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A month is a long time in music and fitting everything into a single 90-minute radio show is proving to be slightly difficult. However, it's rather liberating to hone in on what I consider to be the most important aspects of the month in terms of album releases, interviews, concerts and gigs and the art of self-editing is becoming a pleasurable task.
My featured interview this month is with the American singer-songwriter Rachel Ries who was in Sheffield for a gig at The Greystones in March. We chatted about her career thus far, her early life in South Dakota, her successful collaboration with Anais Mitchell, her three solo album releases and most importantly her current EP CARDINAL (The Rouen EP), which she is currently promoting and which is also reviewed in the April edition. During our interview Rachel was relaxed, chatty, intelligent, interesting and friendly. The only minor irritation was the clattering of pots and pans behind the bar, but alas it was Rachel's supper they were making, so I guess that was okay. The interview can be heard on this month's Northern Sky Vaults and is also available to listen to in the media drop-down box.
I also had the privilege of being invited to the 10th Billie's Concert up in Featherstone last month, joining a packed room of family and friends at Saint Wilfred's Catholic High School in the town. I never actually knew Billie Holiday Clayton but I've always been very much aware of her legacy since her tragic death ten years ago. The concert went really well with some touching performances by the young people who have benefitted from the trust fund set up by Ian Clayton to help children in the Featherstone area with their musical aspirations. The concert featured Billie's Band, a swing band, a folk band, a couple of choirs, one or two soloists, a duo and a special piece written by Billie's surviving twin brother Edward, who performed a brand new solo piano piece entitled Landscape No 2, which had been especially written for the occasion. Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow also appeared at the concert as special guests, performing a couple of songs that Ian requested, The Hum and Two Mothers. The concert also featured a presentation, where Ian awarded several lucky children with musical instruments. I think the most moving part of the evening however, was the finale, which saw everyone join in with ManyVoices and Wakefield Youth Choir as they performed Billie's Song, a song written by her dad, which prompted tears from one or two people around the hall.
In the month that saw the passing of George Martin, I drove over to Liverpool to see The Unthanks play a special concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Hazlewood. I couldn't help but think of George as I wandered through the streets of Liverpool, its Beatles legacy very much a part of the fabric of the city. The sun was shining on Sunday morning after the previous evening's concert and so I did the usual tourist thing and visited the famous Strawberry Field gates, John Lennon's childhood home on Menlove Avenue just around the corner and had a coffee on Penny Lane; my thoughts fixed on a dizzy mixture of 1960s nostalgia and just how well The Unthanks played the night before. Did I really spend a couple of hours in the pub afterwards chatting to Charles Hazlewood about how good Radiohead's Paranoid Android is, or was it just a weird dream?
The other shows featured in this month's Live Reviews section include a visit to the Moonbeams March Weekend up in Driffield, Sam Lee's mesmerising concert at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds and the Northern launch of singer-songwriter Reg Meuross's new album release DECEMBER at the Roots Music Club in Doncaster. Regular Northern Sky contributor Keith Belcher also reports on both The Coven at Slaithwaite Civic Hall and Blue Rose Code at the Live Room in Saltaire. Throughout April I will be out and about once again, catching Gilmore and Roberts at the Wheelhouse in Wombwell, The Mighty Doonans at Town Hall Live in Kirton in Lindsey, Bronwynne Brent and Railsplitters both at the Roots Music Club in Doncaster and Martin Stephenson at the Heeley Institute in Sheffield. My thanks to all the artists, agents and promoters for inviting Northern Sky along.
I also have a pile of CDs to go through and pencilled in for the May Edition are releases by Gill Sandell, Moulettes, Oysterband, Brooks Williams, Maku Soundsystem, Rachel Newton, Bellowhead, Pilgrims' Way, Kitty Macfarlane, Will Pound and Eddy Jay and many more.
Finally, I will be taking my usual place on stage at the Wath Festival in Wath upon Dearne, where I will have the pleasure of introducing Show of Hands, Jez Lowe, Edward II, Tom McConville Band, Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra, The Willows, Merry Hell, Billy Mitchell, The Ciaran Algar Band, Joe Topping, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Jon Palmer Band, The Emma Sweeney Trio, Jessica Simpson, The Jaywalkers, Hannah Sanders and Sophie Hosken-Taylor. See Northern Sky Choice: Wath Festival on the home page.
Thanks for popping by.