British Folk Music Gigs

South Yorkshire FRW Music Festival – Sep 2016: Gilmore and Roberts

Folk tales done somewhat contemporary with audacious combination of source material, rhythm and wonder.

In Doncaster the day turned to night, the amber lights came on and Gilmore and Roberts came out, though vampires I am sure they are not.

On their 10th year working together Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts are going strong, as strong as ever really. In my email inbox and those flyers you get through with your cd purchases I had seen the references, heard the signs and probably passed by much of the folk audience holding their breath as to how I had not come to listen to them. After all, the adoration from people has come from far and wide. I had heard of their recent Radio 2 Folk Awards nominations (3 times in total), their extensive support of other bands (and of course 4 albums together and numerous other projects) and like a monkey with a broken peanut was trying to put the pieces together in my mind. Even before hearing them, I felt like I would kind of have to agree with everyone especially as I often do a merry dance quite regularly with the Dovetail Trio and Kerfuffle which Jamie has a hand (and probably a foot) in.

After seeing them live I began to stop being grumpy, after all it is no understatement to say that they pretty much tick all the boxes for innovative, peerless folk music. Their arrangements are interesting, their selection of story and song subjects are varied, and every crinkle is their works are doused in myth and set alight by sparking good humour and excellent performance.


Starting their set with “Dr James” they narrate a true song about a woman pretending to be male doctor considered a “lady’s man” who was credited at saving a woman and child during labour with caesarean section. It impressed me enough that despite me being the tortoise in this folk race, I have decided to make it my folk video of the week (for other reasons too, post here). Then there is their song about a bad scarecrow “scarecrow”or the man with the with arm transplant who continues the life of it’s previous occupant (theft) in “stealing arm” . Their reach (see what I did there) is long indeed, and whilst many artists make the veil separating history, myth and society flutter in their music, Gilmore and Roberts instead bring the curtain down, let the rapture in and play a wry chorus while things are burning all around. Their attitude and chemistry on stage was relished by the audience here, Gilmore was like a coiled, cool ringmaster and Roberts like the musical guy who would know how to fix your boat if you asked nicely. Whatever their appearance was outside of my imagination, it worked really well with everyone else too and they are obviously well rehearsed.

The set wasn’t restricted to older subject matter either, we got the added pleasure of an almost debut of a new song, “All the Way to Rome” about a particularly intriguing relationship between a nun and a priest (based on American Horror Story) and it ended on “Selfish Man”, a song penned on the Isle of Man which rolls and curses and talks of torment and anger. Throughout the lighting cast a white heaven, or deathly red on the stage, in seriousness it seemed to be more rotating on a random setting but nevertheless added something. Roberts’ guitar playing was precise and leading with an emotive voice, Gilmore’s singing felt enriched and expressive, all-in-all an impressive duo to get into this festival in Doncaster.

I sadly did not get time to catch some of the other artists who were there, had I been able to it could have gone a different way, but as it stands they were the clear stand artists  of the day. I will now rush out and buy all their albums (actually maybe wait til payday).

Give them a try, but don’t wait for several years (like myself).


Gilmore and Roberts are currently on tour going all over the place, I would check them out if I were you, here.


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.


British Folk Music Gigs

South Yorkshire FRW Music Festival – Sep 2016: Lucy Marshall

Later in the day I was able to catch Lucy Marshall, a Hull-based acoustic artist with three EPs and experience of touring across festivals such as Cambridge Rock and Blues, and Cornucopia, her website is very nice indeed I am totally jealous

She was playing in the 1st floor room of the The Leopard pub, Doncaster, a fairly dark, industrial venue space above the pub. It was a tight room and probably better in design towards rock rather than folk, but this did not matter so much for the artist. After all, Lucy did bring a variety of tracks though such as Beck’s “The Golden Age” and Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” which would be more at home here; she also furnished the audience’s attention with the traditional “Three Fishers”, and her own song “Fragile.” In respect to singing and acoustic guitar playing she all these genres in her acoustic style, which takes some effort. Her version of “Three Fishers” eschewed the dulcet, pronounced or mildly operatic sound of John Baez instead going for an equally emotive, more rugged sound that more than hearkened to her own family’s time at the coast. Lucy does appear to carry a large number of musical elements with her, the breadth of influences is a refreshing one, and an indicator of someone who loves music without being chained by recent fads.. Her whole performance was sustained with good singing and a sense of honesty and friendliness in her stage manner. She undoubtedly has a lot of singing talent and a potential hook for success, especially as she is early in her career it feels like her progression lies twofold.

