An impressively wide-ranging music programme is now ready for Tønder Festival 2016. Nearly 70 names will be appearing at this year’s Tønder Festival.
“This year, as before, we have shuffled the cards, presenting names already popular with our audience, and exciting new international talents on their way up. Tønder Festival has always brought in new musicians to give our audience new experiences every year. This year, we have a long list of big names that people can hear only at Tønder Festival. Add that to the famous Tønder Festival atmosphere, and the close contact between audience and musicians, and you have a unique formula for a festival in a class of its own,” says Maria Theessink, artistic director at Tønder Festival.
Eddi Reader, Sofia Karlsson, Cathy Jordan, Gustaf Ljunggren & Roger Tallroth (SCO/IRL/S)
Scotland’s Eddi Reader has appeared at Tønder Festival many times and has given us moments of great beauty with her fine singing. Cathy Jordan, from Ireland, who has often been here with the traditional band Dervish, and Swedish Sofia Karlsson have both done likewise. Now the Tønder Festival audience has the opportunity to enjoy all three great singers on the same stage and in the same group, along with Denmark-dwelling Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren and the Swedish guitarist and Väsen member, Roger Tallroth. Väsen are appearing in their own right at Tønder Festival this year.
Gustaf Ljunggren is the key to this phenomenon. He has toured and recorded with Eddi Reader, Sofia Karlsson and Cathy Jordan separately, and it was he who suggested this constellation in 2015. It all came together at a mammoth gala show in Amager Bio in Copenhagen in November, where Gustaf Ljunggren was crowned Gudman of the Year, an award in memory of the renowned Danish rock drummer Ken Gudman. Among the many acts to grace the stage that evening was this quintet, giving their maiden performance. This is a unique international combination, which we are sure will delight the Tønder Festival audience.
Tim O’Brien (USA)
Last year, Tim O’Brien was at Tønder Festival with the world-class bluegrass group Hot Rize, and the American super-instrumentalist and singer has been a frequent and popular guest at Tønder Festival for many years now, solo, with his own band, or with other fellow musicians. You will not be cheated this year either, for Tim O’Brien has annonced his arrival, armed as usual with an whole arsenal of musical instruments.
He is a master on mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar and other stringed instruments, and has an unmistakeable style with roots in bluegrass, country, old-time and traditional music. Tim O’Brien was born in Virginia in 1954, and started playing music young. In 1978 he founded Hot Rize, which launched his career. In the mid-80s, he made his first solo record, and now there are about a score of them. The newest is Pompadour from 2015. Tim O’Brien has won numerous awards, among them a Grammy for the best bluegrass album of 2014: The Earls of Leicester.
Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band (UK)
Eliza Carthy has earned her place as one of the best-known names on the English folk music scene. Now 40 years of age, this singer, song-writer and multi-instrumentalist, with the fiddle as her main tool, has simply carved her initials into British folk music history. Her parents are singer, songsmith and guitarist Martin Carthy and singer Norma Waterson, both legendary figures, British folk music royalty. Eliza Carthy has naturally from her early childhood been imbued with the English folk music tradition, through her family connections, but she is also an explorer of new musical territory.
She has released recordings and toured in her own name, worked with her parents in Waterson:Carthy and in Blue Murder, who appeared at Tønder Festival in 2005. The list of other musical partners is long and varied: Billy Bragg, Wilco, Jools Holland, Paul Weller, Roger McGuinn, Salsa Celtica and many others. There has been no shortage of prizes and nominations for Eliza Carthy, either, and the inventory of her recordings, both solo and with others, is too long for this space. Her latest studio recording in her own name is the album Wayward Daughter. When Eliza Carthy takes the stage at Tønder Festival, it will be in the company of the 12-piece Wayward Band, which includes musicians from Bellowhead, Peatbog Faeries and Blowzabella.
Hans Theessink Band (NL, A, ZW)
Hans Theessink, guitarist and songwriter born in the Netherlands in 1948, is quite at home in Tønder, where he has appeared at the Festival countless times, virtually since the beginning. He tours Denmark regularly, most recently in March 2016 with his Danish guitar buddy Knud Møller. Hans Theessink has been on the road for over 40 years, chalking up around 7000 concerts and a long list of albums.
This year, Hans Theessink is here with his band, playing blues and roots with a twist of gospel and world music. Alongside Theessink, on guitar and vocal, the band numbers Austrian Roland Guggenbichler, on keyboards, plus three musicians from Zimbabwe: Vusa Ndlovu, vocal, Blessings Nkomo, vocal, percussion, and Ramadu Moyo, vocal and djembe. Hans Theessink lives in Vienna, and is currently in the news for his nomination, with his colleague Terry Evans, for an Austrian Amadeus Award 2016 for their album True & Blue.
Eric Bibb (USA)
The acoustic blues guitar is in good hands: Eric Bibb’s. This 64 year-old American, on the scene since the early 70s, has 36 albums to his name, and is a true bluesman, who has toured the world with his versions of the immortal songs of the blues, folk and roots music.
Eric Bibb was born in New York, his father, Leon Bibb, was a well-known figure on the 60s folk scene, his godfather was the singer and activist Paul Robeson, and his uncle was the jazz pianist John Lewis.
Eric Bibb moved to Stockholm in 1970 and lives today in Finland. His approach to the acoustic blues and his soul-inspired vocals owe a lot to Taj Mahal, among others. It was his 1994 album Spirit & The Blues that gave Eric Bibb his breakthrough. The latest album is Blues People from 2014. Eric Bibb is performing solo at Tønder Festival, as well as appearing in A Blues & Roots Revue with Big Daddy Wilson and Hans Theessink Band.
Blues & Roots Revue: Hans Theessink Band, Eric Bibb & Big Daddy Wilson (USA, NL)
No Tønder Festival without blues music. And this is the blues served in a very special manner. Three guitarists and songwriters meet on stage: Big Daddy Wilson, Eric Bibb and Hans Theessink. Big Daddy Wilson comes from North Carolina in USA but lives in Germany. He was a relative late-comer to a career in music, but today he is hailed as one of the most estimated blues musicians in Europe. His most recent release, the album Time from 2015, was produced by Eric Bibb.
64 year-old Eric Bibb is an American who has lived in Scandinavia for decades. He is an acoustic guitar master, a true bluesman, and has, since the early 70s, made 36 albums.
Hans Theessink, born in 1948 in Holland, guitarist and songwriter, is quite at home in Tønder, where he has often performed. He tours Denmark regularly, again in March 2016, with his Danish guitar pal Knud Møller. Hans Theessink lives in Vienna, and, with his musical buddy Terry Evans, is currently in the running for an Austrian Amadeus Award 2016 for their album True & Blue.
Karine Polwart (SCO)
Karine Polwart is both singer, songwriter and author. She was born in 1970 in Banknock in Scotland, has studied philosophy and worked for some years for the social organisation Scottish Women’s Aid. Since 2000, music has taken pride of place in Karine Polwart’s life. She was a member of the extremely successful band Malinky, who played at Tønder Festival in 2000, and has also performed with Battlefield Band and Lau. Karine Polwart’s solo career was launched in 2003, when she released her first solo album Faultlines.
Social indignation and political interest are elemental to Karine Polwart’s songwriting, and the projects she chooses. Social questions, the environment, scientific and political topics find their way into her songs, making Karine Polwart one of modern Scotland’s essential creative musicians.
Karine Polwart has won a wheen of prizes, among them BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, twice given her for Best Original Song, and the Scots Trad Music Awards. On stage, Karine Polwart is accompanied by her brother Steven Polwart on guitar and vocal, and Inge Thomson on accordion, percussion and vocal.
One of the noted names in Irish traditional music is back. Flook offer virtuoso performances on flute, whistle, guitar and bodhrán, Irish traditional music at its best, and they have critical acclaim and prizes to prove it. Flook was founded in 1995, among the founder members being Michael McGoldrick, who thrilled the Tønder Festival audience with the Usher’s Island group in 2015.
It did not take Flook long to establish an enviable reputation as a live band, and their first album release was indeed Flook! Live! in 1996. This was followed by numerous other albums and hectic touring. Then in 2008 Flook split up and went their various ways. But public interest in Flook did not abate, and in 2013 they joined up again. The Flook engagement diary for 2016 is well filled with concerts in Europe and Japan.
Flook members are: Brian Finnegan, flute, Sarah Allen, flute, Ed Boyd, guitar, and John Joe Kelly, bodhrán. Fook have played several times in Denmark, including an appearance at Tønder Festival in 2003.
