Sidmouth Folk Week 29th July – 5th August 2016

Ear to the past, Eye on the future 

‘One of the best festivals on the planet!’ Mike Harding


Thursday 28th 2.30pm PAM AYRES – one of the nation’s most popular poets and comics.

Thursday 28th 8pm STEELEYE SPAN – pioneers of folk-rock

Friday 29th 3pm PORT ISAAC’S FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS – back due to popular demand after last year’s sell-out.


SUPER EARLY BIRD DEAL! Limited numbers of all our great season tickets at the lowest possible prices. You won’t get them any cheaper than this! Available from 14th December and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Get in early! Applies to all Week, Weekend and Day tickets.

BULVERTON BONUS DEALS: We are launching a brand new Bulverton-In-One (BiO) Week Ticket which includes all events at Bulverton Marquee including 8 evening shows, 8 Late Night Extra Ceilidhs, daytime workshops and early and late night sessions in Betsy’s Lounge. Plus Free Camping! Limited numbers of these special rate tickets are available, with an extra special deal for 18 – 25 year olds.

FOLK DANCE REVISITED: The new chapter in folk dance at Sidmouth FolKWeek unfolds with challenging American and English morning workshops, variety-based afternoons, beginners workshops and fun-filled evenings!

WEEK CAMPING PRICES REDUCED: Adult prices reduced by 10% at the Festival Campsite.

Explore the programme pages of the website now and then head to the tickets page to grab your Super Early Bird Tickets before they go!

The Travelin’ McCourys and Keller Williams – Pick

I’m not a big Keller Williams fan. With his reliance on electronic looping and hokey humor, he’s an acquired taste that I haven’t quite acquired.
On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Del McCoury’s band, both when they play behind the best hair in bluegrass and when they’re out on their own as The Travelin’ McCourys.
So I had mixed feelings before listening to Pick, the new release by Keller Williams and The Traveling McCourys on SCI Fidelity.
But after numerous listens, I can tell you this: It works. And the reason it works is the masterful picking of Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury on banjo, Jason Carter on fiddle and Alan Bartram on bass.
These guys are solidly grounded in bluegrass but not afraid to jump into the deep end and try something risky.
Williams’ songs are paired here with some tunes the McCourys have been playing for a long time and one new one penned by Bartram. The result is an exercise in fun and proof that bluegrass instruments played masterfully can bring a jolt of energy and excitement.
Highpoints on Pick are The Graveyard Shift, What a Waste and Bumper Sticker. Fans of the McCourys will recognize The Graveyard Shift because Ronnie McCoury has been singing it for years and the band first did it with Steve Earle. And Bumper Sticker, written by Williams, pays homage to bluegrassers who weren’t afraid to test the boundaries of the genre at times, including John Duffey and Del McCoury, who makes a guest vocal appearance to wind up the song and the CD.
But one of the best marriages since peanut butter and chocolate is on What a Waste. The song has everything: a lover pining for his girl who died too soon, moonshine, a bit of religion and humor. It’s a song the boys had performed with Del before they met up with Williams, and is a perfect fit here. It sounds like something Williams would write. Here’s a taste:

Oh what a waste of good corn liquor
From the still they pulled the plug
Now the revenuers snicker
‘cause she melted in the liquor
and they had to bury poor Lily by the jug.

The musical pairing came about when the band met up with Williams at a mutual friend’s Nashville studio. “We played a few songs and decided let’s try to make a record,” Ronnie McCoury recalled in a phone conversation while he was, well, traveling. “I can’t say enough good things about playing with him. Keller’s pretty prepared. He’s got a pulse on today’s music.”
The McCourys add what Ronnie called “a little boost. We give a bluegrass spin to his songs. From the start, he’s been very grateful. He just says all the time, ‘Thank you for letting me into your world.’ ”
Ronnie and the others are eager, even a bit anxious, to see how Pick goes over. But they’ve already passed on key test.
“My dad and mother absolutely love this record,” Ronnie said. “My mom texted us and said ‘we’re listening to it again.’”

