Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shameless Winter

Do you remember those mirage summers?
Tousled hair and golden skin
Writing lyrics on the heath and smoking Luckys
It didn't matter what month we were in.

It is that time of year again, the one that invites the writing of lists. Take my word for it, this year the compiling of them has probably occupied my mind more than all the ones that have come before combined, and yet I like that very much.
I simply couldn't resist the lyric from a song from one album and that is why it appears above.
Live music thoughts - well don't even get me started...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Live Music - Marnhull Acoustic Sessions

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions take place in Marnhull Village Hall, a small but intimate and well appointed venue in North Dorset that recently hosted the rather wonderful North Dorset Folk Festival 2013, about which I have already posted (1) (2) (3) and that shares the same organization.
This is simply my thoughts on why I'm so looking forward to the forthcoming artists as the event enters its second year early in 2014.
Tickets are £6.60 (including £0.60 booking fee). This is exclusively secure e-ticketing, so you do not have to worry about the post arriving in time! All the necessary information is on the website linked above.
The next date for your diary is a week tomorrow, Sunday 24 November, and features The Moulettes. If you were at North Dorset Folk Festival 2012, held at Sturminster Newton High School, you will know of them. There's a lot going on.
The Moulettes - North Dorset Folk Festival 2012.
If I haven't convinced you that you need a ticket then perhaps this will. Just now the Mike Harding Folk Show Number 47 (on Mixcloud here) also featured 'Songbird'.   In support this coming Sunday, apparently Liz Green. If this is real then what are you waiting for?
The following event is a Ceilidh on 22 December. I have to say that I shall be giving that one a miss. Not only do I have two left feet but it is close enough to Christmas that I shall likely be unavailable in any case.
After recovering from the Christmas and New Year excesses Marnhull Acoustic Sessions return with a vengeance in February.
On 2 February another veteran, although he might not see it quite that way, of North Dorset Folk Festival 2012 returns in the guise of Tom James originally from Falmouth. I seem to have taken few photos of that and this is the only remotely usable one, so hopefully I will be able to take some better ones in February!
Joining Tom on the bill that evening is an artist quite new to the Dorset acoustic scene. Travelling all the way from near Richmond, the one in North Yorkshire, is Pip Mountjoy. She certainly made it as far south as Somerset in 2013, as she played for BBC Introducing at Glastonbury Festival. I saw her live at Deer Shed Festival 2012, up near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. I didn't take any convincing that her star was rising after that and both are certainly ones to watch in 2014.
This is followed, just three weeks later, by Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. In a year that has seen many remarkable albums, and of which more soon, at least from my perspective their latest 'Mynd' is certainly one of them. I have had the pleasure of seeing them twice live, both times at The Cheese and Grain here in Frome.
As of today Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are nominated in the category 'Best Duo' at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014.
This picture was taken the first time I saw them play live - at Acoustic+ in the Cheese and Grain, Frome, 25 March 2011.

Hmm... I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling this is going to become something of a regular fixture.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Music 2014 - Part 1 - Snowbird 'Moon'

I'm so glad that I can mention this now, but also that it is not released until 2014! I have never forgotten seeing Stephanie Dosen live at my first festival in the new era, Latitude 2007, performing songs mostly from her second album 'A Lily For The Spectre'.
Well, finally she is back with a band Snowbird that includes a very surprising line-up, and the album 'Moon' is to be released by Bella Union in early 2014 and to be quite honest I can't wait. This is an album that just has to be purchased on vinyl and I can't see that Bella Union will disappoint.

All that does not detract from the vocals however. This is the lead single from it:

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Frome Blues Festival 2013

Well that's North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 reviewed but I'm quite sure that you haven't heard the last of it. 

There is no rest for the wicked and so the following day it was all change. I was closer to home, less then a fifteen minute walk, at Frome Blues Festival 2013. I have to say I wondered how it, and the change of genre, would fare with me in comparison to the previous day. My stamina was one thing I was pretty confident about - this was no test like End of The Road Festival in that respect!

The good news is, that at least from my point of view, it was all good and I have now had ten days to think about it. What I haven't done much of is working through the pictures that I took that day...
It was opened byAlbany Down that I first experienced live saw live at Rook Lane Arts in Frome earlier in the year as support for Chantel McGregor; a few months after she had played Frome Blues Festival 2012 as first support.

