The 2019 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2019 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated this year. The nominations, were in eight categories, and came from our ever-expanding team of writers and were collated into shape by the Folkmeister and the Editor over a pint or two, which also involved, a few arm-wrestles and a spot of beer-mat aerobics, in a convenient local watering hole.

There were five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2018.

As we said last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just about what we think, so once more, it was down to you, our ever-growing readership, to make the final call.

We will now compile the results and announce the winners of each category at some point next week.

*The Public Vote for each category closed at 9.00pm on Sunday 31st March (GMT+1).

Soloist Of The Year

Keith James
Reg Meuross
Rachel Newton
John Smith
Andy White

Best Duo

Gilmore & Roberts
Daria Kulesh and Jonny Dyer
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Winter Wilson

Best Band

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Merry Hell
Trials Of Cato
The Young’Uns

Best Live Act

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Grace Petrie
The Salts
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
Andy White

Best Album

A Problem Of Our Kind – Gilmore & Roberts
The Well Worn Path – Seth Lakeman
The Joy Of Living – Jackie Oates
Queer As Folk – Grace Petrie
Hide And Hair – Trials Of Cato

Best Musician

Martin Harley
Aidan O’Rourke
Marina Osman
John Smith
Richard Thompson

Rising Star

Burning Salt
Robert Lane
Kitty MacFarlane
Smith & Brewer
Vision Thing

Best International Artist(s)

Tyler Childers
Mary Gauthier
Larkin Poe

ROBERT LANE – Only A Flight Away (own label RGL 03)

Only A Flight AwayFollowing his excellent EP/mini-album, Ends And Starts, Robert Lane has been touring and writing and is back with a full length album with a startling cover design. Made on a crowd-funded shoestring with producer Matthew Pinfield again supporting on drums, bass and piano, Only A Flight Away adds one new name, Lucy Phillips, to the cast and turns the wick up.

Where Ends And Starts was largely acoustic with electric bits, Only A Flight Away is mostly electric. It opens with a bit of prog nostalgia, a short instrumental called ‘The Hundred House’ which gives Robert a chance to show off his electric guitar. At first, you may wonder what you’ve let yourself in for but Robert is a clever and inventive song writer and it always pays to wait and listen.

‘Man Of The Moment’ starts in the same vein. It’s an unveiled attack on a certain US politician but these days you can pick your own target. The clever thing is that, having blasted it’s way through three minutes it suddenly ends in a few bars of a solo acoustic something – probably guitar, but I’m not entirely sure. Having brought things down, Robert switches to the bluesy finger-picked ‘Baby Knows’ and then builds up again through the acoustic opening passage of ‘Right By My Side’ into a rich string-drenched song..

‘Far Too Busy’ has one of the best opening couplets I’ve heard in years. ”She won’t say dirty words, you find they stick in her throat/But she will do dirty things, she never said that she won’t” suggests one kind of song but I think it’s about isolation in the modern world and is probably the best song on the album. The title comes from the penultimate track, ‘Bill Frost’s Flying Machine’, a philosophical song with just a touch of whimsy, and finally we have ‘Who Do You Think You’re Talking For’, a sort of companion piece to Man Of The Moment’. Actually, this could be the best song on the album, too.

It’s a cliché, but Robert and Matthew use the studio like an instrument with multiple overdubs and tracks merging into one another. There are just three musicians here constructing a variety of sounds and styles. I doubt that this album can be reproduced on stage but the songs are strong enough to stand alone with just an acoustic guitar. This is a bloody good record.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

There’s nothing on-line from Only A Flight Away so here’s an oldie – ‘Break My Heart Blues’ live:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles with compliments of the season

Singles Bar 25WOLFNOTE are a new trio from Berkshire making their debut with an EP, Frightened Of Your Own F#. The three female members, Bex, Gill and Ceri, have strong voices and harmonise well and between them play guitar, violin, cello, dulcimer and recorders and their silent partner, Mike, plays guitar, bass and cajon. The record starts with a cover of Dylan’s ‘Girl From The North Country’ taken a little more quickly than most people do – it can drag, sometimes. The other songs are originals and ‘Love And Light’ is particularly good. The production is excellent, concentrating on the voices with the instrumental leads clear and bright. A name to watch.

‘The Tug Of The Moon’ is the first single to be taken from If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, the forthcoming album by SARAH McQUAID. This could be the only song ever inspired by Newton’s third law of motion and its effect on sidereal time.  Behind the science is the thought that we are all spinning towards the end of the universe and perhaps we should make the most of our time. Sarah creates a wonderful sound with fingerpicked electric guitar drenched in reverb.

While her new band settles in DARIA KULESH releases a single supported by two of her duo partners, Jonny Dyer and Marina Osman. ‘Vasilisa’ is an old Russian fairy tale from a book that Daria read as a child and still has. The story contains certain elements of Cinderella but far nastier and involves a supposedly deadly errand, the famous witch Baba Yaga and some unpleasant deaths. It has the mysterious air of Daria’s other Russian adaptations with the drone of a shruti box, dramatic piano, percussion and bouzouki.

It’s that time of year, so folk have been getting into the festive mood for seasonal singles. First up comes the rather lovely download (from the usual sources) only ‘What Will Christmas Be’, a melancholic piano (Danny Mitchell) and cello (Chelsea McGough) ballad duet from BEN GLOVER and NATALIE SCHLAB about absence and loss at a time traditionally about being together, set off with a final peal of bells.

Season Bright is a seasonal EP from EMILY EWING & ROBERT LANE. Robert is well known to folking readers and Emily is a singer-songwriter with a download EP to her name and a growing reputation. The lead tracks begins with Robert and Emily lamenting the fact that they’ll be spending Christmas alone (surely not) and moves on to the exhortation to “keep your loved ones near” over some lovely ringing electric guitar. The other tracks are the guitar-led ‘Get You’ and ‘Own It’, built around Emily’s piano. Available from iTunes.

Jo Whitby aka LAURENCE MADE ME CRY mirrors the mood with her download single ‘It’s Not You, It’s Christmas’ (from her bandcamp site), a slow walking fuzzed reverb guitar (sounding like a kazoo on acid) and drums ditty about choosing to spend the festivities alone at home, although she still wishes everyone seasonal cheer.

SKINNY LISTER also get into the act with ‘Christmas Calls’ (XtraMile), an epic sounding arms-linked swayalong anthem very much in the Pogues ‘Fairytale’ mould, complete with military drums, bells and whistles.

From last year’s Edison Gloriette album, JESS MORGAN releases download Jay Chakravorty remix of the Moonstruck-inspired ‘Come To The Opera With Me Loretta’ (Drabant Music) that removes the piano, putting more focus on the vocals and giving it an anthemic seasonal synths and drums shimmer makeover.

Away from the holly and ivy,Yorkshire’s FRAN WYBURN self-releases ‘Foolish Sea’, George Birkett’s fingerpicking and Rachel Brown’s cello backdropping her pure, little girl vocals on a quirky tale of unrequited love that serves as a taster to her forthcoming album.

There is not so much Christmas spirit but an awful lot of pain in ‘Love Left Lost’, the second single from Brighton-based singer-songwriter JOSH McGOVERN. Quite which subterranean depths that voice comes from is hard to say but the tragedy is delivered over minimal acoustic and with soulful backing vocals on the choruses.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of blues guitarist LUTHER ALLISON Ruf records have released a limited edition eleven disc box set of his later work. As a taster there is a 7” vinyl single: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and ‘Night Life’. The lead track starts with a deceptively simple Hammond organ and Luther waits until the chorus comes round for the band to kick in and then it takes off with some wonderful “doo-de-doo” backing vocals.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 22Following four independent releases, Ontario siblings THE ABRAMS BROTHERS mark their major label debut with a self-titled EP (Warner Music 237811), a six tracker collection of country tinted pop that kicks off with ‘Champion’, a number that mixes together American Football’s ‘When The Summer Ends’ and Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ in a way that echoes fellow Canadians Barenaked Ladies. The latter can also be heard on the jaunty banjo jogalong ‘Fine’, its summery vibe also washing through ‘Still In Love’ a stadium-style ballad with another lyric about sustaining romance in the face of change.

‘Perfect’ is another bouncy track that follows their template of toe-tapping melody and a big chorus rush as is the last cut, the rhythmically scampering ‘Spend Your Life With Me’, while, sandwiched in-between is the EP’s other mid-tempo love song, ‘Miracles’, it’s chorus again encouraging arms aloft swaying. They already have a solid reputation in Canada and, if this gets the international airplay it deserves, there’s no reason why they couldn’t follow in the footsteps of both BNL and that other fellow countryman, Bryan Adams.

