Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
Two of the country's finest young musicians gave a scintillating performance at Mottram when Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar took to the stage. Opening with instrumental Warwick Road the duo were immediately into their stride with the interplay between the two getting feet stamping and hands clapping, a pace that never let up during an impressive set lasting nearly two hours. Silent Majority, All Fall Down and a blistering fiddle fuelled George's followed, before the haunting and poignant One Day Older calmed things down. The first half finished with a stunning cover of Dick Gaughan's Crooked Jack, with Greg giving a stunning vocal performance which imbued the song with all the gravitas it deserved.
The second half kicked off with the rousing Did You Like the Battle sir? before two tracks from this year's outstanding release Utopia and Wasteland, Seven Hills and De Guje Huis. Other numbers including Davey, the New Railroad and We Are Leaving maintained the incredibly high standard of musicianship before they finally finished with an emotive rendition of Tim O'Brien's Turn the Page Again.
The standing ovation at the end was thoroughly warranted for two wonderful young musicians who play with a passion and ability well beyond their tender years. Not only that but they were very funny, emanating an understanding that has been honed over hundreds of gigs over the past six years. In 2013 they were voted Young Folk Musicians of the Year, in 2014 they won the Horizon Award at the BBC Folk Awards and surely there are many more awards to come for this talented pair.
The Hiding Magpies
Mottram saw Magpies soaring high when Jake, Dan, Shug, Jack and Mike, collectively known as the Hiding Magpies, delivered a blistering set of blues, Americana and rock and roll in late October. A (sadly) too small, but hugely enthusiastic audience, were treated to a nearly two hour set of self-penned songs that had those present clamouring for more. Opening with Doing the Best I Can, the pace was set from the off and never let up. Forgotten Town, I Can't Win, Real Love, great songs just kept coming and the fabulous The Devil in my Soul brought a fabulous first half to a close.
After a short interval the band were back and firing on all cylinders. Make it Right, Somewhere Down the Road, Sunrise to Sunset, the epic The Hiding Magpie, it was impossible to draw breath. You Can Run But You Can't Hide led the band into their last three numbers By Your Side, To Understand Me and To Feel Your Love, and the audience were out of their seats and wanting more. Having exhausted their own material they encored with a superb Route 66.
And that was it, the end of a stunning night of music by a young and incredibly talented band. Their second album Searching For Gold is out next year, on this evidence they have already found it. Long may they fly!
Holy Moly and the Crackers
Well, as promised, Holy Moly and the Crackers made their most welcome return to Mottram St Andrew at the end of September, and what a night of music it was. Events commenced with a short set from Tommy, erstwhile drummer but obviously frustrated guitarist and singer with the band. His choice selection of classics included Tangled up in Blue, It's all over baby blue, I put a spell on you and a blistering Stand by Me.
Having warmed up a hugely appreciative audience it was then time for the main event and the band launched into their set with a trio of songs from the new album Take a Bite. Opening with All I got is You, they then charged into Kiss Me before You Go and Sister before the sleazy Sugar had the audience up and singing along. Bluebell Wood and a particularly fine Highway Shoes calmed things down before the rattling strains of Cocaine and Ain't no Grave lifted the tempo once again. The band then revisited their first album with River Nava and continued the eastern European theme with Naked in Budapest. A Punk called Peter had the audience out of their seats before the familiar strains of Cold Comfort Lane and latest single Only Ever Happy (When Your Upside Down) heralded in the frenzy of Devil in the Danube and the band exited to rapturous and sustained applause.
Conrad and Ruth returned to play the achingly beautiful Ain't it Enough before the whole band reappeared to join them and finish with a rousing and boisterous Mary. And with that they were gone, a fantastic night of music by a wonderful band for whom great things surely await!
What better way to celebrate our third birthday than in the company of two of the country's finest singer-songwriters, Messrs Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe, who gave a fabulous performance at Mottram at the end of March.
The musicianship and stagecraft of these two veterans of the folk scene is unquestionable, but what set this performance apart was the warmth and empathy that they demonstrated whilst on stage, either when playing and backing each other on their own solo material or whilst playing material from their fabulous album The Janus Game.
The setlist was thoughtfully constructed, blending old and new material that reflected more than 45 years of musical heritage.
The first third of the show mixed solo material from Steve (Oil and Water and Lasting Love) and Jez (Jack Commons Anthem and The Brockey Lads) before we were treated to six numbers from the Janus Game, including the heartbreaking Lucky Sami, the reflective and mournful Wagga Moon and the angry and passionate Crosses, Crescents and Stars, truly a song for our time!
The final section of the set returned to their solo careers and included Long Iron, The Ballad of Tasker Jack, You Won't Make Old Bones, The Road When I Was Young and Slip Jigs and Reels, oft-covered but never bettered than when performed by its composer Steve Tilston.
They finished with On Beacon Hill, a suitable way to end for these two outstanding musicians, still radiating light and warmth and burning brightly and railing against the injustices of the world. Long may they continue so to do!
THE SAM KELLY TRIO
+ Ella-Joy Hunton
It was the night when the young played at Mottram, and boy did they deliver!
Opening act Ella-Joy Hunton set the tone with a beautifully delivered five song set that blended traditional songs (Botany Bay and Green Grow the Laurels), a cover version (a fabulous rendition of Richard Thompson's Vincent Black Lightning) and two self-penned songs, the lovely You'll be Mine and the warm and life-affirming My Great Grandad War Hero. It was a fantastic start to the night with the audience responding enthusiastically to a terrific young talent who we will, no doubt, be hearing more from in the future.
It was then onto the main act of the night, and what a performance they gave. The musicianship of Sam (guitar and vocals), Jamie Francis (banjo) and Archie Churchill Moss (accordion) was stunning. Blasting off with Gallows Pole they then blended material from their first album The Lost Boys with its follow up Pretty Peggy, with both albums being well represented. Interspersing the songs with tales of their origin or stories about life on the road or his Irish ancestry, Sam led the trio through some memorable performances including Jolly Waggoners, If I were a Blackbird, Angeline the Baker and a lung-busting Crossroads, which brought the first half to a close.
The second half took off where the first had finished, with more stunning musicianship during a rousing Lowlands Low and the Jamie Francis instrumentals Burning Threads/Slips Through Your Fingers, before Sam became the first person at Mottram to ever sing in Cornish with the song Gwrello Glaw. This was followed by a beautiful My Largan Love, from Sam's forthcoming album with Ruth Notman, Changeable Heart, before a rousing version of Greenland Whale and a haunting I'll Give You My Heart brought the evening to a close.
What a wonderful night by four fantastically talented young musicians. To borrow a phrase from Martyn Joseph "Here come the Young." If they are all as good as this then bring them on!
Our 2019 season opened with the welcome return of Pilgrims Way. Having expanded to a five-piece and with new album 'Stand and Deliver' well established as a live concept the evening was lively and fun and involved more musical instruments than most of us can name, never mind play.
The short first half included folk classics Unquiet Grave, The Radstock Jig, Our Captain Aried all Hands and a fabulous version of Oak and Ash and Thorn, before it was all change and settle down for Stand and Deliver.
Delivered in its entirety Stand and Deliver is loosely a concept album of songs based on the themes of highway robbery, famous robbers and highwaymen and, in some cases, the fate that has befallen those that have been captured carrying out such pursuits. It benefited both from being played uninterrupted and having now been played many times by the band, for the delivery was both tight and powerful and the performances from all members of the band assured and confident. Caveat for Cutpurses kicked off the second half in style, whilst The Elms of Tyburn had the audience enraptured with its tremendous vocal power.
Last two songs of the night saw the '80s folked up with a fabulous version of Adam and the Ants 'Stand and Deliver' and then a radical reworking of They Might be Giants 'Birdhouse in Your Soul', bringing to an end a cracking night and setting us up for more excellent music throughout the year.