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What’s Hot: Cambridge Folk Festival Top Picks

Lisa Ward


With Cambridge Folk Festival just around the corner and a line up to make you go weak at the knees, we take a look at the top acts from across the stages to highlight some of the artists who should not be missed.

Megson (Thursday)

Teeside husband and wife duo, Megson are repeated nominees for the Best Duo award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and with good reason. Their combination of traditional songs and self penned numbers was enough to capture the attention of Seth Lakeman, who worked with them on their second album. Beautiful harmonies, with down to earth lyrics, this pair are worth arriving early for.

John Prine (Friday)

A BBC Radio 2 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, member of the Nashville Hall of Fame and one of Bob Dylan’s favourite artists, John Prine is a man who needs no introductions. With the likes of Laura Cantrell, Nanci Griffith and Linda Thompson amid the multitude of artists who have covered his tracks, his mix of poetic lyrics and laid back acoustic style make him perfect sunset listening.

Gretchen Peters (Friday)

With Hello Cruel World released earlier this year, Gretchen has reconfirmed that her knack of writing solid country numbers has not been lost. Whilst it might have been Martina McBride with Independence Day and Faith Hill with The Secret of Life who had more mainstream success, it’s Gretchen’s carefully crafted lyrics which power the songs and live she marks herself apart as one of the finest country musicians on this year’s line up.

Nanci Griffith (Saturday)

Marking her 20th album with the recent Intersection, Nanci had to cancel several shows in the UK earlier this year due to ill health, which makes her return even more prominent. With the upbeat protest number Hell No (I’m Not Alright) being picked up by the occupy movement, there’s been a shift to songs with themes of anger and difficulty, but this doesn’t make her any less endearing. With a set likely to showcase classics such as Love at the Five and Dime and Julie Gold’s From a Distance expect self penned gems and beautiful covers that will leave you spellbound.

Karine Polwart (Saturday) 

Scottish singer songwriter Karine Polwart is no stranger to Cambridge Folk Festival, which suggests her return is due to popular demand. With achingly beautiful songs, which span subjects such as alcoholism, sex trafficking and the holocaust, whilst the content of her lyrics are far from upbeat, she somehow manages to create breathtaking numbers which draw you in. For those who want to perfect their own vocals, Karine is also running a singing workshop on the Sunday.

Joan Armatrading (Sunday)

Queen of reinvention Joan has ranged from blues, to folk, to rock and pop but what never falters is her ability to create catchy numbers which pull in the crowds. With Starlight released this year she moves to yet another genre, this time focusing on jazz whilst still retaining her trademark vocals which ring out on each track. With more well known hits such as Drop The Pilot and Love and Affection unlikely to be missing from the set, she’s worth checking out for her breadth of styles and soulful sound.

Anais Mitchell (Sunday) 

Previously singed to Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records label, before going it alone with her 2012 release, Anais combines childlike vocals with poignant (albeit sometimes slightly disturbing) lyrics which are poetic yet unabashed. Anais looks set to be one of the more unusual highlights of this years festival.

Lucy Ward (Friday – Club Tent Showcase) 

Radio 2 Horizon Award winner, Lucy may only have one album under her belt, but when said début includes traditional covers such as Maids When You’re Young, a poem said to be written by Anne Boleyn set to music and self penned tracks you know Lucy is set for great things. One of this year’s showcase artists, it seems the crew behind Cambridge think the same.

Rachel Sermanni (Sunday – Club Tent Showcase)

Another of Cambridge’s showcase artists, Rachel’s latest EP Black Currents hit the number 1 spot in the Coalition Singles Chart. With an album due for release soon, her mix of dark lyrics with beautiful harmonies blew us away at The Lexington earlier this year and with a string of festival performances across the summer, it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a household name.

Liz Green (Friday – The Den)

Manchester based singer Liz Green combines husky bluesy vocals, with jazz infused melodies to create dark, cabaret style pop which is infectious. Winner of Glastonbury’s emerging talent competition, she joins the line up on Cambridge’s own emerging talent stage. With a slight hint of Eliza Carthy in her vocals, she is sure to win the Cambridge crowds over in minutes.

Karima Francis (Sunday – The Den) 

Back with new album The Remedy, due for release later this year, Karima doesn’t hide away from the eating disorder which took her away from her career, stating the new album is not just about recovery but also renewal. It seems right then that she’s on the bill of the emerging talent stage, re-kindling her career with new found passion.

With Thursday and Saturday already sold out, head over to www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk to snap up the last few tickets and find out who else is on the line up.