Folking at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – Day 3

wb3_300Those following this blog will know that it would not be complete without an early morning campsite folking shower report – although those on-site would have had a deluge of their own later in the day when KT “rain goddess” Tunstall took to the stage and opened the heavens – but more on that later. My first shower was at 5.00am, an hour earlier than the day before! Perhaps it was the excitement of the previous 2 days, or perhaps it was just the the showers but Cambridge was not awarding me much sleep.

Breabach danceAs I was finishing the day 2 blog We Banjo 3 took to the main stage, a quintet from Galway playing Irish, bluegrass and American old time music. From what I saw on the #CFF13 @CamFolkFest twitter feed they were definitely making many instant fans and got Saturday stage 1 off to a rousing start. Next up were the mighty Breabach, a tour de force in the Scottish music scene. They had a great array of weaponry on hand including: highland bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, double bass, mandolin, bazouki and even included a set dance by fiddle payer, Megan Henderson.

Saturday Cambs FF CrowdBoth SOC (Son of Clicker – the folking photographer) and I knew that getting to see everything today was going to be tough with all 3 stages in full swing. In fact panic set in and we ran around like headless chickens for a bit until coming to our senses and catching the end of the Festival Session, hosted by Battlefield Band and Feast of Fiddles academic legend Brian McNeil. This was a one off line-up featuring: The Chair, Frigg, The Rambling Boys of Pleasure, Radio 2 young folk award winners Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Martin Simpson, Le Vent du Nord and We Banjo 3 again.

Hop and a skip back to the Stage 1 to see Martin Simpson performing a guitar master class wrapped up in his usual exemplary solo set kind of way which included favourites like the you were never any good with money gem Prodigal Son and Jackie and Murphy, a story song of an epic true tale of bravery, donkeys and Gallipoli.

Thea Gilmore CFFManaged to then catch the end of the talented and velvet voiced Heidi Talbot on stage 2 as she left us all going up and down her music tree, Korrontzi from Northern Spain were next up and made you feel part of a Basque hill town knees up for a short while (it was great to see Thea Gilmore dancing along to them back stage). It wasn’t long until Thea took center stage with her full band line up which included producer, husband and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Stonier. Thea definitely showed off her folk credentials by giving us a faultless performance of Pity the Poor Immigrant. Thea then belted out the Radio 2 A listed song Start As We Mean To Go On, before ending with what for me was the highlight of the day, a perfect rendition to the stunning London with her little lad taking center stage on the fiddle. Sandy Denny who wrote the lyrics to this song is my folk heroine and Thea is equally addictive.

There was only one way to come down and that was to head over to the club tent and catch State Of The Union, aka Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams. In the grand tradition of ‘The Special Relationship’, State Of The Union combines the talents of America and England, producing an end result that delighted the club tent crowd with hook-laden songs, fiery and emotional guitar playing and soulful vocals. By this time I had a few jars of Ringwood’s finest Boon Doggle ale and was amusing myself by keeping the girls at the bar on their toes and coming up with different names for it. The firm favourite was Moon Poodle!

Fully Protected & The Moon PoodleThe Moon Poodle was listening as the heavens opened and the poodle piddled down on us as KT Tunstall hit the stage. A great set followed, my favourite being Other Side of the World or dark side of the poodle moon by the Black horse and a cherry tree, no that one actually came later… but don’t blame it on the Sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, blame it on the Boggle. I was past caring as I was now focused on keeping the umbrella in the right place for KT’s Mexican “brella” wave!

I caught a bit of the Mavericks but it was definitely time to head back to Coldham’s before I did myself mischief…

The folkmaster

Thea Gilmore announces new single, ‘Love Came Looking For Me’

Thea Gilmore Regardless

Critically acclaimed songwriter Thea Gilmore has now released her new studio album Regardless, to celebrate its release folking is giving you a chance to take a listen to the single ‘Love Came Looking For Me’.

If the name’s familiar, it may be thanks to the many plaudits the press have directed Gilmore’s way, or the endorsement of fans including Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez, or perhaps even her posthumous Sandy Denny collaborative track ‘London’, which dominated last year’s BBC London Olympics coverage, climbing into the upper reaches of the iTunes singles chart.

