We know it isn't quite the end of the month yet but thought we'd sneak in a quick news update before the bank holiday, because we've got lots to tell you and we couldn't wait any longer!
The Magpies Festival happened! And we can't really find the words to describe what an incredible weekend it was ...
We've been absolutely blown away by the love and support from everyone who came along. And we want to say a massive THANK YOU to all of you who supported the event in its inaugural year.
You were such a fun audience and a lovely festival community. You left the grounds of Sutton Park absolutely immaculate, which certainly helped us out on Sunday morning, when we might have been sporting slightly sore heads.
We've been looking through your feedback and it's all so wonderfully positive, it has genuinely made us a little bit weepy (although that might have something to do with festival-organiser's-sleep-deprivation!)
And we're very pleased to announce that all your excellent thoughts and ideas will be put to good use because we will be going ahead next year with The Magpies Festival Part 2! More very exciting news on that coming soon!
We headed straight from the festival, slightly dazed and bleary-eyed, for a gig at Runcorn Folk Club, which was lovely. And then had a rather eventful journey to Purbeck Valley Folk Festival on the South Coast, featuring a minor car accident just minutes into driving Bella's brand new car (it wasn't my fault!) But we had a fantastic weekend, with highlights including a wonderful gig, lots of brilliant music, a trip to the beach and a delightful morning swim at our new favourite hotel.
We also managed to squeeze two Magpie birthdays into this month - Kate and Bella are now another year older and wiser!
And in less than a week, we will be kicking off our September tour! In exciting news, we've sold out The Live Room at Saltaire, Downend Folk Club have released more tickets and a few others shows are just a handful of tickets away from selling out. Get your tickets now and help us sell out the rest!
We very much hope to see you somewhere along the way!
The Magpies x
The Magpies' Pick of the Month
Service station of the month ...
Winchester Services: 3.8 stars
Pros: Fresh flowers in the toilets. Good natural light.
Cons: Long queue for Burger King, but we did sample the new halloumi burger, which was excellent.
Hotel of the month ...
Springfield Country Hotel & Spa, Dorset.
Pros: Very friendly. Provided refuge from a very damp campsite, as well as hot beverages and spa facilities well before check-in.
Cons: Bella stubbed her toe in the steam room.
Band of the month ...
The People Versus.
We had the opportunity to see them twice this month and they are awesome. Check them out!
Well, there's just 4 more sleeps to go until THE MAGPIES FESTIVAL and we're very excited!
We've been knuckling down this month, finalising the nitty gritty details to make it the best of days and we can't wait! Here's a quick reminder of the lovely bands that we'll be joined by ...
For those who've just joined us (or haven't been paying attention), as well as that very exciting line-up, there'll also be an excellent array of food and drink. The wonderful Brass Castle Brewery will be supplying the bar and there'll also be homemade pizza, a BBQ, Indian street food, tea, coffee, cakes aplenty and of course, ice cream!
Camping is available on site, nestled on the edge of the forest, in the stunning grounds of York's stately home, Sutton Park. Check it out, it's quite nice ...
We've been completely overwhelmed by the wonderful response we've had to the festival and tickets have been flying off the shelves. We want to say a massive, massive thank you to everyone who's taken a chance on our brand new festival and bought a ticket, it means the world to us!
As we said last month, we've limited numbers due to Covid to make sure it's a safe space from which to enjoy music BUT between you and me there are a few tickets left, so don't miss out, get them here ...
As well as the festival, you can also catch us this month at Runcorn Folk Club on Monday 16th August. Tickets are on sale here and we can't wait!
Next time we write, we'll be packing our bags for our Autumn tour, which starts a month today! We're almost ready to go - we've started to plan our in-between-gigs sightseeing activities and we're currently in the process of choosing an audio book for the car, because we're rock and roll like that. Audio book recommendations and tourist activities in the below locations are most welcome. English Heritage and/or The National Trust, it's not too late to sponsor us!
Check out the full tour here and get your tickets ...
And so we'll say goodbye, until the festival, where we hope to see lots of friendly faces. We can't wait to see you there!
The Magpies x
Well, we've almost made it to July - not that you'd know from looking out of the window!
June turned out to be a rather delightful month for us here at Magpie HQ. Not only have we now all had our first jab, but we kicked things off with some lovely airplay of our new single - I Never Will Marry. Mike Harding said it was a 'cracking track'! And Mark Radcliffe not only gave it a good spin but also gave The Magpies Festival a very nice plug - 'well that sounds just about perfect'!
