Tag Archives: folk music

Acoustic Night with Blue Mountains, Mick Le Huray, Richey Powers and Llewellyn Van Eeden – The Fermain Tavern – 08/04/17

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

After a jam night and an international Folk Americana night, Guernsey Gigs continued their run of shows at The Fermain Tavern by inviting four acoustic acts on to the stage. Spanning veterans of the scene to new performers the night featured a mix of sounds, once again in a relaxed ‘club’ style setting.

First up was Llewellyn Van Eeden. Having played open mic nights and a few smaller gigs including a set on the busking stage at last year’s Vale Earth Fair, this was only my second chance to catch him play and, for the most part, it was an enjoyable performance.

With a blues feel to the majority of his set, Van Eeden added a nice abrasive edge that didn’t feel forced to a fairly standard sound.

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Adding a harmonica to a few songs rounded it off, albeit in still standard way, and, combined with a relatively easy-going nature on stage, made for a nice way to start the night.

Later in the set we were treated to a folkier song in Afrikaans before the set closed on a pair of what can only be described as ‘pirate folk’ that, while a little novelty, were good fun and went down very well with the audience.

While better known as frontman of psychedelic folk beast The Recks, Richey Powers had the opportunity to show a slightly different side of himself going solo. For the most part it was what you’d expect with folk sounds from various traditions rubbing shoulders with something of an American indie rock sensibility.

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

Much like with The Recks, Richey’s songs were often long, and in a solo setting a little over long on a couple of occasions, but generally were engrossing rides that drew the audience in.

The solo setting also gave us the chance to hear the more intricate side of Richey’s playing that often gets lost in the multilayered sound of The Recks.

With Frugal Heart providing a nice highlight the set then ended with a more intense stomping blues-y song that, if nothing else, proved a good pair of Cuban heels can work just as effectively as an amplified stomp box.

Mick Le Huray is a longstanding member of Guernsey’s music and folk scene and has been a fixture of the Sark Folk Festival since its inception and many events before. With his first solo album recorded and released in the last year he has found something of a new lease of life and that was evident here.

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Accompanied by Andrew Degnen on fiddle, Mick played a set strong with the feel of the 1960s folk revival delivered with a real sense of feeling and humility. Andrew’s violin expanded the sound nicely but didn’t help the set dragging a little in the middle for me when it went a little too traditional folk for my tastes.

A song with Guernsey French lyrics and a more upbeat closer brought Mick’s set to an end on a high point though and made a nice contrast to the two younger solo performers that came before.

In trio mode tonight Blue Mountains delivered a set made up of many songs, but all continued their journey into a melancholy side of dark Americana.

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

With Andrew Degnen’s fiddle and a few tracks where Mike Bonsall swapped from guitar to banjo, Blue Mountains new songs expanded their range of sounds but it was the harmonies and style that remained at the heart of their songs.

A real highlight of the new songs came with Hummingbird, while We Come & Go shifted things into slightly more upbeat territory towards the end of the set, it was just a shame the audience had drifted away somewhat by this stage of the night.

Rounding the night off on a great vocal harmony moment to close their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl, Blue Mountains concluded things on a high point and, as this gig was clearly promoted as the first in a series, I hope to see more music of this quality in this relaxed setting going forward.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Guernsey Gigs Folk Americana Night – The Fermain Tavern – 25/03/17

Great North and Will Wood

Great North and Will Wood

Following their inaugural Jam Night event the Guernsey Gigs guys were at it again on Saturday 25th March with a night of international playing folk americana style songs at The Fermain Tavern.

Guernsey’s Gregory Harrison was behind the event and opened the show with Chris Callahan from Nashville, Great North from New Zealand and Will Wood also from New Zealand but via Berlin.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st April 2017 (you can read it below) and you can see my photos from it on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Folk Americana night review scan 01-04-17

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The Crowman – Ladies And Gentlemen… The Crowband

The Crowman - Ladies and Gentlemen The Crowband CD coverThe last few years has seen Mark Le Gallez, the man who fronted The Risk in the 1980s, The Sacred Hearts in the 1990s and Thee Jenerators since the 2000s (amongst other bands), find a new angle on his music in the form of steampunk-folk alter-ego The Crowman.

This has led to two previous albums, Songs From The Three Eyed Crow and The Resurrection Of Blind Jack Lazarus, as well as highlights around Guernsey, at several Sark Folk Festivals and steampunk events in the UK.

Now his third album, as the title suggests introduces us to ‘The Crowband’ filling out his lo-fi sound with a range of extra instrumentation.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th March and you can read it below:

Crowman album review 25/03/17

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Ginger Wildheart – Ghost In The Tanglewood

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Having heard his brief journeys into the world of folk and country music in the past with the likes of Georgie In Wonderland and Sky Chaser High (and, somewhat differently, the alter-ego album World of Filth) I was intrigued what a complete album in this genre from Ginger Wildheart might sound like. Ghost In The Tanglewood then (released via Pledgemusic) had me interested from the off and, for the most part, it is one of the most consistent and enjoyable of Ginger’s albums in sometime.

Daylight Hotel picks things up in many ways where recent single Fuck You Brain left off but obviously in a rather different style and the opening pair of tracks feel very much like acoustic versions of standard Ginger tracks, but with added folk and country-style instrumentation.

From there though it really delves into the kind of folk of the north of England that make it feel something like a cousin of the music being made by O’Hooley & Tidow, with Golden Tears being a particular folky highlight.

Throughout the sounds on the album are impressive combining, to various degrees, folk, country and Ginger’s usual pop-rock sensibilities with big hooks and a kind of vocal style that almost gives it a family band feel with some great harmony work and a real honesty only helped by Ginger’s natural accent coming to the fore even more than on past releases (taking what he started on Valor Del Corazon to a natural conclusion).

Ghost In The Tanglewood - Ginger Wildheart coverPhantom Memories takes things in a sonically darker direction and gives us the album’s title, before Remains continues the themes of living with depression that run through the album in one of the most honest and real ways I’ve heard. In general Ginger’s writing here does this very well not overdramatising or underplaying anything but making it feel real with highs, lows and the ‘mundane’ in-betweens all getting included like few others manage.

My Old Friend The Blues (a cover of a Steve Earle song) gives the record its most totally country moment before it closes on possibly the most tender song in Ginger’s back catalogue, Don’t Say Goodbye, with the songwriter addressing his young son about having to be away on the road (or elsewhere), but without a lot of the cliché that it probably sounds like that might have.

While the song writing and arrangements on Ghost In The Tanglewood don’t have the breadth and expanse of most of Ginger’s other solo material in many ways this is what makes it. These are more simple songs (though still excellently produced and arranged) and with that are more easily digestible and allow the honesty and warmth of Ginger to shine through which, in the worlds of folk and country, are an important aspect.

While the question of genre is one that has been raised, not least by the artist himself, after a couple of listens this drifts away as, while it undeniably mixes things up as Ginger is renowned for, what it leaves is the fact that this is a great album. It might be something of an aside to the likes of 555% and Albion, rather like the Mutation and Hey!Hello! records, but if this is the direction Ginger chose to take for his music going forward, based on this, I certainly wouldn’t be complaining.

I always like to include a video with my album reviews but there isn’t one yet for Ghost In The Tanglewood so here is one from Ginger’s Year Of The Fanclub that gives an idea of him in a more country/folk kind of mode:

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Nessi Gomes – Diamonds and Demons

Nessi Gomes - Diamonds & Demons album artHaving first made her presence known playing highly regarded sets of acoustic cover versions around Guernsey over the last decade, 2016 saw Nessi Gomes refocus her attention to her own music and, following a wildly successful crowd funding campaign through IndieGoGo, release her first collection of original music, Diamonds & Demons.

