Acoustic Appalachian Bluegrass Duo Folk Music Gig Trad Covers

Derby Folk Weekend – 1 October 2023

On the final day of the Derby Folk Weekend after being buoyed by the proceedings thus far, we come to the final run of acts.

We have enjoyed the variety and the different flavours of the folk world, and the final day continued this trend.

Old Spot


Having already skirted (or dipped in an out of) some Appalachian numbers previously with the Magpies Duo, we awake to the background of the sun shining over the mountaintop and go full Old-Timey with the band “Old Spot”. Old Spot is comprised of Rowan Pigott and Joe Danks playing fiddle and banjo respectively as they tackle the melting pot that is this region’s music. If you search for “Old Spot” pigs on Google you will undoubtedly find a description of them as “a hardy breed able to cope with most conditions” and having a reputation as an “excellent forager”. This is a funny but accurate description of their reach towards this genre of music.

For their set we see and hear some marvellous numbers be it starting with “Louis Collins” a Mississippi John Hurt murder ballad with an enigmatic origin and subject matter, “the angels laid him away, laid him six feet under the clay”. Another great number was the Aberystwythian, Red Kite track, “Fly That Red Kite”. Delicately played it is both the hangover response and some of the previous night’s revelrie floating in the distant vision much like the collection of Red Kites and sore head that inspired the track. A rich, bitter travelling number, “Otter Creek” is a contemporary old-time number written by Brad Kolodner that still oozes atmosphere despite the downsizing from additional hammered dulcimer and double bass.

We get the feeling that Old Spot were more like a “Dark Horse” than a pig, as their merch stall gets swamped afterwards. They have clearly lit the beacon on Mount Mitchell and they (the audience) have all gathered.

Kieran Towers and Charlotte Carrivick


The vibe continues with an established duo of artists who have their own hands in interpreting Appalachian Music. It is good to see this combination of artists for a snapshot in Derby as they have been all over, and it is doubly good that the high energy, generous enjoyment of this old music is as interesting as it was around the first time we saw them (when they were just starting out as a duo, in what seems like another world).

There were many tunes that warmed like the late morning sun, “Wolve a-Howling” is a good one invoking the lupine presence on a balmy prairie. A fairly fast number, the fiddle and banjo sparkles as always. Similar animal-centric there is the even more frantic scramble which is “We’ll Die In The Pig Pen Fighting” a raucous, sweeping melody that in it’s succint way describes a pig describing how they will escape. In terms of a plan, Chicken Run it is not. They also gave us a version of one of our favourites, “The Blackest Crow” which works due to the characterful fiddle work by Towers and Carrivick’s mournful voice par excellence. A hot combination following the Old Time early morning we had just heard.

As a cool bonus, Towers & Carrivick teamed up with Old Spot to play together at the end of the set, see our sample here. Excellent stuff.

Trish & Mark Kerrison with
Fi Fraser- “From Como Boy to Coram Girl”

After a bit of a break we return to something quite a bit different. “From Como Boy to Coram Girl” a story described as one about, “war, work and love – travels through the Industrial Revolution”. A gentle and affecting story that spans the Alps, the lace industry in Nottingham, Liverpool and the sea there is a lot to like with this performance. Aspects of this play reminded us of how far we have come, and hearing my own family’s stories of the experiences of mothers out of wedlock and how society treated them. There is not much we want to give away, but the throughline of acoustic guitar and song paints a vivid picture, especially when a member of the family the story follows was in the audience listening.

Certainly something different for the final day of the festival, but like previous festivals in Derby, it is especially nice to have something a bit more theatrical in the mix.

Katie Spencer

(HOME | Katie Spencer)

What can we say about Katie Spencer? An artist new to us, but one who inspires people who are fans of Joni Mitchell and Michael Chapman an their style of singer/songwriter stylings. Spencer’s set was the kind of stuff you go to festivals for with it’s contemplative, emotional welded strings and moody bite, it is an understatement to say we were impressed.

Spencer’s “The Edge of a Land” is much like many of her other works, steeped in the industrial heart of Hull and it’s changing face and role. Her voice evokes another time, and here she uses it to vibrate the sinews of the sea as they lose hold of the memories they keep. “Shannon Road” is a snapshot to a place where Spencer weaves a picture of an old road she returns to with the hints of the characters underneath, her spiralling voice and lyricism prods the exterior of the area to see the shades of light and dark within. There is much else to like here including her commission from the Yorkshire Folk Archive, the “Shipyard of Beverley” and “Forevermore”, a newer song which had the feeling of the “silver lining” on dark clouds.

We don’t purport to be naturally enthusiastic to solo guitar artists and their work, it usually takes something a bit more special to hook us in. Katie Spencer has spun the mind around with her introspective lyrics that when paired with voice and guitar peel back and intrigue is in the best way of the phenomenon that is music.

Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews

(Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews DUO)

The penultimate performance is a well-received and anticipated performance by Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews. A set littered with old favourites and drawing on collections familiar to trad fans, they are a strong, accomplished duo who bolster the entire festival.

Probably the funniest, cleverest lyrics of the festival we strongly remember a rendition of Robert W Service’s “In Praise of Alcohol” that was sung, it’s comedy only getting bigger by the second. Folk mainstay, “John Barleycorn” also made an appearance to which everyone raised their voices in joy, and of course, knew the words. We were also treated to a melodic, beautifully performed “Willie’s Lady” about a disapproving mother capable to giving out curses (one of our favourite stories in folk). Eunson and Matthews have great chemistry, their voices fit like chocolate and peanut butter. They are definitely a duo to see if you like if you enjoy your folk music adorned closer to your picture of traditional tunes, albeit with great composition, performance and reworking. Think of Steve Reeves with a loin cloth, classic.



Ending the festival, we come to Tarren a fairly young, fresh but pedigreed group of artists (Sid Goldsmith, Alex Garden, and Danny Pedler) whose skills cover the concertina, cittern, fiddle and accordion. There is a lot that stirs and excites in this groups music and their takes on classic compositions. Hornpipes and irregular fiddle tunings aplenty, we look forward to the show they are putting on.

“Hot Wax” is a fantastic original tune conceived as a kind of “slow jig”. It wanders, and much like the substance drips flashes of heat and energy as it progresses. A steady tune, the mix-up of instruments is sweet but with a rough, granular edge; it isn’t showy, but rather reflective and hypnotic. “Rigs of the Time” is like a spiky gauntlet, it catches on a social feeling in whatever age it is worn really, but its constant reminder of corruption and feelings. Tarran continue the tradition of inventing new verses now, and several will probably continue into the endless future where there exploiters, greed, and people who have power over others. One of our favourites from their set, their instruments make a groove in the vinyl of our society.

Album/EP Reviews British Energetic Trad Covers

Kim Lowings and the Greenwood – Wild & Wicked Youth – A Review


Album Release: 8 September 2017

I continue to wade through folk CD reviews as there are many.

The next artist I would like to talk about is Kim Lowings and the Greenwood and their release “Wild & Wicked Youth.”

Let me just say to start and paint a picture; Kim Lowings has a great folk song voice. Somewhat Traditional yet quite invigorating her confidence has come a long way in recent years and after a few years of paying in she is cashing in and sounds exquisite (unlike pensions funds). With this experience she seems to be building a committed and loyal following on the road, but then as a fellow Midlander I will of course hold a little bias.

Even though I live in South Yorkshire, I more a Midlander than a part of the scenery in Yorkshire. After all, I lived for quite a while in Worcestershire in my youth, and well.. lets be fair.. I can’t be considered a Yorkshireman until I’ve lived in Sheffield for a hundred years, have donned (more) tweed and participated in the Henderson’s Relish Ritual.. and even then they might stop me at the last moment for refusing to call a bread roll what it is. But, bias aside, Kim Lowings has created and participated something rather good here. In a straight-talking and melodic fashion, she has brought an album of unpretentious joy with a “logwood pile” sturdiness that has folk at it’s heart. If indeed it has folk at heart, it has got some powerful arteries to pump around the lifeblood of this album.

After all, it is an energetic one. The album isn’t running at breakneck speed, but it powers through like a well-tuned engine in the hands of a professional. I particularly love the sound production on this album as Dave Draper has managed to preserve the lyrics at forefront in all their clarity but there is no neglect of the full instrumental picture. Just as the high rising tide of the sea is nothing without the sound of it hitting and chopping the shore, the deeply pleasant double-bass, percussion and strings crash together like the turning of Poseidon’s right hand and sound delightful. The band consisting of Kim Lowings, Andrew Lowings (guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, backing), Dave Sutherland (double bass, backing), Tim Rogers (Cajon, percussion, drum kit) and guests Lewis Jones, Shannon Johnson and Ami Opprenova have taken this sound mix to more than a handful of traditional songs and added something rather spicy to the musical stew.

Quite tricky, and quite risky as fans of the trad don’t always like things being changed about or altered, but folk music to me is essentially adding, taking away and reinterpreting what has gone before. This album does do it incredibly well too, the songs within are strongly recognisable, Lowings et al have done more than retain the essence of the songs. If we consider it like adding cheese to a mashed potato (pretty delicious), the original is not lost; there is just something else in the mix (and the naysayer who disapproves has probably added it in other potato pie contexts). As we shall see of the songs there is a lot of substance and a lot to enjoy. On a side note the photography on this album (Miss Whittington’s Photography) will be identifiable to many folk listeners in style. This is because it’s fantastic, powerful, mythological and intriguing all at once. But what of the music?

Lowings does not hang about on this disc. The opener “In Spirit” is rather raucously pop though decidedly folk in it’s themes of the ocean and natural environment. Tinged with mythology  she has (as she has done later too) mixed the two genres as effectively as one the colours on a fiendish Rubiks Cube. A good indicator for things to come, Lowings voice starts and deliciously hangs on the words, like dropping brown sugar cubes into a a sensuous, fresh coffee. Then the song takes on an unexpected bounce, the potential for the solemn becomes a determined pop hook with incredible punch, imagine a cat dancing around as milk is poured into it’s saucer. Drums hotly pepper the song as she sings about “Daniel the fisherman”, with a deft lightness of touch “My heart belongs on land, my soul longs for the sea.” No dirges or naval curses here.

Like the previously entry by Kim and the Greenwood “Historia”, I find these artists they have a certain mutant superpower for doing full-throated, unafraid, and self assured versions of well known songs from yore. On “Historia” there was a simplicity and honesty to Lowing’s version of “Dark-Eyed Sailor” but here instead we get a knee-slapping, barn-on-fire take of “The Cuckoo.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the more stripped back Mountain versions of this song (and particularly like the Rheinghans Sisters’ take), but unlike the drive for technical beauty of the former, Lowings is the fun and tumble companion, crooning away with the energy of a woman possessed, and possibly on a good roll of poker cards.

The band also (aptly as we are near Halloween) attempt one of the more gruesome, spooky versions of Two Sisters, “Oh the Wind and Rain.” Complete with dark story and a fiddler who a bit short of cash, we learn how following murder he decides to make a violin out of the main subject’s bones and hair (I haven’t got to this point yet myself, I must add). Lowings’ enjoys herself on this track and it does that fantastic phenomenon of folk where the assuring, light and chipper number stands at an equal contrast to the grim meaning and content of the lyrics. Quite strong and authoritative, especially on the anthem-like chorus there is also an great aura of emotion in her voice. There are many other moments of joy too on the album.

Lowing’s take on, “Away ye Merry Lassies” (a song about witches just on a night out, not doing any evil stuff) is pretty solid and joyous as it goes. On listen you get images of how (if it wasn’t relatively contemporary) it might be the old-time, folk equivalent  “It’s Raining Men” or a Beyonce track on a medieval hen night. I picture the night involving a wheel of cheese and someone falling into a muddy goat pen after some serious intoxication; but that is just my imagination run wild, I can’t say I’ve been on a hens night. I’m sometimes mistaken as a serious man, but I would have to be a machine not to enjoy Lowings’ take on the lighter side (of the dark side), and to make it clear this is a compliment, many a night in my youth I could feel the curtain of stress float away when the Weather Girls gave me a storm update.

As an album, energy runs right through. It feels like Lowings and the Greenwood have tamed the heat of the blacksmith irons; it is not rushed but as a chicken pecks at it’s mountain of feed, the CD continues with it’s shiny eyes fixed on the prize. The best example of when the album takes a sideways step is “Firestone”, a number with a piano that is strangely sad yet exuberant. It has dashings of Kim Edgar’s in it with Lowings voice touching the far reaches of a wide oak’s canopy, a delight from start to finish.

“Wild & Wicked Youth” is a great addition to their discography and it is undoubtedly a step up from “Historia.” The album has some excellent production and the CD bursts at the seams with an energetic yet charming character, it is a flock of  Will-o’-the-wisps circling the folk forest, climbing and dancing, never stopping.

Check out her website for details on getting the album, here.

If you want more convincing, see the videos below!