Speaking of the festival, we're happy to confirm that The Magpies Festival still plans to go ahead on Saturday 14th August, BUT we've made the decision to limit numbers at the festival, so we can be sure we're operating safely. We'll be operating at 50% of maximum capacity to accommodate social distancing and the site has been designed from the outset in a Covid-secure way, with all areas open-air and enough space for you all to swing as many cats as you'd like! If you haven't got your tickets yet, don't miss out!
In other news, we are VERY excited to have joined Midnight Mango and will be working with the fabulous Louise McGovern as our booking agent. And here she is. Get in touch with any bookings, we think she's great!
Friday was an especially exciting day for us. It was our first time playing in front of real life people this year! We joined Man the Lifeboats for a sold out show at The Water Rats AND not only that, but it was also our first time catching the train to a gig as a band. Here we are looking thrilled to be on our way to play some tunes!
If you missed us in London, don't panic, we're off on tour again in September (yippee!) and we're heading all over. Check out the full tour here and get your tickets! We can't wait!
And finally, to celebrate England's victory yesterday and inevitable impending glory (it's coming home!) we launched a half price t-shirt sale! Stylishly modelled here by Grandma Brandon last weekend - get yours from The Magpie Shop, for only £11!
Well, after that hefty tome of a newsletter, I think that's enough excitement for one day! We'll be back next month, but until then have a lovely July!
The Magpies x
Doesn't time fly when you're allowed inside!
Aside from the relentlessness of the weather (saved by the bell over the bank holiday weekend!) May was a good month for us here at Magpie HQ. We kicked things off with a wonderful weekend of rehearsals and a cheeky pint or two, before we headed off to the wonderful Holmfirth Festival of Folk!
We had a fabulous time playing to a real-life audience, even if you weren't in the room! Our friends Northern Cowboys did a wonderful job of the live-stream, far more professional than certain other festivals, not naming any names (*cough* Glastonbury)!
The whole festival is still available to watch online and it's a brilliant line-up so make sure you don't miss out (we're on at 1 hour 13 minutes)!
In other exciting news, earlier this month, we announced 3 incredible additions to our line-up at The Magpies Festival in August. Katie Spencer, Tom Moore & Archie Moss and Roswell will be joining Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys, Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra, Blair Dunlop, Katherine Priddy and Dan Webster at Sutton Park in York!
We've been overwhelmed by the incredibly positive response we've had to the festival so far, so a huge, huge thank you to all of you who have bought a ticket. If you haven't got yours yet, don't miss out!
We're also on the look-out for volunteers to join the Magpie team of stewards at the festival, in exchange for a free ticket, drinks voucher and (optional!) camping. If you're interested in getting involved or know anyone who is, find out more here and spread the word. We hope to see you there!
Have a wonderful month!
Until next time,
The Magpies x
We're back again to squeeze in one last piece of news before the month is out. And it's quite a big one actually. We have a new single out today! Woohoo!
“I Never Will Marry” is a traditional tale of lost love. There's been lots of versions of the song, usually the protagonist’s lover has drowned in the sea and she follows him in to join him (cheery!). Our version is more optimistic, the protagonist is saved by another woman who tells her that her lover lives on in her heart. Apologies for the spoiler.
It has been described by us as 'atmospheric and dark, scattered with blistering instrumentals, powerful female harmonies and stomping rhythm'. We hope that others think the same, but as you're yet to hear it we're yet to find out.
It's accompanied by a beautifully cinematic new video made by our lovely Kate Griffin. If Kate's flawless videography doesn't sell it to you, you can also see us all looking windswept and interesting, with very chilly toes on a beach on Bridlington, whilst we pretend to sing and play musical instruments.
The single is available to download or stream here. We hope you like it and if you do we'd really appreciate it if you could give it a buy or a save or a share or whatever is most relevant to the platform of your choosing.
We're also thrilled to announce today that we'll be hitting the road in September 2021 in a UK tour covering all four corners. We are particularly excited that once again we will be able to bring you what you've all been missing so much over the last year - reviews of service stations and Premier Inns.
But if you're more interested in hearing some music than pithy remarks on low budget touring, please buy your ticket here and you should probably skip to the end.
If you're still reading, and as yet not sold, we'll keep plugging. There'll be lots of new music, as well as the old favourites. It really would make us very happy bunnies if you could get booking and spread the word! We'd love to see you there.
