Fairport Convention celebrated their 45th year anniversary today…

Fairport Convention, legendary pioneers of British folk rock and still one of the most enduring names in popular music, celebrated their 45th birthday today as band (Sunday 27 May 2012).

Happy Birthday Fairport!

Formed in north London during the ‘summer of love’, Fairport Convention played its very first gig on 27 May 1967 in a Golders Green church hall. Avidly championed by John Peel, the band rapidly became popular on the club and college circuit. A record contract followed and Fairport went on to ‘ invent’ the musical genre of British folk rock.

Fairport Convention went through frequent personnel changes in its early days nurturing world class talents such as Richard Thompson and the late Sandy Denny along the way. However, maturity has brought stability and the current line-up has been together for over a dozen years.

Fairport Convention has outlived most of its contemporaries from the fertile 60s music scene and, 45 years on, remains one of the busiest bands around. During that time, Fairport has won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and Radio 2 listeners voted their groundbreaking album Liege & Lief  ‘The Most Influential Folkrock Album of All Time’.

Fairport Convention and its 45-year history will be the subject of a major music documentary to be screened on BBC4 television in summer 2012.

The current line-up of Simon Nicol (lead vocal, rhythm and electric guitars), Dave Pegg (backing vocals, bass guitar, mandolin), Ric Sanders (violin), Chris Leslie (lead vocal, fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin) and Gerry Conway (percussion and drums) still packs venues on its annual UK-wide tours.

The band is also well-known for staging one of the UK’s major music festivals, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. Now in its thirty-second year the festival attracts up to 20,000 festival-goers and was described by The Guardian as “as much a British summer institution as Wimbledon.” The event is also a partner of the BBC Young Folk Award and provides a main-stage showcase for each year’s winner.

This year, Cropredy will also reflect the anniversary with special guests and Fairport alumni joining the host band on stage – confirmed guests include co-founding member Richard Thompson, fiddle maestro Dave Swarbrick, drummer Dave Mattacks and guitarist Jerry Donahue. Thompson will also play a headline set in his own right.

Fairport will be celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary throughout the year. The band started 2012 with a forty-date British tour, the concerts featuring songs from Fairport’s recent studio album, the critically-acclaimed Festival Bell, as well as material drawn from the band’s extensive repertoire.

By Popular Request is precisely that – an album of 13 songs, voted for by the fans and rerecorded by the current line-up of Fairport Convention and produced by John Gale. Fairport tell us, that they are absolutely delighted by the results and hope the fans are too. Here is the track listing:

01 WALK AWHILE 4:22
02 CRAZY MAN MICHAEL 4:41
03 THE HIRING FAIR 5:42
04 THE HEXHAMSHIRE LASS 2:30
05 RED AND GOLD 6:42
06 SIR PATRICK SPENS 3:34
07 GENESIS HALL 3:29
08 FAREWELL FAREWELL 3:01
09 ROSIE 4:16
10 MATTY GROVES 5:06
11 FOTHERINGAY 3:24
12 JEWEL IN THE CROWN 3:32
13 MEET ON THE LEDGE 4:23

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NEW DELUXE EDITIONS OF SANDY DENNY’S CLASSIC ISLAND RECORDINGS

Photo taken by Brian Cooke in 1975

On May 21st 2012, Universal is set to release the last three solo albums which Sandy Denny recorded for Island Records during her lifetime. The release coincides with a special tribute tour – “The Lady: A Homage to Sandy Denny” – which commences on May 19th.

Each of the three albums is now presented as a deluxe two-disc edition: SANDY, was released in September 1972 and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year; LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ, from June 1974 and RENDEZVOUS which was released in May 1977, less than a year before her death in April 1978. In the intervening years Sandy Denny’s reputation has escalated and it is largely down to this sequence of solo albums (which are built mostly around her own compositions), that she is now widely regarded by musicians and critics alike as Britain’s finest female singer songwriter.

The expansive bonus material includes home and studio demos, alternate takes and live recordings pertaining to each release. Of special note is an radio broadcast on Disc Two of SANDY, containing eight unadorned songs recorded live on a tour of the US at Ebbets Field, featuring tracks from the SANDY, and THE NORTH STAR GRASSMAN AND THE RAVENS albums, as well as the only live performance of “At the End of The Day” from LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ. There is also a previously unreleased band version of “The Lady” and a live version of “Whispering Grass” from Dutch Television and an alternate take of the R n’ B tinged “Take Me Away” from the RENDEZVOUS sessions among many other rare or deleted extra tracks.

