BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2017 Winners Announced

The winners of the Radio 2 Folk Awards 2017 have been announced in a ceremony broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Now in their 18th year, the Awards are a key highlight of the folk music calendar and serve to raise the profile of folk music. Talent, new and old, received accolades including Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year, Young Folk Award and more. Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Ry Cooder and Al Stewart.

American roots-rock musician and songwriter, Ry Cooder, took to the stage for a rare UK performance, singing Jesus On The Mainline. A career-long champion of folk music, he is renowned for his inspired slide guitar playing, and through his own work and collaborations with others, from The Rolling Stones to The Chieftains and Buena Vista Social Club.

British singer-songwriter Al Stewart also took to the stage for a performance of his 1977 song, On The Border. Al started his career on the 1960s London folk scene, and has worked alongside Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page, John Renbourn, Rick Wakeman, Tori Amos, Roy Harper and many more. Appearing at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970, he became known for his brand of folk-rock, which he combined with tales of characters and events from history. He’s best known for his 1970s hits Year of the Cat and Time Passages.

Tony Blackburn presented Al Stewart with his award and regaled the audience with his own personal story of Al. He explained that in the early 1960s, he had in fact been the lead guitarist in Tony’s own group, ‘Tony Blackburn and the Swinging Bells’.

Tony said: “We used to practice at my parents’ house and, as good as he was, he always played his electric guitar far too loud as it always drowned out my vocals… The fact I’m here tonight will do Al’s credibility a lot of damage but I don’t care as I’ve enjoyed playing ‘Year of the Cat’ very much over the years and I haven’t seen him in a long time. It really is an honour to present this Lifetime Achievement Award to such a talented musician.”

The evening opened with a rousing performance by Afro Celt Sound System. And across the night there were spectacular performances from Shirley Collins MBE (performing Washed Ashore), Daoirí Farrell (Van Diemen’s Land), Jim Moray (Fair Margaret And Sweet William), Billy Bragg (I Ain’t Got No Home), and Fara (Three Fishers).

There was a powerful and moving performance taken from the Ballads of Child Migration, which tells the story of the enforced migration of over 100,000 children to Australia and Canada between 1863 and 1970. The specially-curated performance was narrated by Barbara Dickson with original songs performed by Kris Drever, Jez Lowe, While & Matthews, Boo Hewerdine, O’Hooley & Tidow, John McCusker, Andy Cutting and Michael McGoldrick.

Folk icon Woody Guthrie was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame, to celebrate his lasting influence. Billy Bragg performed a special tribute with a rendition of Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home. The celebration marked 50 years since Guthrie’s death in 1967, aged 55. The musician wrote some of the most enduring standards in the genre with his life and work dedicated to supporting and documenting the rights of workers and the downtrodden. His songs have been covered by countless singers from Bruce Springsteen to Lady Gaga and he was a mentor to a young Bob Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2 said: “Huge congratulations to all the winners of the Radio 2 Folk Awards 2017 – the calibre of all the nominees was outstanding. This annual event is a wonderful celebration of the vibrant folk music scene and tonight’s show was spectacular, featuring some of folk’s most long standing, biggest and newest stars which Radio 2 is committed to supporting throughout the year.”

The Folk Awards will be broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday 9 April at 10pm as an hour-long highlights programme which will include all the performances.

Alternatively, click on any of the links below to see the individual performances:

The full list of winners:

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR presented by Sharleen Spiteri
Kris Drever

BEST DUO presented by Peter Lord of Aardman Animations
Ross Ainslie & Ali Hutton

BEST GROUP presented by Sir Ray Davies
The Furrow Collective

BEST ALBUM presented by Mark Kermode
Songs of Separation – Songs of Separation

HORIZON AWARD presented by Rachel and Becky Unthank (of The Unthanks)
Daoirí Farrell

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR presented by Gus Unger-Hamilton from Alt-J
Rachel Newton