Peatbog Faeries (SCO)
20 years ago this year, Scottish band Peatbog Faeries put out their debut Mellowosity. The album was an early catalyst in the celtic fusion wave that hit Europe in the mid 90s, led by Afro Celt Sound System. Peatbog Faeries were among the pioneers, mixing folk music, trance and psychedelica. Their 2000 release Faerie Stories was favourably compared to the major trip-hop acts of the day, such as Massive Attack and UNKLE.
Their hard-hitting beats and tight tunes put Peatbog Faeries at the forefront of British live music acts. More recently, the band have moved on from the pumped-up beats and and adopted a more organic sound, with a horn section adding nuances of jazz, reggae and afro. This won Peatbog Faeries the title of Best Live Band at BBC Folk Awards in 2012, and in 2014, the group topped the bill on the Avalon Stage at Glastonbury Festival in England. This August, it’s Tønder Festival’s turn to thrill to Peatbog Faeries – a blast of bagpipes, hot rhythms and trippy keys.
They played Tønder Festival in 2012 and in 2015 and they have amassed a growing Danish fan base. Scots Mánran is six musicians who pile power and energy into long-standing folk rock traditions. Mànran’s sound has both highland and uilleann pipes, violin, flute, guitar, accordion, bass and drums. There is the full wheech of jigs, strathspeys, hornpipes and reels, plus songs in both English and Gaelic.
Mánran are tradition-bearers, adding new songs and tunes, widening the appeal of a music style that has adherents all over the world.
In February 2016 Mànran tour Denmark, then it’s off to Australia, not for the first time. On Mànran’s website, they write of their appearance at last year’s Tønder Festival: “…this is truly one of the world’s great festivals, and we left inspired once again after hearing and playing with some really fine musicians.”
Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal (USA)
Since her debut in the late 70s, Rosanne Cash has been at the forefront of the US music scene with her mix of country, pop, folk and americana. Born in 1955, Rosanne Cash is eldest daughter of Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto Cash. Her second album, Right or Wrong, from 1980 took Rosanne Cash to the top of the country hitlists in USA.
The 80s saw her establish her name solidly, releasing five albums and winning a Grammy in 1985 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The critics loved her most recent album, The River & The Thread, from 2014, and she was presented with three Grammy Awards. In October 2015, Rosanne Cash achieved entry into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, an honour she shares with her father, Johnny Cash. In Denmark, Copenhagen daily Politiken gave the album five stars.
This Scottish band did a great job at Tønder Festival 2015, where they met an ecstatic audience response. Not an isolated event: in December 2015, Rura won Live Act Of The Year at Scots Trad Music Awards in Dundee. Since 2010, Rura have been working their way up, armed with highland pipes, fiddle, bodhran, guitar, flute and their fine singing voices.
These four young musicians, Steven Blake, Jack Smedley, David Foley and Adam Brown, broke ground at Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow in 2010, and their debut album Break It Up from 2012 boosted their efforts, winning critical praise and award nominations. The band’s fifth member is singer and songwriter Adam Holmes, who was at his first Tønder Festival in 2015 with his own band The Embers.
Adam Holmes’ vocal and songwriting work introduced elements of americana to Rura’s expert, innovative take on Scots traditional music. Rura’s second album, Despite The Dark, appeared in April 2015.
Adam Holmes and The Embers (SCO)
The Tønder Festival audience took Scots singer and songwriter Adam Holmes and his band The Embers to their hearts in 2015. Now they are back in 2016, so even more music lovers can enjoy this 25 year-old talent and his band. Adam Holmes is from Edinburgh, where his musical parents introduced him to the town’s vibrant live folk music scene.
Fiddle was his first instrument, but he swapped to guitar and songwriting. Adam Holmes’ debut album Heirs and Graces from 2014 was produced by the legendary John Wood, who has also produced albums by Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Nick Drake. The warm reception the album received launched Adam Holmes as an important newcomer on the Scots music scene. Adam Holmes also works with the group called Rura, and he will be appearing with them at Tønder Festival in 2016, as he did in 2015.
Scott Wood Band (SCO)
They started in 2012 as a trio round the young piper Scott Wood. An EP opened doors, and the trio became a quintet: bagpipes, violin, guitar, bass and drums. Based in Glasgow, these five musicians are at the forefront of the Scottish folk-roots scene. In early 2015, the Scott Wood Band released the album Upsurge, which confirmed the high standards they aspire to.
