51st Cambridge Folk Festival


Having got on the outside of a hearty breakfast, it's time to head for the site. My weather app tells me it should be raining, but the sun is shining, the sky is blue, so one up to Mother Nature and I've remembered the sunscreen.

First port of the day is the Club Tent. The three full days of Cambridge Folk Festivals always start off with a workshop at the club tent, different instrument each day and on Friday, Bella Hardy is taking the voice through its paces.

Voice workshops are about more than the singing, it's about the warm up exercises, preparing your voice in the same way you would any muscle before a full work out.

The workshop is extremely well attend, which leads to some exceptional singing in the round with some fantastic harmonies. The workshops make getting up early well worthwhile.

As night follows day on a Friday, the Mojo Interview follows the workshop. Initially billed as Wilko Johnson, Hampshire's Frank Turner has stepped into the breach, a great substitute.

Frank's music has stepped from punk and metal to non-ironic covers of Abba songs, he's not afraid to wear his musical tastes on his sleeve, something he reflects in the songs he chooses to cover and mix in with his own, reflecting the hyphen between singer and songwriter.

Colin Irwin leads the interview and knows well that the art of a good interview is to prime the artist, let them pull the trigger and sit back and listen. When you have an interviewee as eloquent as Frank Turner, it's easy to do, just provide the odd steer in case a tangent goes too far.

Frank is youngest of the solo Mojo interviews and he brought a different perspective with him, leading to one of the best interviews I've seen on the Friday. At the end of the interview, Colin hands over the questions to members of the audience, which takes the questions down some different avenues.

Stage One beckons for the opening act of the festival Rura and fittingly they have a Cambridge connection as Adam Brown, the band's guitarist, and phenomenal bodhran player in other projects, is a local lad who first played the festival as a fresh faced teenager with No ID.

The band start off their gig with a set of jigs before being joined by the band's other Adam, Adam Holmes, who also plays with The Burning Embers, to add another guitar and vocals to the already strong combo.

Like a lot of bands founded in the Scottish tradition, Rura are masters of the key change, driving the set forward with, pipes, percussion and passion. Stage One has licked off in some style.

I don't recall there being an Italian band on at Cambridge before or actually seeing one on a personal level so seeing Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, resplendent with tarantella dancer, Silvia Perrone, should be an experience.

Apparently the music style is called pizzica and hails from the Salento Peninsula. The band feature strings, tambour for percussion, pipes, fiddle mandolin, melodeon and vocals. There is a laid back start with the band drifting onto the stage adding a layer of instruments as they do so.

The second number brings the dancer to the stage performing a traditional dance that initially revolves around ropes, before becoming more free form. I really don't know what impact it would have on a spider bite, but it has an energy all of its own.

As anticipated, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino play with a real Mediterranean fever, at times wild, verging on the edge of controlled, whilst at other times with a more focused determination.

It was great to catch something that was genuinely new to me and thumbs up to Cambridge for continuing to push envelopes.

From Italy we move west to an artist that is one third of Pistol Annies, Angaleena Presley. With the Pistols in abeyance so the members can focus on their solo careers, Angaleena has done just that.

Focusing on her own background amongst Americas mining communities, where the only escapes seem to be via American Football and music, Angaleena proved to be a fantastic quarterback. Ok she took to song, songs that reflected not only her community, but her own personal life crisis's.

Her most recent album, "American Middle Class" was not only a hit but also formed the basis of her Cambridge Folk Festival debut and quite a debut it was too, with a high humidity and temperature giving a good impression of her southern US home.

It certainly seems to give Angaleena inspiration, her set feels like modern mountain music taking an eighteen wheeler crash into country and it sounds great as she gives it a real, this is how it is gritty edge.

I take in a bit of Chris Smither as I head across the site to catch up with some old friends at The Club Tent. He's a performer I admire both for his delivery and his writing, but I'm just not hooking into his style of blues at the moment. May be in a blusier frame of mind later, in which case will take in his Club Tent set.