Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar Live at Sam’s 28 March 2015
On Saturday 28th of March, Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar played it to an absolutely full house as part of “Live at Sam’s” house concert series .
The evening started off with a 15 minute support slot from Leah and Holly Morgan playing some beautiful tunes on melodeon and fiddle.
Greg and Ciaran have a huge talent. Their tunes are rousing, Greg’s singing is wonderful, their banter entertaining, and what says it all is that they were Horizon award winners in BBC Radio 2 folk awards 2014. They did not fail to deliver at our house!
Last night around 18:30 I arrived in Derby for the 8th annual folk festival. A big change to the festival was the usual assembly rooms venue being out of action due to a big fire earlier this year. Instead of cancelling the festival, the organisers immediately had a marquee installed in the city centre marketplace, right outside the assembly rooms. As soon as I walked into the marquee I knew it was going to have a good atmosphere and we were in for a great weekend of music. The marquee also had heating which is great for a festival in October. At around 19:30 the festival patron John Tams came on stage to welcome all, John expressed his thanks to everybody who helped make the festival happen before introducing directors Mick Peat and Bob Rushton to the stage describing them as his heroes. After a few words of thanks, Bob handed over to Chris Sweeney the MC for the first concert of the festival. Opening the festival was Greg Russell and Ciaran Alger, It had been about 18 months since I first saw these two, and every time I do they seem to get better and better. They are now one of my absolute favourites and already on their second album. I think we heard a new song in the set so maybe we will have a third album in the not too distant future. Following this, another band of young folk musicians a local lot called Open Road featuring the lovely melodeon playing of Leah Morgan.
It started off with Coope Boys and Simpson with the new show called ‘In Flanders Fields,’ celebrating 100 years since the start of the Great War. The Trio have always written and sang songs about the war and this is a collection of the songs all together with poems written around the time. It was a sad subject, but it really made you think. A short walk over to the Bell Inn (another venue which the festival was using) for one of the events I had been most looking forward to, a discussion between Legendary local singer songwriter and aforementioned John Tams and Sheffield author JP Bean. JP has recently written a book called ‘Singing From The Floor – a history of folk clubs. JP has been going to folk clubs since the 1960’s and John has been performing in them since around that time. During the discussion the pair gave their own views on the topic and JP read extracts from the book. He has spoken to almost every folk artist on the English scene including Billy Connolly who used to perform in the folk clubs during the 60s, I found all of it totally fascinating. You can catch this show at the Showroom Cinema Sheffield, on Wednesday 15th of October as part of the ‘Off-The-Shelf’ Festival.
The afternoon concert was two very similar duos both English who play mainly American music. First The Carrivick Sisters, I’d heard a lot of good things about these two and I wasn’t disappointed. Lovely players with great harmonisation. Next Philip Henry and Hannah Martin, winners of Best Duo at the 2014 folk awards. It’s been great to watch this duo improve so much over the last 4-5 years. I remember seeing them first busking at Sidmouth Festival and I was absolutely knocked out by them. I still feel the same now, especially when Phil demonstrates his beat box harmonica and not forgetting his fabulous dobro playing. Hannah’s fiddle playing and singing is also tremendous.
On Saturday evening we were treated to 3 Great acts, first Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman fortunately were are able to step in at the last minute as Finest Kind from Canada were not able to make the festival due to illness. It’s always nice to see Kathryn and Sean and to hear lots of new songs in their set with the promise of a new album shortly. After this, a second set from Coope Boys and Simpson singing some happier songs this time. It’s good to catch this band at least once a year as they are probably Britain’s best a cappella trio and you don’t see them appearing everywhere – probably due to one of them living in Belgium now. Tonight’s set was a little more special than usual. Although Finest Kind were not able to appear as a band, some of the members still came over to England if only for holiday so it was fabulous when Ian Rob came on stage to join Coope Boys and Simpson. We all joined in a version of ‘The Larks They Sang Melodious,’ it was a stunning set. Finally for the Saturday night Devon’s finest Show Of Hands came on stage and immediately launched into the old favourite ‘Are We Alright,’ during the song Steve says “reassure me that we are alright” well the choice in the opening song soon reassured the audience that we were in for a great set. It was a real mixture of stuff including a reworking of one of their old songs ‘The Preacher,’ I have never heard them play this song live before so it was a lovely addition to the set. Also included, were a couple of songs from the band’s latest project Centenary, which was another project to celebrate the great war anniversary. There were also plenty more old songs that we know and love that we could sing along to when appropriate. You can catch Show Of Hands at Sheffield City Hall ballroom on Saturday the 15th of November. The evening finished with the ever popular Cousin Jack making it a perfect end to a Saturday night.
There is no better way to start your birthday than relaxing and listening to the wonderful Martin Simpson and what a nice choice of songs. He began with a version of Tom Waites ‘Hold On’. Other songs included my favourite version of the traditional song ‘The Cruel Mother’. I have always loved Martin’s version of this song and I’m pleased to say that after a break it seems to be coming back into the set. Martins guitar playing is always great but on this song it is simply amazing.
On Sunday afternoon we get to what became my highlight of the entire festival, the Lucy Ward band – Belinda O’Hooley (keys and vox), Heidi Tidow (vox and multi-instruments), Joy Gravestock (fiddle), Sam Pegg (bass) and Steve Maclachlan (percussion). Lucy has been touring with this group of great musicians throughout this year and they really bring her music alive. It’s great that Lucy is able to tour with a band, her latest album Single Flame is very band orientated and it’s nice that she’s able to play the songs with these arrangements in a live situation. My favourite songs from the set were Lucy’s own song ‘Velvet Sky’. I was really pleased to hear this song as I don’t think she plays it live solo, so I’ve never heard her play it before. Highlights included a rocking version of ‘Marching Through The Green Grass’ and a very lovely slowed down version of ‘Come On Eileen’. Lucy is great at choosing songs to cover and this was probably my favourite. I didn’t realise how beautiful the words to this song are! At the end of the set, Lucy got a very well deserved standing ovation – well done Lucy! You can catch the Lucy Ward Band on tour this month.
The final concert of the festival was Miss Kate Rusby and her fantastic band, with the new addition of an electric guitar player. Personally I didn’t think he brought much to the band but, It’s great to see Kate back with the new album Ghost. This is probably my favourite album that she has done for a while, there are lots more jolly songs then usual, and this was very reflective in the set. It also featured some old favourites too including ‘Awkward Annie’ and ‘I Courted a Sailor’. I mustn’t forget the final sing along from some of the leading Derbyshire folk scene, this sent everyone ‘Rolling Home’ with the John Times classic, overall a nice way to finish off the festival.
On Saturday 5th of July I visited Cleckheaton Festival for the first time,
going especially to see Scottish singer-songwriter Douge Maclean. Also on the bill were Kimbers Men, Wendy Arrowsmith and Cupola . My highlight was definitely Dougie, I have to admit I’ve only become a recent fan of Dougie, I’ve always been aware of his music but only started listening to him properly in the last couple of years. He soon became one of my absolute favourites .
Starting off his set with a personal favourite ‘Holding Back’ the audience were instantly in the palm of his hands, continuing then with ‘Talking with my Father’ without a doubt bringing a tear to members of the audience. Dougie had a great relationship with his fans, his song writing is incredibly well done, also he knows how to write a good chorus which inevitably got everyone joining him and singing along. Not only do his songs tell a heart warming tale but his banter in-between are full of interesting, funny & tear jerking stories. You come away from his gig feeling uplifted & inspired by life.
Cleackheaton festival was the first of 6gigs Dougie is performing in England as part of his 40th Anniversary of being on the road, during his set he dedicated to himself his self penned song ‘All Who Wander Are Not Lost’ causing him to (what appeared to be) wipe a tear from his cheek. Over those 40years he has met & performed with many artists and I’m sure he has left behind a trail of inspired peers. Something that was mentioned at the end of the evening while chatting with Dougie was his festival in Perthshire in October which is a week long celebration of music with friends. Tickets are already selling fast. I’ll be sure to get mine this week as he’s performing with the Orchestra he recorded with on his new album ‘Till Tomorrow’ released last month (June)
Of course the end of the evening came to a close with the World known ‘Caledonia’ we were informed he was worried he’d get lynched if this song wasn’t performed and I fear he was probably right. The crowd was not disappointed.
What a great evening it was, catch Dougie on the tour if you can and if not, lets organise a road trip to his festival!
During the evening I was told some friends of mine had had their first baby after 50hours of labour. Congratulations to Esther Ferry-Kennington & Ruthie Boycott-Garnett on the safe arrival of Billy
Martin and Eliza Carthy – Beverley Folk Festival, Saturday 21st of June
Saturday was the day of my first summer festival this year. I went across to Beverley especially to see father and daughter Martin and Eliza Carthy perform from their newly released debut album ‘The Moral of the Elephant’. Without fail they were definitely the highlight of the day. The set was comprised of songs from the new album, kicking off with a beautiful song called ‘Happiness’ written by Molly Drake mother of Nick Drake, a lovely gentle start with Martin’s acoustic guitar and Eliza’s seductive vocals. Following this they played a favourite of mine from the new album by the late Michael Marra a song called ‘Monkey Hair’ about a mother who decides not to have any more children because her husband will send them off to war, beautifully sung by Eliza. It’s great to see the two playing together again as they both compliment each other musically and obviously have a very relaxed & warm stage presence, Mr Carthy never takes his eyes off his daughter while she’s playing or singing. A good example of this would be ‘Bows of London’ with Martin’s absolutely spot-on vocals and fabulous fiddle accompaniments by Eliza.
