FolkEast announces first names for 2020

FolkEast

As Early Bird tickets go on sale for the eighth FolkEast, England’s most easterly folk festival, organisers have announced the awesome Afro Celt Sound System will headline Saturday night.

The Grammy Award-nominated supergroup are past masters at fusing electronica with traditional Irish and West African music, producing a scintillating, high energy stage set. Formed back in 1995 by producer-guitarist Simon Emmerson, they won Best Group at the 2017 Songlines Music Awards.

Explosively combining folk traditions from contrasting cultures to breath-taking effect their number includes The Dhol Foundation’s drumming sensation Johnny Kalsi (no stranger to FolkEast), vocalist, kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté, bodhrán player and percussionist Robbie Harris and Armagh-born vocalist and flautist Rioghnach Connolly (The Breath), winner of Folk Singer of the Year at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Now firmly established on the UK folk calendar, Suffolk’s decidedly quirky festival will return to the glorious Constable-esque grounds of Elizabethan Glemham Hall between August 21-23, offering diverse performances on no less than seven stages – from local acts to international stars. Early Bird tickets will be on sale right through the festive period, until January 6, representing great savings. https://folkeast.co.uk/2020tickets-3/

Alongside the festival’s hugely popular, multi award-winning patrons, The Young’ uns (Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle), FolkEast is delighted to announce eight top level acts from its highly anticipated line-up.

Heading for the main stage will be the sublime, seamless partnership of Welsh harpist Catrin Finch with Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita. The exquisite pair clinched the Best Duo/Group award at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, with Keita also winning the coveted Musician of the Year title.

FolkEast loves its Celtic connections and this year will be no exception. Flying the flag for Scotland will be three superb acts. Pedigree triumvirate Drever, McCusker, Woomble sees master fiddler John McCusker joining forces with Orkney-born singer songwriter Kris Drever and Idlewild’s lead singer Roddy Woomble.

Named the Best Live Act at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2018, quintet Elephant Sessions will head to Suffolk from the Scottish Highlands with their unique brand of indie folk while the powerhouse sextet of female instrumentalists that is The Shee (including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year 2017, harpist Rachel Newton) are sure to have the wow factor with their adventurous blend of Scottish folk, Gaelic song and bluegrass.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band takes folk legend Knight’s original Gigspanner trio (himself, Roger Flack and Sacha Tronchet) and fuses them with the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’ winners Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (Edgelarks) and erstwhile Bellowhead star John Spiers to make something truly special, bursting with invention, enigma and grace. Though all the musicians have played FolkEast in their separate guises (including the debut performance of Knight and Spiers as a duo) this is the first time the Big Band has headed to Glemham Hall.

Brighton’s big band with a difference, The Moulettes have also been confirmed – described as an “eclectic art rock band’ they journey their way through rock, prog, pop and psychedelic folk.

Finally new kids on the block The Trials of Cato will be coming to the party.

Formed whilst they were all living and working in Beirut, Tomas Williams, Will Addison and Robin Jones are one of the fast-rising acts in folk and earlier this year won the Best Album gong at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, for their hugely impressive debut CD, Hide and Hair.

One of the most singular events on the UK festival calendar, FolkEast was launched seven years ago by husband and wife John and Becky Marshall-Potter.

Rekindling the ancient Eastfolk moots on the Glemham Hall estate where for three days a year the folk from the East would meet kith and kin at harvest time for “a bit of a do”, this gathering celebrates Suffolk at every turn -from its locally sourced fare to its suppliers, arts and crafts.

Says Becky: “Our aim is to create three blissful, fun-packed days when the outside world can be forgotten, a community can be formed and quality time had with family and friends.

Whilst FolkEast may be one of the smaller, independent festivals, it’s an event with big ideas – and plenty of them. As well as the main Sunset and Moot Hall stages (programmed by The Young’uns Michael Hughes), four further stages are programmed by independent local promoters and music organisations – John and Lynne Ward’s Broad Roots stage, Fiona Davies’ dance tent, Xenia Horne’s Sanctuary Stage (at the Glemham Hall estate church) and Amy Wragg’s ‘Get Off The Soapbox’ stage, powered by a solar bus in a mystical woodland setting.

