded together to help swell the voices and to represent the fact that this is a true community project.

Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon: Deluxe Two-Disc Edition UMC/Island August 26th 2013

Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon Deluxe EditionFolking has just had word of the new deluxe edition of Fairport Convention’s fabulous 1975 recording, Rising For The Moon, an album that marked the only studio recording with Sandy Denny and the band members since her return to the group in 1974.

In 1969, the “classic” Fairport line-up recorded and released three albums (What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief) all within a single year. At the end of that frenetic period, Sandy  quit the band to form Fotheringay, This again was short-lived as Sandy soon embarked on a distinguished solo career (some of these albums have also been released as Deluxe Edition series) before being drawn back into Fairport fold. She ‘officially’ re-joined in February 1974 during a four night stint at LA’s Troubadour club. A remarkable live recording of this legendary shows form part of this new release released and can be found on the second disc on this new edition of Rising For The Moon.

Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon Band PromoIt was 26 January 1974, when Fairport became the first rock band to play the Sydney Opera House, the Nine album line-up (featuring: Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, Trevor Lucas, and Jerry Donahue) had been augmented by Sandy Denny, who was now married to Lucas.  The result was the ground breaking Fairport Live Convention album (released in America as A Moveable Feast) which confirmed how much the band had benefited from having Sandy back on board. Then only weeks later, Sandy was fully integrated into the band again and the LA Troubadour dates present a Fairport that was at the top of its game. As was often the case with Fairport’s luck in the seventies, the band’s perilous financial situation meant that they couldn’t afford to purchase the tapes from Wally Heider’s Mobile organisation. Over the years, odd selections trickled out but it was only on the 2010 definitive 19 CD Sandy Denny box-set that the tracks featuring Sandy were properly mixed to their natural audible glory. Now, with additional performances by Trevor Lucas and Dave Swarbrick included, fans can enjoy this brief but memorable line-up at its absolute best.

Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon Band ColourThe set list at the Troubadour is also unusual in that it was substantially different to the songs performed on Fairport Live Convention. In fact the recording features several songs that the band have never performed again including: Trevor Lucas’ ‘Ballad Of Ned Kelly’ originally on the ‘Fotheringay’ album, and ‘Down Where The Drunkards Roll’ (Trevor had sung background vocals on the original version on Richard and Linda Thompson’s I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight). Sandy performs a passionate version of Dylan’s ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ and her own ‘Crazy Lady Blues’ performed here with an added verse and, dipping into the Fairport back-catalogue, with a haunting ‘She Moves Through The Fair’.

Further highlights include ‘Solo’ and ‘Like An Old Fashioned Waltz’ from Sandy’s third album, and a spirited cover of Dylan’s ‘Down In The Flood’. Swarb delivers an effortless version of the ‘The Hens March through the Midden’ and a spirited break-necked performance of ‘The Hexamshire Lass’. Sandy’s signature ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ is there in all its majesty as well as a definite version of ‘Matty Groves’. The band also rocks out on ‘Six Days On The Road’ and ‘That’ll Be The Day’.

With Sandy back in the band, Island Records made a greater commitment to Fairport’s next studio recording and, to that end, Glyn Johns was brought in as producer for Fairport’s 10th studio album. Johns’ pedigree was impeccable: Rolling Stones, Beatles, the Who, the Eagles… and was emphatic that he wanted the new sessions to include only original material with no covers or traditional material.

The album was recorded at Olympic Studios in two blocks. The first sessions began in December 1974, but during a break in January, Dave Mattacks quit and was replaced by ex-Grease Band drummer Bruce Rowland, who played on the remaining tracks and stayed on for the tours following the album release in June 1975.

Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon Band MonoThe album included songs from all members of the band although seven of the album’s eleven tracks were penned in whole or partly by Sandy. Johns made them rehearse the new material, then sifted through to find the best and, on many levels, Rising For The Moon was indeed a triumph. Sandy is in fine vocal form; the band gels instrumentally and songs like the title track, ‘Stranger To Himself’ and ‘One More Chance’ (featuring blistering guitar from Jerry Donahue) are among Fairport’s best ever. Swarb’s ‘White Dress’ was sufficiently strong and was chosen as the album’s only 7” single.

