Saturday 28 February 2015


Coming Your Way

The Town Hall, Birmingham has a fine host of musicians gracing the ornate venue this month. Gretchen Peters will be on stage there on Saturday March 21, starting 8pm. 

Gretchen Peters
The blues/country singer is touring on the back of her latest album Blackbirds. Tickets are £21.50 and £26.50 plus the usual transaction fee which is £3 and which will be charged on all sales except when bought in person at the Town Hall or Symphony Hall Box office.
Veteran of the folk/acoustic circuit Joan Armatrading is coming home as part of her last major tour and she will be playing there on Wednesday March, 25 at the more usual time of 7.30pm. Unfortunately for those who haven't got their tickets the show is sold out, although it may be worth contacting the venue to see if there are any returns or cancellations.
Armatrading wants to assure her fans she is not retiring but is just stopping major tours after spending more than 40 years globe-trotting and gigging.
The Victoria Square venue then welcomes Irish songstress Cara Dillon who will be bringing her delicate and silken tones to the hall on Friday March, 27 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £21 plus the usual transaction fee unless bought in person from the venue.
Dillon is featured on the soundtrack to the Disney animation,Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue which has been officially released on CD for the first time. The music was composed and conducted by the award-winning composer Joel McNeely and features two songs from Cara. She sings the opening track to the movie called Summer's Just Begun and also a beautiful lullaby called Come Flying With Me.
The Norther Ireland singer has also been nominated for Folk Singer Of The Year at  this year's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards

The Unthanks
Militant folk band the Levellers, are bringing a multi-media experience to the Warwick Arts Centre with A Curious Life, which is both a film screening and a live performance. They are bringing their show to the Butterworth Hall at the site on Sunday March 1, starting 8pm. Tickets are £21 in advance or £24 on the night. Please note there is an age restriction and no one under 15 is allowed.
At the same venue a week later are sister act Becky and Rachel better known as The Unthanks, who are now touring on the back of their new album Mount the Air and they will be playing there Sunday March 8. The show starts 7.30pm. Tickets are £19.

Singer/songwriter Gren Bartley is releasing his latest album this month called Magnificent Creatures and you can see him perform at the Woodman Folk Club which meets at Ashwood Marina, Kingswinford on Friday March 6. Members pay £6 and non members £1 more. The doors open at 8pm and the show starts around 8.30pm.
The following week on March 13, banjo virtuoso - if there is such a thing, Dan Walsh is on stage there. Entry is  £6 for members and £1 more for non-members. Walsh also has a new album out on March 16, called Incidents and Accidents. The following night he moves north to play the Gatehouse, Stafford. Tickets are £10 right across the board and the show starts at 8pm.
If he is good enough to be privately hired by Madonna then the friendly crowd at the Woodman should appreciate acclaimed acoustic musician Clive Carroll who will be playing there on March 20 The show starts at the usual time and tickets are £10 for members and £1 more for non members.
Traditional musician and musical arranger Nick Dow is coming to the canal side venue on March 27, tickets are £5 for members and again £1 more for non members.

Kelly Oliver
A folk singer whose star is definitely on the rise, she seems to be almost everywhere, is Kelly Oliver who will be sharing the bill at the Common Folk Club, with Nigel Bullock on March 19 from 8.30pm. The club meets at the Pelsall Cricket & Sports Club in Walsall.

Heading back to the Second City, Red Lion Folk Club, King's Heath welcomes Black Country outfit Eddy Morton & the Bushburys on March 4. They will be supported by fellow Stourbridge blues man Sunjay Brayne. As on all shows, doors open 7.15pm for a 7.45pm start. Tickets are £11 and can vary depending upon whether you are a member and if you buy online.
On March 11 one of the busiest and in demand female folk artists Nancy Kerr & Sweet Visitor Band will perform there. Kerr is nominated for best folk singer and best album at the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards. She will also be touring later on in the year with Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting on the back of a new album they have put together called Murmurs. Tickets for the Red Lion gig are £13. They will be supported by Si Barron
They are followed by Reg Meuross & Jess Vincent who are at the venue on March 18 and tickets are £12.
The following meeting, on March 25, welcomes Peter Coe & Alice Jones who have an album out together called The Search for Five Finger Frank. Tickets are £11 and support comes from Take Two who are David Rolfe and Kevin Arnold.

Eddi Reader
You may remember her as the distinctive voice of Fairground Attraction but Eddi Reader has been carving out a career on the folk/acoustic circuit for many years now and she will be performing at Biddulph Up in Arms, Staffs on March 28. Tickets are  £22.50 and doors open at 6pm, the show starts at 8pm. If you can't wait until then she will be performing at the Artrix, Bromsgrove on March 22, the show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are again £22.50.

The MAC Birmingham is a great place to see some of the top folk artists and three of the best, (Mike)McGoldrick, (John)McCusker & (John)Doyle are there on the very first day of the month unfortunately the theatre concert is sold out but it may be worth contacting the venue to see if there are any returns or cancellations.
The venue plays host to Peter Knight’s Gigspanner on March 5. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £15 or £13 with concessions.
Folk veteran Bob Fox is bringing his War Horse Songman Tour to the venue on Friday March 13 with the show starting this time at 8pm. Tickets are £14  and £12 with concessions.
Fox has played the role of Songman in War Horse for the past three years and you can join him as he performs the songs from the multi-award winning production, with additional material from his own repertoire.
Towards the end of the month on March 28 The Furrow Collective will be on stage and the show starts at 8pm, tickets are £12 or £10 with concessions.
The collective which consists of Emily Portman, Alasdair Roberts, Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton, has been nominated for two awards in this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. They are up for Best Group and Best Traditional Track for Handsome Molly. The awards take place in Cardiff on the 22nd April. You can read more about the nominations here.

Duo Stu  and Debbie Hannah better known as Megson will be playing at the Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford on March 2. They are in the Met Studio and tickets are £12.50 or £10 with concessions. The show starts at 8pm.
Folk legends Steeleye Span are playing the venue on March 14. Tickets are £20 or £17.50 with concessions. The show starts at 7.30pm.

The Fureys have been around for nearly 40 years and are still going strong and you can see them at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on March 12. Tickets are £23.90 plus a £2.85 transaction fee and theatre card holders pay £21.The show starts at 7.30pm. They are also playing The Gatehouse, Stafford on March 22. The show starts are 7.30pm and tickets are £19 or £17.50 with concessions.

O'hooley & Tidow will be playing at the Talbot Theatre, Whitchurch Leisure Centre on March 13. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £12 or £10 with concessions.They will be staying in Shropshire for their next gig at Birchmeadow Centre, Broseley the following night on March 14. Depending on how you buy them, tickets range from £9 to £10. Doors open 7.30pm.

Phil Beer
Well known on the folk circuit is one of half of Show of Hands, Phil Beer and his band, will be playing at the Artrix,Bromsgrove on March 14. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £16 or £15
with concessions.

The Robin2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton is playing host to Oysterband on March 24. Tickets are £16 in advance and £18 on the night.
Multi-talented Seth Lakeman is bringing his solo show to the Slade Rooms, Broad Street, Wolverhampton on March 22. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are £16.50 including booking fee.
Acclaimed Scottish singer Ewan McLennan will play the Stourbridge Folk Club which is held at Katie Fitzgerald's on March 19.Tickets are £8 in advance and £10 on the night.

Musician, songwriter and dry wit Chris Wood will be playing the Kitchen Garden Cafe, King's Heath, Birmingham on March 15. Tickets are £15 and as for all shows doors open 7.30pm with Wood on stage at 8pm. At the same venue on March 19 four piece, acoustic, Belfast band Craobh Rua take to the stage, tickets are £10 and there is an option of an Irish supper. The venue then welcomes Lucy Ward on her solo tour on March 22, tickets are £10.


The 2015 BBC Radio2 Folk Awards nominees have now been announced and the winners will be announced at the ceremony on Wednesday April 22 at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff. The awards will be broadcast live from 7.30pm-10pm on Radio 2. The nominees in each category are:
Folk Singer Of The Year: Cara Dillon, Julie Fowlis, Nancy Kerr and Jez Lowe.
Best Duo: Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, O’Hooley & Tidow, Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Chris While & Julie Matthews
Best Group: Bellowhead, The Furrow Collective, The Gloaming and The Young ‘Uns.
Best Album: Fair Warning – The Rails, Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour – Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Sweet Visitor – Nancy Kerr, The Moral Of The Elephant – Martin & Eliza Carthy and Tincian – 9Bach
Horizon Award: Ange Hardy, Maz O’Connor, Stick In The Wheel and The Rails 
Musician of the Year: Martin Green, Will Pound, Sam Sweeney and Kathryn Tickell
Best Original Song: Swim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger), The Necklace Of Wrens – Michael Hartnett (performed by The Gloaming), The Pitmen Poets – Jez Lowe and The Spider And The Wolf – Paul Simmonds (performed by Naomi Bedford)
Best Traditional Track: Bedlam – Stick In The Wheel, Handsome Molly – The Furrow Collective, Manus Mo Rùin – Cruinn and Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award:  Cup O’Joe, Roseanne Reid, Talisk and Wildwood Kin.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement awards will go to Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Loudon Wainwright III and the new inductee into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame will be Ewan MacColl.

