REVIEW: Cambridge Folk Festival, Thursday, August 1, a blast from the past

PUBLISHED: 23:34 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 23:35 01 August 2019

The Rails. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHY

The Rails. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHY

Copyright 2019 Celia Bartlett

An explosion of music opened the 2019 Cambridge Folk Festival on Thursday night when The Rails took to the stage.

Sam Sweeney. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHYSam Sweeney. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHY

An explosion of music opened the 2019 Cambridge Folk Festival on Thursday night when The Rails took to the stage.

Here was a blast that was a mixture of heavenly harmonies, the guitar work of 1950s rock and 1970s heavy metal, rhythms of the sixties and melodic ballads with words for today.

I don't know whether this is folk - though they do sing folk songs - but if you have to hear one band for the rest of your life, this exciting group is surely the one.

Their voices and musicianship are entrancing enough to turn a bad day into a good one. This is a band with enough spirit to lift up the crowd - and we were certainly lifted.

Ralph McTell. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHYRalph McTell. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHY

The five-piece has at its heart, husband and wife duo, James Walbourne, virtuoso guitarist and former member of The Pretenders, and Kami Thompson, whose clear, strong voice reaches out. Their songs come from the heart and reach ours.

You may also want to watch:

If anyone was going to be able to follow that, it was fiddle-player Sam Sweeney and ensemble offering a different mood altogether.

Known to festival audiences as part of the band Bellowhead, this is his first appearance at Cambridge Folk Festival as a solo artist.

They played traditional regimental tunes, but slowly and melodically, not as marches. This was music from the First World War and he has a tale to tell about his violin.

It once belonged to music hall performer and instrument maker, Richard S Howard of Leeds. The violin was only partly finished when Howard was killed in action in 1917.

Nearly 100 years later, the pieces were put together in a shop in Oxford. Sweeney happened to be the first customer who picked it up and played it - he bought it.

The violin has inspired a touring show and a new album called The Unfinished Violin.

Ralph McTell was the closing artist on the opening night on the main stage. He first played the festival 50 years ago in 1969. Now 74, he is still a statuesque figure with a voice as strong and clear in diction as ever.

Sadly, his new songs do not have the soul of The Streets of London or From Clare to Here. Today his metaphors are peppers and tomatoes, but the audience loved his set anyway - musicianship reigns supreme.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Saffron Walden Reporter