Colston Hall, 17 Nov 2012
Thousands or More is the kind of thing that Bellowhead does best: a thoughtful, slightly iconophobic deconstruction of a folk standard, totally sympathetic to the original while gently taking the piss out of it. And the actual tune and the actual words show no sign of disappearing under the jiggery pokery.
by Ewan McLennan
Bristol Folk Festival, 1 May 2012
Had never heard of Ewan McLennan when I wandered into the small room at Brizzle Folk Festival. Had never heard this song, either, although the Guardian’s obituary of Ian Campbell tells me that it was a standard change of pace protest song in the ‘60s peace movement. To be honest, I could have picked anything from Ewan's set (A Man’s a Man For A That; or The Banks Are Made of Marble) as one of my favourite live songs of the year. It’s maybe a perfect example of folk just being folk with the melody and the unaffected Scots dialect seeming to encode a particular human voice and a particular human story so it will be preserved for all time.
by Blackbeard's Tea Party
at Black Swan Folk Weekend, York - June 9 2013
Both regular readers know about my enthusiasm for Blackbeard's Tea Party: a combination of crazy fun theatre; extremely sophisticated musicianship; an admirable preference for intimate venues; and above all an infallible eye for picking terrific songs to cover. Front man Stuart Giddens has a distinct liking for sophisticated filth, so maybe it wasn't that surprising that they would turn their attention to this extended male fantasy cum shaggy dog story, although its a fairly large jump sideways from Cyril Tawney to Jake Thackray. It works perfectly, with the band rocking out around the fast bit and doing more sexy stripperesque stuff round the slow bits. One of the best things about their Christmas show was the guy in front of me who didn't know any of the songs and was hearing each smutty punchline for the first time.
And the Winner Is...
Old Man's Tale
because this is folk music and misery trumps happiness and smut. Oh, and his version of Bob Dylan’s Blues was in another stratosphere, too.