Roy Bailey was always a favourite of Towersey Festival. He was the festival’s patron and, in fact, his last album was a live set recorded at the festival in 2015. It was also his first and only live album and was apparently recorded without Roy’s knowledge and I can imagine Roy modestly pooh-poohing any suggestion of a live album. The thing is: Roy’s albums were always good but live he was something else. This double-CD, packed with Roy’s friends and family, was recorded at Towersey in 2019 and I doubt there was a dry eye on the field.
Steve Heap had the good grace to admit that his welcome was a touch maudlin but it was sincerely meant and then the music began with the song that Roy habitually opened his set with, Si Khan’s ‘What You Do With What You’ve Got’. The honour of opening the show thus went to Marc Block, Andy Cutting and Martin Simpson.
Roy Bailey wasn’t a songwriter, something that is often forgotten, but he took songs from some of the best and made them his own. It’s fortunate that several of them: Ray Hearne, Boff Walley, Tom Robinson and John Kirkpatrick were able to be part of the show. Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson were not there in person but they were well represented by their songs. Could you have a celebration of Roy without ‘Herald Of Free Enterprise’? Of course not and James Fagen was eerily accurate at capturing Robb’s vocal inflections.
But this isn’t just about a bunch of people singing songs, it’s about memories. There are specific tributes from Roy’s daughter Kit, from Martin Simpson and from Stephen Taberner as well as stories and anecdotes from the performers. For some of us, the songs will remain paramount and as Ray Hearne sang ‘Song For David’ I was suddenly taken back nearly two decades to a little local folk festival and hearing Roy singing it. The line “Autumn is the cruellest season” does it for me every time. ‘Blood Brother’, ‘Palaces Of Gold’ and ‘More Than Enough’ all feature on the first disc and they may be part of your memories.
The second disc opens with John Kirkpatrick and ‘On The Road To Freedom’. I must admit that I could do without him following it with ‘Busy Bee’ but the audience loved it – I think there was a visual joke involved. I guess you had to be there. The Spooky Men’s Chorale perhaps slipped from the script with a traditional Georgian lament – quite appropriate, of course – and followed it with ‘You Need Skin’. Somebody had to. The Wilson Family do what they do best and Nancy and James, Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting returned with ‘Everything Possible’, a song that underlines the message of this celebration and, indeed, Roy’s life.
Then came the big finale and what else could it be but ‘Rolling Home’? Led by The Wilson Family with the entire company on stage, the song also featured the uncredited stars of the show – the audience. They knew every word of every song, it seems, and huge credit must go to whoever set up the recording of the crowd thus demolishing the divide between performer and listener.
Label website: www.towerseyfestival.com
We’d like to thank The Cellar Upstairs Folk Club for putting this video on line and hope they won’t mind us reposting it. Six songs by Roy Bailey: