Special guest artists announced for Richard Thompson’s birthday bash

Richard Thompson
Photograph courtesy of Mojo magazine

An incredible array of special guest performers has been announced for Richard Thompson’s 70th birthday celebration show at London’s Royal Albert Hall on September 30th 2019. This once in a lifetime concert will see eminent fellow musicians, friends and family grace the stage to mark the milestone birthday of this iconic and much respected artist.

Joining Richard Thompson on an exceptional night will be: Alistair Anderson, Ashley Hutchings, Bob Mould, Christine Collister, Danny Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg, David Gilmour, Derek Smalls (formerly of the band formally known as Spinal Tap), Eliza Carthy, Hugh Cornwell, Jack Thompson, James Walbourne, Judith Owen, Kami Thompson, Kate Rusby, Linda Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Maddy Prior, Marc Ellington, Martin Carthy, Olivia Chaney, Simon Nicol, Teddy Thompson and Zara Phillips.

The show sold out swiftly when it was announced in April. Look out for the release of last minute tickets: https://www.alttickets.com/richard-thompson-tickets

Richard Thompson’s enduring musical influence and accomplishments are unparalleled.  Having co-founded the ground-breaking group Fairport Convention as a teenager in the 1960s, he and his bandmates invented a distinctive strain of British folk rock.  He left the group by the age of 21, followed by a decade long musical partnership with his then-wife Linda, to over 30 years as a highly successful solo artist.  Thompson’s genre defying mastery of both acoustic and electric guitar along with engaging energy and onstage wit continue to earn him new fans and a place as one of the most distinctive virtuosos and writers in folk rock history.  Powered by evocative songcraft, jaw-dropping guitar playing, and indefinable spirit, this venerable icon holds a coveted spot on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and counts Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Americana Music Association in Nashville and the UK Americana Music Association, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BBC Folk Awards, a prestigious Ivor Novello Award and, of course, an OBE, among his many accolades.

A wide range of musicians have recorded Thompson’s songs including David Gilmour, Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, Del McCoury, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Jones, David Byrne, Don Henley, Los Lobos, and many more.  His massive body of work includes many Grammy nominated albums as well as numerous soundtracks, including Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man.  Thompson’s latest album 13 Rivers (Proper Records) was released to widespread acclaim last September and appeared on many 2018 ‘best of the year’ lists. His accompanying tour was met with glowing reviews, including The Observer, in its Artist of the Week spread, who concluded, “Half a century after his first gig with Fairport Convention, folk-rocker Richard Thompson – trademark Stratocaster and beret intact – is as cool, energetic and contemporary as ever.”

Artist’s website: RichardThompson-Music.com

‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ – live and acoustic:

KATE RUSBY – Philosophers, Poets & Kings (Pure PRCD53)

PhilosophersIncredibly, Philosophers, Poets & Kings is Rusby’s 17th studio album in just over 20 years. Once again, a collection of the traditional and self-penned with a couple of covers for good measure, it pays homage to her Yorkshire roots, both musical and personal, as well as furthering her exploits into electronic realms with Moog, synths and programming.

It opens though without any techno frills on her setting of a traditional song, ‘Jenny’, which, although I’ve been unable to track down its provenance, I would assume to originate from Yorkshire and tells the playful tale of Yorkshire Jen, the long shout outsider who proves to have the stamina to stay the course when the others can barely trot. As befits the subject, it builds into a sprightly drum thumping number that features cornet and flugelhorn, Michael McGoldrick on flute, double bass, diatonic accordion and Ron Block on banjo as well as Damien O’Kane on guitars and vocals. Not only that, it’s reprised in a remix version as the penultimate track that strips out flute, bass and accordion and replaces them with Anthony Davis’s programming for which you might want to break out the folk glow-sticks.

Horses also get a mention in the languidly paced ‘Bogey’s Bonnie Belle’, a much recorded bothy ballad about impregnation out of wedlock and the class system divide popularised by Scottish Travellers, here featuring O’Kane on tenor guitar, Ross Ainslie on whistles and moody Moog provided by Duncan Lyall. Apparently, when she was young Rusby’s family had a Staffy named after the song, which leads nicely into the swayalong title track. Another traditional song set to a new tune, celebrating the inspirational power of the vine in promoting poetry and song that namechecks Diogenes, Plato and Democritus it also harks to wine-fuelled family singsongs and, who knows, may well have been the inspiration for Monty Python’s ‘Philosophers’ Song’.

The first original number comes with ‘Until Morning’, a twinkling I’m by your side lullaby of sorts essentially about how it’s always darkest before the dawn, followed by the two covers, first up being a rousing reading of Thompson and Swarbrick’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’ from Liege and Lief, although fiddle is conspicuous by its absence, substituted by whistles, Moog and programming. The second is a rather more left field choice, being an emotionally plaintive take on Oasis’ ‘Don’t Go Away’ featuring just Rusby and O’Kane’s tenor guitar, Rusby having first performed it on Jo Whiley’s Radio 2 show.