William Elliott Whitmore – Radium Death

William Elliott Whitmore is well-known for his raw, poetic, rural folk albums. On all of them, his rough-hewn growl of a voice is skeletally accompanied by only his banjo or acoustic guitar. Whitmore‘s always played in punk clubs, and he’s claimed bands from the Jesus Lizard and Bad Brains to the Minutemen as influences on his own music. It’s been somewhat difficult to hear that influence until now. Radium Death still contains Whitmore‘s hard folk roots. A third of these songs find him solo, spitting out his love for the land and his rage at those who would destroy it and his way of life. The rest range from rock & roll and folk-rock to country songs that find him backed by a varying assortment of musicians who played live in the studio. Recorded over two years, Whitmore drove two hours from his Lee County farm to Iowa City to work with producer Luke Tweedy. They cut various versions of tunes and decided on the arrangements as they went. Whitmore‘s strengths as a songwriter have always been in very simple, direct melodies and in lyrics that cut through the veneer and get to the soul of things. The larger — but by no means excessive — arrangements underscore their poignancy. And, while always strong, his delivery just roars here at times. Check the blistering, clattering opener “Healing to Do,” which pairs the heat of a punk band with the blues moan in Them‘s “Gloria.” “A Thousand Deaths,” played solo on a slightly out of tune electric guitar, is a garage folk song worthy of Phil Ochs. “Don’t Strike Me Down” is a blistering, full-band country boogie with a pumping, upright piano balancing the distorted guitar and drum attack with a full “ooh-ooh” female backing chorus to add some sweetness to the sweat. “Can’t Go Back” is a country waltz complete with pedal steel and a walking bassline. The solo work isn’t gone, however — the ragged tenderness in “Civilizations” and the agony in “Have Mercy” find Whitmore importing his lived-in, time-worn wisdom with only his banjo and guitar, respectively. “Ain’t Gone Yet” closes the set as a humanist, honky tonk gospel-waltz. A backing chorus, electric piano, and shuffling drums amid the acoustic and electric guitars bear witness to Whitmore‘s paean to his presence in the moment as a man on earth, and his belief he will return to it, not Jesus. Radium Death finds Whitmore at his songwriting and singing best. That said, his successful indulgence in rock & roll’s various forms makes one wish he had just put the entire album on stun.


Chadwick Stokes – The Horse Comanche

Chadwick Stokes’ second album, The Horse Comanche, sounds like Paul Simon for the SnapChat generation.
On “Pine Needle Tea,” Stokes takes a foundation of woodsy marimba, lightweight guitars and galloping percussion and sprinkles it with the luminous harmonies of Simon and his one-time foil, Art Garfunkel, arming the whole affair with shimmering electric guitars a la Richard Thompson.  “Prison Blue Eyes” sounds like a Simon cut gone modernist, a reggae-styled pop song that bears all the harmonic and melodic trademarks of the latter’s “Mother And Child Reunion” period, infused with banging rivets of snare drum.
“I Want You Like A Seatbelt,” wherein Stokes says he “wants you across his lap,” is a hand-clapping two-step that owes it’s essence to the bedroom fantasy of “Cecilia.” There’s more Simon & Garfunkel harmonies on the title cut and, once it gets rolling, “Our Lives, Our Time” has the rapping lyrical patois of  “Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard” (with a hint of late-era Dion DiMucci).
This is not to say Stokes’ is a Simon mockingbird. The buzzy guitars of “New Haven” are decidedly post-modern, “Dead Badger” owes more to Ben Harper than “Feelin’ Groovy” and the echoey metallic sheen of the album’s production (courtesy of Noah Georgeson, Brian Deck and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam) is certainly more modern than “Mrs. Robinson.” But this is still Paul Simon for the modern ear, which is not a bad feather for Stokes to stick in his cap.

David Myles – So Far

Nova Scotian singer/songwriter David Myles has an interesting palette of musical colors from which he paints. On one cut, he brings the folky finesse of James Taylor. On the next, he’ll turn to the cool jazz of Chet Baker. On still another, he might inject the raucous rock of Chuck Berry. Add on a political science degree and some fluency in Chinese, and the combination is what has turned Myles into an award-winning artist in his homeland.

Down here in the States, Myles makes his debut on September 25 with So Far. It’s a collection of songs culled from his catalog, deconstructed and built anew. That sort of shape-shifting is what makes Myles so popular. In fact, his 2013 “Inner Ninja” collaboration with hip-hop artist Classified is the best-selling rap single in Canadian music history. So Far doesn’t go quite, well, that far. One track, “When It Comes My Turn,” is about as far away from rap as you can get.

“I often say that ‘When It Comes My Turn’ was written during my quarter-life crisis,” Myles says. “I was on a really slow bus through Alberta. I was feeling old — feeling like I was turning the corner into adulthood, settling into the next stage of life. So I was thinking, if I’m gonna be an adult, I want to do it right. I don’t want to go down a path of cynicism and unhappiness that can so easily happen as life wears on. So I wrote myself this little memo. And it became the song. Now I sing it at shows every night. It reminds me to stay focused on the important stuff. Now I can’t become that old cynical grump I may have one day become.”

Myles continues, “The other interesting part of the song is that, though I thought it would be mainly 20-somethings going through quarter-life crises in mind that would feel a connection with the song, it’s resonated most significantly with my parent’s generation. Those who are transitioning into retirement or the later stages of life have really grabbed on to this song, and I’m so happy about that. Shows you that the word ‘old’ is such a perfectly relative term. It’s all in how you think of it.”