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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Sunday Afternoon at Folk Forest 2019

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Dora DC


Hailing from Manchester, Honeyfeet brought eclectic instruments, passionate vocals and bags of energy to Folk Forest.

Featuring psychedelic organ twiddling, joyfully combined with trombone, harmonica and flute, Honeyfeet's spirited 'folk-hop' sparked the wildest dancefloor of the day. I was, for a moment, sat in the middle of it.

Frontwoman Ríoghnach Connolly treated us to a vocal range as colourful as her dress, single-handedly slaying any meek folk stereotypes. Boy, Honeyfeet are loud. As soulful lyrics like, "I was born to love you / I was born to serve you" were belted out, the audience could not be happier.

Unforgettable. Seek them out.

Oh Papa

Were Oh Papa the coolest guys at this year's Folk Forest? Local to Sheffield, one member admitted, "We used to play in these trees". They're a bit more Kelham Island these days, employing funky guitars, bouncy rhythms and plenty of head bopping.

It's perfect feel-good music for the muggy sunshine, with their quieter moments ideal for a little siesta. Oh Papa's music is understated yet memorable, and so chill it hurts. They had great rapport with an enthusiastic audience and plenty of stage presence - and the frontman smashed the double denim rule. A musical highlight was when a Dave Grohl lookalike came on stage to play harmonica like a boss.

Alasdair Roberts & Friends

Scottish folk musician Alasdair Roberts gave us crisp vocals, enchanting melodies and the best guitar strap for miles.

At the beginning of his set, Roberts introduced a troupe of friends wielding various stringed instruments. Collaboration is important to Alasdair and today's set was no exception. Active in the scene since the 90s, this felt like traditional folk at its best, a mixture of heartfelt, closed-eye ballads and fast, jig-inducing instrumentals.

'False Flesh' told the story of an English mystic, featuring a catchy chorus of, "Fall away, fall away-o." Bass notes and low tones were used to good effect in the atmospheric 'Actors'.

Magical and melodic tunes sung between swigs of beer.

Hazel Leigh

How did the Folk Forest's Bird Table stage get its name? We didn't hear the full story, but you should thank singer-songwriter Hazel Leigh.

Leigh accompanied her "songs about all sorts of general life-based topics" on a softly strummed acoustic guitar, singing with wistfulness beyond her years.

'Telegram' listed imagined situations of people out having adventures without her. We all know that melancholy feeling, Hazel. Anna Freeman's book The Fair Fight inspired her song about bare-knuckle female boxing, with a pensive refrain of, "They love it when you fall".

An intriguing, gentle-voiced artist with a talent for relatable storytelling.

Duo Granley

Take Manny Grimsley from The Balkan Bandits and Liz Hanley from Frog Belly and Symphony and you get an exciting new folk duo.

All their songs tell a story, although it was "up to you whether kids focus on them". Manny and Liz have excellent voices and instrumental skills, Liz plucking a fiddle to great effect during a Hollies cover. On 'Lowlands', we heard a tale of sinking ships and daughters used as prizes. All very Game of Thrones.

Liz's voice was perfect for a cover of Tim O'Brien's 'John Riley', preaching, "Some get drunk on demon rum and some get drunk on glory". Some songs were happy, some not so. Such is folk music.

Little Robots

"Hope it was worth the wait," announced one member of Little Robots after a late start. It was.

With their sublime three-part harmonies and bluesy compositions, Sheffield-based Little Robots' mantra is "make hay. make love. make little robots." Their songs could be mistaken for timeworn folk classics, delicately strummed on guitar and ukulele.

Catchy melodies mix with half-siren half-angel vocals, good-natured with dark fairytale twists. Highlights included the country-esque 'Speakeasy' and hummable 'Brother Fox', a song which was, apparently, "Why you're all here!"

Was it just a fox, or was there a sly Big Brother metaphor in there?

Natalie Mills

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Dora DC

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