Fair play Fairport: glories of Liege and Lief revisited
Kate Rusby and a Cropredy postcript

Cropredy: the winner's take

No sooner had I invited readers' thoughts on Fairport Convention and Cropredy than a detailed, thought-provoking missive arrived from Martin Sellers, who won a pair of tickets for the festival in the competition linked to Salut! Live's interview with Simon Nicol.

From a big thumbs-up for Show of Hands, Marie-Louise O'Connor and the Demon Barbers Roadshow to disappointment with Seth Lakeman and a mixed, measured assessment of Fairport, he has views on three days of music in and around the festival.

But I will let Martin do the talking:

You may remember that I won a pair of tickets for Cropredy in a
competition on your site: I've just returned home after a couple of days
in the Lake District post-festival, read your blog and thought I'd post
my thoughts.

I managed to take in all three days, and caught all the folk acts. I was
interested to see how performers who were used to performing in small
clubs and theatres, or in folk festival marquees holding maybe 1000
maximum, would fare on a massive stage in front of a potential audience
of 20000.

So, in chronological order:

Kerfuffle I only caught the last 20 minutes of their set (3 hours to
travel 4 miles from the motorway, 20 minutes to queue for a wristband).
Average age about 18, excellent stage presence and variety.

Seth Lakeman Left me cold, I'm afraid. I could have been suffering from
the effects of the journey, but it all sounded histrionic and
single-paced. The audience liked it, though.

Demon Barbers Roadshow This was one of my highlights of the weekend:
they were born to play on stages like that: clog dancing, rapper
dancing, morris dancing, rumbling bass lines, unaccompanied singing and

Last Orders
Winners of the Young Folk Award 2006. Technically
brilliant, but lacking a bit of stagecraft: only came to life when
Marie-Louise O'Connor joined them. A waif-like 16 year-old with an
arresting voice: watch out for her in the future.

Show of Hands Excellent. SoH have a surprising number of detractors on
various forums: I was familiar with their recorded material, but I
approached their performance with some trepidation. I was particularly
impressed by two things: the textured sound they managed to create from
such sparse instrumentation, and the way that Steve Knightley could tie
the songs into everyday experience. My wife, who has no particular
interest in folk music, picked this as the best set of the weekend.

Liege and Lief Did you record that YouTube film? (I now realise you didn't). If so, you must have been standing about 50 yards in front of me. I'm not as intimately familiar with the Fairport back catalogue as most of the audience: however I did buy a copy of L&L when I knew I'd be going. All the live versions were at least as good as the record, and in the case of the jigs and reels, much better (to my ears, the recorded version is a bit clunky). That was due in no small measure to Dave Swarbrick, who was nothing like the rather sad figure I'd seen at the Chester Folk Festival three months ago (it was a bitterly cold day, to be fair).

Give Way Winners of the Young Folk Award 2001. Instrumentally excellent,
vocally so-so, both in delivery and choice of material (power ballad stuff).

I'm going to mention a group I saw in the village.The engagingly eccentric Leatherat, with the same instrumental lineup as Seth Lakeman's band but 10 times the energy. I would have stayed longer, but it wasimpossible to get anywhere near the bar.

Bob Fox and Billy Mitchell Excellent late afternoon set:
relaxed, effortless. I have to report that Bob Fox didn't mention
Sunderland FC once.

Fairport Convention Dave Swarbrick was on excellent form again, there
was a scorching version of Time Will Show The Wiser, but it also made
me realise why I've never really got to grips with FC. They never know
how to finish a song: there's always a coda or curlicue tacked onto the
end which dampens the emotional impact. Still, they know their audience,
and their audience know them - why tamper with a winning formula?

My highlights

Bryony Griffith(Demon Barber)'s unaccompanied calling-on song for the
rapper dancers

Show of Hands - Undertow

Marie-Louise O'Connor - Last of the Great Whales

Liege and Lief - The Deserter

Thanks again for the tickets: it was a fantastic weekend of entertainment


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