Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with Dave Pegg at Cropredy 2019.
In the interview we talk about the wind, the weather and health and safety. We thank Peggy for hatching the plan to bring Georgia Rose Lucas over from Oz (Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas’ daughter) and reflect on Georgia’s poem “Where I’m From” (written about her mum) which was read out live on stage at Cropredy on the Thursday afternoon by Anthony John Clarke (captured by Watchawhile in the YouTube video below). We also reference Georgia’s fabulous paintings and sketches as well.
We discuss Costa Del Folk Portugal, the cruise and Hungarian Rhapsody!
The interview closes with the news that Cropredy 2020 will be a Full House!
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Well, as we always say, it would not be Cropredy without our annual Chris Leslie interview.
Darren Beech and Paul Johnson tracked Mr. Leslie down on the Friday, luckily just before he was about to do a runner in the pink buggy to go off and do a gig with the ‘Banana Splits’.
In the interview, we talk about how the act of walking fuels the art of song-writing, the process of writing the ‘what Chris Leslie has been up to piece’ for the Cropredy programme each year and how this year’s article conjured up the visions and words of the John Tams version of Ewan MacColl’s ‘The Manchester Rambler’.
We also talk about the ‘Fairport Extension’ set, why Fairport are the best backing band in the world, the much loved and dearly missed Maart, we revisit the 25th Anniversary 1992 Cropredy year and remember when Robert Plant played a very special set as part of that celebration.
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The joke, you see, is that Kip Winter and Dave Wilson recorded Live & Unconventional on the road with Fairport Convention during their 2018 winter tour. In fact, the first voice we hear is that of Ric Sanders doing compere duty and the rest of the chaps appear later. There are several things that struck me immediately. The first is that you have to be good to be a Fairport support on a long tour and the audience certainly got behind them. (I’ll ignore that story that I believe I got from a Fairporter that the best way to record a live album is to do it in the studio and then dub on the applause from a Deep Purple gig. There isn’t a word of truth in it!) The other thing that stands out is the quality of the recording. Two voices and a selection of two instruments from guitar, banjo and piano accordion make a big sound and Winter Wilson squeeze fifteen long tracks onto the album with just enough chat to keep us in the loop.
They open quietly with the title track of their most recent studio album. ‘Far Off On The Horizon’ was inspired by a sleepless night and is an example of Dave’s ability to take almost nothing and turn it into a superb song. The crowd-pleaser, ‘Tried And Tested’, turns up the volume but then we get to the meat of the set. History and literature are absolutely on trend for a Fairport audience and Dave and Kip run through the Falklands war, Jack London, John Steinbeck and emigration to Canada. Politics come in to the equation, firstly with ‘Ghost’, which I still think is one of Dave’s absolute best songs – but I also think that about ‘I Wish I Could Turn Back Time’ which follows it.
Fairport Convention take the stage to accompany them on ‘Still Life In The Old Dog Yet’ – Kip couldn’t understand why they chose to play on that one – and Sandy Denny’s ‘It’ll Take A Long Time’. In real life Winter Wilson’s set ended here, but they give us two more tracks to go home with. ‘This Day Is Mine’ is an idler’s charter but ‘Common Form’ returns to war and history and we remember that they really do have something to say.
From the first notes Kip and Dave exude confidence and I realised how well the songs I’ve only heard as studio recordings have developed in the live set. If Live & Unconventional doesn’t promote Winter Wilson up to the next division there is no justice.
If you’ve ever been to a Cropredy Festival you’ll know exactly what they do on Saturday. They gather together a bunch of former band-mates and old friends and play a mammoth set long into the darkness (subject to health and safety restrictions, of course). These days, Fairport Convention don’t need an excuse to mount a celebration but 2017 marked the band’s fiftieth anniversary and so this was the perfect opportunity to tell the band’s story in music – although not strictly in the right order. Thus we have What We Did On Our Saturday, packaged in an homage to their second album.
The album begins with their first album and (almost) their first line-up. For younger readers that was Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson, Iain Matthews and Judy Dyble now with Dave Mattacks on drums. They kick off with ‘Time Will Show The Wiser’ and ‘Reno Nevada’ and I was impressed at the way Richard played the sort of guitar lead appropriate to 1967. He couldn’t help himself, of course, and went off on one but I don’t suppose that anyone complained.