There is plenty on tap for children – the Folk Moot young folk club sessions, a Sports Day, animation workshops, den building, storybook making, a mud kitchen and a chance to create your own jellyfish for the Soapbox Sunday Jellyfish Parade.

The festival offers fine Suffolk fayre, two authentic ‘village’ pubs serving competitively-priced, locally sourced ales and ciders (including Suffolk-based Green Jack Brewery’s festival ale Green Jackalope) as well as the popular imaGINe gin bar and possibly the smallest pub in the UK, the 6 x 4’ Halfway Inn! This year will also see a return of Truly Traceable’s Jackalope pie – a salute to the festival’s mystical mascot The Jackalope (half antelope, half Jack Rabbit) which every year keeps a beady eye on the event from the centre of the site.

Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade, ‘Instrumental’, featuring a wide range of instrument makers, a packed dance programme, archery, donkey rides, the Eastfolk Kinodrome (showing folk and local interest films) and tours of Glemham Hall by estate owner Major Philip Cobbold.

FolkEast continues to embrace green initiatives. Says John: “Right from the inception of the festival we have worked hard to be as sustainable as possible and we are proud to hold Suffolk’s Gold Charter Award. Our ongoing aim is to further reduce our carbon footprint and 2019 saw a huge reduction in single use plastic on the site and hardly a trace of litter at the clear-up.”

On board again this year as a media partner will be BBC Radio Suffolk.

The Early Bird Festive Ticket offer is now open until January 6, 2019. Advance weekend tickets are available price £120 (adult), £108 (full time students, 65+) and £80 for Youth tickets (12-17 year old) which must be purchased with an adult ticket. Family weekend tickets for two adults and two 12-17 year olds (and up to 3 under 11s) are £365. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping under canvas is £20 and camping on wheels £30. More information: info@folkeast.co.uk

The 2017 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2017 Folking Awards. Last year’s inaugural poll was such a success that we had to do it again. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with sweat, tears and not a little blood by the Folkmeister and the Editor.

There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have been featured in the pages of folking.com in 2016.

As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes. However, its not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.

Soloist Of The Year

Luke Jackson
Ralph McTell
Kelly Oliver
Steve Pledger
Alasdair Roberts


Best Duo

Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater
O’Hooley & Tidow
Ninebarrow
Show Of Hands


Best Band

Afro Celt Sound System
Fairport Convention
Harp And A Monkey
Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitor Band
Merry Hell


Best Live Act

The James Brothers
Robb Johnson and the My Best Regards Band
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Mad Dog Mcrea
Megson


Best Album

Tall Tales & Rumours – Luke Jackson
Ballads Of The Broken Few – Seth Lakeman/Wildwood Kin
Preternatural – Moulettes
Somewhere Between – Steve Pledger
Dodgy Bastards – Steeleye Span


Best Musician

Ciaran Algar
Phil Beer
Rachel Newton
Gill Sandell
Kathryn Tickell


Rising Star Act

The Brewer’s Daughter
Hattie Briggs
Said The Maiden
Sunjay
Emily Mae Winters


Best International Act

Applewood Road
The Bills
David Francey
Michael McDermott
Eve Selis


Public Vote

The public vote closed Midday Saturday 22 April 2017 and the winners have now been announced HERE


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.

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MOULETTES – Preternatural (Craft Pop Records CRAFTPOP1CD)

PreternaturalI was fortunate enough to hear Moulettes preview some of Preternatural live last year and even more fortunate to grab a word or two with Ruth Skipper after the set. I confessed that, while I loved the band’s sound, I didn’t always know what they were about. With alarming candour Ruth admitted that sometimes she didn’t either! I felt better then.

