With their unique musical style and irrepressible sense of fun, changing gear with almost every number, it is easy to see how audiences are captivated by these very talented musicians.
A master of live entertainment, multi-instrumentalist Wild Willy Barrett’s dry off-the-wall humour has audiences laughing out loud between numbers, as the warm and charismatic vocals of Ejay Williams take centre stage.
Innovative arrangements beautifully performed on instruments including the guitar, cello, fiddle, banjo and uilleann pipes, add a touch of magic.
The group was born during a chance encounter, when Willy approached a cellist he saw performing with a belly-dancing troupe.
“Willy was living on the Grand Union canal near Tring, Herts. He saw and heard me playing and dancing in the garden of a pub close to where his boat was moored and came rushing over with the immortal words ‘would you like to join my band?’
“I knew who he was, but I must confess to being a bit suspicious as to whether it was the cello playing or me he was interested in, so it took several phone calls and lots of persuading for me to audition for the band. Turns out, he was interested in both – we are now married.”
Mary is of course refering to Wild Willy Barrett, known as the Godfather of Grunge Folk, a highly respected musician whose styles include folk, blues, gypsy jazz, reggae, bluegrass and punk.
In the mid ’70s, Willy was invited by innovative reggae star Keith Hudson to feature on his acclaimed “Rasta Communication” album, alongside Sly and Robbie amongst others. He has toured with Madness, Steeleye Span and many more, been guitarist for George Hamilton IV, and recorded ‘The Contemporary Folk Guitar’ album with Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Gordon Giltrap & Ralph McTell. All in all, he has had a long and varied career, and is happy with the enigmatic status he has achieved. It is the gentler side of Wild that emerges with French Connection.
“Having worked with Mary and John for more than ten years, I am delighted to be able to add some Welsh to the Irish/English mix. It has given us the chance to work on some interesting new arrangements, utilising the range of instruments at our disposal to their full advantage, testing their scope to the limit. It has definitely widened our horizons.”
Ejay (Jane) Williams is originally from Cardigan, but is now living in Cardiff, Wales. A singer all her life, she has just recently finished recording with Van Morrison for his latest album, and is a wonderful new addition to this quirky ensemble. Her effortless but highly emotive vocals draw you in and leave you wanting more.
Ejay has added a wonderful new dimension to the repertoire with original material and beautiful songs sung in the Welsh language.
John has been working with Willy for many years, but is very busy with his own projects this year, so will only be joining the band for occasional gig. John, a master of the Uilleann pipes, has his roots very firmly fixed in Irish traditional music, however enjoys branching out a bit with other projects.
Speaking on Wild Willy Barrett’s Roaring Touring, he says: “It is unlike anything you will ever see or hear with the range of music and musicianship. Willy holds it all together. He’s one of the most overlooked musicians in the country.”