Bristol Folk Festival has announced the finalists of Isambard Folk Award. The award is co-sponsored by Folk Radio UK and Songs from the Shed this year so we’ve been busy looking through nearly 100 entries to come up with a short-list of five. It will be no easy task deciding on a winner as all five short-listed acts are very strong contenders. The final will be held on Friday, March 30 when the chosen acts will get the chance to perform 15 minute sets before judges in Hall 2 of the Colston Hall, Bristol on Friday, March 30, 7.30pm. Tickets for the final are free so come and join us! You can reserve tickets by calling the Colston Hall box office on 0117 922 3686. Tickets must be collected between 6-7pm on the night.
The winner wins a high profile platform at the Bristol Folk Festival this spring (5th – 7th May) where they will share the same bill as headliners Show of Hands, Cara Dillon and Afro Celt Sound System. In addition they will also appear at Somerfest – a one-day folk music and arts festival to be held at the stunning Halsway Manor on the edge of Somerset’s Quantock Hills (Saturday, April 7). There is also a bonus prize of an opportunity of having a session featured on Folk Radio UK and our good friend Songs from the Shed.
Says festival co-organiser Jan Ayers:
“Last year set a real standard with scores of diverse, high quality entries from all round the country. But this year has topped that with even more entries and a great cross section of bands and solo artists from across the traditional folk, experimental and contemporary spectrum.”
For the finals Jan Ayers will be joined on the judging panel by former WOMAD artistic director Thomas Brooman, Jon Earl of Songs from the Shed and Alex Gallacher of Folk Radio UK.
The finalists are bands Evening Chorus (from Cardiff) and London-based Common Tongues and Mishaped Pearls plus duos Solarference (Devon/Bristol) and Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker (London/Worcestershire).
Evening Chorus are a folk band from Cardiff. Championed by BBC Radio Wales they have recently released the EP Acorn. Combining traditional folk instrumentation with layers of vocal harmonies, their songs range from quiet and emotional, to loud folk stomp-a-longs.
Mishaped Pearls are a seven-piece folk/world/classical band from London. Vocalist Manuela Schuette sings in languages including English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Latin and a made up language! They released their first album The Singer and The Poets in 2010 and have played the Southbank, London’s Union Chapel and many festivals. They were also Acoustic Song nominees in the 2011 Independent Music Awards.
Solarference (Bristol’s Nick Janaway and Exeter’s Sarah Owen) perform a captivating and unique blend of traditional folk song and live electronics. Using their voices, laptops, and a collection of sound gadgets they create fresh settings for a rich selection of traditional songs. The results are warm, percussive and atmospheric, with an intense live energy.
“Passionate and original… like nothing else you’ve ever heard before.” Tom Robinson, BBC6 Music
Ben Walker and Josienne Clarke
Rising through the ranks of the London folk scene, Josienne Clarke is now one of the leading lights in the folk revival movement. On releasing her2010 debut album, One Light Is Gone, reviewers praised her vocal and songwriting talents, some comparing her to June Tabor and Sandy Denny. She has performed alongside many great folk musicians including Martin Simpson, Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention, Kami Thompson and Emily Portman.
Josienne’s songwriting and performing cohort, Ben Walker, hails from Evesham, Worcestershire. One of the most accomplished guitarists on the London folk scene he plays both steel and nylon string acoustic guitar, and mandolin. Influenced by the likes of Martin Simpson, Bert Jansch, Pierre Bensusan and Richard Thompson, Ben’s playing and arrangements add an additional dimension to Josienne’s already sculpted sound. The duo have self-released an album of traditional folk songs, The Seas Are Deep.
Common Tongues are an indie folk five-piece band hailing from the shores of Brighton. With a sound that lies somewhere between Crosby, Stills and Nash and Arcade Fire, Common Tongues also cite Bon Ivor, Local Natives, The Band and Eels as influences. They released their debut single Jumping Ships last year. Singer/guitarists Tom and Oli grew up together in rural Cambridge sharing a passion for song writing that blossomed into compelling stories of their lives and loves. Having played at Bestival after winning a competition, Common Tongues had a busy 2011. With a series of further tracks currently being recorded for release this spring Common Tongues are gaining a solid fanbase and industry interest, and have a Caffè Nero tour in May/June and several festival dates.
Last year’s Isambard Award winners were the Cardiff five-piece band Under the Driftwood Tree. The band, who play a chilled eclectic blend of “surf-folk” acoustic music beat off stiff competition from four other emerging acts to scoop the award.
Under the Driftwood Tree released their first single If Only If in December and 2012 sees the release of their debut album accompanied by festival appearances including a return to Bristol Folk Festival. www.myspace.com/underthedriftwoodtree
Day tickets are now available for Bristol Folk Festival at £30 (Saturday), £35 (Sunday) and £40 (Monday) with a £2 concession for 5-15s, students, pensioners, disabled and unwaged. Weekend tickets are £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