And so we again dive into the Moulettes’ strange world with their fourth album, which is inspired by “strange beasts”. I’ll say right now it sounds wonderful, big and powerful, multi-layered instruments and voices delivering a real smack to the musical psyche. The opening track is ‘Behemooth’, which has been circulating as a video for a while. It starts with some words from what sounds like an over-excited American film trailer of the 50s giving a feeling of otherness from the off. With two synths and a Moog player in the line-up, the record is awash with strange sounds and it can feel that newest member Raevennan Husbandes is the grounding influence. She plays guitar and takes lead vocal on some tracks and shares harmonies with Hannah Miller and Ruth as well as some percussion.

Ollie Austin’s drums drive the music, giving a solid foundation to the welter of sounds being produced around him – and by him: he also plays guitar and synth. The album washes over you in powerful waves and the lyrics are sometimes hard to pick out, particularly with subjects like ‘Pufferfish Love’, ‘Medusa’ and ‘Parasite’. There isn’t a conventional frame of reference. “I was born curious” is a repeated line in ‘Rite Of Passage’ and it seems to me that it can be interpreted in two ways while ‘Coral’ is perhaps the most straightforward song – “We are the force of nature we cannot control” tells it like it is. The final song, ‘Silk’, is another standout track. I think it’s about spiders.

I really like Preternatural but I admit that I’m several more plays away from fully understanding it. And I will say to anyone who has not yet had the pleasure that there is no substitute for hearing Moulettes live on stage.

Dai Jeffries

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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. Can’t find what you are looking for? Search Amazon Store below.

Artists’ website: http://www.moulettes.co.uk/

‘Behemooth’ – live studio version:

Moulettes unveil Behemooth video

On May 27th Brighton based collective Moulettes, continue their journey into the alt.pop/rock/folk universe with the release of their most accomplished album to date – Preternatural.

It was in early 2015 when reading an article in the New Scientist that lead singer Hannah Miller first starting thinking about a concept for the new album.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world” says Hannah. “But this article compelled me to look deeper and start exploring all the surreal and beautiful diversity that exists. There’s so many phenomenal creatures out there we thought they deserved their own album.”

Fast forward to 2016 and the result is Preternatural – an eclectic but cohesive 11 track collection, which marries the thought provoking concept with elements of prog, pop, alt-folk and rock. It’s a beautifully orchestrated piece of work, experimental in parts but still accessible, fusing rich vocal harmonies, persuasive melodies, and elaborate compositions to make a genre defying album that explores the moving gaps of electronic and acoustic; DIY and big production.

Highlights include the epic opener ‘Behemooth’, a heavy, drum-driven progressive anthem inspired by a loud and unidentified sound recorded in the pacific, and electro-rock lead single ‘Underwater Painter’, which explores the way Octopus-chameleons of the sea can switch between camouflage and a psychedelic electric light show.

“The solo was recorded in one take” recalls Hannah, “and was definitely a homage to Prince!”

One of the album’s finest moments, the sublime ‘Pufferfish Love’, drew on recent ground-breaking Attenborough footage of the Japanese mandala-making Pufferfish, whilst the groove-based Art Pop of ‘Coral’ describes the crises facing coral reefs, – “A beautiful illustration of symbiosis between animals, minerals and plants” says Ollie.  Other standouts include the addictive ‘Patterns,’ the ethereal vocals of ‘Medusa’ and the album closer, ‘Silk’ about spiders who pluck harmonics on the strands of their webs to tune them…

“There are so many things to write about,” says Hannah, “Lost love is sad, but a lost species is a tragedy for us all.”  “Presenting your own sort of eclecticism is the aim,” says Ollie. “Zappa, Gentle Giant to current bands like Field Music, John Grant, Snarky Puppy, My Brightest Diamond, Tuneyards, Tortoise etc would all agree. These were all references for the record.”

