The Young’uns kick of Sunday’s proceedings with a mix of politically charged numbers and quips about headliner Van Morrison. Though rumour has it that Van is none too impressed with their antics, they win over the main stage crowd with more traditional arrangements and sea shanties. Whilst Three Soldiers takes a harrowing look at World War 2, A Lovely Cup of Tea takes a more humorous look at fascism to great effect.
This is counterbalanced by Sarah Jarosz’s Americana set which opens with Annabelle Lee and her distinctive banjo arrangements. Whilst her slot is powered by the striking instrumentation of Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith Jarosz is still able to ensure the audience are captivated by her every more. Though Jarosz is in some ways less accessible; her styling demanding every ounce of your attention, when you do focus in, the subtle twists and turns of the set highlight the magic of her sound. Her cover of Dylan’s Ring Them Bells sees the fiddle carry the essence of the number, whilst the softer Build Me Up From Bones highlights her vocal prowess.
Over at The Den Will Varley ensures a mix of hard hitting songs such as Newborn and more humorous offerings about self service checkout machines. Reminiscent of Beans on Toast and Frank Turner, he has an easy poetic style underpinned by wry humour that carries the set. Looking at his dad, elections and life in general the set doesn’t shy away from the bigger themes. Weddings & Wars is a particularly strong number which highlights his ability to combine is humour with hard hitting lyrics which marks him as a voice to be heard.
Lindi Ortega on the other hand pushes things back to the country sound. Her saccharine vocals mixing with the melodies to juxtapose the melancholy of which she sings. Despite being on her 3rd album, Lindi hasn’t quite captivated the UK crowds in the way I’d once expected. Her set today simply serves to reconfirm that she’s another voice which has unduly remained slightly under the radar. The slower Cigarettes & Truckstops allows a for a more mellow opening whilst Gyspy Child ensures the entire tent are tapping their feet along to the beat. Another artist who could have easily commanded a longer set, it’s a vibrant offering that confirms Lindi has a voice to be reckoned with.
In the Den Lucy Ward delivers a solo set, fuelled by her latest album Single Flame. Nevertheless she also mixes in a new song Summer’s That We Made, which brings with it a more personal perspective. It marks a move away from the bigger themes of some of the other numbers delivered today, particularly The Last Pirouette and it’s take on the end of the world. Once again packing out the tent she’s booked for, it only leaves me wondering when Cambridge will finally place her on a stage which would avoid people struggling to see. Nevertheless, it also allows for a more intimate set which makes For The Dead Men even more hard hitting than normal.
For me it’s Emily Emily Slade’s Club Tent set that steals the day. After a long term hiatus, she opens her set with a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and proves that her voice and playing have not been marred by time. Her voice, ever mournful, makes More Hills To Climb even more haunting. Joined by Brooks Williams (her coach at 14) Another Train is granted extra layers of depth, which keeps the set vibrant. Though she may have been competing with Van Morrison (particularly as it seems theres a desire to turn the volume up on the Main Stage a couple of notches later in the evening) Emily proves her absence from the folk circuit has left a gaping hole, and I for one can only hope this marks her return to music.
With the night drawing in, there’s time to revel in a Kate Rusby sing-a-long as she takes over the Stage 1 for a rendition of Blooming Heather. It’s one of the moments which captivates the crowd and seems to surmise Cambridge’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations. It might be all over for another year, but with Cambridge’s ability to deliver one of the most diverse folk line ups around you can be sure that they live up to their tag line, one again highlight that Cambridge Folk Festival really is ‘cool as folk’.