Singles Bar 22ROBERT LANE releases a delightful summer single, ‘Right By My Side’ which is now available to preorder from iTunes. It opens with solo acoustic guitar before the band and strings join in and there is a lovely electric guitar fill towards the end. It reminds me a bit of The Kinks’ ‘Days’ although really they have nothing in common apart from the sunny feeling.

Singles Bar 22The son of the late great king of skiffle, Lonnie Donegan, PETER DONEGAN has long been fronting his own band playing a mix of his dad’s classics and his own material, releasing a debut album in the same vein back in 2009. However, it’s long been his ambition to make a full on self-penned country record, one that comes to fruition with the self-released 5-track Superman EP. Recorded in Nashville with sessioneers whose credits include Krauss, Lynn and Morrison, it’s a fine set that gets underway with the mid-tempo radio friendly jingling title track with Bob Williams on dobro. The pace is a little slower for the soulful swayer ‘I’m Yours’ with its organ backing an lyrical nod to Van’s ‘Into The Mystic’ indicating the influences at work.

With its plangent electric guitar and mandolin, ‘Ode To A Friend’ starts slow but builds to a sprightlier number with piano and marching drums, while, a song to his son, the steady Hammond-backed balladeering of ‘Little Man’ adopts a more acoustic approach.

For the five-minute closer ‘Shakin’’, the hints of hints of father’s voice are enveloped in a strong Southern blues groove with a fierce electric guitar solo that suggests this is likely to prove a bit of a live stormer.

Singles Bar 22From Portland, Oregon comes AVERY LEVINE who spent five years living in Dublin, a time which clearly had a profound effect on him to judge by his debut EP, Lonesome City. He plays bouzouki and flute and mixes traditional Irish songs and tunes with his own compositions. The flute solos, ‘Seán Ó Duibhir a Ghleanna/Statia Donnelly’s’ and ‘Patsy Hanley’s/The Boys Of Ballisodare/The Crosses Of Annagh’, are nice enough, as is ‘Herbert Park’ (about a public park in Dublin), but Avery seems to be trying too hard to sound like a Dubliner and the opener, ‘Coins On The Ground’, sounds a bit forced. His singing style is also rather intense and even on the best track, ‘Lonesome City’, it would be nice to hear him sing in his natural voice.

Singles Bar 22JEANES is essentially a vehicle for Yorkshire-based songwriter and guitarist Russell Jeanes, debut EP Sleeping Leaves (Folkstock) a four track collection of songs to do with nature, brought into being after gathering dust for thirty years and featuring three different female vocalists. Recorded in a Parisian garden, Catherine Hershey fronts the first two, the breathily sung ‘Simply Jayne’ with its courtly troubadour arrangement and the sound of blackbirds, and the similarly styled ‘Barley, Hops & Yeast’, a metaphorical love song built around the origins of alcohol with its circling guitar pattern and strings, redolent of the sun on golden country fields.

The birds chirping again, the equally breathy Emily Grace Zornado takes over for the plucked acoustic ‘Smiles With Her Eyes’, the double-tracked vocals recorded in Danielson National Park then its off to Brussels for the strings-enrobed arrangement of the pastoral headiness of ‘Trees Hug Bees’ sung in childlike tones by Lea Duncan. Bewitching stuff.

Singfles Bar 22CIRCE’S DINER are Rosina Buck and Bronte Shande who met while studying in Bristol. Their new single, ‘Who Dares’, features delicate guitar and piano accompaniment (by Paul Quinn) under striking harmonies. It’s another optimistic summer song about bouncing back from setbacks and standing up for yourself.

Singles Bar 22Husband and wife duo Jools and Malcolm Heyes are RUBY MUSE, a Cambridge duo who’ve earned comparisons as diverse as Yes, Morcheeba and Fleetwood Mac, although it’s really on the latter’s influence you’ll hear on self –released EP, Just Like You, most notably on the five-minute lo fi, sultrily sung title track opener. To be honest, never deviating from the path it sets at the start, it rather outstays its welcome, but the more concise, bluesier ‘Diamonds’ with its snap percussion is a stronger proposition. However, it’s the folksier final track, the moodily acoustic fingerpicked ‘Winter Hellebore’, a song about growth through adversity, that features African drum and tambourine that leaves you wanting to hear more.

