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Purbeck Valley Folk Festival 2017

REVIEW: The top ten highlights from Purbeck Valley Folk Festival

Cliff Moore

Ben Ottewell on stage at Purbeck Valley

FOLK music has by nature always been a pretty broad church and this year's Purbeck Valley Folk Festival stretched that theory as wide as possible.

Now nicely embedded in its new home outside Corfe Castle and expanding organically, the festival hosted 70 acts across five stages, including a huge variety of styles.

Still by far the friendliest festival around, Purbeck this year attracted one of its biggest attendances in years without what one may call 'established' folk rock headliners. The weather was absolutely favourable and the sound pinpoint sharp.

It is, of course, impossible to see everything even if the compactness of the site puts everything within easy reach, so here's a rundown of my top 10 highlights.

1. Turin Brakes - beautiful harmonies, killer tunes, excellent musicianship and the closeness born of nearly two decades together keeps the foursome at the top of the tree as they smashed Friday night.

2. Curtis Eller's American Circus - the athletic, self-styled 'angriest yodelling banjo player in New York' looks like silent film star Ben Turpin, mixes US political commentary and history with old-style tunes in a hilarious revue with a five-piece band and even includes a gospel song for atheists.

3. Flats and Sharps - the young Cornish quintet version of the Soggy Bottom Boys mix bluegrass, folk and country and brought the house down twice on Sunday with thunderous performances and excellent twixt-song patter.

4. Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker - her stunningly pure voice and his understated yet highly complex guitar complement each other so well. Her dry humour antidotes the misery in their songs. Catch them supporting Richard Thompson in Poole in October.

5. Ben Waters Band - boogie woogie, rock'n'roll, blues, gospel and much more from Weymouth's big Ben and his 12-piece party band which was perfect to close the festival main stage on Sunday.

6. Ben Ottewell - he from Gomez - embraces the modern growl style of singing and put in an excellent double shift of acoustic favourites and new stuff on Friday. A little more clarity of voice please Benjamin - folkies do like to hear the lyrics.

7. Badly Drawn Boy - Manchester's Damon Gough did pretty much what was expected in a low key solo set ranging from acoustic to electric guitar and piano, where, of course, he finished with Silent Sigh from his About A Boy soundtrack.

8. Bob Burke Band - it was good to hear his folk-funk mash-up with a full band for once - and the Burke family band Djambo's uplifting world offerings were perfect for watching in a field in the sun.

9. Michele Stodart - yes, she from the Magic Numbers out with her own band and doing a fine job in purveying intimacy and vulnerability through melody and lyrics.

10. Bierfass Band - a German ompah band playing a rousing version of the Dad's Army theme in a packed bar was a sight to behold. This bunch dressed in traditional costumes, however, are from Dorset.

And that's it for another year - no space to mention Gabby Young, Blue Rose Code, Quinns Quinney, Hatful of Rain, John Smith, MG Boulter and Moscow Drug Club, who are all worth making the effort to see.

Next year's festival is a week earlier, August 16-19.

CLIFF MOORE


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