Monday, August 10, 2015

Cambridge Folk Festival 2015 - Part 2 - The American connection

One thing that very much appealed to me, as the line-up was announced incrementally, is that Cambridge Folk Festival does not define its sense of 'folk music' too parochially. That was particularly noticeable in the choice of artists from North America. Here are five such that I saw perform full sets. They all played Stage 1 and each was wonderful in its own special way.

The Stray Birds, from Lancaster, PA, serve to show that the old-time art of singing around a single microphone stand is far from dead. That is with good reason and the latest LP is 'Best Medicine' (2014).

This next is something a little closer to country - but not the increasingly derided bro-country. Indeed, had I not been in Cambridge (she played on Saturday) I could have seen her play Frome Cheese & Grain the previous evening. It was billed as a warm-up for Cambridge, so here is the result of that.
Gretchen Peters in support of her latest LP 'Blackbirds' (2015).

Although well known, not least to me for her work with old-time, jug band-influenced compatriots Carolina Chocolate Drops, this is that first time that I have ever actually seen Rhiannon Giddens live.
She is touring in support of her début solo LP 'Tomorrow Is My Turn' (2015), which is interesting in that it contains none of her original compositions. It takes a soul, roots trip through a variety of covers and traditional material.

Another band that has been garnering attention here in the UK recently is Brooklyn-based three-piece The Lone Bellow.
This is on the back of the band's second LP 'Then Came The Morning' (2015). It is even more difficult to assign a genre, whatever that means, to this than to the foregoing but suffice it to say that it has been gathering plaudits in its home country too and it is not hard to understand why.

To me perhaps the biggest surprise from Stateside to be announced for Cambridge Folk Festival 2015 is the last of the five that I have chosen to mention. As one of US alt-country trio The Pistol Annies, along with Ashley Monroe and Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley was the last to release a solo album by a country mile.
Some things are worth waiting for. 'American Middle Class' was most definitely one of them. It was a late entry into my list of Best Albums of 2014 and this set, had I had any doubt at the time, just proved to me why it was included there.
In case you are wondering about the letters on the fret of her guitar, rather obscured by the microphone stand, it is 'HOLLER' - she was 'Holler Annie' in the Pistol Annies. Miranda Lambert was 'Lonestar Annie' and Ashley Monroe 'Hippy Annie'.

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