In a week when the internet discovered that “folk music is much worse than previously thought“, here we are again, fighting the good old fight – pot-bellies to the fore, fingers rammed in ears, pewter tankards raised to the sky. 

Parish news

Actually, maybe that’s just us. You’ll see few pot bellies on the subjects of this week’s Big Ears, and their fingers are too busy with other things to be rammed in any orifices (note: fingers busy plucking strings, not the nefarious nasties you lot have just imagined). The folk community are busy cramming in the last pre-Christmas gigs, preparing for New Years Eve Ceilidhs, and – in the case of John Spiers – moonlighting as a weather forecaster…

Another place you’ll find non-pot-bellied folk singers of a youthful and horrendously talented nature is between the covers of the latest fRoots mag. The mighty tome began pounding doorsteps and breaking postboxes at the beginning of this week. Sam Sweeney is on the cover, fronting a show that clocks in at around 150 pages in length. It’s a whopper. Haven’t you read it yet?

Issue 423, Winter 2018/2019 - (Sam Sweeney cover) - PRINT EDITION
Issue 423, Winter 2018/2019 - (Sam Sweeney cover) - PRINT EDITION
Issue 423, Winter 2018-19 - (Sam Sweeney cover) New 148 page better quality quarterly issue with Free fRoots 71 Album - Sam Sweeney - fRoots Critics Poll Albums Of 2018 - Lisa O’Neill - Flo - Big Joe Williams - Sidmouth Folk Week - Frank Kidson - Manchester Folk Festival - Jackie Oates - Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Bobbie Gentry - CW Stoneking - Haruomi Horoso - Birthplace Of Country Music Museum - Basque-Ryukyu Project - The Equation - Solasta - The Other Years - Fulya Özlem - Ranky Tanky - Tautumeitas - Onipa - Maarja Nuut - Andy May Trio - Bert Jansch - Lleuwen - Dreamers’ Circus - Budapest Ritmo - Frank Newsome - Xuanzang’s Pilgrimage - Trojan Records

And if that wasn’t enough, fRoots editor, Ian A Anderson, has knocked another of his fRoots radio podcasts out of the park. You can listen via the embedded player below, and you can read about who features in it by clicking here.

Oh, and there was this, too…

Over in somewhere that looks decidedly warmer than the UK, the winner of our Editor’s Choice award for 2018, Kerry Andrew (AKA You Are Wolf), has appeared in an episode of the excellent Folk On Foot podcast. Hit the link below.

Anyone wondering about “future business models” for folk musicians could do a lot worse than paying attention to Hudson Records. Not only do they have one of the most enviable of artist rosters, they’re also ploughing whatever they can into reaching a very digitally-minded generation. This week they launched a mini series of videos featuring Karine Polwart discussing tracks from her latest extraordinary album, Laws in Motion. We recommend you start with this one, and then set aside several hours to explore their Youtube channel. It’s fab.

There are tonnes of tours being lined up for 2019 already. Here’s one we suspect everyone will want a ticket to, so get in there early…

And if you’re wondering where Eliza Carthy has got to, she’s not resting on any of her many laurels. She’s busy writing the music for Jack Lear, a version of Shakespeare’s King Lear, relocated to the River Humber. It runs at Hull Truck Theatre between January 17th and February 2nd, and the flyer says she’ll be playing the music live. Directed by Barrie Rutter, who worked with Eliza on Two Noble Kinsmen at the Globe Theatre in London this year. Snap up them there tickets while you can.

Who’s releasin? 

Did you know that Charles Dickens self-published the first edition of A Christmas Carol just days before Christmas Eve? The 19th of December, 1843, to be precise. Amazingly, the entire run sold out within four days and a cultural reappraisal of Christmas began.

Let’s hope the same can be said for Magpie Lane‘s new album, The 25th – a collection of Christmas-themed recordings that we first heard about yesterday. (That’s not because we’re slow on the uptake, by the way. It’s because the press release arrived in our inbox yesterday.) If you desire a beautifully recorded collection of folksie Christmas gems as a last-minute stocking filler, then this is for you. Have a listen to a few snippets via the player below, and make a purchase on their website here.

This looks fascinating – an album due out in February, featuring Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell (Birds of Chicago), and Amythyst Kiah. It’s a collection of “notions and observations” of slavery, portraying “the often overlooked suffering, resilience, and agency of black women in the face of intersectional oppression throughout American history.” Out on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. We can’t wait!

7 days on the road 

John Spiers may be giving regional weather forecasts, but he’s also giving excellent (albeit woefully advertised) concerts with Peter Knight. If you’re in Bristol on Sunday evening (yes, tonight, if you’re reading on December 16th), they’re rounding up their tour at the Folk House. Tickets still available in abundance, apparently.

Elsewhere on the road is the inimitable Kate Rusby, whose tour continues this week in Salisbury (Sunday), York (Tuesday), Gateshead (Wednesday), Harrogate (Thursday) and Nottingham (Friday), which is the last date this year.

The Awake Arise tour, featuring Lady Maisery and Jimmy & Sid, is well underway. It’s also incredibly popular. The remaining dates are nearly all sold out, but it’s well worth checking in at the box office to see if there are any returns. Tonight they’re in Stratford-Upon-Avon, followed by Colchester (Monday) and Bristol (Friday). Catch them while you can.

The Two Wise Men (Belshazzar’s Feast) are Broken Down Gentlemen indeed (spot the link!), as they ride their annual Christmas tour home. That’s presuming that Paul Sartin can remember where home is. It seems he’s been on the road for the best part of forever. Catch him and Hutch (and maybe give them pence and spicy ale) this week in Nettlebed (Monday), Whitchurch (Hampshire, Tuesday), Pontyclun (Wednesday), Pershore (Thursday), Burton on Trent (Friday) and Keevil (Saturday).

For Jim Causley, there’s no sleep ’til Lustleigh. His Causley Christmas tour runs until Friday, taking in Reading (Sunday), North Boarhunt (Monday), Northampton (Tuesday), Plymouth (Wednesday), Exeter (Thursday) and Lustleigh (Friday). Go to it, Jim!

The very young and very talented Granny’s Attic are rounding up a brief tour in Dursely (Sunday) and Chichester (Tuesday). Book them for a house concert anytime soon!

Not on social media but certainly on the road…

This week, John Kirkpatrick brings his Carolling and Crumpets tour to Evesham (Sunday), Havant (Thursday) and Edgworth (Friday).


Remember, if you like what we’re doing and you want to support our ongoing dedication to all of this fine music, please consider taking out an fRoots subscription, or perhaps even making a donation. You can also click whenever it says “pre-order here” and we’ll get a little kickback from Amazon. It really does make a difference. We thank you.