TOM McCONVILLE & MICHAEL BIGGINS
TOM MCONVILLE was born on Tyneside and brought up in a pub on the famous Scotswood Road with clientele drawn from the Irish and Scottish communities. This is where he first experienced traditional singing and fiddle music; the Hornpipes of James Hill amongst his first influences. 50 years on Tom McConville is widely acknowledged as THE authority on the music of James Hill and produced the first CD devoted entirely to Hill’s compositions.
Tom’s musical journey started in the North East folk clubs in the early 70s. Newcastle’s thriving Irish scene provided the opportunity, with his first band, to support Sean McGuire, John Doonan, The Fureys, Boys of the Lough and even a lock-in with The Dubliners. Tom still credits the legendary Sean McGuire, the fiddle genius from Belfast, for teaching him his bowing techniques.
Turning professional in 1974 he joined Bob Fox in a duo then folk/rock band Magna Carta to play all over Europe. A memorable partnership with Kieron Halpin produced two award winning albums and top billing at The Cambridge Folk Festival.
His next group Dab Hand made several visits to the USA where Tom met with another of his hero fiddlers, Byron Berline. After a spell with Syncopace and a partnership with guitarist Chris Newman, Tom spent the next 11 years recording & touring with Northumbrian piper Pauline Cato.
Every new venture brought great success and immense respect from his peers and public alike. Throughout his many collaborations he has continued his solo show at venues large and small. “A sandpaper-dry wit, eye-watering skill on the fiddle, great vocals... you just can't help feeling that a performance by Tom is like visiting an old friend” is how one folk club organiser describes him.
2006 saw Tom working with Scots instrumentalist of the year, Aaron Jones & All-Ireland Champion flute, fiddle and whistle ace Claire Mann. Along with Kieran Boyle, Peter Tickell, Dave Wood & Kevin McGuire, Tom completed a stunning solo C.D. Tommy on the Bridge. Musically brilliant,it attracted great critical acclaim. Two more solo albums followed: Tommy on Song and Tommy on the Road. Tours with these albums played a major part in Tom being voted Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Recently Tom has travelled extensively as a duo with David Newey and with three & four piece line ups featuring David, Shona Kipling, Phil Murray and Andy Watt.
Renowned for his musical accompaniments, Tom has played on hundreds of albums. The list includes: Barbara Dickson, Richard Thompson, Allan Taylor and Lindisfarne. Whilst he has shared stages throughout the world with Stephan Grappelli, Sean McGuire, Mark O'Connor, Paul Brady and The Chieftains, Tom has never forgotten his roots and is as happy in the intimate atmosphere of a small folk club as he is at the largest festivals. Tom McConville is a world class act!
MICHAEL BIGGINS Pianist and accordionist, Michael is an active performer, teacher and accompanist and has performed at venues such as The Sage Gateshead and The Bluthner Piano Centre in London, he also travelled to Canada in February 2014 where he was pianist in residence to the local choir ‘Quay Voices’, who were recording their latest CD. Michael has competed in many festivals and competitions locally and nationally including the EPTA piano competition and BBC young musician of the year. Michael plays the accordion in numerous different outfits across the UK including 'The Ship Band' - The UK's premier ceilidh and barn dance band, The Norcumbrians, MRJ, Northern Company, The Canny Band and most recently alongside Kathryn Tickell in new band 'Superfolkus'. He was also a semi-finalist in the BBC young folk award 2014.
A double nomination in the 2015 BBC Folk Awards – for best singer and best new song – was a timely reminder of Jez Lowe’s standing in the UK folk and acoustic music scene. Not only he is one of the busiest live performers in the country, but his songs are among the most widely sung by other performers, whether by long-established acts like Fairport Convention, The Dubliners and Bob Fox, or by the new breed of stars like The Unthanks, The Young Uns and The Duhks.
Jez’s own long-established band The Bad Pennies (featuring Kate Bramley, Andy May and David De La Haye) continue to attract a huge following, and his other collaborations with The Pitmen Poets (with Billy Mitchell, Bob Fox and Benny Graham), The Broonzies (alongside fellow-veterans Maggie Holland, Chris Parkinson and Roger Wilson), Men at Words (with James Keelaghan and Archie Fisher) and with fellow-songwriter Steve Tilston, show a willingness to push boundaries and venture boldly into pastures new.
Meanwhile, his involvement in the award-winning BBC series The Radio Ballads continues, with his song The Wrong Bus singled out for inclusion on Radio 4’s Pick of the Year last year, and five more of his contributions included in the BBC Radio broadcast featuring the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in November 2019. Many of these songs also feature on his last solo album, The Ballad Beyond, the success of which prompted a feature in fRoots magazine and glowing reviews the world over.
Jez’s ongoing partnership with fellow-singer/songwriter Steve Tilston reached fruition in 2016, with the release of a duo album, The Janus Game, consisting entirely of new, co-written songs by the duo. They continue to tour together, with a series of UK concerts scheduled for 2020.
Jez’s role as musical director for Badapple Theatre is also an ongoing project, and he will be contributing songs and music to their next production, due in Spring 2020.
The publication of Jez’s first novel, The Dillen Doll, with an accompanying CD featuring a “suite” of traditional songs inspired by the story within it, was met with widespread acclaim. This endeavour sees him return to his roots in the folk music of his native North East England, and a second novel, touted as “a continuation” rather than a follow-up, will be published in October 2019, title yet to be announced.
Jez shows no sign of slowing down in 2019, with a solo American tour in September to be followed by a “Farewell” tour by The Pitmen Poets, beginning in mid-October. He’ll then be reunited with The Bad Pennies for their annual Christmas tour in December. Already lined up for 2020 is a tour of Canada with James Keelaghan, followed by summer Canadian festival appearances for the duo, and another US solo trip. Jez also has an enviable list of UK solo dates for next year to boot.
So watch out, no doubt Jez Lowe will be coming to a venue near you before too very long.
Recent review of ‘The Ballad Beyond’ here
‘Among Britain’s finest traditional singers.’ - Folk Radio UK
‘An outstanding performer.’ - The Independent
‘In the spirit of the old traditional singers, Jack Rutter takes a song, shapes it, lives with it and brings out something unique. This album makes my heart sing.’ - Kathryn Tickell OBE, BBC Radio 3
Jack Rutter is a highly respected folk singer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist from West Yorkshire. His second solo album Gold of Scar & Shale is available CD/DL from October 4th 2019.
Produced by Joe Rusby and recorded as live, the new album continues the stripped back approach of its critically acclaimed predecessor, Jack’s debut solo outing Hills. The songs are unearthed gems from the folk canon – almost all of them rare and many previously unrecorded – gathered from old books and source singers as Rutter uncovered material for this major new release of traditional song.
Jack’s soaring vocal takes centre stage on the album, delivering each folk tale in a fresh and current way; his masterful playing and arrangements providing the perfect accompaniment. Jack contributes guitar, bouzouki, duet concertina and harmonium to the album with featured guest musicians Sam Sweeney on fiddle, Alice Robinson on Northumbrian pipes and Sam Fisher on flugelhorn.
There is a strong sense of place on the new record too, with over half of the songs having some sort of Yorkshire connection. The album title itself Gold of Scar & Shale comes from a line in one such track, ‘The Hills of Longdendale’, with words written by ‘The Moorland Poet’ Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946).
Says Jack “to me Ammon Wrigley is describing the rough and bleak parts of the moorland with this line, the scar and the shale that is always nevertheless gold to him. I love this line and realised that for me it’s also a great metaphor for traditional songs; rough, stark and honest things that contain such riches. I found then that I’d stumbled upon the perfect title for this album, or at least one that I really loved anyhow.”
Jack Rutter grew up in the Holme Valley area of West Yorkshire, a place steeped in a wealth of traditional song, and following a BSc degree in Countryside Management at Newcastle University has forged a highly successful career playing music across the UK and Europe. In addition to his acclaimed solo work, he has become a highly sought after collaborator for a host of the biggest names in folk music such as Seth Lakeman, Sam Sweeney and Jackie Oates as well as playing in the celebrated instrumental trio Moore Moss Rutter.
The release of Gold of Scar & Shale is set to confirm Jack Rutter’s place as a solo artist, singer and performer of traditional songs first and foremost, marking him as one of the standout voices of the folk, roots and acoustic music scene.
MIKE & DYLAN JAMES
CALENNIG SHOW BAND
For more than 40 years, Calennig have been one of south Wales’ leading dance bands. Specialising in Welsh dance music, they have played twmpaths from Aberdare to Aberdeen, from Chicago to Christchurch, for experts and novices alike.
And now they are a concert band!
With the voices of Pat Smith (plus concertina, spoons, harmonica) and Ned Clamp (guitar, harmonica), and the expert musicianship of Iolo Jones (fiddle) and Jem Randles (bass, whistle, bodhran), they guarantee a night of thoughtful and entertaining songs from, of, and about Wales, plus a fair smattering of Welsh tunes, from delicate airs to foot-stomping jigs.
THE HUT PEOPLE
Taking the audience on a musical journey around the world, English instrumental duo The Hut People – accordionist Sam Pirt (ex-Chipolatas) and percussionist Gary Hammond (ex-The Beautiful South) – have firmly established themselves as one of THE most unique, entertaining and best-loved acts on the UK folk scene today. Mixing global rhythms with folk tunes from Quebec to Spain, Scandinavia to Sussex and everywhere in between, this is a quirky celebration of our rich musical heritage – and it works so well!
For the umpteenth time we welcome back an old friend to the Valley Folk Club. John started performing in folk clubs in 1968, at first fronting various groups with long time friend Pat Drinkwater. During the 1970s he formed the well travelled group Stonegallows with Pat and Alan Briers. This group lasted quite a few years with different personnel, John being the only constant. Then after balancing solo performance with a puppet / live action folk group The Old Will Folk Entertainers Company he formed a couple of duo acts with Joffre White and Tony Batten.
Long time organiser of folk events he was in at the start of the Village Pump Folk Club which is running successfully again after a break. He was chairman of the committee that set up Trowbridge Village Pump Folk Festival which he helped run for more than 35 years and he was one of the main movers in reawakening this giant in a new format.
Still happily doing things in his own inimitable fashion he continues to captivate his audience in folk clubs and festivals with songs collected from friends over the years, side splitting humour and a nearly 50 year wealth of stories. For this gig he performs solo again, accompanying himself on various stringed instruments and since his move to a less hectic life in Wales he has found time to add to his repertoire.