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Archives for August 2008

Folk Music: The music of the Common People

Mike Harding | 15:52 UK time, Friday, 29 August 2008

Years back the letters pages of Melody Maker would be troubled from time to time by people writing to complain that they turned up at their local folk club only to be sung at by some left wing folkie spouting socialism. It was a debate that raised hackles of various hue...

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New double CD of the late, great Peter Bellamy

Mike Harding | 13:17 UK time, Wednesday, 27 August 2008

If you want to know how good a singer the late and great Peter Bellamy was, then get hold of the new double CD from Fellside Records, 'Fair England's Shore'. The twin CDs hold all the tracks from Peter Bellamy's first three albums; 'Mainly Norfolk', 'Fair England's Shore' and 'The Fox Jumped Over The Parson's Gate'.

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Steve Knightley on embracing 'piracy'

Mike Harding | 10:36 UK time, Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Steve Knightley writes:

After any show we can always be found chatting to our audience, signing stuff and generally hanging out by the CD table. I always make a point of asking people how they first heard about us. The three most common answers are...

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Steve Knightley on the late John Wright

Mike Harding | 11:46 UK time, Friday, 22 August 2008

Steve Knightley writes:

On Friday 5 September I'll be playing a couple of songs at a memorial concert in Newcastle in honour of the late John Wright. A whole host of performers will also be taking part and the illustrious line-up is testament to the enormous affection and respect in which John was held.

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Steve Knightley reflects on a great festival season

Mike Harding | 13:46 UK time, Wednesday, 20 August 2008

My guest blogger this week is Steve Knightley of Show of Hands. If you've never seen Show of Hands live then you've missed a rare treat. The Albert Hall one week, a village hall the next...


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The Spinners - A Huge Influence

Mike Harding | 14:28 UK time, Monday, 18 August 2008

Ever since the interview I did with Ian Campbell went out on the programme last week, I've been getting emails pointing out that another group, as influential as The Campbells, The Spinners hardly gets a mention nowadays...

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Orcadian music and poetry

Mike Harding | 14:32 UK time, Friday, 15 August 2008

As I wrote in a previous blog, one of the high spots of Cambridge Folk Festival for me this year was seeing Orcadian band The Chair play live and really lift that damp field of people and set it aflame...

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Sweet Little Sixteen: A Folk Song?

Mike Harding | 13:59 UK time, Wednesday, 13 August 2008

I started my musical life with songs learned from my Irish grandmother:

Galway Bay, Kevin Barry, Let Him Go Let Him Tarry and such. Skiffle led into Rock and I followed the way of Lonnie Donegan via the Rock Island Line to Memphis Tennessee...

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Jim Moray on A. L. Lloyd

Mike Harding | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

Jim Moray writes:

With the A. L. Lloyd celebration at Cecil Sharp House in London this autumn it occurs to me that I am roughly as far away in time from much of his work as he was from Cecil Sharp overhearing John England singing The Seeds of Love and setting in motion the chain of events that leads directly to us even having a Cecil Sharp House to house the material that he collected...

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Jim Moray on the folk 'tradition'

Mike Harding | 14:39 UK time, Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Jim Moray writes:

If you are reading this, you are probably already interested in folk and acoustic music. You might even consider yourself a fan of traditional music. In some ways I'm not entirely sure that 'traditional music' as an entity exists. This might sound like an outrageous sweeping statement but let me explain...

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Mike Harding at Cambridge Folk Festival - Part 6

Mike Harding | 15:25 UK time, Sunday, 3 August 2008

One of the delights of Cambridge for me was watching The Chair giving the audience such a good time yesterday on the main stage. A bunch of fiery musicians from the Orkney Islands, they obviously enjoyed themselves as much as the audience and their set was a sheer joy.

Their album is pretty excellent too - if you get a chance to listen to it check out The Lazy Boy Chant - it's a great piece of live performance and captures the band in full flow. Brilliant stuff.

I managed to interview a couple of the lads from the band earlier on today and you'll be able to hear that, together with a couple of tracks from their album Huinka, on my programme in a couple of weeks' time.

Mike Harding at Cambridge Folk Festival - Part 5

Mike Harding | 14:11 UK time, Sunday, 3 August 2008

Well the floods subsided, the animals came out two by two and then the sun came out and it was the usual Cambridge sunshine. Everybody cheered up and cheered up even more when Tim O'Brien came onstage. I saw one of the best gigs of my entire life yesterday evening; forty five minutes of musical brilliance. On stage with Tim were Arty McGlynn, one of the finest guitarists on the planet; John McCusker, fresh back from a tour of the planet with Mark Knopfler; and Dermot Byrne, box player with Altan and another world class musician. Tim's set was amazing and hopefully, when he comes on Stage 1 this afternoon, we'll capture some of that brilliance on disc for my Wednesday night show. I'll keep you posted.

Mike Harding at Cambridge Folk Festival - Part 4

Mike Harding | 18:19 UK time, Saturday, 2 August 2008

As I write this the rain is bucketing down and the umbrellas and ponchos are up all over the site. It's unusual weather for Cambridge in previous years you were more likely to suffer from sunstroke rather than trench foot. Perhaps it's global warming or perhaps we're just unlucky this year. Whatever, the crowd are still up for it and not letting a little thing like a major flood put them off. In true Brit spirit, with their chins just above the lapping floodwaters, they're singing and clapping away like good'uns. Meanwhile I'm off in the rowboat to the Indian food stall for a veggie curry and rice. What larks Pip!!!

Mike Harding at Cambridge Folk Festival - Part 3

Mike Harding | 18:10 UK time, Saturday, 2 August 2008

There was no doubt at all as to the audience's feelings when Chris Wood took to the main stage this afternoon. His Cottager's Reply got one of the biggest ovations I've seen at Cambridge, and Summerfield Avenue, his bittersweet memoir of English suburban life was just superb. One man, one guitar and what Ry Cooder calls Three Chords and the Truth You can't get better than that.

Mike Harding at Cambridge Folk Festival - Part 2

Mike Harding | 17:56 UK time, Saturday, 2 August 2008

Wandering around backstage this morning I bumped into Donald Shaw from Capercaillie (and also director of the Celtic Connections Festival) who was looking for the remnants of the Michael McGoldrick Band to cart them off down south for another gig. They played an absolutely brilliant set last night in spite of the fact that fiddler Dezi Donnelly was stuck in Donegal courtesy of an airline hiccup. Manchester Irish fiddler Andrew Dignam depped for Dezi - another world class fiddler, he did a fantastic seamless spot with the band who - of course - were as world-class as ever.
There was a rumour last year at Cambridge that Mike and Dezi were going to record a trad album together - perhaps with Ed Boyd and JonJo Kelly. The world is still holding its breath - but if they ever do get it together I know it'll be class.

Mike Harding at Cambridge Folk Festival - Part 1

Mike Harding | 14:36 UK time, Saturday, 2 August 2008

It was 1976 when I first appeared at Cambridge Folk Festival sharing the bill with Steve Goodman and John Hartford, amongst others.

Steve wrote City Of New Orleans and I liked him from the first time we met, mainly because he was a good egg, but also because he was the same size as me. John was a laid back rangy bloke who played brilliant old timey fiddle while dancing one an amplified plank of wood. He also wrote one of the funniest songs ever, Don't Leave Your Records In The Sun, a song which doesn't have quite the same kind of resonance now that we no longer use vinyl for recording (well not like we used to anyway).


I also remember the festival for the sessions. They don't seem to happen so much now, but in them there days people like Diz Disley, Johnny Silvo, Dave Moses, Barney McKenna and Paddy Moloney would all be backstage playing and drinking away like lunatics. It's all a little quieter and better behaved now and folk comics seem to be an endangered species. It's still one of my favourite festivals though, and I still get a tingle in my gut when I walk through the field, smell the Guinness and the frying onion and the warm Cambridge earth and the patchouli oil. And when I see all those families and groups of mates sitting in the sun lapping up the old Sol and the music it makes me feel glad to be still on the planet, because sadly, John and Steve have both shuffled off this mortal coil and are now picking and singing in Folksingers' Heaven. Folksingers' Hell is full of countless bodhrán players and only one guitarist all singing The Wild Rover and Kilgary Mountain out of tune. 


Stuart Maconie on the start of the Cambridge Folk Festival

Mike Harding | 12:20 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

Stuart Maconie writes:

Venerable old weather lore tells us many things, like snow at Easter means drought in the third week of September and never plant parsnips during a gale. And its pretty much all rubbish. Generally though you needn't pack your cagoule for the Cambridge Folk Festival as the weather is usually benign, suggesting that God likes Pentangle and Bellowhead.

This year though things have been a little different. If you heard the Radcliffe and Maconie evening show on Thurs night, you'll have heard Devon Sproule play a fantastic set in our backstage yurt in what was clearly a tropical monsoon. But she was wonderful, as was Seth Lakeman and Laura Marling who also dropped by our studio (big van) during a packed show. On Saturday afternoon, we shall be at home to k.d. lang, Judy Collins and other legends. When not in front of microphone or sheltering from a downpour, I have drunk beer, eaten things, talked to surely the nicest festival goers in Britain and watched some bands.

So far my favourites have been Cherryholmes who have been for me this years Mauvais Sort or Taraf de Haïdouks, an international act of whom I knew nothing who've dazzled with their instrumental flair. And more to the point, men in black spangly trenchcoats and girls in eyeliner playing banjo. As we like to say on the show, what's not to like? Mike Harding will be blogging from Cambridge on Saturday.


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