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.
Artists’ website: www.winterwilson.com
‘Far Off On The Horizon’ – live: