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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?
Click through for another vid from last night… Read the rest of this entry »
Some smooth, Friday afternoon tones for you from rising folky Kezia, Cornwall’s answer to Ellie Goulding (she is going to get sick of that one but it has to be said). She’s playing at the ridiculously nice new Lime Tree Cafe at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden tomorrow evening – free entry.
Check out how moody and cool the Jubilee Pool is looking in its close-up in The xx new video Chained, from the album Coexist, out now. Very taken with Penzance’s handsome lido, they were apparently. The underwater shots were filmed subsequently in a water tank. Ha! Don’t blame them – tis chilly in there.
Enjoying the announcement of a micro-festival at Barefoot (the place I was rave-blogging about the other day) over the Easter weekend to celebrate the launch of their surf school and record label – uh-huh, a record label on our very own Lizard Peninsula. It’s £30 for a day ticket (£45 for the weekend) but I see BF have managed to lure some interesting folky/acoustic names to the deep south, plus it is being opened by none other than Michael Eavis (if ever there was a good festival omen…).
I’ve been checking out the artists, and here are the ones that caught my eye. The beard count is reassuringly high.
Matthew P (summery acoustic…)
Harry Fricker (guitar-as-drum)
It was a rare, surreal but ultimately life-affirming sight to behold late-middle-aged Truro types unbutton their smart Jaeger coats at Hall for Cornwall last night and party like it was 1979, belting out the lyrics to ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ like they meant it even more now than they did in 1979.
Respect to the cast of ‘Reasons to be Cheerful‘ for this achievement and numerous high-voltage standing ovations. The show – delivered by an endlessly energetic cast – is a part-gig, part-play spectacle inspired by the life and music of Ian Dury and it’s playing Hall for Cornwall tonight and tomorrow.
Click through for more pics Read the rest of this entry »
Now Kernow is some way from the city (no, not that one, I mean the city). And every time I get that donkey of a FGW train, it feels ever so slightly further. But for one day a year, on St Piran’s Day fittingly, Cornwall gets its moment of fame in London for the ‘Kernow in the City‘ event, showcasing Cornish artists, music and film.
There are to be real Cornish pasties and ale, live shows from the Crowns and the Loose Salute, Cornish language workshops, visual arts, plus singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph, who I’ve never seen live, though I am fond of the sweet chorus I have posted above. Touch of the David Gray? That’s alright, that’s alright…
Sat 10 March 7pm, £10 adv / £12 door. Rich Mix. More info on Kernow in the City here.
This is one of my favourite carols, the St Day Carol (or Sans Day Carol), thought to originate from St Day, near Redruth, in the 19th century. It was translated from Cornish roughly to the lyrics of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ – and I think the melody has a lovely lilt, as demonstrated by these charming chaps with stunning ‘taches.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas. May your days be laden with Rodda’s and lit by gently flashing fairy lights. And may your mornings-after be quickly and painlessly cured by sea breezes. See you in 2012 – thanks for reading my Cornish miscellany. Back dreckly.
Just wanted to throw a link to casio duo Hedluv + Passman‘s long-awaited video of Cornish anthem, Doin it Dreckly, which is gathering momentum in these parts. Sumptuously filmed on the streets of Redruth. Love them.
I finally made it to Kneehigh’s Asylum of awesomeness last night for The Wild Bride. As promised by everyone, it was pure Kneehigh, spell-binding, funny and dark. It probably isn’t very useful posting about this on the last day of its Cornish run but if you can get your hands on a ticket GO! It’s moving on to Hammersmith after tomorrow, where presumably it won’t take place in a field.
www.kneehigh.co.uk; public wealth warning: tickets £23! Tickets for London shows start at £12.. mm.
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 »
Watching them dismember rock songs on titchily tiny ukuleles is a formula that never seems to fail (which may be why they sell out hundreds of gigs a year).
It’s a relentlessly entertaining, semi-ironic show but musically it’s no joke – these people are slick pickers. Even Ralph 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 »
As some of you will know, pasties & cream – as well as being the name of my humble blog – is the title of a seminal Cornish folk album (and song) by the late, great Brenda Wootton.
A folk singer from Newlyn, born with an extraordinary, pure voice, Brenda is to the county of Cornwall what Edith Piaf is to France, or Mercedes Sosa to Argentina. Clearly Cornwall is, ahem, a lot smaller, and those singers are infinitely more famous, but the stories and music share a number of similarities.
Brenda has been gone some time – she died in 1994 – and fans like me had to make do with her old, classic albums, most no longer even in production. Until, that is, a sound engineer in Porthleven unearthed a box of previously unheard, master tapes in his loft of a concert Brenda Wootton gave in the Bobino Theatre in Paris in 1984.
Against the odds, the tapes were in amazing condition and, after being remastered, have just been released as a new album entitled ‘All of Me’. I got given a copy for Christmas and… Read the rest of this entry »
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
I had the good fortune of hearing about the Gilad Atzmon and Orient House Ensemble gig at the St Ives Club last Friday care of the St Ives Jazz Club. I saw that the Guardian had given it four stars at Ronnie Scott’s the previous week; they said: “A shrewd pacer of live shows, Atzmon steered tonight’s performance from ambiguous, unsettling microtonal and geographical drifts between the west and the Middle East, toward an optimistic, conventionally tempered finale on Wonderful World, pulled off without a hint of cheesiness.”