Singles Bar 22Featuring, as it does, sax, double bass, trumpet and flugelhorn, you’ll not be surprised to hear that To Gentlemen (SoDak004), the debut release by multi-instrumentalist, producer/singer-songwriter/sessioneer Rachel Ries under her new name of HER CROOKED HEART, has some clearly discernible jazz shadings. They’re at their most obvious on the opening midtempo ‘Are You Good You Are’ with its shifting rhythms and time signatures. The two tracks in the middle are folksier, the brushed drums shuffle of ‘Adrian’ with its spoken midsection and brass warmed play-out and the simple acoustic strum of the intimately-sung ‘Loving You’, the EP ending with the piano instrumental title track. Featuring lyrics that incline to poetry, it’s an interesting taster, but this jury’s going to delay the verdict until the full album offers some more supporting evidence.

Singles Bar 22JACK COOKSON comes from Devon and was a Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominee last year. He already has several recordings to his name but his single, ‘Thistles’, is the first time his music has come to our attention. One of his early tracks was ‘Nebraska’ and you can tell that he’s a Springsteen fan – if Bruce came from Plymouth rather than New Jersey, this is how he might sound. There is no information on Jack’s band but he probably did most of it himself and somebody really should help to put him on the map.

Singles BarHailing from the North-West, ROBIN ELLIOTT is a fingerpicking troubadour folkie whose new Ben Walker-produced EP is At Sunset (Textbook). The title track with its smoky, breathy vocal delivery has ragtime nods and a guitar style reminiscent of Bert Jansch while the lazily laid-back ‘Lean Times’ conjures up a sort of calypso Paul Simon. Originally released on Folkroom’s 2015 Anthology Three, but here shorn of the organ, drums and backing vocals for just voice and nervy guitar picking, the five-minute jazzier folk ‘William V’ is a storysong about an orphan set on the notorious Broadwater Farm estate. Given that number’s traditional influences, it’s appropriate that the EP concludes with an actual tradition tune, Elliott’s Nick Drake-tinged interpretation of ‘Poor Murdered Woman’, the Roud ballad that recalls the true story of how, in 1834, the Surrey Union Hunt found a woman’s body on Leatherhead Common, Elliott’s added lines about news crews and cameramen giving it a contemporary spin.

ROBERT LANE – Ends And Starts (own label)

Ends And StartsRobert Lane is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Birmingham. He’s been paying his dues for a while, rubbing shoulders with some big names and now he has released his second album.

Ends And Starts is short, just seven tracks, and has the feeling of a Robert Lane sampler as he sets out his stall. The songs are all originals and mostly solo and acoustic. The album opens with a real bang with ‘My Love’s In Deep’ in which Robert puts together a full rock backing with the aid of producer Matthew Pinfield on drums, bass and keyboards. Here is a catchy tune married to clever words – once upon a time it would have been a hit single. It is a perfect feel-good song crystallised in four incidents at the beginning of a relationship. “Meeting you has been an unqualified success”, he sings looking forward to a happy future which we all hope will work out for him. If the rest of the album was like this it would be brilliant.

Next up is ‘It Feels Like 5000 Miles’, a song of separation. There is a mystery, however: why is the singer separated from his wife and daughter? We can only imagine but it’s not the same tale as the anti-hero of the slightly melodramatic ‘Teardrop Tattoo’. “How long has it been since I’ve been seen” he asks but instead of a measure of time the reply is the title line – a clever twist. Robert finger-picks acoustic guitar with an unobtrusive keyboard in the background and if the rest of the album was like this it would be brilliant.

‘Break My Heart Blues’ is just that – twelve bars and a shuffle beat, nothing complex here but, as always, Robert’s clever words raise the standard. The big band treatment returns for the tear-jerking ‘Alone Now’ with the lead acoustic guitar replaced by a sweet electric and the album rounds out with a simple acoustic instrumental.

If Ends And Starts was twice as long it would still be brilliant. Now, would somebody with the money and infrastructure get behind Robert and ensure that he’s not lost.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘It Feels Like 5000 Miles’: