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Archives for August 2010

Belshazzar's Blog Post

Jon Lewis | 14:28 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Guest blogger, Paul Sartin of Belshazzar's Feast, writes:

"As Paul Hutchinson has suddenly and conveniently disappeared into the wilds of western France (with the Belshazzar's Feast chequebook and my mother) it has fallen upon me to blog about our recent escapades and other such fascinating ephemera and tittle-tattle. It's been a very busy year for us. In fact, this is pretty much the first time I've sat down since an operation so if I nod off during this you'll have to forgive me.

"The year kicked off with the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, for which we were nominated (for Best Dressed Duo). After we'd recovered (in May) we embarked upon a world tour of the UK and Wales, the highlight of which was my nosebleed at Ely Folk Club. My clothes and oboe were caked spectacularly in blood, and the first half was interrupted whilst I tried to slip into something clean. Unfortunately the only available item of clothing was Paul Hutch's spare t-shirt. During the interval someone asked in all sincerity if it was part of our act.

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Paul Sartin (left) and Paul Hutchinson

"As if that wasn't enough, during May we also recorded our new album. This was produced and tampered with by Jim Moray ('eel' go far that one), the sessions being enhanced in more ways than one by a daily lunch of Indian food at a splendid establishment in Easton, and Jim's pressing tiffin habit. We were joined by Pete Flood and Jackie Oates as guest musicians, as they obviously need a leg up in their careers.

"So far this summer we've done a number of festivals, including Tredegar House (part of our outreach programme), Eastbourne (community service) and Holmfirth (again, great Indian food). Sidmouth was a couple of weeks ago, highlights of which included a very silly concert at The Ham supporting Brass Monkey. We were also allowed to perform at a children's concert with Taffy Thomas and young members of the Sartin dynasty; Hutch swears they are his children but they don't have beards. Later in the week, once Hutch was out of the way, I was delighted to appear with Nic Jones - a real musician - in his tribute concert, although Nic was somewhat surprised as he thought it was in honour of Howard Jones.  

"So that's what we've been up to lately, thanks for asking. After Hutch's convalescence it'll be all hands on deck for our September album release, followed by a winter tour of duty - Duty Free, if Hutch brings any back, he ought to seeing as he's in continent."

Remembering Hamish Imlach

Jon Lewis | 17:11 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

We've been listening to quite a bit of the late, great Scottish entertainer Hamish Imlach in the folk office recently.

Hamish's daughter Fiona Imlach is making his autobiography (which he co-wrote with Ewan McVicar) available again, and we asked her to share a few memories with us...

"As a child it was a novelty telling people that your dad was a professional musician - especially living on a Motherwell council estate.

"We did go and see him playing when we were young, and were instructed to sit still and be quiet, although, I think the adults were told that too! One gig that sticks in my mind and that was the 'Welly Boot Show', where my brother - aged 10 - managed to sneak a peek at the topless Brandy de Franc!


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Left to right: Mairead, me, Hamish, Jim and Vhari. Taken around 1968.

"Hamish was a very generous man and would help anyone out. He would often bring home strangers he had offered to take on the road with him.

"My poor mum didn't know who he would bring home next, but she made them welcome and ensured they were well fed and had a bed for the night.

"His kind heart also showed when he suggested that the volunteers at the Tønder Festival in Denmark should be thanked, and offered to make them a curry and put on an extra show for them.

"This tradition is still going, over 30 years later; my sister Mairead and I will be part of the curry crew on the 30th August, chopping a mountain of onions.

"We always received a present from his travels, although at 12 my older sister did not appreciate the very loud flowery jeans from America and my brother at ten was not impressed by the lederhosen he got from Germany. But I would say the stuffed woodpecker nailed to a piece of wood took some beating.

"After a night with Billy Connolly he came home with one of Billy's dog's pups, to be named 'Welly'. He felt sorry for it because it was the runt of the litter. Mum wasn't too amused at that; we lived in a second floor maisonette. Fortunately my nana and papa adopted Welly and he was a part of our lives for more than 12 years.

"We are very proud to know that dad played a very important part in not only the folk world but blues and rock, where his influence on Christie Moore, Billy Connolly, Barbara Dickson and John Martyn has been well documented. A few years ago I spoke to Eddi Reader at Tønder and she even mentioned how dad had given her good advice in the early stages of her career.

"If you have a quick search online, the number of hits his videos get are a testament to how popular and relevant his music still is."

Exclusive live track from Show of Hands

Jon Lewis | 11:11 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

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Show Of Hands are quite possibly the hardest-working acoustic roots outfit in Britain.

Originally conceived as a duo, songwriter Steve Knightley and multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer have built a huge following over the years, releasing ten studio albums and selling out countless gigs. They've filled the Albert Hall three times.

They met up with Mike backstage at Cambridge and performed an exclusive live version of their BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning song 'Arrogance Ignorance and Greed'...

Exclusive live track from The Burns Unit

Jon Lewis | 10:46 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

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The Burns Unit are an eclectic Scottish-Canadian 'supergroup' featuring some familiar faces including Karine Polwart and Kenny 'King Creosote' Anderson.

Emma Pollock, Future Pilot AKA, MC Soom T, Michael Johnston, Kim Edgar and Mattie Foulds complete the line-up.

They launched their debut album Sideshow with a couple of storming sets at this year's Cambridge Folk Festival, and Mark Radcliffe caught up with four of the band backstage.

Hear their live session version of 'Sorrys' - recorded exclusively for the Folk & Acoustic Blog - after they explain all to Mark...

See you next year...

Mike Harding | 12:19 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

Well the festival is winding down now - people are streaming out of Cherry Hinton on foot and on bicycle after four days and nights of great music, and we too are winding down. The last bits of music are being spliced into the programme ready for Wednesday's 3-hour highlights show and the laptops and cameras are going back into the van.

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High spots for me personally? Fisherman Friends getting several thousand people in the Stage 2 tent singing sea shanties; Kathy Mattea singing and smiling her way through a lovely set of great songs; Natalie Merchant singing tracks from her new album 'Leave Your Sleep' with one of the tightest bands I've ever heard; Fay Hield in the Club Tent singing great traditional songs in her fine, strong womanly voice and The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain plucking their way - tongue in cheek - through the Dambusters March and other classics.

As ever the BBC engineers did a world class job on the sound. They are such dedicated craftsmen and I never cease to be amazed at how they always go that extra mile to get the best sound possible. The people on the ground at Cambridge do a fantastic job too, everybody from the ladies who clean the backstage showers and toilets to the lads who rig the stage and bash the cables, do an amazing job; every year the festival seems to run like a well tempered musical instrument.

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I love the fact that Cambridge is so family friendly too, with children all over the place: babies snoozing in little tents, toddlers blowing bubbles, small boys trying to work their diablos and little girls face-painted to look like tigers and frogs.

Another Cambridge festival and another great weekend. See you next year.
 

Backstage at Cambridge with Kathy Mattea and Natalie Merchant

Mike Harding | 15:15 UK time, Sunday, 1 August 2010

Way back in the mists of time I left Manchester behind and set off with a BBC film crew for the Appalachian Mountains of America to cycle along the Appalachian Trail. Not actually on the Trail, I have to add, but along the roads that run parallel to it, down the Blue Ridge and the Smokey Mountains, calling in at places like Harper's Ferry and Elkins along the way.

I was lucky enough to be welcomed into the homes of such great singers and musicians as Nimrod Workman and Dellie Norton, pure mountain people whose roots were buried deep in the hills. We filmed them singing their songs and talking about their lives and I felt that my own life had been deeply enriched by spending time with these wonderful people.

When Kathy Mattea's album Coal came out a few years back I played it over and again because it came from the Appalachians and had that ring of complete authenticity, singing that came straight from the heart of a girl who had been born and brought up among the coal mines and the mining communities of that land.

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So imagine how delighted I was to find that not only was she on the bill at Cambridge, but that I was going to get to interview her for my programme. The interview will go out sometime at the beginning of September. She was every bit as interesting and passionate as her songs and again - as I did all those years ago listening to Nimrod Workman and Dellie Norton - I knew I was speaking to somebody whose singing is rooted in the mountains and their people.

As if that wasn't enough, on the same day I got to talk to Natalie Merchant backstage about her new CD 'Leave Your Sleep', a collection of poems set to music that has taken her seven years to put together. The poems range from traditional nursery rhymes like 'I Saw A Ship A Sailing' to poems by Odgen Nash and Edward Lear. There's a beautiful 30-page booklet to go with the CD and reading it you can see why it took Natalie seven years to make it; the research is meticulous and the whole thing hangs together beautifully. A true labour of love.

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