City Roots returns

This image: Sona Jobarteh

Multi-venue festival brings top line-up of folk and roots music to Cambridge

Returning for its second outing, City Roots is back in Cambridge from 22 February until 6 March, promising a fantastic line-up of performances at venues across the city. The event is presented by Cambridge Folk Festival and Cambridge Live, and will once again bring a stellar selection of folk and roots artists to Cambridge, with a series of shows guaranteed to brighten up the last days of winter. 

From internationally acclaimed stars to newer acts on the cusp of greatness, there’s all sorts to enjoy at this multi-venue event, kicking off on the 22nd with a visit from Sona Jobarteh. An extraordinarily talented vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer, she’ll be bringing her sun-drenched Gambian sounds to the Corn Exchange, joined by Cameroonian blues and jazz artist Muntu Valdo.

Another headline event to look out for is Rich Hall’s Hoedown on the 27th, in which the comedian-come-country singer offers up a withering dissection of Trump’s America that ends as a celebration of Americana. Chouk Bwa Libète, meanwhile, bring drums, poetry and trance from Haiti’s voodoo heartland to the Junction’s J2 on the 24th, while at the same venue on the 27th catch Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle playing material from their latest album, The Wishing Tree. Masters of flute, fiddle, song and guitar, the trio have shared the stage with everyone from Bob Dylan to Paul Weller, and are a rare musical treat to
be savoured. 

There’s also a gig from critically acclaimed English folk/roots duo Megson at St Barnabus Church on 1 March; as well as British country girls Ward Thomas, who are joined at the Corn Exchange by the Americana-inspired outfit Wildwood Kin on the 4th.

Local talent will be celebrated at a special gig hosted in conjunction with NMG: Cambridge’s ‘New Music Generator’, which nurtures aspiring artists in the area. At the Portland on the 1st, catch Cavetown, Matt Hammond and Fred’s House, winners of 2017’s Special Achievement Award – The Syd Barrett Pride of Cambridge Award.

Elsewhere, The Den, which showcases the hottest emerging talent each year at Cambridge Folk Festival, has put together a duo of unmissable gigs for City Roots. First up, on 23 February at the Boathouse pub, catch alt-country duo Ferris & Sylvester, plus the gorgeous harmonies and classical styling of August & After (above), an indie-folk trio who draw inspiration from the likes of Bon Iver and Kings of Convenience. Completing the bill are the Lozst (pronounced ‘lost’), who create soulful Americana tunes with sharp-witted lyrics.

The second offering, taking place at Storey’s Field Centre at Eddington on 1 March, brings close harmony duo Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer, together with the soul infused folk of Ethan Ash (right), and Sarah Munro, who’ll be serving a dose of jazzy style and lyrical mastery. 

The same venue will also play host to Folk Festival Club Tent sensation, Darren Eedens & The Slim Pickins, who have an uncanny knack of holding audiences spellbound, whether engrossed in a poignant ballad or jumping up and down to a stomping groove.  

Alongside the array of live music, there’s also a talks and workshops to check out, including what’s sure to be a fascinating chinwag with the charismatic Wilko Johnson. From founding legendary Canvey Island rockers Dr Feelgood to his recent battle with cancer, Johnson’s got some stories to tell – hear them at Cambridge Union on 24 February. 

Following on from the success of last year’s Creative Roots, the festival will host another professional development day, this year entitled Artist Entrepreneur Day and to be held at The Portland Arms. Gathering music industry professionals, it’s a great opportunity for those seeking music career advice to take part in workshops, talks and sessions, tapping into a wealth of experience. There are drop-in music sessions around the city too, including a special City Roots Family Day with free attractions including crafting, face-painting, storytelling, plus a ukulele workshop and the chance to meet walkabout characters. 

Finally, other events to look out for include a mystery gig at a surprise venue (details to be announced), and music workshops with artists such as Muntu Valdo and folk heroes CC Smugglers.