All three albums contain a wealth of well-known guest musicians including the likes of Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue, Allen Toussaint, Steve Winwood, Diz Disley, ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow and John Kirkpatrick to name a few.

SANDY, widely regarded as Sandy’s finest solo album, features such memorable Denny compositions as “The Lady”, “It’ll Take A Long Time” and “Listen, Listen” plus “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood”, the last traditional tune she recorded, underpinning an astonishing multi-tracked vocal arrangement of a Richard Farina lyric.

LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ is Sandy’s most romantic sounding record; built around her own compositions it includes the exceptional “Solo”, and “No End”, “Carnival” and “At The End Of The Day” as well as two sumptuous jazz standards, “Whispering Grass” and “Until The Real Thing Comes Along”.

RENDEZVOUS shows a departure in style for Sandy, with several more up-tempo recordings, like “Take Me Away” and a cover of Richard Thompson’s “For Shame of Doing Wrong”. The album also includes an unusual session cut live with the band and strings which yielded gems like “I’m A Dreamer” and “No More Sad Refrains”, the haunting, orchestral “All Our Days”, and “One Way Donkey Ride”.

These new editions coincide with a UK tour entitled “The lady: A homage to Sandy Denny” which will present an evening of classic songs by Sandy featuring Joan Wasser (aka Joan AsPolicewoman), Maddy Prior, Jerry Donahue, Dave Swarbrick, Green Gartside, PP Arnold and Thea Gilmore, who last year succeeded in bringing to life a selection of Sandy Denny’s unrecorded songs on the album DON’T STOP SINGING.

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Artist Web link: www.sandydennyofficial.com

THEA GILMORE – Don’t Stop Singing – ISLAND/MIGHTY VILLAGE

I’m always a little wary about the posthumous raking over of an artist’s work. Sandy Denny has been well served by compilations and archive tapes over the years but even here there were some tracks that I do feel would have been better left unheard – mostly because of recording quality rather than any deficiencies on Sandy’s part, I hasten to say.

Thea Gilmore has previous, too, and I am torn over her interpretation of John Wesley Harding but Don’t Stop Singing is rather different.

It comprises ten lyrics which were discovered among Sandy’s personal papers and which, after a tortuous process, were offered to Thea to score and record. Her voice has the warmth of Sandy’s without the fragility and it suits the songs well. The opening track, ‘Glistening Bay’, is a big ballad, richly orchestrated but I can’t help thinking that this isn’t the tune that Sandy would have written. The title track brings to mind the old rock songs that Sandy used to do, songs like ‘Let’s Jump The Broomstick’, and with ‘Frozen Time’ Thea has absolutely nailed the soul of the song. Again, the orchestrations are lush but you can visualise Sandy at the piano as you can with the lovely ‘Goodnight’.

‘London’ is a very different song, the sort of folk-pop that Sandy brought to Fairport during her latter days with the band, but in the main Thea has chosen the more emotional lyrics like ‘Pain In My Heart’ and ‘Long Time Gone’ and there is a great sense of insecurity and loneliness in these songs. The final selection, ‘Georgia’, teasingly quotes Hoagy Carmichael’s tune in Sandy’s lullaby for her daughter.

Musically, this is very much a 21st century interpretation of the songs. Production is by Nigel Stonier who collaborated on the music and is a major part of the band. John and Benji Kirkpatrick, Maclaine Colston and Kellie While also feature and the strings are arranged by Donald Grant who also leads the orchestra. If I have a criticism, it is that the strings are sometimes too much and although Sandy herself used similar arrangements she kept them in balance, at least until Rendezvous. That said, as an interpretation of Sandy’s words, this is an astounding album.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist Web link: www.theagilmore.net

