Wickham Festival News

KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall chooses to live and create in the moment. This impulsivity courses through her catalog and performances, defining classics like the GRAMMY Award®-nominated ‘Black Horse & The Cherry Tree’, ‘Suddenly I See’, ‘Hold On’, ‘Saving My Face’, and many more. This urgency also drives the Scotland-born and now Los Angeles-based songstress’ recent fifth full-length studio album KIN – released in September 2016.

“It’s rambunctious, anti-slick, pro-wild, psychedelic emotional pop,” she says of her new music. “I’m allowing these songs to misbehave while still staying rooted in traditional songwriting. I feel I’ve finally cut myself free from a disempowering, disabling search for approval which has been heavy baggage for me for a long, long time. It’s a return to a sort of innocence. I’m being honest, and I’m having a load of fun.”

She likens this journey to a “Joy-Phoenix, rising from the ashes.” 2013’s ‘Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon’ came to life during one of the most tumultuous periods of her life, as she lost her father and went through a divorce. A change of scenery proved restorative, revitalizing, and reinvigorating. “I never imagined moving to LA, but as soon as I found Venice Beach, I thought, ‘OK, I get it.’ I felt like setting my bag down. There was a balance I’d been missing between working hard and enjoying my life, and I’ve found that here.”

Fueled by a heavy audio diet of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, and more recent artists such as Tame Impala and Devendra Banhart, windswept Californian psychedelica and widescreen coastal pop melodies found their way into her own repertoire. Following this West Coast muse, KT embarked on a series of writing retreats to Joshua Tree and New Mexico.

“The Southwest has a powerful pull,” she goes on. “Venice Beach, Joshua Tree, and Taos all played a huge part in how this record feels and sounds. I holed up in a beautiful Joshua Tree cabin, sat outside, and played the new songs to the rock formations and stars with a blanket around me. In New Mexico, I got up, chopped wood, built a fire, and sat there for six or seven hours a day, just writing while the snow fell.”

Returning to Los Angeles, she teamed up with powerhouse producer Tony Hoffer [Beck, Air, The Kooks] to carve out and create what she feels is her best and most visceral work to date.

Simultaneously, she also drew on her recent experience studying film score composition at the Sundance Film Institute Composers Lab at Skywalker Ranch in Northern California.

“I feel that the album communicates something beyond the lyrics,” she admits. “It’s born from a very real feeling of experiencing a new life and having a wider view of that. So much has changed, and there’s a deep fulfillment in knowing that I own that change. Many of these new songs are full on in their energy. When I play, I have realized that I really have to sweat to deliver what I’m best at – which is going out on stage and creating a physical and emotional experience for a room full of people. It’s primal, tribal, and when it’s really good, it feels transcendent. You share life together, all the good, all the bad. It opens you up.”

It’s a blossoming that began with her outstanding breakout 2004 debut, ‘Eye to the Telescope’, carried through the RIAA goldcertified ‘Drastic Fantastic’, to 2010’s unanimously acclaimed ‘Tiger Suit’, and most recently, the similarly excellently-received ‘Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon’. She won a BRIT Award, an Ivor Novello, and received GRAMMY Award® and Mercury Prize nominations. Her music has featured prominently in film and television including ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, ‘Ugly Betty’, and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. She has penned songs for films such as Disney’s ‘Million Dollar Arm’ – co-writing with the legendary AR Rahman, ‘Winter’s Tale’ for Warner Brothers, and the soon-to-be-released, highly anticipated movie, ‘About Ray’.

Now, KT begins the brightest phase of her journey yet.

“My fans have been so brilliantly loyal,” she leaves off. “They want the truth. They’re not interested in some bullshit puppet dancing around pretending that life is a movie, they want something real. They want good songs. They want joy. They want to feel. That’s what I’m giving them on this album.”

Boo Hewerdine

Boo Hewerdine is well known as one of the greatest (and busiest) songwriter performers in the business, but incredibly, it’s been 8 years since Boo released his last studio album of original material God Bless The Pretty Things (Reveal Records 2009). Not that Hewerdine has been inactive, far from it, the period has been the most productive of his career.

Boo wrote Radio Ballads for the BBC’s Olympic and recent Child Migration series. Elsewhere new songs were commissioned for art galleries and museums, including the Beneath The Dark Cloth project at the Met in New York.