The Staves are celebrating the launch of their new album, If I Was, with two special shows at the Wilton's Music Hall both of which are sold out. The plan is to play the whole of their new album from start to finish.

Shropshire folk instrumental band Whalebone are staging music workshops. The band is putting on an All instruments Workshop on March1. The classes are held at Wenlock Pottery, Shropshire. The cost is £70 per person, which includes all course materials and refreshments on arrival, a hot meal at lunchtime and tea and cake in the afternoon. The day runs from 10.30am to 5pm. For more info, please email or call Steve on 01746 765268.

Ange Hardy has been nominated for the Horizon Award at this year's BBC folk awards. She is also in the process of putting together her fourth album Esteesee, pronounced STC, the initials of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
The album will include guest musicians such as Patsy Reid on fiddle, viola and cello, Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Alex Cummings on accordion, Jo May, percussion, Kate Rouse, hammered dulcimer, Steve Pledger, backing vocals and David Milton, the Watchet town crier.
The songs for the project are being written with the support of public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. It will involve writing and presenting an evening of music inspired by Coleridge, with plans in place to tour the evening over 14 nights along the route of The Coleridge Way in October 2015.

Cambridge Folk Festival has announced its line-up which includes legendary folk singer and activist Joan Baez, in her only UK appearance for 2015; international chart-topper Passenger; Frank Turner; Joan Armatrading, accompanying herself on guitar and piano; Australian roots band John Butler Trio; Nick Mulvey; R&B guitarist Wilko Johnson.
You can also add to this impressive list The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain; The Unthanks; Show of Hands; Katzenjammer; Altan; Treacherous Orchestra; Danù; Shooglenifty; Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting & Nancy Kerr; Peggy Seeger; Bella Hardy; Amsterdam Klezmer Band; The Lone Bellow; Chris Smither; Angaleena Presley; Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker; Jim Moray's Silent Ceilidh; Keston Cobblers Club;The Stray Birds; Rura; Goitse; De Temps Antan  and Lynched.

Bromyard Folk Festival which runs from September 11- 13 has also announced its line up so far and it includes
Breabach, Gerry Colvin Band, John DoyleNew Rope String Band, The Young’Uns Trio,
Emma Sweeney, Allan Yn Y FanThe Hut People, SpeldosaGranny’s Attic, Alex Cumming and Nicola Beazley, Mick Ryan and Paul Downes, Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman, Keith Donnelly, Niamh Boadle, Vera van Heeringen, Flossie Malavialle, Ursula Holden-Gill, Peter and Barbara Snape, Bordewey/Young Band, Roisin Ban, David Swann, The Bountyhounds, Gareth Lee and Annie Baylis, Floot Street, 4 Square, Barry Goodman, Kristy Gallacher, Jim Mageean, Soft Option, Kiss The Mistress and The Falconers.

The Shrewsbury Folk Festival which runs from August 20-31 has also pretty much completed its line-up which includes Amadou DiagneBarra MacNeilsBlowzabellaCatrin Finch & Seckou KeitaFalse LightsFloridaFolk NationsFran McGillivray & Mike Burke BandGlorystrokesGordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm BoysGranny’s AtticGren BartleyHarareJack HarrisJohn Jones and the Reluctant Ramblers, Jonathan Byrd and the SentimentalsKate RusbyLa Bottine SourianteLiam Robinson BandLucy WardMary Humphreys & AnahataMawkinNancy Kerr and the Sweet Visitor BandNew Rope String BandO’Hooley & TidowOysterbandPatsy ReidPaula RyanPeatbog FaeriesPivaRichard Thompson Electric TrioRoss Ainslie & Jarlath HendersonSharon ShannonSpooky Men’s ChoraleSteve KnightleyTen Strings & A Goat SkinThe Boundless BrothersThe Roaring TrowmenThe TeacupsThe Ukulele Orchestra of Great BritainThe WilsonsThe Young’unsVertical ExpressionWhapweasel and Winter Wilson

Three of Britain’s finest musicians acknowledged as a virtuoso in their own rights, Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr have come together for a collaborative album called Murmurs which will be released on Topic Records on June 8.

