Sunday, 4 December 2016

Recommended Albums of 2016

This year has seen community radio return to the Lancaster & Morecambe area in the form of Beyond Radio. I started broadcasting my weekly Folk & Acoustic Music Show back in August and it's been great to be back on air doing live shows despite the odd technical hitch and occasional operator error! Thanks to Duncan, Chris and the rest of the team for getting the station up and running and great news regarding the successful Lottery bid which will provide much needed funds to further develop the station.

As far the music is concerned, my thanks once again go to the promoters and artists who have sent me CDs or free downloads of their music. I haven't had so many albums from North America this year which explains the mainly UK feel to the following list of releases since the start of the year. But I have enjoyed listening to albums by The High Bar Gang, Howard & Skye, Locust Honey String Band and Roger Roger from the other side of the pond. 

This list is purely in order of date of release.

Recommended Albums of 2016

Jamie Smith's Mabon - The Space Between
Nuala Kennedy - Behave the Bravest
Chamberlain & Haywood - First Impression
James J Turner - Spirit Soul & A Handful of Mud
Claire Hastings - Between River and Railway
Paddy Garrigan  & The Stroller Priests - I Jumped Ship
Megson - Good Times Will Come Again
Alice Jones  - Poor Strange Girl
Jenny Sturgeon - From the Skein
The Low Countries - An Extended Play
Barbara Dymock  - Leaf an' Thorn
Kaela Rowan - The Fruited Thorn
Kim Edgar  - Stories Untold
Broom Bezzums - No Smaller Than The World
Wire & Wool - Wire & Wool
Liza Mulholland - Fine 'n' Rosy
Kate Rusby - Life in a Paper Boat
Sarah-Jane Summers  & Juhani Silvola - Widdershins
Eddie & Luc - Tirade
Emily Smith - Songs for Christmas

I have put together a mix of tracks from many of the above albums and uploaded it to

The Folk & Acoustic Music Show
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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Tina Turner and Bryan Adams, Edinburgh Playhouse, 1985

In March 1985 Tina Turner came to the Edinburgh Playhouse on her Private Dancer tour. This was one of the comebacks of the 1980s as just a year or two earlier she had been playing much smaller venues. I went to the concert with my cousin Jenny who had been working out in Bahrain and had seen Tina play there, I think at the Hilton hotel where Jenny was working. After the huge success of the 'Private Dancer' album she was back playing big theatres and arenas and the UK leg of her world tour included four nights at London's Wembley Arena.

For the UK dates, support came from Bryan Adams who was also enjoying chart success with his fourth album 'Reckless'. The single Run To You just missed out on making the UK Top Ten and it was one of six singles to be released from the album which seems a little excessive as there were only ten tracks on the album in total. 

So when Bryan and his band took to the Playhouse stage, there weren't too many empty seats that I could see from where we were sitting in the front circle. But what I remember most from his set was that while the rest of the audience remained in their seats, one solitary long-haired fan in a sleeveless t-shirt made his way to the front of the stalls and punched the air in time to all his favourite Bryan Adams songs. This didn't go unnoticed by the singer who towards the end of his set went to the edge of the stage and shook the guy's hand, thanking him for being there. That must've made that fan's night!

I hope he stuck around for Tina's set as Bryan joined her mid-way through for their duet, It's Only Love. Looking at the set list I see that we not only got most of the Private Dancer album and a couple of classic Ike and Tina numbers but also covers of songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, ZZ Top and David Bowie. She's one of the great female vocalists of all time. I'm glad I went to see her.

Here is Tina with Bryan recorded on that tour in Brimingham...

If you'd like to read more of my concert memories, check out my self-published book Drum Solos, Bottles and Bands 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Swarb Tribute \ Fiddle Mix

It's been a week now since Dave Swarbrick passed away. I saw him a couple of times in concert, once in 2009 with his band Lazarus at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal and the following year at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow where he shared the stage with Dick Gaughan and the Jason Wilson Band. I also saw him at Cropredy with Fairport when the Liege and Lief line-up were re-united to play that classic album from start to finish.

So I've included a few Swarb-related tracks including one from the Swarbtricks album Duncan Wood released in 2013. You can read about that collaboration on this web site

The rest of the mix is made up of some of my favourite fiddle players all of whom I'm sure will have been influenced by, and may even have played with, the folk fiddle maestro known simply as Swarb.

Fairport Convention - Sir Patrick Spens
Swarb's Lazarus - Kilty Town / The Road to Cashel / Dog Big and Dog Little
Carthy, Hardy, Farrell & Young - June is the Coldest Month
Gilmore & Roberts - I Don't Want To Say Goodbye
Duncan Wood - The Happy Welcome / The Cat Among The Pigeons
Fairport Convention - Rosie
VAMM - The Burnt Leg
Nancy Kerr & James Fagin - Queen of Waters
Seth Lakeman - Lady of the Sea
Fairport Convention - A Sailor's Life

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Film review - Emma Watson in Noah

NOAH (2014)  co-written and directed by Darren Aronofsky

It is always interesting to see what child actors do once they reach adulthood. The Addams Family films are a case in point. Christina Ricci has gone on from playing Wednesday to a host of many and varied roles whereas Jimmy Workman, who played Pugsley alongside her, only appeared in two or three more films before retiring from acting and he now earns a living behind the camera doing technical work. But the young actors who appeared in the Harry Potter films have a much larger audience watching their every move, particularly via social media which is something Ricci and actors of her generation didn't have to contend with, at least not in their teenage years and early twenties.

Emma Watson’s first post-Potter role was a small part in My Week With Marilyn but she made a bold statement of intent with her performance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Gone was the awkwardness of having to kiss Rupert Grint in the final Harry Potter film – in …Wallflower not only was there snogging with co-star Logan Lerman but her character dressed up in full Rocky Horror garb which, one suspects, is a million miles away from anything Hermione would ever have done.

But on to Noah in which she found herself working once more with Lerman but not as his love interest, rather as his step-sister. Seemingly Watson shed tears of joy when she learned that she had won the role of Noah’s step-daughter Ila as she would be working with the likes of Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins. With the other main characters being played by Ray Winstone and Jennifer Connelly this certainly looked like a film worth watching.

When we first see Ila she is running through a forest being pursued by her stepbrother Shem, played by Douglas Booth. He catches up with her and we see that their relationship is rather more passionate than you might usually find with step-siblings but then as their family is living in isolation, being the last descendants of Seth, (third son of Adam and Eve) there is rather a lack of young women around. This is a source of constant frustration for brother Ham who spends much of the film moping around generally feeling sorry for himself.

Ila is infertile due to an injury sustained in childhood but this is magically reversed by Noah’s grandfather, played by Hopkins. Despite his long acting career, I still think of The Silence of the Lambs whenever I see him and there did seem to be something slightly menacing about his portrayal of Methuselah. Ila subsequently becomes pregnant but Noah has decided that it is the will of God that all humans, including his own family, should be punished and if Ila has a girl, Noah announces he will kill the new-born infant.

Watson does a pretty good job of showing how frightened Ila is as her pregnancy come to an end with two baby daughters being born. But they are spared by Noah who finds he only has love in his heart for his granddaughters.

We all know how the story ends with the ark finding land and the final sequence in the film shows the family building a new life, with the exception of Noah who has grown his own vines and is spending his days getting drunk in a cave looking out over the ocean. Ham is still as miserable as ever but decides to give his family a break and wanders off into the wilderness. Seeing as how there are presumably no other people alive, his future looks bleak and one can only surmise that he will end up as food for any hungry bears or wolves he encounters. But all ends well for Ila with her managing to get Noah to see sense and he is re-united with his wife and family.

Since then Emma Watson has appeared in two thrillers, Regression and Colonia, but I see she has also guested in an episode of the UK comedy series The Vicar of Dibley. Hopefully we can look forward to many more varied and enjoyable performances from her in the coming years. Maybe at some point in the future if another Addams Family film is made, we might see her cast as Morticia.

Colin Bertram
30 April 2016

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman gig review

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman at The Hothouse, 9 April 2016

Kathryn and Sean have been playing music together for many years, going back to when they were in the band Equation with Sean's brothers Seth and Sam along with Kate Rusby who made up the final part of the equation which was based on their initials SL and KR. While the Lakemans are from Devon, Kathryn, being from Barnsley, is a Yorkshire lass so I got the feeling she was quite at home playing to an appreciative Northern crowd at the Hothouse in Morecambe. Sean talked about their home in West Devon and I got the impression people down there feel the same about London and the south-east as folk do up north.

But before we heard from them, we were entertained by Lancaster-based band The Low Countries with songs about Boris Karloff, a Flemish bar and Sun Street which at previous gigs has included a flash mob joining in with the chorus. Sadly there was no flash mob in Morecambe though as their drummer Rob quipped afterwards, maybe they were there, but they just didn't get up to sing.

Next up we had the Lighthouse Keepers which was the end result of a project a local student has been doing which involved taking traditional folk songs and arranging them to feature an interesting line-up which included herself on baritone sax. The rest of her band comprised another two sax players, three fiddlers, a vocalist, guitar, bass and drums the latter two being members of her family including dad on bass guitar. This sort of community-based music project is something they are good at doing at More Music (aka The Hothouse) and it got the approval of Kathryn Roberts who seemed impressed by their two support acts.

The last time I saw Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman in Lancashire was at Glasson Dock village hall the best part of 11 years ago. I did catch them at a festival two or three years back but you really need to see them in a small-ish venue to appreciate their songwriting and musical prowess. As well as playing in Equation, Sean was a part of his brother Seth's band for a number of years and he really is a very fine guitarist. I'm not sure what effects he was using but with one of his guitars he had an impressively full sound with bass notes as well as what he was doing further up the fretboard. This we discovered was an old guitar which had new strings on it which he likened to getting new knickers for your granny. Unlike his more serious brothers, Sean has a great sense of humour which, along with between-song banter with his wife Kathryn, made for a relaxing and good-humoured evening.

On a more serious note Sean told us of the days they spent touring in the USA, especially in the southern states where the flow of migrants from Mexico seems to be never-ending. This was in prelude to a cover of a song Bruce Springsteen wrote about such matters but the majority of the set was their own material. They played several songs from their most recent album “Tomorrow Will Follow Today” including the lovely track '52 Hertz' which tells the sad tale of a whale which scientists have discovered sings at the wrong frequency so never gets any replies from potential mates. Other highlights included 'The Banishing Book' and 'The Red Barn'.

They are now midway through their spring tour and play a sold-out gig in Shrewsbury tonight. On current form I'd say they deserve many more sell out shows so do go see them if you get the chance. Check out their web site for upcoming dates -

Colin Bertram
10 April 2016

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Steve Knightley gig review

Steve Knightley at Glasson Dock Village Hall 11 March 2016

The first gig I ever went to when I moved to Lancaster in the summer of 2005 was to see Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman supporting Martin Simpson at the village hall in Glasson Dock. The Lakeman family, like Steve Knightley, hail from Devon and Sean's brother Seth got a couple of mentions during Steve's very entertaining sold-out gig.

The title of his current tour is 'All at Sea' and there is no shortage of martime songs in both folk music in general and Steve's back catalogue. The set included songs from his solo albums as well as some Show of Hands numbers, plus cover versions including Don Henley's 'Boys of Summer' – with Deadhead being replaced by Bellowhead – and the Otis Redding classic '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay'.

Steve is never short of a humourous story, some of which were aimed at the previous night's gig in Liverpool and some at his SoH bandmate Phil Beer. He even did a passable impersonation of radio DJ Mark Radcliffe.

He had been interviewed on local radio in Liverpool and remarked on how this can be something of a chore at times especially if the presenter hasn't done their homework and knows little more about Steve than the fact that he is a folk singer. And the radio station was a bit nervous about playing a new track called 'Breme Fell at Hastings' as it included some old Saxon words. So much so that they faded the song out before the end as one of the words sounded a bit like a swear word. This caused much hilarity among the Lancashire audience that their Scouse neighbours might be upset by some strong language.

On a more serious note Steve gave us an update on his son who has been quite seriously ill over a number of years. I'm sure I wasn't the only audience member who recalls the Show of Hands gig at Lancaster University when Steve had had to return home suddenly due to his son's illness and left Phil Beer and bass player Miranda Sykes to play the gig without him. But the good news is that his son has recently finished a course of treatment and is now much better. Steve then played the SoH song 'The Dive' which he said he had found very difficult to play when his son had been unwell. The song relates the story of a lad who surfaces when his air is running low only to find that his marker buoy had broken loose and the boat with his father in it was nowhere to be seen.

Other highlights included 'Tall Ship Story' with Steve strumming away on his cuatro (a South American ukulele-type instrument) and 'The Napoli', a song about the ship that ran aground several years ago and was one of many songs the audience was encouraged to sing along to - “scratch Joe Public, what's underneath – a looter and a pirate and a thief!”

Thanks should go to Nikki from ImageAcoustic who arranged the gig and she is bringing another member of Show of Hands, Miranda Sykes with Rex Preston to Ellel Village Hall on Saturday the 16th of April. Tickets are availalble from

Another gig to mention is Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman who are playing at More Music in Morecambe on Saturday the 9th of April. More info and tickets from

Colin Bertram
12 March 2016

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sampler mix 4 February

Lots of new releases to share with you so I thought I'd pick two tracks from each of the following albums:

Veloninos - Veloninos
 Mad Cat Dynamo 
Locust Honey String Band - Never Let Me Cross Your Mind
 Lonesome Song
Cara - Yet We Sing
 Land of the Midnight Sun 
 Anchor in the Sky
Hamish Napier - The River
 Fate of the Kelts \ Out to Sea 
 The Whirlpool
Nuala Kennedy - Behave the Bravest
 Death and the Lady 
 Glen Where The Deer Is / The Ivy Leaf / The Dublin Lasses
Kirsty Potts - The Seeds of Life
 If I Had a Hammer 
 Betsy Belle

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Celtic Connection mix

A selection of Scottish and Irish artists who are playing at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow this month

Skerryvore - By Your Side
Daimh - Angus John MacNeil of Barra
Iain Morrison - Stones & Matches
Scott Wood Band - Sheep Running About
Boys of the Lough - Liffey Side
Freeland Barbour - The Sea
Kathleen MacInnes - Sing It With Joy
Peatbog Faeries - The Dragon's Apprentice
Marierad & Anna - She Loves Me
Ewan Robertson - One For The Ditch
The Alt - The Letter Song
Rura - Cauld Wind Blast

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Lemmy tribute mix

A ten song mix in memory of Lemmy and Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor from the best known line-up of Motorhead who both died last year and Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott who died 30 years ago this month. 

Along with three Motorhead tracks I've included songs by other bass playing singers, the exception being The Damned though Captain Sensible did play bass in their early days. Lemmy toured with them in '78 when they were briefly known as The Doomed, guitarist Brian James having left the band and taken the rights to the name, The Damned, with him.

Cream's bass player and singer Jack Bruce died in 2014 and I've included The Beatles as Macca is not only one of the world's most famous singing bass players but Lemmy was inspired to take up the guitar when he heard the Fab Four's debut LP, Please Please Me.

The Stranglers' bass player JJ Burnel shared lead vocals with Hugh Cornwell right from the band's first album and 'Five Minutes' was supposedly written about how he felt after having had his motorbike stolen.

The track by X is from the Richard Thompson tribute album Beat The Retreat and their bass playing frontman goes by the name of John Doe. 3 Colours Red were a band I got into as one of their guitarists had previously played with Senseless Things, one of my favourite indie bands of the 90s. 3CR had a harder sound and their drummer came from Morecambe which is near where I live. Sadly he died eight years ago of liver failure having latterly played with the Lancaster-based band Baby Judas.

Motorhead - We are The Road Crew
Thin Lizzy - The Rocker
Cream - White Room
The Beatles - Oh! Darling
Motorhead & Girlschool - Please Don't Touch
The Stranglers - Five Minutes
The Damned - I Just Can't Be Happy Today
X - Shoot Out The Lights
3 Colours Red - Pure
Motorhead - Dancing On Your Grave

This is an instrumental version of Road Crew and you can really hear Lemmy's rhythm guitar approach to playing bass.