We went to the Moseley Folk Festival yesterday, and it was really fantastic. I don't know why I haven't been before. I love folk music, and Moseley is only a short bus ride and a walk away from me. Anyway, I'll certainly be going again next year. The festival is held in Moseley Park, which is a fabulous, fairy grotto of a park, hidden in a valley between rows of Victorian houses. It's surrounded by trees, and the natural slope of the site makes a good amphitheatre for live music.
All the artists I saw were wonderful, so it's hard to single people out, but there were several artists (some new to me) who I particularly enjoyed.
Jon Redfern has a lovely, delicate style, and a great guitar technique with beautifully-crafted songs that really hold your attention.
John Smith: surely the man with the least distinctive name in music, but a really distinctive, rich voice, and a mind-blowing guitar style. He's one of those artists who is really hard to describe to someone else, because he doesn't sound like anyone else, but he made my heart break a bit. Which is a good thing, in case you're wondering. He also has an extraordinary, show-stopping guitar technique where he lays it flat on his lap and employs a kind of extreme tambour stroke to provide a percussion backing. Even though he's there, doing it in front of you live, it's hard to believe that he's getting such an incredible layered sound out of one guitar and two hands. If you're interested, you can hear it on 'Winter (Live)' on his MySpace page.
The Family describe their music as "swaggering, Bourbon-drenched Cosmic Country music for bow-legged women", which is a fairly good summary. It's good-time music that's a little bit off its head -- something like early Beefheart or Canned Heat. They also gave away free CDs, which endeared them greatly to the crowd.
What can I say. I've never had the pleasure before, but now I'm wondering where they've been all my life. I've got a very soft spot for Klezmer music, which is the basis of The Destroyers' sound, but they swerve joyfully between klezmer, ska, dub, punk, funk and folk, often within the same song -- it's like an explosion in a music factory. And they have a hurdy gurdy, and any music featuring hurdy gurdy is OK by me. They've got a great video (shot in Digbeth!) of their anthem to the joys of multicultural urban life, Out of Babel, which is definitely worth a look. But if you want to see their live style (with a much reduced band), see Rhombus of Righteousness. Little kids (of all ages) love them because you can jump around like a loon to their music -- in fact, it's impossible not to.
Sharron Kraus has a lovely, high, clear voice which she completely subverts by singing dark, dangerous folk songs and murder ballads. Her music manages to sound ancient, like songs passed down through the generations, but she writes all her own material. Excellently creepy.
I've raved about Chris Wood's music before, so it won't be a surprise that he was the reason we decided to get tickets for the festival. So it was a shame that his set was so short, and that it was plagued with sound problems. Actually several artists had problems with the sound, which with acoustic music in the open air can really mar the performance. He was also on not long after The Destroyers, so people were still a bit excitable. It must be hard for someone -- whose stock-in-trade is a quiet, carefully crafted, emotionally-laden story in song -- to get people to shut up and listen. Well, I was listening and hanging on to every note, and he was wonderful. Chris: if there's a chance in a million (see what I did there?) that you happen to be reading this, some people were listening. And you made me shed a tear with 'One in a Million'. Again. I'm a sucker for a sweet, romantic story, and it's the way you tell it. I wish you'd had time for 'Lord Bateman' too.