Co-penned with dad Steve and featuring wheezing accordion and whistles, the whimsical lurching ‘The Squire and the Parson’ is apparently based on a local folk tale involving much strong wine, a night-time coach journey and the two characters mistaking each other for a highwayman and knocking one another about.

A bittersweet mood shrouds ‘The Wanderer’, a poignant self-penned story about a man from her village suffering from Alzheimer’s who spends his time walking in search of his lost soul mate. Staying local with a dedication to the Barr Family who host Rusby’s Underneath The Stars Festival, ‘The Farmer’s Toast’ is another airy, waltzing accordion-based arrangement of a song originally published as a broadside in the early 19th century celebrating the idyllic pleasures of farming life a century earlier.

That soul-swelling sense of joy spreads over the Rusby original ‘As The Lights Go Out’, on which, joined by Chas MacKenzie on electric guitar and Sam Kelly on vocals, another anthem to hope in the face of loss, grief and doubt as she sings about facing the dawn with a smile and how “Tonight the stars are yours and mine.”

It closes though on a much darker note the self-penned ‘Halt The Wagons’ conceived as a lullaby to the 26 children, 15 boys and 11 girls aged 7-17 from Silkstone, who, in 1838, were drowned in the Barnsley Huskar Pit disaster when the coal mine shaft in which they were working was flooded in a freak storm, their bodies found with their arms around each other for comfort. Written to commemorate the 180th anniversary, it features evocative Yorkshire brass and euphonium but, more movingly, 26 members of the Barnsley Youth Choir of the same ages and gender, recorded underground at the National Coal Mining Museum of England. It’s impossible to listen to without welling up.

The booklet features quotes from three Greek philosophers, among them Aristotle who said “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Kate Rusby bears the torch.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: www.katerusby.com

‘Jenny’ – live:

Kate Rusby announces new album and tour dates

Kate Rusby

Pure Records presents Philosophers, Poets & Kings, the 17th studio album from award-winning folk singer Kate Rusby. Seamlessly blending old and new across twelve tracks of traditional folk, covers and self-penned songs, the inimitable contemporary folk songstress’s new solo album is a deeply personal collection which pays homage to her family and musical heritage, and home life in Yorkshire.

With Philosophers, Poets and Kings, Kate Rusby raises a toast to her parents. She recalls an upbringing filled with music; whether recording songs performed during wine-fuelled family singalongs or her formative years spent watching festival performances by famed musicians including Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick.

As you could tell from the unmistakable strains of Moog on 2016’s Life In a Paper Boat, Kate Rusby’s (kind of) gone electronic. No-one gave her the Bob Dylan treatment on tour and shouted “Judas” at the appearance of weird contemporary machinery, so adventures in synthesised sounds have made for a brave new world so far.

It’s not quite time yet to call in The Pet Shop Boys for a collab or reset your Rusby radar to Kiss FM, and Calvin Harris has not yet buzzed Barnsley, but 2019 sees Kate take the next steps in being increasingly less unplugged with Poets, Philosophers and Kings.

Hang on. Philosophers, Poets and Kings? What about this ‘brave new world’? Doesn’t that sound a bit historical and backwards-looking as an album title?

Yes…. And equally, no.

First and foremost, couldn’t we all do with a few philosophical voices offering genuinely complete and well-formed thoughts in 2019 as we struggle as a nation to reconcile ourselves with who we are and where we’re going? Equally if we struggle as individuals to achieve a mindful peace in the cacophonous whirligig of everyday life, oughtn’t philosophy to be welcome wisdom?

Secondly, surely poetry – the pursuit of beauty and truth – is even more necessary than it’s ever been? It was Aristotle who asserted, “It’s during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” So shines this album, as a good deed in a weary world.

Thirdly, and most importantly, isn’t the essence of really appealing modern folk a combination of careful homage to the past, but bringing age-old songs into the present with fearless innovation? That’s where you’re at with Philosophers, Poets and Kings: where the idea that you can only truly embrace the present if you have the past firmly in your bones rings entirely true.

Don’t get your glow-sticks and whistles out when you see the word ‘Remix’ next to track ten, but it is indicative of a novel approach in that the album carries two separate and distinct versions of the traditional track, ‘Jenny’. In Kate’s own words, “From the moment I started working on this song, I could hear two completely different ways that we could approach it… Turn this version up and get your dancing shoes on.”

