What a way to end the year!

For Folk's Sake has been nominated in the Spiral Awards for 'best club or venue'! Not bad for a night that's been running only a little over a year.

Winners are decided by public vote so please take a few seconds to clickety click for me: http://www.spiralearth.co.uk/spirals2010/club.asp

Introducing... Citylifers

Since the MEN's online version of City Life went quiet - it's still being updated, but now by in-house staff - the music scribes have joined together to form Citylifers. And I've joined in, too.

Here's my first album review. To be honest, the album made me a little crazy - I couldn't decide if I was here or there - so if it sounds like a load of twaddle, then it probably is.


Twaddle. What a great word!


Out of the ashes of the MEN's now-defunct City Life has grown 'Citylifers' - a music review site where former City Life contributors congregate.

And here's my first offering as the official folk correspondent:


Temple Cloud Country Club score a fantastic 4 star review

And from none other than Mark Edwards!

We were all mightily chuffed :-)


Oh, and my Jim Moray article appears in the MEN today

and if you're in the area, be sure to check out his gig tonight in the recently refurbished Manchester venue, Band On The Wall.

Judy Dyble in Flux Magazine

...courtesy of the mighty Rich Hanscomb

Samson and Delilah launch their debut album today!

Get on down to your record shop or click a button - get hold of your copy of the self-titled debut album from Samson and Delilah which is released today!

They're also in the midst of playing dates all round the country - including For Folk's Sake! - so be sure to catch them while you can.

In other news -

Temple Cloud Country Club are due to be reviewed in the Sunday Times this weekend which is very exciting.

Monster Ceilidh Band go from strength to strength with some lovely bits of press and airplay, including some from over the pond at Folk Alley and Dirty Linen, both in America.

Twelfth Day are gearing up for recording their debut album, and have had the most gorgeous shots done courtesy of the marvellous Shirlaine Forrest. Look out for a taster in the form of a demo which will be dropping onto doormats very shortly...

Julie Fowlis in the MEN

Here it is... I've never spoken to a nicer lady!



... I had the pleasure of interviewing two top folk musicians in one day.

Julie Fowlis is back in Manchester on Saturday, playing at the RNCM alongside a whole host of Celtic food as part of the Food and Drink Festival. (Haggis anyone?!)

And Jim Moray talks about being typecast, ahead of his date at the newly refurbished Band On The Wall.

I'll let you know when and where they can be found xx

Ballad of Britain

I'm ploughing through this as I can't put it down! Even when I feel sick on the bus!


Bright Young Folk review Monster Ceilidh Band


End of the festival season for me

Well, Moseley was a lovely end to the festival season.

You can read my review here: http://www.spiralearth.co.uk/news/festivalstory.asp?nid=3411

I don't mention the cider, though - man, that was good!

Eliza in City Life

She was amazing as ever:


Found it! Devon Sproule...

I rarely do 'question and answer' style interviews but this one seemed to work nicely... and it was done via email so it makes things a little easier :)

This was done last summer (2008) though, so it's a little out of date...

First of all, you're having a massively busy summer. You seem to be at every festival there is! What's been your highlight so far?

My drummer George brought his 7-year-old son Harrison to Green Man. It was his first festival and the mud was almost to the top of his little Wellies! One of his favorite bands, the Super Furry Animals, was headlining the Main Stage, but they came on late — not til almost midnight. Harrison, who had been a real trooper, made it to the beginning of the set, falling asleep 30 seconds into their first song. It was a real heart-wrenching, adorable moment.

How do UK festivals compare to the ones back home?

I’ve only played a few festivals in the US. Kerrville Folk Festival has a wonderful, community vibe to it. It goes on for two weeks and it’s incredibly hot, way out in the Texas desert. Like the rain here in the UK, the heat at home can be a real drag but can also add to the feeling of adventure.

You've been playing some of the UK's best known folk festivals - quite well known for being elitist and only putting 'true' folk artists on. Has this been your experience? Considering your music is derivative of a few different genres, were you surprised as your invitation?

I thought Cambridge would be the folkiest of the lot. But after seeing loads of different genres represented and having talked to a bunch of long time attendees, it seems like they were actually one of the first festivals to get really ecclectic with their line-up. Maverick was probably the least ecclectic of the bunch but the music was still good and it was great fun to see a bunch of English people in cowboy hats.

