The bizarre accident that rendered Dave Cousins hors de combat for the latter half of last year created the opportunity for the release of Moving Pictures, a live album recorded in 2008. Fans will know that parts of the tour have already been documented on the album Duochrome but this is different. Firstly, it is a complete performance with Dave’s introductory chat in place and secondly, it is completely solo – on some of the other recordings Ian Cutler played fiddle.
Many of these songs don’t find a regular place in the Strawbs’ live sets although I’m always surprised that the opener, ‘Hanging In The Gallery’, isn’t featured by the acoustic line-up given that they are three-quarters of the Nomadness band. Some are very personal to Dave: ‘Song Of A Sad Little Girl’ about his daughter, ‘Ringing Down The Years’ about his lifelong friend, Sandy Denny and ‘Ways And Means’ which has never been a Strawbs’ song. ‘We’ll Meet Again Some Time’ is an old favourite that was in the band’s early repertoire but made its first recorded appearance on Two Weeks Last Summer.
Others are among the band’s greatest hits. ‘Grace Darling’ is much-anthologised and Dave told me once that people write to him telling how they had it played at their wedding – its metaphorical meaning eclipsing its historical context – while ‘The Hangman And The Papist’ is never far away from the set. ‘The Call To Action’ was a new song back then and it’s followed by the record’s centrepiece, ‘Blue Angel’, something of a tour de force for a solo performer.
The set starts out gently enough but builds in intensity until Dave is at his powerful best, sometimes spitting out bitter lyrics, sometimes exploring songs that, even after all these years, I struggle to fully comprehend. This is just one man and his guitar – or, rather, several guitars in different tunings – singing the songs that mean the most to him. That makes it special.
Artist’s website: http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk
‘Grace Darling’ from the Kent Stage gig: