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Review: Cambridge Folk Festival 2016 – Saturday

Lisa Ward


Saturday at Cambridge is all about the big names in folk, from award winners and nominees through to folk super groups. With Breabach, The Jon McCusker Band, and Le Vent du Nord all on the line up, it’s hard to pick out the highlights.

On the main stage it’s the Songs of Separation collective who really get things going. Featuring a plethora of female folk artists including Eliza Carthy, Karine Polwart, and Mary Macmaster, it’s folk super group of sorts, with each artist taking a place in the spotlight. From the sombre cover of Boo Hewardine’s Wings on my Heels led by Jenn Butterworth to Karine’s powerful vocals on Echo Mocks the Corncrake, it’s a set you can’t fail to fall in love with. For me it’s Poor Man’s Lamentation in which the collective really shine, and ‘s Muladach Mi ‘s Mi Air M’aineoil (Sad Am I and in a Strange Place) highlights their ability to use and merge as one, despite their own individual successes.

Stick in the Wheel on the other hand merge more traditional songs alongside newer ones. The shouty Me N Becky examines the London riots, whilst Bedlam brings a whole new sound to the traditional number, bringing more of the madness the song depicts to the sound. Bringing their own take to the ‘average anti-women song’ The Lass of London City Stick in the Wheel continue the vain of merging politics and music. Meanwhile The Blacksmith confirms the accolades and award nominations of the past two years and more than deserved.

With Life in Paper Boat due for release at the end of the year, Kate Rusby capitalizes on her captive audience to test out some of the new numbers. Hunter Moon muses on what would happen if the sun feel in love with the moon, whilst Only Desire What You Have is based on traditional number The Epicurean, only Rusby explains that once she’d written the tune the words didn’t fit so she changed those too, in true folk style. Elsewhere she throws in I Courted a Sailor and Awkward Annie to keep the long term fans appeased, ensuring a careful balance of old and new. For me though it’s Big Brave Bill which highlights Rusby’s sense of humour, and as the crowd don super-hero glasses it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t singing along by the end of the number.

By sunset there’s only one place to be and that’s back at the main stage for Christy Moore. Opening with City of Chicago he sets the tone for the set, which is filled with his best loved numbers. From his cover of Richard Thompson’s Beeswing, to Ride On, Moore is able to ensure the crowd remain attentive throughout. Despite forgetting the second verse of How Long there’s little to critique. Moore remains one of the most important folk singers of our era, and the songs remain as relevant as ever. For me it’s Ordinary Man and more recent The Tuam Beat which show Moore’s depth and diversity, and tonight simply confirms his ability to continually deliver a set which captivates from start to end.