The line-up for this year’s Moseley Folk Festival (4th-6th of September) is shaping up nicely, with the initial announcement featuring a healthy mix of the traditional, the contemporary and the out-there, from Bert Jansch and Jethro Tull to Cara Dillon, Saint Etienne and former millennial comedown soundtracker Beth Orton. The weekend also promises to showcase unsigned Birmingham talent in the idyllic, leafy surroundings of the eleven-acre Moseley park and out to the pubs of Moseley itself.
Also announced on the bill is the collaboration between Kris Drever, John McCusker and Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble, who have been touring last year’s Before the Ruin.
Like a lot of twenty-somethings, I hold a special place in my heart for the impassioned rock of Woomble’s main band Idlewild – specifically their earlier material – songs that seemed to perfectly embody the edgy nature of being young, existing on that fragile line between tenderness and fury where you feel everything that little bit more. As Idlewild’s acclaim grew and they signed up with a major label, their sound became more streamlined and lyrically broader. It no longer felt so personal, it was for lighter-waving crowds at televised festivals and Radio 1 drivetime.
Because of this I approached Before the Ruin with a little trepidation, feeling that I’d consigned Woomble to the memory of my younger days. I was happily taken aback. His vocals are at the fore, sounding as firm, determined and conversational as they always have, but tinged by the resignation that comes with age and experience.
It’s easy to put too much focus on Woomble’s contributions because of his other band, but Before the Ruin feels like a genuine collaboration. I was drawn in by Drever and McCusker’s lively, incandescent compositions and the strong sense of Scottish folk tradition at their core. Standouts ‘Silver and Gold’ and the title track have a stately, autumnal quality that is sure to carry you away.
Fiddle and intricate guitar lead the way, while the sound is bolstered by contributions from a host of guests, including Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, Radiohead’s drummer Phil Selway and some lovely harmonies by Irish folk singer Heidi Talbot. The album was apparently put together quickly and without much fuss, but the songs feel rich and full, if a little cleaner than I usually like my folk.