It all started for us in the front bar with The Herron Brothers; we were running a little late and did not settle for too long. What we heard was encouraging, bright and a cheerful pop act that had character. From what we have seen they are like Mirror Universe Gallagher brothers bringing the cheer to Derby in their own rather than projecting an image of fighting you for your bag of chips, like a seagull. Independent music is great and this band is carving a place with some cool music.
Before moving on we have to plug their clip of “Babu”, what a great, joyous listen.
Then, from nearer our neck in the woods, Blair Dunlop arrives from sunny Chesterfield. Dunlop is a good entry to ticketed part of the festival with a mix of mellow, insightful in his acoustic performance. He credits Jim Moray as being a big influence (which seems to be a theme emerging in this festival so far) and, like Moray, he has found a plethora of interesting topics to tackle be it recent historicals or more obscure interests, (The expenses scandal, a Porsche, and condiments).
Dunlop is like a rag and bone man, he has a bit of something for everybody. For us we were particular enamoured by “Sweet on you” (a bad relationship, but a good melody) which has a hook as good as Arturo Gatti, “In the day I think you are trouble, in the night I’m sweet on you”. We also enjoyed the time travelling nature of “Spices From the East” which brought back a historical talk we had on a guide tour of the Salt Mines near Krakow. Fascinating, beautiful place and also a metaphor-filled spice rack of good lyrics once again. Check out the link below for the previous release for “Sweet On You”.
Leveret don’t really need much introduction for those swimming in the pool of traditional music. For many, they are probably “all about the playing”; as they said themselves on stage, “We don’t talk much”. They actually talked more than you might expect with this sentiment, but there were definitely some interesting stories from the road alongside the continuing excellent musicianship.
We’ve seen them a couple of times and hadn’t been aware of the changing roles they take during their sets depending on how they feel. Such fluidity must come from a place of prior technical excellence and practice. We loved the abundance of hornpipes, including the 3/2 ones such as “The Good Old Way” which is the tune that always instantly springs to mind when we hear their name. A beautiful change of pace was the set of airs, “The Height of Cader Idris” with “Jack a Lent”. The first tune certain conveys a kind of majesty within it’s performance, “Jack a Lent” has serious Spring overtones and probably less of the implied dark contradiction in this rite than you would imagine. If you want a listen, take a listen below:
An impressive entry to the Folk Weekend covering a few different bases in the musical tradition. There is a lot to like here and much more coming up for the Derby Folk Weekend https://www.derbyfolkfestival.co.uk/
Like the thunderous hooves of an approaching stampede, Birds and Beasts’ second album is a groove-filled, thumping and purposeful sophomore album which puts it’s classic rock expertise to very good use.
Album Launch Date: 23/10/21
If you have been living in a cave for the past few years, then chances are, (without you realising) you have had a song or two written about you by a band from the sunny uplands of West Yorkshire. This will not be due to your lack of up-to-date news about youth slang, or your dislike of music post 1982, but it might be because you are a bear. Let us explain.
The Huddersfield-based band “Birds and Beasts” are the duo of Anna and Leo Brazil who had an epiphany about nature and our relationship with it. By looking at the behaviour and lives of animals, they combine the daily struggles of being an ant (for example) with imagery and situations we recognise as part of being human too. This natural communion has served them well on their previous offering, “Entwined” and now, after returning from that shady glen, their second album is out called “Kozmik Disko”.
There is a temptation for us of a certain age (or with children) to have apocalyptic visions of a rave style “Baa Baa Black Ship” or a Hard House version of “Nellie the Elephant” while a DJ plays sped-up samples from a BBC Wildlife documentary (I am almost certain that second track exists and I have danced to it). Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth as “Birds and Beast” carefully knit a strikingly sharp cardigan which has shades of commentary, wry humour and great sounds, as a well-constructed work that does not take short cuts. It’s mastering at Abbey Road Studios have put a real magnetic luster on the already fine contents.
