FolkEast announces first names for 2020

FolkEast

As Early Bird tickets go on sale for the eighth FolkEast, England’s most easterly folk festival, organisers have announced the awesome Afro Celt Sound System will headline Saturday night.

The Grammy Award-nominated supergroup are past masters at fusing electronica with traditional Irish and West African music, producing a scintillating, high energy stage set. Formed back in 1995 by producer-guitarist Simon Emmerson, they won Best Group at the 2017 Songlines Music Awards.

Explosively combining folk traditions from contrasting cultures to breath-taking effect their number includes The Dhol Foundation’s drumming sensation Johnny Kalsi (no stranger to FolkEast), vocalist, kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté, bodhrán player and percussionist Robbie Harris and Armagh-born vocalist and flautist Rioghnach Connolly (The Breath), winner of Folk Singer of the Year at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Now firmly established on the UK folk calendar, Suffolk’s decidedly quirky festival will return to the glorious Constable-esque grounds of Elizabethan Glemham Hall between August 21-23, offering diverse performances on no less than seven stages – from local acts to international stars. Early Bird tickets will be on sale right through the festive period, until January 6, representing great savings. https://folkeast.co.uk/2020tickets-3/

Alongside the festival’s hugely popular, multi award-winning patrons, The Young’ uns (Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle), FolkEast is delighted to announce eight top level acts from its highly anticipated line-up.

Heading for the main stage will be the sublime, seamless partnership of Welsh harpist Catrin Finch with Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita. The exquisite pair clinched the Best Duo/Group award at this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, with Keita also winning the coveted Musician of the Year title.

FolkEast loves its Celtic connections and this year will be no exception. Flying the flag for Scotland will be three superb acts. Pedigree triumvirate Drever, McCusker, Woomble sees master fiddler John McCusker joining forces with Orkney-born singer songwriter Kris Drever and Idlewild’s lead singer Roddy Woomble.

Named the Best Live Act at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2018, quintet Elephant Sessions will head to Suffolk from the Scottish Highlands with their unique brand of indie folk while the powerhouse sextet of female instrumentalists that is The Shee (including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year 2017, harpist Rachel Newton) are sure to have the wow factor with their adventurous blend of Scottish folk, Gaelic song and bluegrass.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band takes folk legend Knight’s original Gigspanner trio (himself, Roger Flack and Sacha Tronchet) and fuses them with the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’ winners Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (Edgelarks) and erstwhile Bellowhead star John Spiers to make something truly special, bursting with invention, enigma and grace. Though all the musicians have played FolkEast in their separate guises (including the debut performance of Knight and Spiers as a duo) this is the first time the Big Band has headed to Glemham Hall.

Brighton’s big band with a difference, The Moulettes have also been confirmed – described as an “eclectic art rock band’ they journey their way through rock, prog, pop and psychedelic folk.

Finally new kids on the block The Trials of Cato will be coming to the party.

Formed whilst they were all living and working in Beirut, Tomas Williams, Will Addison and Robin Jones are one of the fast-rising acts in folk and earlier this year won the Best Album gong at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, for their hugely impressive debut CD, Hide and Hair.

One of the most singular events on the UK festival calendar, FolkEast was launched seven years ago by husband and wife John and Becky Marshall-Potter.

Rekindling the ancient Eastfolk moots on the Glemham Hall estate where for three days a year the folk from the East would meet kith and kin at harvest time for “a bit of a do”, this gathering celebrates Suffolk at every turn -from its locally sourced fare to its suppliers, arts and crafts.

Says Becky: “Our aim is to create three blissful, fun-packed days when the outside world can be forgotten, a community can be formed and quality time had with family and friends.

Whilst FolkEast may be one of the smaller, independent festivals, it’s an event with big ideas – and plenty of them. As well as the main Sunset and Moot Hall stages (programmed by The Young’uns Michael Hughes), four further stages are programmed by independent local promoters and music organisations – John and Lynne Ward’s Broad Roots stage, Fiona Davies’ dance tent, Xenia Horne’s Sanctuary Stage (at the Glemham Hall estate church) and Amy Wragg’s ‘Get Off The Soapbox’ stage, powered by a solar bus in a mystical woodland setting.

There is plenty on tap for children – the Folk Moot young folk club sessions, a Sports Day, animation workshops, den building, storybook making, a mud kitchen and a chance to create your own jellyfish for the Soapbox Sunday Jellyfish Parade.

