As this is my first blog of 2018, I think it would be appropriate to wish you all a happy new year and hope that it brings you all that you ask of it. It’s a time of year for looking forward. The Fatea Awards have paid tribute to what the team felt was the best of last year, time to see what’s coming.
2018 is going to be a hugely busy year Fatea turns 30 which means that there will be events during the year to mark the occasion and are currently in the planning phase so more on that next time. Fatea is already committed to supporting two festivals, Love Folk, through our association with Busk Love Folk, in February and Wimborne Folk Festival in June, where we will be supporting the inaugural gigs being held in the historic minister.
In addition we will also be support Royston Folk Club in its second Young Folk Artist competition as well as providing a platform for a joint single from Trials Of Cato and Katie Spencer, who were respectively the winner and runner up for 2017 and I was privileged enough to attend the event that saw them being awarded their prize on a really great night of music back in December.
I have a really good feeling about the year to come. I’ve been lucky enough to hear some of the great albums that are already on the slate for release in the early part of the year and which you’ll soon be hearing tracks from on my Along The Tracks show here on Blues & Roots Radio and reading the reviews of in Fatea Magazine, there are also great albums being talked about for later in the year. The thing that really excites me though is the albums not yet being talked about from names I’ve yet to hear and knowing that I’ll be playing a part in getting the knowledge of these out to you.
For a lot of new artists this may well be through a track on the Fatea Showcase Sessions and 2018 will be the 11th year we have brought you these downloads and I know many of you use these as a chance to hear new artists before exploring the websites and full releases from them as well as looking out live dates, which is what it’s all about.
2018 won’t be without it’s challenges, not least changes in an obscure area of governance called Net Neutrality. In sort net neutrality means that all data must be treated equally, the data coming to you from Blues & Roots Radio, via their streams and website, Fatea’s website, Amazon, Google and Apple all gets treated exactly the same, the Republican’s unilaterally turning over net neutrality it allows ISPs to give priority to some traffic and throttle back others. Large corporates like Apple and Spotify could further control the music market by ensuring downloads and streams from their site get a bigger slice of the pie, with people trying to listen to music from small independent music providers, like Blues & Roots and other innovators and introducers of new music, being forced to wait until the music has finished buffering again.
Ironically this is going to happen at a time where more musicians would have been in a place to take more control of their online sales and downloads, not entirely a coincidence. There are many sites that cover net neutrality in more detail, but here’s a good starting point.
I’m really looking forward to 2018 music wise, the portents appear to be good. I’m hoping that the revival of the instrumental album continues and that we also see the inclusion of more pure instrumental tracks in regular albums.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m narrative lead when it comes to songs, let’s make 2018 a year to pick up the courage of your convictions and write songs about things that matter to you, but not just what’s wrong, what needs to be right. In short, let’s have a 2018 that inspires and let music be at the forefront of that inspiration. Here’s to a great year
One of the concerns I had when I first started this blog was what I'd find to write about, but this one suggested itself. I was reviewing an Ange Hardy gig recently and wrote “You can't define a perfect gig in advance, but you know when you've been to one.” So there you go, we have a topic. What makes the “perfect” gig?
Well, the music certainly helps. Many of you will know Ange through her music, or her award winning show “Folk Findings” here on Blues & Roots Radio. She's a wonderful singer and multi-instrumentalist so you know in advance the music will be of the very highest quality, but more than that there's the person behind the song. In folk music, in particular, the story is almost as import as the lyrics and Ange is a superb storyteller who isn't afraid to open up about her life and experiences and how this has influenced her work. There were so many beautiful, moving songs and we were regularly in tears but she tells her stories with such spirit and sprinklings of humour that they become warm and uplifting rather than sad.
So, yes, the music and performer are important but that's not all that is needed for the “perfect” gig because I see lots of excellent musicians on a regular basis. They're great nights but don't quite become perfect. For me there needs to be other ingredients as well, and one of them is an element of adventure. Going to see Ange involved driving about 70 miles to get to the venue and the weather forecast said there was a chance of snow, so that added a certain frisson. As it turned out I was home before the snow started, which was a good job because people who stayed over got stranded, but even so I had one eye on the road and the other on the slowly dropping temperature gauge. The other thing special about this particular night was the sense of community that she helped to establish within the audience, which gave the whole thing a feeling of a gathering of friends rather than just a group of individuals. I found myself chatting to people I'd never met before, our shared interest in music creating a bond.
One of my favourite perfect gigs was the time I flew to Germany to see Minnie Birch and Kelly Oliver playing in a café about an hour north of Frankfurt. That had the added bonus of a different language, although I can speak German to a fair level, and having to navigate my way around an airport and city I'd never been to before. I don't think I'll ever forget the looks on their faces when I walked through the door! It becomes an adventure, and a holiday, with lots of memories to come home with. Music has taken me to Holland, Ireland and Canada - even Essex.
Earlier in 2017 I travelled down to Dorset to see Kadia and Emily Mae Winters, two superb acts and it was a beautiful gig. What made that perfect was, again, the extra ingredients including the journey, this time by train through some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Then, the icing on the cake is meeting up with friends; in this case Neil King. The venue also helped make this one a perfect gig. It was held in an old church, in a village, and churches always seem to have great acoustics. We were also fortunate to have real experts on both sound and lighting, too. The whole evening became part of the performance.
Folk songs often have a moral to them and I suppose this blog has a moral, too. If you want to get the most from your music be prepared to push the envelope. Try new things, new venues, new bands, and be willing to make the effort because eventually you'll be rewarded with that perfect gig.
2018 will herald the inaugural UK Blues Awards. These awards are being run by the UK Blues Federation and will climax with an awards presentation ceremony at the Southern Pavilion on Worthing Pier. They pick up the mantel from the British Blues Awards: with fewer categories, but adding regional awards for English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish artists - as well as some special awards. The new awards are not run by the British Blues Awards organisers (which didn’t happen in 2017) and there’s no indication that they will appear again. The UK Blues Federation has the credibility to make these awards a benchmark in the UK Blues world - it is an affiliate of the Blues Foundation and an active member of the European Blues Union, as well as the organiser of the annual UK Blues Challenge. Voting will take place over a four-week period in February, with the awards ceremony being on 19th May - hosted by Ian Siegal.
Ian Siegal: photographer unknown.
The new UK Blues Awards will cover the calendar year of 2017 and a short list of nominations will be voted for by a large panel, before the awards themselves are opened up to a public vote. The UK Blues Awards will be a professionally organised scheme, with robust internet voting security and an awards ceremony that seeks to be a showcase for UK Blues, aiming to garner the respect and coverage awarded to the UK Americana or BBC Folk Awards.
The categories are:
Male Blues Vocalist of the Year
Female Blues Vocalist of the Year
Blues Band of the Year
Acoustic Blues Act of the Year
Young Blues Artist of the Year
Blues-based Festival of the Year
UK-based Blues Broadcaster of the Year
Blues Album of the Year
Blues Songwriter of the Year
Blues Club/Venue of the Year
Blues Personality of the Year
Lifetime Contribution to the Blues in the UK
Innovation in the blues in the UK
Regional Blues Act of the Year: England
Regional Blues Act of the Year: Northern Ireland
Regional Blues Act of the Year: Scotland
Regional Blues Act of the Year: Wales
Southern Pavilion, Worthing Pier.
It’s worth noting that the categories all have the suffix ‘of the Year’, so it’s about who the voters consider has made an impact in 2017, rather than being ‘the best’. Music is not a competition, especially when one is comparing an apple with an orange, but such a prestigious awards system and ceremony run by a respected organisation deserves support. When the list of finalist nominees is published I’ll be featuring them on my show - with no recommendations - and I wish UK Blues Federation success in their bid to raise the profile of blues-based music in Britain.
More info at www.ukbluesawards.com