Even Sandy – though happy with the finished album – recognised that the financial and personal strain it had put on the band made a split inevitable and by the end of 1975 guitarist Jerry Donahue and then Sandy and Trevor decided to leave the group. The original Rising For The Moon is now ripe for reappraisal whereas at the time it raised the question was it a Sandy Denny album or a Fairport album? Of course it’s both and, whichever way you look at it, it is one of Fairport’s and Sandy’s best and most underrated records.

Now enriched on this Deluxe edition by 21 additional tracks – including; a beautiful, previously unreleased performance of ‘White Dress’ (discovered in the LWT archive), an alternate mix of ‘Dawn’; a studio demo with Sandy and Trevor of ‘What Is True’; plus Sandy’s home demos of ‘After Halloween’, and ‘King And Queen Of England’, the latter written for the album but never recorded.

The album reviews at the time were largely positive. The Guardian judged the album “their best for six years… it ought to re-establish Fairport as a significant British band.” In the end it wasn’t to be; the rigours of touring and financial problems essentially drove the band to split. A truncated Fairport went on to record their final album for Island, Gottle O’ Gear, and in 1976, Jerry Donahue went off to work with Joan Armatrading; Trevor went on to produced Sandy’s 1977 album, Rendezvous; but within a year Sandy was dead and the folk scene lost its greatest heroine. Despite her solo success, the Sandy many of her admirers remember with most fondness is the lady who fronted Fairport Convention during their glory years. So here then, are the beautiful songs she wrote and the music she made with the band second time around.

DISC ONE

01: RISING FOR THE MOON  ( 4.08 )
02: RESTLESS   ( 4.01 )
03: WHITE DRESS   ( 3.44 )
04: LET IT GO  ( 2.00 )
05: STRANGER TO HIMSELF  ( 2.51 )
06: WHAT IS TRUE ?   ( 3.33 )
07: IRON LION   ( 3.27 )
08: DAWN   ( 3.42 )
09: AFTER HALLOWEEN   ( 3.38 )
10: NIGHT-TIME GIRL   ( 2.56 )
11: ONE MORE CHANCE   ( 7.58 )

BONUS TRACKS

12: WHITE DRESS ( 3:24 ) Live on LWT – 9/8/1975
13: DAWN – ALTERNATE VERSION ( 4:11 )
14: WHAT IS TRUE ? –  STUDIO DEMO ( 3:16 )
15: AFTER HALLOWEEN – DEMO ( 3:00 )
16: THE KING AND QUEEN OF ENGLAND – HOME DEMO ( 3:12 )

DISC TWO – LIVE AT THE LA TROUBADOUR

01: DOWN IN THE FLOOD    ( 3:13 )
02: BALLAD OF NED KELLY ( 3:59 )
03: SOLO ( 5:40 )
04: IT’LL TAKE A LONG TIME ( 5:35 )
05: SHE MOVES THROUGH THE FAIR ( 4:09 )
06: THE HENS MARCH THROUGH THE MIDDEN & THE FOUR POSTER BED (3:17 )
07: THE HEXAMSHIRE LASS ( 2:44 )
08: KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVENS DOOR ( 4:33 )
09: SIX DAYS ON THE ROAD ( 3:38 )
10: LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ ( 4:19 )
11: JOHN THE GUN ( 5:10 )
12: DOWN WHERE THE DRUNKARDS ROLL ( 4:14 )
13: CRAZY LADY BLUES ( 3:54 )
14: WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES ( 6:54 )
15: MATTY GROVES ( 7:05 )
16: THAT’LL BE THE DAY

MERRY HELL to release Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain

Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of RainWe’re very excited at folking as we have just got our hands on the new Merry Hell “Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain” album which is due for general release on the 20 May 2013 through Mrs Casey Records.

The album sees the seven-piece build on the songwriting and musicianship which hallmarked their acclaimed 2011 debut, BLINK…and you miss it.

If you did blink and miss it, then you can head back in time with Dai Jeffries and read his excellent album review here

(which he did for us in September 2011).

We also have a live clip of “Drunken Serenade” (from BLINK…and you miss it) for your listening and viewing pleasure below.

Recorded at Jaraf House Studios, Wigan, Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain is the sound of a band at a new creative peak, inspired by a summer spent immersing themselves in the atmosphere, music and communities at folk and roots festivals up and down the UK.

Tracks like ‘Bury Me Naked’, ‘Let The Music Speak’ and ‘Let’s Not Have A Morning After (‘Til We’ve Had A Night Before)’ have already become firm favourites among the band’s devoted live following, delighting audiences at Towersey and Wickham Festivals, Big Session, The Great British Folk Festival and many more.

Driven by the distinctive counterpoint vocals of Virginia and Andrew Kettle, the songs are folk music in the broadest sense – story-telling, rootsy and organic – yet underpinned by an unashamed pop sensibility and given wings by the musical accompaniment, including a guest appearance from folk violin legend Dave Swarbrick.

Built around the Kettle family axis (in addition to Virginia and Andrew, the band includes John Kettle on guitars and brother Bob on mandolin and Irish bouzouki), Merry Hell are a band blessed with ability and imagination.

Equally at home in reflective, acoustic-based moments, or declaring their credentials with powerful rock rhythms, the breadth of talent carries firmly into live shows where, time and again, audiences have been swept off their feet and those new to Merry Hell have joined the believers.

If “BLINK…and you miss it” was the sound of Merry Hell becoming comfortable in their new found skin then “Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain” is loving the skin they’re in.

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

Red Shoes new album release

Red Shoes All The Good FriendsCarolyn and Mark Evans who go under the name Red Shoes, had their initial meeting with legendary bass player Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull in 2008, after Peggy heard their songs on MySpace on the internet. This in turn led to his offer to both produce and play on their debut albumEnlisting the help of fellow Fairport member, Chris Leslie on fiddle and Dylan Project/Little Johnny England guitarist PJ Wright, Dave Pegg then set about recording what would turn out to be the duo’s debut album, Ring Around The Land.

Released on Cedarwood Records in the summer of 2009, the album was critically acclaimed in the press, garnering such praise as “Folk album of the Year” from NetRhythms;  and  “Magical album” from R2. This in turn led to international distribution through Universal in 2010.

The connection with Dave Pegg continued by way of Fairport Convention recording their version of Celtic Moon (opening track on Ring Around The Land) for the album Festival Bell. The song remains a crowd favourite in the Fairport live set.

Red Shoes  have now released their follow up album All The Good Friends with Mick Dolan  (Stevie Winwood, Show of Hands, Ralph McTell, Fisherman’s Friends) in the producer’s chair. The release being funded with the help of the direct-from-artist-to-fan site Pledge Music. This new model for recording and releasing albums is definitely the way forward, giving the artist a real connection with their fans and vice versa.

This second album sees their songwriting growing in stature and maturity, whilst also retaining their skill for memorable tunes and strong choruses. From the opening track Red Coat Ride, with it’s anti-fox hunting theme and pounding rhythm, all way through to the closing lilting waltz of The Last Dance, telling the tale of a lonely woman in a ballroom, this album takes you on an emotional journey, which you won’t forget. With 11 songs – 10 originals and a dazzling version of the Roy Wood song Blackberry Way, Red Shoes invite you into the world of All The Good Friends

These recordings see the duo reunited with Dave Pegg on bass and mandolin, alongside Dave Swarbrick, legendary fiddle player from the halcyon days of Fairport. Also guesting are Ric Sanders & Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention),  Bill Hunt (ELO/Wizzard) and Bev Bevan (The Move).

Artist’s website: http://www.redshoes-music.com/

Review of Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, James Yorkston and The Carrivick Sisters concert in aid of charity for musicians

AN EVENING WITH MARTIN CARTHY AND DAVE SWARBRICK, JAMES YORKSTON AND THE CARRIVICK SISTERS AT THE CECIL SHARPE HOUSE  REGENT’S PARK LONDON ON 18th DECEMBER 2012

At the outset let it be known that folk gatherings have never been top of my list in Winter, however,  I was very pleased to have had the good sense to attend this superb concert at the ‘Mecca’ of British Folk and to patronise such a worthy cause.   This concert was sponsored by the Musicians’  Benevolent Fund, was most ably hosted by the one and only “Whisperin’ Bob Harris” OBE, and portrayed the musical talent of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, John Yorkston and The Carrivick Sisters.

