Jeepers… the blunt end of 2021 hit pretty hard, didn’t it? Let’s take solace in the immortal words of Neville John Holder and, “Look to the future now – it’s only just begun”, hoping against hope that the “it” in that sentence is not the pandemic.
Nay, no, nish – let us not tarry in negative thinking. 2022 is almost upon us and, in our folk culture bubble, there are only things to look forward to. We’ve been on the blower to as many people we know, weedling info out of them regarding new folk albums, postponed events reinstated, tours and workshops. If you can’t find what you were hoping to hear about here, it’s either not happening or the organisers didn’t respond to our clarion call for information.
There’s so much here to get excited about, we’re almost too fidgety to get started. Or maybe that’s just the eggnog getting the better of us. Either way…
Folk albums, EPs and singles, 2022
Ben Morgan-Brown Down by the Great River Ouse
The first album on our list is one for fans of the folk guitar troubadours of the 60s and 70s. On his latest collection, Ben Morgan-Brown wears his influences prominently – you’ll find nods to Bert Jansch, Nick Drake, Davy Graham and more recent players such as Toby Hay. Needless to say, our favourite is the Martin Carthy-esque ‘The Border Trot’ – a veritable finger dance that many of you will be keen to try out yourselves. Release date: February 4th.
Knight & Spiers Both in a Tune
Knight & Spiers are back with their second album, Both in a Tune, promising foot-tapping aplenty, with tunes both traditional and original. If it’s anything like their 2018 album Well Met, it’ll be a joyous joust between two of the UK’s most celebrated folk musicians. Look out for our review in the coming weeks. Release date: February 11th.
Sam Sweeney Solo
Known for playing with stellar bands (Bellowhead, The Wayward Band, his recent tour band), Martin Carthy’s favourite contemporary fiddler returns in February with an EP that will turn heads. A solo EP of tunes, stripped of all accompaniment – just Sam Sweeney himself, recorded alone at St Martin’s, Stoney Middleton. We asked him what we ought to expect. “Warts and all” came the brief and intriguing answer. We can’t wait. Release date: TBA.
Fern Maddie Ghost Story
Singing from a remote cabin in the snowy woods of Vermont, Fern Maddie works minimalistic wonders with a careful selection of Child ballads. Her stripped-down plucked strings and plaintive vocal sound won us over on her debut EP, North Branch River. The debut album, Ghost Story, is due out in March but you can expect ‘Hares on the Mountain’ as a single before the end of January. Release date: TBA.
Iona Lane Hallival
We had the pleasure of hearing this album, produced by Andy Bell, just before Christmas, and it’s a thing of beauty. While none of the tracks are actually traditional, Iona Lane‘s love of traditional folk culture shines through and the writing/arranging is unquestionably trad-influenced. In particular, ‘Schiehallion’, featuring Lauren MacColl and Rachel Newton on fiddle and harp respectively, stopped us in our tracks. You can expect to see the first video, ‘Humankind’, on January 21st, with ‘Schiehallion’ following on February 11th. Release date: March 25th.
We Are The Monsters Mutated
‘Trouser Worrier’, the first sounds from tradfolk/electronic fusion band, We Are The Monsters, came out in early December, 2021. An EP, Mutated, arrives in March, following a few preliminary gigs, COVID-permitting. Again, this isn’t purely traditional, but the tradfolk influencers are there for all to hear. The electronic mix make this new band a surefire hit with late-night festival crowds. Release date: March 25th.
Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones A Year Too Late And A Month Too Soon
11 tunes and songs, mostly collected in West Yorkshire, are heading your way courtesy of this notable new duo. It’s very easy on the ear (it has been heavily plugged into our ear-goggles over the Christmas period) and laden with songs that that are new to us. We’ll be back with a full review on this website soon, but for now let’s just say that ‘The Girl Who Was Poorly Clad’ will break your heart. Release date: TBA.
Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage Ink of a Rosy Morning
Newly signed to Topic Records, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage release their latest collection in early Spring. Scant information was available at the time of writing, but we recognise that title as a line from the traditional song Nova Scotian song, ‘When First I Came to Caledonia‘, so we’re taking a wild guess that it makes the tracklisting. Time will tell… Release date: April 1st.