Gilmore is nothing if not prolific – Regardless is her 14th album in as many years – but this latest album grew out of an enforced hiatus.  In 2011 she gave birth to her second son, and had to take several months out from music– a potentially frustrating state of affairs for a musician with a fierce work ethic. The break, however, allowed her a distance to look at her own work with fresh eyes.

 ‘When you write as much as I do, it would be easy to get stuck in a rut and end up putting out the same album. This helped me relearn what I do.’ Thea continues ” I once had a conversation with a friend about a female artist who had had kids… he thought the album she released subsequently sounded as if she thought she was the only woman ever to go through the birth experience.  I never wanted Regardless to come across like that. For me, these are songs about being the custodian of somebody, but also about the process of letting go’.

The expression of unconditional love is something Gilmore pulls off on Regardless by shooting her lyrics through with a sense of human fallibility, and an eye ever mindful of the dark side. At times it’s as if her own emotions unnerve her (“this path is so well trodden but it still feels so unreal”) and elsewhere she muses movingly on the changing cycles of the human heart (“I find it best to be prepared for tricks of the light, and the shadows things throw if you hold them too tight. Time is a train and it’s lost to the bend.”)

Gilmore and long standing musical partner/producer Nigel Stonier have journeyed into new territories this time around, with Regardless featuring more lush string sections than scruffy acoustic guitars and harmonicas. 9 months were spent in 5 different studios, hooking up with collaborators Seadna Mac Phail (Elbow)  Danish producers The Suppliers (Ron Sexsmith, Martha Wainwright) and string arranger Pete Whitfield (Plan B). There is a widescreen finish present, and the painstaking process has clearly been worthwhile, resulting in an album that feels like an evolution of Gilmore’s songwriting talents – bigger and glossier, but with the wit and honesty that sets her work apart.

“Don’t look now, the view just changed…” Thea asserts on lead single “Love Came Looking For Me”. For Gilmore and her growing body of fans, the view has surely never been better.

Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros

2012 would have been the year punk icon Joe Strummer turned 60, and to celebrate the extraordinary life and career of the musician, Hellcat Records are releasing re-mastered special editions of Strummer’s finest solo work on CD and Vinyl.

‘Global A Go-Go’ and ‘Streetcore’ were recorded between 2000 and Strummer’s untimely death in 2002, it was during this period that Strummer wrote, recorded and toured with the band he dubbed “The Mescaleros.” These records capture the one time Clash front man amidst an undeniable creative resurgence. In a review of Streetcore, The Guardian called the record Strummer’s “best work since the Clash’s London Calling.”

Strummer was the voice of a generation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, becoming a punk icon during his career with The Clash. After The Clash disbanded in 1985, Strummer only began working and recording with a band of his own again in the few years before his death.

‘The Mescaleros’, who were previously a studio session band, became a fully-fledged group on ‘Global A Go-Go’ and continued to develop further in ‘Streetcore’. This album was the last release, completed after Strummer’s death. This final album was widely celebrated as a great piece of work, leaving all wondering what could have been next for ‘Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros’ if not for Joe’s premature death.

Musician Frank Turner said of Joe in NME, “The most inspirational thing about Joe is that he managed to create a direct connection between his heart and his mouth, without anything getting in the way”.

10 years on from the loss of one of the great British music icons, the re-release of these two albums celebrates the life of Joe Strummer and his incredible musical talent.

