47th Cambridge Folk Festival


Saturday starts in a very similar way to Friday, do as much of the outstanding write up as possible, shower etc, full English, walk to festival site and start catching up.

There's a queue of people waiting for the sign up to be part of one of the Sessions in the Club Tent, it is one thing I like about Cambridge, if you are prepared to queue, you really can, if you've got a ticket, bring an instrument and find yourself on a stage.

The workshop today is flute and whistle from Brian Finnegan. Once again there is a healthy attendance stretching right across the age range. Every one of them is going to walk away with something new to add to their range and experience.

I'm off to catch up with Sean Taylor for a quick chat and catch up. Along with a whole host of other artists including Gilmore Roberts and Manran, Sean is going to be playing the legendary Brian McNeill Session. Whilst chatting I'm setting up my cameras and accidently delete the workshop pictures, apologies to Brian Finnegan and those that attended.

The Brian McNeill Session always starts the same way as it finished last year, with an absolute mass of musicians on stage giving it all they've got. It provides great continuity and foreshortens even more the year between the events.

If you've never been to a Brian McNeill session, imagine anything and everything on the acoustic spectrum broken into short slots and thrown out on to stage. If that sounds a little chaotic it probably is, but it's wonderfully organised chaos that brings out surprise after surprise and combinations of musicians that you are never going to get anywhere else.

If you ever need to find me on a Saturday Afternoon on Cambridge Folk Festival weekend, I've pretty much set up camp at the front of Stage Two. Let the show begin.

Orcadian duo Saltfishforty kick off the proceedings the number of musicians drops from thirtyish down to two. It's a heavy pounding tune driven start, ahh it's great to be back.

I caught a fuller set from this duo and they've really impressed every time I've seen them. Even though they're from about as far north as you can get, their very short set is exactly what you need to drive the cobwebs out on a sultry sunny afternoon.

They are joined on stage by members of Feis Rois, Manran and The Paul McKenna Band for their final number, before it drops down to being The Paul McKenna Band.

They start off with "The Silent Majority" a great reminder of the culpability of the masses. My Paul McKenna Band curse holds true, they are back to being a four piece with fiddle player Rua MacMillan on duty elsewhere, such is the nature of the folk band beast.

The numbers at Stage Two are rapidly rising as the quality draws people in as inevitably as a magnet attracting iron filings. Paul McKenna has an incredible and distinctive voice and one that deserves to be heard more on this side of the border. With or without his musicians it really stands out. The band really is something you should catch. The three songs they delivered giving those that couldn't see their Thursday set a flavour of what they missed.

From Celtic inspired folk it's time to switch to something with an English root, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts. They played a stunning showcase in the Club Tent and the great thing is they've got a second chance to show people how good they are before their signing session in the Mojo Tent.

Brian McNeill introduces them with a comment about the rise of English Folk music in the last few years; acts like Gilmore Roberts have played a major part on that, adding substantially to the canon of songs and tunes. They played the Club Tent before Brian on the Friday and judging by the intro, really impressed.

They really impressed again today, not just for the way they played, but how they made use of their time, getting on with it and buying themselves valuable time to be able to let people know about their signing session, before using their music to engage with the audience.

It's staying with an English performer next, but a very different music genre, blues. Sean Taylor played the Brian McNeill Session last year and is making a welcome, albeit, brief reappearance this year. You never know what you are going to get here, well apart from the quality.

Sean is a very distinctive guitarist and about the only one I know that uses a double capo style. He doesn't use it that often, but with just one number to be noticed by, he uses it hear. It shouldn't work, but it does.

Counting last year, Sean has now played three of the four main stages at Cambridge and gone down a storm on all of them. Just Stage One to go.....

Feis Rois played the Club Tent last night; they are not a band as such. Feis Rois is a series of teaching events that are designed to ensure young Scottish musicians can get access to their cultural heritage and contribute towards its growth and survival.

The four musicians on stage represent just a small part of what the organisation is about. All of the musicians playing are between sixteen and eighteen, but if you close your eyes you would never know it such is the considerable talent that is on display. Scottish music definitely has a future and we've seen a small part of it here today. Hopefully we'll see many of the musicians back here in future years with bands of their own.