Sidmouth Folk Festival 2021: Monday

Come all you strong, come all you feeble, where can I find the will of the people? Idle time’s over they’re taking on men so get out of your beds and get down there. These things I know, for the pitman poets told me so. No never the live long day, you’ll not find me Durham Gaol. I had forgotten just how good a song writer Jez Lowe is. And while he opens up his set with some well known ones, he doesn’t rest on his laurels. A daft new one about being a Northerner In London (“talk to me dirty in Geordie”) and a really touching recent one about an old friend who transitioned at the very end of her life (“Louisa’s choice”).

Rock fans like to draw rock family trees to show which performer performed with which band. Folk family trees would be rather pointless. Everyone plays with everyone else. Miranda Sykes (frequently the third component of the Show of Hands) and Hannah Martin (half of Edgelarks) are now a duo. Two of the best female voices, a fiddle and a bass, and songs about being careful how you woo young men, and how young men are false and seldom do prove true. Steve Knightley is in the audience with a camera phone and Phillip Henry is in the audience with a baby. An actual world premier. I think this may prove to be the event we most look back on in years to come.

Earlier in the day Jack Rutter (solo sets yesterday and tomorrow) was accompanying the excellent young traddy singer Molly Jones. Saul Ross (one third of Eliza Carthy) did a rare solo set. His two small children were toddling in the mud, and he did a beautiful sleepy set including The Lark Has Not Risen Yet and two instrumental lullaby-ish pieces named for his kids. I don’t always go for lyrics free stuff but this was one of those times when I can picture the shape and story of the thing. If that makes sense. Saul was apparently melodeon mentor to the remarkable young Sussex singer / squeezebox driver Jack Hogsden. Naturally the Copper family featured heavily Jack’s set; I especially liked the swing he put into While The Game Keepers Lie Sleeping. 

But we don’t only draw lines between the performers. The historical figures keep cropping up. Mr Sabine Baring Gould, Victorian folk collector and Christian Soldiers writer, much referenced by Jim Causley’s was the source of a hornpipe that opened Nic Wyke’s and Becki Driscoll’s set. The highlight of their set, for me, was a Wezcuntry version of the Derby Ram — the one whose horns go to the moon and whose tail goes to hell. And if you don’t believe me and you think I tell a lie / Just goe down to — er, some village in Dorset, possibly Pinkerton — snd you’ll see it the same as I. 

And who would have suspected two outings for Robert Southey, a dead poet who Wordsworth and Byron were famously rude about. Yesterday we had one of his poems about a nasty bishop. Turns out he also wrote a play about John Ball (who crowed like a cock and carolled like a lamb, obviously) which Nick and Becki put to music.

I can’t make a good folk connection between romantic poets and the Americana tinged Reunion Lane. But I did enjoy their musical tribute to Jo Cox.

If we stand we stand together
In fellowship freedom is found

There is more to unite than divide us
We all have our roots in common ground

There is a horrible downpour just before the evening concert, but the met office app promises a less than 5 per cent chance of rain and the weather follows it’s instructions. Bringing my coat was clearly the right way to appease the weather gods. I drank three beers and ate a cornish pastie.

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