By Stevie Connor.
One of rock music's greats will be appearing at Tønder Festival 2023. Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young has helped define the sound of americana and folk-inspired rock. Other musicians are also lined up: Irishman Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers, Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker & John Doyle, Kelsey Waldon and Joshua Ray Walker.
Most of us can sing along with songs like Our House and Teach Your Children. They are part of rock music history, and were written in 1969 and 1970 by Graham Nash. Those days, Crosby, Stills & Nash, soon to be joined by Neil Young, were one of the biggest bands in the world. Their four-part harmonies and tasteful guitar sound were so successful everywhere that they founded a new direction in pop and rock music. Graham Nash’ voice was a vital element in that music, and the now 81 year-old singer and songwriter still has masses to give. He also has a new record out.
From Ireland comes Liam Ó Maonlaí, a musician and songwriter with traditional Irish folk music in his veins and famous as the front figure in the successful band Hothouse Flowers.
Last year was American songwriter Margo Cilker's first appearance at Tønder Festival, and it was such a success that she is back this year.
Great things are happening on the country music scene in USA these days, and Tønder Festival's audience are in for two treats: two of the top younger musicians, Joshua Ray Walker, who has won critical plaudits for his fine singing and ground-breaking take on modern country, and Kelsey Waldon, inspired by classic Nashville country music, a singer whose powerful songs are making her a name.
From Canada we have songwriter Willie Stratton, whose country, folk and indie-rock music has reviewers singing his praises.
By popular demand, it's the return of the trio Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker & John Doyle. These three musicians, from England, Scotland and Ireland respectively, represent the absolute pinnacle of Irish, Scots and English folk music.
Danish folk music has distinguished representation, too. Det Yderste Hav, with fiddler Peter Uhrbrand, play authentic music from the west coast island of Fanø. And duo Mallemuk, who are from Tønder, offer original Danish pop-folk songs.
Graham Nash (USA)
81 year-old Graham Nash is behind songs that have been the soundtrack of millions of lives. Multiple Grammy winner, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters' Hall of Fame and an artist who has been at the top of the music scene since the early 60s. As a member of the British top group The Hollies, Graham Nash wrote or co-wrote hits like Stop Stop Stop, On A Carousel and Carrie Anne. In 1968 he left The Hollies, travelled to Laurel Canyon in California and founded, with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. Their first, eponymous album was a huge hit. Shortly after this, the trio grew to include Neil Young, and in the spring of 1970, as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, they released their milestone album Déjà Vu. Two of the album's hits, Our House and Teach Your Children, were written by Graham Nash. His 1971 solo record, Songs For Beginners, confirmed his songwriting talent, further evidenced by his duo work with David Crosby during the 70s and a long series of solo albums. A new album, Now, is due in May 2023. Graham Nash has always used his public rostrum actively on political, social and environmental matters. He is moreover a gifted photographer with exhibitions and publications to his name. His only Danish festival in 2023.
Liam Ó Maonlaí (IRL)
A songwriter and singer with a solo career at full tilt, he is also front man in the well-known Irish band, the Hothouse Flowers. The band had their breakthrough in 1988, with their hit Don’t Go which was an international succes. And they still going strong, playing for example at Glastonbury Festival in 2022. However, there's much more to 58 year-old Liam Ó Maonlaí than playing in Hothouse Flowers. As a soloist, he has released several albums, among them 2005's Rian. He has done acting work and was a major part of the documentary film Dambé: The Mali Project from 2008. The film deals with the musical journey undertaken by Liam Ó Maonlaí and Paddy Keenan (of The Bothy Band) to the famed Festival Au Désert in Mali. Here the two musicians brought traditional Irish folk music in contact with West African music, and instruments such as the uilleann pipes, bodhrán and whistles played alongside kora and gourd drums. Liam Ó Maonlaí grew up with traditional Irish folk music and remains true to his roots. And it is this music with folk roots he will be presenting at Tønder Festival. His only Danish festival in 2023.
