Andy Bell: Chatting with a folk producer in demand

If you’re a fan of the contemporary folk scene, the chances are that you’ve been listening to Andy Bell’s work for some time. A kind of unsung hero, he has been working with some of the genre’s biggest artists for a decade or more, and his relatively new label – Hudson Records – is home to The Furrow Collective, Jon Boden, The Transports and an ever-growing roster of well-loved artists. 

Ross Couper & Tom Oakes: The Interview

There are so many ways to interview musicians these days – phone, Skype, WhatsApp (yes, it’s possible) – but nothing beats sitting backstage at a festival, face to face, with the music from the main stage pounding away in the background. That’s the setting for the second half of this double interview with Ross Couper and Tom Oakes, two musicians who come together to play music heavily influenced by a variety of traditions (Scottish, Irish, Shetland, Scandinavian), mixed together with driving contemporary rhythms and a smattering of jazz, all played on stripped-down fiddle and guitar. If that sounds remarkably complex, […]

Rosie Hood on folk song collecting via Facebook, Alfred Williams and the sage advice of Bella Hardy…

In the months that I’ve been interviewing folk singers for this blog, one thing that tends to come across perhaps more strongly than anything else is the sense of enthusiasm for the subject. It doesn’t seem as though traditional folk music, in England at least, is something you get into lightly. It becomes a bit of an obsession. You suddenly find yourself with a head full of stories and a library (you never had a library before!) full of obscure books and archaic biographers of people who were once as caught up in it all as you now find yourself.

Marry Waterson on Bright Phoebus: an album of myth and magic for all the family

The great ‘lost’ folk album, Bright Phoebus, means a huge amount to a lot of people, most of whom assumed that it would remain lost given that its two central figures – Lal and Mike Waterson – have now passed away. But a springtime announcement changed all that when it was revealed that Lal’s daughter, the artist and singer Marry Waterson, had been working on a Bright Phoebus re-release in conjunction with David Suff and Domino Records. 

Martin Simpson: The Trails and Tribulations interview

And so, here we are – my second Martin Simpson interview in the space of half a year. Is Grizzly Folk turning into a Martin Simpson fansite, you might wonder? The answer’s no. While I’m amazed as any other guitarist by what the man does, I think both of us would feel a little uneasy if I started documenting his every move. In short, I love chatting with musicians whose work clearly consumes them, and not in an ego-driven way – people who (you get the sense) feel as though they’re in the service of music, rather than it being […]

When First I Came to Caledonia | Folk from the Attic

Like most modern performers, I think I first heard ‘When First I Came to Caledonia’ sung by Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Eliza Carthy on their first Waterson:Carthy album. For years, in fact, it was pretty much the only song I’d return to again and again. The melody is haunting, and given that I was in my early twenties and living in southern Japan – an old mining and coastal region, warmer but not dissimilar to the place in the song – there was something very familiar about the story of a young man working far from my family, homesick but fascinated in […]

The Doc Rowe interview: “I’ve gone to places and missed the ceremony by 19 years because they only do it every 20 years and I’d got the date wrong”

When we met Doc Rowe earlier this year, we turned up with a list of questions and an hour set aside. We’d have been better advised to burn the notepad and clear our diary for the next month. Boy, that man can talk. But, then, when you have so much to say, it’s hardly surprising. The wealth of knowledge and experience Doc has amassed over the best part of 60 years documenting folk culture and heritage is staggering, and his stories as varied, engaging and downright daft as the events he has so diligently attended over so many years. Make no […]

Lisa Knapp on “Till April is Dead”, collaborating with guitar legends and the immortal importance of the shipping forecast

I first heard Lisa Knapp when I came back from living in Japan. In the decade I’d been there, I’d found myself drawn into a musical scene that centred around a duo called Tenniscoats – a couple who mix fragments of acoustic performance into weird and wonderful soundscapes. I was keen to find someone in the UK doing something similar, and Lisa’s name kept cropping up. I was instantly taken with her wonderful sound poem, ‘Shipping Song‘, which takes the words to the old shipping forecast and places them into something that verges on the avant garde.

Sam Sweeney: “We don’t have the budget for leaping in Eliza’s band”

It took yonks to track Sam Sweeney down, but only a few minutes to realise why that was. Just take a look at this interview. The man is involved in a million things at once and incredibly passionate about doing them without half-measures. He joined Bellowhead on the cusp of adulthood, and he seems to have been involved in pretty much every folk-related project over the following decade. His current obsessions, as you’re about to find out, include his work with Leveret and his position as artistic director with the National Youth Folk Ensemble (NYFE) – his first ever ‘proper job’, about […]