Following their tenth anniversary retrospective Kris Drever, Aidan O’Rourke and Martin Green return with an album of new music and Midnight And Closedown is certainly new.
It opens with a stunning song, ‘I Don’t Want To Die Here’. Drever says that the album is about islands and the listener is left imagining some God-forsaken lump of rock out in the ocean or wondering whether “here” refers to a state of mind or circumstances. Paul Simon wrote ‘I Am A Rock’ about just such a man and that theme is at the forefront of Midnight And Closedown. A long fiddle intro resolves into another song, ‘She Put On Her Headphones’ – the modern method of isolation – and that is followed by ‘Toy Tigers’ which I’m still deciphering. That’s three songs in succession: what’s going on?
‘Echolalia’ is the nearest we get to a “traditional” Lau instrumental track but even here Drever adds some la-la-la vocals and the beginning and the end. ‘Itshardtoseemokwhenyourenot’ seems to link an old and a new Lau. Martin Green’s electronic percussion pounds and Aidan O’Rourke’s fiddle pulses and dances as the track briefly breaks into something resembling rock’n’roll in the middle. It really is a terrific song and is only bettered by ‘Dark Secret’. The slightly sinister lyrics seem to be about therapy, at least in part, and drinking and I can’t believe that it is in any way autobiographical. Drever sings of being “born on the Isle Of Horses” which could refer to Shetland but I don’t want to follow that trail any further.
‘Return To Portland’ is the album’s second big instrumental piece with Green and O’Rourke trading lead lines and Green doing very much what Brian Eno did back in the day. There is noticeably less accordion here than we’re used to. Finally we have the acoustic ‘Riad’, written by O’Rourke although all three share writing credits, harking back to the band’s early days.
Midnight And Closedown is as brilliant as it is unexpected. Decade was full of the power and sheer volume that characterised Lau’s earlier work but this seems like a whole new direction.
Welcome to the 2018 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated last year. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with considered argument and arm-wrestling by the Folkmeister and the Editor.
There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2017.
As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.
*The Public Vote for each category will close at 9.00pm on Sunday 1st April (GMT+1).
Soloist Of The Year
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.
Darren Beech caught up with Peter Chegwyn just before the festival and had a chat about what we could expect from Wickham this year.
Many of the UK’s finest traditional singers and musicians appeared at the Wickham Festival near Fareham which took place between Thursday 3rd and Sunday 6th August.
They included Seth Lakeman; Show of Hands; Oysterband: Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band; Kathryn Tickell; The Peatbog Faeries; The Fisherman’s Friends; Lau; Edward II; Boo Hewerdine; The Dhol Foundation; The Spooky Mens Chorale; Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe; Wizz Jones; Talisk; Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party; Les Barker; TradArr plus many more.
Also appearing at Wickham 2017 were the 70s chart-toppers 10cc; top Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall; Festival favourites The Levellers; plus Andy Fairweather-Low & The Low Riders; John Otway; The Selecter plus many more well-known names.
The Wickham Festival was voted the UK’s Best Small Festival at the Live UK Music Awards in 2015 and has also been described as one of Britain’s top boutique and family-friendly festivals by The Guardian newspaper.
The festival featured live music on four stages plus a host of other attractions including storytelling, street theatre, dance displays, childrens entertainers, a digital funfair, laser arena, traditional crafts fayre, exotic foods fayre, real ale & cider festival and a late night festival club.
Festival organiser Peter Chegwyn says it’s “a real coup for a small village festival like Wickham to attract so many top artistes who have performed at major music festivals throughout the world.
“The Wickham Festival is known for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere and the high quality of the music on offer. People travel from all over the UK and abroad to attend. This year’s ticket sales are running at a record level and we are confident that our 10th birthday festival at Wickham will be our best yet.”
I couldn’t finish without putting up one of Peters favourite videos from the Gosport and Fareham Easter festival back in 2010 when Alan Burke dedicating “I will go” to the man himself.
At the Heart of It All, Capercaillie’s brand-new 30th anniversary album, revisits and reinvigorates songs sourced from a wealth of centuries old Hebridean folk songs. The material has been enriched further by compelling contemporary arrangements, with contributions from many special guests who represent the pinnacle of today’s flourishing Scottish music scene.
“We’d never really done much in the way of collaboration on previous albums, but this time it seemed like a nice way to go,” says band member Donald Shaw, “We didn’t want Capercaillie’s 30th anniversary being all about us and our record, but more about celebrating how Scottish and Gaelic music as a whole has expanded and progressed in that time with so many younger musicians coming through.”
Album guests include vocalists Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes, Darren MacLean, Sineag MacIntyre and Kris Drever ( Lau). Also, Irish banjo legend Gerry O’Connor, uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke (Lau), percussionist James Mackintosh and jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith.
Folking was lucky enough to catch Capercaillie at this years Cambridge Folk Festival and they were on top form. I’ve dug out a video memory of part of that performance when the crowd was treated to rousing version of Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda. Hope you enjoy it, and if nothing else, it makes you want to rush out and be a part of this brilliant 30th anniversary album release.
Glorious…there’s no other word to describe it. Opening with every folk fans favourite band of ragamuffins Bellowhead and “Roll The Woodpile Down” this 3 CD compilation of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards positively blasts forth heralding the achievements of all concerned. We in the folk world have a lot to be grateful for and the inclusion of (amongst others) Hannah James & Sam Sweeney, Gilmore & Roberts and Kathryn Tickell show how they can ‘acoustically’ kick butt along with ‘rock’ music’s finest. It brings a beaming smile to my face to feel privileged as I do that my enjoyment of this much maligned genre really can give every other form of music a run for its money and that recording’s like this will hopefully inspire the next generation to pick up the baton and run with it. Mind you…before I sign off (heartily recommending that you purchase a copy of the album) I’d like to credit Smooth Operations Jon Lewis on whose shoulders rest the unenviable task of selecting this compilation as it must have been an agonising decision choosing only one track from each of the featured artists plus the bonus ten track CD of the Young Folk Award contenders. Finally, Proper Music and the production team led by the legendary Brian Ledgard have to be congratulated for their support each year in allowing ‘our’ music such a fantastic shop window (and not a hint of Mary Portas in sight) in which to showcase such astonishing talent.