A conundrum from attending a handful of festivals this year was assessing the status of SummerTyne, which was attended for the first time at the heart of a British summer. It came across as a hybrid in terms of a plethora of free stage presentations and a menu of stand alone paid for gigs within the Sage complex. A decision to ultimately throw it into the festival mix was partly driven by a reduced season in comparison to previous years. If the quantity was a slimmed down quota, the quality didn't budge from what you have come to expect from the select multi-artist gatherings that have become staples on the summer live music agenda. So in an abbreviated festival season, SummerTyne was joined only by old favourites: Maverick and Moseley Folk, plus a return visit to Tingestock (the world's greatest micro festival) in 2017. What was a given though was an opportune December moment grasped to reflect on the Top 10 Favourite sets that made these events a memorable weekend excursion.
Laura Marling - Moseley Folk Festival
No encore required. An hour sufficient. Any doubts that the effect of a Laura Marling performance in an outdoor park would be diminished were put to rest on the Sunday evening of Moseley Folk. Being at the front probably helped, but this set possessed all the compulsive aura that radiated from the regular live shows over the last couple of years. A performance that capped the most personally pleasing staging of this festival in its decade existence.
Courtney Marie Andrews - Moseley Folk Festival
The frustration of not seeing a full Courtney Marie Andrews show this year was partially alleviated by watching her stunning set at Birmingham's premier roots festival in September. A full band performance was a step up from her Coventry show earlier in the year and the songs, that have ensured her latest album has become a firm favourite, sounded forever sweet.A true talent that has emerged big time in 2017 and the prospect of seeing her perform regularly in the UK is met with great anticipation.
Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express - SummerTyne Americana Festival
Album, gigs, festivals - 2017 was a momentous year for Chuck Prophet with the UK featuring significantly. A serious candidate for artist of the year on the basis of his all round endeavour and this performance on the Sunday night of SummerTyne was utterly memorable. It may really have been a two hour gig in a bespoke festival, but the scene and allotted time brought the best out of Chuck and his band. A show that both artist and audience didn't want to end.
Shovels & Rope - Moseley Folk Festival
2016 was the year of perhaps this duo's finest album to date, while 2017 was the year I finally got the opportunity to catch them live. Carrie Ann and Michael brought their A-game to Moseley showcasing a versatility, an innovative approach and a pack of outstanding songs stretching back a few years now. Another prime reason why this year's line up was the best yet, in my book anyhow.
Angaleena Presley - SummerTyne Americana Festival
It was third time lucky seeing Angaleena live as she finally clicked for me as an absorbing performer. We know the songs are there, but she really nailed the exceptional delivery during this Saturday afternoon show at SummerTyne. It was also the catapult that lifted the Wrangled album out of the pile of potentials to one with a rich narrative. No band required. Just one singer; one voice and a head full of the most compelling songs matched with cutting wit.
John Moreland - Moseley Folk Festival
Sitting in a field for forty minutes listening to John Moreland will take you to far away places.Maybe a damp park in suburban Birmingham is not quite dusty Oklahoma, but who cares about being pedantic. Closing your eyes, alienating the surroundings and focusing truly on a compelling performer is the ideal way to enjoy this artist. His ever increasing presence on the UK live scene is much welcome and the added good news is that he is set to feature at Cambridge Folk Festival in 2018.
Justin Townes Earle - Maverick Festival
Justine Townes Earle has a long standing title of being my least attended pay gig dating back to an early show in Worcester in 2008. How times have changed and this year saw a good album released ably projected by a headline slot at the Maverick Festival. A relaxed performance only added to the sincere effect of a thoughtful artist who continues to make music that matters and reflects the experience of someone with plenty to offer. This was a classy set and worthy of the festival's tenth anniversary.
Don Gallardo - Tingestock Festival
It was a pleasure to return to the world'd finest micro festival in 2017 and witness a supreme performance from Don Gallardo and his assortment of musical friends. He is such an exemplary performer who matches an affable approach with a friendly desire to embrace the music of others. The level of his musicianship will surely break out onto a higher level one day, but until then, we can embrace his presence in Tingewick Village Hall on a Saturday night in July.
Josienne Clark & Ben Walker - Moseley Folk Festival
This duo continue to emerge as my ideal type of folk act. The most beautiful of voices blended perfectly with the most divine guitar playing. Being on Josienne's satirical wavelength also helps as well as appreciating the way they reflect the old and the new of a somewhat twisted genre. Appearances at Moseley Folk are nothing new for Josienne and Ben, but graduating to the main stage from its Lunar sister a couple of years ago firmly represents the progress they have made as recording and performing artists.
Lachlan Byron - Maverick Festival
The name caught my eye in the run up to this festival via promising reports and this was duly followed up with a tremendous set which topped the Saturday afternoon outdoor offering at Maverick. Representing Down Under's rich history in playing the Americana tune, Lachlan was soon noted by others at the festival and hopefully he picks up on this appreciation to return to our shore in the not too distant future.