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February 2008

Marie's really Little interview

Marie4
In her interview with Salut! Live, Marie Little advised young folk performers that talent is not enough, described how she had juggled motherhood, career and other activities and admitted that a glance at old photos showed she "probably wasn't a bad looking bird". But we couldn't let her go without peppering her with our now traditional one liners. She threw herself heartily into the spirit of the exercise, revealing along the way that she was good as gold at school, once begged a club organiser not to pay her and can think of no finer luxury than a never-ending supply of guitar strings.......

* My strongest memory of the place I grew up is...Two up, two down in Salford

* My best/worst subjects at school were...Best maths and worst PE

* Good pupil/bad pupil?...Good

* My most memorably good moment in music was...Seeing Tony Downs playing guitar in the corner of the youth club and getting him to show me how to tune mine and teach me my first chords and professionaly too many to mention!

* And my most memorably bad was...a gig in Norwich in 1969 ish. I was total rubbish, my guitar would not stay in tune ( I sang badly because of it) but Alex Atterson still insisted on paying me when I refused the money. Apparently everyone had enjoyed it. It was the gob rather than the music that got me through!

* I wish I had know when young that.....I knew what I knew when I needed to know, I have no regrets

* I am happiest when.... I am doing a good gig

* The singer/musician I most respect is...there are many, but Brian McNeill, Vin Garbutt, Harvey Andrews and the late John Wright (very sad) to name a few but for fab entertainment you can't whack The Doonans or New Rope String band

* My Desert Island luxury would be...a guitar and lots of new strings

* The North East is my adopted home because...I love the people, (really friendly and helpful) I love the countryside, I love being close to the coast, it's rich history, I just love it!


* Picture courtesy of Roger Liptrop of Folk Images


Marie Little rediscovered

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In my memory, Marie Little is a stunning young woman with a gorgeous voice and a warm, outgoing nature to complement the physical beauty. Men of all ages at the North-eastern folk clubs in and around 1970 were mesmerised, though women loved her, too.

Then my days as a club organiser petered out, I moved south and Marie retreated to family life. Or so I thought. In reality, it is me that has been away, not her; Marie kept going, steadily and without fanfare. In her own words, she has "always been there".

The North East that both Marie and I consider home, though neither of us was born there, had a vibrant if uneven folk scene in the era when I knew her. There was the odd serious traditional club, where contemporary music or indeed any deviation from unaccompanied or sparsely accompanied British folk song was frowned upon, and there were the more relaxed, and sometimes more unruly, clubs of the sort I helped to run.

Marie fitted the second category much more comfortably, though her delivery of traditional songs was no less impressive than that of her repertoire of newer material.

The idea for this interview came as I browsed what a chap called Big Mick at the Mudcat folk discussion site described as "maybe one of Mudcat's best threads ever.......it is wonderful that these names are set free from the imprisonment of time".

Marie's name was mentioned during that debate - "Betsy" referring to the woman who was "known as Little in the 1960s, she married Pete Smith but still calls herself Marie Little. Great singer guitarist an'all..."

And Flossie Malavialle, a French singer also living in the North East, made sure I wouldn't forget the thought, by singling her out for praise when I interviewed her a couple of months ago.

Even if I had harboured doubts about making contact with Marie, these would have evaporated the moment I saw the brilliant title of her album Hot Pants to Hot Flushes. And I am delighted that after so many years, we have exchanged thoughts, albeit at a distance of nearly 4,000 miles.Marie5

In keeping with the developing practice of Salut! Live, I decided to let her speak for herself, treating the interview in question and answer form rather than as a written feature. Also in keeping with the site's preferences, there will be a short second instalment devoted to Marie's short responses to quickfire questions.

The pictures come courtesy of Roger Liptrot and his Folk Images sites........

Continue reading "Marie Little rediscovered" »


Welcome here kind stranger

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Now that the dust is settling a little over the animated and sometimes intemperate debate on the merits or otherwise of Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, it is time for Salut! Live to talk about the raised profile its part in the discussion has won.

Perhaps I can be forgiven for having dropped hints at a few of the more popular folk music discussion sites. It would certainly have been a shame if Rachel's willingness to answer my questions so fully and candidly had not been rewarded by a reasonable level of interest in her words.

In the event, I could not have hoped for better. In the 10 days since the first of the articles appeared here, Salut! Live has recorded almost 1,000 "unique visits", which may not be a huge figure but is five times higher than the readership for the preceding 10 days.

It goes without saying, but will be said anyway, that a warm welcome is extended to everyone who has wandered this way, and especially those who have found other material - the Kate Rusby, Martin Simpson or Flossie Malavialle interviews, perhaps, or the Vin Garbutt/Cambridge Folk Festival discussion - worth exploring.

The almost complete absence of discussion among Salut! Live readers is not especially important; indeed it it misleading, since many people who are directed here by references posted by me or others at the Mudcat, UK.music.folk, fRoots or BBC forums, return to their natural habitats to continue the debate there.

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Martin Simpson, Julie Fowlis dominate BBC awards

Martin1_2Martin Simpson's marvellous Prodigal Son is tonight's winner of the BBC Folk Awards album of the year section, while its outstanding track, Never Any Good, wins in the Best Original Song category to hand him a notable double.

JuliefowlisJulie Fowlis was voted Folk Singer of the Year while Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, nominated for four awards, had to settle for the Horizon prize honouring Best Emerging Artist.

Salut! Live is happy to endorse the findings, having cast its own preferences - OK, mine - in favour of Martin Simpson in both the categories won by him, and Rachel's band in hers. Here and at the Telegraph, Julie has been given highly positive mention, but I would have given Martin the title she won, too.

Shirley Collins, Lau and John Martyn are among the other winners named in the 2008 awards ceremony and the full list is as follows:

Continue reading "Martin Simpson, Julie Fowlis dominate BBC awards" »


Potted Rachel

Rachel2...........in which we learn Rachel Unthank's thoughts on film, literature, music and life - but mercifully hardly anything on Sam Allardyce and nothing on Keegan (Kevin, not Niopha) circus. And after the torrent of words over the last couple of days, it couldn't be much shorter or sweeter

Best film ever was.....The Commitments

Best album ever was.....too hard! Currently The Lark Descending by Chris Wood, Illinois by Sufjan Stevens, I see a Darkness by Bonnie Prince Billy, No Earthly Man by Alasdair Roberts

And best book.....A Room with a View, EM Forster, haven’t read it since being a teenager but it stands out in my mind

Most memorably good gig was....The Bagdaddies, Clara Vale Village Hall, one Christmas. Good food and company, exciting, energetic music, dancing on tables and tequila!

Most memorably bad was....I try to wipe them from my memory

Life on the road is.....like being in a bubble

Singer I most admire is..… Sheila Stewart, June Tabor, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and my Dad!

And musician......all the musicians in Lau and Charles Mingus

The thing I like best about being a singer is...singing itself. It makes me feel right. The old cliché is true, it really is good for the soul. Everyone should try it!

And what gets up my nose is....pettiness

If Big Sam had stayed, he would have.... Who knows? Not us!

I relax by......sleeping, swimming, day dreaming. I like my food and drink too (a bit too much!)

Ten years from now, I'd love to be......a Mum of four!


In the concluding section of the three-part Big Interview, Rachel Unthank talked about the state of British folk and more besides.


Rachel Unthank: the big interview (3)

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Continuing the Big Interview with Rachel Unthank. Part 2 saw her hitting back gently at the attackers

This was meant to be the concluding section of Rachel Unthank's interview with Salut! Live. In it, we hear more about Belinda O'Hooley's departure from the band and there is also input from the manager Adrian McNally, described by Rachel as the "invisible member" of the band as well as her future husband.

But the series is not quite finished. A little more space is needed for a very short and not entirely serious Part 4 presenting the promised Potted Rachel feature: quickfire replies to 13 questions. That will be posted tomorrow (Sunday).

When I read the answers given to all of my questions, posed electronically from thousands of miles away in the Middle East, I was struck by their candour and passion. I hope readers agree that it was right to give them in full. They do not end the debate - essentially "are they any good?" - and are not intended to.

However, the interview provides a fascinating backdrop to Monday's BBC Folk Awards ceremony. There, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset will perform and discover whether any of their four nominations - best album, best group, best live act, horizon award - have produced awards.

Without stooping to silly name puns (though it was sorely tempted), Salut! Live thanks Ms Unthank, and Adrian McNally, for their time. It is obvious that I am an admirer of the band; I reviewed The Bairns favourably in the Daily Telegraph and put it in third place in my list of the best folk albums of 2007.

But that is as far as it goes. At one point during the Mudcat thread, it looks as if someone is accusing me of sticking up for the band because of some unspecified "vested interests". So for the record, my own votes for Monday night were cast as follows (I justify the Horizon choice on the grounds that I was largely unaware of Rachel's band until the year at issue):

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR Martin Simpson
BEST DUO Show of Hands
BEST GROUP Lau
BEST ALBUM Prodigal Son (Martin Simpson)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG Never Any Good (Martin Simpson)
BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK Cold Haily Rainy Night (The Imagined Village)
HORIZON AWARD Rachel Unthank & The Winterset
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR Martin Simpson
BEST LIVE ACT Show of Hands

And now to conclude the main part of the interview..........

Continue reading "Rachel Unthank: the big interview (3)" »