8th February 2017
To begin on a personal note, and as you may be aware if you attended the Winter Folk Day, the Steve Knightley concert or last week’s club Singers Night, I have not been well recently and I have had to miss all these activities. My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has rallied round to ensure that things run smoothly in my absence – not only the “core” team of Chris, Eddie, Stan and Phil but also people like Paula Ryan, Sarah Dean and Steve & Dee Marshall at the Winter Folk Day and Judith & Richard Haswell at the NCEM concert.
FOLK CLUB NIGHTS
1. SUNDAY SPECIAL WITH KAELA ROWAN AND HER BAND, 12th FEBRUARY. With tomorrow night’s performance by Allan Taylor now Sold Out, attention moves on to our only Scottish folk event this season, taking place at The Black Swan this coming Sunday. It should be a real treat – a performance by the outstanding singer Kaela Rowan and her small band.This is one of only two English dates on their current tour, with Kaela heading south to a high profile London gig next day at the prestigious Green Note venue.
Raised in the Scottish Highlands, Kaela has been singing in folk bands and in sessions and festivals since her teens. Moving to Edinburgh in her twenties, her passion for traditional song and dance led her to her becoming a dance and music tutor and she is currently a Traditional Song Development Worker in the Scottish Borders. Outside of her homeland, Kaela is perhaps best known as lead singer with influential Scottish group Mouth Music, with whom she recorded four albums and toured globally. She has also recorded and performed with artists such as Eliza Carthy, Karen Matheson and Mike McGoldrick and most recently she joined that unique Scottish band Shooglenifty for their acclaimed seventh album The Untied Knot, bringing a dynamic new vocal element to the band's hitherto largely instrumental sound. She toured extensively with the Shoogles throughout 2015, including a visit to York.
Citing an eclectic range of early influences (John Martyn, Planxty and Joni Mitchell amongst others) and blessed with an extraordinarily beautiful voice, Kaela has forged her own unique path throughout the Scottish music scene. She can sing equally movingly in Gaelic and in English and was indeed shortlisted for Gaelic Singer of the Year in the 2016 Scots Trad Music Awards, while her 5-star new album The Fruited Thorn was praised in fRoots as “subtle, evocative – a total killer of a record – pure beauty”.
Kaela is joined in York by Shooglenifty’s guitarist/mandolinist Ewan MacPherson and percussionist James Mackintosh, the latter having co-produced The Fruited Thorn. Ewan is no stranger to York – he accompanied Patsy Reid at the club in 2015 and way back in 2007 he appeared at the NCEM with Scottish-Scandinavian outfit Fribo. This promises to be a really special night. Being a Sunday it will be a slightly earlier event, doors opening at 7.30 and finishing around 10.15. There will be a half hour support spot from the incomparable Sarah Dean then two sets from Kaela and her band. There are around 15 tickets left as I write, £11 in advance through WeGotTickets or £12.50 on the door.
2. 16th FEBRUARY: GEOFF MAKES HIS CLUB DEBUT AT AGE 69! Next Thursday’s club guest has just released his first ever solo CD at the tender age of 69.Geoff Lakeman is a Cornishman who has lived on Dartmoor for 40 years and who has been described as “a stalwart of the West Country Folk scene” and “the father of a virtual folk dynasty". The latter refers of course to his sons Sean, Sam and Seth Lakeman, three internationally renowned folk musicians who all began playing music as children in a family band with Geoff and their violinist mother, Joy.
Geoff is a leading exponent of the duet concertina and performs self-written and West Country songs, English, Irish and Scottish folk and other music as varied as Jimmie Rodgers, The Louvin Brothers, Richard Thompson and Randy Newman, as well as a dash of 1920's / 30's jazz. His smooth tenor vocals and unique concertina accompaniment have won him plaudits and fans over the years but it has only been since retiring from a long career as a Fleet Street journalist that Geoff has truly spread his wings musically.
Geoff's newly released debut album, appropriately entitled After All These Years has attracted a lot of favourable notices in the last few weeks. With a stellar line up of musical family (including daughter-in-law Cara Dillon) and friends (including our old mate and former York resident Nic Jones) it showcases his talents perfectly and illustrates the high regard and affection in which he is held. “He manages the neat trick of writing a new song that sounds as if it could have existed for 100 years” said Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe of one track, while the Daily Mirror critic wrote of “big-hearted excellence” and “stand-out originals”.