While you've been here in the UK, have you had the chance to visit the county of your namesake? Did you sample any of its famous clotted cream and scone afternoon teas?!

Yeah – we went to Devon last weekend actually, for the North Devon Folk Festival in Ilfracombe. It was lovely but I couldn’t match the enthusiasm of my bandmates, who had camped there as young’ns and were just puddles of nostalgia the whole time. Our Devon experience ended on a rather bad note, getting charged extra at the B&B because my bass player puked up a curry in his room, after a night out in the Ilfracombe night clubs. Now, who says folk music isn’t exciting?

I saw you play at the Royal Northern College of Music supporting Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. I see you're supporting them again - but this time, on tour in America. How does your music compliment theirs and vice versa? How do you think they'll go down in America?

My hope is that Rachel and the gang will have the exotic-foreigner advantage in the US, sort’ve like I get here in England. Their northern accents are so pronounced and they tend to chat a lot onstage, so the folks at home will probably dig that. In general, good audiences seem to enjoy artists who have obvious roots, but who don’t just play traditional music. And the Unthanks definitely fit that category.

It's been over a year since 'Keep Your Silver Shined' was released... that's right, isn't it? What's next in store? Are we to hear more about married life?

I’m recording for a couple days with my English band next week, before heading back to States. Hoping that we’ll get some keep-able stuff from that session. I’ve got about eight new songs, so that’s most of the way to a new record. And let’s see, on the subject front...there’s a new, homesick song that I wrote here, between UK festivals. There’s a been-married-a-few-years song called Don’t Hurry For Heaven. And a few that mention my sister-in-law — sort’ve the lady in my life — Maria. So I guess it’s still pretty domestic, pretty Virginia-centered. There’s just a little less folk-style fingerpicking, a little more groovy stuff in its place. Maybe I’m finally putting all that Jesse Winchester listening to good use!

When I've seen you play, your husband got up to accompany you, too. Do you ever write together? Or is it a case of presenting your music to each other for suggestions/criticism/approval?

We tend not to tour together. Paul has helped me with my last two records — enormously. But as far as collaboration, pretty much all we do it this once-a-year Valentine’s Day show in our hometown, when we play old country and jazz covers.

I was startled when I read in an interview that you said you 'did a lot of women's music when you were a teenager.' Then I realised you meant writing from the perspective of being a woman. Why would you say this doesn't form the basis for your music now?

I think I meant that early on, I listened to and was inspired by a lot of women artists -- Bjork, Liz Phair, Ani Difranco — and their strength and independence was possibly even more important to my growth as was their actual music. Nowadays, I still listen to women — a lot of Lucinda Williams recently, and I did love Amy Winehouse’s last CD — but have spent much of my twenties catching up with all the talented men.

Do you ever encounter blatant sexism whilst performing, writing or recording? Or do you think it may be a little easier being a solo artist and playinh music which isn't quite mainstream? What advice would you give to a young girl who was just starting out as a musician and songwriter?

I guess it really mostly depends on who you choose to work with. In business matters, my husband and I have found that agents, promoters, and venue people (especially men) are often less polite with Paul than with me, and I think that has to do with my being a woman. Sometimes, if we’re in a guitar shop together, salesmen will assume that I know less. Sometimes sound guys are like that too. But in general, independent music seems pretty good in that sense.

Every interview I have read mentions your community 'alternative' upbringing - does it irritate you that this is always brought up?

Good question, Sophie. Thanks. Well, I’m always a little torn on questions about Twin Oaks. I love talking to people about it, think it’s great to let people know about a radically different way of living. But when an article is published that talks more about my communal upbringing than my music — well, that can be a little frustrating.

Towersey Village Folk Festival

I had an amazing time at Towersey, running around with the Spiral Earth team. I was so impressed with Spiral Earth's planning and organisation, and I really think the end result, a DVD of the festival, will be brilliant! (And so did the festival-public, judging by the amount of pre-orders taken)

I even enjoyed presenting! God only knows what I’ll look like, though. My hair was so greasy by the final day that I looked like I worked in a chippy!

My highlight of the weekend was definitely Karine Polwart's set. Somehow I've never seen her play before, and she blew me away! Seeing Mawkin juggling various guests in the place of irreplaceable Jim Causley was entertaining, too.

As was Devon Sproule's exclamation backstage:

"I just went outside and a guy came up to me and said 'I saw you at Green Man. You were better. You're too polished'", she laughed, obviously disappointed. "I think he was German."

Which reminds me - I did a really nice interview with Devon for my friend's zine which I believe was never published. I'll dig it out and put it on here.

And the most touching thing over the weekend was Demon Barbers’ Bryony Griffiths, who told the audience that her grandma had passed away in April, but had intended to come and see her set at Towersey, only living down the road.
Moseley next weekend!

Monster Ceilidh Band - again!

It's all go on the Monster Ceilidh Band front - they've recently been featured in the Newcastle Chronicle...

iHerd it first!

OK, strictly I didn't, but I am slightly in love with that pun... expect to see that cropping up again and again.

Anyway, did I mention that I'm doing some PR for the lovely Monster Ceilidh Band? Not only are they due to release their debut album, Make Me A Dancer, but they've also been snapped up by the folks at iPhone. Their music now accompanies an application (or is it an app? I'm not sure of iPhone etiquette! In fact, it might not even be an application. What even is an application?!!) called iHerd which, judging by this little demo, looks mightily fun: http://www.youtube.com/user/1Baawolf#play/all/uploads-all/0/0TDmcjCJ8dQ

Now I just need to get an iPhone to see/hear it in the flesh!

Towersey Festival

Spiral Earth is the official online media partner at this year's Towersey Folk Festival and the SE guys have kindly invited me down to help them out with a bit of filming. Spiral Earth have been commissioned to produce a commemorative DVD of this year's festival and I'll be interviewing some musicians and audience members on camera.

It's typical that Towersey just falls after my birthday though - so much for being thin on camera! I'm full of birthday cake and birthday cheese!

Anyway, the lineup looks fab: http://www.towerseyfestival.com/

Ewan MacColl memorial concert and reissue of Journeyman

The lovely folks down at Manchester University Press are reissuing Ewan MacColl's autobiography, Journeyman, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his death. There will also be a memorial concert at Peel Hall in Salford. Here's the press release below...

The memorial concert for Ewan MacColl (25 January 1915 - 22 October 1989) looks set to be a landmark folk occasion, commemorating the life and work of one of the major architects of the English folk revival.

But far more than a prolific songwriter, folk singer and teacher, he was the founder with Joan Littlewood here in Manchester of radical theatre, a playwright and actor, and a passionate supporter of radical causes.

The concert, which will be held at Peel Hall in Salford on 27th October, also celebrates the re-issue by Manchester University Press of Journeyman Ewan MacColl's vivid and entertaining autobiography. This new version has been re-edited from his original manuscript, and includes a new introduction by Peggy Seeger, his partner for the last thirty years of his life. Copies of the book will be on sale for £10 during the concert.

Peggy Seeger is joined at the concert by folk singers old and new. Among those taught by Peggy and Ewan in their 'Critics Group' were Sandra Kerr, John Faulkner, Bob Blair and Brian Pearson, all variously singing, writing, acting and teaching. Sandra teaches on the influential Folk and Traditional Music degree course at Newcastle University, the best training ground for folk musicians today. John Faulkner, now artist in residence at the Galway City Museum, took part in Travelling People, last of the famous MacColl/Seeger Radio Ballad series, a form revisited by the BBC in 2006. Writing for and singing in this award-winning recent series were two of the most well-known folk singers today, Jez Lowe - perhaps the best modern songwriter in the folk idiom - and Bob Fox. The line-up is completed by David Ferrard, a young Scottish/American writer of songs of peace and protest.

Tickets cost £10, and go on sale on 14th September.

Call the MUP office on 0161 275 2310 for all ticket enquiries. Copies of Journeyman, the new edition of Ewan MacColl's best-selling autobiography, will be on sale at the concert for just £10.

Excellent Judy Dyble review

The reviews for Talking With Strangers are rolling in. Here's an excellent one in Record Collector:

Latest issue of Fiddle On

I've been a little greedy and gone interview mad! My interviews with Dougie MacLean (cover story), James Delarre, Fiona Driver and Kate Thompson all feature.
I've just had the pleasure of interviewing the wonderful Joe Broughton, too, so look out for that in a future edition.

New album review

For all you Fairport fans: http://spiralearth.co.uk/NEWS/Review-story.asp?nid=2906


I'm really lucky to be working on a couple of exciting PR projects at the moment.

The first is PBS6, a folk and hip hop collaboration project which is the brainchild of percussionist, Will Lang. Will's recruited some fine musicians from both scenes to collaborate on original material, some of which derives from a period of time he spent in Australia with musicians there.

The second is the brand new album from singer, Judy Dyble. The album is fantastic and made with some legendary names from the music world, past and present.

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for both...

Big Whistle Weekend

They cut the pun... I don't blame them:


A chocolate bar for the correct guess of which pun I used...?

The Awkward Recruit

I have fallen in love with this album. If there were more stars, I would have given it more...


Over-enthusiastic? Me??

New review on Spiral Earth

In the aftermath of a soggy bank holiday weekend, here's a new review of a band based in Manchester:


busy bee, that's me!

A couple of new pieces...

In this month's fRoots, I've got a piece on Rachael McShane. She's an amazing lady. I'll get a scan ASAP and put it in the gallery.

My interview with the Single Cell collective is in the current issue of Mule. It's in the gallery if you want to take a peek.

I'll also be interviewing the Oysterband's John Jones about his crazy endeavours, walking to each gig on his solo tour. Yup, walking.

I've recently interviewed Fiona Driver for a future issue of Fiddle On, and reviewed Mawkin:Causley's first full-length album, The Awkward Recruit, for Citylife.

My friend runs a great zine called The Rookie Files and I've got an interview with my own band mate in there. Self-indulgent? (ahem)

Fiona Driver

Wow! What a fiddler! I've just completed an interview with her and she had so much interesting stuff to say that my article just went on and on... needs a rather major editing job! Look out for it in a future issue of Fiddle On.

New blog on Spiral Earth...

... this time about our merger:


Latest issue of Fiddle On

Make sure you catch the latest issue of Fiddle On magazine, there's a really interesting interview with the queen of fiddlers, Liz Doherty...

... oh, and there's two articles by a certain someone... a report from the Folk Awards and an interview with amazing young fiddler, Georgina Clarke.

Mia Darlone - Below The Belt

Here's my interview with the wonderfully gifted, Mia:


My Lau review


They were that good. I must review the album, too. It's a corker.

Interview with Erika Lopez!

Have a look at my interview with Erika Lopez which featured in yesterday's Manchester Evening News: http://www.citylife.co.uk/theatre_dance/news/12261_spoken_word_maverick_erika_tours_welfare_queen

I'll put up the unabridged version on here soon! And make sure you get down on Thursday, it's going to be a cracker!



Things have been absolutely, wonderfully manic. But that's how we like it!

Firstly, an interview I conducted with Manchester poet, Phil Golding, was in Tuesday's MEN. You can see the online version of it here: http://www.citylife.co.uk/arts/literature/news/12247_for_better_or_verse_for_phil___
and I'll put a scan of it in the gallery. Phil's such a great bloke and since the interview has appeared in the paper, he's been invited to come on to a radio programme. Good on him!

Another review for the MEN can be found here:
Ian Anderson's Blue Blokes 3 played at The Met in Bury last week and were great. It's a shame there wasn't a bigger crowd to greet them.

And I'm delighted to have been invited by the wonderful Will Lang (of Park Bench Social Club fame) to help out on the press side of things for his new project currently in the pipeline. The project will see a mixture of folk and urban musicians coming together on a collaboration which sets out to prove the two genres aren't all that different. Pilot gigs have had a wonderful reception so watch this space!

So that leaves next week and the BBC Folk Awards...

Did you recently send me an email about a PR project?

Did you recently contact me about a PR project?
Unfortunately an email which I think may well from a real person(!) about a potential PR project landed in my junk mail and was deleted before I could read it. If that was you - apologies! Please contact me again and I'll endeavour to be in touch immediately!