There has been a huge array of writing and producing with both established and upcoming artists and ‘passing something on’ to budding writers via his much loved songwriting workshops.

Maia

Self proclaimed inventors of Psychedelic Sci-fi folk Maia create a  genre busting mix of sweet stunning vocal harmonies over funky blissed out grooves; punctuated by echoing banjo, guitar, shimmering mandolins, spooky brass,deep bass and keyboards.

Distorted Banjos and folk elements play over symphonic psychedelic slam jams whilst  ornate  jungle guitar and electronica reverberate across the surface of  stomping turbulent grooves …

“Maia a boisterous mix of Robyn Hitchcock and Mercury Rev, killer three-part harmonies and a mad electric banjo,don’t tell your parents about this discovery because they will only mess it up. It was that special” – Bag Thing 2016​

“Cropredy Conventions early contender for performance of the day, Maia played a wonderful set of psychedelic folk tinged tunes that concluded with the spooky and sinister Voodoo Dreams ,quite stunning”.- Louder Than War 2016

 “blissfully floating somewhere in-between the punctuated electro-funk of the Scissor Sisters and eschewed Doctor Who cosmic barnstormers. Think The Radiophonic Workshop with banjos and Mongolian throat singing” – Gigslutz 2016

The Men They Couldn’t Hang

Founded in 1984, TMTCH evolved from the Shepherd’s Bush squatting and busking scene to make their debut supporting Poguemahone at the Electric Ballroom in Camden in the Easter of that year.

Swiftly their uproarious and engaging style, coupled with keenly contemporary songs, gained a passionate national following, leading to a 40 year career filled with much loved music, a dedicated fan community and high octane performances.

Touring continually throughout their career, TMTCH have crossed the globe by way of Europe, Canada, USA, Iceland, Egypt and Estonia. They have appeared at festivals such as Glastonbury, Roskilde, Reading, Pink Pop and Cambridge Folk and have appeared with a roll call of International artists such as David Bowie, Van Morrison, Bo Diddley, The Smiths, Elvis Costello and the Oyster Band to name a few.

Their recordings have been acclaimed in print, on radio and online; from their definitive version of the anti war classic Green Fields of France to the anti fascist anthem Ghosts of Cable Street and the epic historical ballads, Ironmasters and The Colours. Recent albums The Defiant (2014) and Cockahoop (2018) have seen TMTCH rise again into prominence; their vitality undimmed.

Devastated by the passing of friend and founder member Stefan Cush during the Covid lockdown, TMTCH are responding in the only way they know how; writing, recording and playing live to their ever loyal and growing community of fans. An anniversary tour is planned for 2024 when they will celebrate their 40th year of raising hell with special events and a ‘Best of’ release, then in 2025 they will be releasing a brand new album.

Naomi Bedford & Paul Simmonds

Naomi Bedford is an English Singer/Songwriter who first came to prominence as vocalist and co-writer of the 2001 Orbital hit ‘Funny Break’ and appearances on Jools Holland’s Later programme.

In recent years she has focused on a series of folk and country albums in collaboration with Paul Simmonds, drawing plaudits from The Independent’s Andy Gill and The Guardian’s Robin Denselow.

Her albums have featured in Mojo Magazine’s top 10 and The Guardian’s top 5 of 2013 and have received Arts Council backing. She has appeared at Glastonbury, Cambridge Folk Festival and Celtic Connections among others and has been invited to perform at Cecil Sharp House. In 2014 she was jointly nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award in the Best Original Song Category.

Her third album ‘Songs My Ruiner Gave To Me’(2017) featured in Guardian, the Independent, Mojo, R2 and No Depression.

In 2019 Naomi will release ‘Singing It All Back Home’, an album of Appalachian ballads. The project, inspired by meetings with Shirley Collins, is produced by and features Folk Award winner Ben Walker and has been described by Ian Anderson, editor of fRoots as ‘21st century folk music’. Naomi will spend 2019 touring in promotion of the album.

Paul Simmonds has been the songwriter and mandolin/guitarist with English folk rock institution The Men They Couldn’t Hang since 1984.

He has recorded over 15 albums on major labels, toured the world twice and appeared at most major festivals including supports to David Bowie, Van Morrison and The Pogues.

His songs have featured in documentaries, TV shows, adverts, trails and also in academic courses and dissertations.

His recent collaboration with Naomi Bedford has drawn wide praise and in 2014 he was also jointly nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award. His 2017 album with Naomi Bedford ‘Songs My Ruiner Gave To Me’ featured in Guardian, the Independent, Mojo, R2 and No Depression.

In 2019 Paul will release ‘Singing It All Back Home’, an album of Appalachian ballads. The project, inspired by meetings with Shirley Collins, is produced by and features Folk Award winner Ben Walker and has been described by Ian Anderson, editor of fRoots as ‘21st century folk music’. Paul will spend 2019 touring in promotion of the album.

Brìghde Chaimbeul

Brìghde Chaimbeul and Ross Ainslie, established and award-winning musicians in their own right, started working on music together around 4 years ago focusing on double C smallpipes. Recently they’ve been working alongside Steven Byrnes on bouzouki and guitar, performing and recording as a trio. Together they play a lot of material from all around the world and music that is not conventionally heard or played on the Scottish smallpipes. They have released their new album LAS, a collaboration featuring tunes from France, Scotland, Bulgaria, Ireland and some self-penned compositions.

John Otway Band

John Otway is an English singer-songwriter who has built a sizeable cult audience through extensive touring, a surreal sense of humour and a self-deprecating underdog persona.  Otway shot to fame on in the midst of punk rock and a gymnastic performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test.  Otway, ever the showman, decided to jump on to the amplifier of his colleague during a performance of Bob Lind’s Cheryl’s Going Home. (Un)fortunately for Otway, he misjudged his leap and sent Wild Willy Barrett’s amplifier tumbling as he crashed down straddling the box under the amp…

Despite numerous attempts to get back into the charts, Otway would have to wait 25 years for his next taste of chart success. In the intervening years, Otway would become an actor; write an autobiography (Cor Baby That’s Really Me: Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure); perform sold out shows at London’s Astoria and Royal Albert Hall; make regular appearances at both Glastonbury and Edinburgh Festivals; and write the nation’s seventh favourite lyric of all-time (beating Bob Dylan and Paul Simon in the process).

In 2012, to celebrate his 60th birthday, Otway produced his debut movie titled Otway the Movie: The Story of Rock n Roll’s Greatest Failure. A screening for producers was held at London’s Leicester Square with the final scenes from the movie filmed on the red carpet and edited into the film. The film was then taken to Cannes Film Festival and a 50-date tour of cinemas in both the UK and North America. It was subsequently voted the 2nd best film of the year in a poll of its readers conducted by The Guardian newspaper.

Gibb Todd

We welcome back Gibb Todd as one of our comperes for Wickham Festival 2021.

First emerging amid the creative fervor of the 1960s British Isles folk renaissance, singer, songwriter, and raconteur Gibb Todd continues to be one of the scene’s most beloved and respected figures. Constant international touring – both solo and with such groups as the legendary Dubliners, the Fureys, and Cherish the Ladies – has made this Scotsman (now based in Australia) welcome around the world and added intriguing layers of international influence to his songwriting and repertoire.

Astonishingly, Goin’ Home is only Todd’s second solo album in a career that now spans over four decades. Recorded in Nashville with an international cast of folk, Celtic, and bluegrass luminaries, it reflects Todd’s wide musical range over a program of aching ballads, rousing shanties, and several compelling originals. Joining Todd are innovative Irish guitarist John Doyle (ex-Solas), maverick banjoist Alison Brown, bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, double bassist Danny Thompson (Richard Thompson Band, Pentangle), Nashville fiddler Andrea Zonn (Vince Gill Band, James Taylor), and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien.

Alistair Russell

We welcome back Alistair Russell as one of our comperes for Wickham Festival 2023.

Singing and playing folk music since his teens, and over thirty years a professional musician and sound engineer, Alistair sings songs mainly from his family homeland Scotland, its neighbour Ireland, self-penned songs inspired by his world-wide travelling with Battlefield Band, and any other song that takes his fancy.

Alistair grew up in the North-East of England, with Scottish parents who had a rich fund of songs of their own—music hall favourites, Harry Lauder songs, sentimental ballads and stage Irish songs which his father brought back from working on contract.

The sixties’ beat boom saw Alistair and a few like-minded school friends exploring folk music. By the late seventies, his band was playing extensively throughout NE England, with frequent forays into Germany and Poland. In 1978, he teamed up full-time with Tom Napper, and they released their first album, “Tripping Upstairs”. The next four years saw Tom take his leave, and Alistair set out on a solo career. His album “Getting to the Border” (with a star-studded guest musician list) was released.