Nick Hart Nick Hart Sings 10 English Folk Songs
We’ve heard this one, and it’s all that. The third in the Nick Hart Sings X Amount of English Folk Songs trilogy is a fuller production than the previous two, but it’s no less of a collection for it. Stripped down or with wider instrumentation, Nick Hart has the remarkable ability to sound cutting edge and inventive no matter the age of his beloved traditional songs. Look out for his take on ‘Dives and Lazarus’, which sounds like a band of African tribal musicians arriving at a Medieval English village, in the mood for a session. Release date: TBA.
Johnny Campbell Right to Roam
The irrepressible Johnny Campbell returns in April with another collaboration and another date to commemorate. This time he’s in the company of the Commoners Choir and Skelmanthorpe Brass Band, and he’s marking the 90th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass to promote the broader ‘Right to Roam’ access campaign in England. Before the launch event, Johnny will be hosting a ticketed walking event in the ancient woodlands of Huddersfield. Keep an eye on his website for further details. Release date: April 23rd.
Elspeth Anne Mercy Me
A name from the Welsh Borders that is relatively new to us, we’ve been captivated by the drone folk videos appearing on Elspeth Anne’s Instagram channel. Her new album promises to be similarly liminal and sparse (just the way we like it), with a mix of original and traditional songs. While we’ve yet to hear it, we’re imagining something that would sit nicely alongside Burd Ellen on a darkfolk playlist. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, you’ll be able to see Elspeth perform with her side, Blackthorn Border Morris, in mid-January. See below for further details. Release date: TBA.
Angeline Morrison The Sorrow Songs
Already one of the most eagerly-awaited albums of 2022, Angeline Morrison is set to release The Sorrow Songs in October. This groundbreaking collection will focus on black lives in British history, written and performed in a traditional folk style. You can hear two initial demos on her Bandcamp page, and read our in-depth interview with Angeline Morrison here. Release date: TBA.
Eliza Carthy and the Restitution Queen of the Whirl
Dotted throughout the year, you can expect to hear Queen of the Whirl, likely to be a set of EP releases recorded by Eliza Carthy and the Restitution in the latter part of 2021. The tracks, selected by fans in a social media poll, were taken from Eliza’s 30-year back-catalogue (it’s an anniversary collection), re-recorded with the same team that brought us last year’s Through That Sound (My Secret Was Made Known). We’ve heard it and can confirm that it’s well worth the wait. However, release details are still being confirmed, so for now… watch this space. Release date: TBA.
Tarren Title TBA
Tarren, the collaboration between Sid Goldsmith (Jimmy & Sid, Awake Arise), Alex Garden (The Drystones) and Danny Pedlar (Pedlar // Russell), can mostly be heard in snippets on their Instagram page and at a couple of live shows planned around Bristol in January. However, for a full album (title as yet unknown), you shall have to wait until the summer. Very promising indeed. Release date: TBA.
Jackie Oates Title TBA
We know that Jackie Oates is heading back into the studio in January, with the aim of releasing her first solo album since 2018’s The Joy of Living. As yet untitled, she is hoping to release the album in August. Release date: TBA.
Jan Burns & Jon Doran Title TBA
The Autumn seems like an age away, but for fans of this young duo, cited for great things, it cannot come soon enough. Expect harmonies, ballads, bouzouki and mandolin. Maybe a bit of guitar here and there, too. Other than that, let’s hope it’s as good as 2020’s Janice Burns & Jon Doran, which had real moments of promise. Release date: TBA.
Bonfire Radicals Title TBA
Birmingham’s finest progressive folk band will release the follow-up to 2017’s Albino Peacock at some point in the autumn. In the meantime, head to their website and book yourself in for one of their raucous gigs. They’re on the road in March, April and May, with festival appearances over the summer. Release date: TBA.
Piers Cawley The Isolation Sessions
Crowdfunded back in November, 2020, Piers Cawley‘s The Isolation Sessions is due to reach its backers by the latter half of October, and could even be much earlier than that. Debut albums, even those that feature only one voice and no instruments, will always take their own sweet time. Patience, patience… Release date: TBA.
No specific date
Albums from Burd Ellen, Martin Carthy and Martin Simpson are all on the cards for 2022, although they could easily spill into the following year. We know that Martin Simpson is busy rehearsing and writing, with an album on its way to being studio-ready, while Martin Carthy is finalising details with an unnamed American producer to start work on what was intended to be an 80th birthday celebration release.
Folk culture events
As with the albums list above, there are so many unknowns surrounding what might be planned, rearranged, organised and cancelled. In these uncertain times, nothing is a given. Here’s what we’ve heard about and seems reasonably nailed on at the time of writing.
Dragon Orchard Wassail
January 15th, 3:30pm
There are wassails aplenty around the country (see also the Fleece Inn at Bretforton’s annual event), but this one caught our eye for the sheer scope and ambition of the thing. Hosted by Blackthorn Border Morris, a side formed as recently as 2019 who have taken to promoting local traditions with admirable, infectious zeal (4,500 Instagram followers and counting), this looks like a mini-festival. Expect side stalls, bars, Mari Lywds and other beasts, musicians, storytellers, and, of course, a rousing dance by Blackthorn themselves. Note: At the time of writing, tickets had sold out, but organisers say returns may be available by emailing the address on this page.
Electric Daisy Flower Farm
It’s a month of beautiful-looking folk culture workshops at the Electric Daisy Flower Farm in Highgate, London, this January. Look out for hand-stitching with natural fragments, hand-carving wooden utensils, flower crown weaving, basketry, and corn dolly weaving (the latter with Rhia Davenport from WEVEN, who’s corn dollies appear in the picture at the top of this page). Head to the Electric Daisy Flower Farm website for the full programme.
Folk for Refugees
Online & TBC
You may have spotted the emergence of Folk For Refugees on social media recently. Founded by Ed Butcher, co-founder of Walton Folk Festival and compere/organiser of the Riverhouse Barn folk gigs, this artistic collective that aims to help organisations working to support refugees on either side of the Channel. The initial aim is to release a collaborative album, with proceeds going to selected charities. Expect more news very soon via the website linked above.
Queer Ceilidh Dance
February 24th, 8pm
Cecil Sharp House, London
Promising a COVID-secure event, the folk behind the Queer Folk project have organised a night of ceilidh dancing and drag. Everyone is welcome. As the organisers say, “No dancing experience required, just open arms.” Click for tickets.
Soundpost Singing Weekend
A weekend of singing with the good people at Soundpost. There’ll be workshops, sessions, talks and performances, all in the name of letting your larynx loose and immersing yourself in the joy of song. Nancy Kerr, Rowan Rheingans, Sean Cooney, Cath Carr and Rowan Piggott have also been commissioned to create a song cycle based on the local land and its people. Sign yourself up for a weekend of real camaraderie. Click for tickets.
Christmas in July
July 16th, 7pm
Union Chapel, London
Sure, there are lots of gigs lined up for 2022, but few feel as much like an event as this one. Having had to shelve their December Wassail, Eliza Carthy and Jon Boden quickly circled the wagons and plotted a Yuletide extravaganza… in July! With so many people having had to isolate over Christmas this year, there could be no better way to celebrate with friends and loved ones than at this festive summer bash. We’re hoping for mince pie ice-creams. Click for tickets.
Obviously, tours are really at the mercy of the pandemic these days. However, we know that the following are, at the very least, scheduled to go ahead…
Eliza Carthy is busy as early as January, when she’ll be gigging with her formidable father, Martin Carthy, in Lyme Regis, Hertford, Shrewsbury, and Dublin. In April she’ll be out with the Eliza Carthy Trio (featuring Saul Rose and David Delarre), hitting up Chichester, Leicester, Runcorn, Carmarthen, Bingley, London, Calstock, Shoreham, and Frome. Click for tickets.
Sam Sweeney is out on his own in February – one man and his fiddle – for gigs in Bristol, Haverfordwest, Dartington and Bretforton. His tour in May is more of a band thing, hitting up Oxford, Cambridge, Stamford, Shrewsbury, Sheffield, London, Southampton, Reading, Teignmouth, Burton-on-Trent, Hexham, Gainsborough, Shepley, and Bristol. Click for tickets.
Burd Ellen have a tour planned for March, but are keeping things under wraps until they have everything a little more tied down. So far they have announced this gig in Ceredigion, as part of Gwyl Ffynnon Sant Caron (March 4th-6th).
