Thursday, April 23, 2015

Monty Awards 2014

The Fourth Annual Montpelier Station Awards, affectionately known as the Montys.

Folk Music Awards chosen by a committee of bloggers and podcasters living quite near Montpelier station.

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A playlist of some of the music we are chattering about...

And the YouTube version....

Best Album of 2014

Fumes and Faith - Luke Jackson

The Hum - O'Hooley and Tidow

At Our Next Meeting - The Furrow Collective

Two White Cranes - Two White Cranes

Let the Wind Blow High or Low - Sid Goldsmith and Jimmy Aldridge

And the winner is....

Best New Song of 2014

Running Out of Time - Luke Jackson (Disqualified for winning last year)

Sister -  Luke Jackson

Summat's Brewing - O'Hooley and Tidow

Diabetes Blues - Gaz Brookfield

Giant - Heg and the Wolf Chorus

Ballad of Richard Howard - Sam Sweeney/Hugh Lupton

And the winner is....

Best New Version of Old Song 2014

Beeswing by Luke Jackson

Young Outlaw of the Hills by the Furrow Collective

The L and N Don't Stop Here Any More by Jimmy and Sid

The Grand Conversation on Napoleon by Martin and Eliza Carthy

Roll, Alabama Roll by Bellowhead

And the winner is...

Best Gig of 2014

The Roaring Trowmen at The Kingsdown Wine Vaults, Bristol

The Fire Pit Collective at The Old England, Bristol

Gaz Brookfield at the Bank, Bristol

Jim Moray at Chapel Arts Bath

And the winner is...

Onion Award for Making the Judge Cry

Show of Hands singing Cousin Jack at Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Sam Sweeney for Made in the Great War

Luke Jackson singing Down to the Sea (Live You Tube Version)

Peggy Seeger singing Still Quite Early Morning at the Radio 2 Folk Awards

And the winner is... 

Special Awards

Festival Goer of the Year

Best Coffee at a Festival

Monkhouse Award for Best Album of Sinatra Covers By An Artist Named Bob

And the winners are...

Special Award For Gig That Was Most Special

Nic Jones at St Georges Bristol

Show of Hands at Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Blackbeard's Tea Party at Avalon Stage, Glastonbury

Yoko Ono at Park Stage, Glastonbury

And the winner is

Overall Favourite Performer of 2014

The winner is...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2013 Monty Awards

Here are the nominations for the 2013 Montpelier Station Award ( affectionately know as The Montys). For the third year running, a panel of judge chosen from a short list of blogger living at my house selects his favourite musical moments from the past twelve months. For the first time in their history, the awards well be announced live on the Folkbuddies Podcast.

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Best Album

None the Wiser
Chris Wood

Whip Jamboree
Blackbeard's Tea Party

Child Ballads
Anais Mitchell / Jefferson Hamer 

Crumbling Ghost II
Crumbling Ghost

Best New Song

Jackie and Murphy
Martin Simpson (Vagrants Stanzas CD)

Running Out of Time
Luke Jackson (live at Trinity Folk Festival)

None the Wiser
Chris Wood

Silbury Hill
Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (various)

Best Version of Old Song 

Matty Groves
Phil Cerney (live at the York Black Swan folk festival)

Lily Marlene
June Tabor (live at St Georges Bristol)

Riddles Wisely Expounded
Anais Mitchell  (Child Ballads CD)

North Country Blues
Martin Simpson (Vagrant Stanzas CD and live at Chapel Arts Bath)

Best Gig or Set

Jim Moray
Folk by the Oak Folk Festival

Luke Jackson
Trinity Folk Festival

Firepit Collective
Priddy Folk Festival

Martyn Joseph
Trowbridge Folk Festival and/or Colston Hall

Favourite Non-Farm Based Festival

Priddy Folk Festival

Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Trinity Folk Festival Guildford

Black Swan Folk Weekend York 


Special Award for the Gig That Was Most Special

Bright Phoebus Revisited
Colston Hall

Full English
Colston Hall

Jim Moray and Eliza Carthy
Colston Hall

Ewan McLennan 
Three Sugar Loaves, Bristol

Best Live Performance by an Artist Named Bob

Bob Dylan
Albert Hall London

Onion Award for Making the Judge Cry

Jake Thackray
The Remembrance sung by John Teesdale at the Black Swan, York

Jake Thackray
Remember Bethlehem sung by Notte Bene Choir at St Nicholas Church Bristol

Martyn Joseph
Five Sisters at Trowbridge Folk Festival & Colston Hall

Show of Hands
Cousin Jack at  Colston Hall

Singer Whose Name We Most Often Mispronounce

Karine Polwart

Katriona Gilmore

June Tabor

Dick Gaughan

Instrument We Most Often Mistake For a Cello

Double Bass

Jews Harp



Most Woody Guthrie

Andy Irvine

Billy Bragg

Martyn Joseph

Most Crowd

Two people
Ewan McClennan at Three Sugar Loaves

Fifty People
Chris Wood at St Georges Bristol

Two hundred and fifty thousand people
The Rolling Stones in a field in  Somerset

Most Unique Act

Richard Dawson

The Spooky Men's Chorale

Crumbling Ghost

Highlight of the Year

Ruins On the Shore 
Nic Jones at Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Nic Jones at Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Little Pot Stove Nic Jones at Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Overhearing the Sound check
Nic Jones at Trowbridge Village Pump Festival

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Fumes and Faith

Luke Jackson
Pipe Records

What a difference a year makes. Luke Jackson’s first album, More Than Boys, ended with some lads on their way home from a fishing trip singing “Oh me, oh my, where’s our worry?” This, his second, opens with a murderer asking “Hey there sister, please can you tell me why the sun never seems to shine when I step outside?” The first album was unadorned, Luke’s voice and Luke’s guitar; this one has some bass and some backing and some hand clapping and some finger snapping. The first album was a sunny day coming to an end; this one is encroaching night. The endless folksy summer has turned all dark and bluesy. There’s an awful lot of rain.

More Than Boys was rooted in the specifics of times and places — housing estates and parks that I assume the singer could point out to you. There are hardly any place-names on Fumes and Faith. It’s populated by shadowy figures who you can’t quite see. We take it for granted that the youth who used to ride his bike down the big hill is simply the singer himself; but who is the man in Sister who "took a man's life, saw him take his last breath?" Come to that, who’s the woman who "saw Moses part the sea" and "pulled Jonah from the belly of the whale"? Luke Jackson’s actual sister? A "sister" in the sense of a nun? Some kind of goddess figure? ("The one who has always been there is me.") My Folkbuddy would doubtless say I'm paying too much attention to the lyrics; that Luke Jackson is trying on styles, writing lines because they are the kind of lines that sound like they fit into this kind of English Americana.  And that’s true too. "Hey there sister I need to find my faith / Not to pray for me to to pray for him instead" is a stonkingly good line.

If More than Boys was a "growing up" album, maybe Fumes and Faith is a "leaving home" album? Or "trying to go home album"? Or a "being at just that point where you realise that if you stay away from home any longer you won’t ever be able to back" album? A boy looks for the mother who left him when he was very young; the criminal looks for his lost faith; a young man realises he's drifted away from a lover; a middle-aged lady wonders where her lifetime has gone; a blues singer is called home by his cross-roads ghost.  

It's less confessional than the first one. (Luke’s face is pointedly not on the cover.) It's more oblique, less direct. I've listened to the title song, what, five times, and I am still not completely sure I understand it. The "fumes" are drugs, I suppose. ("Boys are smoking green as they slowly drift away...”) But what is the faith? And is it the same faith that the murderer in Sister had lost? (Luke has been touring with Martyn Joseph, and there’s a church in the video.) Who is a saying "this is our home town and you're not welcome here my friend"? Is this a satire on small minded folk who don't like outsiders, or is it good people asking the drug dealers and porn pushers to leave them alone? But god forbid there should be a new generation of Jacksonolgists trying to intellectualize this stuff. This is music which bypasses the critical head and goes straight to the heart. When he sings out the the main hook, "We're paying our dues and doing our time..." you feel know just what he means.

It’s not what Mike Harding called "self-centred" but it's still written very firmly in Luke’s own voice. I can't think of a songwriter who has quite such a knack of taking ordinary English speech and turning it into lyrics. At one level, Charlie in the Big World is the most ordinary, down-to-earth, English thing you ever heard, a set of anecdotes about a character everyone recognises --"He told us his father planted the old conker tree / A hundred years ago today, but he's only fifty three / Well we rolled around laughing, we said he's a liar, can't you see? / He said are you taking the piss out of my daddy in me?" But Luke turns this ordinary tale into a sort of incantatory chant, with an edge of anger and self-reproach, maybe even slightly sinister, which ends taking the side of the serial fibber. “If lies are just dreams by any other name maybe they'd come true just the same?” 

Do I like it as much as I liked the first album? No, of course I don't. More Than Boys was the sort of album that hits you between the eyes the first time you hear it, makes you say “that’s so true, I’d forgotten feeling like that....” This one is much more slow burn: “Hmm...I wonder what he means by that, exactly...” Not surprisingly, my favourite song, Down To The Sea, is one which would have fitted most comfortably on the first album. It’s about drinking beer (“even though we was under age”) rather than riding bikes, but it’s still a celebration and eulogy for past friendships and it totally broke my heart (“One day it might feel right / one day we might feel the same / we'll go back down to the sea / and have days like those again.”

But I don't want to be That Guy who likes all Luke Jackson's songs, especially the earlier, heartbreaking ones. Fumes and Faith is a more mature, cleverer, more musically sophisticated set of songs than More than Boys, and Luke’s voice gets better all the time. And how he uses that voice... You could almost take Running Out of Time as a bleak mirror image of Down to the Sea and it’s quite extraordinary; a young man coming back to his home and finding it's changed, or he’s changed. It’s incredibly bleak; we wait in for that right-turn into hopefulness that he delivers at the end of Fathers and Sons. He seems almost to wail “I thought by coming home, maybe I'd change your mind” and there is a slight crack, the very lightest dusting of bluesy gravel in his voice. But then he half whispers “...but it seems you’ve been getting on just fine” and blows you away by singing out the refrain in that rich deep voice he uses for spirituals. There is a texture to these songs which isn’t really comparable to any other singer song-writer. When he sings “I get so damned tired with all the trying” he really honestly sounds tired. It’s only February and I suspect I've already heard the best new song of 2014. 

This is fortunately the last album about which patronising old people will be able to say "...considering he’s still a teenager...." But you do have to wonder. "I didn't know I was running out of time..."  How can songs this deep, this self-accusatory, and this world-weary be coming from a performer who hasn’t yet celebrated his twentieth birthday?

Review of Luke Jackson's first album

Folkbuddies Podcast "The Hanging Judge"

Andrew reviews the Guildford folk festival -- talks about Luke's set about 35 minutes in.

Folkbuddies Podcast: "We are not the same"

Andrew tries to persuade Clarrie that she is wrong about Luke Jackson, and everything degenerates into bickering. (Also: Highwaymen.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Islanders

Bristol Old Vic

The Islanders, launched without very much fanfare in the studio area of Bristol's Old Vic and transferring to Edinburgh for the summer, is a charming piece of performance art that does exactly what it says on the tin.

The tin, in this case, containing blue paint the exact colour of the sky on the Isle of Wight.

Amy Mason performs a spoken narrative, ostensibly about a holiday she and her boyfriend took in 1999, but spreading out into a general evocation of teenage life at the turn of millennium.  It's clearly real life that's being transmuted into art here: the post cards and snapshots which flash from the powerpoint are obviously the real McCoy. There is an impressive specificity to it: real and funny without seeming to try too hard;  two teenagers in a bedsit, living mostly off Hubba-Bubba ("please don't hate us") and eating only orange things, deciding to try to have a grown-up holiday.

The boyfriend in question, Eddie Argos ("he's in a band, they've done quite well") provides the other half of the show. He interleaves her narrative with his songs, telling his side of the story, accompanied on guitar by "our friend Jim". Amy mentions that she is relieved when they split up because it meant that she would no longer have to listen to Billy Bragg every day. Eddie's performance is perhaps what you might expect a Billy Bragg fanatic to mutate into after thirteen years of knowing better: very expressive, strongly rhymed, unselfconscious speaking songs. (He issued a killer cover of Between the Wars to celebrate the recent happy event, but wound up this evening with a record of the bard of Barking himself singing "I was twenty one years when I wrote this song...") Eddie's memories of the holiday are mostly upbeat; Amy remembers it as a disaster. She remembers being scared to death on a theme-park ride; he thinks she was weeping with excitement. I particularly enjoyed his description of staying in a hotel for the first time, not quite knowing what the rules are ("B &; B / Anxiety") which rang slightly truer that Amy's fears that the room was haunted.

I overheard some punters on the way out complaining that they couldn't see where the piece was going or what the point of it was, which seemed rather harsh. I suppose if you were expecting it to build to a  big revelation or plot twist, you'd be disappointed. I thought it was as nice a memory piece as I've come across: a poignant evocation of a particular time and place and sub-culture and yes, it does seem strange to us incredibly boring old people to hear grown-ups looking back on 1999 as the olden days. Like all autobiographical fiction, it's less about the memories themselves than about the process of remembering them.

I liked what that fellow was doing with his guitar, said a man I had been chatting to in the bar before hand.

He is a very famous folk singer, I explained.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Memoriam: Margaret Thatcher


Chumbawamba crept up on me. Mick and Lester kept opening Folkwaves with "Add Me", back in the days when we were still allowed to have folk music on the wireless. They were never really folkies, but in their final phase, their stripped down, acoustic, often acapella music fitted better in folk clubs than anywhere else. It's not that big a jump from using electronically sampled speech and sounds in your punk records to incorporating fragments of "They Sent Him To The War To Be Slain" and "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill" into your acoustic set. Not that they were ever exactly punks, either. They did some straight folk-songs: I adore the song of the Idris Strikers on English Rebel Songs: so raw and artless, part way between a football song and a Morning Star editorial, sung so sweetly and with such respect. But they remained entirely sceptical about the whole concept of folk music. Their first folkish album was called "Readymades", which give the clue to what was going on. 

When I first saw them at the Bristol South Bank I honestly didn't know their history; when the support singer claimed that they had saved his life -- the police had knocked him down at a demo, and if that song had not been playing on the radio, he might not have found the strength to get up again -- I was only vaguely aware that Tubthumping was widely regarded as the worst record every made. (Actually, like everything else they ever did, it's a brilliant, witty piece of work, but not something you want taken out of context and used as a sing a long football album.) I truly hadn't heard of the Prescott Incident. I only knew that their response to the London bombings was one of the most touching political songs I'd ever heard.

I assume it was the chart success of Tubthumping that gave them them the freedom to do whatever they wanted, politically engaged folk albums and politically albums; and that irony is part of the point of what they were doing. They told stories between the songs at gigs of how they'd allowed records to be used in adverts for companies they didn't like and then donated the money to radical causes. What they did, better than anyone, is create what would in the 60s have been called Happenings; using their minor celebrity to make points. The Bono teeshirts at Glastonbury; chanting "Free Mumia Abu-Jamal" in the middle of a chorus on the Letterman show.

I'm not sure when this final record was made. Since it contains a little fragment in Spanish called "Pinochet mourns from beyond the grave" I assume it must be later than 2006: after Readymades but before The Boy Bands Have Won, in other words. It's the last of their Happenings. They'd been saying at concerts for years that they had recorded some songs to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher, and, if you gave them a fiver and wrote your address on a piece of paper, they'd send it to you on the morning after "the glorious day". Sure enough, on Tuesday morning, a neat little envelope with the Chumba logo appeared on my door mat.

It's basically a ten minute EP, with something in common with the the Smash Clause 29 sound collages and something in common with their later acoustic sound. It's basically two new-old songs a couple of fragments and a lot of noises off. "So Long..." is a twinkly swingy musical comedy skit ("Goodbye, goodbye; it's so familiar to see you lie"); "The Day the Lady Died" is pretty much only there for the title, which will make anyone who knows Chumbawamba's back catalogue smile. "Waiting For Margaret To Go" is an impression of the early home life of our own dear prime minister, not entirely unlike the Larkin song on Boy Bands Have Won (which it sounds a bit like as well). Its a clever and oddly poignant song with lots of pointed lyrics ("grocers and methodists lay her down low") which could merit a posthumous release as a single. But its the sampled sound scape which really makes the record, partly because of its cleverness but mostly because it reminds us of the older Chumbawamba sound. The hint of Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead wafting over perfectly chosen quotes. (I shall go orn and orn and orn ; and the still cringe making attempt to perform the Dead Parrot sketch). 

It deserves to be more widely heard than by those of us who handed over our fivers at long-ago concerts. Like everything they did, it holds different things perfectly in balance: the sweet harmony of the tunes; the wit of the lyrics; the conceptual art cleverness behind the whole idea; and the genuine, uncompromising satirist's rage holding everything together. The whole thing only runs to ten minutes, and one wishes that Mark Radcliff or someone could it in its entirety on the wireless. I bet they would do something really funny with the royalty cheque.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sam Lee

Bristol Folk House

Memo to Folk House management: when you have sold this many tickets, take on more bar staff and bake some more chocolate brownies. Folkies like cakes and ale. I must remember to keep it in my head that the Folk House cafe is open when there isn't music: a good place to get a coffee and a bun which isn't the Boston Tea Party. Maybe I can persuade Brian to come and listen to some country music with me.

The crowd was caused by Sam Lee, new to me, but has appeared on Radio 3. Winner of the Froots "best album" prize.

First there was a man with a big African thing.

Then Sam came on. Sam is young, with something of the 1950s in his hair, and, get this, one of those knitted white sweaters, as if someone in 1972 had been briefed to do an impersonation of a folk singer. There is a brief moment of panic. Is this going to be one of those middle class music students having a sort of go at that folk stuff because its cool? Evidently not. The first thing he does is introduce Thomas McCarthy, who he describes as a national treasure. Thomas isn't the support act: he is sitting with the band, interspersing his numbers with theirs. I have heard him a couple of times before, at the Cellar Upstairs Folk Club and way back at the Folk Against Fascism benefit. He's one of the last people to genuinely grew up in the oral tradition, performing songs, or versions of songs, that he learned from his grandparents. He was raised as an Irish traveller, which, as a lady who has slightly missed the point explains to me in the interval, means he isn't really a gypsy. He gets a small round of applause when he mentions that the makers of Big Fat Gypsy Wedding were successfully prosecuted for racism. "The whole country has gone mad; they think that travelling people are some lost tribe; we've always been here." He sings in a style that you probably thought only existed on wax cylinders. Everything has roughly the same tune; hovering part way between song and poem and recitation. His mouth quivers at the end of lines, giving a strange, vibrato sound. He does the one about the man who wakes up in bed with a pig and the man who marries a lady who turns out to be ninety, not nineteen as she had claimed and the woman who married a man with no balls at all. They aren't all bawdy: there is also a quite chilling one about a lady having a conversation with her dead husband. I sometimes say of a support act that I could have listened to him all night. In this case I probably couldn't have. But I bought the CD.

Thomas's presence is important to the way that Sam Lee is setting outs his stall. Sam has a very specific relationship to folk music. Lots of folk singers tells us where they learned their songs: but they are usually talking about current folk performers, or archive recordings. Sam seems to have collected his songs first-hand; he talks of songs he heard from working shepherds and songs he collected on traveller sites. But (despite the sweater) there is no sense that he's doing a pastiche of the source singers. They're his songs now. His voice is sweet, rather alien. His movements can be a little fey; part conducting, part dancing. He ends the first set by encouraging the audience to sing along to a traveller song called Phoenix Island and for once the audience is sweetly adding to the performance, which I'm sure is due to Sam's gentle, swaying movements. 

Sometimes there is a sense that we are listening to a relatively traditional folk singer, performing in a relatively style while a band gently improvise around him. It's not quite like anything I've heard before; not like Jim Moray recasting ancient songs in a modern idiom, or Ian King trying to reinvent folk music for the twenty first century, More like dressing the old songs in a fresh suit of clothes. Possibly the climax of the evening is his  chilling performance of the Jews Garden. When he played it on the radio, he says that there were complaints ("written on paper") because it is a version of Little Sir Hugh of Lincoln -- the blood libel, the tale of the supposed killing of a Christian child by an evil Jewess. It's a stark, disturbing, uncompromising rendering, with jews harps twanging all round it. The story goes back to the sixteenth century, but is still known by Romany and Scots travellers today. Sam says that if the story is not told and the song not sung, we might forget about the murders and pogroms it provoked. He's from a Jewish background himself.

This is not what I usually think of as traditional music. Sam is not the sort of person who is going to produce a clever new take on Clyde Water or Two Sisters. These are songs you haven't heard before (or at any rate, songs that I haven't heard before); even the time honoured tale of the girl visited in the night by her dead lover is an unfamiliar one. This a a man who has taken the oral tradition, grabbed it with his hands, and done something with it; there is a sense of him immersing himself  in orality and then bringing his own musical sensibility to it -- as if he's a link in a chain, not a revivalist. That's why the presence of Thomas McCarthy is so important. (Sam listens, intently, eyes closed, whenever Tom is singing.)

I shall be honest: I need to listen to this again before I decide how much I like it. But I have no doubt that we were in the presence of something new, exciting, important.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Richard Dawson

The Cube

The Cube is a bit niche. The last time I went I saw a documentary about morris dancing. The time before that I saw a man with a paper bag over his head singing lyrics that went "Grr! Grr!" The foyer is like 1980s Sussex University, all dark and crowded with the latest bottled beer and young people with hats. The performance space is like a a time capsule of the 1970s Barnet Odeon. I am always nervous at gigs where a large number of young people are present. Have I walked in on something popular by mistake? Am I the only one who isn't a friend of the band? 

I have never heard of Richard Dawson. New Cyberfolkbuddy tells me that he is Britain's greatest undiscovered talent and the best folk lyricist who isn't Nigel Blackwell. I tactfully don't mention that I don't have the faintest idea who Nigel Blackwell is. 

First up was Two White Cranes. There is only one of her: the cranes are industrial machinery, not birds. She walks past a building site on her way to work. Her music is what I think of, possibly erroneously, as Antifolk, because some years ago I heard Kimya Dawson on a boat. She picks out fairly simple melodies on a guitar and sings simple, performance poetry lyrics in a slightly chanty baby-voice. Cyberfolkbuddy thought she recalled Billy Bragg, not necessarily in a good way; he has also sometimes been saddled with the Antifolk label. 

You say I love you 
every day 
but then almost every day 
something changes 
all of my old thoughts 
replaced with new ones 
I want to stay still 
but I move on 

I thought it worked. It was simple; it was honest; it was well observed; ("You fell asleep / In the middle of ET") it was witty; it was human and what you saw was what you got. When she spoke between songs she seemed nervous and awkward but still the same person as when she was singing, as if her music was freeing up her voice. I would pay to hear her again.

Next up was someone calling himself Tom O.C Wilson, very likely because that was his name. He was a young male with an electric guitar and the only person in the evening who had what would normally be described as self-confidence. He played rocky fifties-ish electric music which sometimes veered into show-tune territory with audible lyrics which seemed to mean something. Someone is driving around America in the 1960s ("this is the land of bubblegum and the Klan"). Someone else is adopted by a stray cat. 

