Spring is coming and Sproatly Smith are getting ready for Weirdshire:
Here on a hill in rural Herefordshire the chickens have just finished decapitating the last of the crocuses, and the inedible remains of winter’s quietly mouldering apples have been scattered for the blackbirds. The buzzard and crows are stalking their territories for the coming season, and fieldfares still drop and hover over the dry grey-white landscape where sheep huddle anxious against the forecast of late snow.
… all of which must mean it is nearly Spring … And psych folk musicians around the globe are tuning up their homemade drone instruments in readiness for the annual Weirdshire gathering in warmly buttoned-up Hereford.
This year the Weirdshire line has once more pulled in acts from across the world, earning itself the title International Psych Folk Festival.
Weirdshire opens on Wednesday 4th April with festival curators Sproatly Smith, who feature in the March edition of fRoots. The evocative psych-soaked Sproatly will be joined by David Colohan from Ireland, a founding member of United Bible Studies whose “eerily lovely” music lends itself to thoughts of “prog gnosis, lunar devotionals, ancient-future rituals…”. Wednesday also sees a performance from B’ee (In Gowan Ring) whose earthy symbolist folk music “channels stories of stones and angels through homemade instruments and human voice”. This should make for an evening of strangely magical listening – it is music to conjure by…
Thursday evening’s performance features the “subtle yet striking psych beauty” of Moongazing Hare from Denmark, plus the Kitchen Cynics from Aberdeen. Alan Davidson has been releasing cassettes and CDRs of his strange, funny, disturbing bittersweet songs for 20 years now, with songs that have been covered by Alasdair Roberts, Sharron Kraus, Josephine Foster and PG Six amongst many others. The evening also features Trappist Afterland from Melbourne, Australia. This is Trappist’s second visit to Herefordshire’s Weirdshire scene with their unique blend of psychedelia, percussion and drones.
Friday is free music night at Weirdshire’s De Koffie Pot venue, and two local artists share the stage. David Ian Roberts’ beautiful blend of guitar and voice has a timeless quality that is reminiscent of Nick Drake, and Alula Down experiment with folk song and “mesmerising” minimalism.
Saturday’s show hosts two newcomers to Herefordshire Weirdshire. Oort is the experimental jazz drone work of David A Jaycock. Aycock is a key collaborator of Marry Waterson, and his own progressive jazz, rock, noise, improve trio uses compound timings and dissonance alongside melodic soundscapes – think free player Dereck Bailey, King Crimson and Can. Jacken Elswyth also plays this evening: awe-inspiring clawhammer banjo and melodeon that drift from purist folk into exploratory improvisations and unaccompanied song.
Jacken will also be appearing on Sunday evening at Canon Frome Court supporting Cath & Phil Tyler. Cath & Phil’s latest album The Ox and the Ax is released on the 30th March and happily their album launch tour coincides neatly with Weirdshire. Cath & Phil play Anglo-American folk music and share a love of traditional narrative song. Their performances are intimate yet full-voiced with sparse mountain banjo accompaniments. They have performed on stages as diverse as the Royal Opera House in London and a dank tower in the old city walls of Newcastle, so the ‘Potluck Room’ in Herefordshire’s best-known intentional community makes a neat addition to the list. Alex Gordon (ex-Heed the Thunder) with singer Louis Hughes will also be in support this evening.
Each spring Weirdshire’s lineup becomes richer, like the sweetness that remains in the winter-stored apples. This year the line up is complex, ripe and earthy as afull-bodiedd cider in the sharp afternoon’s early spring sunshine.
And Herefordshire’s own Weirdshire scene continues to grow and mature. As Stephen Hunt recently commented in fRoots, Herefordshire is fast becoming “the capital county of psych folk”. Sproatly Smith’s Weirdshire week of International Psych Folk seems a good indicator that this might be true.
De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Village, Hereford:
Wednesday 4th April 7pm, £8 / £5
B’ee (In Gowan Ring)
Thursday 5th April 7pm, £8 / £5
Plus dj jus’jay
Friday 6th April 7pm, free
David Ian Roberts
Plus dj jus’jay
Saturday 7th April 8pm, £5
OORT (Trans Neptunian Objects)
Canon Frome Court, Nr Ledbury, Herefordshire:
Sunday 8th April 7.30pm, £5
Cath & Phil Tyler plus support