And another roundup...

... straight outta Manchester:

I've just come to appreciate how cumbersome my surname is when used in this fashion!

My 2008 roundup and forthcoming stuff..

Well, what a year. If you're interested in reading my top ten albums and my journalistic highlights of the year, have a look at the Spiral Earth roundup:
Make sure you read what Iain and David have to say, too - they're brilliant and have travelled the length and breadth of the country to bring the best folk news, reviews and interviews to the web.

I'm using the gorgeous festive downtime to catch up on some stuff, and plan my next moves. I've just had the privilege of interviewing children's novelist, Kate Thompson, about her fiddle playing for a future issue of Fiddle On, so be sure to look out for that. Hopefully, I'll be interviewing Dougie MacLean in the near future, too.

Merry Christmas!!

Young Folk Award 2008/2009

On Friday 5th December, I travelled to London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank for the Young Folk Award. Although I've always followed the award and its competitors, I've never made it down to the finals.

And on arrival, my geeky star-struck side promptly came out when the first person I saw, stood by the entrance, was Jim Moray - who, once himself a finalist, was attending on judging duty. Then it became a bit of a spot-who-is-in-the-audience moment, but I didn't get much further than Simon Nicol, Colin Irwin and a bloke I knew I recognised and turned out to be a member of Mawkin.

Anyway, starting promptly at 7.30pm, Mike Harding trotted on stage and the performances began.

First up was Tyde, a trio from Northumberland playing guitar, fiddle and accordion. Technically Tyde were fantastic, not surprising considering that they met when playing in Folkestra, and their two sets of tunes were unabashed and confident. I even let out a whoop at applause time, though on reflection I realised they probably lacked that energy and dynamism to make them winners.

Lucy Ward was a brave young lady - fancy chastising Mike Harding on stage! (Mike mistakenly said that she'd won a songwriting competition in 2009) That certainly got the crowd on side! Her rendition of Mike Waterson's 'Stitch In Time', sung unaccompanied, possessed everything you'd want an unaccompanied song to possess.

Megan and Joe Henwood... well, we'll come to them later ;)

Maz O'Connor is often guest singer for the band Last Orders but here sang two songs unaccompanied. Although enjoyable at the time, I have to confess to not being able to remember what she sang. I knew I should've brought a notepad and pen like any other self-respecting journo!

Emily Hoile and Alice Burn, once I'd got over the fact that they are both aged sixteen yet look older than me, played a set of tunes on clarsach and pipes. Again, their musicianship and technical ability was obvious, but it seemed that technique got in the way of interpretation and feeling. It seemed a little souless at times.

Jaywalkers couldn't have been a bigger contrast. A duo of mandolin and fiddle from the north west of England, 15 year old Jay's voice was astonishing.

Of course, Mike Harding stressed how difficult the judges' job would be, and although that comment always seems a polite cop-out, it was matter of fact here. The standard of the acts was enormously high but incredibly varied. I thought if I wanted one of the competitors to record a CD, I would have chosen Tyde. But if I was thinking purely about festivals, then I would've picked Jaywalkers because they were so compelling to watch.

As it so happened, Megan and Joe Henwood, a sibling duo from Oxfordshire, were crowned the winners. Megan's voice is truly heart stopping - it's distinctive, idiosyncratic, yet gorgeous - and the sensitive accompaniment from saxophonist Joe was thought provoking without being overbearing. Admittedly, the duo aren't at all traditional whilst previous winners are, so I wasn't surprised to see the mudcat message board awash with complaints.

Nevertheless, I'll be interested to see how they develop over the next year.

My review of James Yorkston

Hot off the press:

An interview with...

... the wonderful Bella Hardy:

My second piece in the MEN

I'm delighted that today marks my second article in the MEN - a small interview/gig preview with Julie Fowlis. She plays at the RNCM on Monday, so make sure you get down and see her. She's phenomenal!

And I'll scan in the article and put it up ASAP :)

I try my hand at broadcast journalism...

... with a bit of a giggling interview.

Following the link to see my interview with Ric Sanders at Cropredy Festival:

I'd had wine and cider beforehand, blame it on that.


