Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band announce tour dates – John Spiers Joins the lineup

Gigspanner Big Band

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner are a unique force in British folk music. Their high-energy, virtuosic performances appeal equally to traditionalists and to those looking for something more experimental, and they have garnered praise from publications as varied as fRoots, The Telegraph and The Wire, where they were described as ‘melodically folk-rooted yet open and innovative beyond the constraints of genre.’

Beginning life as a trio – with former Steeleye Span fiddle player Knight being joined by percussionist Sacha Trochet and guitarist Roger Flack – the live lineup was soon expanded to form the Gigspanner Big Band, with acclaimed multi-instrumental duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin joining the fray. Characterised by riotous inventiveness, technically gifted individual playing and subtle collaborative interaction, their first tour together was captured wonderfully on 2017 album Live, and saw them ‘taking folk music down new and enthralling paths.’ (FRUK)

Now, after a fortuitous meeting at the FolkEast Festival, Knight has enlisted the considerable talents of melodeon and concertina player John Spiers, something of a folk superstar in his own right. In Knight’s words, ‘John is an extraordinary musician… a great and sensitive player.’ Knight’s excitement at the new venture is evident, and it says much about the nature of his musical outlook that, after half a century of innovation, he is still as willing as ever to move in bold new directions.

As collaborations go, it does not get much more mouthwatering than this. While Knight, as part of Steeleye Span’s classic 1970s lineup, helped invent a brand of folk rock that is still influential today, Spiers, a founder-member of Bellowhead, has had an equally profound impact on the landscape of traditional music over the last two decades.

Spiers is set to join the rest of the Big Band for the entirety of their forthcoming November tour, and to make matters even more exciting every show will be recorded to provide material for a brand new live album.

The tour offers a chance to experience one of the most significant collaborations in folk music’s recent history and the opportunity to hear all-new material from some of the most talented and respected musicians in the country.

“Totally blown away by the spellbinding Gigspanner Big Band…Lost for words” Folking.com

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

‘The Boy That Wouldn’t Hoe Corn’ – live:

Tour Dates

November

27th The Apex, Bury St Edmunds
https://www.theapex.co.uk/whats-on/details.cfm?id=450747&ins=595791

28th Helmsley Arts Centre, Helmsley, N Yorks
http://www.helmsleyarts.co.uk/

29th Victoria Hall, Settle
https://www.settlevictoriahall.org.uk/eventsandshows/gigspannerbigband291119

30th The Queen’s Hall, Hexham
https://www.queenshall.co.uk/events/gigspanner-big-band

December

1st  The Live Room, Saltaire
https://theliveroom.info/show/gigspanner-big-band/
https://www.seetickets.com/event/gigspanner-big-band/the-live-room-caroline-social-club/1328625

Standing ovations for Show Of Hands’ Big Gig

Big Gig
Photograph by Darren Beech

England’s premier folk duo Show of Hands, once described as “the most famous unknown band in Britain”, brought the house down at the Royal Albert Hall on Easter Sunday with a ‘pull all the stops out’ show marking their milestone 25th year.

Singer songwriter Steve Knightley and multi instrumental wizard Phil Beer took to the stage of the iconic London venue for the fifth time with a memorable milestone gig which prompted two standing ovations.

Some 5,000 fans descended on the capital not just from all over the UK but also from Canada, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany.

The first band to ever hold a raffle at the Albert Hall maintained the tradition, raising £4,355 – the most ever – for chosen charities MIND and Great Ormond Street Hospital & Children’s Charity, the main prize being a beautifully crafted cello mandolin made by SoH’s Devon-based instrument makers Oddy Luthiers.

One of British folk music’s most popular acts – and two of the most active ambassadors in the acoustic arena – Knightley and Beer were joined by long-term guest Miranda Sykes on double bass and vocals.
A dramatic opening saw the performance of Knightley’s spellbinding song ‘Widecombe Fair’ with Beer appearing high in the organ loft playing an eerie fiddle.

They were soon joined by the Devon’s 30-strong Lost Sound Chorus for the moving ‘The Old Lych Way’ about the ancient Dartmoor trackway along which coffins were carried. The choir returned throughout the evening to swell the sound on some of the band’s best known songs and numbers from most recent albums Centenary and The Long Way Home.

Also taking to the “Kensington village hall” stage were top mandolin player Rex Preston, 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’ winners Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin and Canada’s hugely entertaining Matt Gordon & Leonard Podolak, their fiddle and banjo music punctuated by outbreaks of clog dancing (joined by Mr Knightley!) and “hamboning” (traditional African American body percussion).

Long-time collaborator, composer and keyboards player Matt Clifford, who famously worked with The Rolling Stones, added to the sound as did Devon teacher Chris Hoban, who has penned some of Show of Hands’ more recent songs including the epic ‘Katrina’ (also performed on the night).

Towards the end of the first set, there was a surprise appearance by renowned Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter who read Siegfried Sassoon’s To Victory in his inimitable way before a performance of the WW1 song ‘Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire’ while Alice Jones was a solo Morris dancer in ‘Twas on One’s April Morning’.

Steve Knightley also announced a £150,000 crowdfunding appeal to bring an extensive Shrouds Of The Somme art installation to the capital.

Last year Somerset artist Rob Heard painstakingly hand stitched calico shrouds onto 19240 12 inch figures representing every Allied soldier who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme – making a powerful artwork that was seen in Exeter and Bristol. Knightley was closely involved in the unique project, serving on the committee.

Now Heard has embarked on making more than 70,000 shrouds to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 in 2018 – commemorating every soldier who died at The Somme with no known grave. It is hoped to display the new work in London for Armistice Day (November 11) next year. The crowdfunding campaign will launch on May 10. shroudsofthesomme.com

Show of Hands’ “anthems” ‘Country Life’, ‘Roots’, and banker-baiting ‘Arrogance Ignorance And Greed’ were all on the set list as well as the traditional favourite ‘The Blue Cockade’. Their trademark ‘Cousin Jack’, about emigrating Cornish miners, was the rousing finale before they stepped back on stage for Knightley’s “hard to believe it’s not traditional” number ‘The Galway Farmer’ and a rousing ‘Santiago’ with the whole company on stage.

A lavishly illustrated 224-page hard-backed souvenir book marking the band’s 25th year went on sale on the night, entitled No Secrets –A Visual History of Show of Hands.

Tying in with this, the Knightley-penned single ‘No Secrets’ was released on Friday (April 21) via Amazon and iTunes. Says Steve: “This started live as a piece of advice for a friend getting married but it is also apt as the ethos of our business and it became the backdrop to the book.”

Show of Hands 25th year continues with a busy UK festival schedule (including Folk by the Oak, Underneath The Stars, Wickham, Sidmouth, Cropredy, Towersey) before a newly announced tour of English cathedrals this autumn (Oct 4-Nov 8), from Chichester to Carlisle, supported by young singer songwriter Kirsty Merryn.

Big Gig
Photograph by Judith Burrows

Artists’ website: www.showofhands.co.uk

Welcome To The Folkies

With Oscar fever rising to a climax it’s time to say “Welcome To The Folkies” – the 2016 Folking Awards. We’ve sifted through the albums and performances of 2015 – always a long and difficult task punctuated by bouts of thumb-wrestling to settle disputes. Adopting the pattern followed by everyone else, here, in no order of precedence, are our nominations. With the exception of one category we have restricted our choices to British acts.

All nominations are 2016 Folking Awards winners.

Welcome To The Folkies

Soloist Of The Year

Steve Tilston
Sam Carter
Kathryn Roberts
Steve Knightley
Ange Hardy

Best Duo

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
India Electric Co.
Show Of Hands
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Clype

Best Band

Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarrr
False Lights
Merry Hell

Best Live Act

The Demon Barbers XL
Blackbeard’s Tea Party
Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band
Tradarr
CC Smugglers

Best Album

Layers Of Ages – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner
Head Heart Hand – Megan Henwood
The Girl I Left Behind Me – India Electric Co.
It’s Not Your Gold Shall Me Entice – Elle Osborne
Disco At The Tavern – The Demon Barbers

Best Musician

Dan Walsh
Peter Knight
P.J. Wright
Chris Leslie
Kris Drever

Folking’s Rising Star

Will Varley
Sam Kelly
Wes Finch
India Electric Co.
Chris Cleverley

Best International Artist

Gretchen Peters
Tom Russell
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Justin Townes Earle
Los Lobos

To give the awards a further edge, we opened the vote to our visitors and run a public poll in all of the 8 categories (as listed above).

The Public Vote closed Sunday 28 February at 20.00 hours and “The Folking Winners” have now been announced here at: http://folking.com/the-folking-winners/


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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PHILLIP HENRY & HANNAH MARTIN – Watershed (Dragonfly Roots DRCD003)

PHILLIP HENRY & HANNAH MARTIN WatershedHaving walked away with the Best Duo gong at the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, there must have been a degree of pressure on Henry and Martin when it came to their third album. Which may or may not have had something to do with them taking a very deliberate departure from Mynd. Where that largely addressed historical figures, here they chose to draw on more personal experience as a means of filtering everyman stories as a sort of modern day folk tale about, as per the title’s implications (on which they sing about which side to go), the decisions made and paths taken that shape different destinies

Recorded over 10 days in Devon’s Blackdown Hills with Matt Downer on double bass and James Taylor providing percussion, it’s a less musically textured affair in the sense that Henry has mostly confined himself to guitar and Dobro rather than draw on his wide-ranging virtuoso talents (though he does still wield the trusty harmonica), with Martin tempering everything with her violin.

I should, at this point, declare that I’m not fully persuaded by her vocals, which, while undeniably clear and fine, I find to be, at times, slightly too considered and measured, in need of a little more warmth, looseness and emotional expression. As such, from a personal perspective, it’s taken a while to get inside the album and find a connection, but that’s in no way to deny the craftsmanship of either the playing or the material.

Following on from the titular opener, guitar and mandolin (courtesy Rex Preston) provide the bedrock for ‘Stones’ (as in let him who is without sin, etc) , a musically undulating song inspired by now ex-UKIP councillor David Silvester, who declared the storms of 2014 were God’s response to same sex marriage. Harmonica opens and buzzes around ‘Tonight’, a musically multi-coloured track that takes on a sort of mix of trip hop beats, folk blues shuffle and dreamy croon, Martin’s delivery having a hint of Middle Eastern sway.

‘Yarrow Mill’ strikes a personal note for Henry, who takes his only lead vocal on a song that , backed by Martin’s pizzicato violin, tenderly recalls his grandparents’ courtship in the cotton mill of the title. Family history is there too on the spooked bluegrass mood of the search for a better life tale of ‘Foundling’, which grows from a spare, Dobro-mottled intro into an earthier affair, its traditional colours splashed with double bass and vibes to conjure a jazz-folk sense redolent of early Pentangle. Gently bathed in understated banjo and Dobro. ‘Conkers’ too has a reflective eye, looking back at childhood innocence from an adult’s perspective.

The year turns with the five minute guitar, violin and vibes instrumental ‘December’, ushering in an a capella Martin for ‘January’, a performance that underscores her vocal prowess and has me reconsidering my opinion. On then to the heavy weight of loss that hangs over the minimally arranged ‘Letter (Unsent), a reverie of strings set against the slow march drum beat taking over from the vocals around the three minute mark.

The album moves to its close with melancholic Celtic-misted Dobro for the Irish instrumental ‘Lament’ providing a bridge to ‘London’, a more musically upbeat, driving and almost rocky eight-minute number that could be seen as a vision of the now grown foundlings from earlier in the album further on their journey in search of one of a million futures, “picking them like flowers, making your way home”, as the number erupts in fiery fiddle. After the storm comes the calm, for ‘Taxis’, a banjo rippling ambivalent celebration of the working musician’s life on the road, one of former travelling and hanging around. But, let us not forget, they set off by stepping out on the stage to perform songs such as these, and sending audiences home with a glow in the soul.

Mike Davies

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‘Stones’ live at Calstock Arts Centre:

SHOW OF HANDS UNVEIL RARE “BEHIND THE SCENES” DOUBLE BILL DVD AS THEY SET OFF ON 21ST ANNIVERSARY AUTUMN TOUR

Making The WakingCelebrating a remarkable 21 year partnership, singer songwriter Steve Knightley and multi instrumentalist Phil Beer headed out on the 29-date “Hand in Hand” tour last month brandishing a brand new double-bill DVD.

Joined by musical chameleon Miranda Sykes on double bass and vocals, the tour takes in locations from Cambridge to Chesterfield, Worthing to the Wirral, debut performances at Portsmouth’s The Pyramids and Torquay’s Princess Theatre and a capital show at London’s Cadogan Hall (November 13).

Coinciding with the tour will be the release of the DVD – Live at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and Making the Waking – a unique behind-the-scenes look into the recording of Show of Hands’ 14th studio album, Wake the Union.

The Anglo-American themed studio album released last year was acclaimed by many critics as their best yet and they will continue to showcase it on tour.

The first DVD disc, featuring eight live songs, was recorded at the 2012 Shrewsbury Folk Festival by MicroVideo’s Charles and Heather Denscombe when Show of Hands, together with members of the Urban Soul Orchestra, Exeter duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin and Matt Clifford (keyboards and string arrangements), memorably reprised their stand out Royal Albert Hall show from earlier in the year.

It includes songs from the band’s penultimate studio album Arrogance Ignorance and Greed including the dramatic The Dive, IED:Science or Nature and Innocents’ Song/Gwithian as well as favourites from the back catalogue including Exile and The Blue Cockade. Their performance of Knightley’s anthemic Santiago is dedicated on the DVD to the late Vladimir Vega, one of the Chilean exiled musicians with whom Steve and Phil formed the unique 90s band Alianza. Vladimir sadly died this summer but as the musician who introduced Steve and Phil to the cuatro, his legacy lives on in Show of Hands performances.

Making the Waking has been filmed by Wake the Union’s producer Mark Tucker and is a fascinating track-by-track insight into the recording of the 2012 album which also includes “appearances” by the likes of Seth Lakeman and Cormac O’Byrne and a sequence filmed on the Channel Island of Sark, with Andy Cutting and Martin Simpson.

Wake The UnionRevealing and often humorous, it’s a chance to learn more about the history of all 14 tracks – Haunt You / Company Town / Now You Know / Katrina / Cruel River / Aunt Maria / Coming Home / Reunion Hill / No Man’s Land / Seven Curses / Home to a Million Thoughts / Who Gets to Feel Good / Stop Copying Me and King of the World.

If you would like to order a copy of the DVD then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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Artist web link – http://www.showofhands.co.uk/

PHILLIP HENRY & HANNAH MARTIN – MYND

Mynd

Phillip and Hannah released their new album, MYND on September 2nd 2013

When it comes to a distinctive sound, exceptional duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin are in a league of their own.

“Mynd” (Old English): memory/remembrance/act of commemoration/thought/mind/intellect.

One of the most inventive and captivating rising acts on the acoustic roots scene unveiled their evocative second studio album last month.

From the West Country hotspot of musical talent, the harmonious Devon duo will follow up their acclaimed 2012 debut Singing the Bones with the moving and mystical Mynd  – an exquisite 12-track album infused with Phil’s trademark instrumental virtuosity, Hannah’s clear vocals and the pair’s highly original thought-provoking songs often trawled from some of the less obvious moments in history.

Mynd inhabits an English landscape of Neolithic barrows and haunted East Anglian fens, while other narrative songs transport you to the heat of Syria, Egypt and the American south and across to the Swedish chill and Arctic ice.

Winners of Best Folk Act in the 2012 South West Music Awards and Best Duo in the 2013 Spiral Awards, this class act played the biggest venue of their career last year, when they supported Show of Hands at the Royal Albert Hall while this summer they play Glastonbury, Cambridge and Broadstairs festivals.

Widely regarded as one of the best slide guitarists in the UK, Lancashire-born multi instrumentalist Phillip Henry has been described as “one of the most extraordinary musicians around” by Show of Hands frontman Steve Knightley. Knightley who first encountered the duo busking on the seafront during Devon’s Sidmouth Folk Week, describes their sound as “textured, hypnotic and utterly captivating”.

Certainly it’s a sound like no other – mesmerising, atmospheric and other-worldly it is drawn from a wellspring of English folk music, Indian classical melodies, gospel and American blues, interwoven into something truly unique and underpinned by the pair’s subtle chemistry.

Henry, who studied in Calcutta with India’s premier slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya, is also a virtuoso on the harmonica and injects beatbox harmonica into some numbers whilst Brixham-born singer-songwriter Hannah, is a skilled fiddler, viola and banjo player with a real lightness of touch, a haunting voice and a knack for tapping traditional music veins to create contemporary songs.

“This duo is fast becoming hot property on the folk scene and it’s easy to hear why – the musical settings really grab one’s attention and set them apart – fRoots

“Authentic, haunting roots music from a first class duo” – Seth Lakeman

“Phillip Henry is one of the most extraordinary musicians around” – Steve Knightley

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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.

Artist’s website: www.philliphenryandhannahmartin.co.uk