Festival World

Underneath the Stars 2018: Barnsley’s Further Foray into Folk

Underneath the Stars is a festival of celebration of Yorkshire’s music scene and the grand tradition of Kate Rusby, but more importantly it is an olive branch, nay, an olive tree that gives a platform to several well-known and upcoming groups wherever they hail from. A generous enterprise indeed.

Our festival visits continue and this time we cast our eye on “Underneath the Stars 2018”, one of the jewels of Barnsley’s music scene calendar. But does it glimmer in the light?

Now in it’s fifth year the festival is a a relaxed bustle of international musicians across genres, extensive and friendly children’s entertainment, excellent craft and food stalls and of course a series of musical workshops. It is true, many festivals have childrens entertainment but there is probably more than it’s fair share here with no end of diablos, stilts, optical illusion constructions and storytelling to keep the little ones entertained.

None of the entertainment seems like an afterthought either. Through the weekend we hear the countdown of entertainers about to release a giant Newton’s Cradle, or see the crypt-keeper doing his rounds ushering families for the night-time spooky tales. There is more all-round entertainment for families then I’ve ever seen at a folk festival anywhere, credit is definitely due for the Rusbys and their commitment to trying to make it a festival for everyone. Beer is free flowing, and there are more than enough places to indulge in food if you don’t bring your own, our favourite being the “Massala Chips” that are on offer from a vendor here. Whilst being fairly large in size, the whole even is quite self-contained with festival venues being near the top, the workshop tent at the bottom and everything else in between.

Colourful and picturesque, we cannot really ask for better surroundings.

That is all well and good, but what of the music? Well there is so much, it is hard to know where to start. Let us tell you about a few of our favourites. Starting with Maya Youseff.

Maya Youseff

Arriving on the third day like a hungry tiger waiting to pounce, Maya Youseff is here, but she is not alone. There is her band, but also an unexpected, ethereal sound drawn straight from her homeland that brings a positive World vibe which widens the scope and sound of the whole festival. Youseff is from Syria and considered the “queen of the quanun”, her 78 string zipher whose playing is usually dictated to be a man’s occupation. Breaking the mould in performance and sound, Youseff performs from an ethical standpoint, the desire for peace in Syria. She achieves this through a kind of waterfall of sonic beauty. Having played Womad the year before she brings her unique talents to South Yorkshire.

There is a lot from her set to enjoy. Of course she plays the number that started her leap into music with her most famous song “Syrian Dreams” a reflective tune that builds to a plead for action and an almost broken dismayed finale. It is something special but there is more. Her song “Hi Jazz” is an audio experiment into different chords and melody that shows the quanun’s versatility in playing and sustaining a tune that takes less influence and pointers from the Middle East with great success. Another favourite if ours is “Breakthrough” with a kind of sound that maps and shows inspiration and the barrage of ideas as they converge and deepen. It is all impressive.

Her songs of peace culminate in the “7 Gates of Damascus” a series of interludes that together formed a soundscape of these Damascus portals. There are shades of personality within each section be it the steadfast Kisan Gate, the much more watery Gate of St Thomas and also the “Gate of Peace” with several short sharp strokes like gleaming jewels in the sand.

A delightful set and a wonderful addition to Underneath the Stars. See her website here

Joanne Harris and the Storytime Band

Showing it’s commitment to star power and interesting celebrity, Underneath the Stars invite the acclaimed author Joanne Harris along to the weekend, and lucky for us she accepts. Widely famous for her work “Chocolat” she has written and conceived of several other multi-genre novels, Twitter-writing projects, and now she has turned her expert hand to music.

Early in the day, Joanne Harris’s band get the senses going for what comes next. Drawing the content of her songs and narrative from her books, we hear about bees, rivers of dreams, a clockmaker who remakes his wife piece by piece, and a shapeshifting woman of nature. Her stories are primal and familiar but much like the vinyl loaded on to a player in a hurry, they are all stories with an interesting spin. As Harris explains, they all wanted to “escape the page”

The set can easily be described as myth with a cloak of “prog rock” which is little surprise given the bands personal friendship and history together. Harris herself calls it “Jackanory with drums.” We can’t refute her logic, there are a great selection of stories she draws on here and it is quite jaunty and forlorn in the way only flute led forest tunes can be. Whilst this is the case the overarching tone and character probably can be more likened in it’s musicality to the War of the Worlds. You aren’t waiting for the interrogative violin slap of that signature tune, but maybe one or two martians made it through the British military’s defensive line this time. This is no bad thing rather it is an interesting choice.

Inventive and powerful, the Storytime Band are one to check out if they are in your area. Check out Joanne Harris’ website for more information

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

All dressed smartly in a row, it is possible that many audience members are uncertain of what is to come (my partner is incredibly sceptical). The Ukes are pretty much exactly what they say they are after all, an orchestra of ukuleles but this factor alone is not what makes them brilliant (as unique as it is). It is rather they they cover songs that are instantly recognisable with the gusto and flamboyance of a Spanish Bullfighter making bread to tune. The comedy starts with them describing the vast array of tuned ukuleles in their repertoire (hint: they are mostly tenor) and it just continues to climb from there.

This knowledge doesn’t really prepare for the onslaught of comedy and musicianship that is to come your way. These small instruments and their performers become epic in size as the evening ticks over and emotions run high. Some of our favourites include their rendition of “Life on Mars”, “Born to be Wild”, and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”. Sprightly in sound like a drove of hares, the Ukes commanded the field, tent and all surrounding area as they remind you of great songwriting in the ukulele style.

We had seen snippets online of their performances, after all, they have played the highest echelons of arenas such as Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall, but even the grandiosity of the sound and image on screen does not come close to the atmosphere of the live performance. Consummate and legendary they are an exceptional act for this Barnsley festival. Their website is here

Midnight Skyracer

As fiery as the efflorescent arcs of heated coals into a train engine, Midnight Skyracer are a fine set of plans for a bluegrass night as any you can imagine. At “Underneath the Stars” they were part of the afternoon entertainment.. and entertained we were. Like an unstoppable but non-menacing juggernaut (maybe a mystery red setter running at you rather than an Alsatian), Midnight Skyracer were on point with delightfully sun-bleached lyrics, tremendous  instrument skills and a chamber of sound that confidently shakes the most obscure mountain man’s hut. Their songs ranged from quintessential Blues romps (Working Girl Blues), to Bluegrass-RiotGrrrl song “So Long, Goodbye, We’re Through” with dizzying banjo plucks and a refreshing story of how a song transformed from being a potato to a cow who is rode like a horse (Virginia Rose).

Their set is basically a testament to how much a group can rock. Throughout you see the different shades of Bluegrass, and each artist’s personality clearly shines through. In other words.. we highly recommend. See their website here

Kate Rusby & Sally Smith

Yes the integral Kate Rusby is performing during the festival, and she is fantastic. There is also a surprise appearance by Jason Manford and together they truly bring the house down with “Falling Softly”, a song from Manford’s album and a track from the musical “Once” (a love story set in Dublin). There was also an opportunity to hear fan favourites “Big Brave Bill” (Barnsley’s superhero of choice) and the eponymous beautiful and completative “Underneath the Stars” amongst many others from Kate’s extensive discography. A personal and consummate performer you can’t help but smile at Kate’s energy, and this is why we were especially interested in the “cosy chat” portion of the weekend where Kate Rusby & Sally Smith came back (by popular demand) to talk about their friendship and looking fondly back on early experiences with music.

It is all very real when Kate plays a tape of an especially sad song about kissing the lips of a dead soldier (that’s how we remembered it anyway) as part of a school project. The slot moves on around her (at the time) questionable fashion (a pair of massive trousers they both stand in being something else indeed), it is all very relaxed and cool and welcoming. At a few points Kate is joined by the band and husband Damien O’Kane as they thrash out some songs. At these junctures, friend Sally entertains massively here with her tin whistle interjections and well-meaningness. Light-hearted and cheeky it’s a warming mirror to the spirit of the festival and a good showcase of what it is all about.

And Many Others..

We could go on all day (we won’t we promise), so let us quickly run through some of the others that caught our attention. There is of course the prominent, significant and mind-dwelling set of Lau alongside their Moog instrument “Morag”, a group so inventive and cerebral they seem to pierce the veil of musicality itself. Also the enigmatic yet  grounded Martha Tilston, quiet and contained “Pitou” and Austarians “L-R” who in their grand percussion seemed to attract the biggest and most dedicated following for a newer artist that we saw over the weekend.

There is also Andy Kershaw’s sage and funny advice from the world of showbiz (with some Alan Bennett impressions thrown in), Estebel’s excellent European Folk wanderings, Jack Rutter’s faithful folk leanings, and one of our favourites “Melrose Quartet” shaking up the festival with their exceedingly polished, reaching set around the successful “Dominion” album. Credit should also be given for Jack Harris a long time supporter of the festival, compere and performing with an honest, gritty and talented acoustic set.

All-in-all a success. A very family-friendly event, a safe site, and excellent music taste by the Rusbys here. If festivals were animals, then “Underneath the Stars” would be an emperor penguin standing tall and confident, yet humble in it’s achievements and offer.

Check out the bands, keep peeled for next year’s festival and get yourself tickets. “Underneath the Stars” got the mix of new and established artists just right with so many interesting expressions and beautiful means of weaving a song. Go to the website here to keep an eye open

If this is not enough, check out some of our sample videos from the festival below.

NOTE: I do not copyright or ownership of given performances and music below, they belong with the respective owners. I do not claim income from said material. Any artists wishing for use and copies of the source files for their own promotion and use, please email me at and I can send the original recording for your own publicity and artistic endeavours.

Festival Folk Music

An Auspicious Beginning in the Sun – Beardy Folk Festival 2018 – 21st-23rd June 2018

An auspicious beginning in the sun, Beardy brings the breadth of bigger festivals to you in a space which is convenient, friendly and relaxed

Like when the blacksmith’s hammer is at it’s hottest, June this year was aglow with fire, heat and sparks.

Festival season was underway and the musical magic about to happen for many people who get to choose their poison (alcohol, cola, tea) and go to a festival to choose their other poison (pop, jazz, folk, hip-hop). For a few days over late June we decided to opt for Folk as our medium of choice and travel down to Shropshire for the first of what is shaping to a nice additional to the festival calendar, the “Beardy Folk Festival.”

It lived up to it’s name, that’s for certain. One of the artists (I cannot remember which) did point out he thought he’d walked into a ZZ Top Convention. Yes there were beards and they were that impressive, my boy stubble was of no compare.

Bearded stuff aside, the festival was home to some children’s entertainment, a mini funfair and opportunities to eat, drink and buy around the fantastic walled Hopton Court. Thankfully with the expansive, warming sun we found a few areas of shade to cool off and certainly left the festival with a tan! We are certainly liking the trend in festivals where the bar is encouraging people to hire the containers or bring their own. Beardy had their own take where they sold you a commemorative container for £1 and you keep it for the festival all the way through and beyond. Certainly environmentally better than binning a pile of plastic.

We also found that there was excellent sound quality all around, good scheduling (you could see absolutely everything) and some brilliant acts to boot; the beer was quite awesome too. It’s more contained than expansive city festivals (like Oxford Folk Festival) so what it loses in it’s varied sprawling historical setting it makes up for in convenience and pleasant surroundings. The only musical tent being an acoustic tent was good also, not much need for jostling to get to the front, everyone can see and have to bring their own seats.

That’s the festival generally. What were our musical highlights? See below and have a quick sample!


We continue to sing the praises of this modern, psychedelic outfit that brings the animation of yesteryear folk and collides it with the vitality of youth. Singing a number of folk songs, some bombastic in their rock interpretations (The Lowlands of Holland) with other more considered numbers (such as a version of “At the Harbour”) or bloodythirsty tales of revenge, “The Smuggler’s Tale”, they continue to be a a festival catalyst. Like the spinning leaves of Autumn that trigger a beautiful memory as they crunch underfoot, the Joshua Burnell Band always liven up the place. Their belting of Scots set, “Plane Tree & Tenpenny bit” is like the crack of a lion tamers whip as it curves around the stage, it is even more with the recent addition of Holly Brandon on fiddle, they really are hitting their groove in style.

With a big band rock edge, inspiration can be seen from Steeleye Span with their spin on “Blackleg Miner” and Fairport Convention’s “Tamlin” and these models certainly suits them as the joining chorus of instruments keep pace with Burnell’s dancing hands and swaying hair.

Always a pleasure to see and hear. For us the Joshua Burnell Band are like the person at a party who finds and open the champagne in the middle of celebrations!

Go to and find some more out about them.


We admit that the sun always shines on us with the Carrivick Sisters. A duo who have been influencing and informing folk and bluegrass for a while, it is statistically possible that their down-to-earth characters and earnest, exploratory songwriting could not do the trick one day.. but that would be a sad day indeed (and we do very badly at maths).

At Beardy, they were joined by Kieran Towers. Kieran has made an album with Charlotte Carrivick, “Wolves a Howlin'” that looks at Appalachian Folk Music with new eyes, and his presence here was very welcome indeed. They performed some excellent songs including the historically drenched “1912 House” that oozed sadness and the feel of another time, the burning and aching wonder of their take on “The Blackest Crow” and the delicate racing burst of “Piggy Bank”, an instrumental that reminded of the sugar rush of crushed skittles.

They also sung of Snowdonia and maps, responding to a Yew Pine Mountain in an original track (“No Yew a Pine Mountain”) and an old tortoise, in a great set of versatility.

Dynamic and versatile, Towers and the Carrivicks make it look easy and effortless. To hear more of Charlotte and Kieran go here, for the Carrivicks go here



Imagine a quiet cave with you inside and your thoughts on the walls around from a mythological adventure you have returned from. This is how you might come to understand the music of Kitty Macfarlane. We have been waiting to see her for quite a while, the last time we caught any of her set was at Oxford Folk Festival last year.. but that was literally ten minutes (we got lost on the windy streets).

Beardy Folk made it very easy to find her this time so there we were! Kitty’s set didn’t disappoint.

Several of the songs tickled our interest of legend and story such as the “Glass Eel”, the world-spanning creature and “Avona and the Giant” about the muse of brothers “Goram and Vincent” from Somerset lore. The latter is much like the singer herself: quiet and effective as it makes it’s way into the world. The afternoon sun definitely got softer with her musical presence. And then there were other songs such as her song about fishermen in North France “Tide and Time”, and a new song she had composed for a newborn in her family “Dawn and Dark” about there being bigger challenges for the child as they grow up and even better things to come in the future.

Enjoyable, mellow and contained we recommend you see her where you can.

At the point of Kitty’s debut album is on it’s way on 21st September, “Namer of Clouds.” Go to her website for more information


With Granny’s Attic we feel that they are at the point where their lightening might strike, we have heard the rumble of thunder and now the energy is coming down from the skies. With a fairly extensive tour schedule and

Granny’s Attic are a trio of young, exasperatingly talented musicians who (we think quite rarely) sail their boat around the rock of traditional folk. There aren’t the only young group who are, its just that few seem to accomplish it with the kind of trad-purity and dedication to the cause. Like a herd of plucky mountain goats you can try to catch their sound and energy but they will run away with it.

Our favourites were “The Wheels of the World” with a particular message about society, the great titled “What I Saw In My Dream (As I Slept in My Chair)” a kind of delirious dream of what the world could be like, and of course their saline, punchy version of shanty, “Away to the South’ard.” The winds of the world were blowing indeed and these guys answer the call.

A funny bit of the set was how the band described how they might have burnt their bridges in local Worcester venues (because they weren’t very good back then) and have found fame elsewhere. It is certainly encouraging to hear how musicians always start from somewhere (and it happens they are from near where we grew up).

They are a young image of folk that takes everything you like about the traditional scene and adds a dash chilli to heat it up, go to their website for more info


Dishing out intricate musical performance with the energy of a piston engine, the Urban Folk Quartet opened with “Long Time Traveller” an earthy, rich hewing of ancient wood and soil. There is plenty here with fiddle, guitar, banjo and some serious percussion that extends it’s grasp into those areas between experiences that spread beyond geographical boundaries. Awfully tongue-in-cheek with their prowess there is so much to like whether it’s Dan Walsh’s clambering and speeding “Whiplash Reel” (after what we presume is an intense Indian car journey) or a three piece tune that celebrates the experience of joining (and then running away) from the circus; there are many things to be happy with and many subject matters to get lost in. “The “Whiplash Reel” rolls off the banjo almost effortlessly and sings of unfamiliar streets, the song is layered like a strata of land that bristles with India’s many precious metals perhaps inviting you for a prospect of your own.

Enjoyable and reaching for those places you didn’t know existed, the Urban Folk Quartet are another band to add to your list,

There were many other sets we enjoyed at Beardy too. There was a rare appearance by Richard Digance, comedian and singer who sand many from his repetoire “What’s the use of anything?”, “Jack of all trades” and “Sod’s Law.” An all-round entertainer, Digance explained the showbiz world and where he feels he fits in it, it was surely entertaining to realise where all those daytime TV guitar numbers had come from. Grace Petrie was a force of nature. We hadn’t seen a full set of hers until this time (previously caught her as part of the Coven) so it was a joy to hear a strongly political (but often personal) voice to the mix of proceedings here. Extremely self-aware (her musing about just how “left” she is is telling, and something I battle with myself) she was a thundering cannon on these thoughts in “Nobody Knows I’m a Fraud” before launching into “Ivy” a runaway hit of her set (and would have been at the festival were it not for the Graceland set). Her self and being is held up for all to see, a heartfelt performer that laments her lack of finding a particular niche but exhibits the qualities of freedom and break from tradition that much folk shys away from.

We also enjoyed the continuing success of Kim Lowings, which was seen even more here and the comedic but vivid waves of tunes from the Jaywalkers who supplied not only the offbeat, unexpected numbers around burnt chilli and a “Mountain Chicken” but also a very fine cover of “Tainted Love.” Bright and piercing like an arrow of light, they are a quality act. Other musicians of note were Roberts & Lakeman, Skinner & Twitch, and Jim Moray but there are too many to mention here.

Beardy Folk was an incredible success. A good opener with a recognisable and varied type of artist, an open location with a complimentary sound setup.

Keep your eyes to their website ahead of their festival I’m sure will be happening same time next year!


Festival Interviews

Beardy Folk Festival 2018 – Artist Interviews – Part #1

Hi all, hope the sun is as radiant as ever wherever you are!

We thought we would take a moment to bring you some words about an upcoming festival in Cleobury Mortimer, it is called the “Beardy Folk Festival.”

In Shropshire and it’s first year Beardy Folk Festival is looking like a stand out event. You might often hear us wax lyrical about festivals, but this one is particularly special.

First of all, the artists. For the first of it’s kind it has attracted a good, wide beardy net of well known folksters. For starters you have “Skerryvore”, “False Lights”, “Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman”, “Grace Petrie”, “Granny’s Attic”.. the list goes on. Pretty much everyone and their dog is going so it seems like there is a great opportunity to see some big names and hang out within a 19th Century walled garden (this does seem like a very nice dream).

But it’s not just that, there is a nice selection of other activities too. Lots of stuff for children (under 13’s go free), enchanted woods, storytelling, and for a adults freestyle yoga, a cocktail bar and real ale. There should be plenty of fine things to eat too if you get fed up of beans on the camping stove!

Anyway.. the festival begins on 22nd June 2018 and ends on 24th June 2018. In the meantime get yourself to the website here, and check out in more detail!

In anticipation of the festival, ourselves and our fellow lovely blog “Last Night I Dreamt of” ( reached out to some of the artists for some interviews.

This is part one of our interview sessions, starting with “False Lights.”

False Lights

At the forefront of Folk Festivals for the last year or two, we have to admit we haven’t yet heard their set. Boo.. I hear you say, but we are hoping to rectify that this year.

Sounding positively interesting and wide reaching, False Lights are playing on the Main Stage at 10.30pm on Friday 22nd June. For further information on False Lights visit In addition, Jim Moray will be playing on the Main Stage at 7.30pm on Saturday 23rd June.

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Jim from False Lights: False Lights was formed by Sam Carter and Jim Moray to try to play traditional songs and the 90s guitar music we’d grown up with at the same time. We invited some more of our favourite musicians to join us and released our first album Salvor in 2015. People seemed to like it so we thought we ought to to keep pushing further and our second, Harmonograph, was released in February.

I: Describe your music in five words?

Jim: Space folk guitars fiddle. Marmalade.

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

Jim: With two albums to draw on we get to choose the most enjoyable songs for every set, but I think we all love to play our customary set-closer Crossing The Bar. Its a poem by Tennyson, set to a church/anthemic/samba arrangement and ends with a 16-bar drum solo which is the most uplifting way to play a song about positivity around death.

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

Jim: Everything we’ve seen of the festival so far looks really exciting, so we hope to be able to bring what we do to a like-minded audience in an idyllic location. Because Beardy Folk is a new festival there is a great opportunity for the audience to help define the feel of the event and shape the direction it takes in the future. Finding new ways to showcase our kind of music is what we live for, so we’re incredibly pleased to be invited to play.

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

Jim: Our friends Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, Jess Morgan and Kitty McFarlane are all great. And, as we said above, this band grew up in the Britpop years so its only right that we go and see Chris Helme.

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

Jim: We’ll be playing a few shows in the autumn and spring. Sam and Jim both have tentative solo albums out in 2019, and then we’ll regroup again after that to try to push the ideas we have in False Lights further again. There’s loads that we want to do, the difficulty is just in deciding which to devote the time to. But that’s the best kind of problem to have!

Joshua Burnell Band

We saw the Joshua Burnell Band last year at “Beverley Folk Festival”. It was pretty much music to go questing to with it’s rather epic, catchy melodies and steel determination of the band to entertain. They are playing on the Main Stage at 1.30pm on Saturday 23rd June. For further information visit

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Josh: Matt is responsible for the lower end of our frequency range, and has been for every other band in York at some stage. He’s from Texas and makes a wicked potato salad. Frances ‘Fe’ Sladen is the one with the magnificent voice that makes everyone stop what they’re doing and listen. She also looks scarily like me when we both wear sunglasses, which has led to the band game of ‘Is-it-Josh-or-is-it-Fe?!’ involving tour photos and a catchy theme tune. We’re fairly certain we’re not related, which is just as well, since we’re getting married in August. Nathan is like Brian May combined with Steve Hackett. Even though he is the band member with the highest centre of gravity, he loves a good stage dive. Holly is the latest addition to our band. She’s a superb fiddle player and very friendly and at the time of writing this, I’ve only met her twice. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about her in July. Ed’s an ex-policeman, and now full time Dad and drummer. He told me to tell everyone that he’s ‘dangerous’ and certainly not a ‘cutie’ or ‘sweet’. And I’m a part-time primary teacher and part-time dreamer, and spend most of my efforts trying to find ways to pull everyone else into my dreamworld with me!

I: Describe your music in five words?

Josh: Energetic, ambitious, enthralling, fun, hopefully.

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

Josh: Blackleg Miner. It starts off with a super-folky a cappella introduction and I feel like I channel Maddy Prior for a brief moment. Then, at the end, the whole band gets to rock out with blistering solos on electric guitar, fiddle, bass, drums and 30 watts of distorted Hammond organ, just as they have done for centuries throughout the folk tradition.

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

Josh: Whenever we play – or even just gather in the same room – we have such a great time. When there’s an audience, that translates and everyone in the room has a great time. I also just love being on a stage, making a massive, loud noise – who wouldn’t? It’s amazing to be part of a brand-new festival, so I think this is going to be one we look back on very fondly at the end of the year.

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

Josh: Jim Moray does some beautiful things with traditional material, and since I’ve been doing my Seasons ‘song-per-week’ Project, I’ve had to get completely immersed trad music. It’ll be really exciting to hear some traditional ballads live, especially played by someone as accomplished as Jim Moray.

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

Josh: Festivals, festivals and more festivals, then yet another album. A highlight will definitely be playing the main stage at The Great British Folk Festival in December. It’ll be one of our biggest audiences to date, and we’ll be playing stuff from the next album; The Road To Horn Fair.

Eric Sedge

Eric Sedge is seemingly like a meteor, he has made huge strides in a relatively short time. With quite punchy acoustic songs and the ability to hold an audience, he is playing on the Acoustic Stage at 4pm on Saturday 23rd June. For further information visit

I: Tell us more about yourself?

Eric: I first arrived on the folk scene in 2010 as one half of a duo called “The Broadside Boys. We played a lot of gigs regionally in East Anglia at Folk clubs and festivals till Mat my partner, was diagnosed with serious illness and had to withdraw from gigging. since then I have been performing as a solo singer/guitarist. I am currently on my second UK tour as special guest of Richard Digance.

I: Describe your music in five words?

Eric: Three chords and the Truth!

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

Eric: Oooh a bit of a toughie! Probably the songs in which the audience are encouraged to sing along to, at least on a good night it tells me that they have engaged with my performance and are with me…..which is a lovely feeling.

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

Eric: The best thing about festivals is being able to play to a different audience, and having the opportunity to make new friends, but also to see other artists and be inspired by what they are doing.

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

Eric: Even though I have seen Richard Digance play a hundred times I always look forward to seeing him perform. There’s always something to be learnt from watching a master at work!

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

Eric: I am touring with Richard through to the end of the year, I also have some solo dates in Scotland in October, as well as Summer festivals including Cropredy in August, and the Great British Folk Weekend in December… lots to look forward to.

So this rounds up Part #1 of our interviews, stay tuned for Part #2 where we speak to “Fly Yeti Fly”, “Skerryvore”, and “Gary Stewart’s Graceland.”

And don’t forget to check out the Beardy Folk Festival website.. get yourself there for its inaugural year, be a part of history!

Acoustic Americana British Country Dark Folk Debut Festival Folk Music Folk Pop Gigs Political

Hebden Bridge Folk and Roots Festival 2018 – What you missed

Hi I hope everyone’s good and enjoying the sun!

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 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% !).


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.


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.



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.

We raise our glasses and hope to see you there next year! Keep your eyes peeled on the website

Acoustic Album/EP Reviews Country Folk Music

Gem Andrews – North- Album Review 2018

An enticing mix of light and darkness tied together in a package of exploratory, urban Tyneside Country.


Gem Andrews: Vocals, Guitar

Nicky Rushton: Piano, Accordion, Electric Guitar, Harmony Vocals

Sarah Van Jellie: Double Bass, Harmony Vocals

Bernard Wright: Violin, Mandolin, Harmony vocals

Susanne Lambert: Drums, Percussion, Shells and Harmony vocals

Sue McLaren: Harmony vocals

Charlie Hardwick: Harmony vocals

Chris Hillman: Pedal Steel

Ed Blazey: Trumpet

Dora & Macie Keddie-McLaren: Cardboard Box

Folk Phenomena is boldly stepping forward in a new direction.

It has taken a diversion at the shady looking garage, ignoring the handwritten warnings of snakes and alligators, and has parked up near the bayou feeling a little hot under the collar.. and with good reason, we are reviewing a Country album! The album in question is Gem Andrew’s new album entitled, “North.”

Well, it is a Country album.. except Country as it feels situated in an the UK with an urban and slightly briny layer of the coast. This is understandable as in creating this album Gem Andrews is bringing her love of the sea. Well being born in Liverpool and then raised in Newcastle, you would certainly hope there is a love there (or life has dealt her a very salty deck of low cards). It’s not that there are many references to rugged sailors of such like, but its a bit like when someone points out there is some citrus taste in your pale ale.. it’s a large part of the makeup, character and flavour but not everyone is too worried about the finer details. With this spinning disc of metal, the sea creates part of the atmosphere that enters the boat of Gem Andrews; mind. It is in the background of the album making it an interesting beast indeed.

In terms of character, this is a an airy, sometimes speedy but always heartfelt album. Picture it maybe as a storm of roses rustling leaves down an alleyway of romantic interludes. It could win me over to Country and variations of it as to us it showcases a good variety of sound and character being one moment social realism as in “My Friends in the North”and then at another moment it is the winding river in a forest glade. The shades of emotion in the disc are delightful.

Andrews makes some good brush strokes on society, inequality and the modern experience as she performs. Truly she finds the seat and heart of Country’s consciousness in the UK’s suburbia within the disc. It’s musical brightness contrasts with the ugly reality of living with difficulties be it poverty or health and this contrast collides bringing a complexity to proceedings. In it’s darker, angrier moments the album is gritty and feels like we are the fly on the wall in a run-down terrace, next we are in greener pastures and brighter days. What of the tracks?

Opening with “Letter” we get the sense of adventure from the go. Snappy cymbals and sweet, downy fiddle proceeds from this song giving it a swing, and fluid motion. Curiously, it is what some might consider a midpoint song. What I mean is, if it was a part of a film, it would be the bit in an 80s teen rom-com where the protagonist has realised they’ve acted selfishly and is considering their next move. So in a way it’s an introspective start but points to Andrews diving right into the album from a wellspring of inspiration and reaction to maybe not a great time in her life. Performed with such warmth though as the strings are joined by the softly stepping piano, Andrews’ voice is a confiding and joyful linchpin through the full course. The track positioning is a somewhat bold but confident move that works really well.

“Sing Your Song” is a grabbing number, one that most expertly deals with the social issues we have mentioned in passing. I know enough about Country to know that social issues, family and domestic issues are high priority as are the topics of these songs here. Andrews paints a picture of a difficult, suffocating situation, “there is violence and quietness.. and eggshells underneath.” There are several wonderfully spun lyrics here that entrench the listener even more through the course of difficulties and the subject of the song being taken to the “North… to the sea.” It is a fresh, bracing wind, the sense of freedom and the loosening of a tightly knotted anxiety and anguish. It’s also an especially melodic track with it’s lightly whispering vocal backing, omnipresent violin, and supporting pedal steel. Love it, possibly the best track on the album.

“Lungs” is another good one. It is like one of those huge paintings you see in a museum where there are several details interspersed into a larger scene of belching factories and grey. We are thinkingit remind us of a number of Lowry paintings. This is not to say it is a vicious song, but it captures industrial discontent in a gentle hands-clasping, subtle way. Like a L.S. Lowry, there is a lot going on and Andrews certainly takes a whole society view of problems within it. It does feel rather seated in some of the North-East’s difficulties getting the short end of the stick Government-wise (e.g. foodbanks, schools etc.) While the song describes less than ideal situations, it advocates the power of collectivism and what groups of people can do, “Stand up, Stand together, Breathe Deeply.” Moody and evocative it rises like a grey vapour creating pretty patterns in the sky.

An album for several moods, an impressive array of instruments that really bring the “Old Time” to the UK, and a singer whose voice is flaxen, introspective and joyful;  the whole disc is a waltzer of emotion and social conscience. It almost sounds like Andrews’ has pitched up a gazeebo down the banks of the River Tyne and is singing a song of comfort and love for the city. Her voice is like a mirror for the city before a backdrop of people and place.

Quite evocative and situated, we recommend you give this album a go, we give it a thumbs up.

For more information about the artist and purchasing the album, go to

“North” was released in February 2018, recorded at Blank Studies for Market Square Music by Ross Lewis.

Festival Interviews PR

Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival 2018- Some Artist Interviews!

Looking ahead to Hebden Bridge Folk and Roots Festival ( 11th-13th May!) we are hoping it is going to be a sun-drenched affair with ice-cream, cool beer and the faint rustling of leaves on the breeze. If it’s not.. well, at least we will still have the music! Before it all kicks off we managed to catch up with some of the musicians at the festival and were delighted to hear what they had to say.

For further information on the festival, its line-up, programme and to book tickets visit

Tickets are available to collect from the Hope Baptist Chapel in Hebden Bridge at 2pm on the first day, Friday 11th May 2018.

Henry Priestman

First of all we spoke to Henry Priestman, a man who has been in the music business quite a while (over 38 years) who whilst in the band, The Yachts supported some impressive talent such as The Who and The Sex Pistols and contributed to the world in a huge number of other musical projects. We caught up with him to hear his thoughts.

I: Tell us more about yourself?

Henry: My name is Henry Priestman. I used to be songwriter/member of The Christians (big in the 80’s/90’s, ask your Mum about them!), and before that, new wave band Yachts (ask your Grandad about them!). I released my debut solo album The Chronicles of Modern Life in 2008, and have had an amazing time in the last ten years, at this new cottage industry level, on the folk/singer/songwriter circuit. Wembley Arena? Been there, done it, give me Hebden Bridge anyday!

I: Describe your music in five words?

Henry: Radio 2’s Johnnie Walker, he called it “Music for grumpy old men”!! Me, I’d go for “wry, poignant, warmth, protest, mayhem”

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

Henry: Probably my song “We Used To Be You”, a song about kids leaving home to go to University (or a job away)…I love seeing how each verse resonates with certain members of the audience…I feel I can hear them saying “yes, that was us when young Billy left home”!

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

Henry: Returning to Hebden Bridge for the first time in 4 years…love the place…also will be great to be back with my band The Men of a Certain Age.

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

Henry: Especially looking forward to meeting up again with quite a few people I’ve performed with in the past…a while back I did a Hebden Bridge songwriter circle with Steve Tilston and Roger Davies, and Reg Meuross and I have also done a few joint gigs together, so will be great to see all them again. And Jon Palmer and band have done Beverley Festival and Folk on the Farm Festival a number of times on the same bill as me, and they’re always good value!

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

Henry: A house gig at Spurn Point the next day!…then a good lie-down, followed by more dates throughout the year

Henry Priestman will be performing at Hope Baptist Chapel at 9.15pm on the Saturday 12th May. For further information on Henry Priestman visit

Mambo Jambo

Mambo Jambo describe themselves as an acoustic-roots duo. With an uplifting sound and vast, almost continent-spanning array of instruments they have many tools in their arsenal and look to be a fabulous addition to the festival.

I: Tell us more about yourselves?

Mambo Jambo: This is what our website says about us! “Acoustic Roots duo, Mambo Jambo, might just be the biggest acoustic duo you’ll ever see. A truly unique two-piece with their own rhythmic and joyful sound, they’ll take you on a musical journey with a mash-up of sounds from roots, world, folk and jazz, plus their own compositions. With Frankie on sax, vocals, clarinet, flute, guitar and spoons plus other percussion and Pete on guitar, vocal, ukulele, tres (traditional Cuban guitar), banjo, accordion and suitcase ! Pete and Frankie have been gathering admirers at shows and festivals the length and breadth of the country. A fabulous musical treat is in store wherever they roll up, their tour bus packed to the brim!”

I: Describe your music in five words?

Mambo Jambo: Multi-instrumental Whirlwind of joyful roots music.

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

Mambo Jambo: We don’t really have a favourite song as such; we keep it fresh for the audiences and ourselves with variety, variety of styles,moods and instruments. People often describe our shows as a musical journey and we don’t want to pick out just one musical stop off along the way!!

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

Mambo Jambo: We’re looking forward to bringing a whole range of diverse roots music ourselves to the festival. We’re thrilled to be part of this festival with it’s great line up, we love the fact that there’s loads of great stuff going on in in venues, in the community and on the streets – all sorts of stuff going on!

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

Mambo Jambo: We’re really looking forward to seeing all the musicians who are playing the same day as us, some of whom we’ve seen at other festivals they and we have played at, including Tantz, Mestisa, Don’t Feed The Peacocks. Also Steve Tilston; Musicians of Bremen, 309s; G-Runs And Roses;  and we’ll try and catch all the bands and musicians we haven’t seen before; so many great bands for us (and all the audiences) to discover! Not forgetting the storytelling sessions and workshops!

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

Mambo Jambo: We are constantly touring, which we love. So we’ve got a tour of the South West coming up, playing in venues in Bristol, Bath, and other venues in Somerset and Devon. Then a couple of festivals including The Big Malarkey Festival, Childrens Literature Festival where we’ve been commissioned to present some different workshops. Two other festivals we’ll be playing at are Beverley Puppet Festival, and a Cycle Festival in North Yorkshire. Later in the year we’ re playing some shows in Europe – lots of interesting playing for us this year! We’ve also got a fair few workshop sessions and school projects coming up, and are planning to do some recording in between all the touring!