Take track 4 “The Bloat”, for example. Here is a song about warring hippos in direct confrontation of a watering hole. A watery layer of classic rock, some chunky riffs and jazz undertones the scene plays out like one of those old film brawls with flailing arms and accusations calling out over the top. Think of the Barn Fight from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” but instead taking place in a 1970s Discotek. The vocals compliment each other well, there is a little kick of a pace and the song is an example, as many are on the album, of the artists’ versatility. Much like the Cape Buffalo, a thoughtful exploration of one’s partnership can suddenly turn, the track snakes in one direction and then finds a new emotion and beat, Before you know it you have been a lead in to a music genre that has been skillfully smuggled and blended in.
“The Current” tells of a shark and it’s electrical impulses that lead it to food, friends and family. Like the strong guitars of Heart’s “Barracuda” (also another shark, of course), the song has a strong beating heart where the two guitar tracks interact which pushes it on. Clean guitars throughout and a nicely light drum compliment the upbeat glow of the singers’ voices. It warms the hands and feet like a gentle, coal fire. A fine example of classic rock, “The Current” takes a concise approach to describing the creature as it feels around the busy waters much like the electric anticipation of a live concert.
“The Day I was Born” is even more radiant describing the sweeter side of love alongside the intoxicating role of the honey bee. More than ready to jump into a soft shoe shuffle, the track is full of platitudes such as, “I am yours, body and soul”. The honey bee here is chosen from birth to “marry” the Queen bee, and the human subject comparatively is more than smitten and in love. The sense of all life being preordained and the subject being strongly carried by the waves of fate presides through the number. While we listen there are the bouncy sensibilities of 60s boy bands powdered with the pollen of 80s new wave and rock as those awesome brief synth interludes put their head over the parapets. Colourful and joyous, the track grabs you like a rainbow bulldog clip and refuses to let go. Wherever Birds and Beasts travel through or end up at with their songs there are some extremely catchy segments and turns of phrase that indicate some well-placed confidence in the songwriting department.
The joy of the album is that there are obvious and easy choices taken here, the songs are written well enough to take a pummeling even by an individual with no knowledge of the natural world because the human factor is equally recognisable and celebrated alongside. For every eloping couple there is the song, “Wolfpack” about two wolves leaving the pack to start a new life; for every hero there is “Keep Walking” the ant who sacrifices communication and closeness with the rest of the hive in order to save them; and if that’s not analogous enough we get “Deep Down”, a scorpion’s tireless search to find a mate. True, there is a lot about love here, but not once do you have to sit down to dull the nausea. There is all sorts of love: obsessive love, romantic love, love through duty and the songwriters give each a proper examination in the light of their watchful eyes. It helps that everything from the album cover artwork (designed by the band), to the off-beat, bright, DIY style to the music videos add oodles of charm; no scrap that, noodles of charm all hugging together in an instant ramen cup.
One of our favourites from the album has to be “Silver Moon Array” where a hedgehog awakes a little early (mid) hibernation and does not recognise the world he has stepped into. Incredibly atmospheric, you feel a shiver as the snow comes and the hedgehog’s vision of stretches of grass is replaced by concrete. The duos’ vocals dance together with a good harmony with Anna taking the lead adding a great sadness underneath the jangly melody and tinged with an almost Caribbean keyboard backing track. The accompanying video (see below) just adds to the scene and tugs the heart chords.
In case you hadn’t guessed, we strongly recommend “Birds and Beasts”. Their new album is a tight work that is informed by, but also extremely generous with it’s genre influences. It is an original series of tracks that pays its respects to animals without dressing them up in top hats and dinner jackets. Evocative and confident, the “Birds and Beasts” second album is an essential purchase for those with a hankering for unabashedly classic rock with an intriguing central premise that goes a long, long way.
Birds and the Beasts are launching their album tour, starting at the Laurence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield (supported by Dan Healey) on 23rd October, and then are going outward to other great venues, check out the details here.
The album is available from all good stockists, we recommend you purchase from the band directly here.
A fun album that will defy attempts to hold it down in one place. Well arranged and with some seriously confident creations, this disc hints at a continued bright future for Langford.
Release Date: September 2020
It’s been a long time coming, but we have finally got around to reviewing the second album by the characterful, nu-folk joy of a musician that is Emma Langford. Nu-Folk you ask?
Well Nu-Folk can be all sorts including songs about love, teenage issues to new worries about the world and environment, and all of it will contain a trapping or more of folk music within it. It might be something with a diy acoustic vibe, a grandiose trumpet/some-kind-of-brass solo or some incredibly shiny banjos and usually it is all held together without any historical theme or mention of tradespeople, but something different that speaks to a modern sadness or joy.
This “different” thing is not always what we are personally interested in, but before you expertly flatten your cap to go and find a song about ploughing, take pause. When done well, Nu-Folk, like all music, is a wonder to behold. When jazz hits folk in a way that creates that yesteryear feeling, when the lyrics are tightly wound and chosen and each word is strung and tuned more daring and precise than the last, then you can go back to your porridge and everything in the world is still right. It is safe to say that Langford has got things right here with a strong sophmore entry.
Irish-born Langford has made strides in recent years. She has been named Best Emerging Folk Artist by Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ Radio 1, and likewise was shortlisted as the Best Folk Singer in the RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards of 2020. Before these awards and the phenomenon of Covid, Langford found many opportunities to tour away from Limerick, with her sound being over Europe in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and others. She must be as joyous as a raffle winner; the one who is making her strides to the raffle table to choose and collect the one good remaining prize (which is usually a suspect looking bottle of wine).
Listening to the CD the first thing that strikes you is the contrast between the songs here. Like a honey badger fighting a mole snake, it is a beast of a CD with different flourishes and movements that it showcases to be able to make success on it’s own terms. There are tracks that are a showcase of a folk-talent bonny and bright, but then you have the other genres mixed here with their colours coming together delightfully like a skittle milkshake (though brush your teeth before and after this album please). This being said, there is nothing here that is over-sentimental or sickly sweet (or as disagreeable as the lime skittles).
“The Winding Way down to Kells Bay” is a light-touch, joy-filled handshake of a song that splashes and sprays seawater over the rocks of the sunny beach you are walking down. This could be a folk staple with Langford’s voice being the engine that is in James Bond’s Aston Martin compared to a modern supercar. She isn’t racing you along so you aren’t getting a battering in the ribs, but rather you get to see the scene in the stately drive, see the landscape and feel the land. Much like the foam of the sea it is breezy and casual yet quintessentially and seriously the folk you are looking for .
The album opener “BirdSong” is a striking choral chant that thuds and scraps it’s way onto the scene with it’s rolling shockwaves of confidence and defiant tone. Demanding attention, it’s lyric “Til your eyes find me I’m strong as my bones” is pretty much a spell of power harkening to all women whose strength of mind and body is not unlike a basalt carving. Moved and formed by a volcanic heart of compassion and love, it portrays a grit and determination in it’s stalwart composition and steady pace. Contemplating the weakness in pairing with another person, the song itself repeats and builds, many voices come in and it’s musical layers come together in an almost spiritually clean manner. Simple enough in construction but the devil is in the detail, it shines like stars in the night cloak of the sky.
Goodbye Hawaii is probably our favourite track on the album. Definitely having it’s mirror focused on the yesteryear here is a song with a vintage, jazz sea-sprayed quality combined with buzz words from Grey’s Anatomy. Undeniably rosy-cheeked and spirited, it is interspersed with lyrics that call on Oxytocin and heart muscle as if they were volleyball buddies in Miami. Perhaps it is the sound of Hannibal having a holiday in the Bahamas or Dexter on a city break? Whatever the intention, gruesome interlude or cute fact-check on anatomy it’s a visceral description of what being heart-broken is like and the associated emotional pain that is felt from being left. Langford croons incredibly well amongst the jangly percussion. Langford’s classy image, the sound of suburbia and a clear looking love to this island you get the impression that there was a lot of fun to be had here.
You Are Not Mine (This Song Isn’t About You, You Lying Bollix) is another good swinging time with punchy, soft drums and gentle strums in between a purposeful, yet meandering heady mix that seems an awful lot like those complex interactions at wedding receptions. It is the sound of history as you share a space with an old relationship, that weird spark of energy and familiarity that grabs your heart until your head overrides. Hopefully you realise that little heist that is going on is a sequel to the tune of Oceans 12, and is probably not a good idea. A great track to finish the album.
There is a lot else here to enjoy such as the breathy, intimate questioning of “Free to Fall” in it’s acoustic simplicity, the anthemic and placard raising sensibilities of the title track, or the bright, snappy retro Angel Delight of a dessert that is “Ready-O”. Langford moves through the pages of history stopping at the heart-felt meadow, the cosmopolitan champagne bar, and wind-swept beaches like a bee collecting the nectar of music. As she goes she collects what she needs to make a confident, whimsy-filled album brimming at the edges with joy and talent. The cabaret has started, everyone start your cheers.
So it’s been a few weeks since the Hebden Bridge Folk and Roots Festival, where the sun started to emerge and the musicians came out to entertain. We had quite a few highlights from the festival with (for us) an array of new talent and artists to share with the world.
Stay with us a while and have a read and listen to some of the acts that you missed!
THE LANDLUBBERS, MORRIS AND.. BACK TO THE FUTURE?
The weather was as fine as could be, so a little outdoor song and dance always goes down well.
Near the bridge in the Town Centre we came across a motley group of Landlubbers (we wonder if they hate the sea or they were the tailend of an insult and the name stuck). However their name came to be they were as briny a crew or shanty singers as you could want. We thoroughly enjoyed their singing so much it made us wonder if their boat was on the river behind. A good crowd, and a great part of the festival.
There was some Morris Dancing as well! You can’t have a Folk Festival without a bit of Morris (knowing my luck I won’t have to sit too long at my computer desk and await a festival without Morris to get in touch!) It was good to see an all-woman Morris Dance, and here they all are.. I presume as washerwomen. That reminds me, I have some shirts to dry! Heres a video to whet your dancing needs.
Ok.. we know that Chuck Berry did it long before it featured heavily in that 80s sci-fi comedy classic, but I’m a relatively young guy.. it’s the first thing that comes to mind. I have to sadly regret that I did not get these guys’ names as we were just passing, but we seriously felt that it was a great energetic aside to the day.
On Sunday we got to see a few artists in the excellent Trades Club where the beer flowed liberally. It was also a fine place to be eating a bit of Thai food that was on the go as well. One relatively new artist was Trixxi Corish a singer-songwriter covering a number of different genres including folk and country, but intriguingly she brought some spoken word as well. Despite a disclaimer at the beginning of the set that she had a bad throat, she went on to sing a number of traditional tunes as well as an excellent cover of “Fields of Gold.” Her monologue about a Southern Irish woman managing with anxiety and depression was really thoughtful and natural; she has strengths in song and in word. A great up-and-coming artist and spoken word performer, we saw some magic there, and we raise our glass to her future successes (especially if this was not her running at 100% !).
LOGAN & MANLEY
There were many fine artists to be seen amongst the picturesque surroundings and the old cobbled paths, it is a mammoth task narrowing it down. But as the mind’s eye roves back over the festival the clear breakout from the festival for us was Logan and Manley. As soulful as a spicy tea and a demonstration of a charging elephant into the music scene, Logan & Manley were something else indeed. Breaking the civility of Folk Gigs and getting people dancing to their sultry, emotional beat they kicked serious ass. As we said on Twitter:
“The most interesting duo we have seen live in recent memory. Exceptional presence and burning talent. Logan & Manley stole the show in many ways at Hebden Folk Roots Festival. Soulful and energetic they work it with unfettered talent.”
