Paul Johnson speaks to Ken Nicol at The Great British Folk Festival 2018

Ken Nicol
Ken Nicol at The Great British Folk Festival 2018

As the curtain was raised on another year of The Great British Folk Festival – it was for me my first year at this event – a newbie to a festival that has now established itself at a major player on the folk festival circuit. Being my first trip, I wanted to pre-book a couple of interviews with some of the artists that were performing  – and one person I was interested in finding out more about, was the ex Steeleye Span, Albion Band and Magna Carta guitarist and singer Ken Nicol.

The set and performance was excellent… one man… two guitars and a ukulele with a few great heart warming stories thrown in that held and enthralled the audience.

Over the years, Ken Nicol has built up a huge reputation as a singer songwriter – and a fairly useful… in fact totally brilliant guitarist in his own right. Ken tours regularly all over the world and has a growing legion of loyal fans. I was intrigued to find out more about the man and his work – and caught up with him after he opened the festival on ‘Reds Stage’ in Skegness.  We spoke about performing solo, medication, health and spiritual song writing.

This is what he had to say.

Paul Johnson

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Artist’s website: https://kennicol.com/

Here is Ken performing I.H. or his Scottish Tune as he calls it.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Cook-A-Hoop + Skeggy Interview

I sit here two weeks after The Great British Folk Festival with a Whitstable Bay Organic Ale in hand and I’m in good company as I have the new The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Cook-A-Hoop vinyl spinning on my turntable.

The album has made quite a journey from when it was first given to me by the band back stage after the interview we did in the early hours of Sunday 2nd December. The vinyl started its journey on top of a pizza box as Cush insisted it came along to the Oysterband back stage gathering (The MEN were playing on REDS stage outside of the Skyline Pavilion and Oysterband were in the Centre Stage complex and on at the same time). Like us, the new album couldn’t find its way there either as everything was locked up.  It took 20 minutes in the rain with TMTCH in tow to realise that the best destination was now 109 Gull Court in The Keys area of Butlins Skeggy. This was the place where the album, the half-eaten pizza’s, The MEN and us hangers-on could be reunited with some more alcohol. However, not all of us made it to 109 Gull Court as the pizza was offloaded on to Simon Care who happened to be wandering past at 2am in the morning on his way to bed.

Anyway, I digress… so let’s get back to the fantastic new album and that late-night folking TMTCH interview.

Cook-A-Hoop has thirteen tracks, two instrumentals, and eleven songs, five written by Paul Simmonds, three by Swill and three by Cush. Cook-A-Hoop is both minimalist and musically expansive.

The songs start with ‘Sirens’, with revolution and a call to arms Pogue-MEN-Style followed by an escapism tale imagined at the speed of an ‘Arrow’ flight. Then a tremolo panther prowls, like a young Bobby Seale and gives his greeting by way of Sunday Soul ‘Salutations’ with trumpet heralding in the arrival of Marvin.

Next, ‘Three Ships Sailing’ haul away, plundering oceans, flying colours with far of canon-shot drum beat judging distance. While half the world is living on ‘Pone’, the unleavened maize bread, this rocking song with mental saxophone and growling vocals shoves it down your throat and reminds us that some people don’t have a choice.

Mantle then shrouds the tale of ‘The Queen of Crows’ who surveys the night to gentle pining fiddle. We journey then to the city of the ‘Archangel’, riding on camels, playing snake charmer grooves, telling tales of devils, demons and shotgun shacks.

Finally, Cush gives us a ‘Kings Street Serenade’ in green bomber jacket, and tight drainpipe trousers. A homage to the glory days of Joe Strummer, Pogue Mohon and being in heaven.

So, to sum the album up… Right Time, Right Place, Right Song. All packaged up in ‘The Amazing Carrier Bag’ of broken dreams and Brexit chaos.

Yes, its classic MEN, so if you’re already a fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not yet, then you are in for a treat as it stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the rest of the back catalogue of 9 studio albums and over 139 songs.

Paul Simmonds has songs pouring out of him at the moment and Swill and Cush are on top song writing form. So, strap yourself in, fasten your seatbelts, you’re in for a TMTCH Cock-A-Hoop roller coaster of a ride of an album. The MEN continue to be, not just a band of brothers who have stuck together for 35 years through thick and thin but also a group that have survived their time and forged a new  musical strength out of the political, blood, sweat and tears of their glorious musical past.

However, the biggest revelation of all is that Swill wished he had written Bat out of Hell!

Darren Beech

Here is the interview that Paul Johnson and Darren Beech recorded with TMTCH after the show.

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Artists’ website: https://www.tmtch.co.uk/

Here is the video from the Gosport and Fareham Festival in 2008 that we mentioned in the interview.

Winter Union Bring December Tour Tidings of Comfort & Joy

Winter Union

Well they say Christmas is a special time of year for a Winter Union, when magical things happen, and this year’s Great British Folk Festival is no exception.

There was Darren and I merrily covering this year’s Skegness outing and we happened across Winter Union, a wonderful, hugely talented ‘folk super group’ and all round lovely bunch of chums from the folk scene, who treated us to a fantastic opening afternoon festive set on ‘REDS stage’ yesterday.

