Fake News & Propaganda is the fourth full electric album by Warsop’s punk-folkers, Ferocious Dog. It’s dedicated to the memory of Ken Bonsall’s son Lee who, suffering from PTSD after his experiences with the army in Afghanistan, took his own life aged just 24. That’s why Ferocious Dog do what they do. The band has evolved over the years and now only Bonsall and fiddler Dan Booth remain from the original line-up. They may be better musicians now but they are as passionate as ever. There are seven writers credited here, including producer Phil Wilbraham plus lyrics acquired from Nick Burbridge and Jeremy Cunningham.
‘Cry Of The Celt’ leads us in easily, a sort of position paper defining one of the band’s inspirations after a long instrumental introduction but ‘Traitor’s Gate’ takes the gloves off. It has a pseudo-historical setting but is thoroughly modern in telling the story of a man who fought on against authority until the end. ‘Cover Me’ is Burbridge’s poem and sounds so much like a certain Levellers song; inevitable I suppose, but it’s one of the star tracks. ‘Fake News’ is the title track and it names names; you don’t have to guess what it’s about!
Dan Booth wrote ‘Lacey-Lee’ for his young daughter and it’s one of the album’s more delicate moments but the underlying message of ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’ only emerges in the last lines. Cunningham’s lyrical contribution is the single, ‘The Landscape Artist’, which should be the ecological protest song of the year – I can hear it echoing around festival fields already. ‘Up All Night’ is the anti-Brexit song and ‘Justice For 96’ is about the Hillsborough affair – it’s gone beyond the events of the day, now.
Next up is ‘Bedlam Boys’ which Ferocious Dog claim as their own. Come on, guys, you know better than that: just make sure that the royalties go to the right place. Finally, ‘Yellow Feather’ is a message of positivism: ignore the haters and do your own thing which is a good way to live. Fake News & Propaganda is another excellent album from the Dog; so good I’ve just bought the title I’m missing. How did that happen?
Squelch… Wickham Festival finally kicked off to a great start with sets from Low, Barker, Morris & Tunstall which sounds like a firm of solicitors instead of musical, dance and poetry partners in festival law; Andy Fairweather Low, Les Barker, the Wickham Morris Sides and KT Tunstall.
Now tell me… where are you going to get a “bend me, shake me, a sermon from the church of the holy undecided, a strip the willow and a black horse and a cherry tree all the the same place!
Here is the moment when the sun came out and everyone forgot about the thirteen days of rain that fell on the site the day before it opened which caused the “elf and safety” three hours delayed start.
The main Thursday night event on the All Time Grates Stage was 10CC, who played all their hits, which they performed as a masterclass in song-writing. They even offered us the following words of wisdom from their extensive mantra…
Life is a minestrone
Served up with parmesan cheese
Death is a cold Lasagne
Suspended in deep freeze …
Friday afternoon had a definite garden party feel that went off with a Wizz, bang and Spooky side-splitting Tickell. It all started with the legendary Wizz Jones who rolled out all his hits including ‘When I Leave Berlin’ which Bruce Springsteen covered.
TheSpooky Men’s Chorale followed, the Antipodean Blue Mountain settlers, that worry local livestock to such a degree that the local farmers club together to pay for their international tours (so long as they agree to do reworked Abba and Bee Gees choral arrangements). Luckily, Kathryn Tickell was there to restore order, Northumbrian Pipe Style, who together with The Side brought Wickham back into the hear and now with evocative slow airs that could break your heart one minute and then fling you seamlessly into life-affirming jigs and reels the next.
In between Tickell and the Spookies (great idea for a band name!) I managed to dash across to the Hapi Stage to catch a bit of the fab Portsmouth based band Bemis. I also managed to grab a copy of their excellent new album A World of Difference that I encourage you all to go and check out for free here
There was barely enough time for a quick change over before it was pedal to metal down the West Country highway in search of Fishy Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands. All three did the West Country proud and I think its was a great bit of programming to put Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands all on the same stage and evening bill.
Here is my favourite moment of Friday night, when Show of Hands treated us to a slowed down version of the Don Henley classic “Boys of Summer” . Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Saturday opened with more Wickham Festival goodies… Alas, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie didn’t make it for the reunion but folk legends, Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe turned up on the All Time Grates Stage in the afternoon. Then it was a quick hop and skip across to the Hapi Stage for a blistering set from Gilmore & Roberts with festival energy in a bakers bun-dance. Then back again to the All Time Grates Stage as master Dhol drummer, Johnny Kalsi fired up the furnaces of the drums of the mighty Dhol Foundation to create a high-energy, pulsating folking brilliant musical soundscape of Punjabi beat, rhythm and intensity.
