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Just discovered this quietly addictive little video from Rough Island Band, channelling their Scillonian charms into the epic Paul Simon tune ‘You can call me Al’.

Complete with oilskins, beanies and the backdrop of some unmistakably Cornish weather – the sort that falls somewhere indeterminate between dry and wet.

Forthcoming album ‘On all Sides’ released Saturday 19th April. www.roughislandband.com

Up-and-coming English folkies the Staves are playing a rather special gig on Sunday in Cornwall – by the sea, presumably alfresco, at the Hidden Hut on the Roseland (enjoying much foodie cachet en ce moment; Stein even recommended it last week in the Times). Seems like a pretty inspired collaboration to me – and one of their hits is even called ‘Facing West’.

As luck would have it, Read the rest of this entry »

Today I’m sending out the stirring, sincere sounds of James Findlay, who was the starring guest at Penzance Folk Club last night upstairs at the Benbow.

It’s been a couple of years since Findlay won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award but the early twentysomething must still have felt pretty fresh-faced when looking out over PZ folk club’s mature crowd. I am a big fan of traditional folk music – indeed the name of this blog is a tribute to mighty Cornish folkie Brenda Wootton – and it was a treat to have this rising star in our midst. I live in hope of a revival of a 1960s Count House-style folk music scene in West Cornwall… anyone fancy kicking things off?

www.jamesfindlay.co.uk

www.penzancefolk.co.uk

Click through for another vid from last night… Read the rest of this entry »

Shocking-quality phone vid for you of Dartmoor dweller Seth Lakeman’s sell-out show at the St Ives September Festival last night. You know you can rely on me for plenty of distortion on the sound, and erratic framing. Still, hopefully this snippet conveys something of his electric performance of eerie, insistent ‘Kitty Jay’ – in my view his finest song.

Btw, if you missed Botallack O Clock the other night, fret not: the excellent Third Man Theatre are performing their ambulatory show ‘The One that Got Away’ this week, meeting at the Guildhall: details here. Am hearing great, often surreal things.

PS I feel duty-bound to point you to the full version of Kitty Jay with crystal-clear sound.

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I’ve had a bath, downloaded my photos, and strewn muddy camping kit all over the lounge. After the non-stop stimulation and good vibes of Port Eliot Festival over the weekend, Monday morning from where I’m sitting is looking a little grey and boring.

But I still have many inspirational words ringing in my ears, so I thought I’d write a blog post before they are drowned out by the pile of admin tasks. As someone tweeted last night: “Back from Port Eliot with serious festival state of mind. Do I go back to work tomorrow, or set up an organic cider press in Cornwall? Sigh”.

The journalistic shorthand for writing about Port Eliot is to say that it is incredibly posh. Well, it turns out Read the rest of this entry »

What do you make of all this then?

My mouse-clicking finger looked sharp today when I received an email with a link promising a ‘punked-up version’ of old-as-you-like Cornish folk song Lil’ Eyes.

This little blast of Cornish anarchy comes care of a band called Crowns – a rocky, folky, Pogues-inspired band made up of four 21-year-old Cornish lads from Lanson currently living in exile (while Read the rest of this entry »

On account of semi-comatose stints by the wood burner, brought on by the repeated appearance of a family-sized tub of Rodda’s and vats of egg nog, this video of Montol is going out a week late.

As in previous years, it was a suitably elemental, quirky affair up on the beacon: full moon; big fire; masked people; music in a minor key; person dressed in horse skull.

And with it belated happy festivities from pasties & cream!

www.montol.co.uk

acorn arts centre penzance

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it emerged that the Acorn Arts Centre building had been ‘saved’. The venue as we knew it has closed for now – it’s looking sorry for itself – but the trustees are currently in discussion about how to secure the Acorn’s future and, crucially, how to make it more financially viable. After the Poly’s rebirth in Falmouth, I feel more hopeful!

I was a regular at the Acorn before it closed – in the past few years I’ve seen the Portico Quartet twice, Brother & Bones, Hedluv & Passman at the cabaret, Mark Steel is in Town, Patrick Gale giving a talk, singer-songwriter Jenny Bishop, superb comedians Robin Ince and Dan Antopolski – so I feel quite alarmed at the thought of west Cornwall without this intimate cultural venue, the only dedicated arts centre in the far west.

Rightly, the trustees are keen to find a formula for the Acorn that makes it financially sustainable, and to that end they are seeking the opinions of their audience. My god, I couldn’t click on the link to the online survey quick enough!

“Question 2. The Acorn has presented a varied programme of professional theatre in the past five years but I would have preferred a more popularist/entertainment programme.” STRONGLY DISAGREE!