If you’d like to check Geoff Lakeman out beforehand (and assuming you are not coming to the Kaela Rowan concert), he is the studio guest on The Durbervilles Folk & Roots Show on BBC Radio Leeds this coming Sunday at 8pm, available afterwards on the BBC iPlayer. Phil Cerny is the MC on 16th and tickets are £8 beforehand at WeGotTickets or £9 on the door.
3. 23rd FEBRUARY – ANOTHER CLUB DEBUT WITH WORRY DOLLS. The week after Geoff Lakeman but a generation and more apart we have another interesting act touring in support of a debut CD.Worry Dolls are two young woman from London who have been described as a “brilliantly quirky” alt-Americana duo.
Zoe Nicol and Rosie Jones met in Liverpool when they were 18, both on their chosen path of becoming solo singer songwriters, and both falling under the spell of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Rosie joined Zoe’s band as a mandolin player and backing vocalist and their great chemistry and love of harmony led to them starting a contemporary bluegrass band playing Nickel Creek, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch songs together. Paired by their teachers for an opportunity to have their songwriting critiqued by Paul McCartney, they were inspired to start co-writing, and could now be described as an almost telepathically linked songwriting force.
The pair were drawn to London, where they spent the best part of a year sleeping on couches, obsessively co-writing and performing, and all the while developing a burgeoning cult following and releasing two EPs. After a summer of grafting on the UK festival circuit, they made the decision to quit their day jobs and fly to Nashville to record a debut album. They had a strong vision for the record even before it was fully written. The most important creative anchor was to stay true to their English roots and to work with people who could elaborate what they already had. It didn’t take long for personal recommendations to pair them with producer Neilson Hubbard, a veteran of East Nashville’s music scene with an ear for successful collaborations and a strong focus on vocals.
The album Go Get Gone was released at the end of January and Zoe & Rosie have an impressively full tour lined up, with 20 shows in little over a month, at a mix of indie music venues, arts centres and more adventurous folk clubs such as ours.
Tickets for this one are £9 in advance from WeGotTickets or £10 on the door and already getting on for half sold, which is not bad for an act relatively unknown in this part of world. Stan Graham will be acting as MC.
4. MARCH GUESTS ONWARDS. There has been an understandably eager response to the return of Anglo-French trio The Churchfitters on 2nd March and it is rapidly approaching Sold Out status – 6 left at WeGotTickets as I write. March continues with a Singers Night on 9th, then another highly-rated Devonian Jim Causley makes his solo debut here on 16th, followed by the return of a favourite Irish singer-songwriter Kieran Halpin on 23rd, and (March being a five Thursday month) another Singers Night on 30th.
April brings us our first North American visitors of the year, Debra Cowan on the 6th and Tania Opland & Mike Freeman on 27th. From closer to home we welcome back that great young couple Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts on 20th, while an Easter Double Bill on 13th comprises vocal trio Yan Tan Tether and young quartet Bric-a-Brac.
May guests include up-and-coming English folk duo Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith on the 11th and, doing her first entirely solo show for us, Miranda Sykes on 25th. All these are now open for booking at WeGotTickets, as are June performances by singer-songwriter Reg Meuross on 8th and veteran British bluesman Dave Kelly on 15th.
5. VIN GARBUTT APPEARANCES CANCELLED. Sadly last week, I heard that Vin Garbutt is having to cancel all his April, May and June dates, including two nights with us on 18th & 19th May. Vin has been told he needs a major operation in March and he will have to take at least three months off the road while he recovers. We have provisionally rescheduled his visits for two nights in January next year More news on that nearer the time. Meanwhile those of you who had already booked for Vin in May should have had refunds from WeGotTickets.
Rather than engaging an alternative guest for 18th May, we are looking at holding a charity night in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice, in memory of the late Julie Affleck. With myself laid low by illness, Stan Graham has been leading on this – more news in a future newsletter. Meanwhile, if you want to catch Vin before he comes off the road, there are still tickets available for his show at Helmsley Arts Centre (01439 771700, www.helmsleyarts.co.uk) on Saturday 18th February.
