Being the fine upstanding folk rock obsessive that I am, I thought I'd take myself off to the Cropredy Festival so that none of you had to go...
Blessed with astonishingly good weather this year, the scene was set for what I hoped was going to be 3 days of top quality folk. Was it? We'll come to Fairport in a bit. Read on....
Bellowhead - I've always been a bit ambivalent about them, but this was the weekend where I finally got the point. An absolutely storming set, and looked like they were enjoying themselves more than anyone else on the bill. Several albums purchased.
Calan - really good Welsh folk; sort of sound like 9/Jewel era Fairport (unsurprising maybe given the involvement of Maart), they even managed to work in a bit of clog dancing. Would have purchased the album, but it had sold out by the time I got to the tent.
Tarras - nice to see them back, after so nearly making it big round the turn of the last decade. Line-up's a bit different, but they make a good big sound!
Richard Thompson - he was a bit naughty really. It was billed as a solo set, second headlining on Friday, but then he brought on Mattacks, Pegg, Nicol, and blew the site away. We had some Bright Lights, a bit of Sandy, and the whole thing was a bit emotional.
Larkin Poe - just about got what they did, but they were probably a bit too "mainstream" for Cropredy.
Ellen and the Escapades - bland, inoffensive, nothing further to say...
Dead Flamingoes - I really wanted to like them, what with Kami Thompson being the singer (and sounding an awful lot like her mother), but even by the standards of folk the lyrics were bleak. If they cheer up a bit, they might be rather wonderful, but they're not there yet.
Big Country - sort of got it, but not my scene, and the new vocalist is a bit too different.
Legend - fun reggae covers band with some impressive session pedigree.
Joan Armatrading - I like her, I really do, but I'm not sure what she was doing at Cropredy. There was a hard core in front of the stage who were obviously enjoying themselves, but also a steady stream for the exits (she was the Friday headline), and lost me after about 20 minutes. In some ways I think it was through poor choice of material, but admittedly she wasn't helped by having to follow Richard Thompson.
Squeeze - why? Just why?
And so to Fairport, who came on at 2030 on Saturday night and played until midnight. Before we go any further, let me just list the personnel involved over the 3.5 hours so you get some idea of why this was one of the strongest Cropredy sets for a while:
Ashley Hutchings, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg, Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson, Judy Dyble, Maartin Allcock, Gerry Conway, Jerry Donahue, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders, Blair Dunlop, Kami Thompson, the excellent Kristina Donahue, and the two singers from Larkin Poe.
Given the above wouldn't it have been nice if they'd cobbled together the "Full House" era lineup and gone heavy on that? It would? Lucky they did then.
Set list (copied from Andy at talkawhile's post with due attribution as my own notes were illegible thanks to a combination of darkness, alcohol and emotion):
1. Mercy Bay 2. Albert & Ted 3. Fotheringay 4. I'll Keep It With Mine 5. Percy's Song 6. Lark In The Morning 7. Come All Ye 8. The Deserter 9. Walk Awhile 10. Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman 11. Sloth 12. Bring 'Em Down 13. White Dress 14. Night Time Girl 15. One More Chance 16. The Gas Almost Works, Cat On The Mixer, Three Left Feet (instr.) 17. Red Tide (by Rob Beattie) 18. Jewel In The Crown 19. Honor And Praise 20. Dangerous 21. Portmeirion 22. The Hiring Fair 23. The Brilliancy Method & The Cherokee Shuffle (instrumental) 24. The Hexamshire Lass 25. My Love Is In America 26. John Gaudie 27. Danny Jack's Reward 28. Farewell, Farewell 29. Matty Groves
30. Meet On The Ledge
Well, where do you start? Swarb was excellent, stood up for most of it, and looked a lot better than he had at the Barbican during the Sandy tour earlier this year. Jerry D has always been one of my favourite guitarists and did little to disappoint here. Kami Thompson did a bit of a Sandy impression, Richard Thompson picked up where he'd left off the night before, and the whole field was singing bethankit (to horribly mangle PG Wodehouse).
Interesting use of the younger generation, which might point the future direction for the Fairport slot (at this rate, they'll have perfected the creation of a perpetual band!) Must stop rambling now, but Fairport alone made the festival one not to have missed - certainly the best set they've done for a decade I'd have said.
Oh, also enjoyed (and bought) the excellent 45th anniversary t-shirt they've produced which helpfully shows a lego character of each of the 25 people who have so far been member of the band!
Hopefully, if I can link the two for a moment, it's the start of an upswing for both Fairport and this blog.....