The cat came crawled in one day
vulnerable and probably a stray
but dangling from her neck 
a silver bell proclaimed her has a pet 

Singer songwriters often get adopted by cats. What OC had in common with Ms Cranes was pointedly unlyrical lyrics yoked to relatively simple tunes. I would pay to hear him again as well.

It's quite alarming that the two local supporty people were quite so worth listening to. Every cafe and bar on Stokes Croft has acoustic nights with people I have never heard of playing at them. How many quite worth listening to people am I missing? How many of this years quite worth listening to people are going to turn out to be next years quite famous people? So much live music, so little time.

Richard Dawson isn't local. He is from Newcastle and on tour. You haven't heard of him, I haven't heard of him, I doubt if Mark Radcliffe has heard of him. He has made records, but they appear to have mostly been on vinyl.

He shambles onto the stage and starts chatting. He's performed before in a cinema in Newcastle that was inspired by the Cube, so now he's in the Cube, his brain feels a little bit wrong. We probably think that the guitar is a prop and that we've accidentally come to a really lame stand up gig. "I'm worried that I might go ballistic and get my cock out or something". (The man behind me thinks that this is the funniest remark he has ever heard. "Ballistic cock!" he exclaims.) 

And then more or less without warning, he starts to sing, and my jaw drops several inches. It's the purely traditional "I am a brisk lad". (You know the one: sheep stealer chappie, whose fortune is quite bad and is intending to build him a house on the moor, my brave boys, build him a house on the moor.) He doesn't so much sing it as bellow it; going from something so deep that it's almost a growl to something high and sweet without anything in between. He has a disconcerting habit of bending over double by the end of a song, at which point his hat falls off. Momentarily I wonder if this is intended to be a very subtle parody of a folk singer, but no, it's an eccentric performance, certainly, but it's meant seriously and he seems to own and respect the song and bring his own  strange, eerie power to it.

There is some more chat. He introduces the band (there isn't a band) which largely consists of dead pets, and does a long eccentric guitar piece and then a rambling self-written song about a wooden bag and the various sentimental objects that he keeps in it.

It closes with a click
and fastens with a clasp
In the shape of a bumblebee.

He's doing a project based on objects and papers in the Discovery Museum in New Castle. He bellows out one of the songs from that project, which has some relationship to Poor Old Horse but which appears to be derived from a report he discovered in the museum of a nineteenth century animal cruelty scandal.

His palms around the hilt of the axe
delivered such a horrible blow
the horse emerged a terrible cry
it struck him just below the eye
poor old horse
see what they did to the poor old horse

And then a creditably sweet William of Wimsbury. And another long free form piece about the eye complaint he suffers from. ("Its not a sad thing, it just a thing, other people have bigger things to deal with."). 

The silence of the dead 
the slow coagulation of the sky
drowning out the light 
thrown across the void by a spinning ball of fire

Lyrically, he put me in mind of Alasdair Roberts. Musically he reminds me of no-one on earth. It all seemed genuine and unaffected. At one point he gave a long introductory spiel for one of the museum pieces, and then said "Do you know, I don't feel like singing this song, because we're in a cheerful mood...". I don't think it was part of the act; I think he genuinely changed his mind about the set list. ("Ballistic cock!"" shouted the man behind me.) 

Greatest living folk lyricist? I wouldn't go that far. Undiscovered talent, part traditional nasal growler, part psychedelic wierdness, part self deprecating comedian, utterly original – more like Robin Williamson than anyone else I've heard, if Robin Williamson were a slightly bewildered Geordie who isn't quite sure how he ended up on the stage but is damn well going to give it is best shot while he's there.

The person, in short, for whom the word "quirky" was invented. I would travel to Newcastle to hear him again.

The Cube cinema. A bit niche. Isn't Stokes Croft great?

Half man half Biscuit. Don't write in. I looked it up.

Obviously, the exact moment I say that no-one will have heard of him, it turns out he's playing a big festival. I'll shut up and go away now.