CONCERTS AT THE NCEM
6. LEVERET’S SPECIAL TAKE ON ENGLISH FOLK, MONDAY 6th MARCH. Our concert season at the Early Music Centre continues on Monday 6th March with the virtuoso instrumental trio Leveret.This comprises Andy Cutting, Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron. All three are rated masters of their respective instruments (button accordion, fiddle and concertina) and over the years they have all been involved in high profile collaborations with artists such as Bellowhead, The Full English, Nancy Kerr, Eliza Carthy and Martin Simpson.
The Leveret repertoire is firmly rooted in the English tradition but sounds fresh and modern, with original settings of ancient folk tunes sitting alongside the finest of new compositions. The music is not arranged in the conventional sense - instead it is played entirely in the moment, combining consummate musicianship, compelling delivery and captivating spontaneity to produce a sound both timeless and contemporary, warm, listenable, engaging and refreshing. Leveret took their very English music north of the border last month for a performance at Celtic Connections which earned a glowing 5* review in The Guardian. I quote from it at length:
“Leveret – it means young hare – is the finest of traditional English folk today: a trio of poise and subtle gesture, of deft layering, graceful swing and gorgeous understatement. Constituent members Cutting, Harbron and Sweeney are all well-known from other configurations, but Leveret brings out the best in each of them. Sweeney’s playing, especially, has refined a lot since his Bellowhead days and he weaves around the reedy textures with a deft, light touch. The band’s first public gig in Scotland was one of the mellowest options for a Saturday night at Celtic Connections, and one of the classiest. As on their two albums, they played old dance tunes unearthed from antique folk compendiums – with names such as Glory of the Sun and Purlongs (“the distance covered by a cat in a certain amount of time?” suggested Sweeney) – and their own new material. Some of the top tunes belong to Harbron: The Road to Poynton, for example, or the noble Dundas. Cutting is the anchor, though, with his peerless French-Anglo harmonies, tugging rhythms and bittersweet fast waltzes. A third album is on the way, but catch Leveret live for full convivial immersion.”
Toni Bunnell does the opening half support spot for this concert, which kicks off as usual at 7.30pm. Tickets are £16 full price or £14 concessions through the NCEM Box Office on 01904 658338 or at www.ncem.co.uk.
7. SONGWRITER SPECIAL WITH STEVE TILSTON & JEZ LOWE, TUESDAY 28th MARCH. Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe are two of the British folk scene’s most accomplished songwriters and on 28th March at the Early Music Centre they join forces for a shared night filled with lyrics and music, chat and banter and intimate insights into their very successful approach to the writing craft. Head to head, neck and neck (guitar necks, that is!) listen in as they rekindle the spontaneity of their late-night living room song-swaps. Expect an eclectic mix of solo compositions alongside material from the brand new album of co-written songs, The Janus Game.
Both established artists since the 1970s and both regular guests at our club venue, Steve and Jez have been widely covered by other singers and have been involved in many different projects over the years. For example Jez is a notable contributor to the BBC Radio Ballads series and has written extensively for musical theatre, while an incident from Steve’s past was the inspiration for Hollywood movie Danny Collins and he has published a novel.
Tickets are now on sale at £15 full or £13 concessions. Note also that there is no support act for this event: Steve & Jez will be on stage from 7.30pm.
8. MORE ENGLISH FOLK WITH FAUSTUS, MONDAY 10th APRIL. Our April NCEM concert features another trio specialising in English folk music, this time predominantly song based. Making their third appearance at the Early Music Centre will be Faustus, comprising Saul Rose (Waterson:Carthy, War Horse), Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Seth Lakeman Band) and Paul Sartin (Bellowhead, Belshazzar’s Feast). All three of them sing and with an instrumental mix of melodeon, bouzouki, guitar, fiddle and oboe they offer a richly varied and virtuosic musical display, no doubt focusing on material from newest CD Death and Other Animals, researched and recorded during their 2016 year as Artists In Residence at Halsway Manor Folk Arts Centre in Somerset. More recently Faustus have been touring with The Young’uns, Nancy Kerr and others in the acclaimed revival of Peter Bellamy’s ballad opera The Transports.
Support comes from local duo Steve & Dee Marshall, best known as part of The Foresters, and tickets are £16 full or £14 concessions through the NCEM website and box office.
9. WELSH FOLK MAKES ITS NCEM DEBUT WITH CALAN. Welsh folk music has been undergoing a renaissance in the last few years and one of its foremost exponents is the five piece group Calan, who are our concert guests on Wednesday 3rd May. Fiddles, guitar, accordion, bagpipes and step dancing explode into life when this energetic young band takes the stage. These virtuoso musicians breathe fire into old traditions with their infectious rhythms and high voltage routines before melting into beautiful and haunting songs which explore the legends of Wales with tales of fairies and magic, myth and mischief.
Calan are introducing a new generation of listeners to Welsh traditional music as they tour widely across the UK and into Europe, North America and beyond, with their musicianship and huge sense of humour making for an outstanding show. In a departure from our usual concert pattern, they will be doing one long set, rather than two shorter ones, and they will be preceded on stage by their own special tour guest, singer-songwriter Dan Wilde. Tickets are £15 full or £13 concessions and are now on sale
OTHER CLUB NEWS
10. ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT. Our slightly unusual accounting year runs from 1st February until 31st January, so while I have been laid-up at home I have done the end-of-year books. In business terms at least, the second half of the year was even better for us that the first half and I am happy to report that the surplus of £328 which I reported at the half-year stage (see E-News 204) had grown to one of £843 at year-end, which equates to 2.76% of our turnover. This is a huge improvement over the previous financial year, 2015/16, when we only just scraped by with a final surplus of £51 or 0.002% of turnover.
Over the last year guest nights made a net surplus of £746 and NCEM concerts one of £582. Singers Nights generated £520 in income and as previously reported the Folk Weekend was in surplus as well in 2016. Artist fees and concert expenses aside, our main administrative costs were things like leaflet printing, advertising, postage, website hosting and PAT safety testing of our electrical kit. We have also invested about £365 in replacement and additional PA kit this year.
At 31st January we had total assets of £8400, which sounds a lot but is in fact only about half of what we are committed to in agreed (in many cases legally contracted) minimum fees for future concert and club guest bookings.
11. FOLK WEEKEND PLANNING SLIGHTLY DELAYED BUT STARTS SOON. I had intended to begin detailed programming of our annual folk weekend this last week, as soon as the Winter Folk Day was behind us. My current ill-health has delayed that slightly, but I still hope to be in touch with potential performers fairly soon, inviting expressions of interest in taking part in the 2017 event, which to remind you is 2nd-4th June. Watch this space!
12. MORE CLUB SHOWS REVIEWED. Local freelance music critic Martin Longley has been at it again. He attended Martin Carthy’s Thursday night performance at the Black Swan and has his review published in the brand new (March) edition of magazine Songlines.Reviews of Steve Knightley at the NCEM last Friday and of Allan Taylor at the Black Swan this week are also in the pipeline.
13. A FOLK SONG A WEEK WITH JOSHUA BURNELL. Enterprising young local folk singer Joshua Burnell has announced an exciting Seasons project. “I'm releasing a folk song every week for a year to create four seasonal folk albums” he says. Acknowledging Jon Boden, who did something similar a few years ago, Joshua goes on to write “most people react with a very kind response of, “wow, cool!” or “what a nice idea,” whilst other more cunning characters raise an eyebrow and after a pause say, “but why?” My gut response is because I love traditional folk music, I want to have a go at putting my own spin on folk music like so many before me and I want to share what I discover with anyone who’ll listen”. Read more about it and listen the first tracks (which include songs such as The Month of January and Lord Franklin as well as some instrumental pieces) at www.joshuaburnell.co.uk/seasons-winter/. “It'd be great to hear people's thoughts” he says.
Joshua’s last album Into The Green was widely praised and earned him, amongst other things, a feature article in R2 Magazine. He and some of his musical friends will do a night at the folk club later this year (10th August) and I’m sure they will also be in action at the Folk Weekend, while Joshua solo has also expressed an interest in joining our roster of occasional floor singers. You can also find him on YouTube at the piano accompanying Dan Webster on versions of Spanish Ladies and Ride On recorded at Betty’s Tearooms – seewww.youtube.com/watch?v=x3mp7sL-7hc and www.youtube.com/watch?v=H96rzW1l7Bs
14. SUNDAY NIGHT SINGERS CLUBS NEWS. Mick O’Hara has been in touch to say that after a lot of thought he has decided to wind up his First Sunday Folk Club, at Hemingbrough near Selby, and they met for the last time in January. “The club has been in slow decline for a while now, so I thought I'd rather quit while ahead” he says, adding “it was started and run by me, the late Dave Shaw and Mick Macnamara, opening in March 1999, so we've had a good run.” Thanks very much Mick – I certainly had some good nights at your club in the noughties.