Here is my first take on Albany Down at Frome Blues Festival 2013 and, no doubt about it, they were very impressive.
That isn't the quite the term that I would have chosen six months ago.
I couldn't have taken this then either but it was, in all probability, not there to be taken.
To be quite honest Ron Sayer Jr. had no intent to be taken lightly, and with some reason, if not always exactly perhaps the one that he had in mind. 
He was good but his band kept him on tip-toes all the time and that is well worth seeing.
Innes Sibun was new to me but blues-rock of some impact. Indeed I thought in the moment that it might even become the highlight of the day but, while that ultimately was not to be so, it says a great deal about Frome Blues Festival. 
Innes Sibun on lead guitar.
With album 'Lost In The Wilderness' to trial. It is released 18 November 2013 in the UK.
Jo Harman and Company became the first and only act to play both editions of Frome Blues Festival. Last year I noted that I was impressed and this year was a step change.
Here, during an instrumental interlude, is the eponymous vocalist with a quite different take on blues-rock. Jo Harman is one-to-watch in 2014, there is no doubt about that.
First support was Nimmo Brothers and kicked some ass... as well as it falling to them by fâte to announce the sad demise of of Lou Reed. Their response was anything but a sombre set but then again I don't think that is what he would have wanted. As live performances go this could truly be described as visceral.
This was at the start of the set and shows all of the band. While clearly committed it gave little hint of the intensity that was to follow. Not least the brothers' dual lead guitar work and certainly not that it would become quite as complicated as this. I took this next picture on a hope and a prayer, whilst simultaneously trying to believe in that which I was watching.
It would be a good trick if...    and they certainly could.
In some ways this repeated last year's festival when the first support act, Chantel McGregor, pitched the headline act into what proved to be an impossible situation. The Climax Blues band headlined this year, and it was excellent too. It was made quite clear however that it was fully aware of what it had to follow. On any other occasion either could have been the highlight of a marvellous day for the pleasingly large audience. It just so happened that Frome Blues Festival came with more than one highlight... and I for one can't help but look forward to the next edition.
Here are a few pictures of Climax Blues Band and, I have to say, I must start with their astonishing saxophonist.

Some slide guitar to die for...

...and a lead singer for whom the epithet 'craggy' is something of an understatement.  
What a wonderful day that was. See you next year!

Monday, November 04, 2013

North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 - Part 3

I was sold on North Dorset Folk Festival 2012 pretty much from the get-go and was quite happy to buy a ticket for 2013 without knowing any artists - just as I do for End of The Road Festival (EOTR) - I simply trust that it will be excellent and I have never been let down yet. On the other hand, when I discovered that Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo was to headline NDFF 2013 I could hardly believe what I was reading - and I checked that it wasn't 1 April. It certainly wasn't, and I wasn't dreaming about it either. I first saw them, previously quite unknown to me at EOTR 2009 and was totally taken. Here is that occasion:

No drummer back then. The kit was there for other bands on the stage to use as required.
Other than that the line up remains the same. Here is how it turned out at Marnhull Village Hall on 26 October.
L - R (in both pictures): Anna Jenkins, Jo Silverston, Emily Barker and Gill Sandell.
Emily Barker and Gill Sandell in an acoustic guitar and piano accordion duel.
It is easy to forget in the seamless sound the individual contributions of each member.
Anna Jenkins on fiddle.
Nostalgia really doesn't get much better than this.
If percussionist Nat Butler thought that he was not going to be mentioned on account of his very recent inclusion in the Red Clay Halo then that is not so.
Percussion and bass underpin much of Dear River. Jo Silverston on electric bass.
That two of the artists have also recently released music as side-projects is very worthy of note. Gill Sandell's second solo album, Light The Boats, in September 2013 and the second after Tarry Awhile (2010 and which is also excellent). Emily Barker also participates in London-based collective Arctic Circle that released its first five-track EP 'Lantern Waste' today. Here, taken from it, is 'Hushabye Mountain' to stream and the EP to buy. I have to say that I have a particular fondness for track 4 ' Unreasonable Dreams'.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 - Part 2

So there. That (as in Part 1) was the lower half of the running order and how good was that, I thought to myself a week ago yesterday, sometime mid-afternoon. My only concern, though I dismissed it, was whether it was possible to maintain this momentum.
The next to play was again a duo - Jack McNeill and Charlie Heys. This is the point at which folk, or folk inspired music, actually becomes quite challenging both in subject and treatment. They played a number of new tracks from their forthcoming LP (due early 2014) too.

