In an exciting Festival first, Jon Boden takes the role of Guest Curator of Cambridge Folk Festival 2017. His long association with the Festival began in 2003 when, new to the folk scene, Jon Boden first played Cambridge with John Spiers. He has gone on to become one of England’s greatest and most innovative folk stars, forming eleven-piece folk big band, Bellowhead in 2004 with John (famously conceived by Spiers and Boden whilst stuck in traffic en route to playing a gig in Essex), and recording five albums before disbanding in 2016.
Jon will be on-site all weekend, presenting additional unique happenings and the odd surprise event in his Guest Curator role. Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings will perform their first live show in several years, with a one-off preview set on the Festival’s main stage of material from the brand-new Jon Boden album to be released in autumn 2017, giving festival-goers the first chance to hear the new music before its release. The performance will also dip into material from Bellowhead, the A Folk Song A Day project and more.
Jon will also host a fiddle workshop, looking at where English fiddle style comes from, where it is now and where it is headed in the future.
As Guest Curator, Jon is programming five artists across the Festival’s four stages throughout the weekend and will introduce each of his selected artists live on stage: Lau, Martin Simpson, Kate in the Kettle (previously un-announced), Chris T-T and the Furrow Collective.
This week, the Festival caught up with Jon as he revealed his final selection:
‘There is no question that Cambridge Folk Festival holds a very special place in the composition of the folk scene, and in the cultural pantheon of the nation as a whole. It brings folk music from around the world into a tightly packed field and glories in their variety and difference, as well as celebrating the unity of all music. I was therefore overwhelmed to be asked to be the first guest-curator of Cambridge Folk Festival this year.
To be presented with the opportunity of not only recommending some artists for the Festival but also to be given space and context to play together a bit, or to interview them on stage and ask them about their musical journeys, or to hang out around a campfire for an hour or so…is a fantastically exciting proposition and I am over-the-moon to be able do so with six such amazing acts.
‘His playing electrified the session and I went home convinced that fiddle was for losers and that really the piano accordion was the only way forward.’
‘I first met Martin Green of Lau in a pub session in Southampton in 1999 or thereabouts. I knew of him through his playing on Eliza Carthy’s Red album, but at that point the idea that someone could feature in my CD collection and could also stroll nonchalantly into my local session was not a concept I could readily process. His playing electrified the session and I went home convinced that fiddle was for losers and that really the piano accordion was the only way forward. Fortunately that conviction wore off before I could trade in my fiddle but the energy of his playing that night has stayed with me ever since. When, in 2007, he teamed up with one of the finest fiddlers there is and one of the greatest guitarist / singers on the scene it was clear something special was in the offing.
Sure enough, Lau have become a gold standard for experimental traditional music and continue to reach music lovers from way outside of the folk scene, as well as thrilling those of us within it with their ever changing, ever challenging, ever so slightly bonkers take on tradition-based music from Scotland and beyond. ‘
‘The intricacy and drive of Martin’s solo guitar on that track was like nothing else I’d ever heard.’
‘I’m not sure exactly how many times I played “Heather Down the Moor” on repeat when I first came across it as a teenager, but the CD had certainly worn out within a week of me buying it. The intricacy and drive of Martin’s solo guitar on that track was like nothing else I’d ever heard. English folk music excels at ‘feel’ and ‘grunge’ and ‘swagger’, but ‘virtuosity’ can often get lost along the way. So it takes a genius like Martin to combine the groove and soul of English folk music with a virtuosity so singular, so extraordinary that really no-one else gets close. And as for his American trad stuff, it really is breathtaking. More recently he’s become one of the foremost songwriters on the scene as well. I have been lucky enough to count him as a friend since moving up to Sheffield in 2005 and our various musical collaborations have been a source of great joy to me.’
Kate in the Kettle
‘…as a writer she excels in finding incredibly exciting new musical spaces to explore.’
‘Fiddle singers are ten-a-penny these days, so it’s really exciting to meet someone who is taking the whole thing up another notch. Kate Young’s incredible talent as a singer and as a fiddle player is a wondrous thing to behold and as a writer she excels in finding incredibly exciting new musical spaces to explore.’
‘I am so excited to see him perform these songs once more before he hangs up his plectrum.’
‘Chris is a massively influential figure on the low-fi, acoustic punk scene. Frank Turner has performed a number of his songs and cites him as an inspirational figure. As a performer of his own political material he is uncompromising, aggressive, forensically deconstructive in his observations. So it was something of a surprise when a few years back he announced that he would be taking a one-man show of original settings of A. A. Milne’s children’s poems to the Edinburgh Festival. It was an enormous success, not least because he managed to inject a fair amount of that punk vivacity into the settings whilst totally staying true to the melancholy, tender, drily humorous tone of the poems. I am so excited to see him perform these songs once more before he hangs up his plectrum – he announced in April this year that he would be retiring from live performance, so don’t miss him!’
‘Listening to them reminds me a bit of listening obsessively to Planxty as a teenager.’
‘It’s incredibly exciting when a bunch of musicians who you admire individually, announce they are forming a group. The four members of the Furrow Collective are all at the top of their game and indeed they all lead busy, successful solo careers. The sound they make together is so refreshing because it has a sense of effortless style and authenticity. Listening to them reminds me a bit of listening obsessively to Planxty as a teenager – brilliant, inventive, fresh but also with a sense of timelessness that chimes beautifully with the antiquity of the material.’
For further artist information and Festival line-up, please see www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk