Huge representation of Irish acts at prestigious folk gala
By Fiona O’Brien
This year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards has a wealth of Irish acts nominated for the prestigious accolades across a wide range of categories.
Last month we spoke to Dubliner Daoiri Farrell, who is up for Folk Singer of the Year, the Horizon Award, and Best Traditional Track for his very well-received Van Diemen’s Land. Jarlath Henderson also spoke to us about finding his voice, as the acclaimed musician’s Hearts Broken, Heads Turned is nominated for Album of the Year.
In addition to this The Gloaming and O’Hooley & Tidlow are also in the running for awards. Belinda O’Hooley is Leeds-born but comes from a long-line of Sligo musicians including her cousin Tommy Fleming. The singer-songwriter, and revered pianist, is one half of the band, which also consists of her wife Heidi Tidow.
The pair are well-known for their harmonies, which have been compared to early Simon and Garfunkel, as well as the iconic Kate and Anna McGarrigle. They are up for Best Duo, which would add to their three Mojo’s Top 10 Folk Albums awards, and it is the third time they have been nominated at the BBC Folk Awards.
Their latest album, and fifth release, Shadows was given five stars by The Guardian and three of their other albums have received four star reviews from other papers. Music magazine Mojosaid of it: “The overriding tone of this album is as deep and subtly dramatic as the piano instrumental that gives the long-player its title.”
Uilleann piper, whistle player, composer and producer John McSherry is up for Musician of the Year after his second solo outing, The Seven Suns was released last November to huge acclaim. The album is full of both original and new compositions by McSherry and features musicians such as Sean Óg Graham, Mike McGoldrick and Niamh Dunne. Exploring Ireland from a global perspective, it provides a musical journey into the heart of ancient Ireland, richly inlaid with elements both personal and national, mundane and mythical.
Trad supergroup The Gloaming is up for Best Group. The group formed in Ireland in 2011 and comprises Martin Hayes, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Dennis Cahill and New York pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) and they have achieved worldwide success.
Such is their popularity, they have performed at the most prestigious venues in their home countries. Five shows last February/March at The National Concert Hall in Dublin, and one at London’s Union Chapel, sold out within days, some within hours. The group make a fusion of rich trad tones, with modern hues of jazz, contemporary classical, and experimental music.
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall in London on Wednesday 5 April. The annual event, presented by Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis, is one of the year’s musical highlights, with some of the biggest names in folk music celebrating the UK’s thriving folk music scene.
Last year’s event saw performances by Grammy Award and BRIT Award nominee Joan Armatrading; British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and film score composer, Mark Knopfler; Mercury Award nominated Sam Lee; Dublin folk band Lynched (now known as Lankum); a special tribute to Sandy Denny by Rufus Wainwright and much more. Awards were presented by famous folk fans, including actors Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, The Office) and Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, House of Fools); musicians Richard Hawley, and Graham Coxon from Blur; War Horse author Michael Morpurgo; and 1960s star Sandie Shaw.
This year, the legendary Al Stewart will receive a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to folk music, while Woody Guthrie is to be inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame. Al Stewart started his career on the 1960s London folk scene, where he performed alongside Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Roy Harper and Richard Thompson, and shared a flat with Paul Simon.
He became known for a brand of folk-rock that combined folk-rock songs with delicately woven tales of characters and events from history. By the late 1970s, Al was a star of FM radio, enjoying two huge platinum-selling singles (and albums of the same titles): Year Of The Cat and Time Passages. During his illustrious career, he has worked with Peter White, Alan Parsons, Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson, Rick Wakeman, Francis Monkman, Tori Amos and Tim Renwick.
Woody Guthrie’s prestigious accolade was introduced to the awards in 2014 and exists to recognise the special contribution of an individual whose impact and influence has had a lasting impression on the folk world. This year marks 50 years since his death in 1967.
Woody wrote some of the most enduring standards in the genre and his work was dedicated to supporting and documenting the rights of workers and the downtrodden. Guthrie’s songs include This Land Is Your Land, Vigilante Man, I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore, Do-Re-Mi and Talking Dust Bowl Blues.
In New York City during the 1940s, he founded a group called the Almanac Singers alongside future members of The Weavers including Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. Guthrie’s songs have been recorded by countless singers, from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen. He was a mentor to young Bob Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
Many of Guthrie’s songs are archived in the US Library of Congress. And this year, an array of stars will perform on the night, including Billy Bragg’s tribute to Woody.
Also on stage are Afro Celt Sound System – the musical group which fuses modern electronic dance music with traditional Irish and West African music, Isle of Orkney group Fara.
For tickets visit www.bbc.co.uk/events/e5qgwh