BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Heads to Manchester
The 20th annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards took place at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Wednesday night. The event was hosted by long-serving broadcaster and musician Mark Radcliffe, who was himself given an award by songwriter Ralph McTell for his 40 years in radio. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham presented the night’s first award: the Horizon Award which went to Brìghde Chaimbeul, but before that, Manchester’s own folk and reggae fusion ensemble Edward II opened the show, delivering a medley of the Jamaican folk tune Linstead Market and English dance number Shepherd’s Hey, accompanied by Horizon Award nominee Kitty Macfarlane and a chorus including Blair Dunlop and Bella Hardy.
A host of Band on the Wall’s favourite artists were recognised over the course of the night. Ríoghnach Connolly of The Breath and Honeyfeet was awarded Folk Singer of the Year, while Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita won the Best Duo/Group award. Keita was recognised for a second time, as his remarkable kora skills sealed him the Musician of the Year award, while Dervish and Wizz Jones picked up Lifetime Achievement Awards, and the late songwriter Leonard Cohen was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame.
The Repeat Listen: Fox – Juice Flow
Despite having been an active member of Manchester’s music scene for many years, Juice Flow represents the first full length album for Fox. The versatility he has shown running up to it: MC’ing at drum ‘n’ bass and dancehall nights, working with Levelz, dropping feature verses on hip-hop tracks and harnessing melody and vibrato in a way that few MCs can, is reflected in this project, with a wide variety of beats and moods making up the diverse, thirteen-track collection.
Day Ones kicks off proceedings. Produced in-house by the Swing Ting crew, it pairs jazzy piano changes with warm drum machine claps, kicks and hats, laying down a simple yet effective instrumental for Fox to run with. He uses it weave verses about the exceptions he makes for his bredrens, speaking candidly about friendship in a way that makes one think of the Manchester music scene, and how supportive an environment it has been for so many artists, Fox included.
Lead single Poseidon Ride, which features RTKal and was produced by Sinjin Hawke, takes over from the chilled opening cut. Springing into life with rib-rattling Godzilla horns, off-kilter drum programming, and a smooth filtered bass line — the heavy production allows Fox and RTKal to catch fire, Fox with his clever wordplay on the chorus and RTKal with a feature verse recalling his pirate radio days. The Brent Bird-produced title track changes up the vibe once more — several times, in face, over the course of the tune. There’s footwork-esque beat chopping, beautiful melodies from Fox and an ever-changing density and intensity to the instrumental, making the tune continuously engaging.
Further highlights include Hotzone, a 128 BPM cut with house flavours and a ‘90s-sounding modulating keys part, produced by Sharda. Fox drops one of his grittiest vocal takes on Toddla T’s Rebel Souljah beat, while he finds time for more tender moments on Brighter Dayz and Lost & Found. The former touches upon self-actualization and the desire to keep it moving in search of a brighter day, while Lost & Found, featuring and produced by Epic B, hears Fox reflecting on experiences that shook him and might’ve found him considering his place in the music game, before rediscovering the spark and focussing back in.
There isn’t a weak tune on Fox’s debut for Swing Ting, a record that was 18 months in the making and features a host of fine artists from Manchester and further afield. Like so many projects coming out of Manchester hip-hop and dance music cliques, it represents the true connectivity between artists in the city and beyond, achieving a balance between club-ready dance cuts and more introspective numbers, suited to listening in private.
New Sounds and Visuals
Folk quartet Lankum released a new single and video this week, premiering the work via Billboard, who call their forthcoming album ‘the Year’s Heaviest Irish Folk LP’. The Young People is described by the publication as ‘a testament to youth’s fleeting impermanence’ and its video focuses at foot level, examining the movements of regular people are tying back to lyrical themes in the track.
Glitterbeat records this week shared a new video for Aziza Brahim’s Hada jil. Brahim was raised in a camp in Algeria and today lives in exile in Spain. The video reflects her own experience and that of families currently living in similar circumstances, depicting the hope and optimism that prevails in spite of the difficulties they face.
Dub pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and producer extraordinaire Adrian Sherwood dropped a new tune featuring the prolific artist Brian Eno, this week. It hears Sherwood crafting a digital dub rework from the sources material of Rainford cut Makumba Rock, experimenting with some bold panning and bit depth manipulation to change the character and quality of the sounds.