The music is their own compositions overlaying Scots traditions, spiced with jazz, rock and world music influences. The Scott Wood Band has toured with the Mánran, Wolfstone and Skerryvore, all familiar to Tønder Festival’s audience. The Scott Wood Band have a nomination in the Album of the Year category at Scots Trad Music Awards.
Since 1990, Shooglenifty have been blasting Celtic fusion folk from the world’s festival stages and taking world-wide musical impressions home with them to Edinburgh. Familiar Scottish reels are decorated with electronic elements and world beats, melding into hard-pumped folk-rock. Shooglenifty have always been open to working with other musicians, to widen their sound panorama even more.
Last year Shooglenifty put out their seventh studio album The Untied Knot, which confronts Scots music with rhythms and tones from the North Indian province of Rajasthan, aided by The Master Musicians of Rajasthan and the Scots puirt a beul (mouth music) singer Kaela Rowan, who will be appearing on stage with Shooglenifty at Tønder Festival.
Shooglenifty have gradually worked their way up to their current status as one of the major names in British folk music, and they are festival favourites, guaranteed to maintain a party atmosphere until the bitter end. Shooglenifty have played Tønder Festival several times, delighting the listeners with new sound variations on each occasion.
In 2015 they won the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, and on Folk Radio UK they were praised with the words “the musicianship is phenomenal, and the enthusiasm is contagious.” The three members of Talisk are headed for the top of the British folk scene. Mohsen Amini picked up the concertina at the age of ten and today is one of Scotland’s finest concertina players.
Guitarist Craig Irving, is from Inverness, but lives today in Glasgow, where he plays in several up-and-coming folk bands. Hayley Keenan took up the violin when she was 11, and today studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Together they form a tight, talented trio, who know their traditional music in and out, but have no fear of trying new routes. Talisk are ready with their debut album Abyss produced by Barry Reid of the Treacherous Orchestra. Guest musicians on the record number members of Mánran and Rura, and the album distills all the energy and creativity of Talisk’s live concerts, which the Tønder Festival audience will have the opportunity to enjoy.
Ten Strings And A Goat Skin (CAN)
The young Canadian trio Ten Strings And A Goat Skin played at the Tønder Festival opening ceremony in 2015, winning over the hearts of many listeners both there and at their subsequent Tønder Festival concerts. Now they are back, still delivering powerful, energetic traditional music in a fresh guise. The line-up and instrumentation are simple. Ten strings, to wit a fiddle and a guitar, and goatskin bodhràn. So far, so classic Celtic.
Ten Strings And A Goat Skin master their instruments, as their tight phrasing and speedy melodic runs witness: this is Scots and Irish music as we know it from the eastern Canadian seaboard. The trio also compose, inspired by bands like Lau, Solas, Flook and Kila.
Ten Strings And A Goat Skin are Jesse Périard, guitar, and brothers Rowen Gallant, fiddle, and Caleb Gallant, bodhrán. Their prize-winning first album, in 2011, was Tri, followed in 2013 by Corbeau.
The Barra MacNeils (CAN)
They had to cancel their 2015 European tour due to illness, but now The Barra MacNeils are coming to play at Tønder Festival 2016, their only Danish festival this year. The Barra MacNeils have both a clan history and folk music history to tell. Last at Tønder Festival in 1997, they have been playing together since the 80s, earning and maintaining their reputation as some of the finest ambassadors for for Cape Breton Celtic music and culture.
A concert with The Barra MacNeils is a guided tour of the folk music, history, language, tales and culture of Nova Scotia. The group have performed throughout the world, put out 17 albums and won a host of awards.
The Barra MacNeils are: Kyle, vocal, guitar, violin, mandolin; Lucy, vocal, bodhrán, celtic harp, violin, stepdancing; Sheumas, vocal, keyboards, bodhrán, violin, bouzouki; Stewart, vocal, accordion, tin whistle, flute, bouzouki, guitar, stepdancing; Boyd, mandolin, violin, guitar, banjo, percussion, stepdancing, and Jamie Gatti, bass.
The Chair (SCO)
The Orkney octet The Chair are famous for rocking the room with violin, banjo, accordion, guitar and rhythm section. The sound is of a well-forged musical collective, high energy levels, acoustic instruments pushed to their utmost. The music is traditional Orkney folk with added elements of blues, klezmer, dub and much else.