The festival offers fine Suffolk fayre, two authentic ‘village’ pubs serving competitively-priced, locally sourced ales and ciders (including Suffolk-based Green Jack Brewery’s festival ale Green Jackalope) as well as the popular imaGINe gin bar and possibly the smallest pub in the UK, the 6 x 4’ Halfway Inn! This year will also see a return of Truly Traceable’s Jackalope pie – a salute to the festival’s mystical mascot The Jackalope (half antelope, half Jack Rabbit) which every year keeps a beady eye on the event from the centre of the site.

Then there’s the FolkEast Art Arcade, ‘Instrumental’, featuring a wide range of instrument makers, a packed dance programme, archery, donkey rides, the Eastfolk Kinodrome (showing folk and local interest films) and tours of Glemham Hall by estate owner Major Philip Cobbold.

FolkEast continues to embrace green initiatives. Says John: “Right from the inception of the festival we have worked hard to be as sustainable as possible and we are proud to hold Suffolk’s Gold Charter Award. Our ongoing aim is to further reduce our carbon footprint and 2019 saw a huge reduction in single use plastic on the site and hardly a trace of litter at the clear-up.”

On board again this year as a media partner will be BBC Radio Suffolk.

The Early Bird Festive Ticket offer is now open until January 6, 2019. Advance weekend tickets are available price £120 (adult), £108 (full time students, 65+) and £80 for Youth tickets (12-17 year old) which must be purchased with an adult ticket. Family weekend tickets for two adults and two 12-17 year olds (and up to 3 under 11s) are £365. A great offer sees free admission for children aged 11 and under; camping under canvas is £20 and camping on wheels £30. More information: info@folkeast.co.uk

The Shee Cancel Continuum Autumn 2017 Tour

Continuum
Photograph by Louise Bichan

We are very sorry to announce that our October tour will no longer be taking place. We were due to play at Nettlebed Village Club, Pitville Pump (Cheltenham), MAC Birmingham and ARC Stockton on Tees, but as two of our band members are currently dealing with serious health issues – Olivia is current undergoing chemotherapy, while Rachel is just out of surgery – we have decided not to go ahead on this occasion. Though we have looked at ways to continue with deps, we just don’t think we can do the gigs without two integral members of our team. We will be back on the road next year, and would like to thank the venues for being so understanding of the situation. For all those that had bought tickets, please do get in touch with the respective venue. With love, The Shee x

Described as ‘a sophisticated, unexpectedly emotional set’ (The Guardian), The Shee’s most recent album, Continuum, has captivated both critics and audiences alike since it was launched at Celtic Connections in January 2016.

The Shee is:

Lillias Kinsman-Blake: flute, graphics and visuals
Shona Mooney: fiddle
Rachel Newton: harp, vocals
Olivia Ross: fiddle, vocals
Laura-Beth Salter: mandolin, vocals
Amy Thatcher: accordion, clog dancer

Continuum was conceived in order to celebrate The Shee’s tenth anniversary. Each member of the band commissioned a British folk musician hero to write an original piece specifically with the band in mind. The musicians chosen were: Andy Cutting, Brian Finnegan, Karine Polwart, Martin Simpson, Kathryn Tickell and Chris Wood, and the pieces given their world premiere at Celtic Connections 2016.

THE SHEE – Continuum (Shee Records SHEE4)

ContinuumThe concept behind Continuum, supported by Celtic Connections, was to celebrate their tenth anniversary by having each of them commission a musician of their choice to write a piece of music for the album. That’s only half the story, of course, for the band had then to arrange the music for six players and write some pieces to bind the whole thing together.

The opening song is ‘From The Shadows’ by Laura-Beth Salter. It’s a powerful call to arms to … ah, well. It could be a feminist piece, the logical first thought, but it could be a warning to the rich and powerful that the poor and oppressed aren’t going to take it any more. Next come two atmospheric pieces by Kathryn Tickell; one evoking the borders and the other with a Scandinavian feel. The playing, needless to say, is exquisite.

Rachel Newton commissioned Karine Polwart and the result is ‘Song For Mary’. The Mary in question is Mary Brooksbank, composer of ‘The Jute Mill Song’ and an archive recording of one verse forms the introduction. We’re not told that it’s Mary herself but I’d like to think it is. Amy Thatcher naturally turned to a box-player and who better than Andy Cutting? Olivia Ross’ choice was Chris Wood who shares the credit for ‘Cradle Song’ with lyricist Hugh Lupton. The Shee turns what could be a pretty little song into something quite strange so you’re not sure whether this a mother singing to her baby from the safety of a warm fireside or struggling home from the storm outside.

