Today the Ironbath would like to spotlight 5 new figures of the English Folk circuit that retain a traditional approach to their music making but have taken the genre into a new direction through sharp songwriting and incredible musicianship. The Ironbath is certain that English Folk has a bright future in their hands.
Jack McNeill & Charlie Heys – Website
Last year the Ironbath found 2 great bands that germinated in the same music school in Birmingham. Jack McNeill & Charlie Heys were runners-up in the BBC Young Folk Awards a couple of years ago. Jack is a great singer and guitar player whilst Charlie plays fiddle. It sometimes sounds as if they are playing different tunes but never sounds disjointed. Instead the artists complement each other so that Jacks songs take on a greater depth. Their song ‘Coastlines’ was the Ironbath’s favourite song of 2010. You can stream it here on MySpace.
The Old Dance School – Website
Meeting at the same music school as Jack & Charlie, The Old Dance School (named after the hall they used to rehearse in) are probably the best folk band in England. Forming a 7 piece folk band and performing 12 minute pieces probably isn’t the smartest way to make a million but every member is an immensely talented musician and they add up to far more than the sum of their parts. They control the pace of their music beautifully forming audible swirls and building textures as the sounds build and diminish, then when Robin’s vocal cuts in the song is kicked up a gear. Their second album from 2010, ‘Forecast’ was phenomenal and their third album is due soon.
Emily Portman – Website
The Ironbath met Emily Portman last month at the Towersey Festival and when she sung the storm clouds cleared and the bright sun broke through. That is a fact although the Ironbath cannot be certain that Emily was the cause of this effect (although he would like to think it was). Emily comes from Glastonbury the mystical hub of England. Now based in the North-East she has firmly positioned herself as a leading folkstar with her debut album ‘The Glamoury’.
Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Website
There is a buzz about Jonny & Lucy at the moment since their debut album ‘Kite’ is released next week following their nomination earlier this year for the Horizon award at the BBC Folk awards (alongside fellow folkstar Emily Portman). The Ironbath was ahead of the curve when he saw them perform last year at Bromyard Folk Festival. They have a timidity in their music but they are the quintessential English Folk duet. The Ironbath suspects that they will be on the folk circuit for a long time and their music will grow and develop.
Rough Island Band – Website
The Rough Island is St Agnes in the Scilly Isles, 28 miles off the tip of Cornwall. The Rough Island Band comprises locals with regular visitors from the mainland who are inventing a musical heritage for the islands. Their sound reflects the beautiful landscape where soft sandy beaches meet towering rocky cliffs and where the sea can be aquamarine or turbulent grey. The Ironbath saw them play at the Island’s folk festival in 2010 and became an instant fan. You can stream and download their live album at Bandcamp.