GRETCHEN PETERS – Dancing With The Beast (Scarlet Letter/Proper PRPCD148P)

Dancing With The BeastHaving enjoyed her biggest success to date with the Ben Glover co-penned southern gothic ‘Blackbirds’, it is, perhaps, not too surprising to find echoes in Dancing With The Beast. In terms of narrative, the slightly swampy ‘Wichita’, which Glover also co-wrote and which features Jerry Douglas on Dobro, is another murder ballad, this time round a mentally handicapped 12-year-old girl taking a gun to protect herself, her dysfunctional divorced mother and little sister from an abusive man as she sings “I hope I was the last thing that you saw that night in Wichita”.

More specifically, the politically pointed ‘Lowlands’ traces a similar melody to the Grammy winner’s refrain on a song written in response to the 2016 election with lyrics reflecting the sense of disquiet about a man who “lies just for the sake of lying.. sell you kerosene and call it hope.” This one’s not written with Ben Glover, but he does have three co-write credits, the first up being the album’s opening number, a three-way split with Matraca Berg, a melancholically, world weary reflective song about growing old and times changing as she sings “I get lost in my hometown, since they tore the Drive-In down”, perhaps carrying with it hints of incipient Alzheimer’s.

Throughout the album, she’s backed by Doug Lancio on guitar and synths, guitarist Will Kimbrough, keyboard player Barry Walsh, bassist and John Gardner on drums, the songs populated with a variety of female characters and driven by a feminist perspective. The moods vary. On the dreamy, piano-backed ‘The Boy From Rye’, steeped in the insecurities of female adolescence, it’s one of wistful reflection on a summer romance with a boy from out of town who, “His smile knowing and ironic” divided friendships as “One by one he broke our virgin hearts/And set us one against the other”. In contrast, the more musically muscular but equally poignant ‘Life Is A Disappearing Act’ turns its gaze on a middle-aged woman who, widowed after fifty years of marriage, having lost two babies at birth and a son to the Iraq war, mentally and emotionally rather than physically, now finds herself alone, lonely and isolated, trapped in a “dark cocoon” and “crying at the kitchen sink” , “if Jesus is comin’ soon And if he is, he better make it quick”.

She turns the mirror on herself, and any touring musician, for the whisperingly sung ‘The Show’, which, accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar and piano, reflects on life on the road, “somewhere between Bend and Birmingham”, drinking hotel coffee that “tastes like kerosene”, saving up the energy for “Nineteen songs and one more night to go”.

Clearly, it can take its toll (“I clutch this guitar to my chest and wonder just what I’ll have left/When all of this hard traveling’s finally done”), especially on sustaining a relationship, and she reprises the theme on ‘Lay Low’, where, “a good three hours to Aberdeen”, she sings how “Tonight I’ll call to say hello, but your phone’s just gonna ring I know” and of the need to take some time out to recharge.

The other two Glover co-writes play back to back. Like ‘Blackbirds’, they’ve both recorded their own versions, the title track here to be found on his current Shorebound album, both swelling towards the end and featuring a nervy acoustic guitar line, but her’s without the prominent strings and the drums held back until towards the end and Kim Richey on background vocals. A song about that voice that whispers in your ear that you’re no good or you can’t do it, be it depression, a sense of insecurity or whatever, and how the best way to deal with it is to “circle round the room together /Seal this devil’s bargain with a kiss.” However, lyrics like “It isn’t that he doesn’t care about me/If anything it’s that he cares too much /It’s only that he wants the best for me /It’s only that I don’t try hard enough” also lend themselves to an interpretation of an abusive relationship that chimes with the #MeToo movement, especially given the confessional and emotionally bruised way Peters’ delivers the lines.

The second, underpinned by Walsh’s piano and again echoing Blackbirds’ melody line, is ‘Truckstop Angel’, a variation on ‘Honky Tonk Angels’ that addresses prostitution and self-respect as the character sings of being unsure if she’s predator or prey, but that “One day I’m gonna leave here /Gonna hit my lucky streak, Gonna spread my gorgeous wings and fly/Above all this concrete”.

