POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will go down in the woods on July 1 and 8 to present Primrose Wood Acoustics, two outdoor concerts at twilight in a beautiful Pocklington sylvian setting.
Virtuoso Scunthorpe-born guitarist and singer-songwriter Martin Simpson will headline the first 7pm event at Primrose Wood, supported by Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer.
A week later, the second twilight session will feature Leeds indie-folk/Americana band The Dunwells and opening act Rachel Croft, the York singer-songwriter.
The acoustic concerts are being staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) after a series of online events and outdoor exhibitions by York artists Karen Winship and Sue Clayton held during the pandemic.
Primrose Wood Acoustics not only will mark the first time PAC has taken concerts into the outdoors – giving audiences a chance to experience live music within a unique and Covid-secure setting – but also will be the first concerts to be hosted by the East Yorkshire venue since the first lockdown last March.
PAC director Janet Farmer says: “During the pandemic, we’ve been doing a lot of walking in the Pocklington area including Primrose Wood. With its natural clearings and proximity to the town centre, we immediately thought it would provide the perfect outdoor stage with a difference, so the idea of Primrose Wood Acoustics was born.
“As we prepare to re-open the venue, we’re very much looking forward to being able to bring some truly unique events to our audiences. This is going to be something quite special.”
Martin Simpson travels the length and breadth of Britain and beyond to give intimate solo performances full of passion, sorrow, love, beauty, tragedy and majestic fingerstyle guitar playing.
Simpson, 68, who recorded his first album, Golden Vanity, in 1976, is equally at home playing English traditional folk, American folk and blues and his own compositions on acoustic and slide guitar and banjo to boot.
Support act Katie Spencer writes songs imbued with the northern landscapes of her Yorkshire home and the warmth and idealism of the early 1970s’ folk and songwriter movements. Originally from Hull, she draws on the grainy imagery of the industrial docks and sea-fronts in her deeply personal songs of nostalgia, loss and love.
The Dunwells, formed by brothers Joseph and David Dunwell in Leeds in 2009, combine heartfelt lyrics with American-influenced indie-folk song structures, as heard on their 2012 debut album, Blind Sighted Faith, and six subsequent albums and EPs.
The Dunwells have performed at both PAC and Platform Festival, at Pocklington’s Old Station, and have toured the United States extensively, not least appearing at SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. They last released a studio album, Something In The Water, in September 2019, followed by the live recording Live At Aire Street last December.
Support act Rachel Croft’s song-writing is cinematic, moody and classic, wherein atmospheric backdrops frame her vocals as she blends folk, rock and soul styles.
Rachel’s new EP, Reap What You Sow, will drop this summer, exploring a more potent, bluesy style.
Concertgoers can access the location from both main entrances to Primrose Wood via Burnby Lane and The Balk, with the concerts being staged close to the Burnby Lane (YO42 2QB) entrance.
Tickets cost £15 for July 1 and £12.50 for July 8 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
CharlesHutchPress puts questions to York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft as she prepares for the twilight hour in Primrose Wood.
Where and when did you last play a gig?
“The last real gig was at Highfield House in Driffield, back in October 2020 – a lone event I was lucky enough to share with Blair Dunlop and Gary Stewart. Before that, I think it was last March, sharing the night with Joe Shepard at the NCEM in York.”
Have you played in woodland previously?
“I haven’t played a gig as such in a woodland but I’ve recorded and performed in a few woodlands for music videos. Really atmospheric!
“Only Dreams had woodland in it, and the new video for Reap What You Sow, directed by James Buck, will have a part shot in woodland too.”
What do you feel about playing at the twilight hour: a magical time of day or a harbinger of the dark night to come?!
“Playing outdoors in the twilight hour sounds just right for some of my songs. I like to write atmospheric music, and I think this will be the perfect setting to finally share them with people!
“I think sunset can be a nostalgic time in a way, thinking about the day that’s done and the start of night. Certainly, it could add to the moodiness of some of my songs too.”
You have a new EP on the way, Reap What You Sow. When and how will you release it?
“The EP is due this summer. I’ll stagger a single and then the rest of the songs later on in the season, along with videos and live performances hopefully. We’re still finishing them, so once we have them completed, I can set a date and get cracking. I’m really excited to share these songs; they’re my best work so far. Stay tuned!”
Where and when was the EP recorded?
“It was recorded here in York, at Young Thugs Studios [in South Bank Social Club, Ovington Terrace], and has been ongoing for probably six months now, what with so much uncertainty and all my usual funding methods gone, which made things interesting!
“All the musicians on the tracks are from around here and I’m really lucky to know so many talented people.”
What are the song titles and themes and were any influenced by pandemic times?
“I’m keeping the song titles on the down-low for now, except Reap What You Sow, the title track and first single. There are five songs, though, and as a collection they represent a storm, sort of. The build-up, the energy, the wreckage left behind, and then the rebuild, leaving it behind.
“All the songs are from the lockdown, and I think they helped me to release a lot of pent-up frustration and emotion. I’ve never felt that, until this point, I’ve really released anything that shows the most of me, not just one side.
“It feels really liberating; I’ve always loved music like this but never before felt like I could be that artist. And then, well, it was the pandemic, so I thought I might as well have a go.”
The EP will “explore a more potent, bluesy style”: how will that manifest itself and what has drawn you to the blues?
“The bluesy style is mainly in two of the songs, where I was playing with some different chord variations and was influenced a lot by cinema, film music, and the jazz music I play with the Croft Mullen Band here in York [in a residency at The Phoenix Inn, George Street], alongside writing my own music.
“It’s been really nice to bridge that gap between styles. It’s got a lot of electric sounds in it too, but I love the vintage Nancy Sinatra feel of parts of the songs, how that weirdly works with quite fierce guitars at points.
“I’ve also started using my lower voice more in the songs, which I think really suits this change of sound. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
What have you discovered about yourself in lockdown?
“I have learned that by having all the joyful distraction taken away, I can be more productive with song-writing. I can choose to sit down, and write, if I try. I never thought I could do that before lockdown. It’s been a great time for my music; I’ve never written so much, but maybe that’s because music seems to come easiest when you’re not totally happy.”
What else is in the diary for you for 2021? Hopefully more shows?
“I’ll be playing at Wickham Festival [Hampshire], Lindisfarne Festival [Northumberland], Northern Kin Festival [Stanhope, Bishop Auckland] and Beverley Fringe, all going well, and I’ve got a few concerts booked here in York and further afield that I’m looking forward to announcing to my socials soon! I’m just happy to get to play to real actual humans again!”
NEWS JUST IN: 14/5/2021
RACHEL Croft will open series two of the acoustic Songs Under Skies concerts in a double bill with Wounded Bear in the National Centre for Early Music gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, on June 1. Gates, 6.30pm; socially distanced concert, 7pm to 8.30pm. Box office: tickets.ncem.co.uk.