Fairport Convention also have a new album out, Myths And Heroes which is full of new material.
The album features 13 tracks some by old friends such as Ralph McTell, Rob Beattie, PJ Wright and Anna Ryder plus compositions from Fairport's own Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders. Myths and Heroes will be released digitally on March 1 and then through the usual outlets.

Folkstock Records' second compilation, under The F Spot Femmes Fatales banner, features a collection of impressive female singer/songwriters, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominated Peggy Seeger, Daria Kulesh and Maz O'Connor. The album's coming out on International Women's Day, March 8.
Also releasing new albums this month are Joan Baez who brings out Diamonds on March 9 and Bella Hardy who releases With The Dawn on March 30. Fantastic fiddle player Tom Kitching releases his Interloper album on March 2 and on the same date Norwegian four-piece indie/folk Katzenjammer put out their Rockland album.
Midlander Rich McMahon releases his Songs of Exile, Love & Dissent on March 9 and the night before he will be playing at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, King's Heath, Birmingham. Tickets are £5 and doors open 7.30 with the show starting 8pm. Bringing a distinctive and diverse sound to the music scene are Devon duo India Electric Co who release their The Girl I Left Behind Me album on March 30.

Wednesday 25 February 2015


Live Review

Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham

With their second album under their belt since their family raising kept then off the live circuit, Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman are now well and truly back into their stride of touring and putting on superb entertainment. 

Sean Lakeman & Kathryn Roberts
The husband and wife team are traversing the country on the back of their much anticipated album, Tomorrow Will Follow Today, which has now been released.
They kicked off the gig at the cosy King's Heath venue with the single from the album, Child Owlet, with Lakeman guitar in hand champing at the bit to get going, and launching into providing the rhythm which pushed his wife's strong voice along.
Barnsley migrant Roberts has a gorgeously stylistic voice which borders on the operatic at times. She invests such emotion into songs such as 52 hertz which is about a whale - almost a fetish of hers - and Standing At My Window, where you get the first taste of just how haunting her voice can be.
Lakeman is so in tune with his wife he knows perfectly when to be very subtle with his backing music and when to hammer in and drive the narrative. It's akin to an art form watching them perform together.
The Red Barn was one of the narrative songs they performed with Roberts, when she wasn't singing, bringing out her flute to add highlights to her husband's guitar playing. For someone who looks and dresses so feminine, she has a penchant for 50s style frocks, she has a ribald side and seems to enjoy indulging in saucy lyrics such as the Lusty Smith or trying her best to scare the pants off her audience with haunting songs such as the Huldra, adding to the atmosphere by singing it a Capella.
Money or Jewels was another from their back catalogue of the previous album Hidden People and they followed this with the traditional Whitby Maid, from their 2 album, before ending the first half of the concert with Roberts' favourite and emotionally loaded track, A Song To Live By, from the latest album. Lakeman took an early break and left his wife to sing the song accompanying herself on the piano. The track does have shades of Eva Cassidy's version of Fields of Gold.
They opened the second half of the show on the run with Lakeman bluesing up his guitar for the title track from Tomorrow Will Follow Today, where Roberts showed the depth and soul she has in her voice, before going back to their album 1 for the ballad Joe Peel.
Their new album
Unfortunately here she was competing against nature as part of the L-shaped concert area is under a perspex roof and when the rain hammers down, which it did for much of the second half, it sounds like someone has left a giant kettle switched on. This was also the case with the song about the miners' strike The Ballad of Andy Jacobs, it was no ones fault and nothing could be done about it but if you were sitting under the plastic it did distract from Roberts' singing.
Thankfully it had eased off as they both picked up the pace with Robber Bridegroom which is another song that showcases how well they complement each other, with Lakeman's strumming, on his champagne soaked guitar - you had to be there - driving Roberts sharp lyrics along. She once again indulged in another of the bawdy songs, The Banishing Book, she seems to add that little bit more enthusiasm for such songs, perhaps it's keeping alive the rebellious nature with which folk music is supposed to be infused.
Almost at the end of the set they laid Rusalka, a dark tale of mermaids, on the crowd which is another of those songs they seem to delight in and is designed to send the audience to bed looking over their shoulders and checking the dark corners before going to sleep.
It was Roberts at her best, her haunting lyrics having just enough of a scary edge almost like a witch queen from a Disney film theatrically gliding around and sending her warning to her potential victims. You have been warned!

Monday 23 February 2015



The last time Dave Pegg was playing, as part of Fairport Convention on his home patch, he had to send in his son Matt, as substitute, because of an operation on a tendon in his hand.

Back from left,Simon Nichol, Gerry Conway,
Ric Sanders.Front left Chris Leslie and Dave Pegg
This time he is back, pretty much fully fit and looking forward to getting back on stage in the city of his childhood.
“It's going to be great coming back to Birmingham Town Hall, it's my favourite gig 'coz I'm a Brummie and so is Ric Sanders, so for us it's like going home.”
Pegg was born and bred in Acocks Green and Sanders brought up in the Second City.
“We were there last year but I couldn't play, I cut a tendon in my finger. I'm playing again this year now it's almost completely recovered.”
In two years time Fairport will be 50 and by then Pegg will have been with them for all but the first two - Simon Nichol is the only founding member left.
The current line up of Pegg, Sanders, Nichol, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway, is the longest the band has had, at 18 years and it's in the middle of their winter tour promoting their first new studio album for four years, Myths and Heroes.
“I think the album is the best one we have made with this line-up," says Pegg with obvious enthusiasm. "Myths & Heroes is not quite a new direction for the band, but it's certainly a more complete view of where the band is at musically, in terms of influences and there's lots of new stuff on it.
“Chris, our multi-instrumentalist, has written most of the material and we've also got songs from our friends Ralph McTell and Anna Ryder, who's from Warwick," says Pegg, who spends most of his time in Brittany when not working in England.
“It's really worked out well, there aren't any so-called filler tracks on it; we don't rush to make albums and we will only put stuff out when we've got what we consider to be really good songs.”
Does that explain the four year gap between this and the last studio album?
“Yes,” says Pegg with a wry laugh.
When he joined did Pegg have any inkling that  Fairport would last this long and that he would end up being the lynch pin in it?
"Not really, when I joined Fairport it was exactly what I wanted to do. Joining for me was fantastic I was playing music that I really wanted to do, and I have stayed with them through all the changes and there have been 27 different people in those 46 years.
"But the nucleus of the band has been constant for the about the last 18," explains Pegg in what is still a discernible Brummie twang.
"We took over running our own affairs because at the end of the seventies the music business changed and it went from being all the little labels such as Island and Chrysalis, who really loved music, and it got taken over by accountants and became just a music industry, which is what it is nowadays.
Dave Pegg
"There is no interest or love lost between the artists and those who run the conglomerates and the big labels who are literally there to make money from them and if they don't, they go. It's a commodity business, the music industry nowadays.
"This is why we are glad we don't have anything to do with it. Because our commodity is stuff we want to record, it's never commercial for Fairport, it's always been a very honest style the band has come up with, and it's there because we like the music and not because we are trying to get into the charts."
So after at least 27 changes of personnel, how does Pegg explain Fairport surviving this long?
"We've managed to continue, almost non-stop, throughout the years, mainly by treading the boards rather than achieving vast album sales, but we have consistently gone out year after year and done this kind of winter tour.
"That's what's kept our audience, we've got people who are my age, I am 67, and we've got youngsters coming along because of the interest in the band from them coming to Cropredy*. Which is a very eclectic type of festival where there is something for everybody.
“We packed up in '79 because we thought we were too old to carry on what we were doing. It was when the music business started being run by accountants; it was also the punk era, so we thought 'we were really too old fashioned' and 'we shouldn't be doing this, we are out of context with musical tastes'.
“It was a bad idea," admits Pegg, "but we actually felt like that, because believe it or not we thought we were really old then, we were in our early 30s,” he laughs loudly.
“I didn't stop playing music because I was with Jethro Tull but then we started getting back together because of Cropredy and that's one of the reasons the continuity is there.
“We still love treading the boards. We all still love doing what we do and we hope we have kept our audience by being OK at it.”
The latest Faiport album
So is Fairport still in the folk-rock camp?
"It's a name that was allocated to Fairport way back in '69 when they made Liege & Lief and it's as good a description of what we do as anything.
"We don't do many traditional songs now, but our songs are all story songs, and they relate to things that have happened in history a lot of them, even though they are new songs.
“We are definitely not folkies, so the folk rock box kind of works.
“None of us are really traditional music players, we've all come from a rock background.
“I started in R&B, playing in groups such as The Uglys in Birmingham. I did join the Ian Campbell folk group for a year which is where I got my interest in traditional music.”
Does he have any thoughts on the future of Fairport?
"I don't have any plans to stop doing it, even though I am getting on and the bones feel it some times and occasionally I struggle on. I just love playing music and we are all the same I think, and hope there will always be a Fairport."

Fairport Convention are at the Town Hall, Birmingham Friday February 27. Show starts 7.30pm. Tickets are £24 plus usual booking fee. For more information visit

Myths & Heroes will be released on March 3 in CD and vinyl and in download formats.

*For those who don't know, Cropredy is  festival organised by Faiport in the village near Banbury of the same name. The festival has been going since the early 70s and has steadily grown over the years to be one of the major festivals on the folk calendar. Although it should be understood Cropredy is not purely a folk festival. Although it started off as a showcase for Fairport the bands and artists who play there come from a wide range of musical genres. For more information visit

Sunday 22 February 2015


Live Review

The Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford

The Jigantics, pronounced Jig-antics rather than gigantics, are an entertaining band. Individually they are impressive musicians and as a group even more so.

The Jigantics at The Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford.
From left, Rick Edwards, Marion Fleetwood,
Martin Fitzgibbon, Mark Cole and Lyndon Webb
However, it could be argued they need to decide whether they are going to be a band with a lead singer or a group which concentrates on being instrumental.
Should they decide the former then they need to get a dedicated lead singer in, if they decide the latter then all they need to do is carry on with what they are already doing and build on that.
This is not in any way to demean the efforts of Marion Fleetwood, Mark Cole or Martin Fitzgibbon who all sang on the night with varying degrees of success, but respectively they are much better fiddlers, accordion/harmonica players and drummer/percussionists. This observation does have reservations because Cole was suffering from a head cold so his efforts could well have been hamstrung.
This said, he performed a lacklustre version of the great bluegrass song, Man Of Constant Sorrow, he tried to inject a feeling of passion into the rendition but it didn't quite come off and the music was much better than the singing.
The same could be said of Fleetwood, who is an incredible fiddle player, when she performed The Valley. Unfortunately due also to sound issues she was often overpowered by Rick Edwards on the guitar, but when her fiddle playing could be heard it was gorgeous.
They provided an enjoyable mixture of cajun influenced music, bluegrass, blues, country and folk and their musical performances are flawless and full of life.
The Valley, which was a slow torch-style song from Fleetwood, was a little laboured and when Cole did a cover of Chuck Berry's 13 Questions his voice just didn't have the conviction or grit to carry off the heavy blues number.
The Jigantics are versatile and talented and there were highlights such as Fleetwood's fiddle playing on Willow however, when she sang Bad Liver & A Broken Heart her voice wasn't quite up to the job and faltered quite a few times and the same was true on the much softer Black Mountain Lullaby.
Drummer Fitzgibbon did a guest solo with the much-covered Lakes of Ponchartrain which he didn't seem confident in doing at all, there were times when you couldn't even hear his singing and others when he was totally overpowered by Edwards on guitar.
On tracks such as Mystery Train, they showed how well they play together as musicians but once again Cole's voice was neither strong or clear enough to compete with the impressive sound they were producing.
Their version of Hold On was a little rough and had more of a feel of a something from a working men's club cabaret night.
Musically The Jigantics are entertaining, versatile and play a wide range of styles and are a great live band but they need to find a definite voice.

You can see The Jigantics at Commonfolk Folk Club on May 21 at 8.30pm. The club meets at Pelsall Cricket & Sports Club, Walsall Road, Pelsall Walsall WS3 4BP

Wednesday 18 February 2015



If your future husband, musical partner and father of your children lives at the other end of the country then it can take a pretty strong talisman to bring the two parties together.

Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Fortunately for Kathryn Roberts she discovered the secret - raffle tickets.
Well, to be honest, there was a folk festival and a great deal of musical talent involved too.
"At the time I was working with Kate Rusby and Sean was working with his two brothers. We were all playing at Sidmouth Folk Festival in Devon,” admits singer/songwriter Roberts.
"Kate and I were also doing a bit of stewarding and selling raffle tickets. We kept pestering the boys, they didn’t buy any, but we ended up being good friends, and we just kept bumping into each other around the festival circuit.
"Kate and I went off to a festival in Portugal and we needed a band so we thought, ah the Lakemans, a ready-made band. We asked them to come and eventually that gave birth to Equation," admits the former Barnsley lass who now lives in Tavistock with husband Sean and their twin daughters Lily and Poppy.
Equation were a successful folk rock band who were picked up by a major label. They released four albums the first, Hazy Daze in 1998 and the last Return to Me in 2003. The line up was Roberts, husband Sean Lakeman and his brother Seth, Darren Edwards and Iain Goodall and later on they were joined by Irish songstress Cara Dillon
By the time they had reached their fourth album Sam, who subsequently went on to marry Dillon, had also joined the band. 
Sean, the eldest of the Lakeman brothers, along with Roberts was a driving force behind it and wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on the first two albums. Although still young, Lakeman was already a seasoned musician playing and touring with his brothers from a young age and he admits to being tremendously fortunate to be part of Equation.
"I am amazing lucky really, it was a brilliant band to be a part of. Being in Equation was an incredible experience, to be signed to such a major record label at such an early age," explained Lakeman. I remember being given a pile of records by the label, including Nick Drake, back when he wasn’t fashionable, and Tim Buckley and all these people we had never heard of. The label said this is great music, you should hear this. It broadened our musical horizons massively.
"Then being given the chance to go out and tour the States for five or six years, that was just an incredibly experience and we count ourselves very blessed to be part of that band.
"It was one of those folk rock bands which carried on that tradition from the 70s, with all the members going on and contributing to the folk and roots scene of Great Britain, it was a significant band."
But when Equation came to an end Lakeman and Roberts came to the conclusion it was time to get back to their folk roots.
Sean Lakeman
"We had been on the road for so long with the big sound, with drums, electric guitars and big stages that we felt we had lost touch with where our roots were. So it was a conscious decision to play British folk clubs, because we are still very passionate about what folk clubs stand for, and what they have given to us over the years," said Lakeman.
One thing Lakeman didn't have while playing and touring with Equation was a young family, so how does he and Kathryn now fit touring around them?
"We work it very much around school times; we have some very willing grandparents and we are very careful about juggling things. We are quite adept at it, we have been doing it for some time now.
“Sometimes our kids come on the road with us and sell the CDs, and they can wrap up the cables, they are quite adept at the touring lifestyle," he added.

Are they following their parents in showing interest in music?
"They are sort of, one of them got a drum kit for Christmas and they like to sing with their mum, but we don't push them or anything and they don't do formal music lessons."
Twins Poppy and Lily were responsible for the impressive and slightly eerie video to the single Child Owlet, from their parents’ new album, Tomorrow Will Follow Today. 
The girls being born had a massive impact on the couple’s work together which brought mixed blessings, especially for their mother.
"It was quite a difficult pregnancy and with twins as well. So I was ordered early on not to work, otherwise I would have put myself and the twins at risk," admits Roberts.
Kathryn Roberts
“So it was kind of enforced before they were born and then, once they were born, I just didn’t have the time or the energy.
“As I look back on it now, I consider myself very lucky. I was able to be a stay-at-home mum because so many aren’t given that opportunity. I think I am very grateful for it now, because it was a precious time and I think it did me good to have some time out of music, so when I came back, it was with a real fresh enthusiasm.
"For the first two years of their lives I had to focus on them because they needed the attention. There was no room in my brain for music and lyrics and those kind of things, but I sang a lot to the kids.
“At the time Sean was working hard with Seth, he was producing his album and touring with him. On the one hand it was great, because it afforded me the time to stay at home with the kids but also it was very hard because he was away a lot."

Did the young mother ever think in terms of permanently giving up music in favour of being a full-time parent?
"I think it changed my outlook on the world and my approach to things. My self-confidence grew, partly to do with getting older and being more comfortable with myself, and partly to do with having responsibility for other people, it changes the way you think. Prior to that I would be very shy or nervous about bringing new ideas to the table, even to Sean; just because you are laying out a little part of yourself to scrutiny.
"But all through that time we were getting phone calls asking when are you going to start touring? and when are you going to get back gigging? when can we book you? when are you coming back?
“And we kept saying not yet, I can’t do it yet.
"I think the girls were about three, three and a half when we did our first gig at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and then we did the Cecil Sharp Project and it was doing that which kick started me into wanting to get back into writing and singing again. I remember coming back from that, feeling enthused and ready to start the whole process again.

