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Cambridge Festival 31st July - 3rd August 2003
Sunday Festival Diary

Did we mention it was a little warm? Plastic glasses are melting and brains are obviously becoming disengaged as we spot someone buying a pint from the hot spicy cider stall.

Asleep At The Wheel
Festival Diary Starriest star at the Radio 2 van today is Ray Benson from Texas Swing merchants Asleep At The Wheel. Who's he enjoying at the festival? "I'm very impressed by that Spanish girl with the bagpipes", he drawls, size 16 boots propped up on a chair. Says he's really enjoying himself and loves the variety of music on offer here.
Festival Diary Mid-afternoon, top bluesman Keb' Mo' radiates good vibes from Stage 1. His sun-drenched voice fills the air: shut your eyes and you're drifting down the Mississippi. He strikes up an easy exchange with the audience, interrupting vocals to muse on obsessive love ("Stalk or let it go?") or call to the sound man, all the while keeping up his fluid guitar picking and sneaky key changes. Cambridge Feelgood Award to Mr Keb' Mo' …

At R2 HQ there's a general air of heat-lag among the team. Folk show presenter Mike Harding is recovering from a close encounter with a bowl of dodgy strawberries (pre-festival, we hasten to add), the bottled water stash is diminishing fast and producer Vince Hunt takes five for a soothing massage.
Ralph McTell Until you've heard Route 66 by Asleep At The Wheel, you ain't heard Jack. This is the band for which the terms 'tight', 'upbeat' and 'light speed' were invented, and it's a rare treat to catch the nine-Grammy-winning team of Western swingers with their frontman, six-foot-seven streak of Texan Cool in tooled cowboy boots, Ray Benson. An hour of virtuoso tex-mex, boogie-woogie, bluegrass and what-all on Telecaster, fiddles, piano, drums and lap steel causes jaws on the floor and feet in the air (messy!) We discover that steel guitarist Eddie Rivers was a prison warder until two weeks ago but took little persuading to give up his job for this tour - the lure of the road, eh? Ray Benson takes a three-ball juggling break during House Of Blue Lights before the boys take off with supersonic rendition of Cotton-Eye Joe. Keb' - you may have to share the Feelgood Award with these guys.

By complete contrast shortly afterwards, the same audience stands in rapt silence for Ralph McTell's mesmerising songs as he celebrates his 60th summer with a return to the festival stage he first walked 35 years ago. He's far and away more than just a one-song man, but the strains of Streets Of London echoing across the site from hundreds of voices is a moving sound to usher in the final night of Cambridge 2004.

Cambridge Festival is a major success story: four days of outstanding music, roots-based and beyond, in an intimate and user-friendly setting. Forty years old and just getting better. This year's line-up has been mighty and though we couldn't get to see everyone, we know those we've omitted - Dhol Foundation, Kepa Junkera, Susana Seivane, BBC Folk Awards winners Jim Moray and Show Of Hands and many more - have given their all. There's still more to come in the shape of Mariza, Beth Orton, Bert Jansch, The Dixie Hummingbirds and The Michael McGoldrick Band - if we can only work out how to be in four places at once. Happy birthday, Cambridge - here's to the 50th!
  Cambridge 2004
  2004 Gallery
  2004 Diary
  Cambridge 2005
  Radio 2 Folk
Who did you enjoy the most this year?

Christy Moore
KT Tunstall
The Duhks
Old Crow Medicine Show


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