The Idumea Quartet- “More Than One” Review

Classical musicians take on the Appalachians and win while still dressed in their tuxedos and ballgowns.

Release Date – 9th April 2020, relisted to 1st November 2020

Label – Penny Fiddle Records

Like an inhale of peppermint-laced breath, The Idumea Quartet’s debut album offering is a spicy yet cooling work whose self-description of “tradition, innovation and whimsy in equal measure” is pretty much on the money. Comprising of Ewan Macdonald (violin), Jane Rothfield (violin, vocals), Rebecca Wolfe (Viola, vocals) and Nathan Bontager (cello, vocals), this fearless foursome have engaged in some considered work in applying their classical trained skills to reworking Appalachian folk music. 

Credit: David Rynkowski

You see, while this album is a sustained effort of chamber-folk it has its share of whimsy too. It is the kind of shake-up that makes this album like a flash of the magician’s deck of cards, and therefore something interesting indeed. The refreshing nature of “More Than One” is perhaps that brilliant friend you have who wears flowers in her hair and is often seen vaulting into the middle of a sardine packed dance floor full of energy and vitality. To look at her you might think that spontaneity is ill-informed, but she has done this many times and has the experience to back-up the novelty. Let us look at the tracks and see this in action.

The first is an excellent set of “Falls of Richmond/Grub Springs”. We particularly love this version of “Falls of Richmond” which whilst sticking close to how you expect the tune of the James River and small waterfalls therein, the training and orchestral bent of the quartet are here to enjoy. It isn’t played super-fast, the tune can be savoured and enjoyed as the parts all converge, rise and fall into the springier “Grub Springs”. A joy to begin, though potentially misleading like the pleasant ambience of walking into a sauna, things are going to get hotter quickly. Unlike a sauna though where it generally just gets very very hot, you do not expect what is to come here.

Next, for example, there is a great version of the Christian Gospel “Fall on my knees”. Beginning as the solemn take you would imagine it quickly transforms from cautious caterpillar to soaring Red Admiral Butterfly as the call of the thumping cello emerges and the pace picks up. It has the feeling of a spontaneous jam by the smoking camp-fire with its share of red medium-rare vocals and inquiring violin. More a shared bond of life than an overt call for a higher power, it’s humanist overtones are warm and inviting. In fact one could argue that the group’s cover of the Bluegrass song “Cluck Old Hen” is more religious in sentiments. Apart from the odd vocal flourish that slips the disguise a little, it feels like you are more in the house of God than the Henhouse. In fact in terms of reverence and introspection (about laying eggs) this song is on it’s way towards being like “The Old Churchyard” in feel. The interpretation brings with it a sense of desperation, resignation and the idea dancing on a poor family’s lips as to whether this hen’s fortunes turn round or it becomes the family’s last taste of meat before the cold hits. Bold and interesting, it is worth checking out. 

Carthy Hoose in contrast is a light delight of a tune. While airy in general feel, the violin and cello strings feel embedded like weighty iron train tracks; you can almost hear the cry of Mountain life outside the clattering carriage shutters. This steam engine starts as a formal dance but chuffs its way into the rural circle, champagne gives way to good old-time bourbon and a good time is had by all. Joy on several levels the track is brimming with movement and chi and it is also our favourite tune and track on the album.

We are also treated to a version of “Sally Anne” which is an interesting diversion sans banjo (as you might normally hear it). Quite dense musically, intentionally or unintentionally the backing vocals kind of sound like they are in the wind with so many overlapping strings dominating your senses. Kudos to the sound design and production on this track as I could easily imagine this recording falling down under its own weight under lesser hands. The sound production throughout the album (mixed by Jason Alder, mastered by Sam Proctor) is very good, you can hear the life that all the strings have of their own, in a way the disc seems to shine a spotlight on the instrumentation slightly more than the vocals, but for a classically trained ensemble this is exactly what you want. Except once again the band diverge from this notion with the next track..

It is of course the Idumea Quartet’s version of “Silver Dagger”. Up to now it would be difficult to predict how they choose to approach this song of high renown as the Quartet like to play with the blocks of form. It is safe to say it is treated well, sung with deep emotion and a backing musical overture which is like a dawn’s chorus as it grows from humble rays to fuller shining sun. We admit “Silver Dagger” is not our favourite song (I know, shock horror there), but we recognise the skill in which this old faithful dog has been taught some new(ish) tricks.

This album is like a wild hare. One moment it stands on its hind legs majestically austere as it surveys the scene, you turn your back for a second and the next time you look it is frollicking and springing into the air with festivity.There are musical conventions and consistant choices that could have legitimately made the disc a particular sound to fulfill a particular desire (pure fans of the Appalachian Folk)  but, to our personal relief it is playful and inventive as well as being competent and traditional.

Check out some videos below, you can purchase the album from BandCamp

Keep an eye on their website and social media to see when they are touring near you, they are currently rescheduling due to the Coronvirus outbreak.

Folk Music Interviews Uncategorised

Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival Interviews #3 Birds and the Beasts

Ahead of performing at this year’s Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival, taking place from 10 to 12 May, we were delighted to have interview, in partnership with “Last Night I Dreamt Of…”, Leo and Anna from alternative pop/folk duo Birds and the Beasts.

Q. How did Birds and the Beasts come about and where did the band’s name come from? 

Leo – As well as loving music we are equally passionate about animals. We have always enjoyed nature documentaries and getting out in the wild areas around us in Yorkshire and Anna’s native Germany. The first song we wrote for the project was about how albatross remain monogamous and find each other on their island homes after their globe spanning migrations.

Anna – Once we had written this song and found we really enjoyed singing together we put together Birds and Beasts and started writing more songs. Once we realised what a great source of inspiration we had found the name just seemed obvious.

Q. Tell us more about animal themed pop?

Anna – Our songs are written to put the listener in the animal’s position. We try to focus on the things that make us the same as animals; our family lives, our struggles, triumphs and determination. We find the animal kingdom is a massive well of ideas we can draw upon but we like to keep it all relatable to the human experience too. Leo – We love a lot of different genres of music – folk, rock and roll, blues, jazz, reggae. We like the ‘pop’ label as it can encompass so many different styles. 

Q. How would you describe your music in five words?

Fun, engaging, joyful, thought provoking.

Q. What inspires you as band?

Leo – Aside from the obvious animal inspiration, the thing that keeps us going is that we love spending time together and sharing our musical journey.

Anna – Meeting audience members who love our songs is very special. Having someone tell you how a song made them feel is magic. Our last single about crows’ family lives and how they respond to a loss in the family is one of our most affecting songs and seems to connect with people. 

Q. What can audience members expect from your set as part of the Hebden Folk Roots Festival?

Leo – We take our audience on a journey. You will visit the deep ocean, tall mountains, barren desert and dense jungle. You will find yourself singing along with songs you have only just heard and joining in with the actions for our squirrel song. There will be songs that make you laugh and songs that make you cry. 

Q. What’s your favourite song to perform as part of your set and why?

Leo – I like Deep Down, the tale of a scorpion searching for a mate. I love to sing this part, the music puts me in a spaghetti western mood and it reminds me of the teenage years; out in town looking for love.

Anna – My favourite is Torn Apart, because it does not have the usual verse – chorus structure and it build and builds and goes proper bonkers at the end. 

Q. Who else would you recommend festival goers seeing during the festival?

We love the Magic Numbers and Michele Stobart is fantastic, we cannot wait to see her. We also love a good sing-a-long so recommend The LandLubbers for a rousing shanty. 

Q. What do you love most about performing on the festival circuit?

Leo – Meeting people and just getting the chance to perform, it is a real privilege. 

Anna – The excitement of playing and meeting many lovely people and being able to watch other performers as well.

Q. What can fans expect from your album Entwined and what was it like mastering your record at the legendary Abbey Road Studios?

Leo – It has some of our most emotional and heartfelt songs on it. If the album were a season it would be winter as the themes are – struggle, determination, family, loss and ultimately rebirth. The cover yin yang picture sums it up nicely as the balance between light and dark, endings and beginnings.

Anna – Recording and producing ourselves was really fun and it was very nerve racking putting the final touches on it and cutting the vinyl masters at Abbey Road. Quite a journey from our studio to Abbey Road Studios. We celebrated with a drink in the canteen afterwards. We were very star struck to be on such hallowed ground!

Q. What’s coming up next for the band?

Leo – we are working on some summer sounds, exploring ways to realise different arrangements and moods with just the two of us. We have a lot of material to record and are writing new songs all the time.

Anna – there are some very exciting plans coming up for later this year, we have been filming a few music videos and really performing our sound. We have a few gigs over the summer and we have lots of things coming up…watch this space!

Q. And finally, if you could turn into any bird or beast which would you choose and why?

Anna – I would become a wolf because they are such beautiful animals and live in such fantastically remote places. Their family lives are also fascinating.

Leo – I would regret choosing anything that could not fly so if not a flying squirrel or fish it’s going to have to be a bird. Following that logic I am going to select the condor, the world’s biggest flying bird. Riding the thermals high up in the clouds would be amazing

Birds and the Beasts will be performing at the Trades Club at 7pm on Sunday 12 May as part of Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival. For further information on Birds and the Beasts visit For further information on the Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival visit

As mentioned, this interview was in partnership with Last Night I Dreamt, a website dedicated to art and theatre in South Yorkshire. For further information visit


Underneath the Stars 2018- Interviews #2 Jack Rutter, L-R, Estbel, Kizzy Crawford and Midnight Skyracer

Hi all.

Ahead of the “Underneath the Stars” Festival 2018 (running 20-22 July), as fans of folk music and the wider spectrum of folky related things, we spoke to a number of artists leading up to this sunny and exciting event.

If you missed our first set of interviews, you can find discussions from Dutch-soloist “Pitou” right through to captivating Syrian “Maya Youssef” here It is all lining up for something special.

We have more conversations up our sleeves though, more voices from the musical world, more wells of inspiration and even more star value. Please, come inside, make yourself some juice and find a sun-lounger, here is part 2 of our whistle-stop artist interviews for “Under the Stars 2018”

Jack Rutter

First up, we had a chat with Jack Rutter. Jack Rutter is from West Yorkshire. Aye, it’s pretty fine, I certainly saw some sights when travelling from Huddersfield outwards when I lived there; one of my favourite things is the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival (which I’ve not gone to for a few years.. need to check it out again). Jack is firmly in the traditional vein of things when it comes to songs, and he does them so well. Here is what he had to say!

Jack Rutter will be performing on the Little Lights Stage on Sunday 22 July. 

I: Tell us more about yourself?

Jack Rutter: I’m a folk singer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist from West Yorkshire generally singing traditional songs.

I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Jack Rutter: Ooh that’s a tricky one, I love singing all of them and I like them all for different reasons. I suppose one that always goes down well is the Dalesman’s Litany which I learnt from the wonderful singing of Dave Burland.

I: What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

Jack Rutter: I’ve been to Underneath the Stars a few times in the past playing with different people and I’ve been blown away by it as a festival every time, it’s just so well put together with the sound and the decorations around the site and the food and the whole thing! To be honest I also love the fact that it’s pretty much on my doorstep, so my journey to the gig is particularly easy.

I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?

Jack Rutter: Another tricky one, there’s so much on! I never pass up a chance to hear Lau, Grace Petrie’s also wonderful, I’m really excited to hear Midnight Skyracer as I’ve heard so much about them, Damien O’Kane and Rob Block’s banjo extravaganza promises to be utterly joyous, and watching a Kate Rusby gig is always truly special.

I: What’s next for you after the festival?

Jack Rutter: More gigs and singing and playing and pootling about throughout the summer and into next year.


We are not sure what to expect from L-R. Billed as a duo who use original and traditional instruments (such as tambourine)  but with a sound that is “post folk”, it is a bit like waiting to see what lies behind the black curtain in a cabaret act. Nevertheless, Asturian music might be the key to unlocking inner harmony and we were pleased to have a moment with them.

L-R will be performing on the Little Lights Stage on Sunday 22 July. 

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

L-R: L-R is a duo from Asturias, in the north of Spain. We mix traditional songs and tambourine playing (which is a very important part of our traditional music) with the modern sounds of the electric guitar and pedal effects.

I: Describe your music in five words?

L-R: If we had to describe it in five words it’d be: “21st century Asturian traditional music”.

I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

L-R: We’ve honestly never thought about it but if we had to make a choice it would be the “muiñeira de Degaña” which is the first song we arranged. It’s a traditional dance song from south-west Asturias with a Delta blues slide guitar backing. It’s a big success in every concert.

I: What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

L-R: We’d really love people come to our gig and get to know Asturian music, especially what we do. Some people might know some tunes from bands like Llan de Cubel but I don’t think the tambourine and singing tradition is very well known. So please come see us and you’ll be in for a treat!

I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?

L-R: The festival line up is so amazing that we couldn’t pick one artist. We’re big fans of Steve Earle, Lau, Kate Rusby … but we’re discovering many great bands in the line-up and can’t wait to see them live!

I: What’s next for you after the festival?

L-R: After the festival we have a few more gigs in Asturias for the summer festival season, in the traditional circuit but also bringing our music to new audiences as we have to play even in surf festivals! There’s a new recording getting ready for the autumn and a tour of Brittany (France) next winter.


Estbel is an incredibly slick operation. They’ve been all over (including Celtic Connections) and do not seem to be showing any signs of stopping. A hybrid of Estonia and Belgium in influence, their music is rich and confident. At times they sound like the very essence of the world itself, we cannot underestimate the natural tones of their song and are grateful to see them bring a different flavour to South Yorkshire.

Estebel will be performing on the Planets Stage on Friday 20 July. 

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Estbel: Estbel joins together the best Estonia and Belgium have to offer. On one side you get the Nordic beauty and serenity, on the other the finest sons of the heartland of European folk music.

In February 2016 the Dhoore brothers and two Estonian nightingales spent a week in Saaremaa looking for a common sound, vision and feeling. They found it and only a year later presented their first album Saar/Island – an homage to where it all started.

The album, like Estbel itself, is full of rare original tunes combining compelling Flemish melodies and beautiful Estonian singing. This is a combination you have to hear to believe!

I: Describe your music in five words?

Estbel: Dreamy, Touching, Energizing, Feels like nature, Misty.

I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Estbel: Well, I don’t think we have a “one and only” favourite song. Or we might each have different ones. But one of the main goals for us while making this program, was to make songs that we all love to play. And I think this has worked out pretty well. We all enjoy bringing the music we do.

I: What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

Estbel: We have heard so many great things about this festival and we are very much looking forward to play there. Estbel had a spring tour in UK this spring (2018) and we enjoyed playing there very much. It is always great to bring your music to new audiences who have not had the chance to get to know you yet. It is the same like making new friends.  We are looking forward to share our music with new audience and we also hope to have a chance to go and see some other concerts.

I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?

Estbel: Well, the line up is really great. We are looking forward to see LAU, Yves Lambert Trio, Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards and surely some great bands we don’t know yet. But I think the most special one for me (Leana) is seeing Kate Rusby live. I remember being 18-19, listening to her “Underneath The Stars” and being totally blown away by it. So, it is a great honour to play at the festival that is named after that great song.

I: What’s next for you after the festival?

Estbel: After Underneath the Stars Festival we will be playing at Music on the Marr. And in August we will have a week of concerts in one of our home countries – in Estonia. Which we are also really looking forward to, as summer is really magical in the North.

Kizzy Crawford

Kizzy Crawford is a very exciting prospect. As an artist who speaks Welsh, has Bajan heritage and ahead of her debut album is unstoppable in her drive to create and inhabit different genres. She has been to Cheltenham Jazz Festival, she has been on Radio 4, and now she is here in South Yorkshire. We suspect she is going to make some big waves, check her out.

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Kizzy: I was born in Oxford but moved to Wales when I was 3, I grew up surrounded by the beautiful Welsh language and culture which greatly inspired me to start writing and singing my own music. I felt different to the other kids in school as I was the only mixed race girl and was also very shy, I used the Welsh language and culture to help me fit in and feel at home. If it wasn’t for this I don’t think I would have ever started writing my own music.

I: Describe your music in five words?

Kizzy: Experimental, bilingual, jazzy, soulful, expressive


I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Kizzy: Golden Brown/Brown Euraidd, as the message in the song is a very important one – that everyone is beautiful inside and out. In the song I am talking to my younger self, teaching her this message, to not listen to the bullies and to be proud of who I am, everytime I sing this song, I confirm this message to myself which makes me stronger.


I: What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

Kizzy: Im looking forward to showing the people of Yorkshire my sound and to checking out the other artists


I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?  

Kizzy: Im looking forward to seeing Kate Rusby performing at the festival


I:  What’s next for you after the festival?

Kizzy: I will be releasing my debut album, which has been a long time coming, I can’t wait!

Midnight Skyracer

Rather new, but also rather well known on the circuit at the moment, “Midnight Skyracer” are the ass-kicking all-female bluegrass band with a number of fine instrumentalists drawn from the UK all together in one place. We are particularly excited to hear the women tear it up.

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

MS: We are a new, all-female 5 piece bluegrass band playing hard driving traditional and modern classics, lesser known songs and a few originals.

I:     Describe your music in five words?

MS: Hard driving girl power bluegrass

I:      What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

MS: Any fast train song in the key of B

I:      What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

MS: We love performing and the response we get from audiences, so that. But also looking forward to meeting up with fellow musician friends – festivals are great for that.

I:      Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival? 

MS: Our friend and banjo hero Ron Block – but I think we miss his set for our sound check!

I:      What’s next for you after the festival?

MS: More festivals! We have at least one most weekends this summer.



We can’t wait for this lot to take the stage.

Once again it is a fascinating cross-section of artists who will be there, and we have barely scratched the surface.

Get yourselves down to CinderHill Farm and let the sounds wash over you. It is all good, you most likely deserve it.. we definitely think so.

Go to

and get your tickets before it all kicks off (20-22 July).

Festival Folk Music Interviews Uncategorised

Beardy Folk Festival 2018 – Artist Interviews – Part #2


The time is very close indeed for the first-of-it’s-name “Beardy Folk Festival” down in Cleobury Mortimer.

As I keep bleating about, there is an astonishing array of artists from the folk tradition there, quite a haul really for the first festival.

We have spoken to some of the artists going, and very kindly they have allowed us to interview them!

Click here, for our first range of interviews that includes FALSE LIGHTS, THE JOSHUA BURNELL BAND, and ERIC SEDGE.

And if you haven’t checked it out already, go and see the full Beardy Folk Festival Lineup at:

Now on to the second round of interviews!


Playing on the Acoustic Stage at 8.30pm on Saturday 23rd June. For further information on Fly Yeti Fly visit

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Darren and Lorna: We’re Darren Fisher and Lorna Somerville. We met six years ago at an open-mic night in Torquay, Devon, and we spent the rest of that night sitting under the stars together writing songs until sunrise. Shortly after meeting, we moved to Belgium, lived in a caravan and worked on an allotment, and it was during that time we wrote a lot of the songs that are on our first album. We then moved back to Devon and started gigging together, getting known locally as ‘the yetis’ and sharing our music with people all over the south west. We’ve since got married, and we now live on a narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon Canal – we draw a lot of inspiration for our music from the natural world and the people we meet. People say that our sound is reminiscent of the late-60s folk scene, and we released our debut album, ‘Shine a Light in the Dark’, last year.

I: Describe your music in five words?

Darren and Lorna: Dreamy, honest, delicate, quirky, enchanting.

I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Darren and Lorna: That’s a tough question, because each performance feels different, the room is different, the audience is different, so it can change all the time! At the moment, we really enjoy playing ‘The Mermaid Song’. It’s a song we wrote based on the Cornish folk story about the Mermaid of Zennor. The song is romantic but also dark, and as it progresses, a change occurs in the music and it morphs into something quite psychedelic.

I: What are you looking forward to most about performing at the festival?

Darren and Lorna: Well, it’s a brand new festival, so we’re excited to visit the site for the first time and meet lots of new people. We’re playing on the Acoustic Stage, and we really love playing smaller stages that give us a chance to interact with people, get a feel for the ambience, and vibe it. That’s the best thing about performing live.

I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?  

Darren and Lorna: We’re particularly looking forward to seeing Jim Moray, because we’ve followed his music for some time but have never seen him live, and also 3 Daft Monkeys, who are loads of fun to dance around to! There’s also a lot of acts on the Acoustic Stage that we’ve never heard of – festivals are a brilliant way of discovering new music, so we look forward to catching lots of other acts.

I: What’s next for you after the festival?

Darren and Lorna: After Beardy Folk Festival, we’ll be travelling to Dorset to play ‘Folk On The Quay’ – a fantastic free festival which is organised by the masterminds that also created the wonderful Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. We’re also looking forward to playing Cornwall Folk Festival in August, and Glastonbury Abbey in September. We’ve got a really busy summer ahead, with lots of gigs in country pubs and smaller festivals too.


Playing on the Main Stage at 10.30pm on Saturday 23rd June. For further information on Skerryvore visit

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Alec from Skerryvore: Skerryvore create a unique fusion of folk, trad, rock and Americana that represents all the different personalities and upbringing of the 8 band members who hail from different regions of Scotland


I: Describe your music in five words?

Alec: Traditional, contemporary, progressive, raucous, uplifting.


I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Alec: Usually our favourite song to perform is the latest single because it’s what you’ve most recently put all the hard work into and it’s still raw and fresh to perform. Our latest single is ‘Take My Hand’ And it’s great to get the audience reaction on a song they’ve probably never heard before.


I: What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

Alec: It’s always fun to play to a new audience and we love playing at music festivals. It’s an exciting challenge to convince an audience to join you in having a great time.


I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?

Alec: I think the most interesting part about seeing other artists at a music festival is discovering a hidden gem that you’ve never heard before so we’re looking forward to discovering and adding some new music to the soundtrack of long van journeys.


I: What’s next for you after the festival?

Alec: The next big one in the calendar after Beardy is Moonbeams Festival at the Wold Top Brewery in Yorkshire. It’s a fantastic festival run by our lovely friend and booking agent Leila and we’re the patrons so it’s always one for us to look forward to!  


Playing on the Main Stage at 5.15pm on Sunday 24th June.

I:  Tell us more about yourselves?

Gary: We’re a bunch of Yorkshire-based happy-go lucky musicians who get together to play this awesome Album of South African music. The band comprises of musicians from other bands-three of us play in Hope & Social,one of us plays in Wilful Missing and our drummer used to play for Nightmares On Wax and is currently Peven Everett’s drummer.


I: Describe your music in five words?

Gary: Sunny. Jangly. Harmony. Drenched. Loviness.


I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Gary: I love playing The Boy In The Bubble as it’s our opening number, and it sets the rest of the show for us. And I just love the opening with the massive drums and accordion!


I: What are you looking for to most about performing at the festival?

Gary: It’s a new Festival so there is the expectation that we’ll play to a whole bunch of new people and that these people will come and see us play ‘Graceland’ again and again 🙂 Also,if it’s sunny then I’m looking forward to playing a lovely stage of lovely people in the Sun!


I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?  

Gary: Urban Folk Quartet! Chris Helme is amazing. What a voice. My mate Dan Webster is also playing so I’ll be sure to catch him also.


I: What’s next for you after the festival?

Gary: More Festivals Ha! We have Moonbeams, Respect Festival, Just So, Head For The Hills to play and then we’re off to Portugal in October for Costa Del Folk (and a long awaited holiday!).


Playing on the Main Stage at 8.15pm on Sunday 24th June. For further information on 3 Daft Monkeys visit


I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Tim from 3 Daft Monkeys: Bringing vibrant and sparkling new songs from their new album “Year of the Clown”, festival favourites 3 Daft Monkeys return to perform a brand new set of their quirky, original and upbeat fiddle-driven tunes. Now with a four-piece line-up, the band are taking their famously dynamic live show to new danceable dizzy heights.

I: Describe your music in five words?

Tim: Lyrical, Tuneful, Danceable, Wild and Original


I: What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

Tim: Year Of The Clown as it’s new and relevant


I: What are you looking forward to most about performing at the festival?

Tim: Playing to a whole new audience is always a buzz.


I: Who else are you looking forward to seeing perform at the festival?

Tim: Never seen Urban Folk Quartet but heard good reports.

I: What’s next for you after the festival?

Tim: Lot’s more Festivals !!!

And finally … interviewed Kathyrn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, who will be performing on the Main Stage at 2.30pm on Sunday 24th June, to promote their new album Personae. To read the interview click here

Folk Music Protest Folk Uncategorised

Support Merrymaker’s charity single “Nobody here wants a war”

Nobody Here Wants A War- Charity Single Launch – 26/09/16


Pushing their best foot forward with all the sensibilities of protest folk, the band Merrymaker come at us with a new single “Nobody here wants a war”.

Merrymaker is happily made out of Dan Sealey (from Merrymouth), Adam Barry (The Misers) and Nikki Petherick (singer songwriter), a trio of artists come together in a melodic, thumping protest package; first in the studio earlier in the year to record this number, and soon to be touring with a bagful of new material that for now has been kept under wraps. Their experiences as support for John McCusker, their own projects, and attendance at a large number of folk festivals within the music scene over the years promises to bring a well-tuned, politically sharp live experience to the stage for all. Like all the best folk it feels like they are setting out on a journey of articulating people’s fears of the times they are living in and it does this by going to the populace and crafting a protest out of their collective voice.
As mentioned, all proceeds from this song go to the charity, Action Aid.

“Nobody here wants a war” is a single that sees the burning fire of our Government’s involvement with Syria and blows away the smoke that lingers. Syria is pretty far from the minds of a lot of people in our country despite it having been a catastrophic war-zone for quite a long time. This could be due to the recent referendum of EU membership and other political debacles, but Merrymaker rightly brings our attention to this House of Commons decision where the country joined a coalition of other countries bombing Syria. By bringing back a memory of this decision they are wanting to give a voice to a nation of discontentment, and explore this pivotal decision that quite possibly opened a floodgate for many undemocratic actions that followed by individuals seated in power. Do they succeed?

They do, and make quite a confident stride at raising their profile. Merrymaker have done this through listening to the people through social media and working the concepts into song in a meaningful way. The collective heave of discontentment and unhappiness is expressed within their music video where several of the responses are quoted and worked into the feeling:

“I don’t think that we can actually accept that we live in a democracy at the moment, you have to question everything you hear”

“I feel saddened, frustrated, angry, and scared of the decision of the British Government”

“A country has no right to complain about refugees when they are the ones causing the refugees to flee”


The sentiments connect deeply and the latent hypocrisy of some attitudes is challenged, as the lyrics sing, “”it’s a cycle of madness.. and it’s done in our name”. Uplifting and rousing with some lovely harmonies, a likeable pace and a stirring piano it shows a passion to challenge oppression. The layers of aerophone and free-moving fiddle also catch the ear quite nicely and the main singer’s voice is sad yet hopeful. All together a good listen and a worthwhile cause indeed. Living in times of a challenging political identity and growing right-wing ideologies, it is welcome to hear a band focusing on this year and communicating not just a differing viewpoint, but a highly maintained one from society itself. As they say themselves:

“the idea of writing songs about subjects that matter to us as a band, came from a sheer frustration from modern bands and songwriters not wanting
to air their views through music anymore.”

With people’s unwillingness to openly challenge power in society, Merrymaker are lending a hand and at the same time creating a commentary on the times we are living in.

I look forward to hearing them at Derby Folk Festival this very weekend (30th September so get your tickets now), and their future music releases each month that are to culminate in their EP launch in early 2017. If you are in Derby and have a ticket, they are playing at the Guildhall Clubrooms at 5.30pm on Saturday 1st), website here.

Check out the video below, and then go to their website here. The single is available for £0.99 there, with proceeds going to ActionAid who support women and children through a number of initiatives, click on their image below for a link!


All proceeds from this song go to the charity, Action Aid.

British Dark Folk Gigs Uncategorised

South Yorkshire FRW Music Festival – Sep 2016: Said The Maiden


Authentic energy brought to dark, traditional numbers and original work.


Admittedly one of the two acts that drew me to the the new festival in Doncaster (South Yorkshire Folk, Roots and World) at the Leopard, “Said the Maiden” fantastic in name, and beginning to flourish in notability. They are like a group on their way up to the horizon, the sun might be setting in other places but they are rising. Having played with the late, highly-influential fiddler Dave Swarbrick on tour, occupied their own tour spaces and won the Isambard Folk Award in 2015, they occupy a particular niche which they do surprisingly well in. Their delivery and subject matter is generally traditional folk elements, but their enthusiasm and confidence gives it an exceptionally original edge.

For anyone not familiar with their work they are Jess Distill, Hannah Elizabeth and Kathy Pilkinton, a trio of women that bring the sea, mystery and the best sensibilities of folk music storytelling to an acapella form. Somewhat like Lady Maisery (though earlier in their journey) but choosing to dwell on the darker side of things for now they wind a story here and there and bring a kind of light menace to the subjects of their work through their harmony.

After an initial release of “a curious tale” in 2014, and their their recent maturing of sound EP “of maids and mariners” they have also been involved in a great collaborative work with supergroup “The Company of Players” with the likes of Kelly Oliver, Kim Lowings, and Lukas Drinkwater (and many others) in celebration of the works of Shakespeare. Alongside other fledgling and interesting sounds must have been a boon, they are working on a new album and expectations are unsurprisingly high for what they will bring next.

At the Leopard in Doncaster their set included a number of great songs including a rendition of  1870’s “In the Pines (also known as “Where did you sleep last night?”) where they gave a grand and solemn focus to the tragic and well known number, a faithful and interesting “Spencer the Rover”, and a slowed down, more punchy cover of “Jolene”. These all shared a high benchmark of quality though the highlights of their set were probably their version of “The Soldier and the Maid”, and their own song “Polly Can You Swim?”

The STM version of “The Soldier and the Maid” (Trooper and the Maid) sounds the marching energy of the soldier at war, in this respect it arguably trumps some of the more traditional renditions which seem plodding in comparison. Their three voices are almost like spirit narrators or the young maid’s turmoil manifest on stage. As they sing they details her joy, her worry as the voices of reason within the Maid’s mind; the aforementioned pace fits both the growing lust and the speed and urgency of the call to war within the song. If you can get hold of a copy I recommend it.

“Polly can you swim?” is a song entrenched both in subject and delivery of the sea shanty. It has the themes of classic folk and theatre (women dressing as men), the romanticism of setting (on a boat at sea), and the piratical chanting of the eponymous title of the song. When it came on there was a slight buzz, the audience got right into it. Much like my recent review of Jenny Sturgeon and her song “Raven”, there is a rhythmic hymn within the song; it mocks, it excites, and it fits seamlessly into history. People in times to come will think it is a much older song than it is, which is some achievement as it is extremely hard to establish convincing modern mythology in the traditional style and not look like a maligned smuggler of floral tea.

Said the Maiden more than lived up to expectations. Their set was brooding and professional, their voices were like vanilla coconut, sweet but textured with the grit of hard living which sounds great from a relatively young band.

I strongly recommend you see them, their next appearance is at the Great British Folk Festival in December, Skegness where there are some amazing groups (I wish I was able to go at:

Check out “Polly Can You Swim?” and “The Soldier and the Maid” below.


Album/EP Reviews British Dark Folk European Folk Music Uncategorised

KARA – Some Other Shore – “a deep thematic album of tragedy and triumph” – review

Released June 2016

KARA return with another excellent album called “Some Other Shore” (their debut was also nautical sounding, “Waters So Deep”). The particularities that make the sound and ideas appealing can be boiled down into the three-part approach taken to their writing and recording of folk music. The first part is that their music is heavily thematic in that the lyrics are often worked and adapted from literature and tragic tales from England, Russia and beyond (in a similar vein to wonderful Emily Portman). The second part is that there is a spirited arrangement that uses instruments such as the dulcimer and melodeon that you might not always expect or hear when picking up some acoustic folk which makes it slightly unusual and dfferent. The heavy theme and instrumentation combine together to explain their third angle; a juxtaposition of dark emotion, fantasy and myth that give them an idiosyncratic but incredibly rich and dream-like sound.

On the album we have Daria Kulesh on lead vocals, Ben Honey (guitar), Phil Underwood (melodeon), and Kate Rouse (dulcimer, vocals). Produced and recorded by Jason Emberton (with some additional support from Phil Underwood and Lauren Deakin Davis) it has guest appearances from Lukas Drinkwater and James Delarre within the album which KARA have been promoting on their tour (there are still a couple of venues left, and more the be announced here). 

How is the album? Daria Kulesh’s voice is as expressive as ever as it pirouettes on a delicate higher register, the songs vary enormously in rhythm, optimism and tradition and the reach of the vision and image is very far indeed. It manages to be haunting, insightful, and fine balance between modern and old. As Daria Kulesh and KARA like themes, let us consider some of the songs next with some loose themes they could sit next to:

The Dancing Numbers

“Lovers’ Task/Black Tea Waltz” is both a reinterpretation and a dance. “Lovers” is a gracious, sensual and capable version of Scarborough Fair as collected by Cecil Sharpe though the band has cast a Russian spell upon it. Like seeing a creature of habit wearing a brand new coat, this telling of one the most well-known popular songs in folk consciousness is trying something different as it lists the slightly different, “setherwood, sale, rosemary, and thyme” as the trademark herbs. It works remarkably. It could be Kulesh’s precise, alpine and lingering lyrics; it could be Kate Rouse’s arrangement or (one of the keystones of KARA) the use of the hammered dulcimer, or it could be the fact that it never hold up. Like a young child dancing in spring it moves and jumps in exhibition without a care. In transition the track moves to the Black Tea Waltz where it becomes like an endless, yawing revolution of joy and light. It is constructed like a book, it opens and unfolds and sings to you throughout and is a great track for it.