Then came that rare thing in the world of folk music—the “big break”. Alistair joined Scotland’s legendary Battlefield Band. The next thirteen years were a whirlwind of touring—one million miles of it!

Nine Battlefield albums and two videos later, Alistair jumped off the global tour bus to “recharge the batteries”. His spell in Battlefield had not only developed his playing, singing and songwriting skills, but his role as “front man” in the band had honed the skill of relaxed communication which is so vital to putting the music across.

He didn’t remain idle for long. Knowledge gained on the road and in the recording studio got him jobs in management (Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley), album production and CD recording (over 60 commercial projects released), tour management (Magnetic Music),  stringed instrument setup and sales (The Music Room), stage management,compering and live sound engineering at major UK festivals (CV Audio and freelance), and tuition DVD production (Mrs Casey Music).

Alistair Russell has recently written a book! It’s a light-hearted look at life on the road as a travelling musician & sound engineer. It’s received rave reviews from the critics and copies can be ordered online here:

https://www.alistairrussell.co.uk/shop/

Learn a few songs, pack up your guitar and see the world as a touring musician!

Bemis

Bemis are recognised among their peers as a superb live act who can headline any bill. They are:

  • Gareth Howells – vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Mike Rogers – guitar, bass, piano, harmonica and drums … and sings!
  • Dillon Hughes – bass guitar
  • Mark Finn – lead guitar
  • Darryl Thomas – drums, percussion

They’re an acoustic rock group led by the songs of frontman Gareth Howells, with guitars played with attack, wrapped up in a punchy sound provided by a solid rhythm section.

Getting an enviable reputation with their own take on the covers they perform and their original songs heard on their 4 albums.

Imar

New Glasgow-based five-piece Ímar stand out from the crowd – by taking things back to basics.

With a line-up featuring members of Mànran, RURA, Talisk and Barrule, and a heavyweight collective haul of top prizes – including a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, nine All-Ireland and eight All-Britain titles – the group’s formation embodies a personal reconnection with its members’ formative years, dating back long before their recent camaraderie around Glasgow’s justly celebrated session scene.

Adam Brown (bodhrán), Adam Rhodes (bouzouki), Mohsen Amini (concertina), Ryan Murphy (uilleann pipes) and Tomás Callister (fiddle) share a strong background in Irish music – although only Murphy actually hails from Ireland; Rhodes and Callister are from the Isle of Man, whilst Amini is a Glasgow native, and Brown originally from Suffolk – and it is these foundations which underpin many of Ímar’s distinctive qualities, in both instrumentation and material.

The band’s unmistakable synergy centers on the overlapping cultural heritage between Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. All three places once shared the same Gaelic language and a similar kinship endures between their musical traditions.

While Ímar’s output so far comprises just two newly-released singles, they have been in the studio during 2016 to record their debut album, which will be launched in early 2017, promoted by extensive touring.

Pronghorn

The Undisputed Kings of Cowpunk and purveyors of the hardest and finest banjo/fiddle action you’ll ever come across. A more motley collection of bad shirts, mullets, prison tattoos, broken teeth and greasy comb-overs you’d be hard pushed to find outside of a Dale Winton garden party.

In 1992 when grunge was what every self respecting alternative music fan was into, a group of friends who decided to go against the grain formed a band that the likes of Dorset and the world had never seen. 20 odd years ago they started off by busking outside Debenhams in Bournemouth and then played their first gig at the Brunswick Hotel in Charminster. It was after that gig they received their first ever review too- on collection of their gear the following morning, they discovered the landlord’s dog had left a rather large message by the drum kit.

The band was put together from the ashes of skiffle outfit  ‘Hoedown at Hanks’. a Cult tribute band ‘ Blue Rain’ and local upstarts ‘the Crunchy Tractors and quickly went onto busking outside more salubrious locations, Amsterdam Central Station, Copenhagen Homeless Hostels and Cherbourg docks to name but a few. As the band’s sound evolved with a mash of punk, country and rockabilly which brought together the band’s very own genre “Cowpunk”, proper gigs soon followed and then the festivals came calling…

The line up has seen many changes over the years but the founder members, Toni Viagra and Lamma are still there, along with newbies(!) Ffi, Krusty, Gypo, Aussie Mike and Andy Law- who’ve only done the last twelve years or so.

Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley

Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley have been bringing their unique sound to audiences across Europe and America since the early 1990s, when a chance meeting at a music session created one of folk music’s most enduring partnerships. Known for their soul stirring songs, exhilarating tunes and a love of the craic, Chris (concertina) and Denny (guitar and vocals) ensure that no two concerts are ever the same.

Chris grew up surrounded by folk music of all kinds – his home was a regular haunt for passing folk singers and musicians. Denny, born in Co. Limerick, is drawn to the inheritance of age-old slides, slow airs, slip jigs and wild reels.

Founder members of the band Last Night’s Fun which received international acclaim and a loyal fan base over 11 years together, they have now returned to their roots as a duo.

Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party

Fay Hield is a singer who seems to have been born knowing how to carry a tune but with the rarer gift of knowing how to go straight to the heart of a song.  Fay’s first two solo albums won many accolades as well as a nomination for the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.  Fay’s choice of material and the delivery of it, reflect a rare sensitivity and appreciation of the tradition whilst remaining naturalistic and highly distinctive.

Her longstanding band, The Hurricane Party, expands to include members of The Full English, including fiddle, concertina, banjo, guitar, percussion and bass. At times sparse and contemplative, at times with a festival stomp, the music is captivating and engaging with plenty of choruses and vibrant interaction with the audience.

Bringing new arrangements to old songs, Fay continues in her exploration of the incredible repertoire that is the English tradition pushing at the boundaries of our engagement with music.

Fay has played with Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron since touring her first solo album to form The Hurricane Party.  The trio line up expanded for Orfeo in 2012 to include Andy Cutting and Roger Wilson and, for Old Adam in 2016, Ben Nicholls and Toby Kearney have been added to the mix. All the musicians sing and play a variety of instruments and they’re involved for their approach to music-making and flare for bouncing off each other as much as for what they play. Fay’s partner Jon Boden also features on the albums, and there are guest appearances from Martin Simpson.  The Hurricane Party is a movable feast, seeking to reinvigorate old songs and then take them out to reach new ears.

Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe

We’re in for a real treat at Wickham 2017 with the collaboration of Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe.  These are two of the UK Acoustic / Folk scene’s finest songwriters and well established solo artitist.  They’ve joined forces for a series of upcoming events filled with songs and music, chat and banter and intimate insights into their approach to their craft.

After their performance on the main stage together they will both be making seperate performances on the second stage on  Saturday.  Steve Tilston will be on at 8pm and Jex Lowe at 9pm.

Head to head, neck and neck (guitar necks, that is!) listen in as they rekindle the spontaneity of their late-night living-room song swaps. Questions, answers, anecdotes and anarchy… and a very special evening of music.

A masterclass in songwriting and a perfectly formed songwriters event tailor-made for any musical programme!  In November 2016 they put their heads together to make a new album entitled Janus.

You can order this album via Amazon.

Click here to read the full review on Folk & Roots Music Webzine.

Click here to read the full review on The Guardian.

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    Steve Harley was an audience favourite at Wickham Festival, and a delight to work with. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

    Steve Harley: Cockney Rebel singer dies at 73

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-68590846

    The Saw Doctors would like to say a Big Thanks to everybody who has bought or streamed ‘All We Love’ today —the new single is Number 3 in Ireland and No. 23 in the UK. Here’s the link to buy or stream ‘All We Love’   
    https://orcd.co/allwelove

    Wonderfully evocative and typically catchy song from our old friends @sawdoctors ready for #StPatricksDay
    Would love to hear them do this at #wickhamfesival one day. Great stuff!

    Our new line-up inc. Curtis Stigers with a few more artists inc. Jerry Douglas to add. We hope to unveil last confirmed artists inc. one more headliner soon. Day & Tier 4 Weekend tickets selling fast. Save £50 on every 4-day weekend ticket. Book now. http://www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

    We're delighted to announce that 16-times GRAMMY Award winner Jerry Douglas, one of the world's finest dobro & lap steel guitar players, will be at this year's Wickham Music Festival on Sat. 3rd Aug. Day & Weekend tickets selling fast!

    After announcing the great American singer Curtis Stigers for the Wickham Music Festival yesterday we'll be announcing another great American musician this evening (Tuesday). A clue. He's a 14-times Grammy Award winner. Any guesses?