Moulettes are a Brighton based British band of multi instrumentalists that weave in and out of several genres with 3 part harmony female vocals, amplified Cello, distorted Bassoon, Auto-Harp, Guitar, Drums, Bass and Synths into an incomparable alt.pop/rock/folk universe.  Singles from their eponymous release in 2010 (****Mojo), their follow up The Bear’s Revenge in 2012 (**** The Guardian) and third studio album Constellations (No.7 Indie Charts, Best Album: Spiral Earth Awards) have been played across BBC6 and BBC2 with support from Cerys Mathews, Mark Radcliffe, Mary Anne Hobbs, Bob Harris, Tom Robinson and Lauren Laverne.

Since playing together at school in Glastonbury to residencies on Tin Pan Alley, to a multitude of festivals including Glastonbury, Bestival, Cropredy, Cambridge Folk, End Of The Road and Green Man along with relentless world touring, the band have become renowned for their breath taking live shows. On the way the band have shared both the stage and studio with many well-known artists in Folk, Prog, Pop and Rock, including Mick Jagger, Nick Cave, Seasick Steve, Bonobo, Gentle Giant, Mumford and Sons (Ted Dwane was a founding Moulette), Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Bellowhead, and The Levellers.

Moulettes are: Hannah Miller (Cello, vocals, guitar) Ollie Austin (Drums, guitar, piano, vocals) Ruth Skipper (Bassoon, vocals, autoharp, synths) Jim Mortimore (Double bass, Guitar, vocals) Raevennan Husbandes (Electric Guitar, Vocals, Percussion)

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD
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Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


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. Can’t find what you are looking for? Search Amazon Store below. >

Artists’ website: www.moulettes.co.uk

Moulettes – new album

Moulettes
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

On May 27th Brighton based collective Moulettes, continue their journey into the alt.pop/rock/folk universe with the release of their most accomplished album to date – Preternatural.

It was in early 2015 when reading an article in the New Scientist that lead singer Hannah Miller first starting thinking about a concept for the new album. “I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world” says Hannah. “But this article compelled me to look deeper and start exploring all the surreal and beautiful diversity that exists. There’s so many phenomenal creatures out there we thought they deserved their own album.”

Fast forward to 2016 and the result is Preternatural – an eclectic but cohesive 11 track collection, which marries the thought provoking concept with elements of prog, pop, alt-folk and rock. It’s a beautifully orchestrated piece of work, experimental in parts but still accessible, fusing rich vocal harmonies, persuasive melodies, and elaborate compositions to make a genre defying album that explores the moving gaps of electronic and acoustic; DIY and big production.

Highlights include the epic opener ‘Behemooth’, a heavy, drum-driven progressive anthem inspired by a loud and unidentified sound recorded in the pacific, and electro-rock lead single ‘Underwater Painter’, which explores the way Octopus-chameleons of the sea can switch between camouflage and a psychedelic electric light show. “The solo was recorded in one take” recalls Hannah, “and was definitely a homage to Prince!”

There is currently no video releases for any of the new material yet but ‘Behemooth’ is available to listen to via soundcloud here:  https://soundcloud.com/moulettes/behemooth-singleedit

One of the album’s finest moments, the sublime ‘Pufferfish Love’, drew on recent ground-breaking Attenborough footage of the Japanese mandala-making Pufferfish, whilst the groove-based Art Pop of ‘Coral’ describes the crises facing coral reefs, – “A beautiful illustration of symbiosis between animals, minerals and plants” says Ollie.  Other standouts include the addictive ‘Patterns,’ the ethereal vocals of ‘Medusa’ and the album closer, ‘Silk’ about spiders who pluck harmonics on the strands of their webs to tune them…

“There are so many things to write about,” says Hannah, “Lost love is sad, but a lost species is a tragedy for us all.”  “Presenting your own sort of eclecticism is the aim,” says Ollie. “Zappa, Gentle Giant to current bands like Field Music, John Grant, Snarky Puppy, My Brightest Diamond, Tuneyards, Tortoise etc would all agree. These were all references for the record.”