I've not written in aaaages... more to do with general busy-ness, rather than lack of anything to talk about! No pc or internet access as much to do with it, too :)

Anyway, I'm now a contributor to so check out: and this (which actually featured in print in the MEN - scan to follow shortly!):

Tony Wilson - cropping up again!

I've been published in Clash which is quite nice:

And here's my review of Interpol for FM

The Pigeon Detectives are my new favourite band: (had you there for a moment, right?!)

...and I think that's it for now. Look out for a new interview with Kirsty McGee in preparation for her forthcoming new album (hopefully for publication in the MEN), and interviews with Devon Sproule and Dougie MacLean. Exciting stuff!

The Tony Wilson Experience - my experience

At 10am on the longest day of the year, two hundred handpicked creative individuals, the ‘talent’, gathered together in Manchester’s Hard Rock Café, nervously shuffling through their goodie bags and hastily consuming canapés, wondering what the Tony Wilson Experience was all about, and what the next 24 hours would bring.
Peter Saville, Elliot Rashman and Sir Richard Leese, well known ambassadors for the city in their various roles, also confessed that they, too, were not entirely sure what was in store but hoped that the event, held in memory of Anthony H. Wilson approximately a year after his death, would be ‘shambolic enough to be useful.’
And so it began. It was Steve Coogan and Peter Saville, with Alex Poots, director of Manchester International Festival, who first took to the stage in the giant tipi in Cathedral Gardens, tentatively discussing Tony’s impact on the city and themselves as professionals in their creative disciplines.
The first few hours continued in this rather formal fashion, with the ‘experienced’, the likes of broadcaster Stuart Maconie, property mogul Tom Bloxham, Hacienda designer Ben Kelly and Artistic Director of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture honour, Jayne Casey, sharing anecdotes about their experiences of Tony and the Hacienda, and the creative impact of Manchester on the global stage.
As confidence and beer consumption grew, however, the audience realised that a discussion about a past with which they could not identify was not the Tony Wilson Experience they had in mind, one plucky individual grabbing the microphone to state that as a person in his mid twenties, the Hacienda bears no relevance to his life and his experience of the city and the focus should be on Tony’s legacy and the creative future of the city and its residents.
How right he was. From that moment onwards, microphones flew around the room and the event finally became participatory and interactive, much to the evident delight of its organisers.
Quite frequently debates became furiously heated, such as Irvine Welsh and Paul Morley’s discussion about the possible trend of dumbing down of culture, or Kevin Cummins and Karen McBride’s vehement defence of the role of the professional photographer. The peak was Stella Grundy’s 3am interrogation of Shaun Ryder who retaliated by throwing a jug of water over the former punk singer turned actress.
Perhaps most invigorating was the wonderfully shambolic open mic session which saw the young talent finally taking over the microphone to share resources, finding out where in Manchester, for example, cheap art studios could be rented, or how to better promote spoken word performers.
The Tony Wilson Experience was decidedly ramshackle yet inspiring, sometimes pretentious and definitely motivating – undoubtedly an event Tony Wilson would have relished.

Rock n Reel and The Tony Wilson Experience

Check out Issue 10 of Rock n Reel - this one above - as my review of the Levs at Manchester Apollo is included, as well as a very psychedelic advert by a certain band called Air Cav :)

The Tony Wilson Experience last weekend was fab. I didn't quite make the 24hours and left for home at 8am, but it was a jam packed 20 hours - full of thought provoking discussion between the audience, the handpicked 'talent', and the 'experienced'. Think it's going to be a regular event from now on so watch this space...


I've been chosen to take part in this weekend's Tony Wilson Experience: 'Reification'. It's a 24hour long conversation about the creative industries and will take place in Urbis and Cathedral Gardens with some of the very best - Radcliffe and Maconie, Peter Hook, Matt Greenhalgh, Alan McGee, etc.

The organisers picked 200 'young talent' who had previously applied through the website -and that's me! Now I've just got to pluck up courage to go up to people with our promo and to talk to them about my writing...

When fans discuss your review...

... it's interesting how they react. I do exactly the same when I read the reviews of my own band. And it's fine when they make assumptions about where I go when I watch music, what music I listen to generally, whether I'm paid or not. I put myself and my opinions in that position. That's fine.

