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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 »

For a couple of years I think I didn’t quite get Golowan. I was busy trying to find out what was happening where, searching the scant printed information for details – it all seemed too scattergun to get a handle on. Now of course I realise that this is absolutely the point of it, and its beauty.

It’s about the chaos and the wandering, the random discoveries, with mini stages and micro events on every street – some planned, some not. As Old Mike rightly said in his column in The Cornishman last week, Golowan is not supposed to be anything as divisive or elite as an ‘arts festival'; it’s a community festival and it represents Penzance perfectly in all its fruity glory.

This guy, who was kicking up dust on Greenmarket at a mere 10.30am, was a particular highlight – anyone catch his name?

 

A good Golowan is being had by all this week, with Mazey Day as giddy and chaotic as ever yesterday. Here’s the beginning of the morning parade for those who missed Mazey or who enjoyed it so much they already want to relive it. Quay Fair Day is cranking into action today on the prom – check website below for events.

www.golowan.org

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 »

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.

www.tremenheere.co.uk

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.

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.

blas-restaurant st ives cornwall

blas burgerworks, the st ives burger people

One of my favourite Penwith restaurants – tiny Blas Burgerworks in St Ives – has teamed up with one of my favourite Penwith singer-songwriters – Gulval’s Jenny Bishop –  for a night of gourmet burgers and emotionally charged acoustic songs to celebrate its fourth birthday on Saturday 13th March.

Being an absolutely minute space – the average size of a Cornish cottage living room (which is what it probably once was) – Blas is really just a cosy cluster of tables and a scattering of stools made from recycled materials. All have already been nabbed for the 8.45-9.30pm sitting; book now for a perch at the earlier 7.30-8.15pm session.

Blas makes a good case for specialising – they only do one dish, but they’ve nailed it. Cornish-sourced, freerange burgers with chunky chips start at £8.

The scary prospect of Pizza Express setting up in the old Woolworths premises in St Ives is enough to make me want to add extra weight to my praise. Blas represents everything that ‘new’ St Ives does well: it’s small, creative, sensitive and a one-off.

jenny bishop cornwall

singer-songwriter jenny bishop

portico quartet play acorn, cornwall

portico quartet - isla

I was mesmerised by the Portico Quartet when they played a sell-out date the Acorn last year – in fact, it was probably my gig of the year. I could try and describe their music – modern jazz-classical crossover? instrumental folk meets world music? four outrageously talented blokes? – but nothing really works, so I’ll just say: don’t miss it.

They are playing the Acorn again on Saturday 27th March on the final date of their Isla tour. Considering how close you get to the artists at the Acorn, £12 seems like a steal.

Here’s a taster –  the upturned barbecue is the hang by the way, the instrument that gives the group their uniquely mellow sound.

brenda wootton pasties and cream cornwall

brenda wootton - pasties and cream

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.

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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