BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS 2016
Folk music is enjoying an enduring renaissance in the British Isles. A number of factors account for the protracted revival of this once ridiculed genre, primarily the quality and quantity of young innovators and inventive old hands who’ve been prepared to turn tradition on its head while retaining some of the music’s more endearing features.
The revival may not have happened without the patronage of the BBC. Certainly, the folk musicians’ fraternity owes a considerable debt of gratitude to the national broadcaster, not only for spinning their discs but also for instigating annual folk awards, to celebrate outstanding achievement within the field. If only ABC was as favourably disposed towards folk!
Since their inauguration in 2000, the BBC 2 Folk Award gongs have been handed out every April at events staged at a variety of prestigious venues (this year at the Royal Albert Hall, no less) — preceded by the release of a double album featuring nominated artists in nine different categories.
Suffice to say, this year’s Folk Awards album upholds the quality of its 16 predecessors, and (surprise, surprise) all the winners — even the late great Sandy Denny, who was elected into the Awards’ ‘Hall of Fame’ — are represented on its two discs.
The exquisite three-part a cappella harmony singing of ‘Best Group’ winner The Young’Uns in broad Teesside accents can be heard in a beautiful love song, ‘Waiting For The Ferry’, from their acclaimed fourth album, Another Man’s Ground. Northumbrian sisters’ The Unthanks ‘Best Album’ yields ‘Madam’ from their award-winning Mount The Air, set to trademark Adrian McNally soundscape. There’s also much to like about ‘52 Herz’, a wickedly clever song from ‘Best Duo’ Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman’s album Tomorrow Will Follow Today. But best of all the award-winners is Sam Lee’s truly haunting rendition of the ‘Best Traditional Track’, ‘Lovely Molly’, to the accompaniment of the celestial harmony of a choir, from his last album, ‘The Nest Collective’.
While there’s no doubting that the delectable Rhiannon Giddens is a worthy recipient of the Beeb’s ‘Folk Singer Of The Year’ award and that ‘Shake Sugaree’ is representative of her delicious album Tomorrow Is My Turn, it’s debatable whether an American should be eligible for a British folk award.
Of the unsuccessful nominees, tracks by Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band (‘Great Grey Back’), Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin (‘Stones’), the Jim Moray-led False Lights (‘Polly On The Shore’), The Furrow Collective (‘The Unquiet Grave’) and the up-and-coming bands Leveret (‘Bagpipers’), Stick In The Wheel (‘Seven Gypsies’) and the Marry Waterson & David A. Jaycock (‘Sing Me Into Your Tune’) and Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts (‘Cecilia’) duos are testament to the strength in depth of the current English folk scene.
The rollicking folk-rocker ‘Long John Silver’, the collaborative instrumental fireworks of ‘Richmond Cotillon’ and the spine-tingling version of ‘Hambledon Fair’ by the venerated veterans Richard Thompson, Martin Simpson & Andy Cutting (also Nancy Kerr) and Steve Knightley/Show Of Hands is proof positive that the English old guard is standing firm.
Emerging Celtic folk talent is well represented by the Irish quartet Lynched (‘Cold Old Fire’), Scottish piper Ross Ainslie (‘Skins’) and Ghazalaw’s Welsh singer-songwriter Gwyneth Glyn (‘Moliannwn’). Making space for tracks by the ‘Young Folk Award’ nominees — Brighde Chaimbeul, Jack Cookson, Benammi Swift and the Causeway Trio — completes a compilation album that would have pride of place in any folk fancier’s collection.
Here is a selection of YouTube videos from this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, held at the Royal Albert Hall in April …
Sam Lee & Friends perform Lovely Molly
The Unthanks perform Mount The Air
Rufus Wainwright performs Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS: 2016 winners
FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
The Unthanks – Mount The Air
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
BEST ORIGINAL TRACK
The Rheingans Sisters – Mackerel
BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK
Sam Lee – ‘Lovely Molly’
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Joan Armatrading and Norma Waterson
HALL OF FAME
GOOD TRADITION AWARD
YOUNG FOLK AWARD