Tag Archives: English Folk music

Artist Profiles: The Unthanks

The Unthanks

The Unthanks, from Tyneside, are one of the biggest names to come out of the English folk scene in the last years. The group was formed in 2004. Their stunning arrangements, haunting vocals and absolute dedication to sourcing, arranging and telling the stories of these isles is second to none.

The Unthanks is a family act for sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank. Rachel married pianist, producer, arranger and composer, Adrian McNally. Even though McNally has scored symphony scale arrangements for The Unthanks, all three are musically untrained, and put their collective musical vocabulary down to the music they grew up listening to, rather than playing, for which both McNally and the Unthank sisters have parents to thank for.

Using the traditional and folk music of the North East of England as a starting point, the influence of Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits can be heard in the band’s albums.

In 2012, The Unthanks released 3 project albums in 12 months, under the banner ‘Diversions’ – a reimagining of the work of Robert Wyatt and Antony Hegarty, an orchestral scale adventure with National Champions Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and a live soundtrack to a film about the shipbuilding industry.
The Unthnaks released four volumes of the Diverions series during 2011-2017.

In 2018, The Unthanks released a trilogy of albums with a poetic theme titled Lines.


Here’s the Tender Coming (Rabble Rouser Music, 2009)
Last (Rabble Rouser Music, 2011)
The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons (Rabble Rouser Music, 2011)
The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band (Rabble Rouser Music, 2012)
Songs from the Shipyards (Rabble Rouser Music, 2012)
Mount the Air ( Rabble Rouser Music, 2015
Archive Treasures 2005–2015 (2015)
The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake and The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake: Extras (Rabble Rouser Music, 2017)
Lines Part One: Lillian Bilocca (Rabble Rouser Music, 2018)
Lines Part Two: World War One (Rabble Rouser Music, 2018)
Lines Part Three: Emily Brontë (Rabble Rouser Music, 2018)


The Nest Collective Announces the 2019 Season of Campfire Club

The Nest Collective’s Campfire Club

British cross-cultural folk music presenter The Nest Collective has announce the 2019 season of its Campfire Club.  For over 5 years, Campfire Club has been the way for Londoners to gather in beautiful green spaces and listen to great music from artists across the globe. Every week, from May to September, musicians and the audience come together in the simple way that people have done for thousands of years, around the fire with food, drink, music and each other. The performances are unamplified, allowing the audience to get up close and personal and hear the artists’ music in a very intimate way.

This year, Campfire Club is taking place at outdoor spaces in Islington, Peckham, Bermondsey, Bow and Stockwell, with a wide range of artists including Seckou Keita, Alasdair Roberts, Martin Carthy, Marry Waterson & Emily Barker, Samaia and many more.

New this year, The Nest Collective is expanding itsr Campfire Club program in 2019 to include family-focused events and campfire singarounds. Family Campfire Clubs will be taking place from 3pm-6pm on July 27th, August 10th, September 7th, and September 21st September at Culpeper Community Gardens in Islington.

The Nest Collective was founded by folk singer Sam Lee, a leading curator in developing contemporary and cross-cultural folk music in the UK.

More information at: thenestcollective.co.uk/show-category/campfire-club


Artist Profiles: Martin Simpson

Martin Simpson

Martin Simpson is considered one of the finest finger pickers and slide players of Great Britain. His live performances alternate between great subtlety and ‘feel’ and driving bottleneck blues, keeping alive the original country bluesmen like Blind Willie Johnson and McTell. He takes a basic song and augments it so skillfully with astonishing fretboard harmonics and other devices that make it an epic.

Simpson was born May 5, 1953, in Scunthorpe, South Humberside, England. He started playing the guitar at the age of 12. The young guitarist began playing professionally at the age of 14. One of his first breaks came when Bill Leader, who owned the Trailer label, discovered him. Leader recorded Simpson’s first album Golden Vanity. A few months later, Simpson was asked to join June Tabor’s band. In 1979 he joined the Albion Band and played with them on two subsequent tours.

In 1987, Simpson moved to the USA where he formed a duo with his American wife, Jessica Radcliffe Simpson. The duo released several albums. Simpson also played with the American band Metamora, and worked with Henry Gray, the Louisiana blues pianist.

