Phil Beer is one of the most popular ambassadors for acoustic roots music. A dazzling instrumentalist, Phil was nominated for the coveted Musician of the Year title at the 2009 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Perhaps best known as a top-flight fiddler, he plays in the all-star line-up Feast of Fiddles, but his skills don’t stop there. He also plays slide, Spanish and tenor guitar, mandocello, viola, mandolin and South American cuatro, not to mention contributing rich vocals.
Born in Exminster, Devon, he started to play fiddle, guitar and mandolin while still at school in Teignmouth and habitually credits the late Davey Graham’s Folk, Blues & Beyond as his inspiration for acoustic music.
He played his first gig at 14 and started working as a duo with Paul Downes in 1974 (their Live at Nettlebed CD has recently been released). He was then in the Arizona Smoke Revue and a key member of Johnny Coppin’s band. His impressive track record also includes touring with Mike Oldfield and being a member of the feted Albion Band from 1984-1991. Show of Hands became a full-time partnership in the early 90s – a band that has gone on to sell out the Royal Albert Hall three times and who were voted Best Live Act, by the public, at the 2004 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Phil, who also has his own Phil Beer Band, famously guested on the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels album and Steve Harley’s Poetic Justice.
As a composer, Phil has written many numbers including the stunning instrumental The Falmouth Packet for SoH’s penultimate CD, Witness.
As a solo artist he released Rhythm Methodist in 2004 – a double album of songs and instrumentals (re-released on the Talking Elephant label this year) while his enviable versatility is shown in the Hard Works compilation of two earlier albums and a long-awaited five disc boxed set of archive, new and live music and video.
Phil achieved a life time ambition at the Trowbridge Festival this year by introducing and appearing with legendary American band Little Feat. This encounter led to him being invited to join Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett on several of their acoustic shows in December 08.
Phil is also in demand as a producer, co-producing (with Steve Knightley) Jez Lowe’s recent Jack Common’s Anthem among others. This year Phil formed his own label, Chudleigh Roots, producing Jackie Oates’s highly acclaimed second album, The Violet Hour and an eponymous album by singer songwriter Tom Palmer. New albums in the pipeline include the next Isambarde recording and the re-mastering and re-release of the original Tom Palmer album which Phil recorded in 1996.
A four track EP by Isambarde fiddler Em Sanders is now imminent and the retrospective live album of one of folk music’s greatest exponents, Tony Rose, is about to go to distribution.
Phil has also just completed the second album with veteran Spinners singer Mick Groves. Titled Still Spinning, it will be released on Mick’s own label soon.
He takes time out from Show of Hands this summer to fulfil a lifetime dream of crewing in the famous Tall Ships Race. He rejoins the band this autumn for an extensive tour showcasing a brand new studio album with the working title Arrogance, Ignorance & Greed.