Kimpton Folk Festival taster with the ‘Godfather of grunge-folk’

PUBLISHED: 16:38 17 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:38 17 April 2016

Wild Willy Barrett's French Connection will be appearing at a fundraising concert for the inaugural Kimpton Folk Festival

Wild Willy Barrett's French Connection will be appearing at a fundraising concert for the inaugural Kimpton Folk Festival


The ‘Godfather of grunge-folk’ will star with a French singer in a festival pipe opener in Kimpton next weekend.

Wild Willy Barrett brings his four-piece French Connection ensemble to Kimpton on Saturday, April 23.

They will be appearing live at the village’s Memorial Hall in a special fundraising concert for the inaugural Kimpton Folk Festival.

Fresh from their recordings in Glastonbury, Barrett – dubbed ‘the Godfather of grunge-folk’ – and his group are celebrating the release of their new album, an original melange of French, Irish and English acoustic arrangements, using everything from a guitar and cello to Irish pipes and banjo.

Joining Willy will be acclaimed French singer Aurora Colson, cellist Mary Holland and Irish musician John Devine, who has performed for the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

According to John, he was lucky to be able to take up the Royal invitation after nearly losing his priceless and irreplaceable set of pipes, which had to be dramatically rescued when the boat on which he was living with his family sank in 2009:

“I ran to the boat to find the case completely submerged,” he said.

“The pipes were left to dry gradually for almost two months in the hope that once re-assembled everything would be fine, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

“Extensive repairs had to be undertaken and they have only been fully restored to their former glory in the last two years.”

Notwithstanding this near disaster, the group’s innovative arrangements performed on guitar, cello, fiddle, banjo and pipes have seen them grown in stature and popularity in recent years.

Something of a musical prodigy, having learnt to play the ukelele at the age of four, Willy describes himself as “an experimental multi-instrumentalist”.

Best known for his outlandish partnership with John Otway – their on stage antics were interesting enough to make the ‘best of’ The Old Grey Whistle Test DVD – it is the gentler side of Willy that has emerged during his collaboration with this acoustic quartet.

He said: “Having worked with Mary and John for more than 10 years, I am delighted to be able to add French to the Irish/English mix.

“It has given us the chance to work on some interesting new arrangements, utilising the full range of instruments at our disposal to their full advantage, testing their scope to the limit.

“It has definitely widened our horizons.”

The concert, which promises a wonderful evening’s entertainment, is being staged to support the forthcoming inaugural Kimpton Folk Festival – a new event that has grown out of a thriving local music scene in the village.

Festival committee chairman Doug Jenner said: “We’re delighted to be staging such top-class entertainers as Wild Willy Barrett and his French Connection.

“This concert will be a wonderful taster of what we have in store for our visitors on July 9, when Wild Willy will be joined by a host of amazing artists, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Nancy Kerr and James Fagan.”

Tickets for Wild Willy Barrett and The French Connection are £10, with free admission for those aged 16 and under.

The concert starts at 8pm.

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