The Chair call their music Stomp Music from Orkney, and the choice of term is no accident. This music appeals to dancers, and The Chair present traditional music in a chaotic, sometimes anarchic, sound setting. The Chair’s latest album is The Road To Hammer Junkie from 2013. They were crowned Band of the Year at MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in 2008.
The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc (N, S, SCO)
When top fiddlers meet in the North…. The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc is Olav Luksengård Mjelva from Norway, Anders Hall from Sweden, both members of the Norwegian/Swedish folk quintet SVER, and Kevin Henderson from Shetland, who has Boys of the Lough, Fiddlers’ Bid and Session A9 on his CV.
The trio explore new directions in Nordic folk music, exploiting the many common traits shared by the three countries’ music traditions. The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc take us on a journey through Norway’s and Sweden’s musical countryside and on a voyage out over the Atlantic to the traditional music of Shetland.
Treacherous Orchestra (SCO)
Big folk band, big folk sound: this is Treacherous Orchestra. 11 musicians challenge and explore traditional Scots music. This band builds on the musical foundations laid by Wolfstone, Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty and Salsa Celtica. Treacherous Orchestra plays instrumental music, and the group’s two pipers, Ali Hutton and Ross Ainslie from Perthshire, stand in no little debt to master piper Gordon Duncan, who died in 2005.
Treacherous Orchestra’s second album Grind, which appeared in February 2015, has won critical plaudits and nominations in the categories Album of the Year and Live Act of the Year at Scots Trad Music Awards.
Swedish bands Hoven Droven and Garmarna were two of the main players on the folk music scene in the 90s. Alongside the two bands’ successes at home and abroad, Kjell-Erik Eriksson (Hoven Droven) and Emma Härdelin (Garmarna and The String Sisters) shared a side project with Janne Strömstedt. Triakel began as a new year’s resolution in 1994: Kjell-Erik and Janne agreed to perform on violin and harmonium together.
Emma added her clarion-clear singing voice, and the trio have subsequently toured Europe, Japan, USA and Canada several times. The Triakel repertoire comprises traditional songs from Swedish regions Jämtland and Hälsingland, where the musicians grew up. The centrepiece is Emma’s voice, and the melodies form the simple core of the trio’s beautifully intimate arrangements that hold the audience captive. Since 1998, Triakel has put out six albums, and in 1999, with Benny Andersson of ABBA, they released the single Innan Gryningen (Before the Dawn).
Since the start of the 90s, Väsen have been a power to be reckoned with in Swedish folk music. The trio consists of Mikael Marin on viola, Olov Johansson on keyed fiddle and guitarist Roger Tallroth. Through the years they have built up an enormous reperoire together, combining traditional and composed music based on that tradition.
Väsen’s trademark is top-flight musicality in dynamic arrangements full of finesse. A Väsen concert comprises beautiful waltzes, such as Roger Tallroth’s famous composition Josefin’s Waltz and rousing polskas, some by the legendary Swedish keyed fiddle player Byss-Kalle. Väsen have frequently played in Denmark, but their tours take them far beyond Scandinavia: the trio have travelled the world, including many trips round USA and Canada, often with the Canadian band Le Vent Du Nord.
Väsen’s music has travelled too: in 2012 their tune Flippen was recorded by bluegrass-iconoclasts Punch Brothers on their album Who’s Feeling Young Now? Väsen have made 16 albums so far, the most recent being Live på Gamla Bion, (Live at the Old Cinema) from 2014.
Photo Credits: (1) Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson, (21) The Chair (by Walkin' Tom); (2) Sofia Karlsson (by Tobias Regell /Wikipedia); (3) Eddi Reader, (5) Roger Tallroth, (6) Tim O’Brien, (7) Eliza Carthy, (8) Hans Theessink, (9) Eric Bibb, (11) Flook, (12) Peatbog Faeries, (13) Mànran, (15) Rura, (16) Scott Wood Band, (17) Shooglenifty, (18) Talisk, (19) Ten Strings And A Goat Skin, (20) The Barra MacNeils, (22) Nordic Fiddlers' Bloc, (23) Treacherous Orchestra, (24) Triakel, (25) Väsen (unknown/website); (4) Cathy Jordan (by The Mollis); (10) Karine Polwart (by Holger Brandstaedt); (14) Rosanne Cash (by Ron Baker/Wikipedia).