52nd Cambridge Folk Festival


Time for some Americana in the guise of the Mike + Ruthy Band. This is top draw stuff in full band mode, slide guitar, the works. Mike + Ruthy are one of the acts that are due to perform a number of times over the festival, both with the band and just as a duo. I'm getting the feeling this is a band I'm going to see more than once.

Sat at the core are native New Yorkers Mike + Ruthy who have a chemistry that seems to work at both a professional and personal level. It's just as well as they are a couple as the intimacy level they brought to their performance is intense and that was with the band behind them.

Name checking the likes of Woody Guthrie, they showed that they were definitely infused with his spirit, with some great songs about everyday life and challenges as well as relationship songs and a song about their daughter, though they changed her name in the song, not to protect the innocent, more because they couldn't get it to scan.

If I had to be critical the sound was a bit bassy, which isn't the band's fault and the strength of the band's own songs and their interpretation of other people's songs is close to flawless.

From Americana, it's back to Anglicana and Nancy Kerr & The Sweet Visitor Band. They have a new album,"Instar", due later in the year, but it's available exclusively at the festival, which is good as it forms the basis of the set, though once again touching on one of my favourite bugbears, when is an album actually out these days? Not going to bore you with the discussion here, so relax and read on.

Nancy dedicates a song to the recently murdered MP Jo Cox, the dedication is both subtle and moving, as is the song which was one full if hope and the knowledge that sometimes the good things in life do happen.

Nancy has rightly won many awards and this show proves that there's a lot still to come from both her and her band.

It's also a set that shows there is shed loads of vitality in English music and it doesn't come with the stench of jingoism. Roll on the official release of "Instar".

To my mind, Edward II are one of the best fusion bands on the circuit as well as being one of the first. They started off as a dance band with a biting, political edge and were a key part in the Folk Against Facism movement. Any band that contains melodeon player Simon Care is always going to contain the unexpected aligned with musical twists and turns.

The big twist this year was a move away from morris tune interpretations and towards Manchester balladry of the industrial revolution, a concept that worked surprisingly well and which informs their first album of new material for fifteen years, "Manchester's Improving Daily".

They are joined on stage by balladress Jennifer Read, who performs the songs, as far as we can tell, as they would have been back in the day.

Edward II are one of those bands that help you leave their sets feeling totally energised, which is a bit strange as watching them is more than a little exhausting. With every intent to catch Chris Wood's actual set, I head off in the direction of Stage 2, bump into some friends and a chat and a beer under my belt decide that it's probably time for some food.

For the evening, I pretty much make the decision that I'm going to base myself at the Club Tent, it's a great looking line up for the night and as I've never done a complete evening at a single venue at Cambridge, this looks like a night to give it a go.

First act for me on the Friday evening is hyphen junkie, singer-songwriter-luthier, Amy Goddard. I was fortunate enough to see her album launch earlier in the year and catch her late night performance on the same stage here last year.

Like a number of the acts I will be watching tonight, Amy gave up part of her festival to queue in order to be able to play in amongst the festival acts and folk club slots.

Naturally her songs were drawn from her recent album, "Secret Garden" and to the delight of the audience mainly from the darker side of the emotions. For me the highlight of the set was the song that is rapidly becoming her signature, the world war one based song "Gladdie" with it's personal connections whilst also being something experienced by way too many families and brought back to us all by the ongoing anniversaries of the key events in that conflict.