Well… there goes January. 2019 is officially out of bed, up and running and dancing with clogs on. And before we go any further, here’s a bit of news: we enjoyed the Big Ears Live blog so much, we’ve asked Jon Wilks to come back and do it again. Every month. Forever.
On the first Sunday of every month (starting on Feb 3rd), between the hours of 8pm and 10pm, Jon will man the fRoots website, taking in news concerning the coming month from all and sundry. You can ping Jon directly on his Twitter account or via his Facebook page (or even his Instagram page… he’s a modern man), and he’ll attempt to curate all he can in those brief two hours. The rules: your news can be about new releases, gigs, festivals, exciting things that have been happening in your neck of the folk scene, but we prefer it if you have some connection to traditional music, as that’s what we’ve been focusing on in the magazine for the past 40 years. If you’d like to use a hashtag, we’ll put #fRootsLive to the test. See how we get on.
We had the privilege of getting down to Cecil Sharp House earlier this week for the Topic Records 80th Birthday Party. David Suff kicked off a year of fantastic celebrations with a brief, potted history of the world’s oldest independent label, before making way for stunning performances from the Oldham Tinkers, Lisa Knapp and Gerry Diver, and a gorgeous solo performance from Eliza Carthy. Keep an eye on their social meeeeeja pages to find out what other big events are planned (some are listed below).
It was only a matter of time before the current crop of English folk musicians produced a film star. Who had money on swashbuckling Kings of the South Seas frontman, Ben Nicholls? Step forward and claim your prize.
Very excited!! My first ever movie role as a bass player in "Wild Rose" is coming to cinemas in April & here's the trailer… https://t.co/T55cONnNvu
— ben nicholls (@bennicholls10) January 23, 2019
This Sunday morning (today, at the time of writing)… who caught “the old boy talking bollocks”?
Toot toooot! Towersey calling…
There’s more great news from Cecil Sharp House, where a wonderful Doc Rowe exhibition will open on Wednesday. Get there if you can!
From next Wednesday, 30 Jan, an exhibition of original artworks and artefacts from the Doc Rowe Archive and Collection will be displayed at London’s @cecilsharphouse https://t.co/wjZm20kGIb pic.twitter.com/DZVmG7XMeg
— Caught by the River (@tweetbytheriver) January 25, 2019
Lau are all over the internets at the moment. Instagram seems as good a place as any to catch them doing their digital thing. Here’s a clip from a session posted on Saturday.
Those Stick In The Wheel field recordists have been out and about capturing snapshots from around the country, ready for the release of English Folk Field Recordings: Volume 2. Notable participants (well, they’re all notable) include Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp, Chris Wood, Sandra & Nancy Kerr, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, Frankie Armstrong… the list goes on. Head to this page to pre-order.
Announcing the 2nd volume of English Folk Field Recordings available to pre-order now, out 19/04/19. We've been all over the country making new connections with amazing musicians, recording their responses to what "From Here" means to them.
PRE-ORDER: https://t.co/rvfGtJMAkW pic.twitter.com/43nxKKm8pl
— Stick In The Wheel (@StickInTheWheel) January 23, 2019
This week’s “Woofington Post” is reserved for Marry Waterson and Emily Barker, who have combined forces to produce one of the finest, most beguiling pieces of psych-folk we’ve heard in a very long while. Twister is available from all good streaming and downloading services now. WOOF!
"Let's stay curious, let's stay strange, let’s stray" All my favourite people are odd! My new single 'Twister' with @emilybarkerhalo out now!
— Marry Waterson (@MarryWaterson) January 25, 2019
You can keep up with Rob Harbron‘s latest adventure by following his Twitter page. He has been in the studio recording a solo album (squeezing one in before the imminent release of the next Leveret long player). His tweets are a joy for folk fans and recording geeks alike.
— Rob Harbron (@ConcertinaRob) January 22, 2019
Topic Records are releasing a whole collection of boxed sets and treasure troves to mark their aforementioned 80th year. You’ll find Martin Simpson‘s Prodigal Son in among the goodies, along with Shirley Collins and Anne Briggs. We even spotted Anne signing vinyls at the party last week, with a queue already forming to get their hands on a copy. Exciting times!
Prodigal Son, the classic album from Martin Simpson is among the first releases in our new Topic Treasures series. The re-issue is presented in all its glory along with a bonus disc of live tracks hand-picked by Martin himself.
Pre-order: https://t.co/9JDOBM2xDg pic.twitter.com/Xqp449Mqu1
— Topic Records (@TopicRecords) January 22, 2019
Apparently unsatisfied with having released two great albums in a row, River Lea have this week announced a new offering from Ye Vagabonds (who performed on the fRoots “Cellar Full of Folkadelia Stage” at Sidmouth in 2018). The Hare’s Lament looks like it’s still some weeks from launch, but the build up starts here. Watch this space.
The third release on River Lea will be The Hare’s Lament by @yevagabonds.
Brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn are from Co. Carlow and sing traditional songs in Irish and English, accompanied by fiddle, bouzouki, guitar and mandolin.
— River Lea (@RiverLeaRecords) January 25, 2019
Rowan Rheingans has been continuing her studio explorations this week with Michele Stodart of The Magic Numbers. And this isn’t the only time Michele has turned up in folk-related tweets this week…
Blessed to have had the company of @MicheleStodart in the studio for the last two days. Incredible bassist and wonderful woman. I'm so excited to share this dream project with y'all soon. @PRSFoundation @ace_national @magicandy81 #soloalbum pic.twitter.com/9TbwZN1JvK
— Rowan Rheingans (@RowanRheingans) January 24, 2019
… she was apparently involved in a late night session at the Green Note in Camden, following the Topic Records 80th birthday party. Notable names included Eliza Carthy, Lisa Knapp, Gerry Diver, The Magic Numbers and Sam Amidon. Here’s Eliza celebrating Camden’s “beautiful dark corners”.
Accidentally fell into a late night session @GreenNote tonight after @TopicRecords’ do @cecilsharphouse. I had forgotten how much fun Camden can be in its beautiful dark corners. @samamidon @JonWilksMusic @MicheleStodart pic.twitter.com/Bl7jKNJDMX
— Eliza Carthy MBE (@elizacarthy) January 23, 2019
Jim Causley has a new album out. As excellent as it sounds, we believe the title alone deserves special note. Has there ever been a more rock’n’roll release? Who says that folkies don’t know how to have a good time?
Hannah James and the Jigdoll Ensemble are getting used to life “with a grand piano in it”, as they get stuck into recording their new album in Budapest.
Just arrived at Budapest Music Centre where we will be staying and recording the album for the next eight days. They told me they could offer ‘basic accommodation’. My room literally has a grand piano in it. pic.twitter.com/Fk9YlUtngY
— Hannah James (@Clogbox) January 22, 2019
7 days on the road
If you’re quick, you can catch Jim Causley doing his thing in Bradford-Upon-Avon tonight (Sunday). Expect the Live in Bradford-Upon-Avon anytime soon.
Chris Smither continues his January tour this week in Walthamstow (tonight; Sunday), Sheffield (Monday) and Tuesday (Pocklington).
Jim Moray is in Bedford (Thursday) and Corsham (Saturday). He hits the road again mid-Feb, so keep an eye on all the usual Twitter spots.
Jackie Oates hits the road this Thursday, performing at The Lights in Andover. She’ll be in Stockton-on-Tees on Saturday, before heading further afield the following week. Check back here next week for more news.
Band of Burns round up their tour, which seems to have been a huge success, at Union Chapel in London on Monday. Get along for a truly joyous occasion.
Faustus begin a February tour on Saturday in Canterbury. Plenty more gigs to follow that one – keep an eye on this report, or follow their social media pages.
Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith will appear at the Night of Ideas on Thursday in London. Have a look at this website to find out more.
Thom Ashworth is doing a one off at the West End Centre in Aldershot this Thursday, performing on a bill that also includes Lucy Farrell. Two folkies for the price of one! Is that almost a festival?
Martin Simpson pops up at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-Under-Lyme this Thursday. Then he pops back down again before popping back up more regularly in early Feb. Keep an eye on this page for further Simpson pop ups.
The India Electric Co are doing a one-off on Friday in Alfriston. They’ll make the jump to touring light speed in early March.
Sam Sweeney will be appearing with his all-star band tonight (Sunday) at Celtic Connections (Strathclyde Suite), playing from his new and acclaimed album, The Unfinished Violin.
Elsewhere on the Celtic Connections bill this week, we’ll be looking out for Karine Polwart & Chris Drever (tonight, King’s Theatre), Fisherman’s Friends (tonight, Old Fruitmarket), Rhiannon Giddens (Monday, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall), Iona Fyfe (Thursday, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall), The Young’uns (Friday and Saturday, Tron Theatre) … the list really does go on.
Fare thee well
It’s a fare thee well to Oliver Mtukudzi, the musician and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, who left us in Harare, Zimbabwe this week, age 66. Here he is performing on the BBC World Service. What a musician!
Neria by Oliver Mtukudzi recorded by @bbcworldservice is one of the best renditions of all time. On this one he summons the angels down. Rest In Peace and in Power Oliver. I will never forget you. pic.twitter.com/KqaHwYbO7s
— Lord Abraham Mutai (@ItsMutai) January 23, 2019
Palestinian oud legend, Adel Salameh, left us all too soon at the age of 53. A regular at Womad and world music festivals across the globe, he was a wonderful ambassador for Arab music, and he will be sorely missed.
We’re also saying farewell to Geoff Speed, who presented “Folk Scene” on Radio Merseyside for an extraordinary 47 years. Our commiserations to his family, and profound respect to the man himself for what he achieved.
This week’s feature image was provided by Josep Molina Secall.
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