THEA GILMORE – Don’t Stop Singing

The prolific and ever-talented Thea Gilmore has announced details of a unique new collaborative album, ‘Don’t Stop Singing’Released on November 7 via Island Records & Mighty Village, the record brings together Gilmore’s songwriting and arrangements with previously un-scored lyrics penned by folk legend Sandy Denny. The seeds for this extraordinary project were planted, albeit somewhat inadvertently, twelve years ago, when a Denny biographer unearthed a collection of unscored lyric manuscripts amongst Denny’s personal effects (held in Australia by the Fairport Convention singer’s widower, Trevor Lucas). These ‘lost’ manuscripts continued to lie essentially dormant until late 2007, when Denny’s home label – Island Records – and the custodians of her estate began combing through her correspondence, as part of a BBC project. In doing so, they found the lyrics to twenty brand new and never-heard-before songs. Denny’s estate, willing them to reach a public audience, set about the unenviable task of trying to find the right artist to flesh out these words with music.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, a name which frequently came up in discussions was that of Thea Gilmore. Beyond the frequent and favourable comparisons that have been made between the crystalline vocals of Gilmore and her predecessor, there seemed to be a strong resonance of Denny’s legacy in Thea’s work. Bizarrely, it was as an intern at Fairport Convention’s Oxfordshire studios that a young Gilmore’s burgeoning career began. Here has followed a vehemently independent and prolific output, which has thus far seen Thea release ten critically-acclaimed studio albums in as many years (she is barely 30), and acquire fans such as Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez. Gilmore, though understandably daunted by the task of agreeing to make an album that was in some senses already written, agreed to take up the challenge.

‘Don’t Stop Singing’ is no mere exercise in hero-worship on Gilmore’s part. Thea has crafted an elegant, emotional score to accompany Denny’s unfinished songs, which effortlessly reflects the content of Sandy’s words, and shines new light on both artists involved. This is perhaps best demonstrated on the gorgeous, string-led opener, ‘Glistening Bay’, where the wistful wish to return to a far-off city acquires an emotional new resonance. And though this is a fundamentally tender record, it is not without colour: see the upbeat folk-pop of ‘London’, which features the accordion playing of John Kirkpatrick (a contributor on original Denny recordings).

Whilst the record certainly has Thea’s stamp on it, there is no mistaking the talent and unflinchingly personal narrative of Denny. This is a collection sewn together in equal parts by Denny’s awe of the natural world, the experiences of her marriage to Lucas and her well-documented personal battles. ‘Pain in My Heart’, for instance, details a conflict of love and fidelity, and even references occasions of stage fright. One of the album’s most poignant moments, ‘Long Time Gone’, portrays an artist ill at ease with travel, separation, and herself: “I’m in such a terrible state, and my city’s just like me / I can’t afford to live in this place / And I can’t afford to leave.”

And yet despite Denny’s lyrical demons, the title track of ‘Don’t Stop Singing’ proves to be prophetic: this is a record that points to the enduring value of artistry, made – in extraordinary circumstances – by two extreme talents. Says Thea-

“I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t know at least one Sandy Denny song. Growing up the 80s, in an impossibly rural corner of Oxfordshire, she was one of the voices who filtered through from my father’s record collection, and ‘Late November’, ‘Fotheringay’ and ‘Next Time Around’ were as embedded in my psyche as surely as the delights of Bros and New Kids On The Block were thrilling my alleged peers…

As I moved further away from my beginnings and as the world moved further away from 1978, Sandy began to assume the proportions of a reference point, a fountainhead even, for any girl who wanted to sing and write and who didn’t wish they’d been born American.

Who knows how she would have developed these fragments, poems, words without tunes, had she lived longer? I was pleased to be asked, by those who survived her and those who continue to curate her work, to develop them, pleased when the words began to carry me somewhere and to suggest places that they and I could go together, and pleased when musicians who knew her and worked with her gave me encouragement, urged me to make this record.

Would Sandy have liked to see these songs being finished by me and released to the world? I hope so, but I will never know and neither will you. I see some of her contemporaries receiving posthumous garlands, being lauded by new generations of listeners, and I wish the same on Sandy’s beautiful timeless music. If you are reading this and don’t own a Sandy Denny album, consider yourself urged to go buy one.

And hey, in the end, who cares where the time goes, the music stays.”