If that was not enough excitement for one day, there was a just enough time to sponge down before the main evening event of the big punk-folk-rock 3. I’m sure you will all know who they all are, as the Saturday evening, three in a row line-up, for many, was one of the dream festival programming highlights of this year (dreamt up by the mind of that festival organising genius, Mr Peter Chegwyn) which even included a returning Chopper as part of the Oysterband mix. For those who have not worked it out, it was of course The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Oysterband and The Levellers. I also legged it across to the Hapi Stage to see some of my old matesChris Sherburn & Denny Bartley set with the lovely Emily.
Time had flown by and before anyone knew it, it was “Sunday folk fun-day” and the fourth day of Wickham.
I’ll start with Ray “Chopper” Cooper who opened on the Hapi stage…
Fay Hield then blew in with the Hurricane Party on the All Time Grates Stage and Glasgow boys Imar followed and got the main stage dancing. Wickham festival favourite Duncan Chisholmfollowed with his Gathering before the afternoon slot was brought to a riotous close with Tankus The Henge (a great festival band).
LAU opened the Sunday evening slot which felt like a kaleidoscope of colour washing over the All Time Grates Stage. The power went off at one point so we even got a couple of un-amped numbers.
The finale for me was the crowned Queen of the Wickham Festival crowd, Eliza Carthy with Sam Sweeney & the rest of her merry Wayward Band. Unfortunately, I had to leave early so missed the Peatbog Faeries set but Eliza said that they tore the place apart, so I have been lamenting the early departure ever since.
I was bitten by a Ferocious Dog on the way out and am looking forward to repeating the experience at one of their other gigs soon.
Ferocious Dog’s eponymous first album was a wild and raucous affair, not unlike their live performances but there have been changes since last year. Three members of that line-up remain: lead vocalist Ken Bonsall the Mohican man, multi-instrumentalist Ellis Waring and fiddler Dan Booth are now joined by guitarist Les Carter, bassist John Alexander and drummer Scott Walters.
The music is still pretty uncompromising but it’s tighter and more accessible. Ferocious Dog have looked to their forebears and contemporaries: The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Levellers, Merry Hell – looked and learned, borrowed and absorbed and produced a shit-kicking album. I suspect that the Parental Advisory sticker has more to do with the band’s political stance than the single profanity that I was able to locate. As with its predecessor, From Without includes one traditional song, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, which takes the same political stance as the rest of the album: reject wealth and status and side with the underdog, and there is also part III of ‘Mairi’s Wedding’.
‘Living On Thin Air’ quotes from the Levellers but the lyrics are by Nick Burbridge who is mate so I guess we can let him off but later Ken and Dan nick a line from Ralph McTell for ‘Slow Motion Suicide’. That’s a bit cheeky but property is theft, right? The outrage is high in ‘Poor Angry And Young’ but even that is tempered by Ellis’ decoration. ‘Ruby Bridges’ is a very clever song about school segregation and that’s followed by ‘Crime And Punishment’ which could be an Odgers and Simmonds historical epic.
Yes, Ferocious Dog are borrowing a bit freely but they are also developing their own voice and their own sound from what they hear. This is only their second album, remember, but they are on their way.
Merry Hell have released a new video and download single to tie in with their forthcoming spring tour.
‘Loving The Skin You’re In’ is taken from the folk-rock outfit’s critically-acclaimed second album ‘Head Full Of Magic, Shoes Full Of Rain’ (Mrs Casey Records) which saw them land a series of high-profile festival dates in 2013.
Filmed in part at Flecky’s Tattoos in Wigan and Standish Unity Club, the video takes a light-hearted approach to emphasising the powerful message of the song’s lyrics: ‘be yourself, no matter what’.
Singer/songwriter Virginia Kettle, who oversaw the concept, explains: “So much has happened to the band since we made the last video. Our musical journey has taken us into a second album, live festival appearances down the length and across the breadth of the country; little gigs, big gigs, radio interviews, friendships forged with legends such as Dave Swarbrick, Gordon Giltrap and Mike Harding.
“Everywhere we’ve been, however grand or humble the venue, we have met such inspiring people, from amazingly talented musicians to those who make incredibly weird and wonderful things: real ale, jewellery, wines, breads, cheeses, ice cream! People of all ages, sizes, class and creed, all with their stories written on their faces, in their eyes, in their deep love of music.”
The video features friends the band have made during their current career and in their previous incarnation as The Tansads.
Virginia adds: “We all agreed that we wanted it to try and create a ‘festival of diversity’ so we invited some of our most colourful and unique friends to help us. From the moment they all turned up, we knew they were going to be just brilliant.
“It’s a mixed group of people with a shared intention: to let the commercial world know that the air-brushed puppet with the perfect mannequin smile doesn’t really do it for us anymore.”
Finally, Merry Hell have also announced the recruitment of two new members, multi-instrumentalist Neil McCartney and bass player Nick Davies.
Neil, best known as a fiddle player, is a long term associate of several Merry Hell members and has lived and made music in London, Galway, Dublin, New York and Thailand. He formed Big Geraniums, who enjoyed success on the global festival circuit, playing alongside the likes of The Wailers, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.
Nick, formerly of Sound Marshals and Jesus In India, replaces outgoing bassist Andrew Dawson, who has left with the band’s love and best wishes due to external factors.
In the quest to experience something new every year, it was the turn of The Bearded Theory to fulfil this self-indulgence.
Situated in the picturesque grounds of Kedleston Hall, in my home county of Derbyshire, the Bearded Theory Festival took place from 13 -15th May this year. An eclectic mix of music, entertainment, characters with never a dull moment.
It was the Festival’s third year, but it’s first year at Kedleston Hall. An easy-to-reach venue that was easy on the eye but which was also a celebrity site, having been the key location for the Keira Knightley film “The Duchess”. The site was well-proportioned, with many delights for old and young alike. The weather decided to be surprisingly co-operative, but in the sparse times of rain, there was cover to take refuge under.
Why ‘Bearded Theory Festival’, I hear you ask? Well, during the festival, there was a guiness book of record attempt for the “most amount of fancy dress Beards in one place and at one time”. What an opportunity to achieve another first of being able to say that I was part of a record attempt and also to be able to wear a beard and enact a favourite Monty Python scene… “Are there any women here?” Fantastic.
The main attraction of the Festival were ‘The Waterboys’ (officially) and what an act they were. Absolutely brilliant, a stunning set. The sheer understated showmanship of Mike Scott with his Jaggeresque arrogance and superb musicianship; the flamboyant fiddle skills of Steve Wickham; and the brilliance support of the other members of the band created a feast for the ears and the feet!
Why were they the main attraction officially? Well, X-Factor reject, Wagner, was this year’s curiosity and faux-star feature and that is all the publicity I am going to give him in this review.
There were three main areas for the music. The Main Stage; The Beard Top and the Magical Sounds Area with so many great acts playing across the weekend. In no particular order; Dan Donnelly; 3 Daft Monkeys (The stalwart and honorary patrons of the Festival); Ferocious Dog (great name); The Whip; The Undertones; Justin Sullivan of New Model Army fame; an awesome Swiss trio – Mama Rosin; Dub Pistols; The Bad Shepherds; Martha Tilston; Little Jonny England; Trans Global Underground; Athlete; Eddie and The Hot Rods. Apologies to any one who I have missed out, but you were all excellent.
Whereas the Friday and Saturday were the opportunity for me to experience the Festival as a “grown-up”, I had the privilege to experience the Sunday as a “family day”. Accompanied by my children, siblings and their younger children, we trooped along to the festival to see what else it offered for those not so enamoured by the music. What a treat; – there was face-painting; craft activities; hula-hooping; hunt for the Gruffalo (found him and got a hug!); bouncy slide; bedtime fireside story; Then there was the food; yum – something for all palates and not that pricey too – always a bonus!!! For the retail therapy aficionados, then stalls to peruse and purchase from and of course, a variety of beards to deliberate over for the record attempt. Then to wind down and relax, a calming massage that soothed the muscles and the mind.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and one that I hope to repeat next year and maybe even brave the camping! I definitely recommend this festival. There is entertainment galore and not just from the artists, but from members of the audience as well. Book now for next year’s event (18th, 19th, 20th May 2012) peeps and wear your beards with pride!!