To misquote John Prine, "Idyllic" is a word I seldom use but it is the only word to describe the wonderful Folk On The Farm Festival ,held on the beautiful Isle of Anglesey at Hendy Farm at Brynrefail.
This year’s festival was the fourth to be held at this glorious location ,in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty . The farm is home to a wonderful charity called Tyddyn Mon which provides day care,training and support to fifty adults with learning difficulties ,as well as running seven supported houses across Anglesey.
The festival ran from Friday evening to Sunday evening but I was only able to be there on the Sunday, a scorchingly hot day ,one of the hottest of the year. The farm is a short distance inland from the coast but the views of the sparkling ,azure sea at Lligwy Bay were just stunning ,whilst the quality of the music on offer was exceptionally high.
Opening the bill was local poet and "grumpy old wit" , Daniel Dwyran who regaled us with his amusing poems about holidays [ "Donkey Poo"], army catering ["Range Stew"] and the self-deprecating "No Rolls Royce".
Following Daniel was local bluesman Martin Hibbert ,who was accompanied by Nev Griffiths on guitar and Pat on drums ,who had played with 1970’s chart-topping novelty band Lieutenant Pigeon! Martin and Co. gave us some Down and Dirty blues rock ,including the Dire Straits-ish "Loving Him To Death" and the a cappella "Dog Town".
Next up were another local act from Anglesey, Seren, who are singer/songwriter /guitarist John Harley and flautist Sarah Holme. It’s fair to say that John has a distinctive voice ,at times sounding like Family’s Roger Chapman ,whilst Sarah’s flute playing recalled that of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. I particularly enjoyed the duo’s flamenco-influenced instrumental which perfectly suited the Mediterranean-type weather - Anglesey was actually hotter than Ibiza today! I was also impressed by John’s atmospheric song "Crosswind" and a striking cover of Joan Osborne’s "St.Teresa".
Friday evening’s concert had been headlined by the band Aelfen who [mainly] come from Wakefield . This afternoon the band’s two front people Sarah Horn [fiddle] and James Cudworth [from Liverpool, on guitar and vocals] played a set as a duo [although ,as a bonus, the rest of the band joined them for the last few numbers]. Sarah and James played a storming set of fiddle-led instrumentals including "Copper Coins" , "Dragon’s Blood" and the Medieval "Pack Peas". The full Aelfen line-up really got the crowd going with the lively tune "The Whale" and a cracking version of "The Mountain Road" coupled with "The Merry Blacksmith", complete with "weird stuff in the middle". Aelfen are an ideal band for a festival and I am sorry that I did not catch their Friday night performance ,which ,I was informed, had gone down a storm.
Next up was a young singer-songwriter from Hull , Katie Spencer. I had not seen Katie before but was immediately and hugely impressed . With her reverb-laden acoustic guitar, powerful and original song writing and a voice like warm honey, she was ,for me ,the discovery of the festival. I look forward to hearing recorded versions of her songs ,such as "Please Don’t Look At Me", "Don’t Take Me As A Fool"and "Can’t Resist The Road". As a fellow John Martyn enthusiast, I also enjoyed Katie’s interpretation of the traditional "Spencer The Rover" and her sensuous version of John’s "Couldn’t Love You More". Katie spencer is definitely an artist to look out for.
I have had the pleasure of seeing Edwina Hayes perform on several previous occasions and have always been impressed by her warmth and honesty . She has a lovely voice and has written some superb songs, several of which we heard today ,including "Leave A Light On For You", the Kate Rusby -inspired "Irish Waltz" and "Bend In The Road"[ co-written with Boo Hewerdine]. Edwina also added some choice cover songs including Richard Thompson’s "Down Where The Drunkards Roll" and John Prine’s "Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness". A thoroughly charming performance by a most appealing artist.
I first saw Gilmore and Roberts when they supported Fairport Convention on their 2011 Winter Tour and immediately became a fan. Today’s set was slightly delayed when Jamie broke a guitar string when he struck his very first chord! However, he and Katriona soon got into their stride and gave a thoroughly entertaining set of their slightly quirky songs about a cross-dressing pioneer surgeon ["Dr.James"]; an ineffective scarecrow ["Scaring Crows"]; a transplanted arm with a will of its own ["The Stealing Arm"]; a ghostly experience ["Fleetwood Fair"] and a motorcycle racer whose hobby affects his loved ones ["Selfish Man".As a finale , Katriona and Jamie got the crowd joining in with a rousing rendition of "Peggy Airey" from their latest album "Conflict Tourism" . Great stuff.
Unfortunately ,I was unable to stay for the final act of the festival ,Hedge Gods, but as I drove away from Hendy Farm I reflected on what a wonderful day this had been – great music, perfect weather ,a beautiful setting and a relaxed ,friendly atmosphere and all in aid of a wonderful charity.
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