Moulettes are a Brighton based British band of multi instrumentalists that weave in and out of several genres with 3 part harmony female vocals, amplified Cello, distorted Bassoon, Auto-Harp, Guitar, Drums, Bass and Synths into an incomparable alt.pop/rock/folk universe.  Singles from their eponymous release in 2010 (****Mojo), their follow up The Bear’s Revenge in 2012 (**** The Guardian) and third studio album Constellations (No.7 Indie Charts, Best Album: Spiral Earth Awards) have been played across BBC6 and BBC2 with support from Cerys Mathews, Mark Radcliffe, Mary Anne Hobbs, Bob Harris, Tom Robinson and Lauren Laverne.

Since playing together at school in Glastonbury to residencies on Tin Pan Alley, to a multitude of festivals including Glastonbury, Bestival, Cropredy, Cambridge Folk, End Of The Road and Green Man along with relentless world touring, the band have become renowned for their breath taking live shows. On the way the band have shared both the stage and studio with many well-known artists in Folk, Prog, Pop and Rock, including Mick Jagger, Nick Cave, Seasick Steve, Bonobo, Gentle Giant, Mumford and Sons (Ted Dwane was a founding Moulette), Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Bellowhead, and The Levellers.

Moulettes are: Hannah Miller (Cello, vocals, guitar) Ollie Austin (Drums, guitar, piano, vocals) Ruth Skipper (Bassoon, vocals, autoharp, synths) Jim Mortimore (Double bass, Guitar, vocals) Raevennan Husbandes (Electric Guitar, Vocals, Percussion).

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD
Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD
Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


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. Can’t find what you are looking for? Search Amazon Store below.

Live at the Great British Folk Festival last year. Guess where the photograph was taken.

 

Artist’s website: www.moulettes.co.uk

THE GREAT BRITISH FOLK FESTIVAL, Skegness, 4th-7th December

The idea of holding a folk festival in Skegness in December probably raised a few eyebrows when it was first mooted. The suggestion that it should be held at Butlin’s may have caused a pursing of lips but it makes perfect economic sense. The artists have a major venue and a captive audience to add to a winter tour and the camp and its staff gets extra use and revenue. There are two main venues, both are very large and both were packed on Friday evening.

Friday

THE GREAT BRITISH FOLK FESTIVAL, Skegness, 4th-7th December
False Lights

Entering the Pleasure Dome, sorry, Skyline Pavilion trying to figure out where everything was it was nice to be greeted by the harmonies of Said The Maiden on the Introducing Stage – the third open venue in the middle of the pavilion. It was nearly the end of their set, unfortunately, but we stayed to hear Kings Of The South Seas before insinuating ourselves into the Centre Stage for False Lights. Live, they are less reliant on Jim Moray’s synth wizardry and proved themselves to be an exceptionally good folk-rock band in the classic style. They may prefer to think of themselves as mould breakers but they are actually doing what some bands seem to have forgotten how. Their attempt to perform ‘How Can I Keep From Singing’ without PA was not a success, however; the natural acoustics of the room are not as good as they believed.

Wayward Band 2
Eliza Carthy And The Wayward Band

At an event like this you can’t hear everything so I was now faced with a decision – Eliza Carthy And The Wayward Band or Billy Bragg? The fact that we now had decent seats settled it and we stayed put for the first half of Eliza’s set. Her twelve piece band are set to be the next Bellowhead (whatever anybody says) and are more than up to the task. As well as old favourites, including a “duelling fiddles” interlude with Sam Sweeney in ‘My Boy Billy’, there was a new song, ‘Devil In The Woman’, slated for their first studio album. Bragg called, however, and we arrived for what seemed like the mellow end of his set with ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ and ‘Greetings To The New Brunette’. No! Amongst the polemic he sang ‘Between The Wars’, still powerful and relevant, and ‘There Is Power In A Union’. I reflected that the latter needs some revision with the unions battered down. We may discover that there is power in unity. ‘A New England’ wrapped up his set perfectly.

Richie Prynne 2
Richie Prynne

CC Smugglers followed with the sort of set that only a band as youthful as them could have the energy to play but shouldn’t have the chops to pull off. They have played so many gigs since I first saw them, even ones they weren’t invited to, and have become so tight and slick. Richie Prynne prowled his stage like a circus ringmaster, never still and rarely silent, cajoling and haranguing the audience, the songs and even his band-mates like a true showman. If the idea of the last set of the night was to wind the audience down then CC Smugglers were not the right choice.

Saturday

Moulettes
Moulettes

The first and last time I heard Moulettes was at very uncomfortable gig and I was looking forward to hearing them in a nice chair. Actually, the best seating for the band is a bean bag with a lava lamp, joss-sticks and a guy dishing out small squares of blotting paper. Sadly the only mind-altering substance available was a pint of Hobgoblin. This was the final gig of the Constellations tour and Moulettes were also previewing their new album, Preternatural, with songs which, for want of more specific titles, we’ll call ‘Octopus’, ‘Nematode’ and ‘Behemoth’. I love the sound of the band, I love their instrumentation and their style but I really don’t know what they are about a lot of the time. “Surreal dreamscapes” were mentioned and I guess that’s about right.

I chatted to Ruth Skipper after the set to ask her impressions of the festival. It turned out that they had only just arrived and gone straight on stage, which accounted for some of the sound man’s problems. At their simplest Moulettes can be two guitars, bass and fiddle but at various times will be added electric cello, bassoon, autoharp, some meaty drums and keyboards and a balance that’s right for the beginning of a song may be wrong by the end. I did discover that the band were looking forward to the water-slide and hearing more music later which proves that I have no future as an investigative reporter.

Chris Simpson
Chris Simpson

Next up were Magna Carta. Chris Simpson on-stage is pretty much the same as Chris Simpson off-stage – he’s a raconteur, discursive and philosophical and Doug Morter is his perfect right hand man. Chris has surrounded himself with some very fine musicians but the set felt loose and the decision to give Morter a solo of one of his own songs seems questionable. Back on the firmer ground of The Fields Of Eden things were much more sure-footed and ‘Airport Song’ was a nice encore.

Sam Carter
Sam Carter

The queue for Tom Robinson curled twice round the pavilion and things were clearly running late so what might have been another difficult decision was made easier and we settled in to hear Sam Carter. He opened his set with ‘Yellow Sign’, the song he began with when I first heard him, and I was shocked to realise that that was six years ago. He has grown as an artist so much. Just when we were settling into the style of his own songs he switched to ‘The Wife Of Ushers Well’, which he sings with False Lights, and ‘Rocking The Cradle’. He played a superb set which showed the power of one man and his guitar. Sam was probably the highlight of the weekend for me.

The Unthanks
The Unthanks

We got back just in time to catch the end of Tom Robinson’s set so I did get to sing ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ again before The Unthanks appeared on the Centre Stage. With the full ten-piece band on stage it’s easy to overlook the contribution of Niopha Keegan to the group but her trumpet playing was the fondant icing on several songs. The technical problems rolled on so The Demon Barbers XL were thirty-five minutes late on stage, almost taking the gloss off their excellent set which began with traditional songs and ended as a dance display featuring hip-hop, interpretative dance and a fearsomely fast rapper. It’s quite disconcerting to see a stage bare of wires, mic stands and other clutter but they needed all the space they could get. I got to bed by 2.00 am, more or less – it was a long day.

Sunday

By midday the pace was beginning to tell and the queues for the afternoon sessions were noticeably lighter and some people I spoke to were planning a power nap in preference to more music. No such luxury for your man on the spot.