Bob opened the concert and, in his usual warm and relaxed professional manner, he extolled the virtues of The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and stressed its significance to musicians.   In essence, the fund was set up to “provide help and support to musicians and their dependants, and those in related occupations, when illness, accident or old age bring stress or financial burdens to bear.” During the evening the mellifluous Bob declared that tonight’s audience was the largest ever held in this venue and I sincerely hoped that The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund would benefit admirably from their generosity

This concert was, in my opinion, a concert of contrasts:  contrasts of music types from Bluegrass to Baroque, rhythms and time signatures, styles and origin. Contrasts in instruments (albeit all of the stringed variety) ranging from the banjo to the fiddle.  And contrasts in artists ranging from the young twenty somethings to the young seventy somethings!  There was, however, one issue in common with each of the headline artists…. they had, at some time in their career, sought and received the help of the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund.

First on were …. The  Carrivick Sisters …… twins Laura and Charlotte seemed totally at home on such an occasion and they performed a series of their original songs and instrumentals using a variety of stringed instruments, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and banjo along with a several carefully chosen “covers”.  I particularly enjoyed listening to Laura’s compositions involving the Dobro which reminded me so much of Iris DeMent and marvelled at Charlotte’s nimble finger picking. In my opinion their overall stage presence, interaction with the audience and musical prowess belied their tender age (compared to Bob anyway!!).  During their set they made reference to financial support proffered by The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund to fund their latest album release.

Next we listened to James Yorkston who hails from Fife…..James  started out as bassist for a punk band  and then, as some would put it, “saw the light” to become one of Scotland’s most renowned singer- songwriters.  James opened his set by conveying to the audience his sadness for Douglas Paul who, as his bass player, had been with him since 2001 and had recently passed away.  James related also his past memories of this magnificent concert hall.  To me (and others) it seemed that most of his hour’s performance was a lament for “Doogie”.  Nevertheless despite the poignant occasion, James’ emotional music and lyrics were fascinating to listen to, more so when embellished by his two guest singers  Belfast-born, Chicago-raised Jill O’Sullivan from the group Sparrow and the Workshop and Mayo man singer-songwriter Seamus Fogarty.  James’s expounded and commended the vital work of The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and how it had helped him financially when one of his children became seriously ill…..

And finally after more stirring and passionate words in support of The Musicians’ Benevolent  Fund by Bob, the highlight of many peoples’ evening…..the high priests of British folk music and top of the bill, Martin Cathay and Dave Swarbrick both looking so relaxed and at home on stage in front of a very eager audience.  “I played here 54 years ago” quipped Dave……I noted that the majority of the audience weren’t even thought of then!

And then it began…..over an hour of remarkable and awe-inspiring music played by the Grand Masters.  It was incredible to listen to and a total contrast to anything before.  Their choice was significantly of the Baroque era but not in that style as we know it.  There were songs and instrumentals encompassing various compound time signatures and no hint of bar counting!!  It was wonderful to watch and hear the stirring fiddle playing by Dave neatly intertwined with  Martin’s guitar and his well-celebrated vocals….Dave’s “I left my Heart in New South Wales” was my favourite of the evening…..

Seemingly, in next to no time the concert came to a close despite the audience clamouring for more encores from Messrs. Martin and Dave. Finally, to each and every musician gracing that stage and beguiling a very enthusiastic audience we thank you for such a memorable evening.

Peter Burch – 25th December 2012

Speaking about his involvement, Bob Harris OBE said “I am delighted to be part of this wonderful event and hope that it raises the profile for the Musicians Benevolent Fund which is a vital lifeline for so many musicians, without which they would face a very uncertain future.”

Further information about The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund is available here: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/

This event was made possible by everyone involved donating their time and The English Folk Dance and Song Society generously allowing free hire of Cecil Sharp House.