What can you expect from this “little piece of heaven”, tucked away on a glorious riverside site in the heart of Shrewsbury? Some of most established artists from the UK alongside acts celebrating folk music and dance from across the world. They’ll take you on a voyage of discovery, bringing you ever-changing musical colours with their breathtaking performances.
But Shrewsbury Folk Festival is about more than just music. With a warm welcome from our volunteer stewards, we can promise a relaxed atmosphere with time for you to explore our festival site with its four sound stages, dance tent and specialist venues for our children’s and youth festivals. There are workshops galore to try, a magnificent food village, real ale and cocktail bars, craft fair, free buses into Shrewsbury town centre, pub sessions, and a great campsite.
Most of all, you are never an outsider here – you don’t need a lifetime of folk experience to have a good time and sticking your finger in your ear is optional! Whoever you are, you’ll find SFF a welcoming, happy and inspiring place to spend your festival holiday.
Jethro Tull’s legendary guitarist Martin Barre will bring his new show with former band members Dee Palmer and Clive Bunker to the festival. Other new announcements include an exclusive UK festival performance from American activist and musician Rev. Seckou; Irish band Jiggy whose video Silent Place took the internet by storm clocking up more than 30m views; Cajun Country Revival which hails from Louisiana, USA, with special guest Vera van Heeringen; American alt-country blues musician Amythyst Kiah; blues and world music trio Michael Messer’s Mitra; and the return of Jim Moray’s Kingstone Press Folk Slam as the traditional finale on the festival’s Pengwern stage.
Already revealed are a host of top folk, roots and singer songwriters including Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders with the Hi Riders Soul Revue, Oysterband, Kate Rusby, Capercaillie, Martyn Joseph, Skerryvore, Daphne’s Flight, American trio Birds of Chicago, Gary Stewart’s Graceland, Phil Beer Band, Steve Knightley, Merry Hell, Edgelarks, Grace Petrie, Urban Folk Quartet and many more.
There will also be a special day of programming on the Pengwern Stage by duo Chris While and Julie Matthews to celebrate 25 years of their musical partnership. They have chosen Blair Dunlop, Burden of Paradise, singer songwriter Charlie Dore and former Fairground Attraction lead singer Eddi Reader and another act to be announced to perform on Sunday August 25, which will be topped off with a show by the While & Matthews Big Band.
Currently Oysterband consists of founder members John Jones (vocal, melodeon), Alan Prosser (guitars, vocal), and Ian Telfer (violin, keyboard, vocal) with Dil Davies (drums), Al Scott (bass guitar, mandolin, vocal), and Adrian Oxaal (cello, guitar, vocal).
At first – around 1978 – purely a dance band (“The Oyster Ceilidh Band”), we soon started experimenting with radical arrangements of traditional songs and with home recording, and even put out 4 albums in the early 80s. These sound harmless enough now, but at the time their home-made, try-anything attitude was controversial. We were determined that traditional music should not be just a branch of the heritage industry.
Other musicians came and went. The name shortened to The Oyster Band. We began to learn how to write songs. In 1985 we met a new roots-music label, Cooking Vinyl. Step Outside (1986), with Ian Kearey on bass and Russ Lax on drums, was their first release. We went on to make 9 studio albums with them.
In the late 80s we toured almost continuously. As well as territories opened up by our new record company in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and North America, and shows with similar-minded artists such as Michelle Shocked and Billy Bragg, we toured for the British Council in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco. Travel on this scale had a powerful impact on our attitudes to the world and on our songwriting.
It also made normal domestic life difficult. First Ian Kearey left in 1988, to be replaced by Ray Cooper; then when Russ Lax left in 1990 Ray called up his old friend drummer Lee Partis. The name shortened again at this point to Oysterband. Russ’s last act was to record Freedom And Rain with us and the great English folk diva June Tabor. Although it was essentially a covers collection, the songs were shrewdly chosen, and the album was very well received, particularly in the US. “Imagine if Aerosmith and Madonna announced they were to tour together??!!?” said Rolling Stone, excitably.
Meanwhile in the UK the ground was shifting. As we were expanding from a folk background, others were expanding from a rock background in a folk direction, and the convergence became a new scene. The Pogues, The Levellers, The Waterboys, Celtas Cortos….we found ourselves working in a different context, often called “Celtic” (though the word seems to mean something different in every country). The US became harder, but we acquired new audiences in the UK, Germany and Spain. The high-point of this period is probably Holy Bandits(1993); the first song “When I’m Up I Can’t Get Down” was later a substantial hit for Great Big Sea in Canada. (Thanks, guys!)
By 1997 our relations with Cooking Vinyl had cooled somewhat. We didn’t seek a new contract, but we co-operated with the preparation of a “Best Of” 2-CD collection, Granite Years (2000), covering the years 1986-1997. In 2003 we were honoured to receive the “Good Tradition” award at the BBC Folk Awards, and in 2005 were voted “Best Group”.
Lee Partis spent some years training as a counsellor/therapist, even while drumming and singing for Oysterband. In 2008 he fulfilled a long-term ambition and left us to work in a prison in the north of England, possibly a first in the history of the entertainment industry. The very experienced Dil Davies then took over the drummer’s stool.
In recent years, we’ve consciously tried to evolve our songwriting beyond the clichés of the “Celtic” style, and with Rise Above (2002) and especially Meet You There (2007) we think we’re getting somewhere. Meet You There was hailed widely at the time as our best recording ever.
However, just when we were thinking of taking a tea-break, everything was turned upside down again by the remarkable success of our reunion album with June Tabor, Ragged Kingdom, released in 2011. Waiting 21 years to make a follow-up to Freedom & Rain may seem perverse, but hey! both parties were seriously busy. We never lost our friendship with June in the meantime, and even played the occasional show together; and one day the time just seemed right to try recording together again. Ragged Kingdom gained us 3 more BBC Folk Awards (Best Album, Best Group and Best Trad Track, plus Folk Singer of the Year for June). We toured it very enjoyably through 2012 and 2013 and featured on BBC TV’s Later….with Jules Holland.
In early 2014 we put out a collection of new material, Diamonds On The Water. The 6-piece line-up with Al Scott and Adrian Oxaal is getting well bedded in, and gigs are possibly even more fun now than they’ve ever been. We’re beginning to contemplate doing a “Best Of… Vol 2” to cover the years since 1999. Even after so long a career, we can’t help feeling the most fruitful time might be right now.
Eddi Reader grew up in Glasgow and Irvine, Scotland and it was in those towns that she learned to use music as a vehicle for communicating with others through busking and performing at the local folk clubs.
In the early 1980s, Eddi travelled around Europe with circus and performance artists before moving to London where she quickly became a sought after session vocalist. She famously harmonized with Annie Lennox touring with the Eurythmics, after her time with successful punk outfit Gang of Four. It was the short-lived but warmly remembered Fairground Attraction that really brought her into the limelight and to the attention of a much wider audience. The single Perfect and parent album First of a Million Kisses both topped the British charts.
However, it was her subsequent albums which signalled her increasing ability to assimilate different musical styles and make them all very much her own. Her unerring instinct for fine material, whether self penned, collaborative or a carefully chosen cover version resulted in Mirmama(1992), Eddi Reader (1994), Candyfloss & Medicine (1996), Angels & Electricity (1998), Simple Soul (2001).
Through these years Eddi based herself in London, but in 2001 she decided to move home to Glasgow where she recorded the classic Songs Of Robert Burns album released to international acclaim in 2003.
Awarded the MBE in 2006 for services to singing, she took her Burns songs on tour all over the world and found connections to the bard everywhere from Kolkata, India to Sydney, Australia. In 2006 she released Peacetime on Rough Trade Records featuring the finest traditional players in the United Kingdom and produced by Folk Musician of The Year, John McCusker. Constant touring with her band has created a magical organic chemistry between Eddi and her players and the results of this relationship can be found on her most recent release.
From the traditional to the contemporary, Eddi brings joyous life to all forms of song. Her taste in co-writers, writers, songs and players is impeccable and anything with her name on it is guaranteed musical treasure. Whilst the perfection of her technique is widely acknowledged, what sets Reader apart is the depth and quality of the emotional performance; her ability not only to move the listener but to connect her experience to that of her audience. Her passion and instinct move people in a way reminiscent of those who have influenced her work. Her rare blend of meltingly true vocals and towering romanticism combine with an astute and pragmatic nature to make her a unique and powerful figure in contemporary British music. She has effortlessly developed into one of popular music’s most thrilling and affecting performers.
Throughout their career Capercaillie have drawn on two great strengths to inspire them. The first of these is the astonishing musical dexterity of the various fiddle, whistle, flute and pipe who have performed with them over the years, lead by the accordion and keyboards of band founder Donald Shaw. The other foundation of the band has been the peerless voice of co-founder Karen Matheson, described by Sean Connery as having “a throat that is surely touched by God”. Universally recognised as one of the finest Gaelic singers alive today, Karen’s exquisite voice has been at the centre of the band’s music, whether breathing new life into 400 year old Gaelic songs or bringing her luscious vocals to the band’s contemporary compositions…
There have been many milestones for a band who have sold over a million albums world wide. These include three silver and one gold album in the UK, the first Gaelic Top 40 single, writing the music for, and appearing in the Hollywood movie “Rob Roy”, and performing in over thirty countries including Iraq, Macedonia and the Sudan.
Capercaillie have been credited with being the major force in bringing Celtic music to the world stage, and their unique fusion of Gaelic culture and contemporary sound has always stretched boundaries in their quest to keep the music evolving.
It is a mighty long way from Oban High School to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Baghdad, but Capercaillie have made this journey and stopped off at many other exotic locations along the way. However, their greatest achievement has been to mould a central strand of their Gaelic heritage into a fresh, new sound, capable of reaching out to the ears and hearts of people all over the world.
Forever proud to call herself a folk singer, Kate’s beautiful, expressive vocals never fail to connect the emotional heart of a song to that of her audience. The crossover appeal Kate enjoys is unprecedented for a folk singer and has been achieved without resort to compromise.
As early as 1999, aged just 26, Kate was named as one of the Top Ten Folk Voices of the Century. Everything she has done since has confirmed the foresight of those who bestowed that honour. From being a nominee for 1999’s Mercury prize – almost unheard of for a folk singer both then and now – for her stunningly assured second solo album, Sleepless, to 2016’s enthralling Life In A Paper Boat, Kate has stayed true to her folk and acoustic roots.
Winter Wilson hit 2018 at full speed with the stunning new album “Far Off on the Horizon”, and a tour with folk rock legends Fairport Convention. Their 2019 schedule maintains the momentum, including tours of Australia, Canada and Europe, plus the release of “Live & Unconventional”, an album recorded live on the tour and featuring Fairport.
Kip Winter and Dave Wilson bring a sense of intimacy to every venue, blending superb, often hard-hitting original songs, stunning harmonies and musicianship with hilarious tales of life on the road.
Kip (vocals, accordion, guitar, flute) “simply has a voice to die for” (John Roffey, Maverick Magazine),whilst Dave (vocals, guitar and banjo) is rightly recognized as being amongst the top tier of British songwriters, with his songs covered by some of folk’s “greats”. Together, their voices are sublime. “In 30 years of listening to folk music, I have never heard two voices blend so perfectly” (David Aird, Chairman, Glenfarg Folk Club)
But it’s in live performance where these two really excel. Every show is different, but entertainment is key. That’s why so many clubs and festivals book them time and again. Singing out for the underdog in glorious harmony and a hat full of laughs for good measure.
Michael Messer’s Mitra
Michael Messer’s Mitra (pronounced ‘meetra’) – nominated in the ‘Best Group of the Year’ category in the Songlines Music Awards – is a trio comprising British blues innovator and slide guitarist, Michael Messer, Hindustani slide guitar maestro from Mumbai India, Manish Pingle, and London-based tabla master, Gurdain Singh Rayatt.
Mitra is a unique musical trio and a true musical friendship. A unique fusion of blues slide guitar, Hindustani classical slide guitar and tabla rhythms.
This is more than another meeting of musicians from different cultures, this is a band with a successful album and its own unique sound – an exhilarating and highly accessible fusion of blues and Hindustani classical music. With vocals, slide guitars and tabla, these three musicians from opposite sides of the globe create a fascinating musical journey, running from the banks of the Mississippi, via London, to Mumbai and the Ganges delta.
The album, Call Of The Blues, was released in 2016 and was immediately picked up by the blues, folk and world music media, getting worldwide radio airplay and press coverage in more than 40 countries and hitting #1 in the iTunes blues chart. Since the release of the album Michael Messer’s Mitra have done six successful UK tours, including shows at London’s Bush Hall, Green Note, Musicport festival, Shambala festival, and many of the UK’s leading venues.
2019 and Call Of The Blues is still getting played on radio worldwide, including two BBC appearances in February – a live BBC Radio 2 sessionon Cerys Matthews Blues Show and airplay on BBC Radio 2 The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe.
Described by Mark Radcliffe as a “brilliant singer-songwriter and true troubadour with a social conscience, “Somerset singer-songwriter Reg Meuross is now touring with new album 12 Silk Handkerchiefs and characters from 12 other superb albums.
And it’s not all protest, as well as story songs which bring characters from history to life and comment on life around him, Reg also writes and sings some of the most heart aching love songs ever written, performed with depth and spellbinding delivery. “There’s something special about the way he writes and delivers a song” said Townes Van Zandt. Reg has that rare gift of being able to touch people through his songs and performance, on a really human level, his words and music painting pictures that remain with the listener long after the song has been sung, accompanying himself masterfully on guitar and captivating audiences with his beautiful tenor voice.
‘Blair Dunlop is a cult hero, an artist whose work is adored by those who come across it.‘ – CLASH MUSIC
Following the release of his critically acclaimed 4th album ‘Notes From An Island’, award winning British guitarist, singer and songwriter Blair Dunlop plays 16-UK shows this autumn. Looking forward to performing the new songs live, Blair thinks the record is “easily my best yet, and it should translate really well to a live show”.
Blair is one of Britain’s best kept musical secrets and 2018 looks set to be the year where he receives the recognition he deserves in the UK and abroad. Daily Telegraph Australia described ‘Notes From An Island’ as “a massively impressive collection of songs from a young man with talent to burn” in their 4 star review, comparing Blair to the likes of legendary artists Jackson Brown, Richard Thompson and Ralph McTell.
A natural storyteller and gifted guitarist Blair will be joined on stage by long term band mates Fred Claridge and Jacob Stoney. The set will consist of new tracks from this most recent release as well as hits from his previous 3 albums – ‘Gilded’, ‘House Of Jacks’ and debut ‘Blight And Blossom’ which won Blair the coveted Horizon Award at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
With its timely mix of socio-political insights, tender love tales and impressive virtuosic guitar playing, ‘Notes From An Island’ is very much an album which reflects the age in which it has been created. Nevertheless, as with everything Blair does, it is fuelled by a desire to keep moving forwards, break down barriers and maintain the integrity which has established him as a favourite of not just a growing body of fans but of radio programmers and critics.
His guitar playing, always impressive, has taken another quantum leap, at least in part because of his love affair with his new Gretsch, on which he wrote most of the songs. “Dunlop is an adept guitarist whose epic songwriting instincts prevail on a personal-political fourth album” MOJO
Birds of Chicago
“Birds of Chicago seduce us with their joyous, intimate, spare, rousing, soaring vocals and their hauntingly evocative lyrics.” No Depression.
Birds of Chicago have been riding a swell of good mojo in the Americana world since their inception in late 2012. With their new album, Love in Wartime, they are set to both confirm that roots world buzz, and break on through to a wider audience across the world.
Critics have scrambled to find the right terminology to describe the deep lyricism, gut-punch singing and fevered musicality….“Secular gospel” was one phrase that caught some traction. That fervour is evident in their latest album, Love and Wartime as well: “Roll Away the heavy stone/roll away the heavy hours/roll on in the summer moon/who’s alive who’s alive who’s alive? “ The invitation is joyous, but urgent … call it “secular gospel,” or call it what they used to call poetry intoned over roots music mash-ups: rock n roll. The Birds consider themselves a rock and roll band first and foremost.
Built around the chemistry and fire between Allison Russell and JT Nero, the band has included a core band of empathetic assassins since it took to the road full time in 2013. Russell and Nero played with different bands in the mid-noughties (Po’ Girl and JT and the Clouds) before finding their way to each other.
The Birds attract a mix of indy rockers, NPRists, jam-kids and folkies to their gigs, which alternate between moments of hushed attention and wild, rock and soul abandon. Says JT Nero, chief songwriter for the band, “A good show can send you back out into the night feeling — for at least a little while – that everything isn’t broken.. Right now, we wanna dose out as much of that feeling as we can.”
A professed Southern Gothic songster born in Chattanooga but based in Johnson City, Tennessee, Amythyst Kiah’s commanding stage presence is only matched by her raw and powerful vocals—a deeply moving, hypnotic sound that stirs echoes of a distant and restless past.
Accoutered interchangeably with banjo, acoustic guitar, or a full band (Her Chest of Glass), Amythyst’s toolbox is augmented by her scholarship of African-American roots music. Provocative and coolly fierce, her ability to cross the boundaries of blues and old-time through reinterpretation is groundbreaking and simply unforgettable. Amythyst Kiah is forging an important path from her musical ancestry to a multi-cultural generation with contemporary sensibilities and undeniable flair.
A graduate from East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies, she was the only African American in the program during the time of her enrollment. Amythyst’s eclectic influences span decades, drawing heavily on old time music (Mississippi Sheiks, Son House, Jimmie Rodgers, Olla Belle Reed, Carter Family), inspired by strong R&B and country music vocalists from the 1950s-1970s (Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn) and influenced by contemporary artists with powerful vocal integrity (Adele, Florence and the Machine, Megan Jean and the KFB, Janelle Monae).
Amythyst has self-released two albums, both to critical acclaim. Her first solo album Dig in 2013 and a second full-band project in 2016 entitled Amythyst Kiah & Her Chest of Glass. Her music has opened pathways to tour across the U.S., Canada, and abroad, performing at premium festivals and venues including John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Southern Fried Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Larmer Tree Festival, globalFEST, National Music Centre, Symphony Space, AmericanaFest, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, and the Americana Music Association UK Showcase.
In 2017 Amythyst was featured in the film A Great American Tapestry, The Many Strands of Mountain Music, a documentary that tells the story of the southern mountain’s musical birth and evolution through the strands of the Scots-Irish and African-American tradition.
In 2018 Amythyst was invited to tour with Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens and the Indigo Girls, playing a number of dates with both acts across the United States. Rhiannon then invited her to be part of a project she was working on for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The album Songs of Our Native Daughters, released February 2019, “shines new light on African-American women’s stories of struggle, resistance, and hope. Pulling from and inspired by 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century sources, including slave narratives and early minstrelsy, kindred banjo players Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell reinterpret and create new works from old ones.” All of the compositions on the album were written and performed by these four powerful women and Grammy Award-winning musician and producer Dirk Powell, who has worked with a number of artists including Joan Baez, Eric Clapton, and T Bone Burnett. Reviews of the album branded these ladies a “supergroup,” and that’s only the beginning.
Martin Barre Celebrates 50 Years of Jethro Tull
In 1969, a band of four English musicians arrived in New York and literally took America by storm. Over the next 50 years, this legendary band accumulated over 65 million record sales and a following of loyal fans that are the envy of rock bands worldwide! This band was Jethro Tull.
At the centre of Tull’s unique sound is guitarist Martin Barre. Renowned for his formidable mastery of historic riffs, power chords and soaring melodic solos. He will be bringing a spectacular show celebrating the fifty year anniversary with his touring band and special guests and past Jethro Tull band members Dee Palmer and Clive Bunker.
This is the most significant Tull show of the past two decades, truly a very special concert that will do justice to the legend.
Photo Credits: (1) Shrewsbury Folk Festival, (2) Oysterband, (5) Eddi Reader, (6) Kate Rusby, (7) Michael Messer, (8) Winter Wilson, (9) Reg Meuross, (10) Blair Dunlop, (11) Allison Russell (Birds of Chicago), (12) Amythyst Kiah, (13) Martin Barre, (14) Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) (unknown/website); (3)-(4) Karen Matheson & Donald Shaw (Capercaillie), (by Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup).