Towersey festival – review


Towersey is a little village in the Oxfordshire countryside that hosts one of the most bravely adventurous festivals in the folk and world music calendar. A pleasantly low-key affair, its main events took place in two large tents. One tent was for those who like to sit during concerts (one lady knitted throughout a virtuoso set by Martin and Eliza Carthy while the other tent, reached after a stroll down a country lane, was for younger audiences and dancers, and attracted a smaller crowd but some remarkable music.

This has been a great summer for music from south-east Italy, thanks to the Womad triumph of Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, with their exhilarating reworking of pizzica, the hypnotic and percussive traditional style said to cure spider bites. Nidi D'Arac looked like an indie rock band but played a furious folk-rock treatment of the music, making use of frame drums along with guitar and amplified fiddle from their two impressive female members, in a set that switched suddenly between elegant folk melodies and furious, stomping workouts. This is a band to watch.

Later, on the same stage, there was a rousing set from the Swiss Cajun exponents Mama Rosin. They had been unexpectedly reduced to a duo, as their melodeon player had to return home, but his place was taken, at short notice, by John Spiers of Bellowhead, an Englishman who sounded as if he had played Louisiana dancehalls all his life.

Over in the seated tent, the Sunday evening headliners were 16 quirky Australians, the Spooky Men's Chorale, who came on dressed in black, sporting impressively silly hats. They looked like a novelty act but triumphed thanks to their unlikely blend of deadpan humour and unaccompanied harmony singing, influenced by the choral tradition of Georgia. They matched an exquisite Georgian set against the very funny Don't Stand Between a Man and His Tool.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #GdnGig


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Topic Records at 75 review – passion and enthusiasm shine through
Norma Waterson's superb performance will linger in the memory, but the UK's most distinguished folk label deserves a bigger celebration, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

25, Aug, 2014 @11:49 AM

Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy - review
The lady who heads the most extraordinary folk music dynasty in England was in magnificent voice, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

31, Oct, 2010 @9:44 PM

Article image
Martin and Eliza Carthy review – folk music at its best

The folk father and daughter's first outing as a duo counterpoints their voices, guitar and fiddle to enthralling effect, writes John Lewis

John Lewis

10, Jun, 2014 @3:42 PM

Article image
Bright Phoebus Revisited – review

An impressive cast made an emotional and long-overdue return to the cult 1972 album Bright Phoebus, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

13, Oct, 2013 @11:36 AM

Martin Carthy 70th Birthday Concert – review

Martin Carthy has always been an easy-going, modest performer, and that wasn't going to change just because he is about to turn 70, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

16, May, 2011 @5:05 PM

Rogue's Gallery: Barbican, London
Barbican, London
Original collaborations in event produced by Hal Wilner

Robin Denselow

29, Jul, 2008 @11:07 PM

Raghu Dixit – review
This evening saw Raghu Dixit and his band team up with Bellowhead for some folk-rock with an Indian (and at times Celtic) edge, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

19, Apr, 2012 @4:32 PM

Article image
Cambridge folk festival review - celebrating 50 years
Van Morrison gave a blistering set, closing a festival that had a retro feel while amply demonstrating that folk’s future looks in rude health, writes Colin Irwin

Colin Irwin

04, Aug, 2014 @12:01 PM

Article image
Womad review – from Mexico to Mali, ska to the squeezebox, world music celebrates fusion
Seu Jorge did Bowie, Estonian folkies took on bagpiping and a knock-out celebration of global sounds was packed with highlights despite a rainy weekend

Robin Denselow

31, Jul, 2017 @2:26 PM

Article image
Songs of Separation review – joyous and stirring
Ten of folk’s finest female performers sing songs ‘not really about separation, but about connection’ in a thought-provoking Celtic Connections show with genuine empathetic chemistry

Colin Irwin

25, Jan, 2016 @1:16 PM