Album Track Listings –

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global A Go-Go (CD and Double Vinyl)

1.     Johnny Appleseed – 4:04

2.     Cool ‘N’ Out – 4:22

3.     Global A GO-GO – 5:55

4.     Bhindi Bhagee – 5:47

5.     Gamma Ray – 6:58

6.     Mega Bottle Ride – 3:33

7.     Shaktar Donetsk – 5:57

8.     Mondo Bongo – 6:15

9.     Bummed Out City – 5:33

10.   At The Border, Guy – 7:09

11.     Minstrel Boy – 17:49

12.   Bindee Bhagee (Live from the Acton concert)- 6:12 (CD Only)

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Streetcore (CD and Vinyl)

1.  Coma Girl – 3:50

2.  Get Down Moses – 5:05

3.  Long Shadow – 3:34

4.  Arms Aloft – 3:47

5.  Ramshackle Day Parade – 4:03

6.  Redemption Song – 3:28

7.  All In A Day – 4:56

8.  Burnin’ Streets – 4:32

9.   Midnight Jam – 5:50

10.  Silver And Gold – 2:39

11.  The Harder They Come (live) (B-side to Coma Girl) – 3:26 (CD Only)

12.   Rudi, A Message To You (live) (B-side to Coma Girl) – 5:04 (CD Only)

13.   Blitzkreig Bop (live) (B-side of Coma Girl) – 3:25 (CD Only)

14.   Yalla Yalla (live) (B-side to Coma Girl) – 6:56 (CD Only)

15.   Armagideon Time (B-side to Redemption Song) – 4:30 (CD Only)

16.   Pressure Drop (B-side to Redemption Song) – 4:30 (CD Only)

17.   Junco Partner (from Hellcat Give Em The Boot IV compilation) – 4:19 (CD Only)

Sam Lee – Ground Of Its Own

Ground of Its Own is the striking debut release by Sam Lee, a young folk musician who is busy forging a unique path, not just in his own artistic development but also by supporting and having influence on a whole new generation of musicians.

Born and bred in North London, Sam Lee has a glorious baritone voice and seemingly boundless imagination and enthusiasm. A graduate of the Chelsea College of Art, Sam decided to abandon work as a visual artist, teacher of wilderness survival skills (he was trained by Ray Mears) and a part-time Burlesque dancer. Instead, he embarked on a journey of discovery into the songs of the British Isles. His main musical training developed from a unique four-year apprenticeship under the legendary, late Scottish Traveller, the balladeer, Stanley Robertson, to whom Ground of Its Own is dedicated. Whilst still in his mid 20s, Sam regularly visited Stanley in the North of Scotland where he inherited a vast repertoire of songs as well as an ancient, idiosyncratic singing craft. Sam became inspired to research and document traditional music, a craft which has since led him to become a regular visiting lecturer to Goldsmith’s College and Newcastle University. Sam is also the first folk singer to teach at the Royal College of Music.


Ground of Its Own is an 8-track release (produced by Gerry Diver and with mixes by John Wood, of Nick Drake fame) comprising traditional material, largely discovered through Sam’s years of dogged research and exploration of often long forgotten songs. Not content to learn only from books or records, Sam has sourced most of his material direct from English Gypsy and Irish and Scottish traveller communities. For example, Northlands is a mighty ballad of betrayal and survival learnt direct from the Cassidy family of Irish Travellers. Meanwhile, On Yonders Hill explores the ever popular theme of the invincibility of the hare in folklore and The Ballad of George Collins, originally collected by Bob Copper from a Sussex Shepherd, Enos White, is given new life with Sam Lee’s highly distinctive delivery.

Live or on record, Sam Lee and his band (Francesca Ter-Berg : Cello, Jonah Brody : Japanese Koto (Harp) Jews Harp & Ukelele, Steve Chadwick : Trumpet & Cornet, Camilo Tirado : Tabla, Percussion & Cantele, Flora Curzon : Violin ; there is even the odd gas cylinder in there too…) present rich tapestries of ancient songs in an innovative and dynamic fashion.

In between times, Sam has became the promoter, live events producer and driving force behind the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning Magpie’s Nest (now The Nest Collective) organisation which has played a key role in helping to regenerate interest in the live folk music scene, especially amongst younger musicians and audiences, and is the group behind many innovative concerts and festival stages.

In 2011, Sam was presented with the prestigious Arts Foundation Award (by Grayson Perry). That year, he also featured in Vogue Magazine, was a contributor to an 8 part series called ‘Traveller’s Got Talent’ (Sky TV) and was a musical director of a Radio 4 series on the history of the postal service. More recently, Sam has started presenting an eclectic weekly show on Resonance FM Radio.