To Somerset people, Priddy Folk Fayre should be like the Henley Regatta is to oarsmen - an essential on the calendar.
Priddy 2005 was the biggest and best in its 20-year history. There were four venues presenting music virtually non-stop throughout the weekend.
It was better by being more family friendly. Included this year were bouncy castles, inflatables and a helter-skelter for the kids.
In my experience, over the last few years, it was the best. The quality and variety of music was superb throughout, the festival being brought to a rousing finale by the renowned Loscoe State Opera Company.
On Friday evening, we chose to watch a concert in the main tent, named Swildon's marquee. This was a night dominated by the fairer sex. Jim Tidwell, veteran local singer/guitarist, compered the show after a brief set himself
|Hannah James of Kerfuffle played on the Friday|
Hannah James, a 17-year-old artiste, and lead singer with Kerfuffle, soon ensured that the marquee was packed to capacity.
Hannah's singing, dancing and accordion-playing are a delight. She fronts an exceedingly talented combo of teenagers. Following their successful debut last year, Kerfuffle will probably be festival-favorites for many years to come.
Another teenager who made a big impact on her debut last year was Ruth Notman, who has a truly beautiful voice.
This Yorkshire lass enhanced her reputation on her return, despite playing her set in reverse order.
Technical problems meant that she was unable to play her harp this year, but I will expect to see Ruth regularly in future.
Madness and mayhem ensued as The Incontinentals took to the stage. This madcap ensemble was uproarious, playing music on a wide variety of unusual objects including some which are only usually found in a toilet, and a kettle.
The unenviable task of closing Friday's concert fell to Karine Polwart. Fortunately, she was well-equipped for that slot
Karine is a folk singer in the Joan Baez tradition, recently scooping three Radio 2 folk awards. Formerly lead singer with Celtic aces Malinky, Karine is now set for a successful career as a soloist.
Saturday afternoon, again in Swildon's Marquee, offered a totally different concert. The major stars of this gig were Dragonsfly.
|The Incontinentals playing the kettle!|
Dragonsfly are Priddy regulars, who all live locally. Fronted by Maya Preece, their reputation nationally is growing rapidly. They were also selected to play at Glastonbury Festival this year.
New to me was Anthony John Clarke, a Northern Irish singer-songwriter. Born of a staunch protestant father and staunch Catholic mother, Clarke's lyrics are witty, cutting and sometimes even provocative.
The imitable Sid Kipper, who just seems to get funnier and funnier as the years go by, compered the afternoon show.
By now, I was all prepared for a good old-fashioned Saturday night. In fact, Mike Silver, who appeared in the show, sang a song about Saturday nights. The bard of Bristol, Fred Wedlock, played host.
Playing mainly blue grass music, Rabbi John stole everyone's thunder. This band of experienced musicians, who have just come together, should get many more bookings on the back of their performance here.
As the witching hour approached, Back of the Moon rounded off another fantastic evening of entertainment.
Anticipation and excitement built early on Sunday as I made my way back to Swildon's for the fourth concert in just over two days.
|Liz Carlisle wows the crowd|
I must confess that the highlight of the weekend came in this show, which was dominated by Americans.
The beautiful Liz Carlisle from Boston stole the hearts of all the men in the audience with her own compositions.
Apart from being a beautiful singer and musician, Liz is also something of an egghead, studying musicology at Harvard University.
One of her new songs Low Tide, as yet unrecorded, is the most moving song I have heard for a long time. Hopefully Liz will soon be in the studio recording this track on one of her future CDs.
Wandering Soles had given us a lively start to this lunchtime concert, also impressing with their own compositions.
As the hearts of all the men in the audience had been melted by Liz, The Wiyos, also American, rounded off the gig. These New Yorkers impressed with their visual comedy, sensitive lyrics, and unusual instrumentation.
The last session
With so much quality entertainment still on offer, it was difficult to work out an itinerary for the last session of the weekend.
We opted to start in the East Water marquee, watching Megson (Stu and Debbie). We met Megson at the Priddy Mudfest last year and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to their first CD. They did not disappoint us.
|The Loscoe State Opera closed the festival|
Megson's harmonisation and the purity of Debbie's voice make compelling listening. Many passers-by were lured into the marquee as they heard their performance. Hopefully, this is an acquaintance that will be regularly renewed in the future.
Back we went to Swildon's where we caught the last 10 minutes of Seth Lakeman's set. This handsome and talented young man already has a large female following and looks set for many great things.
Steve Tilst followed Seth on stage with his inimitable compositions. I was delighted that Keith Warmington (from BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Someset Sound) joined Steve for his last three numbers.
Now for the grand finale. The seven-strong Loscoe State Opera took the stage. Their frenzied performance was greatly appreciated by all. Their unusual combination of high-pitched pipes and frenetic percussion nearly blasted the roof off of the marquee.
And so Priddy Folk Festival 2005 drew to a close. I cannot conceive that there is a finer way to spend a sweltering summer weekend than this jamboree.
There are so many other activities that haven't been mentioned. Make sure you buy your 2006 calendar well in advance and earmark early July for an essential visit to Priddy Folk Festival next year.