Martin continued to extend his diverse talents in new directions including projects like Kambara Music in Native Tongues, with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and sets recorded at the “Masters of Slide Guitar Tour” with Bob Brozman and Indian slide guitar master Debashish Battacharya.

Martin Simpson

In 2015, Simpson recorded Murmurs with Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr. This was followed by Trails and Tribulations on Topic Records (2017). Trails and Tribulations guests included Andy Cutting, Kathryn Tickell, Nancy Kerr and John Smith.

Also a renowned teacher, Martin gives workshops and master classes around the world, is a regular artist-in-residence at the prestigious National Guitar Summer Workshops, and has several teaching videos to his credit, produced by Homespun Tapes and Alfred Publishing. In addition, he is an honorary guitarist for the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA), a prominent instrument builders guild. Martin also frequently tours with his longtime bass player and all-around musical cohort, Doug Robinson, who has appeared on most of Martin and Jessica’s recent albums.


Golden Vanity (Trailer, 1976)
Special Agent ( Waterfront Records, 1981)
Grinning in Your Face (Topic Records, 1983)
Sad or High Kicking (Topic Records, 1985)
Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Dambuster Records, 1986)
Leaves of Life (Shanachie, 1989)
When I Was on Horseback (Shanachie, 1991)
A Closer Walk with Thee (Fledg’ling Records, 1994)
Smoke and Mirrors (Thunderbird Records, 1995)
Cool and Unusual (Red House Records, 1997)
Live ( Red House Records, 1997)
61 Highway (1999)
Bootleg USA (High Bohemia Records, 1999)
The Bramble Briar (Topic Records, 2001)
Righteousness and Humidity (Red House Records, 2003)
Kind Letters (Topic Records, 2005)
Music of Ireland: Airs, Jigs, Reels, Hornpipes and Marches (2005)
Prodigal Son (Topic Records, 2007)
True Stories (Topic Records, 2009)
Purpose + Grace (Topic Records, 2011)
Vagrant Stanzas (Topic Records, 2013)
Trails & Tribulations (Topic Records, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson was born April 3, 1949 in Notting Hill Gate, London. He has consistently set songwriting and performance standards others aspire to. He has long been acknowledged both as a sensitive writer and a brilliant and innovative guitarist.

His career began with Fairport Convention with whom he recorded five essential albums including 1969’s Liege and Lief, long regarded as a milestone recording in defining British Folk/Rock and his final album with the group, Full House, released in 1970.

During the 1970s, Richard recorded six albums with his wife Linda, including 1974’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight which met with universal critical acclaim, and its title track provided Richard with a hit single in the UK.

The 1980s and 1990s saw a series of highly successful solo albums which superbly demonstrate not only his song-writing talent and guitar wizardry, but also his ability to play a whole range of musical styles – from the mellow and melodic to hard-driven guitar rock.

Released in 2005, Front Parlour Ballads marks Thompson’s first acoustic solo album since 1981 and his first acoustic album of all-original material. Encompassing everything from rollicking tales of quickie marriages in “Let it Blow”, a lilting love song dedicated to “Miss Patsy”, and the devastatingly beautiful lament of “Precious One”, Front Parlour Ballads is a treasure box of stories and characters, all delivered with Thompson’s masterful guitar work, sonorous voice and bittersweet lyrics.

Also released in 2005 were a CD and DVD of a 2001 Richard Thompson performance at Austin City Limits, Richard Thompson – Live From Austin Texas; a DVD of Richard Thompson Band Live in Providence recorded in 2003, Richard Thompson – And Band – Live In Providence ; a 5 CD boxed set, RT – The Life and Music of Richard Thompson, of classic and unreleased songs; and 1000 Years of Popular Music, a live CD and DVD of two performances spanning everything from 13th Century Italian ballads to Hank Williams and Britney Spears.

In early 2010 Thompson formed a band with Pete Zorn on acoustic guitar, flute, saxophone, mandolin, vocals; Michael Jerome on drums, vocals; Taras Prodaniuk on bass and vocals; and Joel Zifkin on electric violin, mandolin, and vocals. They released Dream Attic.

Thompson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011 for services to music.On July 5th, 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Aberdeen.

In early 2013 Thompson released the album Electric, recorded in Nashville (USA).

In 2014, Thompson released Acoustic Classics, an album with acoustic versions of 14 songs from his back catalogue, on his Beeswing label.

In 2017, Thompson released a second acoustic album titled Acoustic Classics II and Acoustic Rarities, an album of new recordings of rare songs in the Thompson catalogue.

Thompson’s eighteenth studio album, 13 Rivers was released on September 14, 2018.


Henry The Human Fly (Island Records, 1972)
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, with Linda Thompson (1974)
Hokey Pokey, with Linda Thompson (1974)
Pour Down Like Silver, with Linda Thompson (1975)
First Light, with Linda Thompson (1978)
Sunnyvista, with Linda Thompson (1979)
Shoot Out the Lights, with Linda Thompson (1982)
Hand Of Kindness (Hannibal Records, 1983)
Small Town Romance -Live / Solo In New York (Hannibal Records, 1984)
Across A Crowded Room (Polydor, 1985)
Daring Adventures (Polydor, 1986)
Amnesia (Capitol Records, 1988)
Rumor And Sigh (Capitol Records, 1991)
Mirror Blue Capitol Records, 1993)
You? Me? Us? (Capitol Records, 1996)
Industry, with Danny Thompson (Hannibal Records, 1997)
Mock Tudor (Capitol Records, 1999)
The Old Kit Bag (Cooking Vinyl, 2003)
Grizzly Man (Cooking Vinyl, 2005)
Front Parlour Ballads (Cooking Vinyl, 2005)
Live From Austin TX (New West Records, 2005)
Sweet Warrior (Proper Records, 2007)
Dream Attic Proper Records 2010
Live At The BBC ‎(Universal Music/BBC Music, 2011)
Electric (New West Records, 2013)
Acoustic Classics (Beeswing Records, 2014)
Still (Proper Records, 2015)
Acoustic Classics II (Beeswing Records, 2017)
Acoustic Rarities (Beeswing Records, 2017)
Acoustic Classics II + Rarities (Beeswing Records, 2017)
13 Rivers (New West Records, 2018)


Artist Profiles: Andrew Cronshaw

Andrew Cronshaw

Andrew Cronshaw was born April 18, 1949 in Lancashire, United Kingdom. He is known for both his music and his writing. His writing appears frequently in British publication FRoots and other magazines. And he is also the author of the chapters devoted to Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Faroes, Iceland, the Baltic States and Portugal in the most recent version of the Rough Guide to World Music.

Musically, Andrew’s voyage began as a child with a piano and a tin whistle. His primary instrument is now the zither, which lives at the heart of a collection of instruments that have come into his life through his travels, research and enormous musical curiosity. These include: a fujara, which Andrew describes as “a five-foot long Slovakian shepherd’s flute that yields shivering breathy harmonics;” aba-wu from China’s Yunan province, which is his “seductive-toned” brass-reed instrument, and many other string and percussion instruments.

In the early 1990s, Andrew chose to tour most often as a solo performer. With his instruments and a small PA, he played more than 100 performances in ancient English village churches. Solo, in his case, meant he would book the concert, meet the audience at the door, perform, pack up and move on.

Although a U.K. native, over the past twelve years more and more of his time has been spent in Finland. He is fascinated by and increasingly involved in new Finnish music rooted in its folk traditions. Andrew says he is drawn also by the sense of community, especially in Kaustinen, a music center and home to one of the world’s finest music festivals. It was at the Kaustinen Festival he initiated Hauenleuka: a large performance project that involved the floating of a giant seven-meter, five-string kantele down the river Perho accompanied by four hundred local musicians and dancers.

His album On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear, is based on a dozen traditional tunes from Finland, one from Siberia, and three from the Scottish Gaelic-speaking tradition.

Andrew founded an ensemble called SANS, a collaboration with Finnish musicians.

Andrew’s approach to music includes the belief that instruments “find a particular tune they like.”


