Cambridge bounce back off their laurels with the best line-up for yonks.
It is easy to dismiss Cambridge as a relic, a leftover from gentler days when folk meant folk and electricity was anathema. Running for longer than Glastonbury, 1965 to the Somerset institution’s 1970, it has always been there, a possibly gentler terrain for mind and body, but, as we will see, no less adventurous than its looser limbed little sibling in line-up.
This may be ATB’s first official visit, but various team members have been before (and have the camping passes on the tent as proof!), this being this writers 3rd such sojourn, each within the last decade, seeing folk, as a genre, expand to include such (not) finger in the ear merchants as Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams and Calexico.
The Unthanks 2019
This year sees it as being the most elastic yet, with Arrested Development and Ibibio Sound Machine each on the bill, along with a host of ATB roots based favourites. Indeed, scan back through our album reviews and the roster of recently covered artists is well nigh astounding, each present surely only to deliver live, to this site, what they have patently delivered on record. So who we got, Seuras?
The Blind Boys of Alabama, with Amadou and Mariam, 2019
Breabach, The Chair, Elephant Sessions, Eliza Carthy, Gnoss, Niteworks, Siobhan Miller, Sharon Shannon, and that’s just me accounted for, with appearances also from such ATB faves as Kate Rusby. And check out some of the other names on the poster above. Angelique Kidjo looks a must, as does Gangstagrass, let alone the return of Stornoway. Middle eastern jazz-classical fusion? Check, that’s Akram Abdulfattah. Dub fusion? Gentleman’s Dub Club. Sikh bluesmaster from the Punjab? Jinda Biant, with all of this but a fraction of what and who is playing, as is Judy Collins, for those long of tooth and memory, now in her mid eighties and as beguiling as ever.
Like most festivals, there is more than one stage to flit between, the main artistes appearing on one or other of the two main stages. However, this year, in a change that has upset some regulars, the folk club sessions tent has discontinued, presenting a showcase of talent from individual folk clubs, causing some angst in old timers, this time devoting that area to showcasing new talent, with individual days showcasing various aspects. This attendee looks forward to the sessions themed around Scotland, Ireland and Wales. (Well, as a Celt, so he would!)
The stalls and market village will have as exotic and varied a selection of gifts as you can shake a hand-crocheted stick at, and the food and drink concessions will be as appealing as you could desire: I have eaten better at Cambridge than at most of the competition. Add in the leafy surrounds of Cherry Hinton Park and I can’t wait.
Cambridge Folk Festival is at Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 27 – 30/7/23