Sunday 30 November 2014


Coming Your Way

Tickets for Shrewsbury Folk Festival go on sale on Monday December 1 after organisers have announced much of their line up for next year.

La Bottine Souriante
Remarkably Canadians La Bottine Souriante and Irish accordion virtuoso Sharon Shannon will be playing for the first time at the four-day event held at the Greenhous West Midlands Showground, Berwick Road from August 28 to 31.
The other big names which have been confirmed include Oysterband, Kate Rusby, John Jones & the Reluctant Ramblers, Peatbog Faeries, Nancy Kerr and the Sweet Visitor Band, Mawkin and False Lights, the new line up of Jim Moray and Sam Carter, along with patron Steve Knightley of Show of Hands.
Artists coming from abroad include Australia's The Spooky Men’s Chorale from Australia. From Canada comes Ten Strings and a Goatskin, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys and The Barra MacNeils
There will be more announcements as further artists are confirmed.
The festival will be running five music venues, a dance tent, more than 100 workshops, a children’s festival, youth programme for 12 to 17-year-olds, a craft fair and food village. 
The earlybird offer ticket lasts until March 31. 
Adult weekend tickets are £125 until then. Day tickets start at £34 for adults. Children under four go free and family tickets are available. 
Onsite camping is available to all weekend ticket holders at £25 per adult. Tickets can be booked online from December 1 through

Dan's new album Raw State
Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Dan Whitehouse releases his new album Raw State on December 1 and will officially launch the album on Sunday December 7 at the Glee Club, Birmingham. Dan will be joined by Chris Tye, Harriet Harkcom and Duke Special for what he is calling his Christmas extravaganza. Tickets for the show are £8 plus booking fee and doors open at 7.15 with the show starting at 8pm.

Now almost a festive tradition the Barnsley Nightingale Kate Rusby will be bringing her Christmas show to Symphony Hall, Birmingham on December 11. The show starts at 7.30 and tickets are £25 plus a transaction fee which is charged on all bookings except on tickets bought from the venue in person.
To keep you in the Christmas Spirit Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band are bringing their Carols and Capers show to the Town Hall on Sunday December 14. The show also starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £19.50 plus the usual booking fee.
It's worth noting that at the same time Birmingham is holding its annual Frankfurt Christmas market so it would be advisable to allow extra time for travelling to the shows.

The Albion Band
The Albion Christmas Band are releasing their first live album One For The Road on Monday December 1 and as part of their tour will be coming to the Second City. 
Its release coincides with the band's annual festive season tour, which will visit 19 venues. One of which is the MAC Birmingham. They will be playing there on December 14 at 8pm. Tickets are £18 or £15 with concessions.
The album, One From The Road, captures the band's show at London's Kings Place last December. 
The concert was part of the band's 15th anniversary tour.
The Albion Christmas Band evolved from special seasonal shows by the last incarnation of the Albion Band.  Their concerts feature a mixture of seasonal carols, spoken word, humorous readings and dance, but they add a modern twist with some newly written songs.
The Albion Christmas Band features the talents of Simon Nicol, founder member of Fairport Convention, on guitar and vocals, Kellie While on guitar, vocals and percussion, Simon Care on melodeons, and the Guv'nor himself, Ashley Hutchings, co-founder of Fairport Convention, Albion Band, and Steeleye Span, on bass guitar and vocals.

Belshazzar's Feast will be playing the Biddulph Arms on Wednesday December 10. Tickets are £13.

Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts are at The Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford on December 5 tickets are £9 for non-members and £8 for members and the show starts 8.30pm.

Eddy Morton & Paul Hodson will be playing the Unicorn Folk Club held at the Bradford Arms, Wheaton Aston on Friday Dec 5.

The Red Lion Folk Club in Birmingham is playing host to a Victorian Christmas on December 3 and then on December 10 folk legend Martin Simpson will be playing the venue. Doors open 7.15pm and the show starts 7.45pm.

Another folk great, Martin Carthy will be playing at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton on Saturday December 6. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £12.50.