Leveret plan to be on the road in March and October. The first of these tours has already been published, with dates throughout March in Sheffield, Stroud, Reading, Cardiff, Topsham, Colchester, Chichester, Bury, Morecambe, Cockermouth, and Coventry. Click for tickets.
Jackie Oates is out with her trio in September and October, with dates TBC. Keep an eye on her website for further details
Faustus are due to announced March dates soon, and you’d do well to bookmark their gigs page for more details.
Belshazzar’s Feast are on the road again in May. Dates so far include Staveley, Sheffield and Whitchurch (Hampshire). Click for tickets.
Angeline Morrison will be touring the aforementioned The Sorrow Songs album in October. Dates to be announced soon. Click here for more information.
Then, of course, there’s that Bellowhead tour in November that everyone’s been trying to get tickets for. Supported by the Sam Sweeney Band, They’ll be heading to Portsmouth, Oxford, Leicester, Cambridge, London, Brighton, Southend, Ipswich, Bath, Plymouth, Cardiff, Birmingham, Newcastle, Nottingham, Harrogate, Liverpoo, Sheffield, and Manchester. You can keep trying by clicking here…
At the time of writing, only a few festivals had started releasing their lineup. These included…
TradFest Temple Bar
Temple Bar, Dublin
Fingers crossed that this wonderful-looking event can go ahead. The glorious Temple Bar district of Dublin plays host to some top artists and fascinating talks. Look out for Aoife Scott presenting a Celebration of Female Voices (featuring Peggy Seeger and Wallis Bird). Elsewhere, big names include The Dublin Legends, Ralph McTell & Stockton’s Wing, Kate Rusby, and Martin & Eliza Carthy. Click here for the full lineup.
January 20th-February 6th
The annual celebration of Celtic folk culture is set to return in 2022, albeit in a COVID-restricted format. Best to keep an eye on this page to find out how things are evolving. Exciting names include The Breath, Anoushka Shankar, This Is The Kit, Teddy Thompson, Ciaran Ryan, Brìghde Chaimbeul, and many more. Also worth checking out the Cymru Wales Spotlight, featuring one of our favourites here at Tradfolk.co, Cynefin. Click here for tickets.
Beardy Folk Festival
Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire
This small but perfectly-formed boutique folk festival is well worth a visit. Set on the edge of the beautiful Shropshire Hills, a stone’s throw from Ludlow, it has everything you’d want from a folk festival (great musicians, workshops, and food) without ever feeling overcrowded. This year’s tradfolk artists include Will Pound & Jenn Butterworth, Meuross, Harbottle & Jonas, Sound Tradition, Rachel Newton, Bonfire Radicals, Martin Simpson, and Rachael McShane. Click here for the full lineup, and here for tickets.
Sidmouth Folk Festival
July 29th-August 5th
The mighty Sidmouth Folk Festival returns this summer with headliners including Fisherman’s Friends, Steeleye Span, Kate Rusby, Show of Hands, Eddi Reader, Martin Simpson, Spiers & Boden, and the Spooky Man’s Chorale. Click here for the full lineup, and here for tickets.
Middle Claydon, Buckinghamshire
Now moved to a new festival site on the Claydon Estate, Towersey celebrates its 58th year with tradfolk appearances from Kate Rusby, The Longest Johns, Gigspanner, Faustus, She Shanties, and many more. Head to the lineup page for full details. Click here for tickets.
Davina Quinlivan’s Anglo-Asian family moved seven times over 10 years before settling in rural Devon. Her debut, a blend of nature writing, magical realism and memoir, is inspired by this sense of displacement. En route through this “sorrow song… fever dream”, Quinlivan meets her own grandmother in the form of an Irish oak tree, and the Green Man in ancient Hampshire woodland. A book guaranteed to chime with anyone who has experienced migration at any scale. To pre-order, click here.
The Captain’s Apprentice: Ralph Vaughan Williams and the Story of a Folk Song
Those that have been following Caroline Davison’s blog on Ralph Vaughan-Williams’s journey into “melody, harmony and feeling”, via traditional folk song, will be delighted to know that there’s a full book on the subject, and it’s due in August. The book traces the lives of the much-loved composer alongside that of a Kings-Lynn cabin boy who died at sea. It promises new insight into the lives of the Edwardian collectors and the source singers they visited. For more info, and to pre-order, click here.
Some great things to look forward to this year