Among the latest headliners unveiled this year for the Shrewsbury Folk Festival (August 26 to 29) are – the alt-folk duo, The breathwith the guitarist Stuart McCallum and singer Rioghnach Connolly. Last year, the duo paid tribute to Karen Dalton by marking the 50th anniversary of her studio album “In My Own Time” with two moving tracks: a beautiful cover of “Something On Your Mind” and “Remembering Mountains”, a song she wrote but never released.
Thea Gilmore surprised many last year with the release of Afterglow, described in these pages as unquestionably one of his best albums. The album announcement was accompanied by a strong video for Of all the violence I’ve known which premiered on Folk Radio.
The headliners are also festival favorites Edward II. Last year, the folk reggae band released dance tunes, which nods to the shared hardships of communities some 4,000 miles apart. This will be the one to kick off your shoes.
Kanda Bongo Man, 3 Daft Monkeys, Lauren Housley, Namvula, The sound of sirens and the Rosie Hood Band were also added to the August Bank Holiday festival bill at the West Mid Showground. Other recently announced highlights include:
Kiah amythyst published”Suspicious + Strange” last year, which Folk Radio’s Bob Fish reviewed. He concludes: “Amythyst Kiah has found a way to live in a world without restrictions. It’s ultimately an artist who follows her own path, that’s what gives Suspicious + Strange the qualities that make this a truly great album from an artist who refuses to live in a world of limits.
Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage recently published’pink morning ink‘, their debut album for Topic Records, which Mike Davies described as “their most immediate, alluring and, dare I say it, best work to date”. As I said before, Hannah and Ben offer exquisite detail in their vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar playing that really makes their music shine. They also make it look so easy, and their passion for music shines through in the warmth of their delivery. If that doesn’t bring out the sun, I don’t know what will.
Another name that has garnered some well-deserved extra praise and attention is Folk Radio’s favorite Lady Nadefollowing the release of his third album, ‘Willing’, reviewed here. It was an album that faced overwhelming odds but emerged victorious. After opening for Spiers and Boden on their extensive Fallow Ground tour, the new year saw Lady Nade embark on her own tour. His album subsequently charted on the official Americana and Folk charts and continues to attract new fans across the media and the BBC, where it was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 Mark Radcliffe Folk Show, BBC Radio 6 Cerys Matthews, Ralph McLean, Northern Ireland. & BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Wiltshire and Bristol. It’s definitely a festival performance that would top my own list as it pours its creativity into every song.
sleeping spirals was the debut album by Hannah James and Toby Kuhn. In his review, Thomas Blake notes that to say that the album has its roots in the English folk tradition is true but also somewhat misleading:
While Hannah James (which also records a third of the Lady Maisery) has been singing, dancing and playing traditional English music for years, she has always embraced the wider cultural influences that inform many of these old songs. Toby Kuhn comes from a completely different background: a classically trained French cellist who has developed a very unique style due to guitar, violin and double bass. Their first album, Sleeping Spirals, was recorded in Belgium and Slovenia and contains a song inspired by Bulgarian dance tunes as well as pieces written in Croatia and Turkey. In the hands of two such gifted musicians, such a wide array of styles never feels heavy or hastily thrown together; instead, there are separate threads of travel, place, and self-discovery that come together to form a complex yet unified whole.
Anglo-Irish Quartet The Haar, featuring Adam Summerhayes, Cormac Byrne, Murray Grainger and Molly Donnery, are a welcome addition to the festival; they return in April with their highly anticipated second album Where Old Ghosts Meet, which we recently created his video for Wild Rover.
Another reasonably new name for many is Tarren, a fantastic new English folk project featuring Bristol artists Sid Goldsmith, Alex Garden and Danny Pedler. We created their English folk ballad Rigs of the time some time ago, an outstanding performance that lives up to the title of ambassadors of high quality English folk music.
Other headliners already announced include:
Judy Collins‘ last album Bewitched, is literally a lifetime album that, spurred on by a pandemic that put life on hold, also took almost a lifetime to find its purpose in birth. Mike Davies called it “unquestionably a career-ending high”.
Thanks recently announced sorrows away and shared their debut single, The Bay of Fundy. Sorrows Away will be their first full non-project based album since their 2015 BBC Folk Album of the Year Mount The Air; it’s also been described as their most upbeat offering yet, so we’re sure it’ll prove to be another memorable festival highlight.
Grammy-nominated all-female string band Della Mae recently published Family meeting, which Mike Davies described as an album with their best; it’s a reunion you’ll really want to celebrate.
Like many artists announced for the festival, some have reached spectacular heights, and Show of hands was no exception with their 2019′Battlefield Dance Floor‘, described by Danny Neill as one of the most cohesive, diverse and compelling sets of their entire career and one of the most adventurous collections in their catalog.
Another group known for their crowd-drawing performances is Scotland’s Skerryvore. In 2020 they celebrated their 15th anniversary with ‘Live through Scotland’an album that captured some of their stage magic that is sure to please Shrewsbury.
Other already announced crowd pullers that are sure to keep your feet moving are Carlos Núñez, Canadian folk-rockers Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
Director Sandra Surtees said: “Our eclectic line-up truly has something for everyone. We have earned a reputation for bringing the best folk artists from North America to the festival with a growing interest in world music as well. As always, we’ll also have some of Britain’s finest contemporary and traditional folk bands. We are looking forward to the international flavor of the festival after covid and travel restrictions prevented us from having foreign artists in 2021. It’s going to be great!
The festival includes four live music stages, a dance tent with ceilidhs and dance performances, dedicated children and youth festivals, workshops and singing. There’s also on-site camping and glamping, a food village and festival shop, craft fair and real ale, wine and cocktail bars.
Day and weekend tickets for August 26and at 29and are on sale at www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk where you can find a full range.