BEST ORIGINAL TRACK presented by Susie Dent
If Wishes Were Horses by Kris Drever

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK presented by Pauline Black of The Selecter
Van Diemen’s Land by Daoirí Farrell

BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD presented by Simon Nicol of Fairport Convention
Josie Duncan & Pablo Lafuente

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD presented by Tony Blackburn
Al Stewart

Ry Cooder

Woody Guthrie

Building up to the Awards, Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Drivetime programme was broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall. In the show, Simon counted down the Top 10 Most Played Folk Songs on Radio 2. Compiled by PPL, the Number 1 track was Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ Wild World – released in 1970, which featured on his fourth album, Tea for the Tillerman. It wasn’t released as a single in the UK, but reached No 11 on the US Billboard chart. Jimmy Cliff released his recording of Wild World in 1970 – produced by Cat Stevens – reaching No 8 in the UK; with Maxi Priest hitting No 5 with his version in 1988. Cat was presented with the Lifetime Achievement honours at the Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2015. Number 2 of the Top 10 Most Played Folk Songs on Radio 2 was Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal; at No 3 was Bellowhead’s Roll the Woodpile Down; at No 4 was Meet Me On The Corner by Lindisfarne; No 5 was Underneath The Stars by Kate Rusby; at No 6 was River Man by Nick Drake; No 7 was Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys; No 8 was Thea Gilmore & Sandy Denny’s London; at No 9 was Streets of London by Ralph McTell and at No 10 was Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens said: “I’m surprised that we actually pipped to the post all these great folk singers and that it’s still being played. That makes me feel very satisfied and it shows that the song and the meaning is still relevant. Of course it is relevant because wild world is exactly what it is and exactly what we’re living in right now and it’s getting wilder perhaps.”


Real SharpWay back in 1972, Martin Stone and Philip Lithman, reunited as a duo following the former’s stint with blues acts Savoy Brown and Mighty Baby and the latter’s time with The Residents in San Francisco, signed to Revelation Records and recorded Kings Of The Robot Rhythm under their new name. For the sessions they enlisted singer Jo Ann Kelly and Nick Lowe, Billy Rankin and Bob Andrews from Brinsley Schwarz. Looking to go out on the road, they then added Paul Bailey, Paul Riley and Pete Thomas, the latter three creating the line up that, alongside Stone and Lithman, would go on to record Bongos Over Balham in 1974, Kelly being joined on backing vocals by both Jacqui McShee and Carol Grimes. The following year, unable to make a go of things, despite playing some 400 gigs, the band broke up.

However, they left behind a legacy as being not just one of the pioneers of the British pub rock scene but, alongside Brinsley Schwarz, one of the first British acts to draw on what we today call Americana. Over the years they have, however, rather faded from memory, so this double CD anthology is a welcome reminder of what was and should have been.

It contains the band’s two albums in their entirety along with a generous selection of bonus recordings, some demos, some unreleased and some from the 1996 I’ll Be Home compilation. The debut album announced their country blues intentions with ‘Living Out Of My Suitcase’ and the self-referencing ‘The Ballad of Chilli Willi’, throwing in some jugband with ‘Astrella From The Astral Plane’, ragtime country on ‘Nashville Rag’ and Lithman’s one-minute frenzied bluegrass instrumental ‘Fiddle Dee’. Save for a couple of traditional blues arrangements, ‘Window Pane’ and ‘Get Your Gauge Up Let Your Love Come Down’, the material was all written by the duo, either together or Lithman alone, although the accompanying Chalk Farm demos (imploding sessions overseen by and featuring Mike Nesmith, who remains uncredited) extended selections to covers of both Jesse Winchester (‘Midnight Bus’) and the Barry/Greenwich number ‘I Wanna Love Her So Bad’.

Also among them is a version of Louis Jordan classic ‘Choo Choo Ch’Boogie’, a slicker version of which provided the opening track for Bongos, an early production credit for engineer Ron Nevison who would go on to produce Survivor, Heart and Kiss. It also featured polished, more fleshed out versions of several of the other demos, including the scampering ‘Truck Driving Girl’, ‘Jungle Song’, ‘Desert Island Woman’ and the Winchester number, Among the new material, ‘Fiddle Diddle’ afforded another showcase for Lithman’s fiddle skills while PC Bailey provided sax on both Stone’s rollicking arrangement of the traditional blues ‘Just Like The Devil’ and Lithman’s rousing rock n rolling nod to Chuck Berry homage closer ‘9-5 Songwriting Man’.

The second disc’s bonus tracks include country romping studio outtake ‘I’ll Be Home’ featuring pedal steel legend Red Rhodes, a live radio broadcast of Robert Johnson’s ‘Walkin’ Blues’, five live recordings from either the Roundhouse or Kilburn State among them Doug Kershaw’s ‘Papa and Mama Had Love’, Carl Perkins’ ‘Boppin’ The Blues’, Carl Montgomery’s seminal trucker song ‘Six Days On The Road’ and, another fiddle showcase, ‘Fire On The Mountain’, the remaining two cuts, both covers, being demos recorded at Dave Robinson’s studio above the Hope and Anchor, Johnny Guitar Watson’s parping sax blues dance floor strutter ‘Posin’ Yeah’ and Chuck Bowers’ 1955 78rpm Western Swing B-side, ‘Pinball Boogie’.

Accompanied by a booklet that reproduces the original albums and features rare photos, artwork by Barney Bubbles and sleeve notes by Paul Riley, it’s a fine salute to a band which laid the foundations for the British country boom we’re now experiencing.

Mike Davies

Live videos weren’t the thing back in the early 70s but here’s a promo film:

Nick Lowe releases Christmas album ‘Quality Street’

As Lowe assembled his band and began thinking about how to add a new twist to the seasonal songbook, he made one rule. “We tried to make it a sleigh bell-free zone,” he says.  “Really, what we wanted to do first was find songs either which people hadn’t heard millions of times before, but which were really good songs that we could get our teeth into and change them around,” Lowe continues. “Or if we were going to cover songs that were well-known, we wanted to do ones that we could put a brand new suit of clothes on.

The joys of Christmas infuse the dozen songs on Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family (the title is a nod to a famous UK manufacturer of holiday sweets, while the cover image was conceived by Lowe’s wife, designer Peta Waddington).

The result is a blend of traditional hymns, forgotten gems and Lowe originals that conjure up all the nostalgia, good cheer and warmth of the season. You might say it’s the kind of record that gives vulgar, tawdry commercialism a good name.

Here or abroad, anyone who likes their Christmas soundtracks with plenty of heart and humour, and a sprinkle of understated charm, will enjoy Quality Street for the newly minted classic that it is.


Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings have, since the redoubtable Bill convened the combo in the early 1990s, carved themselves an awesome reputation as one of the most reliable, honest-to-goodness good-time combos of the last decade or so.

Taking a broad sweep, cherry-picking from the wealth of popular music styles of the twentieth century, Bill and his incredibly adept crew put together a set that incorporates Blues, Jazz, Jump Band Boogie, old-school R&B, Country and full tilt rock and roll.

It’s all played with a technical skill but undeniable warmth and feel for the music.

Amongst the stellar cast of musicians featured on Live Communication, the latest, fascinating instalment of Bill’s post –Rolling Stones history are the brilliant guitarist Albert Lee, Van Morrison / Nick Lowe piano ace Geraint Watkins, former Doctor Hook vocalist Dennis Locorriere, as well as regular Rhythm Kings stalwarts Beverley Skeete (vocals), Graham Broad (drums) Terry Taylor (guitar and vocals) and Nick Payn (saxophone).

The material is drawn from the likes of Willie Dixon, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Joe Tex, and a great version of the hoary Chuck Berry chestnut, Johnny B Goode, like you’ve never heard it before.