The first of this month’s recommendations is the wonderful The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, a graphic novel about how Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage collaborated to conceive of the world’s first true computer. Their real lives ended somewhat tragically, but the author Sydney Padua takes us to a parallel universe where they actually build the machine, and use it. To fight crime. Continue reading

This film came along with a bunch of other amazing films, like Lady Bird and Black Panther (which I would also recommend but I think so many other people have done that better than I could).

It’s an expertly crafted story of unreliable narrators and shifting audience sympathy. And one of those true stories that’s so crazy that you couldn’t make it up.

Particularly the car crash in slow motion that is the ‘Incident’ she became infamous for, and how her career unravelled afterwards.


Current Favourite Thing:
What Margot Robbie does with her face in this film. She already has a great face for sheer joyful malice (e.g. Harley Quinn), but so much of the acting in this film is done with facial expression rather than dialogue, and there’s all kinds of rage and frustration and pain busting out of her Tonya Harding.


 

I can’t remember when I first heard of Black & Water by Kris Drever. Probably about 10 years ago, and probably while he was still touring it on the folk scene.

It’s an album that I feel I often forget how good it is. (I.e. very very good.) It has some original songs on it, but much of it is trad. But he pulls off this delicate balance of reworking the trad with a very contemporary sound. He changes a fair bit of the harmony, whilst still keeping the trad elements intact. In other words, I think he prioritises sounding good over being ‘authentically’ trad. Which definitely works for me. There are bands that perform early music like The City Waites, who focus on creating a sense of what the songs and tunes would actually have sounded like, and that is also great. Black Water feels more to me like a Scottish or Orcadian version of American Country music. It’s modern and traditional at the same time, and very much routed in a sense of place.

And he is not only a truly stunning guitar player but has one of the best male voices in folk music.


Current Favourite Thing:
His reworking of Green Grows The Laurel, which is utterly different from the version that was well-known, but yet feels fresher and more focused. It sounds less like a Ye Olde Ballade and more like a person telling you about their life.


 

The first of two recommendations from last week’s Folk Weekend: Oxford festival (which the keen of memory might remember I’ve been running the local stages for). There were lots of festival highlights, but the Welsh trio Elfen was the surprise hit that everyone was talking about. This band was actually booked by the other artistic director, Jenny, so I wasn’t really aware of them until I happened to see them perform. Continue reading

I discovered the band I Said Yes when I was booking bands for Folk Weekend: Oxford (for more on the adventures of which, read this month’s newsletter), and Count Drachma, who were initially going to play, had to drop out and kindly lined up their own replacement. So I had heard I Said Yes online, but that’s a different thing to seeing in person. Here’s what their press says:

A versatile and energetic five-piece who combine arresting harmonies with styles ranging from traditionally inspired folk to rousing indie disco. Their live shows have a reputation for ‘stormy warmth’ and they’ve supported artists such as Florence and the Machine, Lucy Rose, Johnny Flynn, Stornoway and Turin Brakes.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

My monthly recommendations tend to be music, films, books or YouTube channels. And probably in that order. But in the name of trying not to keep repeating myself, this month is different.

I use a lot of photos from free stock libraries, and ‘Annie Spratt’ is a photographer’s name that comes up again and again in the libraries I use. In fact, I have used her photographs again and again — the last time being last month’s featured track, The Sheep Stealer. Continue reading