Recording, gigging, tea drinking and playlists


It would seem that Spring is the time when I decide to sit down and let you know what I’ve been up to. I just noticed that I last updated the blog in March 2017. I must try and write this blog more than once a year! My excuse is that I’ve been a bit busy…

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I was away on tour again with The Transports in January. It was such a pleasure to be back on the road with everyone again. We really were all living together on the road in a big tour bus! Sean was chief post-gig sandwich maker and Michael and Saul were often on hand to help park the enormous bus and trailer in some tight spots at the venues! There’s a little clip here of me chatting about my character Susannah Holmes and the tour. The album is out now and it’s something we’re all very proud of. Here’s the link if you fancy getting your hands on a copy.

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December was a pretty busy month as I was in the studio with my new band – Rachael McShane & The Cartographers (plus one or two special guests!) recording a new album…more details on this soon. We were recording up in rural Northumberland in a beautiful studio that used to be a church. The acoustics there are amazing and I can’t wait for you all to hear the album. It was really cold up there in December, slippers were an essential and we drank a lot of Yorkshire tea. Photos above courtesy of producer and friend Ian Stephenson. I can’t say much more yet apart from that it will be out in the summer and there will be a tour to follow in the autumn. Eek…exciting! Check out the Shows page for some upcoming gigs this summer.

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I was also on the road with RJ Thompson back in December opening for Jools Holland. We played some lovely venues along the way promoting his new album Echo Chamber.

More album news soon. In the meantime, I’ve started making a few playlists over on Spotify if you fancy a listen and I’ll keep making more. I’m not really the biggest fan of Spotify on account of them paying artists virtually nothing, but it’s a great tool for finding new artists and sharing music that you love. I hope if you hear something that you love and didn’t already know about that you’ll head to your local record shop and buy the album…or even better, buy direct from the artist. Happy listening and exploring.

Rachael x



Happy Spring! 

IMG_5992 I flippin’ love Spring. It’s so lovely when things start growing again, there’s a bit more daylight and it’s a few degrees warmer. I’ve had a hectic few weeks but had a couple of days off this weekend so rewarded myself with some beautiful walks out at the coast in Saltburn and up at Simonside Hills in Northumberland. It’s still very much coat weather up here in the North East but a bit of sunshine is great for your mental wellbeing ey?!

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I was in the studio down in Sheffield at the start of March recording The Transports album. It was really lovely to see everyone and to be back singing and playing together again. As usual with projects like this, coordinating the diaries is a nightmare so we didn’t have the luxury of lots of time so we just kept working until it was done, powered by gallons of tea and many biscuits. There was a great vibe in the studio and some stunning performances from the gang. What I’ve heard back is sounding really great, I can’t wait for you all to hear it. If you’d like to be kept up to date on the release of the album, sign up here.


I’ve got another exciting project to tell you about. I’m delighted to be part of a brand new musical play about the North East’s first music hall superstar Ned Corvan. There are 3 of us in Mr Corvan’s Music Hall, fantastic actors Jamie Brown and Chris Connel will be playing younger and older versions of Ned. And as Mr Corvan was a fiddle player, that’s where I come in! We spent a weekend at the seaside just down the road from where Ned ran his music hall, working on the songs and drinking gallons of tea and munching many a biscuit!  They are a great bunch of songs and many of them still feel relevant today – ‘there’s a funny time comin’ lads’. Rehearsals start in a few weeks and then we’re touring the show to a fair few venues in the North East. There will be plenty of laughs and probably a tear or two in this brilliant play written by Ed Waugh. Mr Corvan’s Music Hall will be touring in May and June. More info and tickets here.

That’s all for now, I’m just home from my street dance class (yes, really!) so it’s time for sofa and telly 🙂

Rachael x

Home and a little weary after The Transports Tour 

Hello! As promised I’m attempting to keep you up to date with news so here’s the first blog for 2017. Do prod me if I’m quiet for a while.   I’ve just got home from an amazing 2 weeks touring with The Transports. Check out the website if you’d like more info. I must admit, I had no idea if this project would work or be well received at the start of the year. These projects don’t always work and we had some big shoes to fill. The original featured the likes of Martin Carthy, The Watersons, Nic Jones, June Tabor and Dave Swarbrick and is perhaps Peter Bellamy’s most loved work. We only had a total of 5 days rehearsal together before going out on the road, and who knew if members of Bellowhead, Nancy Kerr, Faustus, Greg Russell, Matthew Crampton and The Young ‘Uns would get on…musically or socially?! We’d never worked together as a group before but thankfully we realised pretty early on that we had something special on our hands and we had an absolute blast on the road. It was a truly lovely group of people to work with.

Peter Bellamy’s amazing folk ballads The Transports was released 40 years ago, yet the songs and their message about exile and migration seem more relevant and poignant than ever.  We met lots of lovely people in every town we visited as part of our Parallel Lives project, charities that work with refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their countries, often to escape the horrors of war and its aftermath. The whole cast and crew went to a march in Exeter against Trump and his appalling treatment of refugees. I’d never been to anything like that before but I found it quite emotional and it certainly fired us up before the show. There are lots of stories on the website about people who have either left here or arrived and it’s well worth a read. Matthew’s Parallel Lives section of the show was new to the rest of the cast every night, we didn’t know what stories he was going to tell and on several occasions he had us fighting back the tears. It’s an important issue and it shapes who we are. I didn’t expect to find this tour so moving and I hope we can continue to work with some of the inspirational people we met.

If you don’t know the original recordings of The Transports you can check it out here. Peter Bellamy’s songs are fantastic and we loved singing them every night. It was great that every member of the cast had their moment in the show and it was so enjoyable to hear the others sing their parts. We were fortunate to have Nic Jones (who played the role of the father in the original 1977 recording) in the audience in Exeter, and Jenny Bellamy (Peter’s wife) came to the show at Cecil Sharp House in London. It felt like a big responsibility, we wanted to do the show justice and thankfully both enjoyed our modern re-telling of the original and it was lovely to chat to them afterwards.  We were delighted that our production was so well received and we’re all very proud of the reviews, including 5* in The Guardian. There are plans afoot to record an album and if you’d like to be kept up to date, please sign up to our mailing list here 

 As tours go, it was a pretty unhealthy one. I got the lurgy on the first day and then gave it to nearly everyone else in the touring party…sorry guys. My voice just about held out til the end of the tour but it’s abandoned me now. We didn’t manage to eat particularly healthily either and by the last week, one of the main topics of conversation was vegetables and what we were going to cook once we got home. We also enforced a swear box style fine for anyone who sang The Humane Turnkey song that Greg Russell sings in the show, as it was a real ear worm and was starting to drive us all mad. I think I owed enough to fly us all to Australia but I donated some money to my local refugee charity instead. If you can afford to donate a few pounds to yours I know it would be much appreciated.

A big thank you to everyone who came out to see us on tour and to those we chatted to after the shows. Special thanks also to Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose, Nancy Kerr, Greg Russell, Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Michael Hughes, Matthew Crampton, Andy Bell, Emma Thompson, John Rogers and Tim Dalling . It was a delight working and touring with you all.   I’ve got more news that I’m excited to share soon but for now I’m off to eat some vegetables, cuddle my cat and finish knitting my tour socks.

Rachael xx

The Transports


I hope you’ve all had a lovely summer. It’s been festival-free for me this year…but really good fun! I’ve enjoyed sitting in the sunshine in my garden, playing my new viola, learning new songs and playing with my kitten Artie Fluffkin who you can see over on my Twitter page. It’s been a bit of a strange summer without Bellowhead…but I’ve been busy and have lots of exciting things to tell you about over the coming months. So here’s the first one…

I’m really looking forward to being involved in a new production of Peter Bellamy’s The Transports. I’ll be singing the role of Susannah alongside a brilliant cast featuring Bellowhead buddies Paul Sartin and Benji Kirkpatrick, as well as Saul Rose, The Young ‘Uns, Nancy Kerr, Greg Russell and Matthew Crampton. What a line up! Tickets go on sale very soon and you can find more out here.


Lots more exciting news to come soon! 🙂

Rachael x

Back on Tour

Hello! I hope 2015 is treating you well so far. 

I’m heading back on the road with Bellowhead in April so my jobs this week include buying new strings, digging out the sparkly shoes and finding things to do on the road…most likely knitting socks. I’m so cool! We had a great (but quite long) tour in November – here we are with our brilliant crew. We couldn’t do it without them! Thanks to everyone who came along and made it such good fun.


Check out all the tour dates and some upcoming Tony Bengtsson Band gigs here.

We’ve also got a new single out to coincide with the tour. It’s called Roll Alabama and it’s probably my favourite song on the album and great fun to play live. Here’s the video for it filmed in November by Mountain Pictures. See if you can spot yourself in the crowd!

That’s all for now, do come and say hello if you come to see Bellowhead on tour. We might even play a few tunes in a pub somewhere so feel free to buy me a soda water!

Rachael x

Young Folk Awards & Upcoming Gigs

October is well under way, and true to my word, here I am keeping you updated with what I’m up to. It’s feeling very autumnal up here in the North East so I’ve been making stews and knitting socks…but I’m guessing you’re probably here for the music news rather than recipes and knitting patterns!

I’m off to Kendal this weekend along with Bellowhead bandmate John Spiers to do some workshops with the Young Folk Awards entrants. The weekend culminates in a concert at The Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal hosted by Mark Radcliffe, and we’ll also be on the judging panel to shortlist four acts to become the nominees for the 2014 Young Folk Award. More info on the BBC Website and tickets for the event are available here.

In other news, I’ve just recorded a live session with The Tony Bengtsson Band, check out the video below. We’ve got a gig coming up in Newcastle on 19th December at The Cluny. Tickets go on sale soon so watch this space!

I’ll be off on tour again next month with Bellowhead. Quite a few venues have already sold out and some have only a few tickets left. We’re really looking forward to getting out on the road again so don’t miss out, get your tickets here.

That’s all for now.

Rachael x

New Website and Blog!

Welcome to my new website and blog! I’m going to endeavour to keep this one updated with news, musings from life on the road, photos and videos and other things that may or may not be of interest…but do keep checking back!

Here’s a video of a recent Bellowhead single ‘Roll The Woodpile Down’ for you for starters!

I’ve been busy over the summer playing at festivals all over the UK with Bellowhead. Particular favourites for me this year were the lovely, sunny Cornbury Festival (following a great set by Van Morrison), Cambridge Folk Festival (where a few of us did a guest spot with The Levellers) and Chris Evans’ Carfest, at which we arrived in our battered people carriers  and approached the stage via the racetrack. We’re so rock and roll!

It’s been another great festival season, so big thanks to all the festivals for making us feel welcome and ensuring we had enough diet coke and mini scotch eggs! A huge thanks also to all the audiences who watched, sang along and most importantly, jumped up and down!

That’s all from me for now, but do come back and check for updates. Rachael x