One to watch, for sure, and so NDFF 2013 powered forward with Boat To Row as the next act to take to the somewhat small stage. I had heard a short section of a Boat To Row set at an outdoor festival earlier this year and I wanted more. This was my chance to put it right.
All five of Midlands-based Boat To Row. North Dorset Folk Festival 2013.
Deriving from a university solo project this has developed quite some momentum.  Hannah (far left above) is the latest addition and, just a few weeks in, she is a fully integrated band member - which is as well as they have a distinct tendency to swap instruments, some of them rather unusual.
Faye Haddon on table-harmonium.

The first support needed no introduction in so far as I was concerned. Emily Baker is the the only artist to play both editions of North Dorset Folk Festival as a named artist and this was also the fifth time that I have seen her play live.
This time she did so live and unplugged - never fear - you could hear it all perfectly from the back of the hall. The highlights, some of which she previewed at NDFF last year, are songs from her 2013 album All At Sea.
Emily Baker, playing as first support, at North Dorset Folk Festival 2013.

Headlining was Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo and this was the first time that I had seen them live since End Of The Road Festival 2009. They amazed me then and proved more than equal to the task of doing so again last Saturday night. The same four as back then but recently with Matt on drums too. The 2013 album Dear River was just a part of this.
'Nostalgia' live. This set actually deserves a post all its own. It will happen sooner than later.

Friday, November 01, 2013

North Dorset Folk Festival 2013 - Part 1

Let me make this clear right from the start. While last year's inaugural NDFF was excellent (see here) this was better on any and all objective measures that I can think of. It was indeed only matched by one or two other days in music that I have experienced in the preceding year. Now I need to try and explain why. It is likely to involve more than one post.
This year, at Marnhull Village Hall, North Dorset Folk Festival commenced with Bob Burke. He was to be seen at North Dorset Folk Festival last year too, if you remember, appearing with Tinderbox. This time he was solo and while his blend of acoustic singer-song writing is ample, it is better show-cased live by his in inter-song banter about the road-trips shared with his teenage son and suchlike. It seemed infectious too, and that it is a very important aspect of folk music of all kinds.
He did, however, suffer from a perennial problem of mine - that being that right at the start of any event I have an inability to take worthwhile photographs. I don't know why this is so, but it is true. I've tried several suggested remedies but none has proven to be in any sense reliable. It is not unfamiliarity with the venue, because it happens at ones I know very well, and at least as it seems to me not nervousness as it doesn't feel that way to me at the time. 

Bob Burke - North Dorset Folk Festival 2013.

The next on stage was James Findlay - winner of the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. This set was for the most part composed of traditional material and always performed to the highest calibre. Sometimes he accompanied himself on any one of a variety of instruments, other songs he sung unaccompanied.

The next to play was duo Ninebarrow, who are local and hail from Swanage, Dorset. Ninebarrow is a hill topped with ancient burial barrows in that locality and to which many legends and superstitions are attached. Their song writing is mostly about places and times but that which sets them apart is their vocal harmonies. 
I had never seen or heard Ninebarrow live before and it was a pleasure to do so. You can stream some of their songs here - but I wholeheartedly recommend seeing them live. They are currently recording a new album too.
As regards the next act I have an admission to make - I had never even heard of it before it was announced to be playing. ODi is another duo - who both sing and play stringed instruments and sometimes a small piano accordion. This is ODi live last Saturday afternoon.
They were mighty impressive, and Dave Readfearn's contribution is absolutely vital, but the secret weapon is Claire Odlum's song writing and astonishing voice. A native of Co. Wexford, where not much of interest happens apparently, she has certainly made good use of her time there. ODi may yet not be that widely known but I suggest that this is just a matter of time. Listen to some songs here. The craic, and the all-round stage presence, is already there too.