Cara Dillon who was part of Equation
So was it difficult to get back on the music stage?
"Once I had made that realisation that I was ready, it was brilliant; it just flowed very easily and it wasn’t hard to get back into. We just got stuck into recording and setting up gigs," admits Roberts.
"We worked out a work/life balance which we couldn’t have done without mine and Sean’s parents because it does take some juggling. We are very fortunate, they are very supportive and we have some brilliant friends in our village who help us so much.”
Evolving that work/life balance was another example of the teamwork which is clearly such a big part of their relationship.
“We work really well together,” confirms Lakeman, who is from Devon. “Kathryn is really creative and good at coming up with sparks and ideas, and I am quite good at fleshing them out and bringing them together as a package and giving them a sound.
“We work well as a team in all aspects, not just in the song writing, but in the live gigs and all sorts. We’ve both got different strengths and we play to those individually.
“I am very good as a sounding board and Kathryn is very good at sparking ideas. For example the song about the 52 hertz whale, (a track from their latest album Tomorrow Will Follow Today) came from a science journal she was reading.”
Roberts' voracious appetite for reading appears to be the basis for many of their songs.
“I never actively set out to look for a subject for songs,” admits the former Barnsley lass who now lives in Tavistock with her husband and their daughters. “I do read an awful lot and I am very undiscerning. I tend to hoover up everything I can, whether it’s online, in a library or just with our own books at home.
“There is always something which triggers an idea; makes me think ‘Ooh, I wonder if we could give that a little more depth, could that become a song?’ I have never consciously thought, ‘Today I will look for an interesting story that we can turn into a song and that will be today’s job done’, I have never been able to work like that.
“At home I have a big folder of ideas and half-formed stories for songs, and I tend to sit down with Sean and say right, is there anything which catches your fancy or piques your interest?
“Then we take it from there.
“We have both got to feel excited and enthused, because if one of us is only half-heartedly into something you don’t get a really good response and, you’re not really giving it your all. I have so many ideas in this folder that I don’t care if Sean says. ‘Nah, not that one and turns the page’, it’s fine, there’s another one there and I am quite happy for it to work in that way.”
Seth Lakeman
Once that process is started this is where Lakeman’s strengths for producing come into play. He has been in the music industry since he was a child. 
The elder brother of Seth and Sean, he has been an integral part of what many would class as a folk dynasty, he was instrumental in getting Seth's solo career up and running,  as well as being a highly respected musician in his own right.
Sean has produced their latest album, released on February 23, and his experience and passion for what he does means he is in demand in the studio and is respected throughout the industry. Perhaps one of the reasons for this that when it comes to putting tracks together, going through the motions is not on his agenda.
“I am passionate about what I do, and if you are making a record then it’s all consuming, so unless you feel that passion about the music, or artist, or material then you are not doing yourself or the artist justice.
“I enjoy just bringing out better performances from people, that’s what’s satisfying, and to be able to take people to places where they didn’t think they could go by themselves.”

Now that the album is complete and about to be released what are their favourite tracks?
The new album
"That’s very hard," complains Roberts. "That’s like asking to choose your favourite child." But after some thought she finally nails it down.
"I think A Song to Live By. For very personal reasons, not just because they are things we want to say to our little girls but they are the sort of things we want to say to everyone whether child or adult.
"I would like everyone to live by the things I have written, I would like to make myself live by them but it’s not always easy.
"The first three or four months of performing it, it was very difficult to get to the end of it. Sometimes I would get a bit of a wobble.”

And Lakeman's favourite?
"Probably Tomorrow Will Follow Today, the title track. There is such apathy around today and British folk music has a good tradition of being quite political but I think there's a gap, and that song says a lot."

Tomorrow Will Follow Today is released on the Iscream label on February 23 and will be available from the duo's website, by digital download and through Proper Music.

Roberts & Lakeman, supported by Hattie Briggs, are at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham on February 22 at 8pm, doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £10 but may incur a fee if booked online.
They are also playing The Convent, Stroud, on March 28, The Artrix, Bromsgrove on April 20, The Courtyard Arts Centre Hereford on April 22 and Stourport Civic Hall, Stourport on April 25.

The Mike Harding Folk Show