Happy New Year to you all, and welcome to this special edition of Big Ears. Jon Wilks here, manning the virtual fRoots phone lines and collecting together all kinds of digital bits and pieces to help you kickstart a folkie (and not to mention World Music-ky) 2019.

Here’s how this is going to work…

I’ll be sitting here throughout the evening, adding in newsy items, calendar highlights, messages, all to be collected and collated on this page. You can then bookmark the page and return to it any time you like so that you’re fully abreast of what’s to come over the next 12 months.

Call it crowdsourcing, if you like. Over the next couple of hours, you can send me things you think ought to be included by Tweeting at me (click here) or emailing me (click here). I can’t promise I’ll include everything, but I’ll try. Sounds like fun, yes? Let’s see how we get on.

Before we begin, a couple of notes on behalf of fRoots. Every month for the past forever, editor Ian A. Anderson has put out a wonderful monthly roundup of music that he can’t wait to share with other people. The latest one went live today. You can listen to it right now via the player below, and you can read a bit about it here.

Also, while you’re in a consuming mood, have you bought the very latest fRoots, complete with shiny Sam Sweeney pic on the cover? I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about that chap (in one or other of his guises) later this evening, but in the meantime, make sure you’ve ordered one of these…

[wp_eStore_fancy2 id=69]

What’s the folk in 2019? 

(9:30pm) The last word this evening comes from Jim Causley, who sends you all his very best for 2019, along with this apt little message…

“I’m very excited for 2019, when I’ll be touring my music to some new and untouched places! As well as my solo work, I’m also looking forward to touring with my new band-mates in The Band of Love, Narthen and Devon Unearthed. I’ll also be working on a very exciting new project which I shall keep under wraps for the time being. And most of all I’m greatly looking forward to catching-up all my folkie friends and fellow musicians on my travels. Bring it on! 😊”

(9:28pm) Word arrives from the one and only Jez Lowe. He has no less than four projects on the boil… but we’ll let him tell you about it himself…

“Four projects for me lined up for 2019 – more gigs with Steve Tilston, a farewell tour for The Pitmen Poets, a big CD reissue and my second novel. And a new front tooth…”

(9:24pm) A quick one here from Merry Hell, who tell us…

Merry Hell are looking forward to getting out and about as much as possible, sharing our joyous folk-rock, meeting old friends and making as many new ones as we can. We will enjoy promoting our acoustic album Anthems to the Wind but the highlight of the year will be the wedding of our bass player Nick to the much lovelier Lizzie. Just hoping he gets a decent band to play at the do!”

(9:20pm) Rob Harbron has just written in with news from the world of Leveret, among other more solitary (but no less exciting) places…

“Wishing everyone a great 2019!  I’ll be getting the New Year underway by heading off to record a solo concertina album for release later in the year. Nothing but me, a concertina or two and a bunch of tunes. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for years so I’m really excited to finally be making it happen. More news in due course… and in the meantime, the new Leveret album is out on March 1st so please give that a listen too. We’re on the road in March and looking forward to playing!”

(9:15pm) We’re coming to the close of this little New Year’s live blog, but there are still a few messages to put out there.

Here’s Scots Singer of the Year, Iona Fyfe, fresh from her sick bed and with a few words on what to expect in the coming months.

“I’m very excited for a tonsillitis-free 2019! After my debut album Away From My Window was released in 2018, I’m starting off the year by releasing my first ever EP comprised of songs entirely in English – I hivna tinted I’ Doric, bit a jist thocht it micht be time ti gee sammin else a shot. The EP is titled Dark Turn of Mind and features songs written by Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings and Gregory Alan Isakov, as well as ballads which feature in both Appalachian and Aberdeenshire song traditions. This new year marks my 21st birthday and my graduation from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – an institution where I’ve spent four, very formative years making music with some great friends.”

(9:07pm) Warming to the Brexit theme, here’s a message for 2019 from Ben Walker. He tells us…

“So, I’m not looking forward to the imminent shitshow that is Brexit.

“That said, I’m in the studio at the moment working on something exciting for 2019… all will be revealed in good time! Also looking forward to some truly awesome people playing the Folkroom gigs this year.

“I’m hitting the road myself with some good friends, as well as quite a few of my own gigs over the summer; particularly looking forward to Celtic Connections and Sidmouth and then, later in the year, popping over to Germany for a solo tour (assuming they’ll still let me in!)”

(8:57pm) Brexit, eh? It had to turn up in earnest eventually. Here’s Daragh from Lankum, answering the question, “What are you looking forward to in 2019?”

“The outcome of Brexit. I’ll have my feet firmly up and a bucket of popcorn at the ready. There is a delicious poetic irony to members of the British establishment, seemingly blissfully unaware of the horrific history endured by the Irish under British rule, foaming at the mouth, declaring that the Irish “need to know their place” when discussing the Northern border issue, or an MP suggesting to threaten the Irish with food shortages (obviously entirely blind to the fact that the Irish population was decimated by an entirely British-fabricated famine not so long ago). The pantomime has gone on long enough. Bring on the finale. At the risk of this seeming offensive or anti-British, I just want to make it absolutely clear that I firmly believe that I have more in common with a working class British person than a rich Irish one…”

(8:44pm) Another folkie with a hectic 2019 schedule, here’s Fay Hield with her New Year’s plans – seemingly from another world…

“Next year I am looking forward to more development and finally sharing our adventures in the Modern Fairies project at The SAGE 27-28, April, and through the Soundpost Singing Weekend full of workshops in Sheffield, 10-12 May. Modern Fairies is a unique collaboration between twelve songwriters, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers and researchers to explore what folklore means to us in the modern world. Fantasies from the fairy world are shared, exploring lasting truths about romantic relationships, exotic strangers and homeliness, stability and risk-taking – the obscure becomes relevant, immediate and vivid. Featuring others including Marry Waterson, Lucy Farrell and Ben Nicholls, the timeless speaks now, through urgent new voices compelling us to listen.”

(8:37pm) We’ve had Nick Hart, so here’s fRoots‘s other favourite folk bloke, Thom Ashworth. 2019 will be kind to him in these ways…

“It’ll be the first time that the band on my album actually play together in the same room; in fact, it’ll be the first time two of them have even met! Head Canon comes out in March, so I’ll be popping up all over the country. The furthest north I’ve gigged so far is Bedford – looking forward to heading to places I’ve not played in before, plus a couple of exciting collaborative projects…”

(8:26pm) Cripes! We might have to keep this open a little longer than we thought. So many plans, so many well-wishers!

Here’s Hazel Askew, sending her very best from what sounds like her sick bed…

“Happy New Year and I hope you’ve had a good Christmas! Here are some things I’m looking forward to in 2019, although right now all I want for 2019 is to get rid of the blasted virus I’ve had for the last month…

“It’s looking like 2019 is going to be a busy year! We’ve almost finished the new Askew Sisters album, which will be our first for five years. We’ve spent a lot of time exploring new sounds and working out what we sound like as a duo at this point in our lives, so I’m really looking forward to releasing that into the world. Our launch tour will be in late March/ April, dates to be released very soon!

“March will also feature Coven (Lady Maisery, Grace Petrie and O’Hooley & Tidow)’s annual International Women’s Day tour. We always have such a great time gigging together and it feels special to celebrate the solidarity of IWD through music. Dates also to be announced soon.

Lady Maisery will be busy touring this year too and officially releasing our Live album. In December we’ll be touring with Awake Arise again (with Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith), hopefully this time plus a brand new album of the show and minus all the winter viruses…

“I’ll be running my courses in folk song and melodeon playing for EFDSS very soon, and hopefully finding some time to write some new songs in between all of this!

“And I’ll also be turning 30, which despite the stereotype, I’m quite looking forward to! So if Brexit, Trump and Climate Change could all just get sorted, it might be a pretty good year…”

(8:16pm) News arrives from the Belshazzar’s Feast and Faustus camps, courtesy of Paul Sartin. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year, he tells us…

“Following a maiden appearance at Stroud Wassail with my choir, the Andover Museum Loft Singers, I’m off to Seychelles in January at the invitation of the British High Commission. I’ll be researching traditional music of the islands, and will be joined later in the month by fellow Belshazzar’s Feast miscreant, Paul Hutchinson, for concerts and workshops.

“In February, I’ll be with Faustus, touring the newly-released EP, Cotton Kings (Songs of the Lancashire Cotton Famine) in the UK, and in March the band will take it to the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.

“In May, I’ll be out again with Belshazzar’s Feast – we’re planning and preparing for a new album, and will be working closely with Halsway Manor.”

He says he has other plans up his sleeve, too, but apparently they’re for another time. Intriguing…

(8:05pm) Here’s a little message from Counter’s Creek, with New Year’s greetings and intriguing news concerning animal toenails…

“We’ve nearly finished recording our debut album at Porcupine Studios in London, and we’re looking forward to touring it. Featuring whistles, violin, guitar, piano, drum kit, shakers, llamas’ toenails and triangle, strange octave violin that sounds like a cello & banjo…”


(8:00pm) What’s that you say? Rachael McShane‘s on the blower? Sure, we’ll take the call…

“My plan for this year is to spend more time reading books and discovering new music and less time scrolling through social media! I’m looking forward to spending time with my favourite people and cooking a new recipe every week. Work-wise, I’m looking forward to working on new songs from a big collection of folk song books that were recently given to me. I’ll be trying them out on tour with The Cartographers in March (dates to be announced soon), before taking a bit of time out for an exciting personal project!”

(7:49pm) Here’s a band name on everyone’s lips: The Trials of Cato. They had a pretty good 2018, so how’s 2019 shaping up?

“One of the main things we are excited about this year is our upcoming showcase at Folk Alliance International in Montreal this February. It should be a great chance to meet other musicians and hopefully to bring our music to new audiences across the Atlantic. In general, we are also massively looking forward to a busy year of touring off the back of our debut album, Hide and Hair, and we are already getting excited as we gather new ideas and concepts for album number 2!”

(7:36pm) One of the most exciting new albums that we’ve received in the office so far in 2019 is The Reverie Road by Mikey Kenney. Here’s what he’s looking forward to this year.

“I’ve been very busy preparing for it throughout 2018, so I’ll be releasing my album, The Reverie Road, through Penny Fiddle Records, in February. It’s a journey through England, Ireland, Italy and dreamscapes, all centred around fiddle and voice. We tour Band of Burns in January and release a studio album later this year, too! I’ve working with Italian singer Vinicio Capossela, so a release from him is imminent, and I’ve also been working on material with singer Katherine Priddy. Looking forward to the first rays of warm sunshine, to crack some tunes out in a field or on a hill somewhere!”

(7:25pm) They’re coming in thick and fast now. Here’s a message from everyone’s very favourite Rowan Rheingans, undoubtedly one of the busiest women in folk music, and clearly unwilling to give up that title anytime soon.

“I’m really looking forward to lots of new musical adventures in 2019, the most exciting for me being the launch of my first solo show Dispatches on The Red Dress, which I’ve been writing and developing for the last year or two. In form and content, it’s a big shift for me, with new challenges and discoveries still to be made, as well as a commitment to go deep into songwriting and storytelling in a way I’ve not done before. I’ve long been totally loving the process and 2019 will be a chance to share it. I’ll be announcing the first tour dates soon!

“There’ll also be my solo record coming out later on this year, which I’m working on with Andy Bell and a host of weird and wonderful sound-makers from the folk world, as well as jazz, contemporary, classical and indie. Can’t wait to share that too!

“And just to keep things nice and busy, there’ll be two new albums from Lady Maisery this year (the official release of our Live album and, later, a special midwinter album collaborating with Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith, which we are off to record next week!) And fans of the Tun-Tun will be happy to know that The Rheingans Sisters are also busy this year. We’re off to Celtic Connections for the first time this month, as well as IMBOLC festival over in Ireland. We tour some fabulous arts centres across the UK in March and we’ll be writing and recording album number four at some point this year, too

“As I blink into the bright post-holiday lights and start making my to-do lists again, I’m feeling incredibly grateful to be living this music-rich life and wish everyone a joyful, creative and Happy New Year.

(7:16pm) The legend that is Jim Moray has arrived at my virtual door with fond greetings for 2019, as well as our very first mention of Brexit. He’s also keen to let you know that…

“I spent a large chunk of 2018 working on finding a new way to play electric guitar as a traditional instrument. I’m looking forward to touring the results, along with Tom Moore on violin and Matt Downer on double bass, in the spring. Outside of that I’m most looking forward to Fleabag series 2, going to Germany and Canada, and Brexit being reversed.”

(7:02pm) Greg Russell’s in the house! Not really, of course… at least, not in this house. He’s probably in a house. But he has turned up in the inbox to wish a Happy New Year to one and all, and that’s what’s important.

“In the shortest term I’m really looking forward to hearing Brighde Chaimbeul’s album The Reeling, which comes out about now. Similarly, Nick Hart’s new album, whenever that comes out, because his 8 English Folk Songs is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever heard.

“On a personal level, I can’t wait to play with The Tweed Project again, revived after being in its box for three years. A 6-piece collaboration between Scottish and English musicians, exploring the traditional and contemporary folk music of those countries.”

(6:53pm) Here’s Rosie Hood, wishing all of you fine people out there a wonderful 2019. Here’s what she’s looking forward to.

“With a new album to be released by The Dovetail Trio in May, a few tours in a couple of  different line-ups throughout the year, and a trip to Canada, I have a lot to look forward to in 2019! A personal highlight will be to head back to Ontario in February to perform with my partner, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Tom A Wright. I’m also really excited about performing more with my fantastic accompanists, Lucy Huzzard and Nicola Beazley, and a second show of Courage Calls alongside Lucy, Jess Arrowsmith, Rhiannon Scutt, Nancy Kerr, Gina Le Faux and Fay Hield. Can I also say that I’m looking forward to seeing more women musicians higher up bills at festivals (fingers crossed), another double headline with Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and having time to write my second solo album. There’s a lot to squeeze in!”

(6.42pm) And it’s a Happy New Year from (and to) Eliza Carthy, who sent this little message (unfortunately from her sick bed. Get well soon, Eliza!)

“I’m most looking forward to helping with two 80th anniversaries – those of Topic Records (the oldest independent label in the world!), and my dear mother, for whom we’ll be throwing a party in the form of Elephant at the Castle festival, June 28-30, at Mulgrave Castle near Whitby. The new Wayward Band will be launching our new material there.”

(6:30pm) First up, we’ve got this rather natty little video in from one Nick Hart, who has a few tricks up his sleeve…

More to follow! Get in touch via the details above. 

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