TradArrr
TradArrr

TradArrr were excellent. They can really rock and with Marion Fleetwood on lead they can turn in a bittersweet ballad like ‘My Laggan Love’ or ‘Silver Dagger’. Between them they boast five lead vocalists, a full string quartet, a keyboard player who frequently added unexpected flourishes and two drummers, one of whom plays cornet. There were hints of high camp as PJ Wright planted a foot on the foldback and Guy Fletcher prowled the stage hunched over his mandolin but they restrained themselves well. It was then a choice between waiting for Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle or scurrying off to catch The Band From County Hell – sorry Jacqui.

The Band From County Hell
The Band From County Hell

The Band From County Hell are a Scots/Irish group from Lincolnshire and are huge fun – ‘The Day My Granny Died’ is a song everybody should hear at least once. They have been around for a quite a while, with six albums to their credit and it seems odd that they aren’t better known – although they don’t lack for support. The first notes played by Blazin’ Fiddles were on keyboard and guitar which is, I’m sure, their little joke. It’s not logical to find them restful but they are so tight and their music is so hypnotic. I promise that I didn’t nod off but I was definitely on a different plane of existence for a lot of their excellent set.

Chris Cleverley
Chris Cleverley

I returned to the Introduction Stage to hear Chris Cleverley whose debut album, Apparitions, I really like. His set, mixing traditional songs and his own compositions didn’t disappoint and he’s already working in new songs including ‘All I Want’ which will send me back to Joni Mitchell’s Blue as soon as time allows. I stayed for Polly And The Billets Doux, who won the day’s vote for a main stage slot next year, and The Black Feathers, who really needed a more sympathetic environment.

Vo Fletcher
Vo Fletcher

The Ric Sanders’ Trio have finally come out as a fun band with their new album and set of old blues, string band and swing numbers. It might be called the Vo Fletcher Trio since it is his guitar that forms the foundation and his voice that sings the songs but when the singing stops it is Ric’s flights of instrumental fancy that take their music to another place. The album is a lot of fun and their set reflected that. Then it was decision time again. I’d been told that Fotheringay would be playing the same set that they had toured all year “only better”. That was true but I missed the excitement of the earlier gigs when the band were still finding their way into, or back into, the music. Nevertheless, theirs was the set everyone wanted to hear.

Steeleye Span
Steeleye Span

Since they lost Messrs. Knight and Zorn I really wanted to hear what Steeleye Span would do. With two new musicians to induct the answer was to go back to first principles so ‘All Things Were Quite Silent’ was followed by ‘Blackleg Miner’ and ‘Weary Cutters’ was teamed with ‘New York Girls’ featuring Maddy Prior on ukulele. And they rocked. Julian Littman added a rap to ‘Boys Of Bedlam’ and Spud Sinclair played the sort of electric guitar that we haven’t heard in the band since Bob Johnson’s time. As a final touch they closed with an a capella version of Rick Kemp’s ‘Somewhere Along The Road’.

Nick Gibbs
Nick Gibbs

There is no getting away from the fact that playing the final set of a festival after Steeleye Span have gone off to rapturous applause is a daunting task but Folklaw threw themselves into it with energy and aplomb. Fiddler and songwriter Nick Gibbs was joined by Gaz Hunt on a minimalist drum kit, Martin Vogwell on bass and mandolin and Bryn Williams on guitar and bodhran – not to mention crossing the venue floor on the backs of chairs! They sent the crowd off exhausted but happy.

So does a December festival work once you get over the culture shock of rocking up at 5.00 pm on a Friday in the dark? This is still Skegness and with Storm Desmond blowing around us “bracing” just didn’t begin to describe it but when the wind dropped on Sunday it was mild and pleasant. The accommodation and facilities were excellent and the unsung stars of the weekend were the Butlin’s staff who were friendly and helpful and worked long hours. However, this was folk music adapting to Butlin’s not the other way round. The artists existed in a bubble of stage/backstage/ accommodation or arrived, performed and left and there were quite a few I would have liked to have spoken to so I apologise to them. A bulletin board for messages or to arrange meetings wouldn’t take much to set up and would be a big help, too. But, yes, it works and if you have considered going but not done so I can recommend it.

Dai Jeffries