Shrewsbury sends a headbanging Tory MP to Westminster, fell headlong for the prejudice and lies of Brexit and has a susceptibility to flooding. But it's also a pleasant, attractive Shropshire market town and, for the past 17 years (26 if you include its predecessor in Bridgnorth) , has hosted what looks very much like one of the best folk festivals I have never attended.
Ken Roseman did this year's attending for me, but from 3,500 miles away across the Atlantic in Maryland. The festival's successful streaming of the event enabled him to post updates and clips at his highly popular Facebook pages.
Ken appears to know more about British folk and folk-rock than most on this side of the pond. And I am indebted to him for his efforts, especially the introduction he has given me to a folk-rock band called Gigspanner, the big band version of what is otherwise a trio.
I am astonished and slightly ashamed that I have not heard the band until now. Individual big band members are familiar:
Peter Knight, the outstanding Steeleye Span fiddler
Bellowhead's co-founder, the melodeon wizard John Spiers
The acclaimed multi-instrumental and vocal duo Edgelarks formed by Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry
Guitarist Roger Flack and percussionist Sacha Trochet.
Together, they produce some of the most exciting sounds I have come across in years, exemplary musicianship and singing delivered with infectious enthusiasm and panache. The most inspiring sounds, in fact, since Bellowhead.
Ken Roseman's verdict on Gigspanner: "Worth waiting for. All that I expected and hoped for. Well done.´´
Here are some of Ken's further reflections on the festival:
Another year. Another Shrewsbury Folk Festival is now over.
I attended virtually and am very grateful for the opportunity.
There were excellent sets from Moya Brennan, Capercaillie, Breobach, and Oysterband. Oysterband was absolutely magnificent!
I discovered some new acts that could well become personal favorites: Elephant Sessions, Mishra, Jiggy, The Salts. I got to see one of my all time favorite people-- Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior, with a new program "Forgotten Lands," focusing on the songs and heritage of northern England.
Red Hot Chili Pipers!! What a way to close a festival! No one could have followed that!! There were some tech glitches-- occasional freezes and lost connections, but I would not have missed this for anything. As they say in England: "Roll on 2024!"
www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk I understand that the performances were recorded (I hope permanently) and will be up for viewing from the festival web site for at least the next few days. (Ken Roseman, August 28, 2023).
Ken Roseman on Ken Roseman:
I have been writing about music for almost 50 years. What I've done to keep involved is to change my personal Facebook page into what is essentially a music blog. I post reviews and related items there. I post notices about upcoming UK events because I have many contacts there. I have discovered that I can affect ticket sales for UK events, which is pretty amazing for someone sitting in Silver Spring, Maryland. I have over 3,000 FB friends, and most of them are music people, a small but concentrated audience.
** And finally, one of my own favourite virtual memories of Shrewsbury folk festival, the Mighty Doonans performing Here's the Tender Coming back in 2012 ...