Rumer, sea shanties and a solo Bohemian Rhapsody at Cambridge Folk Festival

FRANKIE Gavin, supreme maestro of traditional Irish music, told the crowd in the main tent at Cambridge Folk Festival: “You’re a lovely audience. I haven’t to be shouting at you or anything, I can speak quietly.”

In another superb year, Cambridge’s genteel festival was blissful in the sunshine. There were so many gems of which people said: “Ah that was worth the ticket price alone.” One was Michelle Lally, singer with Gavin and the band De Dannan. She sang When you were sweet 16 and an English translation of Edith Piaf’s If you Love Me. Gavin played in the style of Stephane Grappelli, with whom he used to tour, and guitarist Newton Faulkner, played the whole of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, all on his own.

In this eclectic festival, there are always great surprises.

We were cynical about Justin Townes Earle, son of Steve. Yeah, another son of the famous, another dull feather fallen from great plumage. But no. What a character. With his short haircut and Buddy Holly glasses, he looks about 12 and speaks with a deep voice and the drawl of a world-weary man of 50.

He sings and plays the guitar well too.

Two duos playing together, English folk masters Spiers and Boden and Scottish (spicy) Saltfishforty presented some of the most exciting music of the festival with accordion and strings. Spiers and Boden, (John and Jon) are part of the band Bellowhead, creating a big, fast, blast.

Opening the festival on the main stage on Friday were two bands who had never played in England before: Manran from Scotland (magic and uplifting Celtic) and Feufollet, a Cajun band from Louisianna, who sing mostly in French – a convergence of rock, indie and country, which is spirited and wonderful.

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On Sunday, on a perfect summer day, there were sea shanties and plenty of fishy tales from Cornish harmony group, Port Isaac’s Fishermen’s Friends. Every one of them has been a fisherman, lifeboatman or coastguard in Port Isaac.

Other highlights included a flawless performance from Rumer and rip roaring raucousness from Katzenjammer, four young women from Oslo with voices you could probably hear back there. They play 30 instruments, sometimes several at once. One of them played trumpet and sang on the same song without appearing to draw breath. After they left the stage, the cheers were so loud, the compere was unable to make himself heard to announce the next act.

They also got my vote for best frocks.

There were massive cheers too for Home Service – who have come back to us from the 1980s. The band’s guitarist said it happened because he bumped into their former sound engineer Doug Beveridge who had come across some old cassettes of the band, recordings he had made from the mixing desk at Cambridge Folk Festival in 1986. Pretty neat then that as they relaunch their band, they came back to Cambridge this year to a triumph.