Artist Web Link: http://www.theagilmore.net/

FAIRPORT ACOUSTIC CONVENTION – Fairfield Halls, Croydon (11.05.11)

Taking their seats for this performance at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls the legendary Fairport Convention (Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders and Gerry Conway) delved into their extensive catalogue of songs/tunes starting with a spirited version of “Walk Awhile”. Following on with Leslie’s take on Lord Franklin’s ill fated expedition “I’m Already There” with it’s evocative two chord introduction (a bit like that employed on Paul Simon’s “Old Friends”) the group have found a songwriter to vie with Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe when it comes to writing in the traditional idiom. This is possibly just as well as Nicol somewhat humorously (or negatively depending on which way you read it) dismissed the ‘folk’ element of the band’s material even though, as he said, it is the ‘folk’ material that set the band apart from that of other mainstream ‘rock’ acts. Armed with an array of instruments that would have made a Hobgoblin stall proud including fiddles, mandolins, ukuleles, bass, guitar and drums the quintet really lived up to their reputation as multi-instrumentalists and with a set that predominantly featured tracks from their latest ‘Festival Bell’ CD along with several tunes courtesy of Sander’s sawing strings the onstage bonhomie made the time whistle by. Of course, established favourites such as “Matty Groves”, “Meet On The Ledge” and a truly superb Nicol led version of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” were wheeled out to the obvious delight of the audience whilst the anthemic “Meet On The Ledge” brought everything to a fitting finale.

PETE FYFE

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Fairport Convention With Sandy Denny Live At Ebbets Field 1974

Fairport Convention With Sandy Denny Live At Ebbets Field 19743/16/2011 – Philadelphia, PA – Much to the excitement of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny fans around the globe, Philadelphia’s ItsAboutMusic.com will release ultra rare recordings of the famed UK group recorded live at Ebbets Field in Denver, Colorado May 23/24, 1974. Produced and digitally remastered by Fairport Convention’s Jerry Donahue for ItsAboutMusic.com, the 1974 line-up of Fairport Convention on these recordings feature Sandy Denny (Vocals, Piano), Dave Mattacks (Drums), Jerry Donahue (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Dave Pegg (Bass,Vocals), Trevor Lucas (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar) and Dave Swarbrick (Vocals, Violin). This historical audio documentation catches the band at the height of their career performing to an ecstatic audience. Fairport Convention are an English folk rock band formed in 1967, who are still recording and touring today, and are considered “the most important group in the English folk rock movement”. Their critically acclaimed album ‘Liege and Lief’ helped launch the English folk rock movement. The vast number of personnel who have passed through band’s revolving door are amongst the most highly regarded and influential musicians of their era, and have gone on to work with many significant bands. Since 1979 the group has hosted the Cropredy Festival, a large annual event held in England. Individually and collectively the members of Fairport Convention have garnered numerous awards recognizing their contribution to music and culture.

Fairport Convention was formed around 1967, and originally played a “harmony-and guitar-based folk-rock style” strongly influenced by Californian groups of the day like the Byrds. The line-up that recorded their self-titled debut album in 1968 featured Richard Thompson, Ian Matthews, and Simon Nicol on guitars; Ashley Hutchings on bass; Judy Dyble on vocals; and Martin Lamble on drums. Fairport Convention didn’t reach their peak until Dyble was replaced after the first album in 1968 by Sandy Denny, who had previously recorded both as a solo act and with the Strawbs. Denny has been touted as the best British folk-rock singer of all time. This incarnation of the band would record two well-received albums. When Ian Matthews left the band in early 1969, and Martin Lamble (still in his teens) died in an accident involving the group’s equipment van in mid-1969, Fairport regrouped, replacing Lamble with Dave Mattacks, and adding Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. Their repertoire became much more traditional, and electrified traditional folk numbers would dominate their next album, ‘Liege and Lief’ (1969).

This line-up didn’t last long and by the end of the ’60s Ashley Hutchings had left to join Steeleye Span (he was replaced by Dave Pegg). Sandy Denny also left the group to form Fotheringay with Jerry Donahue. Richard Thompson remained for ‘Full House’ (1970), but by the beginning of 1971 he too had departed, leaving Nicol as the only original member. Sandy Denny would actually return to the group for about a year and a half in the 1970s, prior to her death in 1978. Fairport Convention have continued on and off for the last 25 years, touring and performing frequently. To this day, the band is supported by a devoted fan base. Now with the release of ‘Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny – Ebbets Field 1974’, one important chapter of the band’s history is preserved for generations to enjoy. Here’s a magic recording of Sandy Denny, Jerry Donahue, Trevor Lucas, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks captured live!

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