BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – the winners

Radio 2 Folk Awards

Leonard Cohen inducted into Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame
Dervish and Wizz Jones win Lifetime Achievement Awards

The winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2019 have been announced in a ceremony presented by Mark Radcliffe at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester as part of the Manchester Folk Festival. The ceremony was also broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds.

The full list of winners

The Horizon Award for best emerging act – presented by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
Brìghde Chaimbeul

Musician of the Year – presented by Blue Peter’s Lindsey Russell
Seckou Keita

Best Original Track – presented by comedian, writer and musician Rich Hall
I Burn But I Am Not Consumed’, written by Karine Polwart and Steven Polwart

Best Duo or Group – presented by Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison
Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita

Best Traditional Track – presented by award winning author, Joanne Harris
The Foggy Dew’ by Ye Vagabonds

Life Achievement Awards were given to:
Wizz Jones – presented by singer and founding member of The Hollies, Allan Clarke
Dervish – presented by journalist and BBC Breakfast presenter, Steph McGovern

Best Album – presented by musician and songwriter Graham Gouldman, of 10cc
Hide And Hair by The Trials of Cato

Folk Singer of the Year – presented by actor and comedian, Miranda Richardson
Ríoghnach Connolly

Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame
Leonard Cohen

During the evening, contemporary folk musician and singer Maddie Morris, who is based in Leeds, was presented with the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. It was presented to her by folk duo and former winners of the award, Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar.

The Radio 2 Young Folk Award is an educational talent contest, open to musicians from the UK aged 16-21, that exists to discover the next generation of folk and acoustic acts. Eight shortlisted acts performed at a public concert at the HOME venue in Manchester on Tuesday 15th October and from those acts, Maddie was chosen as the winner by a panel of judges. This year marks the 21st annual Young Folk Award.

Leonard Cohen was inducted to the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame, joining such past greats like Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Woody Guthrie, Ewan MacColl and Cecil Sharp. Leonard (1934 –2016) was a Canadian singer best known for his seminal song, Hallelujah (1984) which has been covered by over 300 vocalists including John Cale, Jeff Buckley, k.d. Lang and Alexandra Burke.  He embarked on a world tour in 2008-2010, which saw him perform on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival (2008) and in 2018, he won a Grammy Award for best rock performance for You Want It Darker, joining the likes of David Bowie and Ray Charles who have also received awards posthumously. The BBC Two documentary Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love, which tells the beautiful yet tragic love story of Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

As a tribute, singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore performed Cohen’s 1984 song, ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’, during the ceremony at Bridgewater Hall this evening. Thea, who has just released her 16th studio album at 39 years old, has gathered a host of high-profile advocates from likes of Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez to Neil Gaiman. Her latest album, Small World Turning, is an entirely independent album that echoes the changing political and social landscape of 2019 Britain.

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2 said: “A huge congratulations to all of the winners at the Radio 2 Folk Awards tonight. I am delighted that at Radio 2, we can keep celebrating the very best of folk music every year, and we’re honoured to have witnessed such an array of sensational performances on stage this evening in Manchester.”

Lifetime Achievement Award winners Dervish, who performed at the ceremony this evening, have been bringing Irish traditional music to the world for 30 years, and have played at festivals across the globe – from Rock In Rio to Glastonbury. The band features some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians, and is fronted by one of the country’s best known singers, Cathy Jordan.

Shane Mitchell from Dervish says: “We are thrilled and so delighted to be receiving this very special honour at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, particularly as this is the 30th anniversary of the band.”

Influential folk and blues guitarist Wizz Jones, also a winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award this year, is admired and emulated by some of folk and rock’s greatest players. On the 1960s club scene, he was an early influence on the likes of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. Bruce Springsteen is among the artists to have covered Wizz’s songs. At 80 years old, he still tours the country, regularly performing live with his son, Simeon Jones, and fellow guitarist Pete Berryman. Wizz also performed at the Radio 2 Folk Awards this evening.

Wizz Jones says: “I am so surprised to get this award so thanks a million to whoever suggested it!”

Opening the show was Manchester band Edward II, who fuse English and Jamaican influences. Young English voice Kitty Macfarlane joined the band on stage. There were also fantastic performances from Welsh-Senegalese duo Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, English folk singer-songwriter Kate Rusby and O’Hooley & Tidow, who performed their song Gentleman Jack, which featured in the BBC One TV show of the same name. Dervish were also joined on stage during their performance by Kate Rusby, for a version of Down By The Salley Gardens, which then exploded into thrilling Irish tunes.