Laura-Beth, Amy and Shona Mooney provide the next two tune sets with Shona responsible for the wonderfully titled ‘The Vampire Rabbit Of Newcastle’. Olivia wrote ‘Precious Tears’, a song for children – possibly the band members’ own – and Brian Finnegan wrote a trio of tunes with Lillias- Kinsman-Blake’s flute and a journey through India in mind. Finally, we have Martin Simpson’s song for his mother. ‘Dance With Me’ might be seen as the companion-piece to ‘Never Any Good’. Laura-Beth sings it and plays mandolin where Martin would use guitar and the band play what is almost an orchestral accompaniment.

Continuum is a monument to musical collaboration and the exchange of ideas but more than that, it is a tribute to six exceptionally talented musicians.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://theshee.com/

‘Ower Late For The Lasses/Sheepolska’ and more with Kathryn Tickell live at Celtic Connections 2016:

Top composers join The Shee to celebrate ten years

Top composers join The Shee to celebrate ten years
Photograph by David Boni

Multi instrumentalists and festival favourites, The Shee, have reached the ten-year milestone in their action-packed career, and intend to celebrate by creating a brand new body of original work.

Following three albums and a hectic touring schedule, the six members of the band have each approached a composer hero to write an original piece of music ahead of a prestigious premiere at Celtic Connections 2016.

The composers will then join The Shee on stage to introduce their piece and perform with the band as each is performed for the first time.

The composers are, in alphabetical order:

Andy Cutting
Brian Finnegan
Karine Polwart
Martin Simpson
Kathryn Tickell
Chris Wood   

The Shee’s accordionist, Amy Thatcher, said: ‘We can’t quite believe our luck: we’re getting some of the most influential musicians and composers on the current British folk scene to write original music for us. It’s going to be an incredible experience, and the perfect way to celebrate ten years of making music as The Shee.’

Following the premiere at Celtic Connections on 15 January 2016, the band will head back to the studio to work on a new album for release later that year.

Artists’ website: theshee.com  

Rachel Newton – The Shadow Side

To say this album is understated, would be no overstatement. Shot through with an arresting delicacy that simply wills you to listen, it possesses a naked simplicity that radiates beauty. Whether it be singing, or playing the harp or fiddle, Rachel performs with an effortless allure that speaks to your innermost senses. Meticulously recorded by Mattie Foulds, The Shadow Side captures an intimacy that is nurtured by the sparing arrangements. With the crisp lucidity of Rachel’s playing and singing always to the fore, the restrained accompaniment of occasional guitar and percussion serves to accentuate a tenderness that boasts warmth and sincerity.

“Green Willow” will be one of the most truly beautiful songs you will hear all year, taming the assured vocals of Kris Drever to deliver a duet of unrelenting intensity and charm; it’s a performance that would surely melt even the hardest of hearts. Rachel pulls off a similar feat on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” imbuing it with a fragility that is almost harrowing.

The apprehensive eeriness of the sparse opening melody to “The Discoboat,” plucked slowly but determinedly on the harp, makes for an unsettling minute with sinister undertones, before giving way to a more animated melody where the sense of foreboding gives way to a sense of adventure. The title track lives up to its shadowy title; a gorgeous lament filled with longing, played with the utmost restraint and sensitivity.

There are buoyant offerings too, springing forth from Rachel’s harp with boundless energy and abandon, yet retaining the potency of the more reflective moments. The trio of tunes “The Last Minute / The Groupie / Height Of Rudeness” gathers momentum as it progresses towards its slightly manic close, showcasing the harp’s hypnotic combination of depth and agility. “Soundboards And Sockets” is another busy melody with its heady concoction of frantic fervour.

The album closes with the Gaelic song “Am Bruadar Ud a Chunnaic Mi,” sung over a mournful harmonium and yielding the most heartfelt and heartbreaking desolation; it’s endlessly captivating.

Rachel Newton can most often be found performing as part of The Shee or the Emily Portman Trio, but with The Shadow Side she quietly and assuredly places her solo accomplishments in full view.

Mike Wilson

Artist Web link: http://www.rachelnewtonmusic.com/

RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

Whisper this, but I hadn’t been to for twenty years. I had felt it was getting too big for my personal comfort – when I first went there was one campsite, now there are seven – but an insistent invitation drew me back this year. In fact what are bigger are the camper vans, the folding chairs and, dare I say, the waistlines. We older and …er…more substantial punters do like our comforts. Some aspects of the festival are more technological and sophisticated. The bar is a marvel of mobile opulence although initially no more efficient than in the days when there was one Wadsworth’s lorry, lots of barrels and one choice of beer. That’s no reflection on the brilliant bar-staff, by the way, but logistics do sometimes let the side down.

