Cambridge Folk Festival never fails to mix older stars with emerging talent, and this can not be truer of Friday’s line up. In fact it’s the newer emerging stars which first capture my interest, with Ward Thomas clearly destined for bigger stages than the intimacy of the Den. The twins, Lizzy and Catherine make the offerings from their debut album From Where We Stand look effortless, fusing pop vibes with a country twang. With a resurrection of British artists creating country music, Ward Thomas create instantly catchy music, and the likes of Cartwheels and Push For The Stride are likely to propel them forward to greater recognition before the year is out.
At the other end of the spectrum Peggy Seeger returns to the festival after playing at the first festival some 51 years ago . She delivers a mix of soulful, heartfelt numbers such as of her late husbands (Ewan MacColl) First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. It’s hard to define how special this moment felt, the song acting as something as a ode to the pairs relationship, and the enormity of the song her wrote for her still standing the test of time. Elsewhere she is a equal mix of both humour and anger. Despite skipping I’m Gonna Be An Engineer her political nature runs through the set list, reminding the younger members of the audience where folk began.
Ditiching her Pistol Annies band mates, Angaleena Presley highlights she’s not just one third of a classic country supergroup, but a powerhouse of her own. Opening with the title track of her album American Middle Class she loses some of the sheen of the Pistol Annies, mixing in an Americana vibe. Whilst Knocked Up tips it a little closer to the bands sound, especially with it’s lyrical wry humour for me it’s the unreleased If You Bless My Heart, I’ll Smack Your Face, and the soulful Better Off Red which highlights Angaleena’s dexterity and passion. Not one to disappoint the Pistol Annies fans, there’s also a version of The Hunters Wife, which sees Angaleena ditch her band for a short while, to great effect.
Frank Turner follows Angaleena’s efforts on social commentaries, with Reasons Not To Be An Idiot and Photosynthesis offering wry looks at the modern age. Nevertheless for Turner it’s his version of the traditional Barbara Allen and his covers of Queen’s Somebody To Love which really win the crowd over. Combining energy and passion, Turner closes day one of the festival on the perfect note, reminding us all that folk music is about enjoyment and politics in equal measures.