Celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary, Cambridge Folk Festival promises a line up of established artists from the course of it’s history, as well as emerging acts currently making their name on the folk scene. Today kicks of with festival favourite Megson and their family folk show, which includes animal noises, bubbles and some interesting dancing (most notably from Stu). Despite the fun nature of the set it highlights their ability to create and re-imagine folk songs, suitable for a younger audience. Baby and the Band is a more jaunty number, which seems to keep those under 4 foot happy, whilst All The Shops Have Fallen Down is a bleaker song, it’s message no doubt more powerful for those of a sightly older age. With a selection of animal noises from the crowd to accompany My Fathers Farm it’s hard not to quack along, and their set starts the day on a jubilant note.
In the Den it’s Georgia Ruth who quickly becomes one of the best new finds of the day. Her subtle songwriting style joins effortlessly with her harp accompaniments to create delicate songs. The title track of her latest release Week of Pines offers an intricate harp part which fuses with her crisp vocals to create an instantly accessible to give the set a modern twist. Meanwhile Hallt delivered in her native Welsh tongue offers a more soothing sound, not too dissimilar to that of Cara Dillon. The stand out song of her set however it Old Blue, a more sombre number which quickly makes it clear that her sensitive style is still able to sucker punch you in the gut, and linger long after it’s closing bars.
My Darling Clementine on the other hand go some way to highlighting the diverse nature of the festival, more country in their sound it turns a packed out Stage 2 into a maze of dancing bodies. No I Won’t Stand By Him (No Matter What Tammy Said) offers an interesting response to Wynette’s Stand By Your Man and though it’s a song with a more serious message it’s delivered with enough jaunt to avoid it meandering into a depressing number. Meanwhile King of the Carnival feels like something The Beautiful South might have created especially with the constant switching of lead vocals between Michael and Lou. Leave A Good Book on the Shelf proves that high quality Americana music doesn’t need to originate from the deep south, the Birmingham duo more than earning their eminence as a creative and engaging country band.
Keston Cobblers’ Club manage to pack the Club Tent almost full to capacity with a draw for many of the younger festival attendees. Their up-tempo folk sound follows in the footsteps of the likes of Noah & The Whale, offering melodies which brings with them an insatiable desire for more. Your Mother gets the crowd singing along whilst their cover of Paul Simon’s Graceland offers a knowing tribute the the first headline of Cambridge Folk Festival. Their quirky style and beautiful harmonies are perhaps best showcased in Won’t Look Back from their forthcoming EP A Pocket Guide To Escaping, and clearly indicates their upward trajectory.
True to form, Cambridge Folk Club’s take over of the club tent offers two of the finest voices of the day. Irish singer-songwriter Kevin Hunt delivers songs with a social conscience. Fighting Irish is a downbeat number filled with emotion and and brings a voice to the Irish fighters and the long term impact of facing war. Meanwhile Kings Cross is another sombre offering tinged with a sense of hope. He’s followed by Jess Morgan, and it’s in the live arena that Jess’ distinctive claw hammer approach to her guitar really comes to life. Opener Workhouse highlights her ability to capture snippets of another time and place, whilst Freckles in the Sun shows her ability to turn poetry to music, with the simile of freckles blending together creating an instant visual which becomes unshakable. As ever, both Kevin and Jess confirm that it’s the shorter club tent spots which often showcase the best emerging talent, and I can only hope this acts as a stepping stones to higher billings at next year’s festival.