At the end of the day, this is an album about rising above the weight and the burdens, imposed by both others and yourself, a simple humanity and moving epiphany found in the gorgeous ‘Say Grace’, Douglas on dobro and Richey on backing, taking refuge in faith or friends as the lost, the despairing, the bruised and the broken are welcomed to share in prayer at shelter by the bus station depot, the lesson of the day being “Forgive yourself for all of your mistakes You can start all over if that’s what it takes… You are not a loser, you are not a hopeless case” .

It ends with just her and a fingerpicked acoustic guitar for ‘Love That Makes A Cup Of Tea’, a song that, born of a dream about her late mother in which “she held my hand and she said, ‘You know, honey, there is love that makes a cup of tea’.” In many ways an echo of the blessing in ‘Kindness’ on Glover’s album, it’s a celebration of how, for all the big dramatic moments, of “love that moves a mountain” or “love that fights for justice knowing justice won’t be done”, sometimes the smallest, simplest human moment can be the most profound. There is sadness, there is weariness, there is trepidation, but, as the conclusion to Lowlands notes, at the end of the day there is also hope, because “We get a lot of clouds here in the lowlands /But now and then a little light gets through.” This is a beacon.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s: website: www.gretchenpeters.com

‘Disappearing Act’ – official video:

Gretchen Peters announces new album and tour dates

Gretchen Peters
Photograph courtesy of BBC

Described by Uncut magazine as “One of Nashville’s greatest talents”, Gretchen Peters is releasing new album Dancing With The Beast next month. It’s the follow-up to 2016’s acclaimed record Blackbirds, which was named Album of The Year by the Americana Music Association.

It’s with some anticipation that the record is being released, and she has put together an especially timely record, with the contributions of Matraca Berg and Ben Glover amongst others. Dancing With The Beast puts female characters at the fore, from teenage girls to old women. And intentionally so. With the 2017 Women’s March and #MeToo Movement as bookends to her writing time, Peters knew that a feminist perspective would be the critical core of the record. “Those two events just put everything — as so many things in 2017 — in really stark relief,” she admits. “You can trace the feminist DNA in my songwriting back to ‘Independence Day’ and probably before. The thing that 2017 did is just put it front and centre. It was very easy to kind of go to sleep for a while and just not think about that stuff because we were lulled into complacency for eight years.”

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.gretchenpeters.com/

‘Disappearing Act’ – official video:

Tour Dates

Friday, 24th August 2018 Wadebridge, Cornwall Folk Festival

Sunday, 26th August 2018 Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Shrewsbury Folk Festival reveals more names


Folk legend Richard Thompson is set to make an electrifying return to this year’s Shrewsbury Folk Festival after organisers announced a rare appearance by the musician with his Electric Trio.

The former Fairport Convention musician, named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, will headline the festival’s Bellstone stage on Saturday August 25.

More than half of adult weekend tickets have already been sold with over six months to go to the event that attracts around 7,000 people to the West Mid Showground.

Other names added to the programme include the new duo of Peter Knight (ex Steeleye Span) and John Spiers (Bellowhead) and singer songwriters James Riley and Edwina Hayes.

Already announced are American singer songwriter Gretchen Peters, Steeleye Span, Irish super group Usher’s Island, Show of Hands, Jon Boden and The Remnant Kings, Gigspanner, BBC Folk Award winner Daoirí Farrell and Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore.

Chinese flautist Guo Yue and Japanese drummer Joji Hirota will reunite for the festival with the London Taiko Drummers and Canadian band The Fitzgeralds – one of the hit groups of last year’s festival – will also make a welcome return.

Other performers include Welsh indie roots band Rusty Shackle, State of the Union – the duo of Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams, O’Hooley & Tidow, Megson, Blowzabella, Banter, Alden, Patterson & Dashwood, The Rogues Shanty Crew, Emma Morton & The Graces, Midnight Skyracer, FOS Brothers, Inlay, and Foreign Affairs.

Dance bands will be Blowzabella, Bedlam, Committee Band, Vertical Expression, Kirkophany and Out of Hand.

Shrewsbury Folk FestivalThe festival, which will run from August 24 to 27, has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, more than 100 workshops, a craft fair, food village, real ale, prosecco and cocktail bars and on-site camping.

There are also fringe events at town pubs with dance displays in the centre of Shrewsbury and a parade through the streets.