But when they make a blatant comment just because I happen to be female? Well, you just wouldn't say it about a bloke, would you? (Apart from the fact that it wouldn't make sense... ha ha) But you know what I mean!!

They're essentially saying that my music taste depends on my hormones and whether I'm on my period. Hilarious. They may as well hark back to Victorian times and say that I'm 'hysterical.'

My New Favourite Band...

... is Babel. And here's the living proof:

For Folk's Sake - what a weekend!

Well... what a weekend. MAPS was a busy, manic, wonderful success. Our For Folk's Sake night attracted a scarily huge crowd who massively enjoyed our performers - and many have since requested that it be a regular night! You never know - maybe it could be?! Watch this space!

So an enormous thank you to our performers, the staff at Cup, the audience and the lovely folk at MAPS. Maybe we'll do it again some time!

If you weren't at the event and didn't get a copy of the latest issue of For Folk's Sake, let me know and I'll get one to you. Ooh, and there's plenty of delightful badges going, too!

And in the new writing department - check out my review of Mabon's OK Pewter on Spiral Earth:

Right, I'm off to rest, then go violin shopping then Wychwood! Phew!

Motel and Monday!

My first feature for the Motel, entitled I'd Marry That Voice, can be found here:

And, delightfully, kindly Kate the editor included my event on Monday at Cup as one of her things to do over the weekend. Excellent! Thanks, Kate.

For Folk's Sake - It's MAPS festival! And only a week to go!

Here's the delightful artwork courtesy of the wonderful Kris Kendal:

Camp Bestival!

I've applied to cover Camp Bestival on behalf of the wonderful Rock n Reel magazine and all being well, I'll be there. And in the sacred space entitled 'Interview requests', I've garnered strength and courage and wobbily scribbled... KATE NASH. I wonder if I'll get it! I'm sure I can come up with a rousing interview ;)

The Fugitive Motel

Manchester's Fugitive Motel collective are well known in the area and beyond for their humorous and witty responses to music - and now I've joined them! The Motel can be found here: so look out for my ramblings on there from now on!

Hardanger fiddles and Scots accents...

I've just had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah-Jane Summers, Scots fiddle extrordinaire
She's possibly the only person playing traditional Scots tunes on a Hardanger fiddle, and is lovely to boot. She's in a Norwegian-influenced band called Fribo who are currently thinking about a new album - so look out for them shortly!

The interview probably won't be out until November (all Fiddle On's are jam packed until then!) but hopefully it'll be worth the wait...


It's all confirmed... The lineup for the night I'm running at Cup (Monday May 26th, free in!) as part of the Northern Quarter's MAPS festival will be...

Music from:
Kirsty McGee and Mat Martin
Jenny McCormick
The Bee's Niece

and Spoken Word from:
Joolz Denby
Gaia Holmes
Mike Garry
Jackie Hagan
Fergus Evans
Dominic Berry

There'll be a book stall courtesy of the wonderful Comma Press and the launch of the second issue(!) of For Folk's Sake.

I can't wait! MAPS is going to be fab. I'll post up the flyer artwork as soon as my lovely graphic artist friend Kris has done them...

It's just another manic... every day

Well, it's been unbelievably busy here with the day job, so all's been quiet on the writing front.

Nevertheless, I did manage to catch the undescribably wonderful Lau last week at the Met in Bury, which is also quickly becoming my favourite venue - but maybe I'm biased due to their amazing schedule.

Anyway, here's a link to my review:

And another to my Fairport review of a gig a little while back:

New review on High Voltage

And since listening a few times more, I think I'd upgrade it to 4/5...

My first piece for FRoots

It's been a long time coming, but I have finally had a piece published in the well-known magazine, FRoots. Judy Dyble is a fantastic woman and a fabulous musician, so I as honoured to interview her. There's a scan of the piece in my gallery section on the website. Enjoy!

Live review of Park Bench Social Club

They're lovely souls over at Spiral Earth...

My aural wishlist..

... There are so many fantastic looking (and sounding, from the clips I've heard) new albums out at the moment that I'm dying to get my paws on. If only my bank had the same viewpoint!
So here's my current album wishlist:
* Jackie Oates - The Violet Hour
* Ruth Notman - Threads
* Heidi Talbot - In Love and Light
* Bella Hardy - Night Visiting
* Jenna Reid - Laughing Girl

Would you look at that?! They're all women!!

More thoughts on music journalism

It really is an interesting debate. This guy and I exchanged a few emails. Here's what I had to say:

It's not my profession - I wish it was - but I rarely see a penny for my writing. Just a free ticket to a gig, an occasional CD.

But aren't you interested in what kind of response your music gets? Surely you do? I certainly do. My band has just released a single and we got some ace reviews - some poorly written, some very well written - but we got one really bad review. As it happens, it was very well written. And it was interesting because the journalist assumed a lot about us from our music - he thought we sounded big headed and arrogant,for one, which is hilarious because we're actually quite shy. And the bad review bugged me for days. I was furious and couldn't let go of it. What do you make of the reviews of your music?

I can understand why people are so negative about music journalism - it's often so poorly written and the observations are so unfounded. But if you read a really good piece of journalism which then makes you turn to the music - either to see whether the flaws they picked on are right, or whether it's as good as they make out - surely that's never a bad thing? If someone wrote an ace review about your music and it lead to more people having a listen, surely that's good?

My first love is folk music. Folk musicians are often dependent on music journalists and the specialist press because they won't have their records played on the radio like pop bands, for example, would. I asked two of my favourite folk musicians if they'd do an interview with me as they'd just recorded a new album and they pounced on it because it was good exposure for them. I wanted to have a chat with some ace musicians. And, needless to say, I won't get a penny for it, but I can be rewarded by the fact that maybe a couple of people who read my review will go out and get the CD, or look out for them at a folk music festival this summer.

I'm sure there are loads of really shitty music journalists. Many are often bitter failed musicians, some simply can't write, or don't have any taste. I'm sure there are some who are label execs and music industry types who don a miraculous pen name to write glowing reports about the new band that are going to rake in the millions - for him/her.

But please be assured that there are many who - like me - are just so mad about music that they feel compelled to write about it: what they like, what they don't. If it pays, then good for them. If it helps out a few musicians along the way,then great.

Rows about music journalism

I recently participated in an online discussion on 6music regarding the necessity of music journalism. And someone's a little upset that I defended it - and (lo and behold) - that I appear to be a music journalist!

Well of course I'm going to defend it! I bloody write it! And of course music journalism is biased... that's the whole point, it's an opinion! Music, and the rest of the arts, are created subjectively; are received subjectively - that's the WHOLE POINT!

However, of course, there is also well written and poorly written music journalism - and the well written stuff is a piece of art in itself. I believe that good criticism (and I mean, 'good' as in 'well constructed') only accentuates the good/bad points of the original focus - and surely that's what art, and arts criticism, is about?!

This debate has raged on forever. See Oscar Wilde's essays on the subject, or Walter Pater's The Renaissance - they express far better than I ever would!

A published poem

I met an excellent performance poet called Fergus doing Crow of Murders. He is currently writer in residence at Contact Theatre and today performed a piece entitled 'Sticks and Stones', a word-cycle based on the theme of bullying. Unfortunately I was unable to get to the theatre to see this, but Fergus has published a chapbook to accompany his piece of theatre, in which he published a new poem of mine, 'Sara.'

I'm tres chuffed! :)

As soon as I get a copy, I'll scan it in for the gallery.

And whilst we're still on the subject of Crow of Murders and poetry, we're appearing at Taurus bar in the Village on March 13th. Yay!

My gorgeous new gallery and more writing...

Check out my gorgeous gallery page, courtesy of Chris. You can see some of my cover features and what not. Gives the eye a break from all those words, at least!

And thanks to Steve for adding more reviews to my Sophie's Choice section on Triste magazine: He's a little apprehensive about the hate mail I might receive, but I'm sure any artists would know my opinion doesn't account for much...

Another review...


And thanks to everyone who came to the Air Cav single launch on Friday. It was absolutely fantastic and I still haven't recovered!!

Crow of Murders

Well, it's all over. This weekend just gone, I was one of a group of around twenty who took part in a queer poetry installation at Contact Theatre. The brainchild of Dominic Berry, each poet was required to write a poem exploring the notion of queer love (not necessarily about sexuality) and the poems were woven in to a script. Audiences could come and go as they pleased, and the whole script was performed twice back to back.

It was intense, immense and lots and lots of fun. I've made some great new friends and learnt loads from really inspirational people. There's so much talent in Manchester, it's untrue!

There's a nice write up here, with some lovely photos:

My first review for Spiral Earth...

... happens to be reviewing the new single from my most favourite band in the world - ever! And, my god, was it difficult being objective!

A rant!

When I realised I hadn’t heard anything from the editor in what seemed to be an alarmingly long time, I checked out the Rant! Magazine website to see what was happening.
But I was told the domain name had expired.
As is custom, emails also failed to make their cyber way to the editor and other Rant! cohorts which used that domain.
So I thought ‘give it a week, there might be a big overhaul, site refurbishment, something like that.’
But nothing.
I had the editor’s number – although had never used – so I sent a meek text in her general direction (London, I think)
Still nothing.
So the next rung on the ladder to discovery was an email to Rich Hanscomb, former Rant! music editor, current contributor to wonderful publications such as The Stool Pigeon and Flux, amongst others, and guitarist in Brighton’s Junkboy.
And he told me that ‘Rant is no more.’
He didn’t elaborate.
So it sounds like Rant really is dead and gone which saddens me greatly. I can honestly say I cut my rock and indie writing teeth there, and enjoyed the freedom they provided me to play with words and generally talk twaddle. Actually, I was really mean to a great deal of musicians (ahem! If they can call themselves that!) through Rant, taking the magazine title quite literally to heart. Thanks Rant.
Editor Irene – send me an email and explain yourself!

The Folk Awards 2008

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the evening's shenanigans, but it looked (and sounded!) fantastic. And attracted some serious media attention by all accounts - 6Music set up a noticeboard dedicated to 'Folk music - is it the future of music?'

Here are the results, though, in case you were wondering:

Folk Singer of the Year - Julie Fowlis
Best Duo - John Tams and Barry Coope
Best Group - Lau (just got their new album and love it!)
Best Original Song - Prodigal Son John Martyn
Best Trad. Track - Cold Haily Rainy Night The Imagine Village
Horizon Award - Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (whoop!)
Musician of the Year - Andy Cutting
Best Live Act - Bellowhead (well deserved!)
Lifetime Achievement - John Martyn
Good Tradition Award - Shirley Collins
Folk Club of the Year - Dartford (when will it be Banbury, hey?!)

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

Despite 2007 belonging to this group, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset have recently had to deal with the departure of pianist and comedienne Belinda O'Hooley. It's a real shame, but I'm sure the new arrival will be fantastic.

Here was my review of their RNCM gig last year:

Spiral Earth

Check out the excellent Spiral Earth:

I've been a reader for a while, as it combines a lovely earthly blend of English trad. folk with some of the heavier 'crusty' stuff which rules my world. And all being well, I shall hopefully be writing for them very soon!

Bits and pieces over at High Voltage

Since writing the review, I've been listening to this even more and reckon it deserves 5/5, not just the measley 4/5 I gave it! :

My friend Astrid Weekes (ahem!) comes out to play:

Chris Bathgate:

Trust me, it was evil:

Cruel to be kind, eh?

