Browsing articles from "June, 2016"


Jun 23, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

HARD RAIN’S A-GONNA FALL – Saturday review by Len Brown

There have been many great moments at the Gate To Southwell Festival over the years but surely Saturday’s all-star teatime 75th birthday tribute to Bob Dylan was up there with the very best. With a top notch house band organized by Jim Moray of False Lights, most of the key players over the weekend took the stage to pay tribute to the Mozart of the Twentieth Century. Among them were Phil Beer and Steve Knightley of Show Of Hands (who contributed a fine version of ‘Senor’ from ‘Street Legal’) plus Meaghan Blanchard, The Henry Girls, Mick Ryan & Paul Downes, The Ooks Of Hazzard and Jackie Oates on classic tracks such as ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ and ‘Blowing In The Wind’. A definite highlight was the Pete Morton-led ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, which galvanized festival goers into a suitably gruff, grizzled yet uplifting Bobcat singalong.

If Friday night had been a Southwell-style string-driven showcase of North American musicianship and showmanship (starring Blanchard, Ooks and Hayseed Dixies), Saturday seemed to be much more of a traditionally rain-soaked English love affair with roots music. Fresh from supporting the dearly departed Bellowhead, and proudly promoting their upcoming ‘The Ties That Bind’ collection, Mawkin remain one of the most talented live acts on the Brit Folk scene. Led by brothers Jamie and David Delarre, they warmed the damp crowd in the early evening Big Top with an upbeat mix of medieval music and gypsy jazz through to their entertaining 21st century celebration of inebriation, ‘Jolly Well Drunk’.

Formerly of the Unthanks and The Imagined Village, Jackie Oates last played Southwell back in 2009. So there was a really warm welcome for her, particularly following motherhood, her various BBC Folk Awards successes and the universal acclaim for her beautiful ‘The Spyglass & The Herringbone’ CD. Ten years on from her first solo album, she has onstage warmth and an easy presence, plus the rare ability to unite staunch traditional and more contemporary folk audiences with her perfect spring and summer vocals and fiddle playing.

Headlining the Big Top, Show Of Hands followed on perfectly from the Jackie Oates Trio, confirming their position as the most important English acoustic band on the festival circuit. With their latest ‘The Long Way Home’ recording and tracks like ‘The Gamekeeper’ they’ve returned to classic themes of love and loss, of war and exile, and their commemoration of the centenary of the Battle Of The Somme seemed poetically appropriate while the rain fell hard and the mud grew deep. While Steve Knightly remains one of the strongest front men and most affecting vocalists on the roots music scene, it increasingly feels as if Phil Beer should now be protected as a national treasure. Mourning Dave Swarbrick’s recent death, Beer is surely the finest fiddler South of the Scottish border.

Former Cornish buskers Flats & Sharps won many new fans with their good-looking brand of banjo-driven Bluegrass, fine vocals, and sharp Western gamblers-style suits and haircuts. Their ‘King Of My Mind’ CD is among the best of 2016 so far and ‘My Life’ perfectly represents their harmonic charms. But the musical finery on display stretched well beyond the main stage, with Northumbrian rising stars Gilded Thieves – who’ve been described as “a bespoke banquet of alt-folk” – beautifully led by vocalist Laura Alexa Jackets. Their biblical country song ‘Oh Sinner’ was one of the festival highlights.

Added to all this, on the outside dancefloor in the afternoon there was an incredibly diverse mix of dance sides such as the Koyuki Tribal Belly Dancers, the Convoy Irish Dance Company and the Kitchen Taps Appalachians, not to mention the other dozen or so colourful rappers and morrismen and women who’d graced the streets and pubs of Southwell en route to the festival.

Honorable musical mentions too for Isembard’s Wheel from Sheffield, one of the hits of the Barleycorn Stage, who looked remarkably clean-shaven for roots musicians and delivered poetic lyrics and contemporary folk sounds with the sartorial elegance of jolly highwaymen. And then there was Echo Town, arguably the most inventive and experimental double act appearing at Gate To Southwell 2016. Two brothers from Cornwall, they create a mesmerizing rhythmic soundscape in which folk and roots meet rock blues and reggae, often played on intense percussion, slide guitar and didgeridoos. In fact, one of the most memorable sights of Gate To Southwell 2016 was of several inebriated off-duty Morris dancers improvising like crazy to the late night Echo Town sound.

Never mind the weather, with so many workshops, great food, drink and craft stalls, plus fantastic kids entertainment from Dan The Hat, Johnny & The Raindrops and the ubiquitously funny Keith Donnelly, it often felt like there was too much going in this most eclectic circus.


Jun 15, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

After the tropical heat, fireworks and musical riches of Thursday night, the heavens above Nottinghamshire opened on Friday. A torrential downpour at high noon threatened the existence of the festival as both the Big Top and the New Stage suffered from flooding. Thankfully, several hours of great ground work by Mike Kirrage’s site crew (led by Simon Walker) of stewards plus lighting and sound staff managed to save the day. It was, literally, all hands to the pump before normal festival service was resumed by early evening.

As always, there was a tremendous variety of music across all four smaller tents, including the warmly upbeat singalong songs of Pete Morton, the Canadian traditional sounds of Vishten and the a-capella harmonies of The Teacups on the Folk Stage. In the Barleycorn, there was rising folk star and former Nottingham student Bella Gafney, who also performed with Bric-a-Brac, while on the flood-defying New Stage there were waves of exotic and extremely danceable sounds such as the gypsy jazz of Maniere Des Bohemiens, the thoroughly funky Cheshire & The Cat and the mad Balkan party ska-meets-swing of Mr Tea & The Minions.

But it was primarily an evening of excellent North American music in Southwell’s Big Top. Charismatic and confessional, the young Canadian country singer Meaghan Blanchard drew us into her solo songs that openly struggled to make sense of this world. All the way from Prince Edward Island, looking like a pre-Raphaelite painting come to life, she tackled failed relationships on tracks like ‘Broken Pieces’ and ‘Cry Cry Cry’ and she spoke warmly of her grandmother’s words of wisdom: there are only two kinds of people – movers & shakers and those who sit listening to sad country songs.

Then came to magnificent Ooks Of Hazzard, fronted by four fine ukulele masters who all looked like extras from that appropriately dark drama True Detective. Internationally famous for their great cover of MGMT’s ‘Kids” and string-driven interpretations of Led Zep and Lynryd Skynyrd, it was their brilliant version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ that stole the show tonight. (Their ‘Redneck Mother’ would come pretty close the following lunchtime!)

But Hayseed Dixie are hard to beat as a headline act. Whereas the Ooks are seated, look almost dignified (albeit in an outlaw-ish sort of way) and have the sardonic drawls of Southern gentlemen, the Hayseeds are as wild and frenzied as a box of mad Appalachian frogs. Never have eyes bulged so much or tongues been stuck out so often and so lewdly on a Southwell stage. Hilarious but slightly scary, their crazy repertoire, always played at breakneck speed, drifted from takes on Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ through to a fantastic badlands bluegrass version of Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’.

After the heavy rain had left the festival site distinctly moist and muddy, it seemed entirely appropriate that the Ooks Of Hazzard and Hayseed Dixie managed to transport us all to the sweaty swamps of the Southern States.

Len Brown

Review of Thursday night

Jun 11, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments


THERE WAS A brilliant start to the tenth Gate To Southwell Festival; the opening night was lit up by a great firework display and an array of fine Irish, Scottish, Latin and local musicians.

Kicking off in the Barleycorn tent, Mansfield’s Jake Burns delivered a sweet-voiced selection of self-composed tracks and cover versions.  His ‘California Bound’ EP harks back to the great singer-songwriters of the Sixites and his singing and guitar skills clearly chime with influences such as Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Ralph McTell.

On the Arts Council-funded New Stage – offering a less folksy, more open minded approach to acoustic and roots music – the early evening mood drifted from the multi-instrumental, gypsy-classical, salon sounds of The BeauBowBelles to the Glaswegian Americana of James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band.  James Edwyn is a grizzly bear of a man with a very impressive beard, and his warm personality combined with the band’s alt-country sounds should surely guarantee far greater stages than Southwell in the future.

In the main tent, the folk rock revivalists and rejuvenators False Lights gave way to the impressive Irish-meets-World-Music of Kila.  Eight strong and playing an extraordinary array of traditional instruments to create a mesmerizing sound, their Irish roots music builds in trancelike rhythms.  A powerful and memorable performance, particularly after a few beers and ciders!

Elsewhere, Nottingham’s own lovable café blues/jazz chanteuse Tiger delivered a mature and beautiful set of her own love-and-loss songs, ably assisted by guitarist Milk.  She also threw in great covers of George Michael and Johnny Cash to confirm her versatility.  Eighteen years old and definitely going places.

The same should be said of local lads Same Streets who definitely shook up the New Stage.   Their youthful and fresh rock & roll music is both exciting and invigorating.  They look right, feel right and sound right; their own songs, delivered with passion by James Gooch and fired along by Seb McNish the drummer boy, sit comfortably alongside an excellent cover of the Velvets ‘Waiting For My Man’.

Bringing this magnificently eclectic first night to a finale, The Full Attack Band’s performance seemed to sum up Gate To Southwell’s booking policy perfectly.  Refusing to accept any musical boundaries or borders, their Latin fusion of World, Jazz, Funk and even Afro-beat inspired some late night frenzied dancing.  Led by the charismatic sax player Alejandro Toledo with exotic Asian singer, rapper and poet Fedzilla alongside him, the Full Attack Band could be one of the great successes on the festival circuit this summer.

All-in-all, this was a sparkling start to the tenth Gate To Southwell with three more days and nights of fine music and family entertainment to come in beautiful rural Nottinghamshire surroundings.

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New addition – Ritchie Parrish Ritchie

Jun 7, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

Great new late night show confirmed for RPR, the brilliant rhythm section of the renowned, Tanglefoot – Canada’s biggest folk-roots export. Now Rob Ritchie, Al Parrish and Steve Ritchie, along with percussionist/ singer/ songwriter Beaker Granger, have re-connected and are coming our way.
The new configuration affords the four veteran performers the opportunity to stretch their wings and create a rich and memorable interfusion of music, stories, laughter and reminiscence. It’s light and shade, irreverent and poignant, gentle as a whisper and rampantly energetic. See them on Friday 10th closing the Folk Stage at 11.30pm……

Young Talent at Gate to Southwell 2016

Jun 3, 2016   //   by Michael Stevenson   //   News  //  No Comments

It’s the tenth anniversary of the Gate To Southwell Festival next week (from Thursday June 9th to Sunday June 12th) and, to celebrate this great East Midlands music occasion, plenty of talented young local artists will be given the opportunity to shine alongside international stars.

Attracting musicians from as far a field as Canada and the USA, and with headline acts such as Appalachian hillbilly heroes Hayseed Dixie (Friday), the great English roots band Show Of Hands (Saturday) and legendary Scottish vocalist Eddi Reader (Sunday), the Gate To Southwell Festival will get off to an explosive start with a firework party and the launch of a new Arts Council-backed “alternative” stage.

The opening night party on Thursday 9th features one of Ireland’s greatest traditional folk acts Kila headlining the main stage alongside Jim Moray and Sam Carter’s new band False Lights. Plus, the alternative stage will feature diverse acts such as the Latin passion of Alejandro Toledo’s Full Attack Band and Glaswegian alt-country stars James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band.

Also on the bill are Nottingham’s highly-rated rising indie sons Same Streets – an exciting four-piece rock & roll band featuring young musicians from Arnold, Beeston, Long Eaton and Southwell.  With James Gooch on guitar and vocals, Jacob Harris on guitar, Isaac Bloomfield on bass and backing vocals and Seb McNish on drums, Same Streets have already supported The Enemy at Rock City and had their music played by Huw Stevens on Radio One.   They’ve also guested alongside established bands such as Red Faces, Rifles, Sherlocks and Fronteers, and their growing reputation on the circuit for incendiary performances has made them a band to look out for this year.

“Our main influences include the Rolling Stones, Iggy & The Stooges, the Las and David Bowie,” says drummer Seb McNish.  “We’ve got a great summer ahead of us.  There’re a few festivals including Southwell, Dot To Dot and the Isle of Wight.”

Another youthful local act appearing at the festival for the first time is upcoming singer-songwriter Jake Burns.  Originally from Mansfield but now living in Burton Joyce, Jake’s debut EP ‘California Bound’ has received great praise from critics and plenty of radio play.  Its lyrics name-check many of his American inspirations and influences, including Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and David Crosby.

“I think I own every Simon & Garfunkel record there is,” admits Jake, “and I still find myself listening to them from time to time.  Paul Simon was and still is my musical hero but I also listen a lot to Conor Oberst and Crowded House at the moment.”

Also appearing at next week’s festival, there’s highly-acclaimed sweet-voiced Nottingham singer-songwriter Tiger.  Recently turned eighteen, she supported Canadian band The East Pointers in Southwell earlier this year and also delivered an impressive showcase at Rough Trade Records.  Self-penned tracks such as ‘Contender’ and ‘Let Me Hold You’ also earned her a slot on the BBC Introducing East Midlands show.

Added to this array of local talent, there’s also Cheshire And The Cat, the seven piece Future Sound of Nottingham finalists who’ve previously played Glastonbury, Dot To Dot and Soundwave in Croatia.  Over the past few years, they’ve built a reputation mixing soul and funk with breaks of reggae and rock. With new material in the pipeline and a whole new repertoire of songs, 2016 will see the Cats step up to an even higher level.

Last but not least, one of Nottingham’s most exotic sounding and best-loved acts, Maniere Des Bohemians, return to play Gate To Southwell with their hot brand of Django Reinhardt-inspired and Stephane Grappelli-influenced Gypsy Jazz and Eastern European swing.

With five different music stages, great family entertainment, plus the usual fine mix of food and drink tents, a craft fair, a beer and cider festival plus pub sessions in town, the tenth Gate To Southwell is guaranteed to be an unmissable Midlands event.

For more details visit the website –

Southwell Festival
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