Mambo Jambo will be performing at the Trade Club on Sunday 13th May at 3pm. For further information on Mambo Jambo visit

Once again, further information on the festival, its line-up, programme and to book tickets visit

Tickets are available to collect from the Hope Baptist Chapel in Hebden Bridge at 2pm on the first day, Friday 11th May 2018.

Festival PR

Hebden Folk and Roots Festival 2018-11th, 12th, 13th May. 5 Reasons Why You Should Go!


Hebden Folk and Roots Festival is back in 2018!

Persistent in the yearly calendar, Hebden Festival has been going for a little while now showcasing music from far and wide but what is it about for those who have never been?

Hebden Bridge is nestled within the Upper Calder Valley as a place from history that has been known as “trouser town”, been a reception area for individuals in the wars relocating from urban cities, and a hotspot for politics, creativity and tourism. It is friendly and characterful with a cool town centre and a beautifully green and verdant feel being a place of choice for walkers, climber, hikers and the outdoorsy. It is a nice place, but what about the festival?

It is what it says on the tin, a festival of folk and roots music. It does this through the wonderful efforts of Hebden Bridge Creative types who have put the beacons out that and gathered the heart of roots music and the soul of folk music to it’s old stone buildings, song to the taverns and stories to the very glade itself. While it is stitched together so nicely with so many acts, it is also relaxed with a bohemian feel and a family friendly ethos.

There is something incredibly celebratory and characterful about the whole place, for adults, children and generally lovers of music. If you love live listening to music with the Countryside on your doorstep, this is your place. But for those who are still not sold..


(1) Its picturesque

Hebden Bridge is definitely what you would refer to as a place of enchanting beauty. I’ve already been harping on about this a lot, but words cannot truly describe. Rather than go on and on even more, take a look at where this is all happening and get  yourself a ticket!

(2) It has local, established and upcoming talent

The Festival is very rooted to musical happenings from this part of the world but also from further afield. One of the venues, the first floor of the Trades Club is an incredibly well know, popular and celebrated site that regularly gets voted as a finalist for the NME Small Venue of the year award. Formed in history as a co-operative, it is even now member’s co-operative again. The history is one thing, the music is another. Last year the roof was pretty much being raised by the Klemzer Bands in there. Energetic, joyful and atmospheric it is one venue amongst many that get the senses going.

There is also a great, ranging musical spectrum of artists this year.  There is expert guitarist “Ewan Mclennan”, the political “Reg Meuross” and the recognisable “Steve Tilston” and these are just the bigger names. Of these artists, Reg Meuross, Steve Tilston, and John Palmer will be performing at the Hope Baptist Chapel a fine acoustic setting that reopened in late 2017.  There is also something here if you like historical song from Calderdale (Ghost School), the songs of Woodie Guthrie (Will Kaufman), Latin America (Mestisa), and swing (309’s) or Americana (Farrago); just as starting examples. There is undoubtedly something new and exciting to discover in this lineup, go and see what Calderdale is all about!

(3) There is intrigue as well as music 

It is not just music that Hebden Folk and Roots are known for. There is, of course, a ceilidh for people who cannot keep their feet still on Friday night and other opportunities to dance along with street entertainment.

The festival is also home this year to storytelling as Ursula Holden Gill takes you along a “grisly ghost walk” of Hebden Bridge (which is entertaining and appropriate for children also) and there is also Shonaleigh, an accomplished storyteller of the Drut’syla tradition who has travelled and performed in London, Europe, New Zealand and the US bringing her work to schools and community groups.

If storytelling is not your thing, there is comedy and street theatre from Mike Hancock, folk dancing, and “Fire Man Dave” (circus skills) to keep you and the little ones entertained. Whether inside a venue or outside in the beautiful sun, it’s going to be a great weekend with something to learn!

(4) There are fine taverns with their own musical goings on

If you need a break and the formality of a line-up gets too much, there is a  chance to walk the cobbled streets and grab a refreshing drink from several of the fine pubs that Hebden Bridge has to offer. From the “White Swan” to the “Fox and Goose”, from the “Old Gate” to the “Shoulder of Mutton” and the “Famous Albert” there are many stops to refuel, eat and drink and be merry. Hebden Bridge also boasts some small, accomplished cafes and bars which are also opening their doors such as “Mooch” and “Drink” for Coffee addicts if alcohol is not on your preferred drinks list. The food is also excellent here.

The cool bit is not just that they are serving as ususal, they also have their own programmes of music running through the weekend with many local bands making an appearance and entertaining you through your third latte.  A warming coffee and some good music is a good way to end the night.

(5) Great Shopping

We did say it was beautiful.. but it also has some great shops to grab a few gifts at such as “Noir” Jewellery (, Jules Chinaware (, and one of our personal favourites “The V&A Collective” ( for your artistic Gothic needs. There are interesting art galleries (such as the Snug Gallery and places for antiques (like the Hebden Bridge Antiques Centre, and many, many others that will have something a bit different for you to purchase to show your loved ones.

We really think its difficult not to come away from Hebden Bridge without something unique and special to remember your time there, check them out!

And there you have it. A music festival, but also a weekend experience in itself, and one we are looking forward to very much.

If you are interested in going, check out the website and get yourself some tickets. There is the option of camping, day tickets and weekend tickets, the website is a good resource for finding out other information about the area too at

The Box Office is open from 2pm on Friday 11th May 2018, so pop in.. say hi, and get yourself a ticket!

We hope to see you there, we will be!