As much as there’s the elevating presence of joy and much excuse for limbs to jig, there’s also the emotive, grounded sense of her South Yorkshire home that we’ve come to breathe in through our rarefied, Rusbified atmosphere over the years. ‘The Wanderer’ depicts a man from Kate’s village suffering from Alzheimer’s; ‘The Farmer’s Toast’ honours the family on whose land she hosts the Underneath The Stars Festival; ‘The Squire and the Parson’ comes from a local folk tale and carries a co-writing credit from Kate’s Dad, Steve.

Try to contemplate the final track, ‘Halt The Wagons’ without some increased action in your tear ducts. July 4th 2018 saw the 180th anniversary of the Huskar Pit disaster, where 26 children working in the mine lost their lives when a freak storm flooded the mine shaft. 15 boys and 11 girls aged 7-17years old, were drowned. They were found with arms around each other for comfort. Kate was asked to write a song to commemorate the disaster, and was joined by 26 members of The Barnsley Youth Choir, 15 boys and 11 girls, their ages 7-17. Together they went underground at The National Coal Mining Museum of England to film and record the children singing on the song: “They were brilliant. I wanted people to see and hear 26 children, to understand what a huge effect the terrible tragedy had on the small village of Silkstone (just up the road from me). Most of all I wanted to give a voice to those children and their mothers.”

The title track pays tribute to the inspiration for much poetry, philosophy and many a singalong: wine. With its mention of Diogenes, Democritus and Plato, associations with Monty Python’s ‘Philosophers’ Song’ are never far away. Conversely, there’s a cover of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Go Away’; never before has that song sounded so soberly plaintive.

Pour yourself a glass of something indulgent on May 17th and ‘Rusby-up’ your stereo. You’ll feel majestic.

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Philosophers, Poets and Kings is released on Friday 17 May. Kate Rusby is touring nationally from May – October 2019.

She headlines Underneath The Stars – the family-run independent arts and music festival held in Barnsley, South Yorkshire – from 2-4 August 2019.

Artist’s website:  www.katerusby.com

‘Jenny’ – live:

Tour dates

23/24 August, Tonder Festival, Denmark https://tf.dk/en

Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Shrewsbury www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk

October

09 Ulverston, Coronation Hall www.corohall.co.uk

10 Aberdeen Music Hall www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

11 Edinburgh, Assembly Rooms, www.assemblyroomsedinburgh.co.uk

19 Manchester Folk Festival www.manchesterfolkfestival.org.uk

20 October, Leicester Haymarket Theatre, Leicester. www.haytheatre.com

 

 

DERVISH – The Great Irish Songbook (Rounder Records)

The Great Irish SongbookDervish release The Great Irish Songbook on April 12th. I don’t really need to say very much more to persuade anyone to give this a listen. But, since that would be a rather short review, I will do.

The Band – Dervish have been playing Irish traditional music for nearly thirty years – in festivals as large as Rock In Rio (to an estimated quarter of a million people) or sessions as small as those in Sligo pubs where they still enjoy playing. They have a line-up which includes some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians, fronted by one of the country’s best-known singers in Cathy Jordan. They’re renowned for live performances, dazzling sets of tunes and stunning interpretations of traditional songs.

The Music – Where would you start in choosing thirteen songs for an album called The Great Irish Songbook? How about ‘The Rambling Irishman’, ‘There’s Whiskey In The Jar’ and ‘Molly Malone’? These are the first three tracks on the album – all of them, I suspect, not only familiar to fans of Irish music but to anyone who has even a passing interest in listening to any kind music. Nor does the selection go downhill thereafter. Given the nature of this album, it’s probably worth listing the other tracks: ‘The Galway Shawl’, ‘She Moved Through the Fair’, ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’, ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, ‘On Raglan Road’, ‘Donal Og’, ‘The Fields Of Athenry’, ‘The May Morning Dew’, ‘The West Coast Of Clare’, finishing with (really, despite the Scottish claims to the song, what else would you chose?) ‘The Parting Glass’.

The Guests – The publicity for the album says “In assembling their line-up of featured guests, Dervish reached out to the many artists with whom they’ve bonded over a shared passion for Irish folk, then called on each musician to select their most cherished song within the genre. Recorded mainly at The Magic Room in Sligo, the finished product finds each collaborator imbuing the album with their own distinct sensibilities while lovingly upholding the time-honored character of the songs.” The guests on this album are a fine set of singers and players in their own right. They include: Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens, Vince Gill, Brendan Gleeson, Imelda May, Andrea Corr, Jamey Johnson, Kate Rusby, The Steeldrivers, Abigail Washburn, David Gray. They build on Dervish’s sound and, as Shakespeare might have it, their “friendship makes us fresh”.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this album, initially superficially but then much more closely. Firstly I’ve listened to the musicianship and the fresh approach to songs I’ve known for a while and, secondly, I realised I didn’t really know the history to many of these songs and have spent time researching them with the album playing at the same time. Some are newer than I’d realised, some much older. All give an insight into the history of Ireland, its music and, in some cases, its poetry.