Chris Parkinson, Pete Morton and Emily Sanders are bringing their Magical Christmas Tree Show to the Newhampton Folk Club in Wolverhampton for the second year running on Saturday December 13. The concerts are in the upper room of the Newhampton Inn, Riches Street, Whitmore Reans. Tickets are £10 and the show starts at 8.30pm.

If you fancy your Christmas music with a different and historic note then The Night Watch are playing a few winter and Christmas gigs. Ian Pittaway and Andy Casserley specialise in renaissance and baroque music using instruments such as the lute.
|They will be performing as part of a Tudor Candlelight Evening on Thursday 4 December from 6.30pm at Haden Hill House, Halesowen Road, Cradley Heath, B64 7JU.


Tickets also go on sale on Monday December 1 for the Cambridge Folk Festival which runs from July 30 to August 2. The line ups have yet to be announced.

The Proclaimers

The Proclaimers will be the headliners for Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival on August 6 which is 10 years after they first took top billing there.
Craig and Charlie Reid have also been busy recording vocals along with a host of stars for The Peace Collective recording of The Farms 'All Together Now', a charity single on behalf of The British Red Cross and The Shorncliffe Trust.
This Christmas is the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce, during World War One, which inspired The Farm's 1990 hit All Together Now.  The Peace Collective single will be released on December 15.
http:/ The single can be pre-ordered by mobile:Text GET PEACE to 84222

Ralph McTell's new EP
Ralph McTell will be doing a benefit concert on the December 3 at the Half Moon, Putney on his birthday. Tickets are on sale and Mctell will be raising money for Crisis at Christmas. For more information and to purchase tickets please click here.
On the same day there will be an hour long special on BBC Radio 2 to celebrate his 70th Birthday, which will be broadcast.
McTell also has a new EP out called the unknown soldier to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. The album is released through Leola Music and can be bought online and through McTell's own website.

Emily Barker
Most  of the acts who will perform at the Behind the Castle music festival next year have been signed
up. Show of Hands with Miranda Sykes will be one the top name acts taking to the main stage.
BAFTA award-winning songwriter Emily Barker, best known for writing and performing the theme to BBC television show Wallander has also been confirmed.
The 15 acts so far confirmed are Show of HandsEmily BarkerAimee MackenzieNizlopiMoulettesPhillip Henry and Hannah MartinThe WillowsEmily MaguireLizzyspitMiranda Sykes and Rex PrestonMegsonJaywalkersTom JamesODiEmily Baker
Tickets will go on sale on Monday, December 1 at

Folkstock Records have an alternative Christmas album out at the moment which includes many rising stars of folk such as Kelly Oliver, Minnie Birch, Daria Kulesh and Katy Rae. The Christmas Present is available from the Folkstock website.

Two thousand voices from across the UK are bidding for the Top 40 in a desperate attempt to find a
blood stem cell donor for a little girl for whom time is running out.
Six-year old Emma Whittaker, from Buckinghamshire, suffers from the rare genetic condition Fanconi Anaemia and needs to find a donor by March to save her life.
Three new artists have joined forces with 2000 voices recorded across the UK during 2014, to release a charity single to promote Emma’s donor search. The song, The Rest Of Time, written and produced by alternative folk duo The Portraits who performed at Glastonbury Festival this year, will raise funds for the charity Delete Blood Cancer, whilst appealing to the public to sign up to the bone marrow donors register and will be released on December 28.
The Portraits’ singer Lorraine Reilly Millington said “We wanted to create a huge national choir by
layering the voices of different crowds we played to and every person that has sung will be credited on the single. There are enough people with an interest in its success that reaching the charts is really
achievable, and this would make a huge noise for Emma and everyone else searching for a donor!”

Completely new to the folk scene is 16 year old Iona Lane from Clapham, North Yorkshire. She has produced her first EP. The disc has five tracks Chain By Design, These Days, We Intertwine, It Is What It Is and Blue Lagoon. Lane who is studying for her GCSEs while also playing and busking is hoping to use the proceeds from her album sales to buy a mandolin.

The Acoustic Festival of Great Britain has confirmed Paul Carrack, Big Country, Show of Hands, Demon Barbers XL, Nell Brydon, Moulettes, The Beautiful Sound, Swan Vesta Social Club and Blues Boy Dan Owen as part of its line-up.
The festival, at Uttoxeter Racecourse will be held on the Summer Solstice weekend of June 19 to June 21.

The Mike Harding Folk show

Saturday 29 November 2014



Touring for Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Dan Whitehouse has been a massive part of his life for the last few years and it has provided something of a musical evolution which has led to his latest album, Raw State, the tracks of which have been maturing over that period.

Dan Whitehouse
Whitehouse, originally from Compton in Wolverhampton, works from Birmingham city centre not just on his own projects but as a session musician and as a musical therapist using his skills to help vulnerable members of society find a voice.
On top of all this he has spent most of the last three years touring and building a steady reputation as a stand-out musician who takes his music very seriously.
“My song writing is always at the centre of my focus and that’s what I spend the most time on. It’s what makes me happy and is what drives me; keeps me in a positive mindset," said Whitehouse.
"Life is not worth living without music,” he states emphatically.
His latest album, which is out on Monday December 1, is officially launched at the Glee Club, Birmingham on December 7 although it is not new in the ordinary sense. 
There is only one "fresh" track on it but is has, according Whitehouse, evolved as a process of his touring during which he has reworked his creations and was eager to get that sound down on disc.
“When we recorded the first few records they were written in the studio and we used multi-tracking and layering to add lots of textures and then I went and did two or three years touring those songs, mostly performing solo.
“During that time I felt the songs really took on a new form and evolved so then I felt like I had reached a point where I could walk into a studio and lay down fast, raw versions of the songs.
"I have always wanted to make a record in that way, the ways records used to be made pre-St Pepper’s where the bands would tour the songs for at least a year before they put them down on tape. So wanted to try that and lay down some songs that weren’t heavily edited.
“I think it brings a kind of vibrancy and life and energy something akin to what you might get from the live show.”
“This is an album I have carved out.
"It’s like a sculpture that has taken five years and this is the end result. I started out with a big lump of rock and now I am really proud of that sculpture, it’s kind of distorted and imperfect but I am really proud of it."
Simone Felice
So is this process of his songs evolving and almost reinventing themselves ever fully finished for him?
“No, I am always hungry and looking for the next level. 
"There are always other places to go, that’s the great thing about music there are always people who inspire and there are always more things to learn and more things to discover.
“I try not rest on my laurels because I still feel there are songs I want to write and still places, artistically, that I haven’t ventured into.
“I am really pleased with this last record although it was recorded and mixed in about 10 days, but I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t been touring consistently for three years. 
"I feel I am a lot more confident playing live than I used to be and I am more confident of my place in society as a songwriter.
Whitehouse has been touring mostly with New York singer/songwriter, poet and author Simone Felice who he met through the Glee Club and now things seem to have come full circle now.
"Simone has been a great inspiration, and he’s got this great pianist Anna Mitchell playing alongside him and they sort of turn your head around 360 degrees and make you look at the world in a much more beautiful way
"I hooked up with him through the Glee Club, Birmingham. I started supporting him on his visits to the Glee and he gave me a few spots on his tour then this time he gave me the whole tour. We just get on through working together and have become friends.
Dan's new album Raw State
"We share a lot of interests and his fans dig what I am doing. That’s always the mission is to find people out there who appreciate what you are doing.
“This gig at the Glee is the biggest capacity venue I have ever played, it can hold more than 400 so is very ambitious.
“It’s going to be a kind of Christmas extravaganza with special guests. I have written a Christmas song with Chris Tye.
He’s going to come down and sing that, there is Duke Special from Ireland and BJ Cole who is a legend on pedal steel.”
Cole, has worked with a vast array of artists including REM, Elton John, Brian Eno and Bjork and the album has been produced by Danny George Wilson and Chris Clarke of Danny and the Champions of The World who put the album together at Clarke’s Reservoir Studios in North London.
The drummer from the band Steve Brookes plays on the album as does Wilson who adds his guitar, keyboard and backing vocals.
So with the album under his belt where is the next step?
“I want to be selling out shows not just in Birmingham or London, I want to be playing in Europe and America.
“It’s a pretty slow process.
"The main thing I focus on is the art of songs. I spend a lot of time writing and recording songs in the hope that if I get that right it will unlock the rest of it.”

Raw State is out December 1 through Heantun Records and Dan's own website. His launch concert at the Glee Club is on Sunday December 7 where tickets are £8 plus a booking fee. Doors open at 7.15 and the show starts 8pm.

The Mike Harding Folk Show

Thursday 27 November 2014


CD Review

70th Birthday Concert @ Vicar Street

Andy Irvine is without doubt one of the most respected, prolific and talented folk musicians to come out of Ireland, and as he reached 70 to mark the milestone he decided to put on a two night show in Dublin surrounded by a gathering of impressive musicians from his past and present.

Andy Irvine
His distinctive voice, easy manner and skill on an impressive array of stringed instruments means he is considered among his peers to be one of the finest musicians around.
The roll of people he has played with is like a history of folk music in the UK and his interests and love of music covers the globe.
He was born in London during the war years and was almost predestined to be an entertainer with a mother, who was originally from Lisburn Country Antrim, who trod the boards doing musical comedy routines and a Glaswegian father who covertly played the saxophone.
As a child actor he was on course for a promising career appearing alongside Laurence Harvey in the film version of John Braine's Room at the Top. He was also in a film with the legendary Peter Sellers where, unknown to him, his scene was cut along with his enthusiasm for acting because the film company had not bothered to tell him and he only found while watching it at the première. Irvine studied classical guitar under Julian Bream but never felt it was really for him. Then as a teenager he encountered the sound of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan and tried his hand, pretty unsuccessfully, in a band.
However, it was through a Donegan LP that Irvine discovered his idol and his muse in Woody Guthrie. As a youngster he even wrote to the legend who was in hospital suffering from Huntingdon's disease. Irvine’s association with Guthrie was to border on obsession to where he actually told people he was Guthrie.
Irvine has travelled all over the world and been instrumental, pun intended, in some of the legendary groups of Irish folk music not least of which is Sweeney's Men, De Dannan and several incarnations of Planxty with another legend Christy Moore. He was also a familiar figure in the pubs of Dublin, most notably O'Donaghue's with iconic musicians such as Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly and Banjo Barney McKenna.
Irvine is now 72 and has earned his place among the biggest and best on the circuit so the release of his 70th birthday concert from Vicar Street, Dublin is long overdue.
Irvine in the 1970s
This CD tribute is compiled with the music of Sweeney's Men, Mozaik, LAPD, Paul Brady and of course the binding thread through all of them, Irvine himself.
In some ways the songs are a history of Irvine's career but more than that they are a travelogue of Irish/folk music.
From Kitty's Rambles/The Humours of Ennistymon to A Blacksmith Courted Me/Blacksmithereens this is an album that captures the rich seam of music which Irvine and his fellow musicians have created, rearranged and happily passed on for others to enjoy whether through playing or just listening.
The album is opened by Irvine's latest incarnation LAPD who are Liam O'Flynn, Paddy Glackin, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.
This rearrangement of traditional tunes Kitty's Rambles/Humours of Ennistymon heavily features the uilleann pipes from O'Flynn, for whom this brings back vivid memories of the 1970s, and is as good a foot stomper as any to get things going.
It's not Irvine's style to sit back and allow other people to pay tribute to him when there is far too much fun to be had and so he has a hand and often more in every track of the album.
Sail Away Ladies and Walking in the Parlour both come from the 1920s and are performed by Moziak which prominently features Bruce Molsky and Rens van der Zalm, who was very much in evidence on Irvine's last album Parachilna.
Irvine gets his mouth around the harmonica as part of Sweeney's Men and their version of Robert Burns' universally known tune Rattlin' Roarin' Willie. Irvine is joined by Johnny Moynihan on vocals and bouzouki and Terry Woods on guitar.
O'Donaghue's, written by and sung, on this occasion, by Irvine, is both a potted history of his career and the Dublin music scene of the 1960s. It runs like a Who's Who? of music and if you want to give someone a crash course of Irish folk music during that period then you just need to sit them down and play this for them.
The young musician
The Jolly Soldier, arranged by Paul Brady and The Blarney Pilgrim, arranged by LAPD, gives Brady a chance to show his balladeer skills. The second part is the instrumental which features strongly the strings of the guitar and mandola and is highlighted wonderfully by the flute.
Irvine has travelled extensively in Europe and as a younger musician had a hankering to travel the Balkans which he eventually did. This however, is just the tip of the iceberg as Irvine has a great respect for world music as much as he does for Irish and folk songs.
In Foreign Lands is a traditional song from Thrace in South-Eastern Europe and features Irvine on one of his favourite instruments, the bouzouki along with George Galiatsos on vocals and laouto, which is very similar to the lute, and Manolis Galiatsos on octave mandolin.
Terry Woods takes over the vocals for My Dearest Dear with Irvine staying in the background with his mandolin and harmonica.
Wood's gravelly voice gives the Appalachian-style ballad a real depth of emotion.
Grecian flavour comes to the fore for Suleman's Kopanitsa with Nikola Parov joining the usual suspects on gadulka which is a Bulgarian stringed instrument that's a cross between a mandolin and a lute and is played with a bow, like a fiddle.
Irvine is back on the mic and strumming his mandola for his arrangement of Plains of Kildare which is a stripped down narrative ballad carried along by the birthday boy's unmistakable and gentle voice.
Romanian Hora, as the name suggests, brings you back to Europe and with van der Zalm on the fiddle giving it an almost jazz feel reminiscent of Stephane Grappelli. This is taken over by Molsky also on fiddle for Black Jack Grove which he gives a barn dance feel to.
The birthday tribute album
Irvine's soft and evocative singing on West Coast of Clare does have a hint of the melancholy of Carrick Fergus. However, it is Irvine reminiscing and recalling some of his happiest moments in the county.
To finish the dozen Moziak and Brady join LAPD for A Blacksmith Courted Me/Blacksmithereens, the former being collected by that icon of folk music Ralph Vaughan Williams and originates from the beginning of the 20th century. It's also likely to be the more familiar of the two tracks. The latter, which according to Irvine had no name until Christy Moore gave it one, is a pretty complex instrumental which seems to amalgamate the European and Irish sounds.
Irvine, who has entered his eighth decade, deserves this accolade and while 12 tracks on a CD may not seem a lot for a lifetime of singing, playing, writing and being part of some of the most influential folk bands around, when you look at the quality of the musicians who have given their time and the incredible music they have played in homage to the man, you realise that while there could have been many more hours of music, this album captures the essence and character of a true folk legend.