I wouldn’t say we are spoiled for ‘microtonal and geographical drifts’ in these parts so it’s fair to say I jumped on it. Held at the old-fashioned Western Hotel in St Ives, the St Ives Jazz Club does an impressive job of making it feel like a bona fide jazz club with near darkness, tealights and even some men in black-rimmed glasses. And the music was superb – tight, irreverent and diverse.
Here are a few clips I took on the sly (trying to hide the phone from the jazz purists). Check this amazing drum solo – watch this guy, he’s called Eddie Hick:
More tracks at myspace: http://www.myspace.com/orienthouse
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.
I’ve seen these guys busking in Penzance a few times – and it’s always been a huge, mood-enhancing bonus to hear their close harmonies and banjo playing while going about my lunchtime chores.
So, it turned out at the Last Cabaret at the Acorn the other weekend (where I took this vid), that The-banjoing-buskers-from-Causewayhead-and-occasionally-if-drizzly-the- bottom-of-the-stairs-by-Abbey-National are actually a regularly gigging group – called Flats and Sharps.
Ha ha, or at least they were until yesterday. Having only just discovered them in earnest, I felt quite stricken to go on their Facebook page to find this statement posted just yesterday: “Unfortunately, Flats and Sharps as from today are no longer a band. Thank you for all your support.”
All is not lost: two members – Kirk (banjo, vocal, harmonica) and Liam (vocals, guitar) – have formed a yet-to-be-named duo playing a similar mix of bluegrass and country. Hallelujah, I’m ready!
Keep an eye out for them – they are young, funny, and disgracefully confident and talented.
Check out Kirk & Liam’s facebook page for gig dates etc.
Brother & Bones were accompanied by a full string and brass section and the high-emotion, epic sound was – and I’m trying not to say this too lightly – quite reminiscent of Muse. Impressive stuff. Check out their myspace.
I tried to get some footage on my iPhone of their more high-octane songs but it distorted (far too much energy, it seems, for such a small mic) but this sweet acoustic lullaby came out sort of OK for the first half. Sorry must do better!
And here, by polar contrast, is a masterclass in how to make a VERY cool music video of the wilds of west Cornwall – the lead singer Rich of Brother & Bones doing a more slidey guitar thing:
In the absence of an official music vid for ‘Into the fire’ by Thirteen Senses on YouTube, I was quite amused to find this Grey’s Anatomy sequence to the tune instead. Apologies for the gross & gory still that comes up before you start the video (and the even grosser snogging scenes)…
It’s catchy, isn’t it? Thirteen Senses formed in a bedroom in Penzance, though they have since flown the Cornish nest and released three albums – and it is oft quoted (in seemingly every article ever written about them, so I didn’t want to be an exception) that they are the only Cornish band to have had a top 20 single (with Thru the Glass).
Check their myspace here.
With the fight to save the Poly in Falmouth just a few months ago (now reopened as the Falmouth Cinema) and the ongoing battle over the harbour, it came as a blow to find out yesterday about yet another struggle: to save the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance. It will be closing its doors after the summer if it cannot find more funding to become economically viable.
I feel passionately about the Acorn – not only is it an incredibly atmospheric old building, with an unusual and intimate auditorium, but it’s also got some of the best arts programming in Cornwall. It was just the other week that I was raving about seeing the Portico Quartet there (twice) – it was a privilege to see this sort of serious act from just a few metres away, with a nice cold bottle of Corona in hand and twinkling tea lights all around.
It is testament to the importance of such a venue in west Cornwall that within hours of the news breaking, people had started signing petitions, and joining Facebook pages. Let’s hope it works – here are the links to support them (but buying tickets for shows this summer will also help):
Acorn Arts Centre, Parade Street, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 4BU, http://www.acornartscentre.co.uk
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.
Today I’m blogging from the Jam, a vintage-chic record/book shop-cum-coffee shop in Falmouth from the comfort of a bashed-up chesterfield armchair.
Good coffee. Tightly curated stock: Susan Sontag, Julian Barnes, New York style bibles (intrigued by ‘Rebel Style’; must remember to be more rebelliously stylish) and black and white postcards of Jubilee Pool share the book tables. Great for the sort of record-geek chat lacking in the Amazon age. Tiny wish: the Italianate cakes and biscuits were good but packaged – a fresh chocolate cake would have been nice.
(PS Can someone open somewhere like this in Penzance please?).
Crucial though pasties and Rodda’s are, I don’t intend to blog solely about Cornish delicacies. The name of my blog in fact comes from the seminal 1971 west Cornish folk album by Brenda Wootton and John the Fish. (Penwith dwellers, check out the broadsheet-format Cornishman newspaper on the table.)
Among the salty classics on the album is the title song, a patriotic number bathed in old-time Cornish pride. ‘Pilchard and herring that sparkle and gleam’, Wootton trills, ‘Though we may roam, Cornwall’s our home’. And I suppose that seemed like a fitting start to my blog: I moved back to Cornwall 18 months ago and fancied blogging (and maybe even a bit of flogging and vlogging) about life in the far west.
The song in question seems to have slipped through the holes in the Net, so I’ll direct you instead to this crackly old footage of Brenda Wootton and her bird-like tones for now.