52nd Cambridge Folk Festival


A main event is what's coming up next, an act that is most definitely on my must see list, Mary Chapin Carpenter.

As well as being a great singer, Mary Chapin Carpenter, is a song writer of great renown, often writing songs for artists that many would consider away from her country background as well as a great many in it. She also pays great respect to her peer group often performing their songs and giving the obligatory credit, well I say obligatory credit, giving a nod to a song's writer doesn't seem to be as common as it once was. Carpenter proves the point with her interpretation of the Lucinda Williams' song, "Passionate Kisses".

Joined on stage by a pianist and another guitarist to round out the sound, the set is permeated by shouts from different parts of the audience for personal favourites, unfortunately most of these have to be ignored, there is only so much you can play in an hour and you know for Mary Chapin Carpenter that she will barely scratch the surface of her considerable catalogue.

Whilst people might have been disappointed that individual favourites weren't played, I would defy anyone to have walked out afterwards and say that they were disappointed by the performance, Mary Chapin Carpenter came, saw and delivered.

It's a dash back up to the Club Tent for another Showcase Artist, this time Kelly Oliver, who like Ninebarrow before her, has just released her second album on the Folkstock label, "Bedlam".

Kelly has a style that sits where acoustic pop slides into contemporary folk music, slightly lighter in sound, but still able to absorb dark influences, she just seems ideal for a sunny afternoon, fresh and breezy.

"Bedlam" naturally forms the basis of her set, for which she is occasionally joined by a fiddle player to augment her own vocals and guitar, and she's really connecting with the audience which seems to give her more confidence, I don't think I've heard her quite so conversational before, it definitely suits her.

It's an indication of how well her set is going when she unexpectedly announces the next song as being her last number. Forty minutes seem to have passed in the blinking of an eye and when she turns to leave the stage, there is a broad, beaming smile on her face, she obviously enjoyed it as much as we did.

I've got time to stay at Club Tent and hear Zoe Wren here this year as a guest of Hitchin Folk Club having previously played here as a queue artist and also as a member of the annual Hub Band Project, an event that unfortunately I'm going to have to miss this year.

Zoe Wren is joined on stage this year by her brother adding bodhran to the sound, she's also just released an extended version of her debut EP "Pandora's Box" which is well worth seeking out and already putting her back on the airwaves.

Zoe seems to have gained in confidence as a performer, engaging her audience at eyelevel during the between song bits. She's always done so during her performance, but like a lot of younger artists, didn't seem quite a confident when the music wasn't playing, definitely looks like a thing of the past.

I liked the addition of percussion to it gives her another dynamic to work to and around and gives the material an additional spark. Zoe continues to progress in the right direction, building on an already high writing and performing talent.

Stopping only to purchase a Nacho Grande, from the Mexican stall, my traditional Sunday fayre, I head back towards the media area in anticipation of Imelda May. Baaba Maal, is still playing his contemporary twist on traditional Senegalese style griot singing, so I know I've got enough time to sit down, relax and maybe wash dinner down with an Otter Ale. It occurs to me I haven't actually wandered around the site as much this year, but that has been countered by the number of people that I've bumped into and had conversations with.