Sunday, 16 September 2018

Cara Dillon gig review

Cara Dillon played at The Platform in Morecambe last night (15 Sept), these dates being billed as the Duo Tour. Cara told us that she and husband Sam started doing low-key gigs, just the two of them, around their home in Somerset but found that they were proving more popular than the band shows so they are out on the road together with Cara on vocals and occasional whistle and Sam on piano and guitar. I must say that not having seen them for a few years, Sam's guitar playing has greatly improved. Previously his guitar work seemed to be mainly influenced by his brother Sean, who has quite an aggressive style of playing, but Sam has obviously been working on his finger-picking so there is more variation, which is never a bad thing.

We were treated to most of the songs from her latest "Wanderer" album plus a selection of older material including 'There Were Roses', 'She's Like The Swallow' and 'The Hill of Thieves'. According to Sam, Cara had been reluctant to record 'Blackwater Side' as it is such a classic folk song. This surprised me a bit as she had previously recorded 'She Moved Through The Fair' which I would have said was a more iconic song, especially the Fairport version with Sandy Denny on vocals. Cara's take on 'Blackwater Side' is good enough but the times I've heard her sing ...Fair, it has sent shivers up and down my spine. Sadly we didn't get to hear it last night.

But of the songs from the new album, 'Both Sides of the Tweed' sounded good and Cara's interest in songs about emigration was revisited in her composition 'The Leaving Song' which was written about the living wakes they used to have in Ireland. These were evenings of song and dance, and doubtless a few drinks, to celebrate the life of someone who was leaving for a new life across the ocean. And as Cara said, these people were often never heard from again.

While many of the songs were quite downbeat, in the best folk tradition, there were plenty of laughs from the stories we got from both Cara and Sam with one lovely one concerning their twin boys' first day at big school. Back when I first saw them in the early 2000s, when brother Seth was third member of the group, Sam was the quiet, sombre-looking presence behind his keyboard. But these days he is much more relaxed which makes for a more enjoyable evening out. 

And as the first Xmas card junk mail comes through the door, it seemed timely for Cara to mention her Christmas tour when she and Sam will be joined by other musicians for some seasonal tunes. The tour is coming to Manchester on the 9th of December.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Folk gigs in North Lancashire and South Cumbria

For full listings, online bookings etc

Brewery Arts Centre - breweryarts.co.uk/whats-on/live-music/

Image Acoustic* - imageacoustic.com/index.php/concerts
More Music** - moremusic.org.uk/
The Platform - uk.patronbase.com/_ThePlatform/Productions
The Storey - uk.patronbase.com/_VICticketbox/Productions/48/Performances

Flossie Malavialle* 
Date: Wednesday 19 September 
Venue: 13 The Warehouse, Morecambe
Tickets: £10

Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith
Date: Thursday 20 September
Venue: The Storey, Lancaster
Tickets: £12

Ben Walker and Josienne Clarke
Venue: Kenlis Arms, Garstang
Date: Thursday 20th September 
Tickets: £12.50

Blowzabella

Date: Friday 28 September
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £19.50

Luke Jackson and Willy Porter* 
Date: Saturday 13 October 
Venue: Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University
Tickets: £12

Rafiki Jazz**
Date: Sunday 14 October 
Venue: The Hothouse, Morecambe
Tickets: £13

Peggy Seeger

Date: Wednesday 24 October
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £20

Peatbog Faeries
Date: Friday 26 October
Venue: The Platform
Tickets: £18

Lucy Ward*
Date: Thursday 1 November  
Venue: Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University
Tickets: £12

Karine Polwart
Date: Saturday 3 November
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £20

Sam Carter* 
Date: Wednesday 7 November
Venue: 13 The Warehouse, Morecambe
Tickets: £12

Sheelanagig
Date: Friday 22 November
Venue: Holme Parish Church
Tickets: £14

Twelfth Day**
Date: Saturday 24 November
Venue: The Hothouse, Morecambe
Tickets: £11

Oysterband
Date: Wednesday 28 November
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £20.50


For folk and Americana shows and mixes - mixcloud.com/cmbertram

Monday, 26 March 2018

Some words on Wes Martin

I first met Wes Martin when he and Nigel were running the Open Mic night at the Gregson Centre. Wes would play his banjo and as I subsequently discovered, he was equally good on guitar and ukulele among other instruments. Back then he was a member of Nigel and Els’ band, The Low Countries, and contributed to their album, "The Failing of the Strains" which was influenced by the film The Wicker Man. Later on, when he and I co-presented Off The Beaten Tracks on Diversity FM, I played ‘Summerisle’ by The Bailey Sisters and Wes would join in singing the chorus with great gusto.

I can’t remember how it came about that Wes joined me on the radio station but I think it was because I wasn’t happy doing the show on my own and someone suggested that I find a co-presenter. At that time Wes was a full-time house-husband looking after two young sons and I got the impression that family life was, at times, quite stressful. Initially when Wes joined me we were doing live shows and he would often arrive with minutes to spare and then rush off at the end as there was some chore to do or a kid to be collected from school or wherever. But for those hours in the studio on a Friday lunchtime he could relax. To say he messed around would be unfair, as he was knowledgeable about the tracks he brought to the studio, but he certainly lightened the mood and I regained my love of broadcasting thanks to him.

We really were the classic straight man/funny man duo with me driving the desk (sliding faders up and down, playing jingles etc) while Wes brought his unique personality to the show. There was a book lying about in the studio titled something like This Day In History and it became a regular feature of the show with Wes reading bits from the book. He always had to mention who had died on this day in whichever year. He did seem to have something of a preoccupation with death though he never seemed to take it too seriously.

We recorded our final show in March 2012 when the funding ran out for Diversity FM and the YMCA pulled the plug on it. Wes had sometimes sat in with Reza Mills on his show and the three of us did one last live broadcast together on the day Diversity went off air. 


I didn’t see much of Wes after that, apart from one very drunken Xmas night out with Oli joining myself, Wes and Reza and the only other time I saw him was when we saw Mike Harding at the Lancaster Grand Theatre. We went for a drink after the show and Wes had got a real buzz from Mike’s brand of humour. He was a proud Northerner was Wes and I think he had a lot of admiration for Mike, both of them being from the North and having a shared love of folk and roots music.

But now Wes is gone. Inevitably, in these tragic circumstances, all his friends and family will find themselves asking why, and what we could have done to stop Wes from taking his own life. But ultimately it’s a pointless exercise. I, like many others, have been in the very dark places that depression can take you. It doesn’t matter how many people love you or how many friends you have offering you their support - when you are alone and the black cloud envelopes you, death can seem like the only way out and the only solution to your problems.

We will miss you Wes. We have your music, your paintings and I have a few recordings of our radio shows. The final song you selected on Off The Beaten Tracks was 'We’ll Meet Again' by Johnny Cash. I hope we do. So long Wes. It was a real pleasure knowing you.


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Listen to our final Diversity FM show on Mixcloud

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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Top Folk & Acoustic Albums of 2017

I've put together my list of favourite albums of the year. As ever, thanks go to the promoters and artists who have sent me cds and free downloads. Along with the albums listed below I should mention a couple of releases which were made up of just a few tracks - they might have been called EPs back in the days of vinyl - namely 'Five Songs' by Barbara Dickson and 'The Wren And The Salt Air' by Jenny Sturgeon.

2017 must be the first year in quite a long time that I didn't make it to any music festivals apart from the one here in Lancaster. I've only been to about a dozen gigs this year but most have been very enjoyable, the best being the Pitmen Poets, Breabach, John Doyle, Jamie Smith's Mabon, The Young 'Uns, Rory McLeod and Edgelarks. 

My favourite album and gig would probably go to The Young 'Uns as I was blown away by their harmony singing when they came to the Dukes Theatre here in Lancaster and their album "Strangers" is packed full of brilliant songs. 

Top UK Albums 

Ross Ainslie - Sanctuary
The Deadly Winters - Ravynstoun
Amy Duncan - Antidote
Robert Foster - Raven
Peter Knight's Gigspanner - The Wife of Urban Law
Rosie Hood - The Beautiful & The Actual
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys - Pretty Peggy
Geoff Lakeman - After All These Years
Madam Tsunami - Long Way From Home
Siobhan Miller - Strata
Moonlight Gazette - Moonlight Gazette
Damien O'Kane - Avenging & Bright
Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail
Old Blind Dogs - Room With A View
Skinner & T'witch - The Fool's Journey
Turnstone - Hollow Ground
The Young 'Uns - Strangers 

Top Albums from North America

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone 
Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough - Mockingbird Soul
Stephen Fearing - Every Soul's a Sailor
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors - Souvenir
Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy - The Miller Girl 


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

CB
Lancaster, UK

Friday, 27 October 2017

Off The Beaten Tracks radio show 27 October

I thought I'd record a show with songs written about refugees and immigrants and their journeys around the world. I found quite a few suitable ones just by UK artists, though there is a song by German group Fellerband, with my first choice being a very powerful song by The Young 'Uns titled 'Dark Water'. It was written about two young men who decided to swim across the sea to Greece as they didn't have the money to pay the people smugglers. There are a couple of songs about Calais where people used to gather in a camp called the Jungle though it has since been destroyed by the French authorities. But I'm sure people are still heading there to try and get across the Channel to England. 

https://www.mixcloud.com/cmbertram/off-the-beaten-tracks-27-october/

Darwin Song Project - Trust in the Rolling Ocean
Roving Crows - Refugee
Richard Thompson - Take Care the Road You Choose
Gilmore & Roberts - Warmonger
The Young 'Uns - Dark Water
Kate Rusby - Life in a Paper Boat
Fellerband - Road to Calais
Skinner & T'Witch - Calais Nights
Thea Gilmore - I Pity the Poor Immigrant
David Ferrard - I am an Immigrant (I'm From Here)
Julie Matthews - Road to Eden
Geoff Lakeman - The Road Together
June Tabor - Across the Wide Ocean

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Breabach gig review

Breabach at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal - 25 Feb 2017

At the start of this gig singer and guitarist Ewan Robertson said it had been a few years since they had played at the Brewery Arts Centre and asked if anyone in the audience had been there on that previous occasion. The silence was deafening, which took Ewan aback a bit, but by the end of the evening it didn't matter where all their old fans had gone as the new audience were on their feet applauding them like they were homecoming heroes.

Ewan, along with fiddler Megan Henderson, double bass player James Lindsay and pipers James Mackenzie and Calum MacCrimmon were in good spirits thanks to the Scottish victory over the Welsh at Murrayfield and the Cumbrian crowd was happy to join in the celebrations. While I'm sure I wasn't the only Scot in the audience, that old saying about the enemy of your enemy being your friend certainly applies in the Six Nations rugby tournament.

As for the music, there were plenty of tracks from their latest cd 'Astar' which includes compositions written on their travels to Scandanavia and Down Under. Each band member took it in turn to chat between numbers and there was some nice Outer Hebrides humour from James (We were poor but we were miserable!). I was mighty impressed with his flute playing - they are all accomplished musicians but I felt James' playing in particular was superb. Megan's Gaelic singing and step dancing are also worth a mention and there were some nice vocal harmonies when Ewan and Calum stepped up to their mics to accompany Megan. Ewan also gave us a lovely rendition of the Dick Gaughan song, "Outlaws and Dreamers".

With this having been the final date of the English leg of their current tour, they had the unenviable task of driving up to Inverness for a gig the following night, but on their current form I'm sure they will go down a storm in the Highlands. 

Hopefully it won't be another few years before Breabach play in the north-west of England again and all I can say to the band is, haste ye back!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Best Gigs of 2016

I didn't get to a huge number of gigs this year but enjoyed seeing the following at various venues mainly in the local area. The Lancaster Music Festival had another successful year with its mix of local, national and international acts and it was good to see local bands The Low Countries play to admittedly a rather small number of people at Lancaster Castle and Stephen Hudson & The Fiat Pandas play to a good-sized crowd at The Hall. 

Further afield The Village Pump Folk Festival in Wiltshire included a rousing set from The Proclaimers on the Saturday night, some good banter from Mark Radcliffe and his pirate pals in Galleon Blast and the discovery of the festival was Keith Christmas who has been around for many years but his music was new to me. Other highlights were Martin Simpson & Don Flemons, The Willows, Fara and Barluath.

If I'm pushed to choose a favourite gig I'll probably go for King Creosote. It was the first time I'd seen him with a band since the days of the Fence Collective when I lived in Fife back in the 1990s and early 2000s. 


Top 10 Gigs of 2016 (in date order)

Tim Dalling, The Gregson, Lancaster
Steve Knightley, Glasson Dock Village Hall
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, The Hothouse, Morecambe
Gilmore & Roberts, Garstang Unplugged
Paddy Garrigan & The Stroller Priests, The Gregson, Lancaster
9Bach & Twelfth Day, The Hothouse, Morecambe
King Creosote, Cloudspotting Festival
Rory McLeod, Lancaster Music Festival
Jamie Smith's Mabon, Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere
Belshazzar's Feast, The Hothouse, Morecambe


And check out my Recommended Albums of 2016

The Folk & Acoustic Music Show
Every Thursday at 8pm
On 103.5FM and online at beyondradio.co.uk