Fotheringay – live Under The Bridge, Chelsea

Photograph by Dai Jeffries
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

I saw the original Fotheringay just once at a rain-swept festival which was abandoned by the artists, the crowd and the organiser in more or less that order. The sight of that spotlit stage shining in the gloom of a Yorkshire summer remains in my mind’s eye. So when I heard that a new line-up was being put together I had mixed feelings.

With all due respect to Jerry Donahue, Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson can a Fotheringay with neither Sandy Denny nor Trevor Lucas be anything more than a façade, however good the substitutes are? The three survivors have enjoyed long and distinguished careers in bands and as go-to sidesmen but Fotheringay was Trevor and Sandy’s band. That this is a great band goes without saying. PJ Wright and Sally Barker singing ‘I Don’t Believe You’ rocked and Jerry and PJ’s guitar/pedal steel duet on ‘It’ll Take A Long Time’ was sweetness itself. But was this really Fotheringay?

What persuaded me that the answer is “yes” is the genuine emotion engendered in both the performers and the audience. One young man, who probably wasn’t even born when Sandy died, stammered out his thanks to Sally as he left. “It’s the legacy”, she observed. So, yes, this is really Fotheringay.

They began with ‘Nothing More’ as if to deny the fact of the band’s demise forty-five years ago. There is more. They followed that with ‘The Sea’, ‘The Ballad Of Ned Kelly’ and ‘Winter Winds’ – the order in which they appeared on Fotheringay’s first album – perhaps settling the nerves that they all admitted to – this was only their third gig, after all. It says a lot that Sandy is played by both Sally Barker and Kathryn Roberts, either of whom could fill the role alone. Kathryn handles the piano songs but also brings the textures of flute and woodwind to the sound. Sally has Sandy’s rockier side absolutely nailed and her reading of ‘John The Gun’ is superb.

PJ Wright takes the Trevor Lucas role. He has the rumbling voice and plays pedal steel which Sandy loved. He restored ‘Knights Of The Road’, first heard on Fairport Convention’s Rosie, to Fotheringay’s repertoire and now I want to hear him sing ‘The Plainsman’.

The first set ended with a long, flowing ‘Banks Of The Nile’ and they returned for the second with renewed vigour. ‘Bold Jack Donahue’ was first followed by ‘The Way I Feel’ featuring a bass solo from Donaldson which segued into a duet with Conway and then a superb version of ‘Solo’. ‘Too Much Of Nothing’ was the second Dylan cover and the set ended with ‘Late November’ and a singalong ‘Peace In The End’ before the encore, a rocking ‘Memphis Tennessee’.

Photograph by Dai Jeffries
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

The evening was opened by Fabian Holland who started with two numbers from his debut album before turning to ‘Four Inch Screen’ from his second CD, A Day Like Tomorrow, following that with ‘The List’ and an attention grabbing ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’. Opening this show might seem like a thankless task but this audience was friendly and receptive and judging by the rate he was shifting CDs he made the right impression.

Dai Jeffries

Performance: 19th June 2015

Fabian Holland – debut album

Fabian-Holland_Album-Cover1400x1400The self titled debut album from Fabian Holland was released on Rooksmere Records on 7 October following the release of the single ‘Home’ on 26 August.

 Fabian seems to have sprung fully‐fledged from nowhere though he’s been playing music and performing live since a youngster. He grew up in an artistic household where performance and artistic expression were part of everyday life, listening to blues guys such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters. His early influences (drawn from his father’s record collection) were Muddy Waters,  R.L Burnside,  Son House,  Howlinʼ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Skip James (the last’s classic ‘Hard Times Killing Floor Blues’ is rendered subtly and hauntingly on Fabian’s début album). He started playing guitar at the age of seven, taught by his father who also played harmonica. Fabian later attended the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, studying under the watchful guidance of the sadly missed guitar virtuoso Eric Roche. After his studies he moved to the mountains of the Abruzzo Region, Italy, where he spent four years developing his musical style, busking, gigging and composing. He later returned to the UK to pursue his music career; he now lives on his narrow boat on London’s canal network.

Fabian plays two Lowden guitars, a 1994 Lowden O10 (which he currently uses as his main instrument) and an old Lowden S22 that was bought from a luthier in Scotland who claimed it once belonged to a member of Steeler’s Wheel. ”Lowdens in general are just lovely to play”, he confirms. Whatever the model or make, Fabian plays guitar with a subtlety of touch and great fluency. His creativity is a joy to hear.

His eponymously titled, début album is produced by Mark Hutchinson (who also produced recent albums for the likes of Blair Dunlop,  Walsh and Pound,  Spiers and Boden and the Albion Christmas Band).

“I think Mark and I both agreed from the start that simplicity would be the key to this album,” says Fabian ”with guitar and vocals being the main focus. We decided on a concise album and picked the tracks carefully. Most of my songs are stories influenced by people I’ve met along the years and I’ve travelled about a bit so I’ve met all sorts of interesting people. There are two traditional tracks in the album, ’Banks Of The Dee’ and ’Dr Price’. These are not widely known trad songs; I like that because it offers people something they may not have heard before. Through the whole album the guitar and vocals were recorded at the same time and I think this produces a very real and immediate sound, rather than something contrived through studio trickery.”

That reliance on the performances themselves, his vocals and guitar stylings, produces a most compelling début album. In its simplicity and directness, it harks back to the folk of an earlier golden age, but it has no need to reference specific musical influences or iconic performers. Fabian Holland is indeed a singular new talent.

Artist web links www.fabianholland.com – www.rooksmerestudios.com