PJ Wright Interview from the New Forest Folk Festival 2019

Paul Johnson and Darren Beech catch up with PJ Wright in the artists garden at the New Forest Folk Festival. PJ was performing later that day as part of The Sandy Denny Project, which also features IOTA’s Sally Barker, Anna Ryder, Marion Fleetwood and the engine room of Little Johnny England, bassist Mat Davies and drummer Mark Stevens.

PJ has been to the festival every year since it’s conception and gives a fascinating insight into how the festival started eight years ago. It includes a great story about the hiccup with the stage that was originally ordered and how one was built out of a cowshed at the very last minute, just in time for the first festival.

We also talk about Fotheringay 2 and how the idea for the Sandy Denny Project came together and we get technical with Pedal Boards, Stratocaster’s and Telecaster’s.

We close the interview with PJ being tight lipped about whether he will be playing Cropredy in some form or other and TRADarrr’s appearance at the brilliant Wickham Festival, the week before Cropredy, which is run by our old mate Peter Chegwyn.

The interview should start playing automatically, if not click on the play button below to listen.

Artist’s website: https://facebook.com/thesandydennyproject/

Here is a great moment from the set, a brilliant cover of Sandy’s classic anti-war song ‘John the Gun’.

Fairport Convention – 50th anniversary box set

Fairport Convention

July 28th sees the release of this lavish Fairport Convention CD box set, Come All Ye – The First 10 Years. Compiled by Andrew Batt, the curator of the very successful show, The Lady – A Tribute To Sandy Denny, which toured the UK in 2012, this collection celebrates Fairport’s first 10 years, beginning with their eponymous debut for Polydor in 1968, through all of their seminal albums for Island Records and finishing with tracks from their two albums for Vertigo, The Bonny Bunch of Roses and Tipplers Tales.

Of the 121 tracks featured here, fifty-five are previously unreleased. Highlights include key tracks from all of their classic albums, single B-sides, BBC Radio Sessions, five songs from the French TV programme, Pop 2 (December 1970), five songs from the television show, The Man They Couldn’t Hang (1971) and the audio for an entire concert at The Fairfield Halls, Croydon (December 16th 1973) plus two songs recorded live for the Scottish Television programme, Anne Lorne Gillies – The World of Music (1976). The set comes complete with liner notes by respected English writer, Patrick Humphries, author of many highly regarded books including,  ‘Nick Drake – The Biography’ (Bloomsbury 1998 ), ‘Richard Thompson – The Biography’  ( Music Sales Ltd 1997 ) and ‘The Many Lives of Tom Waits’ (Omnibus Press 1989).

Since 1979 the band have been hosting their very own yearly festival, Cropredy, the annual highlight of which is the Saturday night headlining performance by the current incarnation of Fairport Convention plus past members and guests. This year’s festival promises to be very special as it marks the band 50th anniversary.
http://www.efestivals.co.uk/festivals/cropredy/2017/

Formed in London in 1967, Fairport Convention are the hardy perennials of the British Folk scene and are credited with inventing the genre known as folk rock on the release of their influential album Liege And Lief in 1969. Over the years they have enjoyed a shifting line-up, which has helped to launch the successful solo careers of founder members Richard Thompson, Judy Dyble, Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol and subsequently the careers of Sandy Denny, Dave Swarbrick and Dave Pegg.

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Artists’ website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

Not the best quality but a real piece of Fairport Convention history – rehearsing at The Angel and live on stage in 1970:

Fairport Convention celebrate their golden jubilee

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention, the legendary band who originated British folk-rock, celebrate their golden anniversary this year. When Fairport takes the stage on Saturday 27 May 2017 for their birthday concert at the Union Chapel in Islington it will be fifty years to the day since their first-ever gig.

Formed by Ashley Hutchings in 1967’s “summer of love”, Fairport Convention is one of the few touring bands with an unbroken history stretching back five decades. They have been performing and recording more or less constantly since their inception.

Fairport Convention has been one of the most influential UK bands in popular music and has nurtured the careers of some great names, among them Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick.

The band saw many changes of personnel during its early years but Fairport Convention’s current line-up has been together since 1998. Simon Nicol, lead singer and guitarist, is the only founding member still with Fairport; bass player Dave Pegg has been in the band since 1970.

To mark its fiftieth anniversary year, Fairport Convention will be releasing a new album. Titled 50:50@50, half the tracks are studio recordings of brand-new songs and half are live performances from Fairport’s core repertoire. The album features guest vocals from Robert Plant and Jacqui McShee.

Fairport will hit the road in January on a UK-wide tour which starts at the prestigious Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow. A second tour in early summer will include the birthday concert on 27 May before the band’s year culminates at their own music festival at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, in August. Fairport’s headline set will see past members joining the current line-up on stage for a reunion performance.

“Fifty years after I first heard them the mighty Fairport Convention still sound as good as ever.” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

According to the BBC Music website, Fairport Convention is “…undoubtedly one of the most influential folk collectives to have ever existed.”

Fairport’s seminal albums Unhalfbricking and Liege & Lief (both released in 1969) originated a whole new genre of music, British folk-rock, which celebrated English roots by combining traditional folk songs and tunes with amplified rock instruments.

This genre’s influence has percolated down the years touching artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Devendra Banhart, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons, Seth Lakeman and Ryley Walker.

Radio 2 listeners voted Liege & Lief  “The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’”

Mojo magazine listed Liege & Lief at number 58 in its list of “100 Records That Changed the World”.

Fairport’s story has been celebrated with several radio and TV documentaries and the band has won a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Artists’ website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016 winners are…

Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016

The winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards have been announced at a spectacular event held at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Now in their 17th year, this major event in the specialist music calendar saw accolades presented for Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year and many more, as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards for songwriter Joan Armatrading and traditional folk legend Norma Waterson.

Also on the night some of the most exciting acts in the folk music scene took to the stage for magical performances to celebrate the vibrant folk music scene in the UK and beyond.

John McCusker Band

The evening kicked off with an electrifying performance by the John McCusker Band, and throughout the evening the audience were treated to performances by Grammy Award and BRIT Award nominee Joan Armatrading; British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and film score composer, Mark Knopfler; Mercury Award nominated Sam Lee, Dublin folk band Lynched; a special tribute to Sandy Denny by Rufus Wainwright and many more. The evening culminated in a rousing performance by acclaimed Northumbrian group The Unthanks.

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright performed a special tribute to Sandy Denny who was inducted into the Folk Awards Hall of Fame. For the rendition of Sandy’s classic ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, Rufus was backed by musicians including some who were members of Fairport Convention alongside Sandy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Awards were presented by a host of famous folk fans, including actors Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, The Office) and Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, House of Fools), musicians Richard Hawley and Graham Coxon from Blur, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo and 1960s star Sandie Shaw.

The night also saw the presentation of the annual BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, which has been finding and championing young folk talent for 18 years. The four nominees in this category also performed live during a special interval programme presented by Radio 2’s Simon Mayo and top folk musician Kathryn Tickell.

Bob Shennan, Controller BBC Radio 2, 6Music and Asian Network and Director BBC Music, said:

“What better way to celebrate the thriving folk music scene than a wonderful night in the impressive surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall. It was a fitting way to recognise the huge wealth of talent and I’d like to congratulate the winners of these prestigious accolades. Here’s to next year!”

The awards will be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer from today and will be broadcast on the BBC Red Button from Saturday 30 April until Thursday 5 May.

The full list of winners:

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR
Rhiannon Giddens

BEST DUO
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

BEST GROUP
The Young’uns

BEST ALBUM
Mount The Air – The Unthanks

HORIZON AWARD
Sam Kelly

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Andy Cutting

BEST ORIGINAL TRACK 
‘Mackerel’ by The Rheingans Sisters

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK 
‘Lovely Molly’ by Sam Lee

BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD
Brighde Chaimbeul

Gift Band 2016

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Norma Waterson

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Joan Armatrading

GOOD TRADITION AWARD
John McCusker

HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Sandy Denny

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Well, if that was not exciting enough, then why not create your own Albert Hall replica out of those discarded food/ electrical cardboard boxes lying around the house, sit on your favourite cushion, grab a glass of something special and re-live it all again here at:

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – 2016: Full Show

SANDY DENNY – I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn (Island 536 735-0)

I've Always Kept A UnicornWhat can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? There’s the problem. I have to confess that I’m sometimes uneasy about the way that Sandy Denny’s catalogue has been managed. There are just three tracks among the forty presented here that haven’t been released before and they are demos from The Bunch album. Which means that the barrel has been well and truly scraped clean. There is nothing of any significance left to unearth.

