Leigh Folk Festival (23-26 June 2022) have made their first lineup announcement. Some of our personal favourites will be performing at their 30th Anniversary celebrations held across several venues in the town of Leigh-on-sea, situated along the Thames Estuary just outside of Southend.
Here are some of the standout names for us from the lineup revealed so far:
The prolific Alasdair Roberts features heavily throughout this website, so no surprise that he’s on our list. His last album, The Old Fabled River (2021), was a collaboration with the Norwegian group Völvur, a melding of Celtic and Scandinavian intuitions of culture and music. It is full of subtle mirrors, the dualism and continuity of life, pairs and opposites…a satisfyingly literary accomplishment, but also humane and wild and as vividly detailed as we’ve come to expect from anything Roberts is involved in. Fretted And Indebted (2020) found him bringing focus to the traditional songs and singers that have inspired him. One of my personal favourites was his 2018 collaboration album Au Cube. It was a live album with Glasgow-based instrumentalist and aficionado of Breton music Neil McDermott and French traditional group Tartine de Clous.
Au Cube by Alasdair Roberts, Neil McDermott & Tartine de clous
Equally talented and prolific is Alex Rex – “the current vehicle of songwriter/drummer/folk-rock renaissance man Alex Neilson“. At the end of last year, we reviewed his live album Memory, Speak, recorded at Woolf II (2019). As Thomas Blake said in his review, the performance came at a creatively fecund period: the band had just released Otterburn, and third album Andromeda was just around the corner. In his review of the latter, he notes: Andromeda, like its predecessor, is a difficult, brilliant, rewarding snapshot of human turmoil.
The twice Mercury Prize-nominated Eliza Carthy will be performing alongside the delightful talents of melodeon player extraordinaire Saul Rose & guitar supremo David Delarre. They will be the festival’s special guests on Sunday afternoon, playing the Rockamilly stage, Leigh Library Gardens.
English psych-folk musician Simon Finn is a name known to many. His legendary landmark album ‘Pass The Distance’ celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2011 with a London show. In a short film profile by Gianmarco Del Re, Simon Finn filled in many of the blanks revealing his early life and arrival in London with just £30 to his name. From sleeping on the streets at 16 years of age to learning some hard lessons, the memories have clearly stayed with him. He also talks about the time he spent in North America, where he reveals he taught martial arts and took up organic farming. The film, which includes a number of clips of live appearances at Cafe Oto, is a very moving portrayal.
Drone-folk & eldritch spook duo Burd Ellen, a Glasgow-based project featuring Debbie Armour (Alasdair Roberts, Green Ribbons) and Gayle Brogan (Pefkin, Electroscope), are performing. Their 2020 album Says The Never Beyond, which David Kidman described as an impressive achievement by any standards, for it delivers a startlingly innovative approach to the performance of the deep seasonal repertoire. He adds: “Here, Debbie and Gayle and their collaborators may be viewed as pursuing a parallel experimental path to the recent aural adventures of Stick In The Wheel on (the latter half especially of) Hold Fast – and yet the visceral nature of the aural impact of Burd Ellen’s music is quite different. From its title alone, Says The Never Beyond may sound a cryptic proposition, but the album provides a thrilling and utterly hypnotic ride through the wintersong repertoire.”
Here’s their latest single, The High Priestess and the Hierophant:
The High Priestess and the Hierophant by Burd Ellen
For her last album, Strange Lights over Garth Mountain, Welsh-born fingerstyle guitar devotee Gwenifer Raymond received a lot of well-deserved attention. In his review, Glenn Kimpton noted how the songs on this album had longer running times, noting: “This is significant because it gives each longer piece (most are around six or seven minutes) space to breathe and Gwen time to flex and explore.” He adds: “Strange Lights feels like a huge leap forward; every note sounds original and creative…There is still plenty of Gwen’s punky frenetic picking across the set, but it is juxtaposed with moments of calm (touched with menace, of course; it’s still a Gwenifer Raymond album).”
On his last album Clifftown; reviewed here, MG Boulter introduced us to the eerily familiar landscape of Clifftown, a sleepy seaside resort on the east coast of England which makes his appearance her most apt, considering the closeness of the town featured. As Bill Rough said in his review: “Handsomely produced by Andy Bell, Clifftown has a gorgeously evocative sound, and Boulter is well accompanied by some notable names, including Pete Flood (Bellowhead) on drums and percussion, Lizzy O’Connor on mandolin and guitar, Paul Ambrose on bass, Tom Lenthall on synth, Helen Bell on violin and Lucy Farrell (Furrow Collective) and Neil McSweeney on voice. Boulter himself is no slouch here, providing voice, guitar, and mandolin.”
One of Serious Sam Barrett’s stated aims on his latest release was to release “a proper folk record”. As David Pratt said in his review, he has succeeded admirably. The Seeds Of Love is a top-class release, sincerely delivered with alluring vocals and exemplary music throughout.
Lo-fi folk explorers The Diamond Family Archive – “a unique multi-instrumentalist roving ensemble based around the guitar playing and songwriting of Laurence Collyer” has, over the years, released several albums and EPs as well as collaborations through a set of labels in the UK, America, Denmark, Germany and Ireland. In 2020, we shared his video for Wood Store Guitar No.3 – a glimpse into a project based around “an old dilapidated Kay Kansas guitar which age and weather has naturally adapted for slide.”
In his last solo album, Danny George Wilson of Danny & The Champions of the World did indeed take his audience to ‘Another Place’, which saw him depart from his more usual Americana vibe to deliver a tantalizing experimental album. As Mike Davies said in his album review, this is one that’s well worth the journey. He’ll be joined on Friday night (24th June) by another firm favourite – Pennsylvania folk-rock duo Native Harrow, who span a gorgeous 70s Laurel Canyon sound to buzzing, fuzzing rockers…this promises to be a great evening.
The delightful Emily Barker will be joined by Lukas Drinkwater. A little while ago, the duo wanted to visit Emily’s family in Australia and had to endure fourteen days of quarantine in a room – Room 822, an album of covers was the result. It features some great songs by Australian artists, inspired by Emily’s memories of listening on the tape deck of her yellow VW Beetle while driving to the coast with the windows down. In 2020, she also delivered a great studio album – ‘A Dark Murmuration of Words’ described as searching for the invisible connections that shape a rapidly shifting modern world. The songs explored climate change, racism, sexism, and myths of economic progress through the lens of what it means to return “home.”
Jamie Doe, aka The Magic Lantern‘s latest album A Reckoning Bell made a big impression on us here. In Bob Fish’s words: “There are moments that tear at your soul and Jamie Doe of The Magic Lantern recounts them on A Reckoning Bell. It is, at its heart, one of the most human and humane albums recorded, and Doe recounts some of the most heartbreaking and inspiring moments of life as he watches his father going through the steady decline of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
The Treetop Flyers are also among those artists that made quite an impression in these pages. Towards the end of last year, they released their fourth album, Old Habits. While staying within their established sound, the album was veined with affecting understated new tricks to produce, according to Mike Davies, a sublime experience. Check out their soulful Castlewood Road:
Also performing are Wildwood Kin, Funke and the Two Tone Baby, London Bulgarian Choir, Evan Parker, Bonfire Radicals, Caitlin King, Davey Hal, Hoy Shanty Crew, Inkcap, Jason Steel, Owen Williams & The Ondines, Paul Sartin, Rev Simpkins Rooskin, Sam Fraser, The Long Run and many more to be announced.