In the late ‘60s Fairport pretty much invented English folk-rock and since the late ‘70s the band’s Cropredy festival has been an annual fixture for anyone with a love of this type of music. While the festival as a whole tends to offer an eclectic mixture of folk and heritage rock acts, Fairport Convention themselves always headline on the Saturday night. While previous years have offered a marathon three-hour session from Fairport, tonight we have a slightly truncated two-hour set. But we are still given a great selection of songs and tunes in that time. The band are about to release a new studio album so brand new material is introduced alongside old favourites. The first of the new songs is Myths and Heroes. F or anyone concerned that the “rock” element of Fairport’s genetic composition has been downplayed in recent years, they will not be at all disappointed with this, a ferocious and brilliantly played slice of folk-rock.
For me the two strongest tracks on their last studio album of new material, Festival Bell, are undoubtedly Around the Wild Cape Horn and Mercy Bay. I was delighted to see that these two have remained in the set. Both magnificently sung by Simon Nicol, they are now bona fide Fairport classics that comfortably sit alongside older Fairport classics. We do hear plenty of the older classics, too, however. Walk awhile, Crazy Man Michael, Now Be Thankful and Farewell Farewell are all in there, alongside a great version of The Lark in the Morning medley, which set the template for fast and furious electric folk instrumentals on the genre-defining Liege and Lief album back in 1969.
The only thing that really didn’t work for me tonight was the guest spot from vocalist Sally Barker, who sang Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes. Barker is a star of TV’s The Voice, and while her heavily-pronounced, overly-dramatic vocal delivery may be just what is needed for TV talent shows, it was the exact opposite of the calm, understated, crystal-clear beauty of Sandy Denny’s original.
Traditional show closer Meet on the Ledge, written by the band’s original lead guitarist, Richard Thompson at the crazily young age of 17, always provides the collected Cropredy masses with a rousing and emotional final sing-along. But another defining moment of every Cropredy festival is the penultimate number, Matty Groves. The exact origins of the song (an adulterous tale of a Lady and a servant who both meet a tragic end at the hands of her jealous husband) are lost in the mists of time. But whoever originally wrote it must surely never have imagined that several hundred years after it was written, 20,000 people would stand together in a field in Oxfordshire every year and sing along to all nineteen verses at the top of their voices. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Crazy Man Michael
Myths & Heroes
The Happy Man
Around the Wild Cape Horn
The Hiring Fair
The Lark in the Morning Medley
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
Now Be Thankful
Bring me Back my Feathers
Love at First Sight
Meet on the Ledge
Previous review: Fairport Convention at Union Chapel
5 thoughts on “Fairport Convention at Cropredy 9/8/14”
Nice write up Darren. It might be slightly sacrilegious to say this but I thought the two hour set worked better for Fairport. I thought the shorter set lead to more energy and a somehow more exciting setlist. I thought it the best Fairport set for a number of years, certainly the best since 2009. What did you think?
I thought it was great this time and I tend to agree two hours worked just fine. However, the set with Thompson, Hutchings et al two years ago was very special and sounded amazing.
Ah, unfortunately I missed 2012 as I was working at the Olympic sailing
What a Blog , Absolutely spot on although I tend to disagree and we could have done with a bit more Fairport (being a diehard fan of well over 40 years)but it was so good to see Peggy back and im sure that he will now go from strength to strength and soon be back to “normal”,it was also nice to see Robert plant on the field.
Pleased you are enjoying the blog John!