Wickham 2017 Reviewed

Click on the photo below to see the full set…

Wickham 2017

‪Squelch… Wickham Festival finally kicked off to a great start with sets from ‪Low, Barker, Morris & Tunstall which sounds like a firm of solicitors instead of musical, dance and poetry partners in festival law; Andy Fairweather Low, Les Barker, the Wickham Morris Sides and KT Tunstall.

Now tell me… where are you going to get a “bend me, shake me, a sermon from the church of the holy undecided, a strip the willow and a black horse and a cherry tree all the the same place!

Here is the moment when the sun came out and everyone forgot about the thirteen days of rain that fell on the site the day before it opened which caused the “elf and safety” three hours delayed start.

The main Thursday night event on the All Time Grates Stage was 10CC, who played all their hits, which they performed as a masterclass in song-writing. They even offered us the following words of wisdom from their extensive mantra…

Life is a minestrone
Served up with parmesan cheese
Death is a cold Lasagne
Suspended in deep freeze …

Friday afternoon had a definite garden party feel that went off with a Wizz, bang and Spooky side-splitting Tickell. It all started with the legendary Wizz Jones who rolled out all his hits including ‘When I Leave Berlin’ which Bruce Springsteen covered.

The Spooky Men’s Chorale followed, the Antipodean Blue Mountain settlers, that worry local livestock to such a degree that the local farmers club together to pay for their international tours (so long as they agree to do reworked Abba and Bee Gees choral arrangements). Luckily, Kathryn Tickell was there to restore order, Northumbrian Pipe Style, who together with The Side brought Wickham back into the hear and now with evocative slow airs that could break your heart one minute and then fling you seamlessly into life-affirming jigs and reels the next.

In between Tickell and the Spookies (great idea for a band name!) I managed to dash across to the Hapi Stage to catch a bit of the fab Portsmouth based band Bemis. I also managed to grab a copy of their excellent new album A World of Difference that I encourage you all to go and check out for free here

There was barely enough time for a quick change over before it was pedal to metal down the West Country highway in search of Fishy Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands.  All three did the West Country proud and I think its was a great bit of programming to put Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands all on the same stage and evening bill.

Here is my favourite moment of Friday night, when Show of Hands treated us to a slowed down version of the Don Henley classic “Boys of Summer” . Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday opened with more Wickham Festival goodies… Alas, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie didn’t make it for the reunion but folk legends, Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe turned up on the All Time Grates Stage in the afternoon. Then it was a quick hop and skip across to the Hapi Stage for a blistering set from Gilmore & Roberts with festival energy in a bakers bun-dance. Then back again to the All Time Grates Stage as master Dhol drummer, Johnny Kalsi fired up the furnaces of the drums of the mighty Dhol Foundation to create a high-energy, pulsating folking brilliant musical soundscape of Punjabi beat, rhythm and intensity. ‬

‪If that was not enough excitement for one day, there was a just enough time to sponge down before the main evening event of the big punk-folk-rock 3. I’m sure you will all know who they all are, as the Saturday evening, three in a row line-up, for many, was one of the dream festival programming highlights of this year (dreamt up by the mind of that festival organising genius, Mr Peter Chegwyn) which even included a returning Chopper as part of the Oysterband mix. For those who have not worked it out, it was of course The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Oysterband and The Levellers. I also legged it across to the Hapi Stage to see some of my old mates Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley set with the lovely Emily.

Time had flown by and before anyone knew it, it was “Sunday folk fun-day” and the fourth day of Wickham.

I’ll start with Ray “Chopper” Cooper who opened on the Hapi stage…

Fay Hield then blew in with the Hurricane Party on the All Time Grates Stage and Glasgow boys Imar followed and got the main stage dancing. Wickham festival favourite Duncan Chisholm followed with his Gathering before the afternoon slot was brought to a riotous close with Tankus The Henge (a great festival band).

LAU opened the Sunday evening slot which felt like a kaleidoscope of colour washing over the All Time Grates Stage. The power went off at one point so we even got a couple of un-amped numbers.

‪The finale for me was the crowned Queen of the Wickham Festival crowd, Eliza Carthy with Sam Sweeney & the rest of her merry Wayward Band.‬ Unfortunately, I had to leave early so missed the Peatbog Faeries set but Eliza said that they tore the place apart, so I have been lamenting the early departure ever since.

I was bitten by a Ferocious Dog on the way out and am looking forward to repeating the experience at one of their other gigs soon.

Darren Beech

Festival website: www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

Wickham Festival 2017 Interview

Wickham Festival site

Darren Beech caught up with Peter Chegwyn just before the festival and had a chat about what we could expect from Wickham this year.

Many of the UK’s finest traditional singers and musicians appeared at the Wickham Festival near Fareham which took place between Thursday 3rd and Sunday 6th August.

They included Seth Lakeman; Show of Hands; Oysterband: Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band; Kathryn Tickell; The Peatbog Faeries; The Fisherman’s Friends; Lau; Edward II; Boo Hewerdine; The Dhol Foundation; The Spooky Mens Chorale; Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe; Wizz Jones; Talisk; Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party; Les Barker; TradArr plus many more.

Also appearing at Wickham 2017 were the 70s chart-toppers 10cc; top Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall; Festival favourites The Levellers; plus Andy Fairweather-Low & The Low Riders; John Otway; The Selecter plus many more well-known names.

The Wickham Festival was voted the UK’s Best Small Festival at the Live UK Music Awards in 2015 and has also been described as one of Britain’s top boutique and family-friendly festivals by The Guardian newspaper.

The festival featured live music on four stages plus a host of other attractions including storytelling, street theatre, dance displays, childrens entertainers, a digital funfair, laser arena, traditional crafts fayre, exotic foods fayre, real ale & cider festival and a late night festival club.

Festival organiser Peter Chegwyn says it’s “a real coup for a small village festival like Wickham to attract so many top artistes who have performed at major music festivals throughout the world.

“The Wickham Festival is known for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere and the high quality of the music on offer. People travel from all over the UK and abroad to attend. This year’s ticket sales are running at a record level and we are confident that our 10th birthday festival at Wickham will be our best yet.”

I couldn’t finish without putting up one of Peters favourite videos from the Gosport and Fareham Easter festival back in 2010 when Alan Burke dedicating “I will go” to the man himself.

Wickham Podcast link: https://www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/gallery/audio/

Festival website: www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

JOHN RENBOURN & WIZZ JONES – Joint Control (Riverboat Records TUGCD1095)

Joint ControlThis CD review is something of a special case, in that it actually comes from my own collection, and wasn’t bought specifically to review (and has been available since September 2016). However, it includes the last recorded work of John Renbourn, in a rare recorded collaboration with the almost equally influential Wizz Jones. Joint Control doesn’t, however, hark back to the heavily classically-influenced and mostly instrumental work that characterized so much of John post-Pentangle output. In fact, apart from one instrumental by Wizz, there are no original pieces on the album at all: rather, it’s a strong set of songs by two great guitarists who obviously enjoyed playing together on songs they must both have known from way back.

  1. ‘Hey Hey’ is the first instrumental on the CD, a version of the Big Bill Broonzy warhorse. However, even if John’s carefully constructed 2nd guitar part hadn’t given it an extra dimension, there’s an added poignancy: the sleeve notes suggest that this was the last thing they worked on together before John’s death in 2015.
  2. Dylan’s ‘Buckets Of Rain’ is a live version sung by John, and while he was never the strongest singer around, he was in good voice here.
  3. ‘Glory Of Love’ (Billy Hill) is one of the first songs I ever heard Wizz sing back in the ’60s: if you haven’t heard him sing it (or the Broonzy version by which he was strongly influenced), you really need to hear this to appreciate what a good guitarist he is. He sings it rather well here, too. John’s characteristic and nimble lead work doesn’t hurt at all, either.
  4. Mose Allison’s ‘Getting There’ sits somewhere on the borderline between blues and jazz, and seems to have been a regular feature of John’s solo sets. It suits his voice very well.
  5. While Wizz has sung many of Alan Tunbridge’s songs over the years, some may be more familiar with the version of ‘National Seven’ on John’s eponymous first album from 1965. This live version sung by Wizz is much closer to the way Tunbridge himself has recorded it, but with athletic lead guitar from John. Very, very good.
  6. ‘Mountain Rain’ is an outstanding story song by Archie Fisher, previously covered by Wizz on a studio album. I’m not familiar with that version, but this live version does it justice and then some.
  7. The Bahaman gospel singer Joseph Spence’s ‘Great Dream From Heaven’ (a.k.a. ‘Happy Meeting In Glory’) was long associated with the much-missed Davy Graham, and has much more of a jazz feel than the better-known version by Ry Cooder. It sounds to me more like a Renbourn solo than a guitar duet, but the sleeve notes don’t make it clear either way.
  8. ‘Strolling Down The Highway’ is another song of musical vagrancy, this time by Bert Jansch, from his first album, of course. (1965 was a good year for Folk Baroque…) Good version.
  9. ‘In Stormy Weather’ is a typically wistful song by the greatly underrated Al Jones, another track previously recorded by Wizz on Lucky The Man.
  10. Balham Moon is the only original on the CD, an atmospheric instrumental by Wizz with a second guitar part added by John.
  11. Perhaps the only Renbourn recorded performance I could never altogether like was his version of Jackson C. Frank’s ‘Blues Run The Game’, where the song seemed to get lost in the pace of the accompaniment. I preferred the original, or even Bert Jansch’s slower, more emotional version. The version here, sung by Wizz, is closer to Frank’s. I still prefer Frank’s vocals, but the tasteful lead guitar does work very well.
  12. Wizz’s guitar on Bert Jansch’s ‘Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning’ is less complex than the original, but the song suits his voice and John’s guitar is everything you’d expect.
  13. ‘Joint Control’ is an early Bert Jansch instrumental and this version is very reminiscent of Jansch and Renbourn circa the Bert and John Very classy.

There are quite a few videos around showing John and Wizz playing together, including versions of some of the pieces here, but unfortunately the recording quality tends to be low. Some of the tracks here are also live, but professionally recorded, and the difference is startling. This is comfortable, nostalgic fare, not novelty and dramatic experimentation, but it it’s a suitable finale to John Renbourn’s distinguished career, looking back over many decades of fine music and fine performances.

David Harley

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Artists’ websites: www.johnrenbourn.co.uk/ / www.wizzjones.com/

‘Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning’ live at the Vortex:


About Time 2016Fifty years ago Wizz Jones invited Ralph May down to Cornwall to play at the Folk Cottage. May decided to change his name to McTell and the rest is history…except that they never made an album together. Until now. About Time is a selection of old favourites – you’ll find some tracks on their studio albums – and some that I think they’ve taught each other recently.

This is an album of two old friends making music together. There are two guitars, a banjo and a harmonica and two voices swapping lead and harmony vocals. No egos were bruised in the making of About Time. The set starts with a languid, almost lazy, take of the traditional ‘Honey Baby Blues’. McTell takes the lead vocal and harmonica part and the song rolls along but what immediately grabs the attention is the harmony singing – you’d think they’d been doing it for years.

Jones is up next with ‘Out Of The Snow’, which sounds old but was written by Russell Smith of The Amazing Rhythm Aces and which suits Wizz’s gentle warm voice perfectly. Then another blues, Blind Blake’s ‘You’re Gonna Quit Me Baby’, before we come to ‘Deportees’. This is song that can drag, partly because of the weight of the subject matter but Ralph and Wizz give it the lightest of touches. The waltz time is emphasised and a couple of notes are subtly altered, just enough to make you listen with new ears. It’s brilliant.

The mood lightens for a while; ‘Diamond Joe’ and ‘Old Rattler’s Pup’ are both fun before Townes Van Zandt’s ‘If I Needed You’. There has to a Dylan cover and here is one of my favourites, ‘Abandoned Love’. It’s a new song to Ralph who takes the lead and enthuses over the chord pattern. There is a co-write with Jones’ long-time song provider Alan Tunbridge, Uncle Dave Macon’s ‘Morning Blues’ and, to close, ‘I Never Did Sing You A Love Song’ by David Nichtern who, bizarrely, also wrote the soundtrack for American Pie. Where that one came from is anyone’s guess.

About Time is a rather low-key celebration of Ralph McTell’s fifty years in music – his major retrospective, The Journey, celebrated his fortieth anniversary – and Wizz’s approximately sixty years if you count The Wranglers back in 1957. Perhaps we should push the boat out for him next year. It is, however, entirely appropriate for two guys who haven’t forgotten where their music came from. It’s a bloody good record, too.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ websites: www.ralphmctell.co.uk   http://www.wizzjones.com

Ralph and Wizz in conversation: