Folking at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – Day 3

wb3_300Those following this blog will know that it would not be complete without an early morning campsite folking shower report – although those on-site would have had a deluge of their own later in the day when KT “rain goddess” Tunstall took to the stage and opened the heavens – but more on that later. My first shower was at 5.00am, an hour earlier than the day before! Perhaps it was the excitement of the previous 2 days, or perhaps it was just the the showers but Cambridge was not awarding me much sleep.

Breabach danceAs I was finishing the day 2 blog We Banjo 3 took to the main stage, a quintet from Galway playing Irish, bluegrass and American old time music. From what I saw on the #CFF13 @CamFolkFest twitter feed they were definitely making many instant fans and got Saturday stage 1 off to a rousing start. Next up were the mighty Breabach, a tour de force in the Scottish music scene. They had a great array of weaponry on hand including: highland bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, double bass, mandolin, bazouki and even included a set dance by fiddle payer, Megan Henderson.

Saturday Cambs FF CrowdBoth SOC (Son of Clicker – the folking photographer) and I knew that getting to see everything today was going to be tough with all 3 stages in full swing. In fact panic set in and we ran around like headless chickens for a bit until coming to our senses and catching the end of the Festival Session, hosted by Battlefield Band and Feast of Fiddles academic legend Brian McNeil. This was a one off line-up featuring: The Chair, Frigg, The Rambling Boys of Pleasure, Radio 2 young folk award winners Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Martin Simpson, Le Vent du Nord and We Banjo 3 again.

Hop and a skip back to the Stage 1 to see Martin Simpson performing a guitar master class wrapped up in his usual exemplary solo set kind of way which included favourites like the you were never any good with money gem Prodigal Son and Jackie and Murphy, a story song of an epic true tale of bravery, donkeys and Gallipoli.

Thea Gilmore CFFManaged to then catch the end of the talented and velvet voiced Heidi Talbot on stage 2 as she left us all going up and down her music tree, Korrontzi from Northern Spain were next up and made you feel part of a Basque hill town knees up for a short while (it was great to see Thea Gilmore dancing along to them back stage). It wasn’t long until Thea took center stage with her full band line up which included producer, husband and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Stonier. Thea definitely showed off her folk credentials by giving us a faultless performance of Pity the Poor Immigrant. Thea then belted out the Radio 2 A listed song Start As We Mean To Go On, before ending with what for me was the highlight of the day, a perfect rendition to the stunning London with her little lad taking center stage on the fiddle. Sandy Denny who wrote the lyrics to this song is my folk heroine and Thea is equally addictive.

There was only one way to come down and that was to head over to the club tent and catch State Of The Union, aka Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams. In the grand tradition of ‘The Special Relationship’, State Of The Union combines the talents of America and England, producing an end result that delighted the club tent crowd with hook-laden songs, fiery and emotional guitar playing and soulful vocals. By this time I had a few jars of Ringwood’s finest Boon Doggle ale and was amusing myself by keeping the girls at the bar on their toes and coming up with different names for it. The firm favourite was Moon Poodle!

Fully Protected & The Moon PoodleThe Moon Poodle was listening as the heavens opened and the poodle piddled down on us as KT Tunstall hit the stage. A great set followed, my favourite being Other Side of the World or dark side of the poodle moon by the Black horse and a cherry tree, no that one actually came later… but don’t blame it on the Sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, blame it on the Boggle. I was past caring as I was now focused on keeping the umbrella in the right place for KT’s Mexican “brella” wave!

I caught a bit of the Mavericks but it was definitely time to head back to Coldham’s before I did myself mischief…

The folkmaster

STATE OF THE UNION (Boo Hewerdine & Brooks Williams)

In the grand tradition of ‘The Special Relationship’, State Of The Union combines the talents of America and England, producing an end result that is sure to delight fans of hook-laden songs, fiery and emotional guitar playing and soulful vocals. Tapping into a multitude of influences, from Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash to Blind Lemon Jefferson, the wide open Fenlands and the frenetic buzz of London, State Of The Union is a masterclass in songwriting, showing off the talents of bluesy Americana stalwart Brooks Williams and cult British singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine to full effect.

When Brooks was called in at the eleventh hour to replace the billed Special Guests at Boo’s annual Christmas shindig, the seeds for State Of The Union were sown. “Boo rang me up that morning and asked: ‘Could you, would you?’ To which I responded, ‘Yes’”, explains Brooks. “The audience loved it. We loved it, and soon we were playing together as often as our schedules allowed, and working on a collaborative album.”

With both men bringing songs to the table, and collaborating on new material, the chemistry between the duo was undeniable as a torrent of creativity was unleashed in Boo’s living room. Making rough demos on their iPhones, the decision was made to record the songs proper at the Kyoti Studio in Glasgow. A week was booked, but just as the songs had flowed so freely, the pair cut the album in a mere one and half days, recording the songs in the order they appear on the album. With production handled by Mark Freegard (Pete Townshend, Del Amitri, Marillion), the album is intimate and captivating, like a concert delivered in your living room. Two guys, two guitars and a handful of great songs.

Album opener ‘Darkness’, a slice of dusty Americana, sees Williams’ smooth vocals riding on top of his slick, slide guitar playing. Conjuring images of a battered frontiersman returning home, the song is a masterpiece of concise story telling. ‘23 Skidoo’ by Hewerdine is a wryly humorous look at the bitter-sweet nature of life, no sooner have you got a grip on things and you’re forced to move on. With its 1920s rag-style guitar parts harking back to the era that gave birth to the phrase, the song has all the hallmarks of an old classic, belying its contemporary nature.

With a sharp turn, the pair’s take on ‘Rent’ flips the Pet Shop Boys’ song on its head, taking the electro-pop original and dressing it in wiry slide guitar, with Hewerdine’s voice bringing an aching honesty to the lyrics. Whether it’s authentic Americana, delicate ballads, re imagining modern pop or a new take on the classic standard ‘Peg And Awl’, the union of Williams and Hewerdine is in a wildly creative state, producing one of the year’s must-have albums.

‘A slice of Americana at its finest!’ – fRoots
‘Deft, tasteful guitar chops’
– Rolling Stone
‘A beautiful album, full of classy playing and great songs’– Acoustic Magazine

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