They finished off their set in the same way they end the album with ‘Died for love ‘ this is a tribute to Eliza’s uncle and Martin’s brother-in-law Mike Waterson, the arrangement of the song is as close as they could get to how Mike originally sang it, when I hear it I can imagine Mike singing it with them, utterly beautiful. The audience didn’t want the concert to stop and due to festival restrictions there wasn’t time for an encore but we could have carried on listening to them all night. Martin and Eliza’s album ‘The Moral of the Elephant’ is out now, catch them at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on Sunday 29th of June and at Festivals throughout the summer, you will be pleased you did!
Lynn Morawski memorial concert – Rockingham Arms wentworth 6 June 2014
This was a tribute gig for Lynn , who sadly died last year and as Rob Shaw said in his introduction, was his right hand person when running the club here in the almost distant past. And how strange for so many people to be back in the Rockingham Arms barn, complete with Rob’s unique understated intros, for this one off event. Each artist gave their personal tributes to Lynn, including the absent Alan Taylor, who sent a message from Vienna read out by Paul..
Appropriately, Adam and Paul started the night, straight into Lynn’s favourite songs from the Everleys and The Eagles, all done with thoughtful harmonies and much love. An acapella version of Over the Rainbow from Paul & Kelly While really tugged the heart strings. Adam always includes a Dylan song or two – trading verses on My Back Pages showed us how well Paul vocals have developed. A lovely opening set.
Next up was Billy Mitchell, with his son Tom and ex-Lindisfarne mate Ray Laidlaw. We were first treated to a few old Lindisfarne numbers, competently done, interspersed with Billy’s black geordie humour. Tom did a great cover of Michael Marra’s “Frieda Kahlo” and Billy reminded of what a great song writer he is with the “traditional” Pitman and the Black and Coliery Laddie’s Wife. They finished on an old rocker, We can swing together, which had the whole Rock audience swinging their arms high on the chorus – Certainly a first in my experience!
The night’s final act was Chris While and Julie Matthews, joined by Kelly While. From Rob’s introduction, it was apparently Julie who came up with the idea for this tribute gig, and Julie did mention more than once the wave of nostalgia she was feeling about being back in the old folk club venue.
Chris and Julie were straight into familiar territory with On My Way, one of their great optimistic songs done really well. Kelly came in after a couple of songs, the their family combination of the evening, and had the challenge of harmonising with her mum on Baking Bread. She passed successfully! Julie did a lovely tribute to another Rock regular, Roy Machin, with George Jones “She thinks I still care” Other covers include two Gillian Welch songs. Now my Dad is huge fan of Miss Welch and, while he loved to hear the songs he did think they were a little bit too over done compared to the sparse spirituality of the original. His words!!
Springsteen’s “I’m on fire” was something else, much better and in fact really beautifully done. The old motown number “tracks of my tears’ from Chris showed what a fantastic soulful voice she has, and brought another wave of nostalgia for many in the audience. The set finished with that favourite chorus song “Faith”.
Everyone was on stage for the encore, including Rob and Jan perched on the steps, Carole King’s “you got a friend”. A fitting end to a great evening.
All proceeds for the gig were to Rotherham Hospice and MacMillan Nurses
Sunday, 25 May saw the conclusion of Doncaster Folk Festival with a special finale concert by Jim Moray and his band. This took place at the new Cast Theatre in the centre of town within the venues more intimate studio theatre space. Jim started off the evening with a solo set, a pleasant surprise as I think most of the audience were expecting Jim to be joined by his band all the way through . This gave the audience the chance to experience both aspects of Jim’s live performances, I know that if they’re anything like me i always enjoy seeing a singer both solo & with a band.
During the first set Moray gave us 2 new songs from 2 very different projects he has been working on. The Elizabethan sessions is a project similar to the Cecil Sharp Project, imagine eight singer songwriters from the folk world together in a house for a week to write music inspired by the Elizabethans including; Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, Bella Hardy, Hannah James, Rachel Newton, Emily Askew & John Smith. If you can’t imagine it, the CD will be released in September. The Second project Jim has been involved in is with Sam Carter & fellow band mate Nick Cooke in a trio called False Light playing mainly traditional material folk rock style. Jim gave us a great example of one of the songs from False light, performing a version of the traditional song ‘Made of Australia’
After a 20 minute break it was time to rock when Jim came out with his full band featuring Nick Cooke on melodeon, Dave Burbage on drums and Barn Stragling. This second set featured many of Jim’s best known material from all 6 of his albums. ‘Leaving Australia’, ‘Sweet England’ ‘Jenny of the Moor’ and ‘William Taylor’ were all performed with the high energy folk rock style we have come to expect from Jim and he is fantastic band. I think Jim’s music is great for introducing people to folk as it is more accessible to the younger generation & those who are yet to be introduced, with a good balance of traditional & self penned material. I dragged a friend along who isn’t quite yet a converted folky & he thoroughly enjoyed it. The only thing i would have requested from Jim was for him to play ‘All You Pretty Girls’ as its my favourite song & one I know he used to finish with on occasion, however he finished the evening with a beautiful version of ‘Valentine’ with Nick from his previous album ‘Low Culture’.
Look out for Jim at the Lantern Theatre in Sheffield on Friday 6th June. You won’t be disappointed!