And if that doesn't tempt you, cue sob story, as some of you might remember, our last tour was abruptly curtailed in March 2020 in a Travelodge on the outskirts of Birmingham. We're picking up 18 months later, slightly more destitute but more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than ever before - not eagled-eyed and bushy-tailed as I thought the expression went until a couple of minutes ago. Thank goodness I checked, wouldn't have wanted to make a fool of myself.
On that note we'll end the rambling and sum up, we'd really like it if you could listen to our new single and buy a ticket for the tour. And we very much hope that you enjoy both.
Have a very happy May, we'll see you next month!
The Magpies x
We hope you're well and enjoying the first signs of spring. The daffodils are blooming and the birds are nest building and we've emerged from the bleak winter with some exciting news!
We've been away rehearsing at Wayside Farm this week (having taken all appropriate Covid-secure measures to ensure we met government guidelines!) and it was fabulous! We played a lot of tunes and cuddled a lot of pigs, and there is no finer way to spend a weekend than that - in our humble opinion!
We even made you a little video so you could see what we got up to! Here's Father Kelly's Set (feat. The Rossmore Jetty, The Reconciliation Reel and MacArthur Road). The tunes are named after Father PJ Kelly, a Columban priest (not Colombian as we originally thought!) who wrote the first tune and named it after the pier on the River Shannon near his home in County Galway. Just a little story for you there, not quite up to the standard that we experienced this weekend, because it turns out Kate Griffin is not just a banjo player and videographer extraordinaire, she's also quite the bedtime story-telling bard.
We have so much more exciting news that we can't wait to share with you soon, but our lips are temporarily sealed. Until then, enjoy the tunes, have a little dance in your living room and we'll be in touch!
The Magpies x
Hello and Merry Christmas!
We hope that you are all coping during these bizarre and difficult times. We've been hunkered down for the last few months, trying to understand what tier we're in and who we can meet for a walk. But we've had a few highlights amongst the madness.
In September, we were over the moon to be able to play at the real-life, in-person, non-virtual Beardy Folk Festival. And without being too over the top, it was the best weekend ever. We saw music and friends and drank beer, whilst watching music and seeing friends. And although it seems like a hazy memory now, it made us remember that we'll be back there one day, queuing for a portaloo in a muddy field, stumbling over poorly placed guylines in the darkness and waking up in a tent the temperature of the sun. Until then, we'll just have to remember ...
In other news, we got a mention on BBC Two's Saving Britain's Pubs with Tom Kerridge, which we were quite excited about, albeit in relation to the absence of live music at the moment and the terrible impact it's having on pubs and venues.
We were thrilled to be included in Launchpad's Tracks of Yorkshire 2020 playlist on Spotify, along with the Arctic Monkeys and other bands blessed with being from from God's Own County! And our recent album - Tidings - was added to the British Library Sound Archive, a national collection that preserves music for generations to come.
But with a few snippets from the last months out of the way, it's time for the promised Big News.
Today we announce that Polly Bolton will be stepping down as our mandolin player to focus on other projects. We’ve had a blast playing with her over the past couple of years and have memories and stories that will last forever. And so we wish her all the best in her future endeavours!
But all endings mark new beginnings and we are really excited that today is the beginning of a brilliant new chapter for The Magpies. We will be coming out of Covid hibernation in the new year with some really exciting announcements, so stayed tuned for more big things to come!
The first big news is that we will be joined by the incredible Kate Griffin Music.
Kate is a magnificent clawhammer banjo player, singer and composer. Described as ‘one of the top banjo players in the country’ by virtuoso Dan Walsh, her innovative banjo style combines traditional UK and American folk. She’s the perfect addition to our line-up and we can’t wait to begin our adventure with her, so please give her a huge Magpie welcome!
Hello!We’ve reached the final week of Global Music Match and last but by no means least we are delighted to introduce you to Finnish duo Zäpämmät.
A melting pot of global sounds, Zäpämmät elegantly combine their traditional Finnish roots with West African motifs to create a distinctly unique sound. Even the name is a fusion, a conflation of Zap Mama, a Belgian artist imbued with the African influences of her Congalese roots and the Finnish word ämmä, a derogatory term for a woman, reclaimed here by the female duo. It is a portmanteau that perfectly synopsises the duo’s sound and message.
Zäpämmät’s music centres around the traditional Finnish instrument, the kantele. Played virtuosically by Marjo Smolander, the kantele is, in this case, a 38 stringed instrument that is closely related to the Estonian kannel, Latvian kokles and Russian gusli, together known as the Baltic psaltery family (and to me, a Wikipedia rabbit hole). Known for their distinctive bell-like sound, the instrument has an almost magical quality. It features heavily in Finnish folklore. In the epic poem Kalevala, the first kantele is made from the jawbone of a giant pike and the hairs of a mythical stallion and its music draws the creatures from the forest to marvel at its beauty.
The duo's other half, Pauliina Kauppila, is a pop and rock drummer by trade, who became fascinated by the kantele as an instrument with which to collaborate. Percussion is new to the table in Finnish folk music and it's a void that's up for grabs. The delicacy of the kantele poses a challenge for percussionists and Pauliina has approached the gap in the market with a global open-mindedness, picking styles from whichever culture suits best. She has settled on a diverse array of ringing percussions, including the kalimba and two-stringed bowed bass.
The duo met whilst Marjo was studying West African music and she explains that the meditative melodies and perpetual phrases have a ‘similar aesthetic’ to Finnish traditional music. Pauliina adds that it is ‘interesting the similarities that [Marjo] has found with Karelian kantele melodies and playing with Malian music’. And so, their global eclecticism was born, blending their Finnish roots with Senegalese, Malian, Afro-Cuban and even Flamenco sounds.
On top of distinctive instrumentation, ethereal vocals are characteristic of Zäpämmät and the voices of the two women side by side are a powerful statement. Their musical philosophy is to give a voice to those women who do not have one. They released not just one, but two singles on 8th October, the first When the Soldiers Came to a Village was inspired by Nadia Murad’s book The Last Girl, an autobiographical memoir of the genocide of the Yazadi people in Iraq in 2014. It was an eye-opening story for Marjo, raising questions about why stories like Nadia’s hadn’t reached the news in Finland and it sparked the beginnings of the song.
Their second single, Millions, tackles female genital mutilation. Pauliina speaks of the inequality faced by so many women around the world; she says the song came from ‘a pain that’s been inside of me for years and years’. Girls’ access to education is of particular importance for the duo, with FGM, child brides, menstruation and countless other tragic reasons preventing girls all over the world from going to school. For years, Pauliina has met with resistance when trying to talk to people about these issues, especially ‘when they’re having a beer in a restaurant’. She hopes through her songwriting, one day when they are ready, they will listen and they will start to think: ‘I don’t mean that I have solutions or answers, but I think that these difficult topics, we should try to have more conversations or even just thoughts about’.
So, through a global approach to their music, Zäpämmät are addressing global issues and giving their voices to the voiceless. A fitting finale to an initiative that has connected voices around the world at a time when we most needed to hear them.
The Magpies x
Hello!We’ve reached the penultimate week of Global Music Match and this week we've been getting to know one of Australia's best blues and roots bands, Hussy Hicks, a tour de force with 6 studio albums, multiple industry awards, 15 international tours and more than a thousand live shows under their belts.
Featuring powerhouse vocalist, Leesa Gentz, award-winning guitarist, Julz Parker, drummer Ali Foster and bassist Tracy Bassy, the all-female four-piece have awards coming out their ears, from Gold Coast Artist of the Year and Album of the Year to Queensland Music Award and Golden Guitar nominations. Julz has even been touted ‘Australia’s top female guitar player’ by Australian legend Phil Emmanuel, which albeit incredible and duly deserved praise does raise the question of the necessity of the word ‘female’ in the accolade. From one all-female band to another, the perception of women in music is an issue we could talk about all day, from the scepticism of sound engineers to gendered festival rejections, not to mention the far darker acts at play in the industry.
Thankfully, these issues are slowly starting to be addressed. The gender balance on festival bills is improving, with many major festivals committing to a 50-50 balance. But 'we’ve already got a female band’ are still words we’ve all heard more than once, whilst a second all-male band on a line-up wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. For Hussy Hicks, it’s industry respect and the kudos that’s come with the accolades under their belts that’s helped them to be taken more seriously over the years, rather than a societal shift. And as a consequence, they feel a sense of responsibility to nurture the younger women coming up through the industry still today. Leesa suggests that it is up to women to define their space in the industry and let them know ‘I’m not just a chick singer with a toy guitar’.