An innovation during my absence is the big screen which, in between displaying safety information, “televises” the show. It can be a boon for those at the top of the field although it’s often obscured by a forest of flagpoles. The interesting thing is that even down the hill at the front, unless you’re actually leaning on the pit barrier, you find yourself watching the screen, not the performers. Sure, you get 10 foot high images of John Tams’ face and Graeme Taylor’s plectrum technique but it feels wrong. If they could just pipe it into the cable TV network we wouldn’t actually have to go there. Er…maybe not.

Everything else is pretty much the same. The stewards are unobtrusive, laid-back and helpful and with road closures around the site their help was invaluable. The familiar spirit of the festival remains. Two examples that I heard about: one couple left their car keys in the door when they went to bed and woke to find the car locked and the keys safely guarded and a purse containing credit cards and a good deal of money was lost overnight and returned intact the following day. I’m not sure where else that would happen. T-shirts remain the badges of identification and mutual recognition although in general clothes are less outré – that goes with the Aldi and Tesco carrier bags. There are still more food concessions than can you eat from without the aid of a tapeworm, lots of silly hats to buy and, increasingly important as one gets older, civilised toilets. Don’t laugh, it’s important. And despite promising myself that I wouldn’t visit the CD store, I failed to keep my promise.

The rain loitered with intent on Thursday afternoon but stayed away as Fairport Convention opened the proceedings with a short and none too serious acoustic set followed by Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts and Blair Dunlop. Hearing ‘Walk Awhile’ as the second song really sets you up for the weekend. Bob Harris introduced Home Service as the evening’s compère, John Tams, was too modest to introduce himself. It is so good to have the band back together although it has to be said that their failure to invite Bill Caddick to return raises awkward questions. Their set was familiar material – new boy Paul Archibald had to learn another back catalogue after all – and, in the current climate, it was impossible to listen to ‘Alright Jack’ and ‘Sorrow’ without reflecting on how little things have changed.

Hayseed Dixie might be considered a one trick pony but they perform the trick very well, although I have my reservations about their interpretations of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. A couple of serious moments were hidden in the rockgrass but I’m not sure if anybody noticed. They had a lot of fans at the festival, particularly among those who found Home Service too intellectually challenging to actually bother listening to. UB40 closed the day – slick, professional and, I have to admit, not my thing at all.

Before it actually opens to the public the arena is rather eerie. I watched Seasick Steve sound-checking with his pounding drums reverberating around the empty site. Steve was Friday’s headliner and I still can’t make up my mind whether he’s the great original everyone reckons he is or a charming old fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I love his music, but I don’t buy into his story. If I’m right he’s only following in the tradition of Bob Dylan who, in his early days, fed interviewers the most outrageous lies and watched them lap up everything he said. Listen to Folksinger’s Choice for prima facie evidence.

Moore Moss Rutter provided a suitably relaxed start to Friday, another day when the weather couldn’t make its mind up. The Travelling Band began with a Blind Lemon Jefferson tune which felt like a smart move. They moved on to their own material variously augmented by viola, cello and brass and played an exciting set which was also VERY loud. I rather liked them despite that but the contrast in approach was hard on Steve Tilston who had to follow them. I also like Steve and his partnership with The Durbevilles feels like a very natural match on a song like ‘Jackaranda’. This was a good set and The Oxenhope EP was one of my purchases. Charlie Dore provided yet more country-style music – the theme of the day, it seems. I found her set rather relaxing which was good for the late afternoon slot but I confess that I was waiting for The Dylan Project.

Like his hero, Steve Gibbons is seventy this year. How did that happen? Everything about him is unique from his look to his guitar style and the way he used to make Keith Richards appear the picture of robust good health. They played a tight set with none of Steve’s extemporising as they mixed the downbeat – ‘Dark Eyes’, ‘Sweetheart Like You’ and ‘Cold Irons Bound’ – with the simpler sentiments of ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’ and ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ seemed a most appropriate choice given the events of the preceding week.

The Urban Folk Quartet was another band who benefited from my visit to the record stall but they had released a live album at a special Cropredy price and I wasn’t about to pass that up. UFQ are another band who have found a new approach to traditional music. Frank Moon’s oud features heavily, Joe Broughton seems to play more guitar than fiddle but who’s counting, Paloma Trigas is a bundle of energy and Tom Chapman joins a small roster of singing percussionists. If you haven’t heard them yet, you really should.

The Coral: ahead of their time or brilliantly retro? They included ‘Ticket To Ride’ in a spectacular show of their 21st century rock and would have made a better final act. It was unfortunate that there was a delay before Seasick Steve took to the stage. There was none of the redneck southerner schtick you get on TV and he seemed rather low key. I chose to watch him from the top of the field to see how he would work with such a big crowd and sad to say people around me were drifting away into the cold night long before the end of his set. I’d like to see him live in a smaller, more intimate, venue but so meteoric has been his rise to fame that he doesn’t play small gigs any more.