Mark Radcliffe was also presented with a special Folk Award during the ceremony this evening by Ralph McTell, to celebrate his 40 years in radio. Mark started at Piccadilly Radio in 1979 as an assistant producer of drama and classical music, then in 1981 presented his first show, titled Transmission. In 1983 he become a producer at BBC Radio 1 and went on to present the Breakfast Show and Afternoon Show with Marc Riley, before joining Radio 2 in 2004 where, in 2007, he began co-hosting The Radcliffe & Maconie Show with Stuart. And in 2011 they joined the BBC Radio 6 Music family. Mark presents The Folk Show on Radio 2 on Wednesday evenings, 9pm-10pm.

The Radio 2 Folk Awards will be available to listen to for 30 days after the live broadcast on BBC Sounds. Plus, selected highlights can be heard the following week on BBC Radio 2’s The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe (Wednesday 23rd October, 9pm-10pm).

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards are produced by 7digital.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2019/folk-awards-winners

 

THE LOST WORDS – Spell Songs (Folk By The Oak QRCD004)

Having held the unofficial job title “wordsmith” in various contexts for several decades, I was not going to miss the opportunity of hearing and reviewing an album with the title The Lost Words: Spell Songs. Especially as one of the highly-talented musicians involved in the project is Karine Polwart, whose Laws Of Motion CD I reviewed with some enthusiasm here.

It turns out that this is a multi-faceted project with a complicated backstory. Some years ago, the Oxford Junior Dictionary began to replace some of the words it defined with words that were considered to be more in keeping with the lives led by children today, so that words relating to religion and to the natural world – like bird and flower names – were replaced by words related to various aspects of information technology (for example). Robert MacFarlane was one of 28 authors – among the others were Margaret Atwood, Michael Morpurgo, and Andrew Motion – who wrote to Oxford University Press asking them to reconsider, specifically with reference to words “associated with nature and the countryside“. (I don’t intend to get into that argument here, but the OUP’s argument is that while the number of words included in the OJD is a limiting factor, the kind of words that critics want restored do feature in their much-expanded range of dictionaries for children.)

MacFarlane then went on to write a poetry book called The Lost Words: A Spell Book, published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, with watercolour illustrations by Jackie Morris. As it says on the web site, the poems in the book “are called ‘spells’ rather than poems as they are designed to be spoken (or sung!) out loud in order to summon back these words and creatures into our hearts.” The book has inspired a number of musical and multi-media projects, but Spell Songs is the result of a collaborative project commissioned by Folk By The Oak. The CD is available in a hardback book format (a limited-edition double vinyl album box set is also available and includes the CD book).

Sadly, the review CD is a promo copy without the book, but it looks from the web site as if the book would be worth the money for the illustrations alone. But while I haven’t seen the ‘spells’ in isolation, the music certainly sets them off beautifully. Here’s the track list.

  1. ‘Heartwood’
  2. ‘Selkie-Boy’
  3. ‘Kingfisher’
  4. ‘Heron’
  5. ‘Little Astronaut’
  6. ‘Acorn’
  7. ‘Ghost Owl’
  8. ‘The Snow Hare’
  9. ‘Conker (Magic Casket)’
  10. ‘Papa Kéba’
  11. ‘Charm on, Goldfinch’
  12. ‘Willow’
  13. ‘Scatterseed’
  14. ‘The Lost Words Blessing’

The eight musicians all contribute vocals, but also contribute individual instruments as follows:

  • Karine Polwart: tenor guitar, Indian harmonium
  • Julie Fowlis: shruti box and whistles
  • Seckou Keita: kora
  • Kris Drever: acoustic, electric & bass guitars
  • Kerry Andrew: melodica
  • Rachel Newton: electroharp, fiddle, viola
  • Beth Porter: whistling, cello, ukulele
  • Jim Molyneux: piano, Rhodes, synth, accordion, drums, percussion

With this range of singers and instrumentalists, there is much more variation in the material presented here than you might have expected, given their common source, though that unifying theme gives each piece an emotional impact that goes far beyond the introspection of run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter fare. The arrangements, singing and playing are all excellent. And I think I know what one of my wife’s birthday presents is going to be this year. That way I get to read the book as well as hearing some very beautiful music.

David Harley

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Artist’s website: https://www.thelostwords.org/

[Book ISBN13: 9780241253588]

‘The Lost Words Blessing’ – official video: