Shirley Collins has been nominated for best singer (and Lodestar for best album) at the 2017 BBC Radio-2 Folk Awards, so my next gig, at the time of writing, is at the Royal Albert Hall, where a song will doubtless be called for. More on the tour in a moment…
The Cellar Upstairs, the London folk club run by Sheila Miller, hosted the official launch of Poor Ellen Smith, the new Rattle on the Stovepipe album on 11 March. It's our fifth album for WildGoose Records (6th if you include the 2010 compilation So Far So Good - see PROJECTS for band history and other Rattle knowledge). Dave Arthur, Dan Stewart and I had a great night, and so did the audience, so that was all right.
Rattle at The Cellar Upstairs
photo: Ralph Stephenson
And the first magazine off the blocks with a review was - The Living Tradition.
'…This is a group utterly at ease with their material and with each other. There is never a hint of rushing, forcing the pace or any other artificiality – this is genuine through and through. The clarity of the recording is superb, with every note and every word clear and legible,' writes Gordon Potter. 'There is also a superb balance between tune sets and songs to give a roundedness to the whole album, which truly is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. There are informative booklet notes for each track, and the non-standard fiddle tunings are given as well, for those who might want to learn the tunes…'
First to be snapped holding up a copy of Poor Ellen Smith in a Tokyo street is our friend Emi, who came to England last year to interview Dave and met the band in Whitby.
Emi in Tokyo
Rattle on the Stovepipe will be playing at Walthamstow Folk Club on 11 June - see GIGS for details - and Whitby Folk Week in August.
The Shirley Collins tour, meanwhile, has been a heady experience. After rehearsals in Sussex, we flew to Glasgow for the first performance of
'Lodestar' on 4 February at Celtic Connections in City Halls, gaining a five-star review in both The Times and The Guardian - 'a five-star foray into the darker depths of folk', Kate Molleson called it.
'As it does throughout the night, the past casts a revelatory light on the present,' noted Graeme Thomson in Uncut magazine, of Shirley's opening number, Awake Awake.
' "Repent, repent, sweet England, for dreadful days draw near!" could hardly feel more apposite.'
Although Shirley recorded Lodestar a year before the Brexit referendum and the rise of Donald Trump, its sparseness (and the high body-count in the songs) captured the mood of the moment. It wasn't just the Scots who responded warmly. A week later we played to an enthusiastic audience at Colston Hall, Bristol - 'A beautiful night spent smiling and laughing at darkness, in the company of a singer who deserves her legend.' (Nick Soulsby in Live) - followed by an amazing Saturday night at the Barbican, London - again, to great reviews. This was Sarah Carson in The Telegraph:
'Her voice is no longer the gaily pliant instrument it once was - it has become weathered and oakier, but no less assertive. At her finest when supported by the sublime fiddle, delicate mandolin and urgent pulse of the banjo, Collins charmed her rapturous audience, and proved her talents - exiled for so long - unvanquished.'
Shirley Collins and band at The Barbican 18 February,
left to right:
John Watcham, PC, Dave Arthur, Ian Kearey, Glen Redman,
Shirley, Ossian Brown, Pip Barnes and (some of) Alex Neilson.
Playing at the Sage Gateshead on 4 March and meeting good friends from the North East was another fantastic experience. The tour continues with shows at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (29 April), Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (6 May), The Dome, Brighton (14 May), Cambridge Folk Festival (28 July) and the Green Man Festival (19 August) - see GIGS for details.
All in all, my schedule this year has been somewhat hectic, what with Shirley and Rattle on the Stovepipe performances - in Dartford, Ringwood, The Cellar Upstairs (as noted) and Goodwood Racetrack (!) on the 18-19 March. I also led a wedding procession on the streets of Tunbridge Wells for Dave Arthur's son Tim and his bride Amber.
Pete, Jay Arthur, Tim and Amber
photo by Craig Prentis.
And a couple of days later I joined Chris Haigh, Sam Proctor, Gundula Gruen, Ben Pitt, Marius Pibarot, double bassist Ben Somers and Richard Bolton et al at the 25th London Fiddle Convention, held at Cecil Sharp House.
Chris Haigh and Ben Somers at the Convention
photo by Michael Samson
Ben, PC and Sam Proctor at the Convention
photo by Michael Samson
I have, of course, been teaching fiddle, as well as performing, but on the nights I was unavoidably out of town John Dipper and Tom Moore stepped in to take my London Fiddle School group classes. Summer term runs from 26 April – 12 July, and the course for the intermediate/ advanced group will be Fiddles in Performance. We'll work to develop a practical understanding of chords, harmonies and rhythm parts, as well as the tunes themselves, and performances will include one at Islington Folk Club on 15 June - see WORKSHOPS for details.
Meanwhile, I'm spending a bit of time in my allotment!
See you later,
PS Here's our performance of Washed Ashore at the Royal Albert Hall
And here are the highlights of the whole evening:
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