Director Sandra Surtees said: “We are delighted to have secured this rare appearance by the Richard Thompson Electric Trio for Shrewsbury. Richard is a folk legend but he doesn’t often perform in this format so it’ll be a real treat for our audience.

“The line up contains a wide variety of traditional and contemporary folk alongside singer songwriters and north American and Canadian acts so there is something to appeal to all tastes.

“That’s echoed in the strong ticket sales we’re experiencing with many of our visitors coming back year after year as they love the festival so much!”

Weekend and day tickets are now on sale and can be booked at www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

First names unveiled for Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2018

Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Shrewsbury Folk Festival has revealed the first acts in its 2018 line up as tickets go on sale for next year’s event.

American singer songwriter Gretchen Peters, Irish super group Usher’s Island, festival favourites Show of Hands and former Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden with his band The Remnant Kings will join Steeleye Span, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band, BBC Folk Award winner Daoirí Farrell and Scottish folk rockers Skerryvore at the festival next August.

Chinese flautist Guo Yue and Japanese drummer Joji Hirota will reunite for the festival with the London Taiko Drummers and one of the hit groups of the 2017 festival – Canadian band The Fitzgeralds – have been invited back due to popular demand.

Other performers already signed up include Welsh indie roots band Rusty Shackle, The Rails, State Of The Union – the duo of Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams, O’Hooley & Tidow, Megson, Blowzabella, Banter, Alden, Patterson & Dashwood, The Rogues Shanty Chorus, Emma Morton & The Graces, Midnight Skyracer, FOS Brothers, Inlay, and Foreign Affairs.

Dance bands will be Blowzabella, Bedlam, Committee Band, Vertical Expression, Kirkophany and Out of Hand.

The festival will take place at the West Mid Showground from August 24 to 27 with more artists to be revealed in 2018.

Director Sandra Surtees said: “The line up is shaping up to be as eclectic as ever with something for everyone. We pride ourselves on catering for a wide range of musical tastes from traditional folk music to more contemporary performers with some world music bringing a global element to the festival.

“There will be bands from all four corners of the UK, showcasing some of the best acts in today’s folk and acoustic scene, with some of the North American flavour for which the festival is renowned.

“We will be adding more great acts to our 2018 line up and will revealing more early next year.”

The festival is now one of the leading folk events in the UK with more than 7,000 people heading to Shrewsbury and has a reputation for its relaxed and friendly environment.

Sandra added: “Our committee works year round to plan and programme the festival, supported by an incredible army of 500 plus volunteers which creates the festival village each August.

“Shrewsbury has a reputation for its unique atmosphere and the majority of our visitors come back time and time again.”

The festival has four main music stages, a dance tent featuring ceilidhs, workshops and dance shows, children and youth festivals, more than 100 workshops, a craft fair, food village, real ale, prosecco and cocktail bars and on-site camping.

There are also fringe events at local pubs with dance displays across the town and a parade through the streets.

Weekend and day tickets are now on sale and can be booked at www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.

The Folking Winners – Public Vote 2016

First of all, a big thank you to the thousands who voted in our inaugural Folkies awards. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the runners-up, although all our nominees are winners to the team who enjoyed their music, either live or on record, over the last year and placed them on the short list. Here are the folking public vote winners and now, may I have the first envelope please…

Soloist Of The Year – Steve Knightley

The Folking Winners - Steve Knightley

http://folking.com/steve-knightley-bio/


Best Duo – Show Of Hands

The Folking Winners - Show Of Hands
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

http://folking.com/show-of-hands-bio/


Best Band – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

Best Live Act – Blackbeard’s Tea Party

The Folking Winners - Blackbeard's Tea Party

http://folking.com/blackbeards-tea-party-bio/


Best Album – Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

The Folking Winners - Disco At The Tavern

http://folking.com/disco-at-the-tavern-review/


Best Musician – Peter Knight

The Folking Winners - Peter Knight

http://folking.com/peter-knight-bio


Rising Star – Will Varley

The Folking Winners - Will Varley

http://folking.com/will-varley-bio


Best International Artist – Gretchen Peters

The Folking Winners - Gretchen Peters
Photograph by Gina Binkley

http://folking.com/gretchen-peters-bio



If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Clype

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarrr
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarr
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/


If you would like to consider ordering a copy of an album for any of our award winners (in CD or Vinyl), download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected songs (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us