A Is For Andrew, Z Is For Zither ‎(XTRA, 1974)
Times And Traditions For Dulcimer ‎(Trailer, 1976)
Earthed In Cloud Valley (Trailer, 1977)
Wade In The Flood (Transatlantic Records, 1978)
The Great Dark Water (Waterfront Records, 1982)
Till The Beasts’ Returning ‎(Topic Records, 1988)
The Andrew Cronshaw CD ‎(Topic Records, 1989)
The Language Of Snakes (Special Delivery, 1993)
On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear ‎(Cloud Valley Music, 2000)
Ochre ‎(Cloud Valley Music, 2004)
The Unbroken Surface Of Snow ‎(Cloud Valley Music, 2011)
Live, with SANS (Cloud Valley CV2014, 2014)
Kulku, with SANS (Cloud Valley Music, 2018)


Artist Profiles: Tarras


The five members of Tarras hailed from the Border country between England and Scotland. While young in age at the time of their first recording (the average age was 21) Tarras’ debut album Rising displays a masterful expertise in traditional and modem Celtic music that is clearly beyond their years.

The original line-up of Tarras was made up of band members Rod Armstrong (guitar/cittern) Joss Clap (bass) Emma Hancock (violin) Ben Murray (accordion) and Jon Redfern (percussion / guitar).

Tarras’ line-up was later based around the core members Joss Clapp, Ben Murray and John Redfern. The new fiddler was Louise Peacock who had played with Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. Louise met with Tarras in the spring of 2000 where the decision was easily reached by both parties and she became the latest player to join the band.


Rising (Rounder/Topic, 1999)


Fairport Convention Releases 35th Anniversary Live Set

Fairport Convention – 35th Anniversary Concert

Legendary English Folk music band Fairport Convention has released a 2CD+DVD set titled 35th Anniversary Concert.

The audio and video were recorded during Fairport Convention’s 35th Anniversary Tour at The Anvil Theatre, Basingstoke in England on February 23, 2002.

The lineup includes Simon Nicol on acoustic guitar, electric guitar and vocals; Dave Pegg on bass and vocals; Gerry Conway on drums and percussion; Chris Leslie on mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki and vocals; and Ric Sanders on violin.

Buy 35th Anniversary Concert in Europe

Buy 35th Anniversary Concert in the rest of the world


Artist Profiles: Lau


Lau is a trio made up of fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, accordion-player Martin Green and Kris Drever who plays guitar and sings in the group. Aidan Martin and Kris have considerable experience and finesse that gives them license to play with a rare freedom. Despite the traditional music definition, their combined efforts make something new: great musicians doing something more than just showing their skills.

Lau pull together their influences which span most of the UK from the west coast of Scotland up and across to Orkney and down to the east of England. The combination is a modern sound with all the depths of these traditions backing it up.

Their debut album Lightweights and Gentlemen came out in early 2007.


Lightweights and Gentlemen (2007)
Live (2008)
Arc Light (2009)
Race the Loser (2012)
The Bell That Never Rang (2015)


Artist profiles: Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn Tickell – Photo by Tony McAnaney

Kathryn Tickell was born in 1967. Her roots are in the North Tyne Valley of Northumberland where many of her relatives still play traditional music. Her father Mike Tickell is an acclaimed performer of the songs of this area.

Kathryn has always been surrounded by music and has played the piano since the age of six. She started to play the Northumbrian smallpipes at the age of 9 and by the age of 13 had won all of the traditional open smallpipes competitions at the Border festivals and many fiddle competitions also.

In 1980, she learned the Shetland fiddle style from the great player and teacher Tom Anderson. As a result of this she was invited to play at the Shetland Folk Festival in 1981 where she was so popular that she was invited back the following year. In 1983 she was a guest at the Edinburgh International Festival the first year that famous event included British traditional music in its program.

In 1984 she recorded her first album On Kielderside. In 1985, she turned professional immediately entering a busy schedule of work throughout the UK as well as recording a Northumbrian music album From Shewingshields to Glendale with Alistair Anderson and other respected musicians such as Joe Hutton Willy Taylor and Will Atkinson.

In 1986, she recorded her second solo album Borderlands, for Black Crow Records. This record was released in January 1987 to great critical acclaim and featured in the Folk Roots “Top Thirty” for over a year. Kathryn also featured on the “Square Roots” compilation performing with Rory McLeod and played sessions on albums for various bands.

Kathryn’s third album, Common Ground, featured two of the most respected players in the UK, Danny Thompson on bass and Chris Newman on guitar.

In 1990, the Kathryn Tickell Band was formed. The following years saw Kathryn putting all her energy into the band recording the albums The Kathryn Tickell Band and Signs and touring extensively throughout the globe. However she still found time to compose music for two of Newcastle’s Live Theatre Company productions to present a series of programs for Radio 2 record with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and with The Chieftains. During this time Kathryn also contributed to Sting albums as well as joining him to play live at Newcastle City Hall & also on TV.

In March 1997, Kathryn’s sixth album The Gathering was released to great critical acclaim and led to appearances on Later with Jools Holland and playing live on Andy Kershaw’s Radio 1 show. In May Sting Jimmy Nail & Kathryn hit the stage of the Carnegie Hall New York performing,The Waters of the Tyne” at a benefit concert in aid of the Rainforest Foundation. The song has also been recorded for a benefit CD Carnival.

Since then Kathryn has been involved in a collaboration with saxophone player John Surman culminating in two concerts at Stockton Riverside Festival. She has also been presenting more programs for Radio 2 featuring young musicians throughout Britain.

In February 1997 Kathryn founded the Young Musicians Fund. Managed by The Community Foundation the fund aims to help young people in the North East region to realize their musical potential.

In 1998 Kathryn released The Northumberland Collection an album featuring various musicians and singers from the county. She also became Gateshead’s Composer in Education working with three primary schools and the Gateshead Youth Orchestra. 1999 saw Kathryn touring with her new band & releasing her eighth album Debateable Lands. In August 1999 Kathryn was awarded a bursary from the Britten-Pears Foundation to study composition with Judith Weir at Dartington International Summer School. She also presented a series of TV programs on music composition for Channel 4 Schools.

2000 was another exciting year with Lordenshaws Kathryn’s piece for pipes & small ensemble being penned toured and broadcast. The other major project of 2 was Ensemble Mystical an exciting new group set up by Kathryn and including musicians from classical jazz and folk backgrounds. The group toured and released an album in the final part of the year.

2001 saw Kathryn touring in Uganda Canada Italy France and the UK. Collaboration with jazz saxophonist Andy Sheppard resulted in a major multi-media work which was premiered at the opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. It was also released as a limited edition CD (Music for a New Crossing).

In September 2001 the Kathryn Tickell Band performed as part of the,Last Night of the Proms” celebrations the first time the event had included traditional folk music. The performance was broadcast nationally and internationally.

Since September 2001, Kathryn has been a part -time lecturer on the new Folk and Traditional Music degree course at Newcastle University.

In 2002 Kathryn’s 10th album Back to the Hills was released featuring solos duets and trios in traditional style as well as archive recordings of Kathryn with Northumberland shepherd and fiddle player Willie Taylor.

Kathryn Tickell – Photo by Tony McAnaney

Kathryn’s BBC Proms commission for London Sinfonietta Muzsikas and Folkestra was presented in 2008. In 2009 she received the British Queen’s Medal for Music awarded to artists judged to have made an exceptional contribution to British music. Celebrating Peter Maxwell Davies’ 75th birthday in 29 Kathryn worked with the Nash Ensemble performing ‘Kettletoft Inn’ the piece he composed specially for her.

As the Artistic Director of Folkworks the folk development agency for the north east of England, Kathryn provides artistic leadership and inspiration for Folkworks programs and is also the founder and Director of Folkestra the north east’s young folk ensemble.

In 2011 she continued her collaboration with Sting as well as touring with the Kathryn Tickell Band.

Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening – Photo by Georgia Claire

In 2019, she released the album Hollowbone with her band The Darkening.


On Kielderside (1984)

Borderlands (1988)

Common Grounds (1988)

Kathryn Tickell Band (1991)

Signs (1993)

The Gathering (1997)

The Northumberland Collection (1998)

Debateable Lands (1999)

Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical (2000)

Music for a New Crossing (2001)

Back to the Hills (2002)

Air Dancing (2004)

The Sky Didn’t Fall (2006)

Strange But True (Park Records, 2006)

Instrumental (2007)

Durham Concerto with Jon Lord (2008)

What We Do with Peter Tickell (2008)

Northumbrian Voices (2012)

Water of Tyne (2016)

Hollowbone (2019)