Richard Digance is a fixture as Saturday’s opener. Part comic, part social commentator and all warm-up man he did a superb job, getting the crowd on its feet doing silly things and listening to some serious songs – ‘Jobs’ is absolutely brilliant. It’s a combination that pulled the audience together and pointed it in the right direction. Next up, it was lovely finally to see The Shee on stage: fiddles, flute, mandolin, accordion, harp and voices performing their mixture of Scottish and American music and songs. I like the way they wear their posh frocks on stage, too.

Blockheads without Ian Dury: does it work? Well, the sun came out and England won a test match while they were on stage so I guess it does. The band isn’t exactly the same, inevitably, but in Derek “The Draw” Hussey they have a suitably eccentric lead vocalist who doesn’t attempt to imitate Dury but manages to channel his attitude. Songs like ‘Inbetweenies’ and ‘What A Waste!’ have been part of the band’s DNA for so long that they can’t fail to sound good.

My live experience of Lau suggested that they could be even louder than The Blockheads but the festival sound crew just about kept them in check. Martin Green seems to have more equipment every time I see the band – now he has a keyboard to go with his accordion and pedals adding new textures to Lau’s sound palette. The accordion was frequently used as a bass instrument with Martin playing a melody on the keyboard.

A decade ago Jim Lockhart introduced me to the art of ligging Dublin-style. This involved more pints of stout than I care to remember, being invited to a couple’s engagement party and being told by a lady with the reddest hair I’ve ever seen that my destiny was linked with the sea. As the ferry back from Rosslare didn’t sink I haven’t taken her too seriously. At the time Jim was head of production at RTÉ 2fm but in his previous life he played keyboards and flute with Horslips. Sadly they broke up before I had chance to hear them live which made their performance at Cropredy something of a milestone for me. Yes, Horslips are back, although Johnny Fean’s brother Ray now sits in for drummer Eamonn Carr. The outrageous stage clothes are gone and the band is rather more soberly dressed now but can still play those hits: ‘Dearg Doom’, ‘Trouble With A Capital T’, ‘Charolais’ and ‘Mad Pat’ as well as the soaring instrumentals from The Book Of Invasions.  It was a moment of magic.

I’ve tried listening to Badly Drawn Boy several times and it hasn’t worked. He has one great song, ‘Born In The UK’, but that’s not enough to hold my interest. My opinion was not helped by the fact that Horslips were cut short while Bad milked a smattering of applause for two encores. Look, this is personal recollection and I’ll be as partisan as I like, OK?

A typical Saturday set by Fairport Convention consists of some compulsory songs, explorations of the byways of their back catalogue and a succession of alumni and friends doing their thing. This wasn’t typical. Its centrepiece was a complete “Babbacombe” Lee which occupied a third of the programme and, of course, there’s a new album to promote which doesn’t leave a lot of time. They opened with ‘Walk Awhile’ and closed with ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’. ‘Crazy Man Michael’, ‘Honour And Praise’, ‘Mr Lacey’ and ‘The Hiring Fair’ were the other oldies. Ralph McTell dropped in for a couple of songs and PJ Wright and Phil Bond augmented Fairport when lead guitar and keyboards were required but otherwise the band stood up to be counted. I’m glad I heard “Babbacombe” Lee having managed to miss it on the spring tour and the use of films on the big screen added an extra something to the show. ‘Matty Groves’ was illustrated by a video featuring Barbie and Ken and what appeared to be a meerkat in a submarine – it was late, I’d had a beer or two: who knows what I saw?

So, has Cropredy grown too big? Yes, I think it has but I’ll qualify that by saying that the infrastructure is quite capable of coping with the 20,000 people who turn up each year. But on Saturday afternoon it was almost impossible to move around the field without kicking, jostling or stepping on someone and it was impossible to sit quietly and mind one’s own business without being kicked, jostled or stepped on. Thursday has now grown into an official day and the fringe occupies two pubs in the village. It may be time to consider a second stage. I would have been more than happy to see some of the acts play a second set in a smaller venue or some of the fringe artists accommodated there. It would take the pressure off the main area and restore the relaxed atmosphere that existed back in the eighties. I missed that. 

Dai Jeffries

For more information on Fairport Convention visit: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

Dai has also created a Flickr photo set from the festival which you can view by clicking on the following link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/daijeffries/sets/72157627345454269/