Thursday, 29 August 2013

FolkEast - Saturday 24/8/2013, Review

Now I say this is a review of the Saturday at this year's FolkEast festival, but truth be told, I was only there from about six o'clock onwards, but I will review what I can from what I saw.

Firstly, the location, Glemham Hall, was a perfect setting for the festival. With the large house overlooking the site, and small coloured lights amongst the dotted trees, it looked incredible in the darkened light.

So, Monster Ceilidh Band (main stage) were the first people I saw when I arrived. I have to admit that, before the festival, I had never really listened to them, but I really enjoyed them all the same (and have listened to them quite a lot since). They really got the crowd going considering there really weren't that many people there, and their catchy tunes got a few dancing as well.
At risk of this sounding like a story, we then went in search of food, and had a rather good pizza. The food section of FolkEast really was great, as I later had a fantastic crepe, but anyway, back to the music.

Next up, I saw Sam Lee & Friends (broad roots stage), though unfortunately I only caught two songs. From what I saw though, Sam Lee has an incredibly strong voice live, and the arrangements amongst the instruments were hypnotising.

We then headed up to the main stage to see the Wayward Band. This was what I had been looking forward to out of the whole weekend lineup. We arrived a few minutes early in time for the sound check and to witness Sam Sweeney singing a few verses of 'The Voice' which was fantastic and got cheers from the audience even before the show had begun. As they began, a thick mist descended on the Glemham Estate, making the whole show even more exciting and memorable. And when they did begin, they didn't disappoint. They started with two songs sung by Jim Moray, and then invited on Eliza Carthy to sing the rest of the songs (if my memory serves me correctly). They played just about an hour, including favourites, 'Mr Walker', 'Gallant Hussar' and 'Willow Tree'. The whole band are excellent musicians, making everything they do look easy but sounding incredible. Once they had  finished, cries of 'encore' were heard from the crowd and everyone wanted more. Clapping and cheering went on for ages until people sadly realised that they weren't coming back - this was the last gig of the Wayward Tour - and I was so glad that I was there to see it.

I then went to see Spiro, with a cup of tea in hand, and enjoyed their beautifully complicated tunes for a little while until The Dhol Foundation were due to come on. Like Monster Ceilidh Band, I had never listened to TDF before, but I knew that they would be good from articles that I have read and the fact that they were headlining! And what a show it was, they really were amazing. Everyone was dancing and at least attempting to sing along, shouting out whatever we were told to and jumping around. Seeing as I had never listened to them before, I couldn't tell you what they played, but I can say that it was very good indeed. Half way through the set, Eliza Carthy and Jim Moray were invited back on stage to sing a song with TDF, which everyone was delighted by, as they hadn't played for extremely long with the Wayward Band. This was amazing, we then all sang Happy Birthday to Eliza Carthy as it had very recently been her birthday, and they play some more 'dancy' tunes. They really were incredible - I'd definitely see them again if given the chance.

Acts that I would love to have seen if I had been there earlier or on a different day would have been: Spiers & Boden, John Ward & Mario Price, Sam Carter & The Big Sky Choir, Ahab and The Young'Uns.

Anyway, it was a fantastic festival, definitely living up to last year.
Monster Ceilidh Band
Sam Lee & Friends
Wayward Band - Eliza Carthy & Saul Rose
Wayward Band - Jim Moray & Eliza Carthy

Friday, 23 August 2013

Jim Moray and Eliza Carthy - The Wayward tour - Mac, Birmingham 22/08/20013

For those of you who do not know,  Eliza Carthy has been touring and recording music for 21 years, and Jim Moray has been touring and recording music for 10 years, and in order to celebrate this they have created a band of amazing musicians whom they have worked with during their careers. After having mainly toured during May and June, they have a couple more tour dates this summer mostly at festivals.

Jim Moray began by singing "Poverty Knock" which he accompanied with his own piano playing. This was a very appropriate start to the gig as the song appeared on one of his first albums and is an affecting song about the hardship in cotton mills. This was a lovely, relaxed way to start the concert, and he continued by inviting Lucy Farrell on to stage to sing "Lord Douglas" with him, accompanied only by acoustic guitar.

When he invited the whole band on stage, the atmosphere changed drastically. They performed a dynamically loud version of "William Taylor" with brilliant drum playing by Dave Burbidge (who was standing in for Willy Moleson) adding volume and a dark atmosphere to the song. I also very much enjoyed the duet of the broken token ballad "Jenny of the Moor" that Jim Moray sung with Lucy Farrell, although it was clear that they were slightly out of practice as they both looked unsure of which parts they were meant to be singing. Another highlight of Jim Moray's set has to be "Leaving Australia". I really liked the introductory xylophone (?) playing by Laurence Hunt and the unusually quiet Sam Sweeney.

However, I have to say my favourite song from Jim's set has to be "Seven Long Years". The instrumentation is just beautiful and I really loved the addition of Sam Sweeney, Beth Porter and Lucy Farrell singing. It is a song that works brilliantly well with such a big band.

After the interval, Eliza began in a similar sort of way to Jim. She sung a beautiful song accompanying herself on piano. I can not remember the name of the song, but it was accompanied about by the string section of the band, and I remember thinking that it was incredibly powerful.

When she had the complete band with her, the material was far more upbeat and Eliza was clearly enjoying herself enormously - dancing across the stage and interacting with the other musicians. I very much enjoyed seeing the interactions between her and the other musicians. They did a wonderful version of "Cold, Wet and Rainy night" where they invited the audience to sing along (however, very few did join in). They also sang "Turpin Hero", about a "chicken murderer".

A particular highlight for me has to be "Mr Walker" which is the sort of song you can not help yourself from singing along to! The story is about a man wanting to marry a women who is really ugly, just for her money. Anyway, it is a very funny song and brilliantly introduced by Eliza and Saul.

The tone of the gig changed when Eliza began talking about her uncle Mike. She spoke with emotion about how Mike was a decorator and he used to come round for lunch and tell them little silly things he had thought of during the day. She then passionately sang Mike's song "Jack Frost" which was just beautiful! It was completely incongruous for the warm evening but its icy words and icy melody put a sudden chill in the air. I think this was my favourite of the songs performed.

This icy atmosphere did not last long as they continued with songs such as "Rolling Sea" which, as Eliza, pointed out has a strong Pirate theme. I particularly love the the brass section of the band during this song!

Sadly the band had to cut the set short as there was a curfew. This meant they were not able to complete the already shortened set list. They finished with " Willow Tree" but did not have time for an encore. Maybe without Saul's Purple joke, they may have been able to fit another song in but...

Although, the Wayward band is certainly not going to last much longer (there are only a few more chances left to see it), I would also recommend seeing any of the musicians that were involved at any other form of gig, whether with a band or solo. And I hope that maybe in 10 or 11 years time perhaps the Wayward band may get back together to celebrate some more anniversaries.

A couple of good youtube videos of the Wayward tour:

Mr Walker -

Worcester City -

Willow Tree ( they have cool hats in this one ) -

Jim Moray and the Skulk Ensemble  - Seven Long Years ( I couldn't find a version recorded on the Wayward Tour - but this is brilliant regardless) -

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bellowhead (& AYMs) - Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Review

On Thursday 15th August, Bellowhead played the Snape Maltings Concert Hall to a sold out audience, joined by the Aldeburgh Young Musicians. It was an unforgettable gig for everyone there. The show began, not with a song from Bellowhead, but a with a beautiful rendition of the song 'General Taylor' from the band with the AYMs. From the back of the darkened hall, they slowly came down the steps lead by Bellowhead's own Sam Sweeney and Paul Sartin, making their way to the front, below the stage, where they stopped and stood under spotlights to finish the song. It was quite a performance to experience, and I'm so glad I was there to have seen it. 

Bellowhead began by playing '10,000 Miles Away' (their first single from their latest album 'Broadside') which got most people clapping along, and many singing as well - which is obviously expected with Bellowhead's infectious choruses. After this, frontman Jon Boden expressed his wishes for people to stand up, which a few did and as soon as they started 'Whiskey Is The Life Of Man' a few songs later a few more audience members had made their way forward bouncing and dancing at the bottom of the stage (myself included). Unfortunately not as many people were dancing and clapping as the average Bellowhead fan would have liked, but what can you do, people go to seated venues to sit down! . 
The second half (yes, there was an interval!), Jon Boden said, would involve a lot of dancing, and it definitely did! The foot stomping 'Yarmouth Town' was popular and known by many in the audience, as Great Yarmouth is not far from where we were. After each song, more and more people made their way to the front to join in the dancing and singing along.
Well into the second half, the hall went dark and a group of the AYMs appeared and beautifully sang a part of 'Thousands Or More', hypnotising and captivating audience until Bellowhead suddenly began playing, making everyone jump and start madly dancing again.
Every song Bellowhead played was faultless and utterly incredible, everything you would expect from one of their shows. Highlights for me, included 'What's The Life Of A Man' where Jon Boden's magnificent voice was particularly shown off; 'London Town' where even those who didn't seem to be major fans were clapping along; and frankly, anything involving the AYMs. The energy on that stage, with all that talent, was unreal, something I feel very lucky to have experienced.