While Gomes’ live performances have generally focussed on her solo vocal and guitar work, such as in her mesmerising set at the 2016 Sark Folk Festival, on record that sound is expanded with a host of guest musicians and the work of producer and arranger Duncan Bridgeman.

This expansion gives the album a strangely electronic feel, combined with a development of the folk and world elements of Gomes’ original writing. We are introduced to this through the oddly hypnotic Into The Earth that drifts its way from the speakers to become firmly lodged in the listeners head.

From there the record meanders from the slightly more commercial likes of These Walls through songs in Gomes’ native Portuguese to moments reminiscent of Sigur Ros’ vast soundscapes.

Nessi Gomes at Sark Folk Festival

Nessi Gomes at Sark Folk Festival

While all the production serves to develop the songs very well the strongest feature of the whole album remains the core of Gomes’ singing and playing. This has something of the style of many current female vocalists but Gomes adds to that an extra soulfulness combined with a strong streak of thoughtfulness and meaning in the lyrics all of which is captured here.

The highlight of all of this is the title track, Diamonds & Demons, that combines everything that makes the album what it is with the addition of Mercury Music Prize nominee Sam Lee on extra vocals, contrasting and complimenting Gomes’ voice excellently.

Though it is a more developed sound than I’ve heard from Nessi Gomes in the past what Diamonds & Demons does as an album is capture the essence of her work and develop it to create something that washes over the listener in the same way as her live performances, but with many extras that could only come from the studio all in a highly enjoyable package.

This review was also posted in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th January 2017:

Nessi Gomes - Diamonds and Demons review scan

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The Space Pirates of Rocquaine – Vraic And Roll

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine - Vraic and RollWith their show-stealer of a performance at the 2016 Sark Folk Festival, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine released their second full length album, Vraic & Roll.

Pulling together a number of songs that have become live favourites over the last couple of years, since the release of their debut Vraic & Ruin, the record tells tales of Guernsey combining history and legend with a good dose of poetic licence.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 16th July 2016 and you can read it below.

Space Pirates album review - 160716

The album artwork is by Guernsey based artist and designer Helen Arnold and you can find out more about her work on her website.

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Sark Folk Festival – 1, 2, 3 July 2016 – Extended Review

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Now into its seventh year the Sark Folk Festival continued its huge success on the weekend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2016 after tickets officially sold out in less than half an hour the previous November.

With that in mind there was clearly a lot of expectation for the festival and with all accommodation and transport to Sark packed for the days around there was a real buzz on the island from my arrival on Thursday 30th June.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th July and you can see a full set of my photos from each day of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my extended review is below the cutting.

Sark Folk Festival review - 09:07:16

Extended Review

Claire Rakich

Claire Rakich

Day 1

After some wet and foggy weather put paid to the usual outdoor party and open music session at the Bel Air on Thursday night, this year’s Sark Folk Festival didn’t really get going until the festival gates opened on Friday afternoon.

In the past its been the Alligande Stage that has been home to the festival’s first acts but, in something of a sign of their new, more equal position, it was the smaller stages that heard the first music this year, in their new home of an amazing ‘double teepee’ style tent in the festival’s second field.

Under this new canvas long time festival performer Claire Rakich was first to step onto Les Burons stage with a mix of acoustic guitar and unaccompanied songs.

In these intimate surroundings Rakich’s voice was captivating and at its best when unadorned by accompaniment as she shifted from lighthearted and fun songs to genuinely haunting moments all delivered with a relaxed self-deprecating confidence that started the festival on an evocative high.

On the bigger stages a full strength, eight-piece, version of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers opened proceedings on the Vermerette Stage. With so many instruments in play this could have been a sonic disaster but credit to the sound team for getting a great sound and the Skillet Lickers for playing their rag-time street busking blues very well.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

While many kept a bit of a distance in the already busy tent this was a great upbeat way to start things as the band played off one another excellently with Clem Brouard and Shacks leading the way, and they even had a washboard player today!