Please not another Hall for Cornwall-type programme of expensive, mainstream acts. I know it’s all very well me throwing my hands up in horror but they must of course find a way to make money – maybe the key is in making the atmospheric basement bar into a standalone arty bar-bistro? I’ve happily sustained a number of San Miguel hangovers after drinking in there.

Be sure to have your say by clicking here (it only takes a few minutes).

Some one-off performances are taking place and Miracle Theatre’s ‘Beauty and the Beast from Mars’ is playing the Acorn tonight, Wednesday 15 December, and Thursday 16 December at 7.30pm; call 01872 262466 or book online at http://www.miracletheatre.co.uk

God, I love the first line of the new Fishy Friends’ single: ‘Come all jolly fellows who delight in being mellow’! As the most mellow pop stars on the circuit, it’s a brilliant opener.

The new single, out last week on iTunes etc, is called Farmer’s Toast – an old English drinking song basically about good honest folk who work the land (ploughing and things) and, when they’re done for the day, like a quiet pint. As we have come to expect of the unlikely shanty-singing celebs from Port Isaac, the single combines clear, unaffected vocals with a rousing instrumental chorus and a gentle blast of Cornish village pub rowdiness.

Now I like this sort of thing – I’m into shanties, male voice choirs and dusty old Cornish folk music that draws a blank on Amazon and youtube – but the thing that keeps taking me by surprise with the Fishy Crew is how many other people seem to like them too. Sell-out shows, a film being made about them, label-mates with Amy Winehouse…

And with the local food movement in full force in Cornwall (watch out for Cornishfoodmarket.co.uk, a hopeful online competitor to the big four), looking like it actually might be more than just a passing trend, this song is old-fashioned yet also rather timely.

They have just announced a date at the Minack for next May – better be quick. Also, a Christmas single is on the way, so I heard.

www.fishermansfriendsportisaac.co.uk. Click on the links for my previous blog posts a) reviewing the Fisherman’s Friends album and b) harping on more about their mellowness when they first burst on the scene.

“Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.”

These are the words from the strangely magnetic song sung en masse by the people of Padstow every year at Obby Oss – the town’s (probably Celtic) may day festivities.

My mum says the communal singing, the spring flowers and the beat of the drum always involuntarily bring a lump to her throat. Thinking about it, the lyrics are rather emotive and hopeful. (Modern translation: thank god for that – couldn’t have taken any more Cornish drizzle, please can we have a summer this year or I might have to emigrate.)

Obby Oss was a nice warm-up for Flora Day in Helston this Saturday (8 May) – as far as I’m concerned Read the rest of this entry »

A few weeks ago everyone (including pasties + cream here) got all frothed up about the quirky story in which ten low-key Cornish fishermen from Port Isaac hit the big time with a million-pound Universal Music deal. Now the first reviews of the album are rolling in. So, how did the boys measure up?

Well, the Guardian review gives ‘Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends’ three stars, declaring it ‘the folk curiosity album of the year’ and describing the tracks as ‘gutsy work songs, mostly sung full-tilt’, but also ‘a bit plodding and respectful’.

The Indie meanwhile found it a ‘fulsome blend of baritones and tenors’, which ‘brings their repertoire of far-flung seafaring ballads to burly life’.

I agree with a lot of that (phew – I was feeling all protective). This is a hugely Read the rest of this entry »

I’m loving the story in the news today about the Cornish shanty singers from Port Isaac called Fisherman’s Friends, who randomly landed a £1 million recording contract with Universal (same label as Lady Gaga) after a music producer happened to be drinking in their local pub.

There is a long tradition of acapella shanty singing in Cornish pubs on a Friday night – it typically involves a group of bearded men with deep voices, a lot of warm ale and much swaying (the pub at Cadgwith even has handles on the ceiling for this purpose).

Inevitably, the lads (aged 50-70) have cleaned up their act a bit for the video (you know, washed the salt out of their hair) but I can’t get enough of the low-key reactions from the singers in interviews.

I heard one interviewed on Radio Cornwall this morning whose expectations seemed nothing if not grounded: ‘If I get a nice family holiday out of it, well, I’d be thrilled.’

And from another:

‘We don’t really know what to expect, to be honest – we’re just making it up as we go along. We are booked in for a few festivals, we’ve got a slot at Glastonbury, but I don’t really know too much about it. We might just be playing behind the bar.’

I’m posting two videos, first the tidied up new Universal video (do I hear a touch of Mumford & Sons?) and the second: shakier, low-definition footage of them singing classic shanty ‘South Australia’ on the beach at Port Isaac.

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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