Written by Esther Harper
Friday at the 51st Cambridge Folk Festival was a real treat for Americana fans. In the middle of the afternoon, Angaleena Presley, accompanied by her band, played the main stage. She opened her set with American Middle Class, the title of her solo album, before segueing into some “hillbilly music” with One Horse Town and Fastest Girl in Town. After three further songs with her band, she played two acoustic numbers, which she explained was how she’d been touring the UK over the past few weeks. If some of the crowd had seemed a little less than enthused by her set thus far, her performance of the yet-unreleased song If You Bless My Heart, I’ll Smack Your Face, was the perfect ice-breaker; the crowd laughed and applauded in approval of her sassy lyrics. Her band then returned to play four more songs, including my personal favourite of hers, Knocked Up. Come the evening, festival-goers were lucky enough to see the legendary Peggy Seeger play Stage 2. The tent was packed to capacity, and when Peggy came on for the sound check she just stayed, bantering with the crowd while we waited for media photographers to arrive so she would be allowed to begin. Peggy charmed her audience from the moment she came on stage. Her set was varied and often political. She dedicated her feminist song about hormones, Everyone Knows, to the Prime Minister, sang an anti-drone protest song set the tune of Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, and led the audience in a sing-a-long to How I Long for the Days Gone By. The entire festival, I don’t think I saw another artist with more sass or brilliance than 80 year-old Peggy Seeger. What a legend, indeed.
Legend Peggy Seeger, who played the first Cambridge Folk Festival 51 years ago is back, charming the crowd. Pure class. #cff15 A video posted by For The Country Record (@forthecountryrecord) on
After Seeger’s set, there was Chris Smither’s second performance of the day (his first set unfortunately clashed with Angaleena Presley’s). The much smaller Club Tent was over-flowing with people trying to listen to the great singer-songwriter, as he played some of his best loved tunes such as Can’t Shake The Blues and No Love Today, although we were not treated to a repeat of Leave the Light On, which he’d played earlier in the day.
British Country duo Ward Thomas wrapped up the day at the Den, the stage for emerging artists. The tent wasn’t remotely large enough to accommodate all the people who’d made their way out from the main festival area to listen, but thankfully there was plenty of space on the lawn outside. They played a number of new songs, such as their up-coming single Guest List, and Cartwheels, which they wrote while they were in Nashville. There were clearly some Ward Thomas fans in the audience as well, who gleefully sang along to Take that Train and Push for the Stride. It was lovely to see new artists so warmly received.