When pubs/bars over the UK are closing at a rate of knots – and with them the sessions & folk clubs they house – the one place folk music is flourishing is the INTERNET, where you can read about and listen to artistes old & new.
First a floor spot by Priscilla Ahn – “Dream”
Here to discuss with me some offerings from the Internet (over a virtual pint of Pendle Witch) is my old mate Nigel Harbron, singer/ songwriter/folk journalist who runs a session in Cumberland.
PW: Nigel, you’ve come across Nancy Kerr. I don’t know if she plays concertina like her famous mum Sandra, but here Nancy talks about the first fiddle she bought for herself and using it on the new SIMPSON∙CUTTING∙KERR album “Murmurs”.
NH: What’s the collective noun for a gathering of narrow boats crammed with musicians? A squeeze?? A few years ago, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, four boats would sometimes be moored in a line: Nancy Kerr and James Fagan’s; Tim van Eyken’s; Miranda Rutter’s (of Methera fame), and son Rob’s. Great times!
Nancy is a superb singer and fiddler, and she does play the concertina, but not usually on stage. Perhaps Sandra will pass on her fine Wheatstone one of these days.
PW: From an LP called The World of Folk-Sandra Kerr & John Faulkner – Peggy Seeger’s “Song of Choice”.
PW: Another fiddle player: at Hawkwood Concertina Band weekend I came across John Dipper – who regaled us with tales of the family business (Colin & Rosalie Dipper, Concertina Makers, are his parents). Here he is performing with one of your favourite bands, Nigel, Methera. Methera performing in Sweden at Forsby Kvarn – 1
NH: John is a very subtle fiddler, with a real appreciation of melody. You mention his parents: we once received a letter from Colin, handwritten, of course, in the most flowing of scripts. We mentioned this to John one day, and his reaction was bordering on the apoplectic. Apparently, his contemporaries at school used to tease him unmercifully whenever he produced a flowing letter from home in order to skip PE! As for Methera, they are simply sublime.
PW: Two of the stalwarts on the YouTube folk scene are Anahata and Mary Humphreys – who here, sings Miner’s Lifeguard – accompanying herself on English concertina. The tune for this song was a Welsh hymn “Calon Lân” which went over to the Pennsylvanian coalfields with Welsh mining emigrants.
PW: I was sad to hear news of Bellowhead’s farewell tour. Here’s a song we used to sing in the pub on Morris tours: Bellowhead’s “Roll Alabama” (which tells of Liverpool’s curious part in the American Civil War).
PW: Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Nigel, Bellowhead have shaken up the UK folk scene & reached a wider audience. Would you agree?
NH: I would certainly agree with these two observations, but will refrain from any further comments on the grounds that they might incriminate me!
PW: Now one from the archives, on vocal & concertina Peter Bellamy – “Danny Deever”, Rudyard Kipling’s poem, from the 1974 album The Barrack Room Ballads. Bellamy, after his work with the Young Tradition (to quote Wiki) “believed that Kipling had captured a real insight into the attitudes of the ordinary soldiers, such as their contempt for those who sent them off to fight and die.” A brilliant recording.
NH: I saw The Young Tradition on several occasions, and wished I had seen more of them. Peter B. was always the ‘wacky’ one in the trio, but his interest in, and knowledge of traditional music were obvious to all even back then. He was just 47 when he decided that he had had enough of life. The Young Tradition sing “Daddy Fox”
PW: Now I’m afraid the bar’s closed Nigel. But just to whet your lips, Tim Van Eyken sings “Barleycorn” from ‘Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves’ (2006)
NOTE TO CW READERS: I assembled this feature after our librarian mentioned that the folk items in the Music Supplement seem to be more popular than the classical. If you would like more sessions at the VIRTUAL FOLK CLUB , please let the editor know.