Celtic Connections 2008

It was decidedly Celtic weather conditions for the entire weekend I was at Celtic Connections in Glasgow. The torrential rain didn’t relent, the gales continued to blow. But that, as cringeworthy as it sounds, added to the experience. Crisp winter days and fragile sunshine wouldn’t have suited the tumultuous tunes and ballads of lovelorn youth which raged all weekend. Kilts were still worn with pride, enthusiasts trudged dutifully from one venue to another dodging the frequent umbrella carcasses along the way.
Friday morning brought a new experience to the fold – stadium folk. Swathes of Scottish schoolchildren filled the main auditorium of the Royal Concert Hall and the musicians on offer couldn’t have wished for a more enthusiastic attentive audience. Glo-sticks shone in appreciation, clapping soon deteriorated in to a mixture of in, out and not-so-sure time. Recent Young Folk Award winners, Jeana Leslie Siobahn Miller, were met with eager renditions of their songs as their young listeners joined in, and the resident Hoose Band had them all – including their teachers – dancing in their seats. The skill of Lori Watson and her Rule of Three would surely send all the young musicians present back to their teachers begging to learn to play like her.
Not wanting to break our umbrellas on our first day in Glasgow, we decided to find indoor attractions to escape the howling gales. The Gallery of Modern Art kept us entertained for what seemed like hours with Turner Prize winners, recent commissions and interactions.
Then it was a toss up. Did we go to James Yorkston and King Creosote at the ABC, knowing we would have to leave early to be able to reach in time Kris Drever’s full rendition of his 2006 album, Black Water, at the Old Fruitmarket at 9.30pm? We decided that yes, this was what we would have to do.
I can’t put my finger on why James Yorkston is so compelling. My aversion to one-man-and-his-guitar combos means I rarely pay them attention. But James Yorkston has had me enthralled for years and in this setting, with his performance understated yet passionate, the audience are hanging on every note. ‘Shipwreckers’ is played second, which as a favourite of mine I prefer to come later, but it didn’t matter as this time we were treated to a sinister treatment of ‘Blue Bleezin’ Blind Drunk.’
But it was apparent that the audience were really here to see King Creosote, and the atmosphere soon reflected this. Suddenly, everyone seemed pissed, and the King, grinning and genuinely ecstatic at his reception, was being lovingly heckled from every angle. The Celtic Connection here was a little more tenuous, as what followed was jangley indie pop with psychedelia and slide thrown in, but it didn’t seem out of place. Although 9.30pm was rapidly approaching and the attempt to try to see Kris Drever slowly diminishing, we weren’t perturbed as King Creosote was simply too nice and polite a person that it would seem preposterous to leave. And when he finished on ‘KC Rules OK’, breaking it to the audience gently that it was ‘time for me to go’, each musician took it upon themselves to carry on with the montage which had slowly built up, allowing the King to quietly slip away.
After a rediscovery of the taste of Irn Bru, Saturday morning at the Box Office was a gloomy affair – why I thought the Peatbog Faeries wouldn’t sell out was soon called in to question. Although I had a press ticket, there wasn’t a single one left for Emlyn. So we decided to nip off to see Ceol Mor and the Young Tradition finalists at the Strathclyde Suite and worry about the mighty Peatbogs later.
Ceol Mor is the young answer to The Unusual Suspects, with fiddlers, pipers, brass section, whistles, accordions, clarsach, and drums. Sidestepping any patronising, it was fascinating to see a collection of young musicians who were not only talented, ut obviously enjoying the music they were playing. The material played was mainly commissioned work, focussing on Scottish identity and ending in a rousing set of tunes which had the musicians frantically tapping their feet and laughing.
Later in the Strathclyde Suite I had the privilege of sitting in on Jenna Reid’s sound check. Every corner I turned in Glasgow this weekend, I had seen a fiddle player from one corner of Scotland or another. But Jenna seemed something completely different. The heart racing speed in which Jenna played was matched with an effortless grace and a sense of calm. Her material seemed Old Time and modern, Scottish yet other-worldly. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be seeing the launch of her new album, The Laughing Girl, that evening with help from Swedish band, Vasen.
But pleased as Emlyn had managed to cadge a ticket for Peatbog Faeries from a kindly lady outside the ABC. Breabach opened the evening, one of the piper’s mothers standing nearby and grinning ear to ear. Brebach were in awe of the headliners, and kept their set time to a modest minimum. And worthy of the praise, the Peatbog Faeries brought their fusion of trad Scottish tunes and electronica to the fore and, with chaotic lighting and arms punching the air, it was though we were transported to a rave.

All in all, a fantastic weekend was had at Celtic Connections. It’s almost a pity that it goes on for three weeks, as you know that you’re inevitably missing out on some excellent performances and discoveries.

Rock n Reel and FRoots

Happy New Year!

And I'm pleased to say the first issue of Rock n Reel in 2008 has an interview between myself and Piney Gir on the first page. Piney's lovely: multi talented, inspirational, innovative, so make sure you check her out!

Also, the next issue of FRoots is set to have my interview with Judy Dyble in the Root Salad section. Judy will be a name familiar to all Fairport Convention fans, as she was the female vocalist on the first self-titled album, and her new material sounds like it's going to be fantastic, too!