When the opening act on the acoustic stage is as polished as Miles Cain, you know the day is going to be good. His understated acoustic folk, laced with variation and holding passion at its core, nodded to the likes of Martyn Joseph. From the politically minded Waking Up With The House On Fire to the title track of his latest album A Way Of Being Free each song contained heartfelt lyrics and intricate melodies which kept us enthralled throughout.
Winners of the Emerging Talent Competition at this year’s Glastonbury, Leeds based folk pop-quintet Ellen & The Escapades were the most talked about band of the day and rightly so. Merging pensive lyrics with elaborate melodies, at times they hinted to the like of Angus & Julia Stone, whilst at other times they could not be any further apart. Undoubtedly it was Coming Back Home To You which marked their highlight, it’s minimalist vibe both haunting and rhythmic, asserting them as innovative and original.
Meanwhile, having already offered a full set on the main stage, Edwina Hayes treated a select few to a number of tunes on the acoustic stage. Working her way through a variety of covers, including Leonard Cohen’s Blue Raincoat and Kate Rusby’s Night Visiting, she confirmed why Nanci Griffith quite rightly describes her as ‘the sweetest voice in England’. Cutting the last three verses from the traditional Froggie Went A Courtin’ because the she felt the end was too brutal, leaves us only to conclude it’s not just her vocals which are saccharine. Rounding off with the self penned Go Crazy Edwina affirms herself as one of the most noteworthy female folk singers on the circuit.
David Ford faultlessly counter balanced Edwina in his acoustic set, with his cynic ridden songs, driven with torment. True to form, he wins bonus points for packing a record number of expletives into his set, though these seem tame in comparison to the passion which erupts during Requiem. Working his way through St Peter, Katie and Waiting For The Storm, he ensured that even those passing by the stage were stopped in their tracks. This coupled with a polystyrene roof raising rendition of Cheer Up delighted current fans and made certain the only disappointment came from those who arrived late.
Broken Ground on the other hand reassured us that folk and country have not been wasted on the young. Whilst Procrastination leans distinctly on the folk side of the line, with harmonies perfect for idling away a day, its antithesis comes in the form of The Great Train Robbery, a foot stamping hoedown riddled with hints of country. They might be fairly new on the scene but with backing from the BBC and billings with the likes of Martin Carthy, they are already marking themselves as a band to watch.
Sandi Thom offered a low key approach, discarding her band for the night. Working her way through a number of tracks from her latest album Merchants and Thieves, which sees her tackle the genre of blues, it was clear that whilst her song writing with Joe Bonamassa was solid her voice is better suited to her earlier pop work. Whilst the finger picking in Gold Dust was merit worthy, the reworking of I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker turned the perfect pop song into something of an angst ridden rant. Suffice to say that whilst her performance was solid it seemed to fall short of her earlier work.
Having been spotted absorbing most of the other acts Seth Lakeman was obviously in celebratory spirits as he took to the stage himself. Opening with the title track to his latest album Hearts and Minds he powered through an up tempo set which broke only for the likes of Solomon Brown and Circle Grows. Even Kitty Jay, which usually gains the most applause during his live performances, seemed to fall by the wayside a little and it was Riflemen of War which was the highlight of his set. Bringing the audience to their feet, the only complaint we heard all night was simply that they wanted more.