I made three digital only mini-albums of unaccompanied folk songs during the summer lock down and now I’m crowdfunding a physical CD release. If you’re interested in unaccompanined folk song, then please check out https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-isolation-sessions. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it
Many folk singers have unaccompanied song or two in their set, but it takes real skill and a tonne of cojones to step up and sing unaccompanied throughout. To present a 10-minute ballad to a modern audience and hold their attention for the whole song requires a delicate balance of showmanship, vocal prowess and understanding – both of your audience and the nature of the song in hand. It’s a dying art for obvious reasons. Few can do it well.
Someone like Piers Cawley, therefore, is a rare breed indeed. Untrained in music, and certainly not from any kind of folkie heritage, he came to traditional music through his passion for communal singing and a real love for the songs being sung. He cut his teeth at a time when legendary singers were plying their trade, learning from the likes of Johnny Collins and Lou Killen, and expanding his repertoire through years of singing floor spots in the good old way.
Alongside his singing, Cawley developed his understanding of the traditional canon through extensive research, and there’s barely a song out there that he doesn’t know something about or (more often than not) have a wealth of opinions on that he can’t wait to share with you. It’s this wealth of info and his infectious delight in imparting it that makes his between-song banter so compelling. You don’t go to a Piers Cawley gig without returning (for better or worse) with a head full of tradfolk trivia. When asked why it took him so long to record his first album, he replies in typically self-deprecating tones, “Nobody ever asked me”. So, here’s a suggestion to all those promoters out there that fancy taking a punt on something time-honoured, fascinating, moving and thrilling. If you want one of the country’s finest unaccompanied singers along to your venue – essentially a vocal gymnast performing without a safety net – all you need do is ask. He may tell you everything you ever wanted to know about ‘Tam Lin’ and more besides, but he’s unlikely to say no.
—, July 2020
Piers has spent his life singing wherever and whenever he can – from performances on American technical conference stages to the Royal Traditions Club in Dungworth, he never misses an opportunity to breathe new life into old songs. His passionate and skilled championing of unaccompanied song is front and forward in all his musical work.
Sometimes, if you want to keep getting better at something, you have to go pro. Piers has been making sourdough bread for his friends and family for 15 or so years, but in January 2018 he finally opened The Loafery in Bawtry, where he bakes bread for friends, family, local restaurants and a growing number of customers who like their bread to taste of, well, bread.