The more Americana end of folk continued on the Alligande stage with JD & Folk delivering a set of country-folk standards that were well performed if a bit flat after the somewhat manic energy of the Skillet Lickers.

Continuing their run of festival dates after Chaos the previous weekend and Dark Hollow the week before that, Blue Mountains returned to their spiritual home on Les Burons stage.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Unfortunately for much of the set Colleen Irven’s vocals were a little lost in the mix which lost the performance some of its power. The band was still highly enjoyable though, and delivered a wide set of songs ending with an excellent pure acoustic moment on the floor of the tent, in amongst the large crowd they’d drawn down the field.

One thing the Sark Folk Festival has always done is stretch the limits of the definition of folk and roots music and far as it can go and this year’s prime example of that were Guernsey alt-rock, indie, crew Wondergeist.

Despite the slightly out-of-place style, the laid back sounds the band made were spot on for the early evening slot and, had the sun been beating down like we all wished it were, I think they would have made even more of a mark. Nonetheless, with the tent packed – mostly it seemed for the music and not to avoid the weather – Wondergeist were a nice change of pace amongst the more acoustic and stripped back sounds on offer.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

With people already standing while the band set up (and a few shouts for them to sit down by those seated further back) it was clear Robert J. Hunter and his band brought some expectation along with them – not surprising following last year’s excellent set here.

From the off they didn’t disappoint as they blasted out their brand of dirty blues, albeit in slightly more acoustic form than usual, with Hunter continuing to show why he has gained the reputation he has. With the tent packed this may not have been quite the stand out set last year’s was but it was still a highlight of the first day of the festival.

Dallahan brought things back down a little with set of much more traditional, mid-tempo folk that had an upbeat quality to it. The quintet played off each other very well, demonstrating a real musical chemistry, that, from about the half-way mark, started to get to the audience who began to get a little more lively.

Mad Dog Mcrea

Mad Dog Mcrea

There was no choice but to be lively to the infectious hybrid-folk sounds of Mad Dog Mcrea. With huge energy coming from the band they added a bit of a rock beat to their folky sounds that reminded me of Gogol Bordello in places (especially when they broke into Start Wearing Purple during their encore).

With the whole tent bouncing along to songs about pirates, unfortunate goldfish and more, the six-piece band’s folk ’n’ roll sounds provided my highlight of the first day.

The upbeat sounds only continued to round off the night with Monster Ceilidh Band who had the Alligande Stage tent packed to bursting and, mostly, dancing along throughout. Before I get to the band I feel the need to mention the line of people staunchly sitting in their plastic chairs in the midst of the tightly packed crowd. They may have been wanting to make a point about people standing up earlier, or simply not wanting to move, but it seemed they could easily have become a danger to themselves or others had the crowd surged in any direction as they are wont to do at events like this, anyway i digress….

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band mixed live dance rhythms with traditional sounding ceilidh (Scottish and Irish dancing) tunes in another kind of hybrid-folk. For the first half of the set I was a bit worried this would all become a bit same-y to my untrained ear, but as it went on the band varied and mixed the sounds up with elements of drum ’n’ bass to keep it varied, interesting and above all huge, culminating in a tune dedicated their drum ’n’ bass hero Andy C.

With two encores called for and delivered Monster Ceilidh Band rounded off the first day of the festival on a high and with the sort of crowd that we’re used to seeing for the typically more busy Saturday night.

My photos from the first day of the festival

Day 2

Singing circle

Singing circle

With more than 12 hours of music on offer the second day of Sark Folk Festival could be compared to the musical equivalent of a marathon so its nice that it got going in relaxed form with an informal circle singing group in the open air before the music on the stages began.

Sark’s own harbour master, Peter Gabriel Byrne, and his band were first on stage with some light acoustic balladry that continued the relaxed ‘early’ feel. As is to be expected the rotating cast of musicians from Sark is limited but former Recks trumpeter Ash Jarman and others showed a real variety to their playing as they made appearances across the weekend.

Getting together seemingly once a year in an official capacity Whose Shoes are always a bit of a treat and this year was no exception. Led by Dave Etherington, this year celebrating his birthday and literally heading directly from his tent to the stage, his loose vibe leading the band makes for a hugely enjoyable style of busking blues.

Whose Shoes

Whose Shoes

With insistent, upbeat rhythms throughout and Sarah Van Vlymen’s violin providing some nice leads there were many highlights but renditions of Like A Hobo, Whiskey Train, It Gets There Slow and encore of original song Loose Lips were some fine early highlights of the day.

After much travelling and working on her debut album Guernsey singer songwriter Nessi Gomes made her Sark Folk Festival debut on the Tintageu Stage with a set of captivating, classical guitar accompanied, songs. Her enchanting voice and guitar playing had those in the tent and gathered on the slope outside in rapt silence making for another moment like only this festival can deliver.

As the cliché goes, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Clameur De Haro marked their third birthday on the Vermerette Stage by launching into a folked up take on Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild.

Clameur De Haro

Shifty’s stage dive

Its impossible not to have a good time when this band are playing and they got people dancing early on in the day and had the tent packed for a set that included everything from a guest appearance by Deputy John Gollop to a stage dive from cajon player Shifty making for a show guaranteed to make you smile and have tunes stuck in your head for days to come.

Back on more of an even keel Jerseyman Kevin Pallot brought the Saturday afternoon back to a slightly more relaxed feel with his three-piece band. The trio delivered a selection of rhythmically powerful folk pop that had something to say and showed another side of this regular festival performer’s work away from the past full band material I’ve heard.

The Laird's Chair

The Laird’s Chair

In the slot reserved in the past for The Barley Dogs, their spiritual successor The Laird’s Chair made their Sark Folk Festival debut. Taking on the more traditional folk side of what the Barley’s did the quartet struggled a little with a broken fiddle string early on but recovered to deliver a fine set of songs and tunes.

Despite battling some issues with onstage feedback (a regular occurrence on the Alligande stage it seemed) the Gren Bartley Band delivered a set of nice relaxed pop-y folk music that was nice and easy to listen to but never really seemed to go anywhere.

A regular fixture at the festival The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie had a good-sized crowd down at the Tintageu Stage. Starting with a few of their more folky songs which show an often overlooked depth to Crowman’s writing, it wasn’t long before the garage side of the self-described ‘garage-folk’ sound started to come through but the audience revelled in all of it, singing along to the likes of The Robert Johnson Resurrection Blues with gusto.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

With a crowd already gathered while they were setting up, festival regulars The Space Pirates of Rocquaine had even more to bring to their performance this year as they were marking the release of their second album, Vraic & Roll. With Lisa ‘Rocqchick’ Vidamour in full on ‘rock star mode’ throughout, the band delivered what is probably their best set to date mixing the energy of last year’s show stealing closing set with slightly more considered playing to hit a sweet spot between the two.

Along with Lisa a standout point was the power Moxie’s drumming brings to the band that has transformed them somewhat into a more definitely folk-rock act that has real cross generational appeal. With the crowd clapping and singing along highlights came with the likes of Cruex Mahy, Prosperity and Folk Everything amongst others culminating in an encore of Mr Le Goupillot all making for possibly the performance of the festival.

O'Hooley and Tidow

O’Hooley and Tidow

Due to the timings on the Vermerette and Alligande stage having slipped a bit I was only able to catch a small section of O’Hooley & Tidow’s performance but it sounded as excellent as we have come to expect from these regular visitors. With genuinely touching and impassioned moments alongside songs like their ode to small Yorkshire breweries, Summat’s Brewin’ , the duo who span folk and anarchy are truly worth seeking out.

As I headed down to the teepee stages Gregory Harrison was in full swing in front of a large crowd with his soulful bluesy songs coming across as well as I’ve ever heard and getting a very positive reception. This led to an encore in the form of a timely rendition of John Martyn’s I Don’t Want To Know About Evil with an amazing sing along.

Burg with Becky

Burg with Becky

Having been away for a few years (aside from visits with his garage rock band The Electric Shakes) Burg, AKA Steve Lynch, made his return to the Sark Folk Festival with new band members AJ (gob irons and backing vocals) and Olly (upright bass) in tow. Building on Burg’s stripped back americana/country/folk sound the trio delivered some slow and loose grooves that would be perfect for a hot day but also fit surprisingly well on this chilly summer night.

While Burg’s playing and delivery was, as ever, second to none, AJ played his harmonica like I’ve not seen before with real dynamics from the sound of a steam train down to haunting atmospherics and for the one song he took lead vocals, a rendition of Coming Home originally by Dallas Green, many heralded him as one of the best voices of the weekend. The trio were join by Becky Hamilton on fiddle for a couple of songs just adding more to the southern vibes and with the crowd singing along in the intimate tent it made for my standout performance of the weekend.

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson with Ash

Hat Fitz and Cara with Ash

For the second night in a row the Alligande Stage tent was standing room only as people packed in to catch another returning act, Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson. The Australian/Irish duo played a set of their more upbeat bluesy material that came with a presence that filled the tent and a huge amount of onstage chemistry that helped the already great songs sound even better.

Fitz was amazing to watch from a playing perspective as his guitar seemed to be an extension of himself while Cara had a similar connection with her drums but then added to it with washboard, flute and whistle while both wailed out soulful heartfelt vocals as well. With enough dynamic across the set to keep it hugely engrossing they invited Ash Jarman on stage for final track Power and a much called for encore that rounded off the second day of the Festival on possibly its all round highest point to date.

My photos from the second day of the festival

Day 3

Scotts John

Scotts John

After such a full on Saturday the final day of the Sark Folk Festival is, for the most part, a far more relaxed affair and it started off with a small crowd who’d braved the morning rain listening to Guernsey folk stalwart Scotts John.

Coming from the 60s new folk tradition John tells stories with his songs that are always worth hearing highlighted here by his song Sark, written in his native Glasgow in 1977, after his first visit to the island, its amazing it’s now getting played back on the island that inspired it.

Sark’s own folk band, Big Sheep, started to liven things up a bit on the Alligande Stage. Led by local shepherd Dave and his ever revolving group of musicians, including former Recks Barney and Ash and Jess of The Space Pirates, they mixed original tunes and songs with numbers by the likes of Joni Mitchell and The Levellers.

Big Sheep

Big Sheep

Across the set they built the energy and if you focussed on stage you could forget the weather outside and be transported to a nicely relaxed, sunny summer’s day. While a bit scrappy in places as they aren’t a full time band they still play well together and it wouldn’t be Sark Folk Festival without them.

Having travelled from Shetland Ross Couper and Tom Oakes started out by trying to get their audience on their feet but realised it was going to take a bit more work, so dived into a set of lively instrumental tunes on guitar and fiddle. After a while a few did start to get to their feet and it was clear that this pleased the duo, but either way their music was great clap along stuff backed up by some excellent chat between songs that perfectly suited the relaxed atmosphere.

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

While The Vraic Gatherers played their usual Sunday afternoon set on the Vermerette Stage the Alligande side of the tent was quickly filling up in anticipation of the final band of the weekend, Buffalo Huddleston.

With violinist Becky Hamilton back the band mixed things up somewhat starting out with the original trio of Becky, Sarah Van Vlymen and Mike Meinke delivering a few of their early songs before being joined by the rest of the band. This gave the set a nice build that the audience rode into a frenzy singing and dancing along for over an hour.

With most of the songs being sung back at the band the amazing popularity of Buffalo Huddleston was evident and fantastic to see for a band from the islands playing their own music.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

As I headed back to the harbour I could hear the band’s encore across the valley and closer Sunrise sounded huge with the crowd’s singing audible as well, rounding off what had been a great festival on an insurmountable high – I don’t envy the organisers trying to top this festival next year!

My photos from the third day of the festival

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Blue Mountains – Refusing To Die

Blue Mountains - Refusing To DieFormed in the wake of the folk music resurgence in Guernsey that was kick started by the Sark Folk Festival, Blue Mountains have made quite a formidable reputation for themselves over the last couple of years leading to the release of their debut record, Refusing To Die.

As the title suggests this isn’t the cheeriest selection of songs you might find and certainly doesn’t fall into the painfully repetitive and twee end of the folk music spectrum, instead focusing on murder ballads and some darker chapters from history.

The album starts off with the a capella duet Bright Morning Stars that lays the band bare from the off. Something I’ve noted from Blue Mountains live shows is that, while neither member may be the technically perfect musicians, this brings a more genuine feeling to their performance making the songs come to life with genuine personality, and a vocal only track highlights that superbly.

From there the record is mostly taken up by traditional songs that the duo have arranged into their own style. Highlights of these are Henry Lee and Little Sadie both of which tell dark and evocative tales that combine Mike Bonsall’s guitar and Colleen Irven’s voice in highly effective style.

As well as the duo the album features a number of guest performers who’s additions add an extra dimension to the songs in comparison to live performances. These include some great violin moments from James Dumbelton and Simon Harvey as well as mandolin and banjo from James Le Huray (who also produced the record) all of which are used very well to underline the work of the lead pair.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

The centerpiece of the album for me is an original song, Born In The Fire. This tells a well-known story from Guernsey’s history about the island’s most famous historical witch burning. Written from the point of view of an unborn child just makes it an all the more harrowing tale.

While Blue Mountains don’t shy away from this, their musicality certainly makes it far more palatable while adding something back to Guernsey’s sadly all but lost local folk music movement. On top of this, arguably, its themes make it as relevant a piece of current songwriting as any other, giving it that hint of modern-day reflected in the past that the folk music I tend to enjoy the most does.

Refusing To Die captures exactly what you’d expect if you’ve seen Blue Mountains live with rough around the edges, honest performances bringing a sense of heart and soul to ‘folk’ songs, with the added bonus of deeper sounds from the guest musicians.

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The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston – The North Show – 26/08/15

The Recks

The Recks

Over recent years Guernsey’s traditional summer shows have taken an increased interest in local music with The Space Pirates of Rocquaine having become something of fixture of both The Rocquaine Regatta and The West Show (though not this year).

The North Show, home of the island’s Battle of Flowers, has been no different and that reached something of a new peak in 2015 as The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston, two of the island’s hottest bands, provided the musical entertainment on the first evening of the event.

After having a look around the show’s produce tents – these were originally shows celebrating local produce, be it fruit and veg, flowers, baking or arts & crafts, and that is still a big part of the annual events – I headed over to the beer tent where the make shift stage had been constructed and Buffalo Huddleston were getting ready.

As they began their set, in four-piece mode as has become tradition, the tent filled up quickly with people headed in from the muddy field. It wasn’t long before people began moving gently to the band’s laid back sounds and, while it took a while for the feeling to spread further back in the tent, it seemed everyone eventually got into the laid back swing of things.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

After the laid back start, with band leader Mike Meinke as focus, MC Jull-z completed the line up for long time favourite Chillin’ and his manner of connecting with and working the crowd soon drew people further forward and got more dancing and grooving along.

Particularly impressive tonight was the amount of the audience singing the songs back, while we had seen this in Sark and at Chaos, this audience, at first glance, seemed as if they may be less familiar with the band’s work, but clearly this was not the case and shows Buffalo Huddleston’s wide appeal.

Ending on new crowd favourite Mr. Cloud, someone they say they met at a recent visit to Boomtown Fair, the band improvised around some didgeridoo mic problems without missing a beat and were soon called back for an encore which came in the form of a slowed down, dub style version of Chillin’ that was received with further enthusiasm from the audience.

The Recks

The Recks

Following Buffalo Huddleston, and fresh from playing two sets at Boomtown Fair (one at half past two in the morning!), The Recks fired off in a high gear and, save for some problems with a mandolin which was soon ‘enthusiastically’ discarded, got into high energy mode very quickly.

Unfortunately after only four songs they had to stop for the laser show out in the main arena that was hampered slightly by the drizzly, windy weather.

With the laser show done, The Recks were back and kicked off again with single Lovers In The Night, which we’ve not heard in some time. From there the energy went up and up with the crowd lapping up the band’s unique genre blending sounds.

Richey of The Recks

Richey goes climbing

Following some expert guitar strap ‘McGuyering’, frontman Richey Powers seemed to be somewhat frustrated as he headed up the lighting rig and then off stage during new upbeat reggae-ish song I Might Not Be Pretty But I Still Need Love translating his frustration (at what is anyone’s guess) into a powerful energetic performance.

With the set being rounded off by the double whammy of Porcupine and Valentine the Sark based quintet were called back for an encore which left everyone heading out into the muddy field on a high that, in the end, certainly felt more like a Saturday night than a Wednesday in a wet field and just goes to show that original music in Guernsey can transcend traditional venues and connect with a wide audience.

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The Ukuladeez – Cosmic Tea Party EP

The Ukuladeez - Cosmic Tea PartyWhen they first appeared on the scene a few years ago I will freely admit to dismissing The Ukuladeez as ‘jangly hipster nonsense’. However, with the release of their knowingly lo-fi debut album, The Awesome Adventures of the Girls With the Tiny Guitars, things seemed to begin coming together for them and this continued in the following months with countless gigs at venues as diverse as Guernsey’s Government House, The Peace Tent at Chaos and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Now, having gained a wealth of experience at these gigs and solidifying their line up both physically and sonically with the addition of their trio of ‘Ukulady-boys’, the sextet have released a second record in the form of the five song Cosmic Tea Party EP.

Surrounded by a loose concept, that of the ‘ladeez’ having a tea party and discussing the subjects of the songs, gives the whole thing a vague framework that, while not totally conceptually successful, does add a little something of their character beyond the music which is a big part of their live shows.

Ukuladeez

Mimi and Polly of Ukuladeez

Opener Swinging Brick highlights something that is quite a common theme in The Ukuladeez work as it marries a light-hearted tone with some quite scathing lyrics – and I feel somewhat sorry for whoever the inspiration for this song was.

This is followed by a song with a similar, if slightly more physical, theme, Down On Me, that serves to show The Ukuladeez are not entirely family friendly fare – though everything is kept shrouded nicely in innuendo and euphemism highlighting their collective gift for word play excellently.

Things take a turn for the Pythonesque next with an (initially) more straightforward love song, Brian. Though as it goes on it emerges the subject of the song may not actually be called Brian and the use of chorus and harmony alongside the lead vocals works exceptional well both on a musical level and in getting across the gang like vibe the band put across in their live shows. However there are points here where things teeter on the edge of becoming too quirky for their own good – though thankfully they stay just on the right side of quirk overload.

UkuladeezAn entirely universal subject comes to the fore next in the form of Sunday evening feelings on Antiques Roadshow Blues. Once again laced with the kind of witty word play that has become their calling card this song entirely manages to evoke the feelings of a lazy Sunday evening with the knowledge that is back to work on Monday morning.

Things are rounded off with a slice of pure folky pop in Follow The Sun that, while it’s not dealing with any outright subjects it is always nice to hear a well pitched pop song played with a real sense of fun.

Across the EP The Ukuladeez demonstrate a real maturity in terms of songwriting and arrangement with multiple instruments and harmonies all arranged expertly and captured with excellently by Stretchy Studios. The addition of a dedicated rhythm section as well as flute and violin has also helped elevate the band’s sound and that really helps build things into a complete and highly enjoyable musical package.

With their Cosmic Tea Party, The Ukuladeez have captured a sense of what makes them so popular and enjoyable live and married it with the control afforded on a studio recording to create a fun, relaxed well-played and above all entertaining record.

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