The two CDs are arranged chronologically and present Sandy in acoustic mode – demos, radio sessions and stripped down masters – to offer “the best album Sandy Denny never made”. If you have a taste for Sandy rocking her socks off on ‘Down In The Flood’ you’re out of luck here. The first track is her best known song, ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, recorded in 1967 with The Strawbs. The notes are vague about its origins but it isn’t the version that appears on the album and I suppose that it was possible to extract it from the three-track master. What it is, however, is the voice that Dave Cousins fell in love with, young, fresh and clear and it can be argued that this is the best version of the song that you will ever hear.

With All Our Own Work failing to get a release, Sandy returned to the folk clubs, recording two albums with Alex Campbell and Johnny Silvo and these are represented by two songs written by her then boyfriend, Jackson C Frank. Then Fairport Convention – two demos and two masters which presumably preceded the band’s involvement. Fotheringay is next with two demos and two radio sessions presenting Sandy solo. ‘The Lowlands Of Holland’, solo and unaccompanied, is particularly lovely.

The next six tracks come from her first solo project – two demos, a radio session and three from the BBC’s In Concert programme and the first disc closes with the three demos from The Bunch – guitar and vocal tracks featuring Linda Peters on ‘When Will I Be Loved’.

The second set continues Sandy’s solo career and adds her second stint with Fairport. It opens with ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’, which the band tried out but which Sandy eventually took for herself. Here are some of her best known songs including possibly the best ever version of ‘Bushes And Briars’, more up-tempo than we are used to. It comes from a radio session as does an equally superb piano-led ‘Solo’. There is a piano demo of ‘The End’ which flashes past for all its seven and a half minutes.

The Fairport tracks are all demos, including ‘Rising For The Moon’, ‘One More Chance’ and ‘What Is True?’ but, sadly, no ‘Stranger To Himself’. Oh well, you can’t have everything. The next two tracks are live from Marc Time and I still find the idea of Denny and Bolan in the same studio a bit mind-boggling. Quite what his teenage audience made of ‘Blackwaterside’ I can’t imagine. Sadly, Marc’s introductions are not included. The final track is the last that she ever recorded, Bryn Haworth’s ‘Moments’. This is one of three demos made and features Ralph McTell on guitar.

So, how is my unease?  This set has been put together with a specific purpose and that is to present Sandy’s timeline in solo, acoustic performances. The mastering is excellent – a big hand for Paschal Byrne here – Mick Houghton’s sleeve notes are written from an expert perspective, there are some good photos and it’s true that some of Sandy’s best performances here. I guess that’s good enough.

Dai Jeffries

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Website: http://www.sandydennyofficial.com/

‘Late November’ – live in London, 1971:

I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn – the acoustic Sandy Denny

I've Always Kept A Unicorn

I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn is the best album that the late Sandy Denny never made. This 40-track/2CD set, comprised of demos, live, radio and TV recordings, captures the sublimely gifted British singer-songwriter at her most intimate as she runs through stripped down arrangements of songs she performed with the Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Fotheringay and The Bunch, along with material from her four solo albums.

Exclusive to this masterful set are three demos recorded at Richard Branson’s Manor Studios in December 1971 for the 1972 rock and roll covers album, The Bunch Rock On; alongside ‘Love Made A Fool Of You’ and ‘Learning The Game’ by one of her teenage heroes, Buddy Holly, she sings a charming duet with Linda Thompson on Phil Everly’s ‘When Will I Be Loved’.

The set comes complete with sleeve notes by Mick Houghton, the author of the critically lauded 2015 Sandy Denny biography, I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn.

All those who knew Sandy Denny well, and who worked closely with her, recall how brilliant she was as a solo acoustic performer and many welcome this compilation as fitting homage to her unique and true talent.

“Sandy was, as are our most brilliant performers, much better solo; I so wish she had recorded a solo album, and told her so.”  (Linda Thompson)

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