Likewise Phil Underwood’s “Hollingbourne/Broadhurst Gardens” is a candidate for a new favourite tune to dance to. The melodeon jigs stirringly and the tracks are imbibed with the both the rural and urban elements of folk music. It seems to speak first of a story of mystery and pursuit (like clue searching in a Parisian hedge maze) before skipping to the amber lights of taverns in town serving a sea of foaming beer. A great original number and a track that should gain a following in the dancing communities.

Tragedy and Triumph

There is as always in KARA’s works a sense of characters and their experiences. Daria’s particular strengths as main vocalist are in her contrasting portrayals of women which are then bravely all added to a single album. Tragic or triumphant she has the range to bring the gloom or fury in equal measure. “Goodbye and Forgive Me” is an example of tragedy as a song of a woman in an unpleasant marriage who seeks the freedom of another man (which does not bode well), “Now this crime it was discovered, swift accusal and arrest, and in exile my false lover, took another to his breast.” The song is based on Nikola Leskov’s 19th Century book, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk district” that inspired Daria during the recent successful “Company of Players” event celebrating Shakespeare. Interesting and sad in it’s deliberation it is a tremendous contrast to track 9. 

“Stormteller” is the fury to the previous song’s gloom. A pacy, onomatopoeic number it shows Daria Kulesh echoing the rhythm of the weather in song while she gallops through a speedy, relentless race. Throughout there is a sense of the storm and by the end of the track Daria has pretty much gone full shaman on us. Like Nostrodamus’ secret muse the song is as evocative as ever as it starts from a few quiet drops to a full blown melodic tempest as it builds. The guitar strums are not unlike a mariachi band as Daria applies her voice like the Western Mexico sun as she calls down the the elements, “I am of the black skies, I am of the hail, I am of the thunder, I am of the gale, I am a storyteller, it is them I control.” It’s sense of power is not unlike Sandy Denny’s “John the Gun” but more like Ange Hardy’s earthy Goddess tones of Bare Foot Folk’s “Mother Willow Tree”. A good track for nature lovers.

Traditional and Jazzy

KARAs’ folk music that is undeniable, especially as they do a fair share of recording of traditional numbers too. “Seaview” is one of the songs on the album that brings the shoreline of the title into view (and a delightfully fanciful album cover it is too) and speaks of that familiar, welcoming maybe imaginary place we go to. It is a light and chirpy song that flickers with a nostalgia for old times with family as children, the seaside and the briny air. Peaceful and thoughtful it can be considered along with the folk dance numbers as a familiar but good example of a lightly traditional number. In contrast “Devilry Dance”, the penultimate track is going to different seas and cities for it’s inspiration.

A folk album with surprises is a bright thing indeed, and when there is a swing number as part of that surprise, it positively shines. Don’t get me wrong, KARA are not the first band to experiment and include multiple genres on a disc and won’t be the last, but this is a good lyrical showcase amongst many on the others as it describes the ghastly dance in it’s commanding tones, “it has no rhythm in the normal sense, the steps are as long as they are wide.” It has New York cellar bars all over it proving that KARA rebelliously puts its feet in different countries and times and is not content with being the already well established English/Russian lovechild that it is.


“Some other shore” is quite ruminating. It will appeal to trad-folk fans that is for certain, but it’s appeal goes beyond the nods of the heads it gives to the Waltzs and the knowing looks to songs about salty sailors and the trades of old. It is a prime example of expert synthesis of literary and emotional experience which is confidently playing with some alternative instrumentation that holds you in a magical gaze. More confident than the debut, and deeply magical to the ear; it is an accomplished work. 

Check it out, it won’t disappoint!

Album Title: Some Other Shore

Producer: Jason Emberton

Recorders and Engineers: Jason Emberton, Phil Underwood, Lauren Deakin Davies

Mastered at: The Green Room

Track 1: Tamara’s Wedding

Track 2: Seaview

Track 3: Lovers’ Tasks/Black Tea Waltz

Track 4: Goodbye and Forgive Me

Track 5: Adrienne

Track 6: Hollingbourne/Broadhurst Gardens

Track 7: Misery and Vodka

Track 8: Carousel Waltz

Track 9: Stormteller

Track 10: Leigh Fishermen

Track 11: Devilry Dance

Track 12: Ataman

The album is available from KARA’s website directly here for £10.