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English Originals 2010: Grace & Danger – Danny Thompson, Graham Coxon, Bellowhead, Jackie Oates + more

Subscribe to RSS RSSTuesday, 23rd March, 2010

“In less than two years, Birmingham’s reborn Town Hall may have already 
secured its place as the new spiritual home of English folk music” 
Birmingham Post, 2009.

A celebration of the life and work of legendary singer songwriter John 
Martyn, curated by long time friend and collaborator Danny Thompson, live 
performances from the Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble, rousing big 
band Bellowhead, rising folk star Jackie Oates and free sessions are 
amongst the highlights of this year’s English Originals weekend.

Now in its third year, the weekend celebrates music uniquely English in 
character and infused with authenticity of place, identity, time and 
tradition, and takes place at Town Hall and Symphony Hall in Birmingham 
between Friday 14 May and Sunday 16 May.

Musician of genius

The life and work of John Martyn will be celebrated by a very special 
gathering of artists at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 14 May, with Grace 
and Danger – curated by bassist, instrumentalist and legend of the jazz 
and folk worlds, Danny Thompson.

Thompson, who has performed with Ronnie Scott, Tim Buckley, Roy Orbison 
and Nick Drake as well as helping to found British folk-rock band 
Pentangle, started working with John Martyn in the early 1970s. Soon after 
the pair became inseparable, performing together for years and gaining 
notoriety for their antics off stage.

“Of all the musicians I’ve come into contact with Danny has taught me the 
most…particularly about style and jazz technique.” John Martyn

Surrey-born and Glasgow-raised singer-songwriter John Martyn counted Nick 
Drake and Jimmy Page amongst his contemporaries and was the first white 
artist to be signed to the Island record label.

His career, which spanned over forty years, took him across the world and 
led to recognition as the most soulful and innovative singer of his 

A musician of genius who walked a tightrope between the grace of his art 
and the danger of personal demons, Martyn’s career was blighted by 
alcohol-fuelled misadventures, drug abuse and a high-profile amputation 
yet his influence on artists including Phil Collins, Ray Davies, Keane, 
The Verve, Billy Bragg, Portishead and Eric Clapton amongst others is 
huge, and despite his passing in January 2008, John Martyn’s legacy lives 
on in folk, jazz, blues, reggae, trip-hop, funk and much more.

Beverley Martin, John Martyn’s ex-wife and musical partner throughout the 
1960s, Wolverhampton born singer songwriter and Ivor Novello award winner 
Scott Matthews and and pop-folker extraordinaire Eddi Reader will be 
joined by further special guests to be announced shortly.

From cradle to grave

Blur guitarist, folk connoisseur and lovable English eccentric Graham 
Coxon will be joined by several notable friends including folk –guitar 
legend Martin Carthy at Town Hall Birmingham on Saturday 15 May for a 
reprisal of The Spinning Top, Coxon’s acclaimed musical story of a man’s 
journey from birth to death.

Part homage to the work of folk stalwart Martin Carthy and the finger 
picking techniques of the late great Davey Graham and late great John 
Martyn, The Spinning Top also comprises skiffle, rootsy melancholy blues, 
world music and even the odd experimentation with distortion and fuzz 
boxes, producing an album which the Sunday Times described as 
‘heart-stoppingly beautiful’.
A rendition of the seminal acoustic track Free Ride, performed by Graham 
Coxon and Robyn Hitchcock was one of the highlights of the Way to Blue: 
Songs of Nick Drake concert as part of last year’s English Originals.

“The Spinning Top is a revelation. A gorgeous album….cements Coxon as a 
true icon in a day and age populated by unmagnificence.” BBC Music

A fitting close

Rising star Jackie Oates, who received three nominations for Folk Singer 
of The Year, Album of the Year and Best Traditional Track for ‘Isle Of 
France’ at the recent BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, opens the final show of the 
English Originals weekend at Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 16 May.

Described by veteran folk broadcaster Mike Harding as ‘a genius’, Jackie 
Oates left the Mercury nominated Rachel Unthank and the Winterset to 
release acclaimed album The Violet Hour in early 2008, before receiving a 
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nomination and hauling in brother and renowned 
musician Jim Moray to produce third album Hyperboreans, marking a new 
confidence and maturity in the Cheshire born vocalist.

‘Expectations for Hyperboreans were high. On all fronts Oates delivers, 
with beautiful singing, innovative arrangements and an intriguing 
selection of songs’ Songlines

Headliners and raucous big band Bellowhead bring their stomping stage show 
to Town Hall Birmingham for the second time since the building reopened, 
dragging a trail of awards, accolades and triumphant sell out shows behind 

The 11 piece band, who embrace a plethora of styles from around the world 
- big band to soul; jazz-funk to classical strings, with more than a hint 
of music-hall, have won four Best Live Bands awards (2005, 2007, 2008, 
2010) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

A highly successful three-week festival-headlining tour across Canada 
during the Summer of 2009 has won Bellowhead a raft of new fans & admirers 
including Glen Campbell, who danced side-stage all the way through their 
Calgary gig. Bellowhead embarked on an 11-date Autumn UK tour including a 
sell-out show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London and Manchester’s Academy 
and, revealing the incredibly diverse musical backgrounds and interests of 
the 11 band members, released an 14 track compilation of individual 
recordings (‘Umbrellowhead’ – Megafone).

Projects to date include ‘A Dirty Weekend with Bellowhead’ – an 
alternative St Valentines night complete with cross dressing, Burlesque 
dancing and a 30 piece choir, a nautically themed New Year’s Eve 
Spectacular at London’s Southbank and countless TV and radio sessions.

“The biggest, rowdiest and quite possibly, best thing to have happened to 
English music for a long while…” Q Magazine

Soon to be recording their third studio album at the Abbey Road studio 
with the legendary producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead, 
Buzzcocks), Bellowhead recently recorded their version of The Simpson’s 
theme tune for 20th Century Fox at the invitation of filmmaker Morgan 
Spurlock (Super Size Me, 30 Days).

Folk For Free

Birmingham based folk ensemble N.O.M.A.D. open English Originals with a 
free performance in the Level 3 Bar at Symphony Hall from 5.30pm on Friday 
14 May, as part of the popular Rush Hour Blues series while nationally 
acclaimed music and festival promoters Moseley Folk have invite a 
selection of artists from across the West Midlands to perform in a free 
afternoon showcase on Saturday 15 May.

Spanning ambient folk, psychedelic roots and blues and ethereal vocals, 
Dave Boddison, Abie Budgen, Deborah Hodgson, Goodnight Lenin and Megan 
Henwood will perform from 2pm in the Level 3 Bar at Symphony Hall, ahead 
of the evening concert.

English Originals has hosted performances from Billy Bragg, The Unthanks, 
Tunng and Seth Lakeman amongst others, and commissioned Way to Blue – a 
tribute to music icon Nick Drake which premiered at Town Hall Birmingham 
in 2009 before touring across the UK.