Visiting the Western Isles for the first time, BBC Radio DJ Mark Radcliffe brings his band the Foes for a night of ‘abject misery guaranteed’.
In the wake (or at the wake) of Radcliffe’s former band, The Family Mahone, whose folk/comedy sang songs of drinking, the Foes have been self-coined as hangman folk, ‘setting the hangover to music’.
Mark credits the colourful description to accordionist Russel Mabbutt, who manages the band’s Facebook page: “Rusty does that while he’s not attending his allotment.”
It’s not all as miserable as it sounds. Mark, one of Britain’s best-known Radio DJs, fronts the band with his guitar and has penned the songs, and while there’s a melancholy look on the face of the band, comedy is still at its heart.
Mark said: “I’ve never visited the fair isle of Lewis. I was lying in bed after a gig watching the telly and a film came on about the islands. They look amazing; it just looks magical.
“We’ve been trying to sort it out for a while and have never quite found the time, but we said let’s do it for the tenth Loopallu. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Mark, who presents the Folk show on Radio 2, says that he’s seen a resurgence in folk music due to outstanding young performers coming from Scotland. Lewis’ Mischa Macpherson being one.
He said: “When I was doing the folk awards only 5 or 10 years ago everyone competing was middle aged.
“There has definitely been a tangible rebirth of folk music, and Scotland is way ahead in the score.”
In case what’s to be expected is still not entirely clear, Mark has penned songs about dead dogs, the plans he’s made for his own funeral, and one song about ‘how being in love is kind of sometimes better when you don’t see each other that much - the thought of it is better than the reality.’ Songs that Mark describes as ‘more considered, and thoughtful.’
He said: “The first half of the set is about love lost and things that have gone wrong in life.
”We always open with Hank Williams - I’m so lonesome I could cry - which is originally in a major key, but we’ve put it in a minor key to make it more miserable.”
The ‘Foes’ are Paul Cargill, Russell Mabbutt, Chris Lee and Mark Woolley, who between them play accordions, bass, mandolin, whistles and percussion.
Mark said: “We’ve all known each other for years. Me, Chris and Rusty used to busk as a three-piece 20 years ago.”
Mark likes to say that Chris, who plays the mandolin, is the Slash to his Axl; because Chris is actually a lot better than he is himself.
He said: “We compliment each other really - He’s not a singer or a writer or much of a talker on stage whereas I do all that, so we each do the things that the other doesn’t and there’s no clash of egos - as long as he does what he’s told.”
The show is at An Lanntair, Stornoway, on Thursday 25th September, at 8pm.