The album is available now through Andy's own website

The Mike Harding Folk Show

Sunday 23 November 2014


CD Review

Plays Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a Bit

A lot of people know Phil Beer through his association with Show of Hands along with Steve Knightley and Miranda Sykes and while this is accolade enough there is so much more to the Exminster musician.

Phil Beer
Beer is a great ambassador for folk music and an incredible fiddle player in fact like fellow Devonshire folk musician Seth Lakeman, he seems to be able to play anything with strings attached to it.
He has been playing music for 40 years and shows no sign of tiring or of not being able to produce the most wonderful music.
The title of this new album is spot on, because while Beer does have a fine voice his real talent lies in his instrumental skills which range from the most traditional of folk, through to Spanish virtuoso and downright dirty blues.
He opens this album of live performances with a cover of the Weathercock written by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson.
The simple mandolin and Beer's voice is about as stripped down a version of the track from Tull's Heavy Horses album as you can get and yet he can carry it off and give it a fresh perspective.
This gives way to Fire and Wine which is pretty appropriate considering it's winter. Beer brings a really evocative warm feeling to this song about times around the fire, drinking, singing and essentially seeing out the winter with music.
In this track from Steve Ashley, Beer keeps it as a grass roots folk tune with once again his simple presentation using his solid singing and guitar playing.
On Harvest Song he sings A Capella and it perfectly captures the feeling of performing in a folk club and is the type of song which typifies folk music and harks to our much wider agricultural past. This ties in with the following track Life Goes On where Beer gives it an almost medieval rift underneath as he sings a song which seems to capture the essence of England.
A third way through the album is the love song I Cannot Keep From Crying Sometimes, a track that goes back to the 1960s. It's a straightforward ballad which has fond memories for Beer and gives him a chance to include some blues. Without wanting to sound too harsh it does show how on quite a few occasions his strength lies in his playing rather than his voice.
What follows is Beer in his element the rasping opening introduces three tunes The Marriage Vow/Gwennap and Old Riley.
He plays the fiddle with spine-tingling gorgeousness. Beer is a big man yet his expert fingers deftly move over the strings with the nimbleness of a maiden lacemaker.
The first part is a rich full almost slip jig-style tune which segues into a much quicker Cornish offering which then gives way to the mountain sound of Beer's arrangement of Old Riley.
All three serve to show the versatility and sheer skill Beer has for stroking tunes out of the fiddle.
Jackson Browne's Rebel Jesus is pretty much an alternative Christmas ballad with its gentle tune, biting and witty lyrics which are meant to both entertain and make the listener stop and think.
Beer seems to find his level with the Devil's Right Hand, his jerky, mountain sound on the fiddle complements his voice perfectly and creates one of the highlights of the album.
Pleasant and Delightful is a perfect title for the way Beer plays this tune. This is a real treat and sounds like the archetypal folk song almost like the mould from which all traditional folks songs are fashioned even down the organic and unadorned way Beer performs it.
Phil Beer's new album 
He pulls out a bit of surprise with Mary from Dungloe and seems to step out of his comfort zone with this soft ballad. Beer shows a more lyrical side to his voice and in this song his simple chord playing on the guitar is just enough to undergird his singing for what is a lovely soft and thoughtful ballad.
The Blind Fiddler is hands down the best track on the album, it almost has a Vaughan Williams-style opening before sliding into the jagged sound of the mountain fiddle, and he just lets loose to show just why he is such a respected musician.
Beer opens Tommy on the guitar sounding very much like Ralph McTell and is a narrative about the hero of the song.
The battle song of The Warlike Lads of Russia is a dancing tune which carries along with almost a barn dance beat and again is one of those tunes which seem to fit Beer's style like a glove.
On the penultimate track Birmingham Hotel, Beer changes the pace from the Reg Meuross version in common time to a slower waltz. In doing so he somehow seems to give it more depth and emotion.
The final track Willin is a slow country song that has shades of Elton John's Yellow Brick Road about it. Here again Beer keeps the guitar to a minimum and relies on the fact that this song fits his range perfectly, although he does throw in the occasional show off finger play.
If you didn't know it already Beer is an excellent musician and if you want proof then this album should provide it especially for the fact the tracks are from live performances and portrays Beer at his ground level which is something many would aspire to.

Play Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a Bit is available now through Talking Elephant.

The Mike Harding Folk Show

Friday 21 November 2014


CD Review

Synthetic Hues

If you are involved in folk music in any way there are certain names that sooner or later will always crop up and who seem to have been around as long as some of the traditional songs they sing.

The Teeside trubadour, Vin Garbutt
They have inspired, set standards, broken boundaries and most of all kept the music and tradition of folk alive for each successive generation they have walked through.
There is Martin Simpson, Ralph McTell, Mike Harding, Martin Carthy, June Tabor, Joan Baez, Dave Swarbrick, Christy Moore and Andy Irvine to name but a few.
One name that more than deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as such illustrious company is Vin Garbutt.
Garbutt, the Teeside Troubadour from Middlesbrough has spent more than half a century travelling around the folk clubs, festivals and recording studios of the nation and would be included in any folk followers list of all time greats.
The latest album from the award-winning, crinkly haired artist has the singer/songwriter's trademark sound of the ordinary bloke down the pub.
The opener My El Dorado does have that organic, unadorned almost pub singerish feel about it and it is the artist's arrangement of the song by Graeme Miles who Garbutt admits was a massive influence on him.
There is a lovely juxtaposition in this song which is almost a musical joke in that it's named after the legendary City of Gold but is in fact about Ironopolis (Middlesbrough) and does have a Mexican feel to it.
With The Lass of Cockerton, Garbutt shows his weakness for romantic tales. The straightforward ballad which tells the tale of love is based upon a poem from Rhymes of Northern Bards.
If you want fancy vocals, imitations of other singers or styles, then Garbutt is not your man. His voice is not the most melodic but what it is, is honest and has complete integrity.
Garbutt never lets style overwhelm substance and there is passion in his songs such as From the Diary of a Northumberland Miner. He is also one of those musicians who can seemingly pull songs out of thin air and The Black Poplar was inspired by a friend showing him a tree, it's as simple as that and yet from that Garbutt produces what is essentially a potted history of England. His ability is confirmed in The Caver's Song which is about a friend who is the caver of the title and is again a simple tale inspired by the people and events around him. It's given a lovely light lift by Stewart Hardy on fiddle and Becky Taylor on flute.
The quote from the poem by Ian Horn
Putting something as iconic as Rudyard Kipling's If to music is a tricky act to pull off it either ends up with too much gravitas because of an over reverence of the inspirational words or ends up sounding trite. Garbutt's light, almost folky/rap style falls somewhere in between the two camps.
It's one of those songs which is likely to polarise people into either liking it or hating it. Perhaps it would have been better done as a monologue with the music playing gentle in the background. The track is in two parts with Garbutt singing the words to his own tune, The Kipple Bat, and then finishing with just the tune played wonderfully lightly by Garbutt and Taylor on the whistle and Northumbrian pipes. It's one of those the listener will have to decide for themselves.
Teesbay is a Robert Fortune song arranged by Garbutt and tells the simple fascination of being able to watch ships coming and going.
Eric Bogle
If you want the essence of what Garbutt does then you can sum it up in Teacher from Persia this is a true life narrative and the whole story is there. It's almost as if Garbutt knows he has to sing the tale but doesn't want to get in the way of the lyrics and so like so many of his songs it's all about the words.
Without doubt the warmest track on the album is Your Welcome Was So Warm which is inspired by a couple who offered the stranded Garbutt a bed for the night after a concert but more than that it's also a big thank you to all the people who have welcomed him into their homes.
You have to give it Garbutt he is a great story teller, and he is a great folk singer and if you can listen to and read the words of The Fallen of Fulstow and not feel a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye then you will never understand the passion for his trade he possesses.
There is another appropriate song for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. The Eric Bogle song No Man's Land/Green Fields of France has been around for some years but has obviously taken on new impetus with the anniversary and the many folk singers who have produced commemorative songs for the occasion. This one though has been embroiled in controversy through Joss Stone's version but here Garbutt gives the full version and sings with real passion and emotion that is genuinely moving. None more so than the last verse: "The killing, the dying was all done in vain. Ah Willie McBride it's all happened again, and again, and again, and again, and again."
Garbutt's new album
The final track The College tackles the emotive subject of religious education and the misuse of Christianity by some who are charged with its care and in Garbutt's words: "I have friends who entered the college as Roman Catholic children and left as young atheist adults, having had Christianity beaten out of them with a cane/strap/slipper."
Garbutt is an old-style grass roots folk singer, his sound is raw, unrefined and honest but more than this his words are insightful, thought provoking, barbed, witty and always, always sung with integrity.
Garbutt has been battling a fairly lengthy illness through which he has had to cancel his tour, though thankfully he does seem to be on the mend. Fellow northerner and long time friend Jez Lowe has stepped in to take Garbutt's spot at The Normanby Hotel, Middlesbrough on Monday December 22 and he has kindly offered to sell the new album at his own concerts too. Hopefully 2015 will be a better year for Vin Garbutt.

Synthetic Hues is out now through Home Roots Music or can be bought online through his website.