If you’re well versed in the Irish tradition, this is a great album for hearing some different takes on songs – the video link below, for example, takes you to ‘The West Coast Of Clare’ and features David Gray. If you want to introduce yourself or someone else to The Great Irish Songbook, it’s a pretty good starting point.

Mike Wistow

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Artists’ website: https://www.dervish.ie

‘The West Coast Of Clare’:

Dervish announce The Great Irish Songbook

Dervish

As one of the world’s most renowned and imaginative interpreters of Irish folk music, Dervish have devoted the last three decades to gently reinventing the traditional songs of their homeland. On their debut release for Rounder Records, the Sligo-based band join up with over a dozen luminaries across an eclectic range of genres.

Featuring guests Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens, Vince Gill, Brendan Gleeson, Jamey Johnson, Kate Rusby, The SteelDrivers, Abigail Washburn and others, The Great Irish Songbook both preserves the spirit of each song and brings a new vitality to iconic traditional songs of their homeland.

Throughout The Great Irish Songbook, Dervish build off the dynamic they’ve brought to their thirteen previous albums and dazzling live performance: a kinetic union of technical brilliance and undeniable soul, endlessly fortified by their immense creativity. With the help of their guest artists, Dervish’s intricately sculpted sound expands and widens and takes on new textures, revealing the limitless possibilities within a single song. The result is an album that instantly transports you to a more charmed state of mind and-like all the most illuminating journeys-imparts a deeper understanding of what’s most essential in life.

Produced by Graham Henderson (a musician known for his work with artists like Sinéad O’Connor), The Great Irish Songbook delivers some of the best-loved songs in the Irish tradition. In assembling their lineup of featured guests, Dervish reached out to the many artists with whom they’ve bonded over a shared passion for Irish folk, then called on each musician to select their most cherished song within the genre. Recorded mainly at The Magic Room in Sligo, the finished product finds each collaborator imbuing the album with their own distinct sensibilities while lovingly upholding the time-honored character of the songs.

 The Great Irish Songbook encompasses everything from lovelorn ballads to traditional dance music to songs customarily sung at funerals, its moods continually shifting from longing to joy to delicately rendered heartache.

Within its first few tracks alone, The Great Irish Songbook shows the extraordinary scope of the album and the musicianship behind it. On “There’s Whisky in the Jar,” Nashville-based bluegrass band The SteelDrivers channel their freewheeling energy into one of the most widely performed traditional Irish tunes of all time (recorded by everyone from Thin Lizzy to Metallica to Jerry Garcia).

Poetry also infuses much of The Great Irish Songbook, such as on the Kate Rusby-sung rendition of “The Sally Gardens” (a W.B. Yeats-penned serenade) and the D.K. Gavan-authored “Rocky Road To Dublin,” a 19th-century story-song delivered with unabashed brio by famed Irish actor and part-time fiddle player Brendan Gleeson. Meanwhile, “On Raglan Road” transforms Patrick Kavanagh’s lovesick verse into a moment of sublime melancholy, thanks in no small part to the tender tenor of country star Vince Gill.

One of the two newly written pieces on The Great Irish Songbook has Steve Earle accompanying Dervish for a wistful yet rousing version of “The Galway Shawl,” closing out the track with a full-hearted sing-along.

Through the years, Dervish have toured the globe and shared stages with the likes of James Brown, Neil Young, and Sting, becoming the first Irish band ever to play Rock in Rio (the world’s most massive music festival), and steadily making their name as one of the foremost purveyors of Irish folk music.

As they approach their 30th anniversary, Dervish again prove the enduring significance of even the most timeworn songs. And in a way not unlike the folk revival of the 1960s, much of The Great Irish Songbook celebrates a spirit of togetherness, with a conviction that’s gracefully understated but powerfully felt. For Dervish, that sense of community and connection is both an ideal takeaway for the album and the driving force of its creation.

Accordionist Shane Mitchell, a founding member of the band, noted, “With this record we brought in people from genres sometimes totally unrelated to what we do, but still found a way to create some beautiful music together.” He reflects, “I think that’s an incredibly important thing to consider in life as well, especially now: everyone can find a way to collaborate, even if you’re coming from what feels like completely different places.”

In the coming weeks, Dervish will announce full details of The Great Irish Songbook Live, a show that will begin touring internationally in late 2019 and will feature guests from the album.

Artists’ website: https://www.dervish.ie/

‘As I Roved Out’ – live with Kate Rusby and Kevin Burke:

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  www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/booktickets/.