Joshua Ray Walker (USA)
There may be fresh winds a-blowin over the American country scene. In the case of Joshua Ray Walker, it's more of a tornado. The 31 year-old Texan songwriter and singer has made three albums that have established a solid reputation for him. The three releases are part of a whole, and the framework round the stories is a fictive honky tonk bar on its last legs, full of wannabe cowboys, dreamers and lost souls. Joshua Ray Walker writes songs that tell their tales through a variety of characters. "I learned a long time ago that writing from some character's viewpoint teaches me stuff about myself without making me too self-conscious," Joshua Ray Walker has stated. The single Sexy After Dark from the latest album See You Next Time (2022) illustrates Joshua Ray Walker's ability, combining his fine singing voice, a fascinating song, and horns backing a country-soul symbiosis. Joshua Ray Walker spans several genres tastefully. His influences growing up were outlaw country music's antiheroes like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and his inspiration came from songwriters such as Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Billy Joe Shaver. His only Danish festival in 2023.
Kelsey Waldon (USA)
Kelsey Waldon is a country singer and songwriter, and her base is in Nashville. She grew up in a little West Kentucky town with bluegrass and country music in her ears. Aged 13, she began playing and writing songs, and among her inspirations are classic country musicians such as Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and George Jones. After high school, Kelsey Waldon moved to Nashville to follow her dream of getting a foot in the door at country music's mecca. She released a series of EPs, then an album, and played all the jobs she could get her hands on. The media – Rolling Stone magazine and radio station NPR among them – noticed the young singer-songwriter, and they were not alone. In May 2019, she performed at The Grand Ole Opry in a show with Sturgill Simpson and John Prine. John Prine announced on that occasion that Kelsey Waldon's recordings should come out on his record label Oh Boy Records. And so it came to pass that Kelsey Waldon became Oh Boys Records’ first new artist in 15 years. In 2020 the album White Noise/White Lines was released, and in August 2022 the album No Regular Dog. Her only Danish festival in 2023.
Willie Stratton (CAN)
Country, folk and indie-rock are the mainstays for songwriter, guitarist and banjo player Willie Stratton, who comes from Halifax in Canada. He set out to play music as a 12 year-old and soon discovered that writing songs was right up his street. Willie Stratton made his first album in 2011, and the album Deserter in 2014 brought him his first nomination, as Rising Star of the Year at the Canadian ECMA (East Coast Music Association) awards. Country music was the focus of the album Della Rosa from 2016, and it won another nomination - this time as Album of the Year, also at ECMA. His most recent contribution is the album Drugstore Dreamin’ from April 2022. Here, he emerges as a fully-fledged songwriter, drawing on the styles that formed his music. The album has earned excellent reviews, one stating that Willie Stratton is absolutely no 'vintage artist,' Drugstore Dreamin’ is the real deal, and one of the best albums of the year. At Tønder Festival, Willie Stratton will perform with his band, and it is their only Danish festival concert in 2023.
Margo Cilker (USA)
American songwriter Margo Cilker, who appeared at Tønder Festival last year, is back this year. 30 year-old Margo Cilker has been writing songs and touring for many years, first in coffee houses in USA and subsequently in bars and clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. To start with, she played other people's songs, but gradually her own compositions began to fill her set list. Her debut album Pohorylle, from 2021, launched her career. The album was well reviewed, and Margo Cilker won her place in American music history with her well-turned classical americana songs. Inspiration for her songs comes mainly from her own life, touching subjects such as loss, broken relationships and the traveller's identity. Mojo magazine writes about Margo Cilker: "Imagine Gillian Welch in a session with The Band and Allen Toussaint, and you are close to feeling the charm of this new voice in americana." And it is precisely Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan that Margo Cilker has been listening to. Margo Cilker lives in Oregon, grew up in California, and has spent a good deal of time in Europe, for instance in Brighton in England and Bilbao in Spain. Her only Danish festival in 2023.
Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker & John Doyle (ENG/SCO/IRL)
These three world-famous stars of instrumental Celtic music have often graced the stages at Tønder Festival, both together and in other contexts. They have been playing as a trio since 2009, whenever it fits into their various other projects. Michael McGoldrick masters flutes, tin whistle, uilleann pipes, bodhrán, guitar and cittern. He was born in Manchester in 1971, helped found Flook and has played with Lúnasa, Capercaillie, Kate Rusby, Afro Celt Sound System and Mark Knopfler, among others. He has released several albums in his own name, and at Tønder Festival in 2022 he celebrated the score of years since the release of his landmark album Fused. John McCusker (born in Scotland in 1973) is a multi-instrumentalist with the violin as his main instrument. He has worked with Heidi Talbot, Kate Rusby, Battlefield Band, Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler, among others, as well as making six solo albums, producing for colleagues and winning several prizes. John Doyle (born in Ireland in 1971) played with Seamus Egan and Karan Casey at the core af the Irish-American band Solas. His sensitive rhythmic guitar style has enriched the music of prominent musicians such as Kate Rusby, Eileen Ivers, Linda Thompson and Joan Baez. Their only Danish festival in 2023.
Det Yderste Hav (DK)
There are few places in Denmark where folk music flourishes in its traditional form like the island of Fanø, with its fine Sønderho and Fannik tunes, still played as 250 years ago, and the dances they accompany. This year at Tønder Festival you can hear the melodies and join in the dances, when Det Yderste Hav (the name means something like The End of the Sea) plays for the dancing. The trio consists of national fiddler Peter Urhbrand, who has been actively keeping the traditions going while nurturing innovation; classical guitarist Jørgen Bjørslev and author Jeppe Brixvold, whose expressive voice carries the old songs. Playing for the dancing will also be fiddler Kristian Bugge, accordion and mouth-organ player Sonnich Lydom, pianist Kirstine Uhrbrand and Claus Carlsen, who plays bass clarinet and saxophone. All are dedicated to Fanø music. For those who need some help with the steps, two young callers and instructors, both steeped in the Fanø dance traditions, are on hand: Helena Thøgersen and Meise Maria Carstensen.
Mallemuk (the name means Fulmar) is Joakim Okkels, piano, accordion and vocal, and Michael Hornhaver Mortensen, guitar and vocal. The duo's heart-felt pop folk songs have gained popularity with both audiences and critics. They both come from Tønder and met at school here. Later their friendship and musical partnership evolved and in 2020 Mallemuk released their debut album Mallemuk. Mallemuk's Danish language lyrics deal with personal experience, from down-and-outs in the street to the rolling North Sea just beyond the dykes. In February this year, the duo's second album Alle Folk Slider (Everybody Toils) was released. A single from the album, Mens Vi Ånder Ud (The Last Gasp) was praised on the music site Side33 as follows: "Mallemuk have sown a real hope, not only for the young people but for the whole modern Danish folk music scene." The album was produced by Søren Zahle, who has worked with Peter Sommer and another Tønder son, Jacob Dinesen. Mallemuk are distinguished representatives of the musical life that thrives in Tønder, in the productive lee of the progressive folk roots profile Tønder Festival stands for.
Tønder Festival 2023 – the story so far:
Graham Nash (USA), Sarah Jarosz (USA), Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms Country Band with special guest vocalist Lukas Graham (USA, DK), David Ramirez (USA), Aoife O’Donovan (USA), Joachim Cooder (USA), Nickel Creek (USA), Liam Ó Maonlaí (IRL), Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker & John Doyle (ENG/SCO/IRL), Allan Olsen (DK), Sierra Ferrell (USA), The Dead South (CAN), The Unthanks (ENG), David Ritschard (SE), Ariel Posen (CAN), Sorten Muld (DK), Frankie Gavin & De Dannan (IRL), Emily Scott Robinson, Alisa Amador & Violet Bell (USA), Lawrence Maxwell (CAN), Jeremy Dutcher (CAN), Buffalo Nichols (USA), Israel Nash (USA), The Local Honeys (USA), Adyn Townes (CAN), Ross Ainslie, Ali Hutton & Owen Sinclair (SCO), The Mary Wallopers (IRL), Lisa O’Neill (IRL), Leftover Salmon (USA), Aysanabee (CAN), Niteworks (SCO), Shane Smith & The Saints (USA), Hackensaw Boys (USA), Mec Lir (SCO), Gnoss (SCO), Margo Cilker (USA), Joshua Ray Walker (USA), Kelsey Waldon (USA), Willie Stratton (CAN), Mallemuk (DK), Det Yderste Hav (DK), The Tarantino Twist Show (DK), Bjonko (DK), AySay (DK), William Torp (DK), Baby Did A Bad Thing (DK), FolkBALTICA Ensemblet (DK, D).
Tønder Festival 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th August 2023