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Cambridge Festival 28th -31st July 2005
Saturday Festival Diary

The sea of bodies is thicker than ever as the heatwave continues and more people cram into the site.

Cambridge Festival Diary
Rory McLeod Blues, fiddle tunes, rollicking rags, hollers and hokums are what The Old Crow Medicine Show woke up the Cherry Hinton site with on Saturday lunchtime, playing their hearts out with harmonies, fiddles and banjos in a style blend from somewhere between Nashville and the Appalachians. The afternoon concert gathered pace with Irish singer songwriter Damien Dempsey who was as fearless and confrontational as his publicity describes. Then Galician piper Xosé Manuel Budiño - his first major appearance in front of an English audience and, finishing with favourite 'Galo Galan' generated a great reaction.

Karine Polwart Winner of three categories in the 2005 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Karine Polwart was eagerly expected and having previously participated in a morning workshop, she brought the main stage audience together in a quick reprise. 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' sung by several hundred is quite a moving experience. Aidan O'Rourke, of The Unusual Suspects and Blazing Fiddles earned his keep by accompanying Karine on fiddle on a couple of numbers including The Sun's Coming Over The Hill', now very familiar to her CD-buying fans. Aidan stayed around for his next appearance with Blazing Fiddles straight afterwards - fast and furious fiddlin' - just what you'd expect from an ensemble voted Live Band of the Year at the 2004 Scots Trad Music Awards.

Birds of Frou Frou Cambridge Festival is definitely a hit, not just with the audience but with the 'stars' as well. Chris While and Rory McLeod were spotted chatting and soaking up the atmosphere, while Frank Skinner was enjoying a spot from Julie Fowlis in the club tent. Outside under muggy overcast skies the street theatre was even more inventive. Birds of Frou Frou, a Brighton duo, are a couple of stilt walking peacocks. Astra (the peahen) spent three weeks sewing each sequin on by hand, Even the staff had time for fun, decorating up their "Gator' buggies with beer cans, mirrorballs, flowers and even a drinks cabinet in a cello case!

While Stage Two ran an astounding running order of deft slide guitarist Johnny Dickinson, The English Acoustic Collective, 'contemporary acoustic' Canadians The Duhks, eleven-piece trad orchestra Bellowhead, the Main Stage kicked off with Donegal's Altan. A stunning set of traditional songs and tunes with Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh's vocals never failing to inspire.

Jimmy Webb Next up, a grand piano was wheeled on for legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb. What songs hasn't this man written? By the Time I get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, Up Up and Away - he sang 'em all. Admittedly he's known for his writing skills but he's also a very passable singer even though we're used to hearing them by the likes of Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson and Tony Bennett. Jimmy's slow drawl intros endeared him further. Wheel off the piano, wheel on the Kate Rusby Big Band - John McCusker, Ian Carr, Andy Seward and Andy Cutting. Kate and 'her boys' are at Cambridge to launch her new autobiographically titled album "The Girl Who Couldn't Fly" and several new numbers from it delight the Rusby Army packed tight up to the barriers. There's a surprise appearance of a five-piece ensemble from the Band of the Coldstream Guards. This adds a tear to the eye, a lump in the throat and a warm glow in the heart for many as wee Yorkshire Kate pours out her pure angelic notes over the dark satanic brass harmonies.

Headliner Lucinda Williams is also a Girl Who Couldn't Fly because of an ear infection that prevents her from appearing. But stalwart Cambridge veteran Laura Cantrell comes to the aid of the party and provides a set of cool Country ballads and upbeat toe-tappers to more than fill Lucinda's snakeskin boots.

Blind Boys of Alabama To finish what has been an exceptionally vibrant day of music come the Blind Boys of Alabama to guide us through their world of gospel. For over sixty years, since they first formed at the Alabama Institute of the Negro Blind in 1939, they've been spreading joy to audiences. Their funky gospel versions of modern classics like Spirit In The Sky and House of The Rising Sun have the site roaring for more, ending another day on an all-time high.
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Who did you enjoy the most this year?

Christy Moore
KT Tunstall
The Duhks
Old Crow Medicine Show


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