While the big names like Joan Armatrading, k.d. lang, Billy Bragg and The Levellers need little introduction, there are always some less familiar names on the bill of the Cambridge Folk Festival that are easily missed, while often ending up as highlights for those lucky enough to catch them. And it’s a long way from being a full-on ‘diddly diddly’ weekend either, despite what the name implies. Tickets for this year’s Festival go on sale on May 11 and sell out in about five minutes flat. Here’s the pick of this year’s under card:
They’re folktronica, apparently. It’s what happens when a bunch of refugees from the early 90s indie and rave scenes get together and go out to pasture, pooling their collective resources into a chilled and lovely mix of singer-songwriter stylings and electronic imagination.
Frank Turner (Thursday)
The former front man of the rather noisy Million Dead is now a strumming singer-songwriter type. Descriptions of him as some kind of Billy Bragg for the emo generation are a bit off, as his forays into political song are more observational than party political, but he’s one of the more engaging troubadours out there at the moment.
3 Daft Monkeys (Thursday)
Quietly building a following for their Levellers-esque brand of folk rock, 3 Daft Monkeys are more interesting musically, if less noisy. They take in all kinds of world influences, especially in the magnificent fiddle playing, and the male/female vocals are lovely. Its more folky than the Levs, but just as dancable.
The Hot 8 Blues Band (Friday)
This is a genuine 12-piece hip-hop-influenced New Orleans street brass band. Their sound is immense, blending rap beats and chat with a jazzy, brassy sound that relies on soulful improvisation as well as big band standards. These guys earn a crust playing everything from parties to funerals, so its hardly surprising they’re diverse.
Grupo Fantasmo (Friday)
Anyone who caught Prince at the O2, or during the Super Bowl on the tele, or somewhere more exotic, in the past year will have been impressed by his funky Latin orchestra. Well, this is it. I doubt Prince will be guesting, but hey, it’s not like they need him to get a party started.
The Waifs (Friday)
One of Australia’s biggest independent bands, The Waifs is three singer-songwriters making lovely, summery, rootsy music together. And that’s about that; can’t argue with quality.
6 Day Riot (Saturday)
So how many klezmer/bluegrass/indie bands do you have in your collection? Tamara Schlesinger is a singer-songwriter with a wonderfully voice, reminiscent of a host of indie heroins, but the music is different enough to make them stand out as a band.
Bassekou Kouyate (Saturday)
Just about the hottest property in world music at the moment. Won two Radio 3 Awards for World Music this year and has played with just about every big name in the field in recent times, from Ali Farka Toure and Taj Mahal to Carlos Santana and U2.
The Imagined Village (Saturday)
A project looking at what it is to be English featuring so many amazing artists it’s barely believable. The likes of Billy Bragg, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and guys from Transglobal Underground and Afro Celt Sound System are joined by folk legends (Chris Wood, Eliza Carthy, Mike Waterson and more) and bhangra stars like Johnny Kelsi and Sheila Chandra.
Noah and the Whale (Sunday)
Indie pop, yeah! Infectious and fun, so perfect for a balmy sunny afternoon in an English field. Except it’ll probably be raining. Laura Marling is playing the Festival too, so that’ll be nice.