Category Archives: Now Read On

Most recent posts on my blog.

The Unthanks – Diversions 4: The Songs & Poems of Molly Drake / Extras

I’ve been a fan of The Unthanks for a long time. Actually, that’s not the whole truth. When I first heard them, I didn’t like them much at all. It took me a while to appreciate what they were doing and just how original they were. There’s a strange tension with them, always, between a real earthy groundedness and an otherworldly ethereality.

As Nick Drake fans already, Becky and Rachel came across his mother, Molly’s collection of her works, published in 2012. These songs and poems hadn’t been recorded with the intention of any public release, so the sound quality isn’t always the best. But there’s a truthfulness and poeticism in the best of them that touches an emotional chord. Sometimes, they seem a bit dated or whimsical, but they always have an honesty that salvages them from tweeness.

In the capable hands of The Unthanks, these songs are given another lease of life again. Read the review I wrote for folking.com.

THE UNTHANKS – Diversions Volume 4: The Songs And Poems Of Molly Drake / Extras (RabbleRouser Music RRM016/RRM017)

Mad Dog McRea – Cambridge Junction

As part of the Cambridge City Roots festival in February, I went along to Cambridge Junction to see Mad Dog McRea. I’d reviewed their Almost Home album when I was writing for Bright Young Folk and loved it, so I was really keen to see them in action. A band with a reputation for being an instant party – what’s not to like?

And all due respect to their support act on the night, Noble Jacks, who got things off to a rollicking good start, warming up the audience like a furnace. (And they were also really lovely lads, too).

How did it go? Read my review, for folking.com, to find out.

MAD DOG McREA – Live at Cambridge Junction (Cambridge City Roots Festival)

Emily Maguire – A Bit Of Blue

It was really hard to write this review without a sort of generic 1970s northern comedian’s voice coming into my head “A bit of blue, there, for t’dads” –  a catch-all comment to follow any mildly adult joke.

I can only apologise to Ms Maguire for this, especially as it’s a rather lovely album. And here’s my review of it for folking.com.

EMILY MAGUIRE – A Bit Of Blue (Shaktu Records, SHK2105)

Amy Wadge / Luke Jackson – Cambridge Junction

Another day, another gig as part of the Cambridge City Roots festival in February 2017. This time it was off to Cambridge Junction to see Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Amy Wadge doing a double-headliner with Luke Jackson.

Jackson was the real draw for me, since I’ve got his albums but hadn’t yet managed to see him live. To be honest, I wasn’t really too sure who Amy Wadge was (sorry, and I know now – she co-wrote the bestselling ‘Right Where We Are’ with Ed Sheeran!), but quickly got to like her down-to-earth presence. The dynamic between Jackson & Wadge was lovely, with lots of mutual affection (she seems like the kind of aunt who might have slipped him a sneaky Babycham at Christmas when when he was young).

It’s not the first time these two have done the double-header tour and they plan to do it again in future. To find out whether you should book your tickets (spoiler – yes, you should), read the review I wrote for folking.com.

AMY WADGE AND LUKE JACKSON live at Cambridge Junction

Cambridge City Roots Festival

The Cambridge City Roots Festival took place in February 2017. Over a week (or so) there were lots of different events on at a range of venues around the city. I went to some of them, picking the ones I was most interested in – not necessarily the biggest name events.

A bitterly cold Saturday saw some local bands out busking around town, many of whom also played in the Cambridge Union building during the day, affording them the chance to thaw out with a warming cup of tea. The Cambridge Folk Club who ran this event, proved to be friendly and welcoming.

Now, it might be my memory playing tricks, but I thought I’d remembered seeing some of these gigs (Mad Dog McRea, Luke Jackson/Amy Wadge) scheduled quite some time before I became aware of the City Roots Festival label being stuck onto them. I had pencilled them in as gigs I’d like to attend, even before I was asked to review the festival for folking.com. Also, there were other folk artists playing locally at around that same period, who weren’t included in the festival itinerary, so I’m not sure what the selection criteria might have been.

So, what’s the point of yet another festival? Why go so off-season? Well, there’s a wealth of talent out there and it provides another focal point for collecting some of these artists together under an umbrella (though hat, scarf and gloves might have been better!) of a festival. Aiming to promote folk music in the local community, it’s a welcome wintry counterpoint to the main Cambridge Folk Festival in the summertime.

Was it worth it? Well, some of the signage was a bit inconsistent and scheduling updates were made online only, making the posters around town rather out-of-date when one headliner had to pull out at the last minute. Still these are teething troubles and this was only the first of these festivals. It will be interesting to see whether they manage to iron out these issues if they decide to repeat the festival next year.

Read my overview in folking.com (who kindly asked me to review the festival for them) here. Thanks also to Jay at Prescription PR for sorting out access to the various venues.

CAMBRIDGE CITY ROOTS FESTIVAL – Various artists and venues, 3-11 February 2017

La La Land

three and a half starsWarning: contains spoilers
With its opening sequence providing a modern twist on the old-school Hollywood musical dance number, it looks like La La Land will be an impressive film. But hang on, is that singer’s voice a bit weak, is the choreography a bit less than exacting? It’s all done in a much more naturalistic style than we’re used to from blockbuster musicals and this is surprisingly difficult to adjust to. In one way, it’s refreshing to see people behaving in a way we could hope to emulate but, on the other hand, is that the kind of escapism we go to the cinema for? It’s actually a little disconcerting, disappointing even – but that’s a challenge thrown down by the filmmakers.  Continue reading