Winter Union comprises of Ben Savage, Katriona Gilmore, Jade Rhiannon, Hannah Saunders and Jamie Roberts, who are now in their 4th year as a festive get together.

This was the first date of their 2018 December tour. They played a stunning festive set, mixing traditional Christmas songs with an added blue grass lilt. Darren and I could not let this amazing sleigh ride pass us by without hopping on for an after gig chat in the bar. We also explored Ben Savage’s (or babe as I called him in a text typo) tale of ‘Christmas Ball Balls’.

Paul Johnson

This is what they had to say…..

Artist Website: https://www.facebook.com/winterunion/

Folking.com Cropredy Interviews 2018

Paul Johnson introduces this years interviews…


Dave Pegg – Cropredy 2018

The Folking.com 2018 Dave Pegg Interview from Cropredy


Chris Leslie – Cropredy 2018

Chris Leslie with Martin Jenkins mandolin. Photo by Darren Beech

The Folking.com 2018 Chris Leslie Interview from Cropredy


Alan Prosser – Cropredy 2018

Derby Folk Festival

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with Alan at this years Cropredy Festival as the Oysters celebrate their 40th year.

Oysterband celebrate 40 years together


Sam Kelly – Cropredy 2018

Sam Kelly – Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

SAM KELLY & THE LOST BOYS – Pretty Peggy (Navigator NAVIGATOR 102)


Merry Hell – Cropredy Fringe 2018

Merry Hell – Cropredy Fringe 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

The Folking.com 2018 Merry Hell Interview from Cropredy Fringe


Will Varley – Cropredy 2018

Will Varley

Will Varley talks to folking.com ahead of Autumn tour


Midnight Skyracer – Cropredy 2018

Midnight Skyracer at Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

MIDNIGHT SKYRACER talk to Folking.com backstage at Cropredy 2018


MIDNIGHT SKYRACER talk to Folking.com backstage at Cropredy 2018

Midnight Skyracer at Cropredy 2018. Photo by Darren Beech

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with Midnight Skyracer backstage at this years Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. The interview took place on the Friday afternoon after their fantastic set earlier in the day.

The girls have been nominated for an IBMA award by the International Bluegrass Music Association which is not surprising, as they are all monster players. Congratulations from all of us at folking.com. We are all keeping everything crossed for you!

We would just like to point out (before you think we have gone completely folking mad in the interview) that potatoes and the bands love of them, did feature a fair bit during the bands banter between their songs in the set.

Click on the play button below to have a listen.

For those of you not in the know, Midnight Skyracer are a new, all-female Anglo-Irish bluegrass 5-piece band playing hard-driving traditional and original songs. Singer/mandolin player Leanne Thorose and virtuoso banjo player Tabitha Agnew are joined by sisters Charlotte (guitar) and Laura (fiddle/dobro) Carrivick (of The Carrivick Sisters fame) and bassist Eleanor Wilkie. Formed in early 2017, they were playing their first shows in May and June of that year, before landing a slot at the 2017 Cambridge Folk Festival and stealing the show with a storming, full-to-capacity set.  The Midnight Skyracer machine has led everyone a merry ‘Maris Pied Piper‘ dance since, right through ‘UK festival heartland‘. It gathers more and more followers with every new performance as it steamrollers over festivals, which so far have included; Priddy, Abbotsbury, Folk by the Oak, Underneath the Stars, Cropredy and Shrewsbury to name just a few.

Midnight Skyracer – BBC Radio Oxford Cropredy set. Photo by Darren Beech

Their latest album ‘Fire‘ contains 7 originals including songs by all 5 band members, plus some carefully chosen nods to some of their favourite influences. The album was mixed and mastered by Josh Clark of Kate Rusby’s ‘Life in a Paper Boat’ fame which gives it that ‘top draw’ production seal of approval.

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Artists’ website: http://www.midnightskyracer.com/

Back to Cropredy 2018 Interview Menu

The Folking.com 2018 Merry Hell Interview from Cropredy Fringe

Merry Hell

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech create Merry Hell as they attempt to break the world record for ‘how many folk-rock musicians you can fit round a table in a pub in Cropredy. Yes you guessed it, the interview took place in the Brasenose, as part of the Cropredy fringe on the first day of the festival.

In the interview, Merry Hell talk about their delight in winning Best Live Act and Best Group in this year’s folking awards and discuss the process behind their song writing and how the material is selected for each album.

Other subjects covered include; the new acoustic album, Dai Jeffries trip to Wigan to review the acoustic band gig and being piled with ‘Uncle Joe’s’ mint balls (read it here if you missed it).

Upcoming tour and festival dates are also covered, from the excellent Southdowns Folk Festival in Bognor Regis on the south coast to Mike Harding’s fab festival in Settle ‘Up North’. Note the additional Kentish f  that was specially added for Virginia free of charge!

Click on the play button below to have a listen.

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.

Artists’ website: www.merryhell.co.uk

Back to Cropredy 2018 Interview Menu