Their simple pairing of vocals and guitar with added flourishes of percussion and a good use of looping vocals brought the house down. Some favourites of what they performed included the “Tell Him (Her)” a cover of Lauryn Hill, the warm rush of frothy milk on expensive coffee of “Meteor Shower” (the opener), and “Wait a While”, a jazz/funk backing which should do plenty to cement the pair as icons.
Forward in style and approach, a ferociously dynamic presence, and great musicianship could be enough to convert this website to “Soul Phenomena.” Do not miss under any circumstances.
HENRY PRIESTMAN, LES GLOVER AND THE MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE
As the day turned to night, Henry Priestman et al. reminded us that in a rather jolly fashion that in that transitional stage of life akin to being a teenager, things can stop making a lot of sense. In fairness, it wasn’t a set that dwelt on the twilight years experience as there were plenty of politics (Goodbye Common Sense, Not In My Name), folk (Ghost of a Thousand Fishermen), and fatherhood (He Ain’t Good Enough For You, We Used to Be You). With songs that are always something different and a good connection with the audience you are always on to a winner.
From what we saw from the festival of a whole, Priestman and band were of the most energetic and delightfully irreverent in all the best ways. Accessible, catchy and pop-infused it was supported by songwriting not unlike strong, thick treated timber cladding. If the music garden of your mind requires something extra, these guys are the shed you have been looking for.
THE HARMONY JAR
For the cheery, dream-like “in between” time from the early morning entertainment and the build up to the evening showstoppers we had the pleasure of listening to the trio known as “The Harmony Jar.” Rather melancholic but also soothing and touching, The Harmony Jar excel as Americana, perhaps how you imagine the killer knots on a barbed wire of a fence. Singing about love, the prickling apologies of loss and leaving a husband (How We Part), angst through ukulele (Before You Are Through) and a more than serviceable cover of “The Way it Goes”, The Harmony Jar bit off a lot, but it wasn’t more than they could chew on. One of our favourites, we look forward to hearing from them in the future.
At one point during the festival it felt necessary to go rustic.
In terms of American Folk, you can’t get much more old-timey than some Woody Guthrie, who was as much a symbol of protest and liberty as a singer. This is definitely something we can say we like from our folk from time-to-time and Will Kaufman did not disappoint. As his page declares he is, “widely regarded as the world’s leading authority on Woody Guthrie” but it wasn’t just his academic credentials or his musicianship that impressed. He’s a thoroughly nice, extremely knowledgeable guy who told tales of Trump of old (Trump’s father) who was a less than stellar property landlord (with the song, “I ain’t got no home”), Mexicans and about a remarkable individual “Stetson Kennedy” a folklorist who infiltrated the KKK and gave away their secrets and codes to the radio.
There is something incredibly apt about an expert on a pioneer of folk following in his footsteps through both word and song.. Will Kaufman does that and does not disappoint.
And Many More..
There were many, many more great acts too.
Off the top of our heads: Reg Meuross (one of our perennial favourites) was playing his heartfelt, socially conscious brand of acoustic song to great effect, Steve Tilston brought the backbone of folk to the stage, and his daughter Molly Tilston performed a great dark folk set which much, much promise. The Roger Davies Band was one of the most confident and slick on stage and the Jon Palmer Band pretty much cleaned up with their jaunty songs that at times explored the best part of folk-pop. Here are some final clips to get you in the mood.
All-in-all Hebden Bridge was a good time, a great slice of local talent and a testament to West Yorkshire.
This year we liked the central location and how close the venues were to one another meaning it is very difficult to miss the acts you have been dying to see! Great shopping, great food and atmosphere, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what went down at the weekend beneath the warming sun but we hope this brings you a bit of a flavour.