Chris While took over on lead vocals for ‘Suzanne’, a slightly less off-the-wall arrangement than the original. Chris does a very good Sandy Denny particularly on the rockier numbers but she’s her own woman and the grace notes and decorations are all her own. Judy and Iain get time off and the others take it in turns so the current line-up doesn’t actually appear until ‘Crazy Man Michael’ when Gerry Conway briefly wrestles the drum stool away from DM. The remainder of the first disc is taken up with selections from Liege & Lief and Full House and they keep ‘Sloth’ to under ten minutes.
The second disc opens with ‘Now Be Thankful’, a song which Chris Leslie is rapidly making his own, even though Richard elbows him off the mic on this occasion. It’s worth noting that Chris doesn’t get a break after the third track until the Fotheringay homage of ‘Ned Kelly’ and ‘Rising For The Moon’ which feature Sally Barker and PJ Wright and introduce Maartin Allcock to the stage. The latter is a feature of the revamped Fotheringay’s set but sadly, of course, Jerry Donahue isn’t available. I have to say, in passing, that Simon does a wonderful job with ‘Fotheringay’. Maart gets to lead ‘A Surfeit Of Lampreys’ and Ralph McTell takes centre stage for ‘White Dress’ but Simon keeps ‘The Hiring Fair’ for himself.
There is only one song that originates with the current line-up and that’s Chris Leslie’s ‘Our Bus Rolls On’ and now we’re on the downhill run. You know how it ends: ‘Matty Groves’ – with both drummers – and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ with everyone back on stage.
As you might imagine, I own a lot of Cropredy recordings and all have their own attractions. For me the 25th anniversary set stands out while the earlier ones: A.T.2 and The Boot have the particular ramshackle charm that we used to associate with Fairport Convention thirty-odd years ago. What We Did On Our Saturday is tight and slick without much in the way of stage chatter – an appropriately serious set to go with such a milestone in Fairport’s history. Exemplary performances as we’ve come to expect, of course, but sometimes I do miss Simon playing rhythm viola!
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Welcome to the 2018 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated last year. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with considered argument and arm-wrestling by the Folkmeister and the Editor.
There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2017.
As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.
*The Public Vote for each category will close at 9.00pm on Sunday 1st April (GMT+1).
Soloist Of The Year
Winter Wilson are preparing to hit the road with the legendary Fairport Convention right now – but they could very easily be on the dole. This is the story of a couple who turned the nightmare of redundancy into a dream of playing music for a living…
“We gave ourselves a year to see how things would turn out,” says singer Kip Winter. “Five years later we’re still getting away with it! It’s not easy, but playing music professionally beats working for a living.”
Kip and partner Dave Wilson were popular part timers on the folk scene and released Winter Wilson albums at their own leisure. But, following the banking crash and global crisis of 2012, things changed for the couple and music became the priority. Since then, critical acclaim has followed their every move and they even made one of the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Top Ten Folk Albums’ of Summer 2014 with the redundancy-inspired Cutting Free.
Now, to coincide with the Fairport Convention tour, the pair release their eighth studio album, Far Off On The Horizon, another fine collection of self-penned songs on subjects as diverse as migration, old age, young love and Australian weather!
The music they make is as sharp in sound as it is observational in message and they always pay strict attention to harmony and tunes. Dave Wilson’s songs pull no punches and are as comfortable in a contemporary box, as they are at home on the floor of a folk club. Indeed, his songs have found their way into the repertoire of many a seasoned floor singer, as well as several other recording artistes.
Now the duo have been hand picked to support musical legends Fairport Convention on the band’s winter tour and are ready to delight new audiences around the country. After all, great songs born in a cottage industry fit very well with the emotional geography of the roads they’re now travelling. “We never did the gap year thing as students, and we knew we had enough money from our redundancy pay-outs to buy a van and get by for a little while, so I’m glad we said ‘sod the daily grind’ and got out there,” says Dave.
“Getting out there” has included releasing more albums, like 2016’s critically-acclaimed Ashes & Dust, and touring them around the world.
So what’s next for Winter Wilson? “Well, there’s twenty eight dates with Fairport Convention,” replied Dave, “then we kick off our own Far Off On The Horizon tour of the UK and Ireland. After that, who knows?”
Judging by the determination of these two moving musicians, we won’t have to wait long to see and hear more.