Along with phenomenal musicianship, social activism is at the core of Hussy Hicks’ writing. Sparked by a disillusionment in government policy, at the heart of their latest album is a message of unity. Leesa describes a ‘divide and conquer mentality’ that is currently prevalent in Australia and across the world, when ‘really most people just want the same things and want the people around them to be happy too.’ The aptly entitled Gather Up The People encourages people to come together, not be torn apart, by challenging times. Last year’s Australian fires are a sad illustration of one such time. Rather than bringing people together, they instead sparked a political rift between those who pointed to the facts of climate change and those who blamed the Green Party’s anti-backburning policy. But despite the integrity of the social message, the album is subtle in its conveyance of these ideas. As Julz says, ‘raising questions is perhaps every bit as powerful as presenting ideas’.
Like all art, music has always reflected the times and in the Australian blues and roots scene this can be traced right back to its ‘bush music’ origins. The early ballads tell of the harsh ways of life for the bushrangers of the epoch and themes include war, drought and flooding, as well as isolation and loneliness. Themes still very prevalent today. Their origins can be traced back further still to the sea shanties of 18th and 19th century Europe that travelled to Australia during the early period of British colonisation. And songs such as Botany Bay and South Australia still feature heavily in the English folk canon today.
Like their predecessors, Hussy Hicks sing of the times and the societal and global themes that need addressing. In particular, the challenging times that have divided rather than united people; their songs share an important message of unity interwoven in powerful musicianship.
Next week we'll be introducing you to Finnish duo Zäpämmät!
The Magpies x
As we enter the fourth week of Global Music Match, I am so excited to introduce you to the incredible Canadian trio, Vishtèn! Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc of Prince Edward Island and Madgalen Islands’ native Pascal Miousse, they have been dazzling audiences with a fiery blend of traditional French songs and original instruments for over a decade.
The name Vishten is a nod to the eponymous song whose lyrics are a percussive amalgam of French, Mi’kmaq and English, a musical realisation of the band’s fascinating Acadian heritage.
For millennia, Acadia, a region in north-eastern North America, was occupied by the Mi’kmaq people. It was colonised by the French in 1604, hence the strong Francophone influence in the songs. Whilst subsequent settlers from Ireland and Scotland left their Celtic stamp on the music. In the 1750s, following the British conquest, the Acadians’ refusal to swear allegiance to the British crown resulted in a deportation that saw the expulsion of nearly twelve thousand Acadians to the lower British American colonies. When they returned, they added their newfound American influences to the Acadian musical melting pot.
Consequently, within Acadian music there is much variation and there is a clear sense of the history that has led to these stylistic distinctions. Pascal pinpoints his bowing style to his home on the Magdalen Islands, distinct from neighbouring islands’ fiddle techniques.
But it’s not only emigration patterns that have led to these regional accents in the music, according to Vishtèn the radio has a lot to answer for. Prince Edward Island had access to Cape Breton radio and its Scottish musical influences. Whilst Southern Nova Scotia’s access to American radio from Maine gave a strong bluegrass flavour to the music.
Vishtèn’s music reflects the community’s wonderful patchwork heritage and in their latest album, aptly named Horizons, they broaden their style further still, seamlessly fusing the Celtic and Acadian genres with modern rock and indie-folk influences. And its success has not gone unrecognised, with the album receiving a Juno Award nomination in 2019.
The island environment is clearly important in Vishtèn’s music. Their fiddle tune Trois Blizzards was inspired by a particularly harsh winter, isolated in a cottage, as twenty foot of snow fell outside. And the sounds of the winter, the creaking of boats and the whistling of the wind, are reflected in the foot percussion and distinctive bowing style. Whilst their song Terre Rouge references the famous red sand of Prince Edward Island. The dramatic island landscapes have clearly left an impression on their music. And how could they not.
Community and family are another important part of the music. Two thirds of the band go way back. Twins Emmanuelle and Pastelle jest that they ‘met a while ago’. And they were raised in a world where traditional music, percussive dance and kitchen parties were part of everyday life. Keeping the music alive for the next generation is hugely important for the band, as it is for the whole community, with fiddles thrust into the outstretched hands of toddlers and step-dancing proving more popular than ever. Not only is it being kept alive but there is a real sense that this music is being moved forward. The genre brings a breath of fresh air that is hugely popular amongst the UK folk scene, and with bands like The East Pointers leading disco trad dance parties into the night, it is no surprise.
Vishtèn have toured extensively in the UK (they are notably unimpressed by our inability to deal with a smattering of snow) and all being well, they will be back again in Spring 2021, with critically acclaimed duo Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita (hopefully during a snow-free season). They are hugely popular in the UK and there’s a reason they and their Acadian compatriots are such a hit here. Their music is always moving forward. It’s music that is very much alive.
Next week we'll be introducing you to Finnish duo Zäpämmät!
The Magpies x