The 2012 Bristol Folk Festival will conjure up “ghosts” from the city’s Seventies cult music scene when it returns next May Bank Holiday.
Pioneering artists who recorded on Bristol’s collectable independent alt-folk label, Village Thing Records, will reunite for a rare concert at Colston Hall on Sunday, May 6 -along with younger artists who have drawn inspiration from the Village Thing era.
Described by The Guardian as “the mavericks from the first British folk movement” the collective comprises Wizz Jones, Tucker Zimmerman, Ben Mandelson and Ian A. Anderson – exponents of what would later be called “psych-folk”- along with Nancy Wallace, Jason Steel both of whom appeared at Folk Radio UK’s first gig night in London (pictured above) and Pamela Wyn-Shannon.
Singer-guitarist Ian Anderson (now editor of Bristol-based fRoots Magazine) says: “In the early Seventies the contemporary folk scene in Bristol was the liveliest and most creative outside London.”
The “scene” centred on the Bristol Troubadour Club in the student quarter of Clifton. Anderson (billing himself as Ian A. Anderson to avoid confusion with the rock artist of the same name!) founded Village Thing Records with the Troubadour’s manager John Turner and Gef Lucena of local indy label Saydisc.
Working out of offices in Park Lane, Village Thing Records released more than 20 albums and several singles between 1970-74 including their biggest seller, Fred Wedlock’s “The Folker” which shifted 20,000 copies.
The label prospered with its unique mix of established names and newcomers, UK singer songwriters and visiting Americans. Difficulties with their distributor eventually saw the doors close on Village Thing Records in 1974.
In 2010 the label organised a 40th year celebration with a performance at London’s Cecil Sharp House and released the “Ghosts from the Basement” CD featuring what it called “lost songs, dreams and folkadelia from the vaults of the Village Thing” featuring many previously unheard recordings.
Anderson, who together with Ben Mandelson performs as The False Beards, says: “Over the years, Village Thing’s releases have gained an increasing cult status amongst collectors of contemporary folk – and have been changing hands at high prices. Now the Bristol Folk Festival offers a rare chance to catch these experimental folk scene artists back where it all began.”
Wizz Jones is a Surrey-born acoustic guitarist, singer-songwriter who has been performing since the late 50s and worked with guitar greats John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. In fact the late, great Jansch once described Wizz as “the most underrated guitarist ever”.
Wizz Jones – Corrinne
Ian A. Anderson & Ben Mandelson (The False Beards)
Village Thing founder, singer/guitarist Ian Anderson, made three albums for the label during his ‘psych folk’ years, before moving on to roots bands including Hot Vultures, the English Country Blues Band and Tiger Moth in the 70s & 80s. He ducked out of performing until a 2009 album and tour in the trio Blue Blokes 3 with Ben Mandelson and PiL’s Lu Edmonds, and has now formed the duo The False Beards with Mandelson. Ben (baritone bouzouki, mandolin) has a chequered band history including the legendary 3 Mustaphas 3, Billy Bragg’s Blokes and lately the Yiddish Twist Orchestra. He’s also a noted record producer, including the first Bellowhead album. Reviewing The False Beards debut gig, The Guardian described them as “a classy and entertaining new duo.”
The False Beards – Marie Celeste On Down
Californian singer/songwriter Tucker Zimmerman left America for Europe in 1966 and never went home. His first album, made in London in 1969, was produced by Tony Visconti (T Rex)whilst his second came out on Village Thing. Popular in Europe in the 1970s and 80s – with his songs covered by artists as diverse as banjo legend Derroll Adams and English icons Nic Jones and Chris Wood – Tucker quit performing for many years but has recently been coaxed back to live work. In 2010, BBC Radio 3 commissioned a collaborative project with England’s Jason Steel, coinciding with his first UK visit in more than three decades.
Tucker Zimmerman – Another Normal Day
Originally from Yorkshire, Jason Steel currently lives in North London, working solo, as a member of The Owl Service, and occasionally in a duo with Nancy Wallace. Weaving the sounds of Appalachian and ragtime picking, the strange, old worlds of traditional folk and the ghosts of 1920s Tin Pan Alley, the results occupy an emotional hinterland somewhere between Bert Jansch and Leonard Cohen, John Fahey and Cliff ‘Ukulele Ike’ Edwards.
Jason Steel – I Lost My North
Nancy Wallace is one of the best of the younger generation of English singers taking inspiration from the tradition, and previously nominated in the Horizon category of the BBC Folk Awards. A one-time member of The Memory Band and subsequently The Owl Service, Nancy’s debut solo album Old Stories had a charming simplicity – unique interpretations of traditional British songs sitting happily alongside her own compositions. Nancy is currently working on both the follow-up to Old Stories and a joint album with Jason Steel.
Nancy Wallace – Sleeping Sickness
Originally from the USA, Pamela Wyn Shannon now lives in North Wales. A tremendous guitarist, songwriter and singer, she draws inspiration from English and Celtic music, literature, pastoral themes, and the guitar legends of the Village Thing era.
Pamela Wyn Shannon – Rambletide In Ambleside
Confirming its place on the UK festival calendar, the festival will be buzzing in Bristol over the early May Bank Holiday (May 5-7)-a guaranteed “rain free” event as it returns to one of the city’s flagship venues, the Colston Hall. Says patron Seth Lakeman:
“After last year’s hugely successful return to the UK’s live music calendar, I am delighted to be patron once again for Bristol Folk Festival 2012. With an eclectic line-up of multi-award winning, and up-and-coming folk and acoustic acts there is something for everyone.”
Headliners will be the West Country’s Albert Hall-bound Show of Hands (May 5), Irish songstress Cara Dillon on May 6 and the awesome Afro Celt Sound System on Bank Holiday Monday (May 7). Also confirmed are acts including Scotland’s fiery fiddler Rua Macmillan, Cornwall’s 3 Daft Monkeys, Hartlepool’s The Young’Uns, Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, and 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards nominees Lady Maisery and Will Pound of the blistering banjo/harmonica duo Walsh and Pound.
Top value 3-day holiday weekend tickets are now available price £80 (concessions £70) whilst family tickets are £250 (2 adults and two children aged 5-15).Under 5s go free. Book via Colston Hall box office on 0117 922 3686 or online at www.colstonhall.org, www.bristolticketshop.co.uk www.gigantic.com or www.seetickets.com
Folk Radio UK is also co-sponsoring the 2012 Isambard Folk Award at the festival which you can find out more about here.
Photo Credit: Michael Farrant