The Umbrellabirds!

The Unbrellabirds are a folk music collective based in Herne Hill starting to take the indie folk scene by storm ... and just in time for the summer season! The collective has evolved from musical connections at the Steiner School when it was based in Streatham. From ad hoc beginnings at Steiner kids' music class jams, The Umbrellabirds have been guided into existence by Jason Collins who has a long history in the music business (he once toured Japan as a member of The Seers) through a series of smaller incarnations and collaborations, each with a different name, like The Harbour Road Band, playing spaces like The Cambria on Kemerton Road! Just in case you weren't aware, South London has become the epicentre of a huge folk resurgence!

Collective members share love for folk music with a definite leaning towards Americana - Appalachian, gospel, bluegrass, early country/R&B and standards from the 30s and 40s. This is the kind of stuff Harry Smith collected into his seminal early 50s anthologies ... songs like 'John the Revelator' (Blind Willie Johnson) or more modern takes on classics recrafted by the likes of Gillian Welch ('I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll') or London-based Bejamin Folke Thomas ( and Andy Hankdog, who runs the Easycome Acoustic Club in Nunhead ( and who also helps put on the Aquarius Music Festival at the Nunhead golf links in late summer. But whatever they play, and the set list is always evolving, it accents lovely vocal harmonies and a wide variety of acoustic instrumenation, from mandolin and dobro, to fiddle and clarinet.

So far the Umbrellabirds are Jason, Johanna, Annaliese, Mike, Alisoun, Hans, Stephen & Todd. We say "so far" because they are an umbrella group ... which means all are welcome. So if you spot them scheduled for a local gig, come bring your voice even if nothing else! And more often than not you'll find them rehearsing in someone's Herne Hill shed or porch, or Jason's Dorchester Drive flat - when he's not busy gardening (he runs the Camberwell Garden Company). A recording is planned but it will depend on good behaviour.

The Umbrellabirds will be at the Clerkenville West show at The Betsey Trotwood tonight (April 2nd), supporting Bristol's Three Cane Whale, a multi-instrumental trio that plays acoustic cinematic miniatures, influenced by folk and minimalist music. Three Cane Whale will play the Front Room of the Queen Elizabeth Hall later on in May. Also on tonight's bill is The Kilcawley Family, a stalwart of the Nunhead Folk Circle.

Have a listen to the audio player located at the very bottom of this page - it features The Umbrellabirds live at Jason's covering some of Benjamin Folke Thomas' 'Dreamin' of a Dixieland'. Thanks to Jodie for the recording.

Pictured below:

Jason, The Umbrellabirds in Herne Hill, gig poster


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