Here they are, the results of the 2018 Folking awards. Thanks to all our writers who submitted nominations and to everyone who participated – almost 17,000 votes were cast. Every one of the nominees made an impression on our writers either on record or on stage during 2017. Without further ado, here are the top choices with percentage of the votes cast.
Soloist of the year – Richard Thompson (31.3%)
Read a short bio here (as if you really need to!).
Welcome to the 2018 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated last year. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with considered argument and arm-wrestling by the Folkmeister and the Editor.
There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2017.
As with the format 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 down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.
*The Public Vote for each category will close at 9.00pm on Sunday 1st April (GMT+1).
Soloist Of The Year
The Young’Uns have come a long way in a few short years. Strangers is their fourth studio album, coming a mere three years after they turned professional. The trio are strong singers, they enjoy the sort of on-stage banter that only good friends can get away with and they have a fine songwriter in Sean Cooney. The theme of the album is, I think, that there are no strangers, or if there are it doesn’t really make a difference. Cooney’s songs in this set are full of “ordinary” people doing extraordinary things on behalf of people they don’t necessarily know.
The album opens with ‘A Place Called England’ which suggests that we are now strangers in the country we thought we knew. They take it a bit fast for my taste but I’ve heard Maggie Holland’s original so many times that it feels “right” now. Next is ‘Ghafoor’s Bus’, the story of a grandfather from Teesside who converted a bus into a mobile kitchen and drove to Europe to feed refugees. To him, they weren’t strangers. Switching from accompanied harmony we have ‘Be The Man’ with David Eagle on piano and Michael Hughes on guitar with support from Rachael McShane on cello and a topping of flugelhorn from Jude Abbott.
‘Carriage 12’ tells the story of the terrorist attack on a French train two years ago. We’re back to unaccompanied harmony with a tune inspired by the familiar cadences of country music that suits the song perfectly. The four heroes of the attack could have run and saved themselves but they stood and fought. ‘Cable Street’ is a story familiar to all of us and ‘Dark Water’, the story of two refugees fleeing by swimming five miles of open sea, returns to the accompanied style and features Mary Ann Kennedy on harp.
Sean borrows the idea of pairing a jolly, singalong tune with a lyric that carries a serious message but he doesn’t overuse it. ‘Bob Cooney’s Miracle’ tells how fifty-seven men in the Spanish Civil War were fed from a loaf of bread and a tin of corned beef. OK, it’s not exactly Biblical but the humour makes it. Arguably, the best song is ‘These Hands’, the story of Sybil Phoenix, the first black woman to be awarded the MBE for fostering children in London but who faced racism throughout her life. The song is uplifting and ultimately ends happily. Finally we have ‘The Hartlepool Pedlar’, about a Jewish refugee named Marks who opened a shop in Leeds and took on a partner – and we all know what happened to them.
So The Young’Uns go from strength to strength with an album of great, thought-provoking stories and they probably have another forty years left in them yet.
Teesside trio The Young’uns have always had the human touch. In the space of little more than a decade – and just three years after giving up their day jobs – they have become one of UK folk music’s hottest properties and best-loved acts.
Stockton Folk Club’s star graduates clinched the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Group’ title two years running (2015 and 2016) and last year saw them spreading the net, taking their unique act and instant audience rapport to Canada, America and Australia.
With their strong songs, spellbinding harmonies and rapid fire humour, they have achieved one of the trickiest balancing acts – an ability to truly ‘make them laugh and make them cry’, while cutting straight to the heart of some of our most topical issues.
On September 29 they will unveil their fourth studio album Strangers – playing their strongest suit to date. Bold, profound and resonant it showcases the growing talents of Sean Cooney, fast becoming one of folk’s finest songwriters.
Together with Michael Hughes and David Eagle, Cooney has come up with a collection of folk songs for our time, all sensitively arranged by the 30-something trio – looking back at wartime heroes here, offering a news report for the 21st century there, turning the spotlight on injustice and ultimately celebrating the indomitable human spirit.
Setting the scene with a cover of Maggie Holland’s ‘A Place Called England’ (Best Song at 2000 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards) , the remaining songs on the 10-track album all come from the prolific pen of Cooney who manages to combine unflinching, sharply observed but compassionate, heartfelt lyrics.
With its ocean blue cover, Strangers looks at the stories of those that have crossed the seas to British shores and soldiers that have voyaged from here to the warfields of Europe. Paeans for the underdog have been inspired by the courage of Syrian refugees, have-a-go heroes and Gay Rights campaigners which sit seamlessly alongside narrative songs of First World War soldiers, Caribbean and Jewish immigrants, including the founder of one of our best known British High Street stores.
Not forgetting their native North East heroes, The Young’uns inspiration also comes from further afield – the banks of Spain’s River Ebro (Bob Cooney’s ‘Miracle’) and the Thalys train terrorist attack in France. (‘Carriage 12’). There are constant changes of tempo and mood, from the jaunty sing-a-long ‘Ghafoor’s Bus’, celebrating their fellow Teessider who reached out to refugees across Europe to the slow, soaring beauty of ‘Lapwings’ (as performed on BBC-TV’s Springwatch), inspired by a First World War diary entry from a soldier homesick for English fields and skies and the sublime, poetic ‘Dark Water’ where they are backed by Aldeburgh Young Musicians and Radio 3’s Mary Ann Kennedy on harp.
Stand-out song ‘Be The Man’ was inspired by the incredibly moving story of Matthew Ogston and his fiancé Nazim Mahmood – its poignancy elevated by ex Bellowhead musician Rachael McShane on cello and fiddle and Chumbawamba’s Jude Abbott on melancholic flugelhorn. Matthew reacted to Sean’s lyrics saying: “I do not have the right words to even begin to explain how your words have touched my soul and heart”.
Sean’s songs have reached some of the people who inspired them including Syrian refugee Hesham Modamani, now living in Germany and Paris-based American-Frenchman Mark Moogalian, injured in the Thalys train attack, who heard Carriage 12 and wrote to say: “Many thanks for this wonderful song – the only thing that has ever brought tears to my eyes regarding what happened that day.”
These are powerful songs prompted by remarkable stories – making for an ultimately upbeat album full of hope, echoing the lyric from ‘Ghafoor’s Bus’: “There’s a friendly face, a better place and a future for us all”
Striking a chord wherever they go, the emphatic Strangers marks a milestone chapter in The Young’uns brilliant story.
Recorded at The Chairworks in Castleford and Loft Studios in Newcastle, Strangers is produced by Neil Ferguson, released on Hereteu Records label and distributed by Proper Music.
Strangers will be showcased on an extensive UK tour (October 4-27) including a debut at London’s Union Chapel and dates at Sage Gateshead (Hall 1), Glasgow’s Oran Mor and The Sugar Club in Dublin – their first headline gig in Ireland. Support for most dates comes from The Hut People, with singer songwriter Greg Russell opening for the trio in Nottingham and Lincoln.
Taken from the forthcoming new album Strangers, set for release through Team Love Records in the UK on March 24th, songwriter Simone Felice follows up 2013’s Molly-O! single with a brand new track – Running Through My Head. Where Molly-O! arrived excited and off the rails, Running Through My Head is more introverted and isolated.
Of the track, Felice says says; “Hopefully I’m not unique in the feeling that sometimes I don’t belong. To a certain crowd, in the air conditioned nightmare, beautiful people on display, surveillance camera, ten thousand distractions of now. But every so often a stranger comes along with an open door, open arms, a laugh and a touch – we can hide for a while. I heard somebody say once that the only thing that can ruin a perfect spring day is people – except for those very few people who are like spring itself. This song is about such a one…”