Her performance itself was confident. She is but a few steps from treading in the shoes of other young singer-songwriters, I can see the similar attitude and niche of Lily Allen, Kate Nash and folk’s Lucy Ward (who she has supported on tour). On stage there were times where she was excessively modest, and maybe it was not intended, but there was a feeling of uncertainty in her discussions about her musical direction (she references about the old band at one point). We have all been there in different parts of our lives; it sounds cliche but she just needs more belief in herself because really sounds good. I think the key to this lies in a second point of development. Her music choice suggests a reverence for the past while reconciling her own music together in a show. If she has a tighter-knit themed ensemble of music, it will allow an audience to connect even more. Her rock catalogue fits the rock and blues scene, her own material is more aimed at her generation, and the folk tracks are a different audience again. Credit is due, the audience really liked her and that is the hard part, the rest can be arranged around as seen fit.

An interesting and unique mix of songs, I think she could capitalise on it through consideration of her character, manner and stage identity. She has a pretty powerful voice and you can see there is something there, something more. I hope to hear more of her in the future and see where this path takes her.

Check out her music from her website!

Check out the sample video below of “Fields of Gold”, she is there doing a great job.




Americana Canadian Folk

South Yorkshire FRW Music Festival – Sep 2016: Madison Violet

Madison Violet

“light Americana which grabs and appeals across the board”

Starting off the South Yorkshire Folk, Roots, and World Festival there was the incredibly talented duo of “Madison Violet”. Madison Violet consists of Brenley MachEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, two great robust names and musical artists with a sound I am going to describe as glazed pinewood, quite light in character and incredibly well polished.

Colourful in name and compelling in presence this Canadian act has more than a few hints of Americana and Roots to it, though it’s strength is in their wide appeal to a full audience. Having released seven albums following a busy schedule of touring and working together for the last 14+ years, they are of course on another big tour which is stopping off in many countries, though sadly not much longer here (check out their website for details here). Their touring seems integral to their character, their professionalism and confidence certainly shows in the set in Doncaster as they made a lot of new fans in a potentially a difficult slot in a day when people are usually hunting Yorkshire Puddings rather than live music (first slot at 2pm on a Sunday).

They started the set with “The Heat”, a track that was swerving and engaging in equal measure. This alongside “Ohio” were introductions that describe the character of Madison Violet quite well: the sound is clean, their performance is unforced and their instrument changes seamless. Under the shine of the unexpected Doncaster sun and the fleetingness of the afternoon, they were a great way to spend the time. Much of the set was older material than “Ohio” a more poppy number from their latest album, “Year of the Horse”. Whilst some fans are split on the new influences with the later album, it seems that whatever material the women reach for has at least a modicum of appeal to a general audience; and this is no bad thing, many fans of Americana might be seeking the grimier side of life but treading that furrow can equally be a worn exercise.




Moving on to “Come as you are” and “Crying your eyes out” the strength of this group is in their intimate portrayal of emotion; “crying your eyes out” was, as admitted by Brenley as being in part about her brother (who passed away) and part on discovery of the chemical complexities of the tearful act. A sad number yet catchy and memorable. My favourite song from the group had to be “The Ransom”, one of those songs that while tip-toeing a lightness that their music embodies, it describes the pits, the desperation, and worry of being broke. Inspired by an Australian motel, you can almost feel the broken aircon through the guitar strings and searching lyrics.

Not “husky” but with a touch of darker sweetness, maybe a vanilla pancake with brown sugar (does that exist, I want one?) their voices show that time has been put into their craft and the decision to reduce production to a barer sound throughout their career is a very good choice, it puts their voices and hearts centre stage.

A great start for a good day. Check out my brief video for a thought, then check out some other clips on YouTube below, see if you like them- if so head over to their website, several of their albums are available on Amazon too,

And from their recording sessions with MusicFog and others.