Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain

Wooo... I'm a little nervous. In two days' time, I'll be interviewing the legendary Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain ahead of their gig at Waterside Arts Centre in Sale. In Scottish music, they're the masters! I'll be focussing on the duo for Fiddle On magazine, but I'm also really interested in the Scottish Studies department (incorporating traditional music) at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama which Phil heads up, so I'll be interrogating him about that.

Wish me luck! *gulp*

Close Up With Kevin Rowland

http://www.highvoltage.org.uk/readreview.php?id=271

And it was pretty close up - I managed to exchange a few words with him after the event. My uncle was a roadie / light technician for Kevin's pre-Dexys band, The Killjoys, and I'm pleased to say that Kevin remembered him well. So much so that they've since exchanged a few emails!

Just a quickie...

... to show you some gorgeous photos from Thursday's FFS, courtesy of David Gee, Muoo Photography.

Head over here: http://bit.ly/celJ0W

Keeping momentum



Wow. I'm truly exhausted. Last night's FFS at the Zion was fantastic - such a big, varied crowd and such fabulous performers. Thanks to everyone who came down and listened, performed, helped out, promoted, etc, etc. And wasn't the cake nice? Well, all except my second batch of shortbread which shouldn't even be fed to ducks - they'd break their beaks. Apologies if you got a piece of that.

But anyway, I'm delighted to announce the next FFS - April 8th at Eighth Day cafe. (Should be easy to remember, that one!) We're joined by musicians from all corners of the British Isles, so be sure to join us from 7pm.

Ahead of tonight's gig...

... you might want a sample of what FFS past has been like. Have a lookie at our video from FFS Feb: http://bit.ly/cpJJrZ

And I'm thrilled that the Big Issue picked up on the Zion Centre gig tonight, placing us in their Top 10 Select feature. Whoop!

FFS on BBC Introducing - listen again

If you missed me on BBC Introducing on Sunday night and fancy a listen, have a listen here (I'm about 1 hour 38 in) http://bit.ly/dsOoq7 You'll hear tracks from Irish fiddler player, Emma Sweeney (who is appearing at For Folk's Sake next month), and Anna Kashfi, at FFS at the Zion tomorrow.

I went to see Eliza last night at Band On The Wall. Lovely to see a big and relatively young audience! She was as fabulous as ever, and played mainly new stuff (one in particular was amazing, but the title escapes me!) and material from Dreams Of Breathing Underwater and Angels And Cigarettes. When she does the more chantreuse-y, sexy, bluesy self-penned stuff, the fiddle takes a little more of a back seat but I don't mind as that means she revels in her husky voice. You can tell she loves to sing those songs.

She said that her new album - also original music - will be written in a week and a half, compared to the last one which took seven years. I assume she was joking, but I'm looking forward to it already!

Little Red Rabbit - download for free

You're probably already familiar with Manchester collective / label, Little Red Rabbit, because a) they're fabulous,  b) they're the label behind Samson and Delilah who I love very much, and c) they are the label behind Anna Kashfi, who are performing at FFS at the Zion next week.

Anyway, if you'd like to hear more from their artists, head on over to their website and you can download their compilation, 'Trace', for free! http://bit.ly/9rNIB7

FFS on BBC Introducing this weekend...

I have been invited on to BBC Manchester's Introducing show this Sunday night to give a bit of an update about FFS' work. The show has been incredibly supportive since our beginning, and they very kindly dubbed me 'promoter of the week' this time last year. I'll be chatting about what's coming up in the next few months and playing a few tunes from FFS artists - and they never raise an eyebrow at my choices! Thanks guys!

Tune in at 11.20pm on Sunday night, or listen again from Monday via http://bit.ly/cR2XFy

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Saturday 6th March, Bridgewater Hall

On Saturday, Catriona Price (the fiddling half of Twelfth Day) and I went along to the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra concert at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall.

Prior to stumbling across their glossy flyer in a leaflet rack, I had never heard of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and was intrigued - would it be a hoard of fiddles playing rousing tunes? I hoped so, as I've become a real Scottish music fan.

The Bridgewater Hall was packed, and many of the audience were decked out in kilts and sporrans. Pipers were weaving their way through the crowd. The atmosphere was lively and the fact that I still had no idea what I was about to witness made for a rather exciting build up. I couldn't have cared less that we were the youngest by a long, long way - I'm used to this at folk gigs.

But as the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra took their seats, and a compere - apparently well known on the Scottish scene - began cracking jokes, I realised this was more of a nostalgia concert. The tunes were not frenetic and raw, but lazily over-romanticised in their arrangement. Guest solo singers were invited to the spotlight and warbled their way through like the opening of a football tournament.

It reminded me of the country dances we were taught at primary school - gentle music with just enough bounce to persuade young knees to participate. A kind of watered down, easy listening soundtrack.

However, Cat and I were the only ones who seemed bitterly disappointed. The audience were laughing heartily at the greetings-card-jokes and clapping in time with the music. To me, it didn't seem heartfelt or genuine and I was pleased to leave.

Lau-ving it

Ignore the awful pun. It just had to be done.

I've seen Lau several times and - though it might be a cliche to say it - they really do get better every time. And after's Friday's performance, I've officially promoted them to 'my favourite band' status.

Here's my review...

http://www.highvoltage.org.uk/readreview.php?id=212

Future Fiddle On feature

I interviewed Emma Sweeney last night for a future issue of Fiddle On and what a lovely lady she is. Born and raised in Manchester to Irish parents, she has grown up playing in all the sessions the city has to offer. So many young folkies are 'born into' the folk world, with singing parents and forays to festivals in the summer which, of course, is wonderful, but Emma hasn't had any of that and has found the (Irish) folk scene herself. She's also careful not to put all her eggs in one basket - a phrase she used several times - and so studied theology at university and as well as teaching fiddle and whistle during the week, works at a college part time, too.

I like that - it shows that the folk scene is all-encompassing and open-minded. You just need to find it first.

Emma's got a new website: http://emmasweeneyfiddle.com/ which I believe is still under construction, and she'll be playing the April FFS at the Eighth Day on, fittingly, April 8th.

For Folk's Sake Liverpool... next date, Monster Ceilidh Band!

For Folk's Sake is delighted to announced that Newcastle's - nay, the country's - finest young ceilidh band, Monster Ceilidh Band, will be arriving at the Leaf Tea Shop on Parliament Street on Friday March 12th.

Also appearing will be Lancaster's Dan Haywood's New Hawks and Rantum Scantum, all the way from Edinburgh. Make sure you get down early on so you get a good spot at the front!

Duotone - Work Harder & One Day You'll Find Her

A real beautiful album that's certainly a grower.

And the first review I put up myself on Spiral Earth. First person to spot a typo or missed bit of formatting wins a chocolate bar of their choice.

http://spiralearth.co.uk/NEWS/Review-story.asp?nid=4235

Celebrating ten years of Fiddle On - new issue



The new issue is out and as ever, there's lots of bits and pieces to get your teeth into. The cover piece is an interview with Natalie Haas about the finer points of accompanying fiddle players - very enlightening! I've got an interview with the lovely Charlie Heys, too.

Check out http://www.fiddleon.co.uk/ for subscription details. It's their tenth birthday - the perfect time to subscribe!

Inge Thomson - Shipwrecks And Static

My ears have been blown away by this album. It's not folk, but then I don't know what you'd call it. Apart from 'fantastic'.

http://spiralearth.co.uk/NEWS/Review-story.asp?nid=4217