Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, Brìghde Chaimbeul, Ye Vagabonds and Kitty McFarlane also nominated; Dervish to receive Lifetime Achievement Award. Listen to our playlist of all 2019 nominees.
Irish folk singer Lisa O’Neill has been nominated for four awards: Folk Singer of the Year, Best Traditional Track (‘Factory Girl’ with Radie Peat), Best Original Track (‘Blackbird’), and Best Album for Heard a Long Gone Song. The album was released last October on the River Lea label and also received a nomination in the inaugural RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards.
Welsh harper Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita have received two nominations (Best Album and Best Duo/Group), and Keita has also received a third as Musician of the Year. Finch and Keita’s duet album Soar has already won ‘Best Fusion’ album in the Songlines Music Awards and the fRoots Critics Album of the Year for 2018. The other nominees in Best Album are Flook’s Ancora and Hide and Hair by The Trials Of Cato. Voting for Best Album is open to the public in the UK.
Along with Finch and Keita, the groups Stick in the Wheel, The Breath and The Rheingans Sisters also received a nomination in the Best Duo/Group category. The other nominees for Best Musician of the Year are Jenn Butterworth, Mohsen Amini and Sam Sweeney.
Emerging artists and songs
Scots piper Brìghde Chaimbeul, who released The Reeling last year, produced by Lau’s Aidan O’Rourke, has received a nomination in the Horizon award (for emerging artists), along with Kinnaris Quintet, Kitty Macfarlane (who features on the Topic 80th anniversary album), and The Trials Of Cato, who won Best Emerging Artist/Band at the first Wales Folk Awards in April.
Ye Vagabonds (below), who received two nominations in the RTÉ Folk Awards last year, have been nominated for Best Traditional Track with ‘The Foggy Dew’ from their new album The Hare’s Lament. ‘Ffoles Llantrisant’ by VRï (which won the equivalent Welsh Folk Award with the same song) and ‘The Reedcutter’s Daughter’ by Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith have also been nominated, along with O’Neill and Peat.
Singers and musicians
The nominees for Folk Singer of the Year are Ríoghnach Connolly from Armagh, Olivia Chaney who has released two albums on the Nonesuch label, Gwilym Bowen Rhys (also Best Solo Artist at the Welsh Folk Awards) and O’Neill.
Kris Drever from Lau has been nominated in the Best Original Track section for ‘Scapa Flow 1919’, about the scuttling of a German fleet in the Orkney Islands after World War I. Also nominated are ‘I Burn But I Am Not Consumed’ by Karine Polwart from her album Law of Motion, ‘O-U-T Spells Out’ by Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening (‘An ironic look at borders, walls, barriers, Brexit…’), and O’Neill’s ‘Blackbird’.
It has also been announced that Dervish will received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony. Commenting on the honour, the band’s accordionist Shane Mitchell said: ‘We are thrilled and so delighted to be receiving this very special honour at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, particularly as this is the 30th anniversary of the band.’ The group will perform on the night.
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards take place at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on 16 October as part of the Manchester Folk Festival. See the full list of nominees and listen to our playlist of all artists below. For more information, visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00yrkrj.
Three of the Folk Radio UK that are heading to Cherry Hinton Hall for Cambridge Folk Festival this year tell us their top must-see acts.
Three of the Folk Radio UK team will soon be heading to Cherry Hinton Hall for this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival (1-4 August 2019). Below, you can read about the top five acts that they are each most looking forward to seeing. Between them, they came up with a great selection of acts – no easy task considering the vast lineup.
Two of my eagerly anticipated appearances at this year’s festival were responsible for my favourite albums in 2018. Lisa O’Neill’s ‘Heard A Long Gone Song’ was a revelation, a record on the Rough Trade imprint River Lea mixing up traditional and original material. Her voice just sounds so lived in; an instrument that was tailor-made to interpret hardcore folk songs. She’s as serious a proposition as I’d imagine Anne Briggs was when making a name for herself in the sixties clubs and whilst Lisa may not possess Anne’s high-ranging purity of tone, her strength of character alone more than makes up for this and to misquote Dylan she “hits all those notes”. This artist is the real deal without a doubt. At ten years and four albums in I’m arriving a little late to the Lisa O’Neill party, still in the world of traditional leaning folk she is my must-see artist of the year and I absolutely cannot wait for this one.
By contrast, it seems to be rather stating the obvious to recommend a legend like Richard Thompson, but nevertheless, that’s exactly what I’m doing. And I continue to, telling anyone I know attending this year that whatever they do, they must not miss this man. Personally, I have seen him more times than I can recall, but he never lets an audience down. I’m entertaining the thought that it’s high time an appreciation is written for the last twenty years of his career alone, there’s a strong argument they’ve seen Thompson’s strongest writing and greatest performances. There aren’t too many 70-year-old music artists you can legitimately make that claim for.
Nick Mulvey is this year’s guest curator, an inspiring choice given the wide-ranging, multi-genre sounds he weaves into his music. Nick’s is an acoustic pop style that avoids the box-ticking pitfalls that hit-seeking mainstream troubadours fall down. Instead, he has the happy knack of whipping up the feel-good vibes that should find a warm reception amongst a chilled festival crowd. I also find Tunng to be a mouth-watering prospect having last caught them at a folk festival thirteen years ago when their folktronica wizardry was still in its embryonic stage. Theirs has been a musical evolution that continues to fascinate, for me a band who reward returning investigations. And on that subject, it’s vital to try out a bit of the unknown at any festival and open yourself up to exciting discoveries. If I were to choose an act on the curiosity of name alone it has to be The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican. Of course, that one could go badly wrong, but half the fun is in the finding out! [ . . . ]
Lisa O’Neillis a singer, songwriter and musician from County Cavan. Her latest album, Heard A Long Gone Song, is filled with characters, stories and traditional songs from her native Ireland.
These stories range from the life of Violet Gibson, an Irish woman who tried to assassinate Mussolini in 1926, to the dockland workers who lost their jobs to mechanisation in the 1950s and 60s.
The instrumentation on the record is sparse, which allows more room for her mighty voice.
Music played in this interview
Title: The Lass of Aughrim
Artist: Lisa O’Neill
Album: Heard A Long Gone Song
Label: River Lea
Cat. No.: RLR001CD
Title: Rock The Machine
Artist: Lisa O’Neill
Album: Heard A Long Gone Song
Label: River Lea
Cat. No.: RLR001CD
Producer Ellie Parnell
Heard A Long Gone Song is Lisa O’Neill’s fourth album, and the first to be released on Rough Trade Record’s new traditional folk imprint River Lea that releases “beautiful and strange traditional music from Britain, Ireland and beyond.”
In 2019, British and Irish folk music is more exciting and urgent than it’s been for years. Much of it sounds powerfully raw and immediate, with many groups recognising the politics of our times in their songs, and incorporating contemporary stories within more ancient musical motifs. Here are bands confronting the legacies of abortion rights; the oppression of women, homosexuals and other minority communities; the loss of minority language; the refugee crisis; and stories of people who have stood up to hate. They’re not doing so in browbeating, bluntly obvious ways either. Some are uncovering small but powerful stories of overlooked people, whose achievements we can learn from. Others are creating more oblique and moving work, highlighting the injustices that linger in our society.
Many younger makers of modern folk grew up during the turn-of-the-century indie-folk revival, where taboos surrounding less popular singing styles and traditional songs started to disappear. A steady flow of reissues by the likes of Bert Jansch, Shirley Collins and Lal and Mike Waterson has since revealed how much of our country’s folk culture had been neglected.
We could call this explosion “woke” folk – though there’s much more to this disparate collection of acts than a slogan. Some have an experimental edge, incorporating influences from other genres such as krautrock. Some are more accessible and rousing, but all of the British and Irish artists that follow here share a common musical sensibility: they sing in recognisable voices, without varnish and sheen, delivering messages straight and sure about who we were, and who we are now.
Leicester-based singer-songwriter and activist who found her calling as a political folk musician after the 2010 general election
It’s rare that an interview can vindicate the wishes of an artist. Rare, but possible. In 2016, the self-proclaimed “radically feminist and radically leftwing” musician Grace Petrie released the song, I Wish the Guardian Believed That I Exist, in response to an article in the paper lamenting the current lack of protest singers in folk music.
In fact, by that point the Leicester-based singer-songwriter had been making politically charged protest music for six years, since the release of her breakthrough single Farewell to Welfare. In that fierce, guitar-driven number, Petrie found a new calling as a political folk musician, spurred by the 2010 general election and the Tories’ subsequent coming to power, propped up by the Liberal Democrats. “It was when the government changed in 2010 that I started thinking a lot more about austerity and there seemed to be much more to protest about,” says the 31-year-old, when I speak to her over the phone from Leicester. “It hit closer to home how things would change, to impact my life and those of the people I knew. Nine years on and this regime of austerity has left Britain unrecognisable.”
Before the explicit political references began appearing, though, Petrie describes the music she used to make as “abstractly political”. “When I was a teenager I was writing what I saw as pop songs – songs about my love life, because that’s what pop songs are about – but my love life concerned girls, since I wasn’t in love with boys,” she says. “I never saw that as a political act initially, but now I see it as a really political thing; the visibility of queer musicians and centring that in lyrics.”
This visibility still sits on the fringes of the music industry. Having self-funded her first eight albums, she released last year’s Queer As Folk through crowdfunding, still eluding major-label interest. “My career has been completely outside the mainstream and I’ve never known it to be any different,” Petrie says. Even the folk traditionalists were proving hard to win over. “The content of folk songwriting at the moment can be amazingly radical,” she continues, “but I’m not sure the audiences are with them all the time. You have your very wealthy, white, Telegraph-reading folk-club regulars who are happy to hear a song about the peasants’ revolt, but if you talk about food banks in their town, that’s seen as really uncouth. You notice this awkward shuffle go across the room.” Continue reading