Cambridge Folk Festival is excited to announce the first 15 names confirmed for 2019’s line-up, with legendary artists joining relative newcomers to take to the stages of Cherry Hinton Hall.

Kicking off proceedings and headlining Thursday night on Stage 2 will be Ralph McTell and cranking up the excitement levels as Saturday’s headliner will be Lucinda Williams. The Festival’s headlining slots for Friday and Sunday are still to be announced.

Emerging from Louisiana, Lucinda Williams blends rock, folk, country and blues. A multi Grammy Award winner, her songs have been recorded by fellow Americana peers and she has performed alongside Elvis Costello, Don Henley and Steve Earle.

Swedish-Argentinian singer songwriter José González will bring his beautiful, classically-inspired indie-folk to Cambridge Folk Festival. A deep, artful thinker whose singular approach to song writing sets him worlds apart, José González is set to be a crowd favourite at Cambridge this summer.

Nick Mulvey is 2019’s Guest Curator (Read about our article about Nick here). Taking over the reins from Rhiannon Giddens, he will be selecting his favourite artists to join him at the Festival as well as taking to his hometown stage throughout the weekend.

Heavily influenced by early country blues players, Ralph McTell is a songwriter who needs no introduction. His TV theme work in the ‘80s alongside his biggest hit ‘Streets Of London’ mean that he is a household name to CFF fans. This will be McTell’s return to his spiritual home after 15 years.

Another legend of the folk scene returning to Cambridge as a solo acoustic act is Richard Thompson. From his debut as a member of Fairport Convention to being awarded the OBE for services to music, Thompson has always personified folk music. His recent album 13 Rivers was a critical and commercial success.

Irish singer-songwriter Lisa O’Neill is well known for marrying beautiful traditional Irish folk music with historical and contemporary storytelling.

Since their 2010 album Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends was certified Gold, Fisherman’s Friends became the first traditional folk act to land a UK top ten album. They sang for the Queen at her Diamond Jubilee celebration, released an additional two hit albums, played for hundreds of thousands of fans including a performance at Glastonbury Festival in 2011 and were honoured with the Good Tradition Award at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 folk Awards. December will see the release of the film version of their story starring Daniel Mays, Noel Clarke and James Purefoy.

Described as ‘experimental-folktronica’, London-based collective Tunng are renowned for their live shows (including covers of Bloc Party and Tim Buckley). Their show at Cambridge will include tracks from their recent album Songs You Make At Night.

From north of the border comes Scottish singer-songwriter (and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Folk Singer of the Year winner 2018) Karine Polwart, who brings her hard-hitting folk and roots songs to the audience of Cherry Hinton Hall. Also hailing from Scotland are Glaswegians Talisk. The gifted trio have been thrilling live audiences with their fiery sets since 2015, culminating in a win for Folk Band of the Year at the 2017 Alba Scots Trad Music Awards and a nomination for BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Completing the Scottish triumvirate of artists announced comes one of the most exciting bands on the Scottish folk scene, the multi award-winning Rura. Stalwarts of Celtic Connections for the past seven years, Rura were firm Stage 1 favourites when they last played Cambridge and will return in 2019.

From shot-gun shacks and cotton-fields to festival main stages, the prodigious talents of Lil’ Jimmy Reed have taken him a long way from the Mississippi river. One of the last surviving performers of classic Louisiana down-home blues, Lil’ Jimmy’s stinging guitar work, gritty vocals and haunting harmonica have been taking Europe by storm. His music has won him many awards and in 2014 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He is accompanied by the ‘A’ Team, comprising pianist Bob Hall, widely regarded as the UK’s finest blues and boogie exponent, and diminutive dynamo Hilary Blythe on rock steady bass.

A veteran of the mighty Bellowhead’s domination of British folk for ten years, artistic director of the National Folk Youth Ensemble, founder member of the acclaimed instrumental trio Leveret, and a superb instrumentalist at the forefront of the revival in English traditional music, Sam Sweeney is a true musical polymath.

Nancy Kerr, James Fagan & Friends have been on the International folk circuit for well over two decades and worthy winners of Best Folk duo at BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards twice. They bring a captivating live sound, mixing their Northumbrian and Australian roots and also present incredible masterclasses playing along with some very special guests. Definitely one to watch at Cambridge Folk Festival 2019.

Another artist from across the Pond is Texan, Jarrod Dickenson who will follow his spring UK tour with an appearance at Cambridge. Straddling Americana styles, Dickenson’s slightly eerie melodies and lyrics evoke a nostalgic America. His reflective and soulful lyrics, almost like hand-written letters, remind us that human stories of lost love, sudden fortune, and abiding mystery transcend the decades.


Follow updates about the festival on Twitter here.

Dana Miller