Meanwhile Tony Haynes reassures us that his second and fourth Sunday FAB Folk & Blues Club is still running at the refurbished Cottage Inn in Haxby. With the third Sunday singaround at the Jefferson Arms in Thorganby not due to re-open until Easter, “we are at this time the only Sunday evening singaround anywhere near York, so let’s make use of the landlord's function room, that he generously lets us use free.” Moreover, with Vale Radio moving to much larger studios this month, Tony will no longer be using the club to record bands for his radio show, “so from now on it is singarounds all the way at the club, if you want them”.
15. EBOR MORRIS ARE RECRUITING. Our local male dancers Ebor Morris are looking for “fit, mildly eccentric men” to join their ranks. If you would like to have a try at Morris dancing, then go along to an open evening in the Victoria Vaults on Nunnery Lane, York, next Monday, 13th February, 8:30 to 10.00. “Come and have a go, no experience required” they say. Alternatively, go to one of their Monday practice nights in the Heworth Scout Hut on Bad Bargain Lane. Visit www.ebormorris.org.uk for more information.
OTHER EVENTS IN YORK & BEYOND
16. DAN WEBSTER & KATIE SPENCER, 10th FEBRUARY. Local acoustic musician and all round good-guy Dan Webster has organised his own gig at the Black Swan Inn this coming Friday. It’s a double-header with East Riding songstress Katie Spencer. Find out more at www.danwebster.co.uk/tour. It’s an 8pm start, entry £5.
17. MEGSON VISIT COPMANTHORPE, 16th FEBRUARY. If Geoff Lakeman’s appearance at the Black Swan on Thursday 16th February isn’t your thing, you may be interested in a show by Megson (Stu & Debs Hanna) that same night. It is at Copmanthorpe Methodist Church, doors open 7.30pm, and tickets are £13 through WeGotTickets or on 01904 709713.
18. WOMEN’S FESTIVAL MUSIC AT THE BLACK SWAN 4th MARCH. As part of the York International Women's Festival, York's Little Festival of Live Music is hosting an all-day mini-fest at the Black Swan Inn on Saturday 4th March, “bringing together and celebrating female folk and acoustic musicians from across Yorkshire”. There will be six hours of live music from 3.00pm featuring “Gracie Falls, a country and folk performer, who recently won UK Unsigned Songwriter of the Year, alternative Celtic gypsy band Leather’o, which will feature a one-off full female line-up, folk harpist Sarah Dean, acoustic singer-songwriter Rachel Croft, folk musician Holly Taymar from the band The Bronze and renowned prog-rock folk performer Heather Findlay, who fronted the well-known band Mostly Autumn”.
Doors open at 2.45 and entry is free, although a minimum donation of £5 is suggested, which will be given to the Kyra Women's Project, a local charity which supports women to overcome challenges and make changes in their lives. Find the running order and other information at www.facebook.com/events/539167309623675/
19. ST PATRICK’S WEEKEND EVENTS ANNOUNCED. York Irish have released details of their St Patrick’s Day events in the Marquee in St Sampson’s Square. On the Friday evening 17th March from 5pm there are Irish dance displays, live music and a ceilidh, while daytime Saturday 18th has more dance displays and live music from the likes of Paula Ryan, Damian Fynes and Roisin Ban. The Saturday evening events begin with a Ceilidh with FiddlersWreck and continues with a set by The Flying Donkeys. The running orders have not yet been loaded on www.yorkirish.co.uk but presumably will be in due course.
20. FOLK AND ROOTS AT THE WITHAM IN TEESDALE. If you live within reach of Barnard Castle in Teesdale, you may care to note a good strand of folk and acoustic music within the new season programme at The Witham on Horse Market. Sam Carter is there on Friday 17th February, The Hut People on Friday 3rd March and Oysters 3 on Friday 10th March. Later in the year, visitors include Hannah James with her Jig Doll solo show (Monday 1st May) and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman (Friday 5th May). Find out more atwww.thewitham.org.uk.
My health permitting, our next mailing will probably be in early March.