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December 2008

Salut! CDs of 2008: an Anglo-Irish summit

Elizaunderwater2For the first time since I began nominating my folk CD/s of the year, an entirely subjective exercise though I have been lucky enough to have platforms for my views for 20 years or more, I found myself stumped.

There was not one clear winner; there were two: Eliza Carthy's outstanding Dreams of Breathing Underwater being caught at the last minute by Cara Dillon's spellbinding Hill of Thieves. An Englishwoman who has given a mountain of service to folk, whatever she chooses - we choose - to call her music now, shares the Salut! Live honours, as performer of the best CD of 2008, with one of the best singers to emerge from Northern Ireland/north of Ireland in decades.

This is simply one man's opinion, of course. It is not even the opinion I gave in my response to the fRoots and BBC critics' polls, for the simple reason that Dillon's album had not even reached me in the UAE when the deadlines for those nominations were looming.
This is my full list - I will add more detail regarding my choices when I can get round to it!:

1 Eliza Carthy Dreams of Breathing Underwater
1 Cara Dillon Hill of Thieves
3 Bellowhead Matachin

4 Fotheringay 2
5 Leon Rosselson A Proper State
6 Chris Foster Outsiders
7 Maddy Prior Seven for Old England
8 Karine Polwart This Earthly Spell
9 Ruth Notman Threads
10 Seth Lakeman Poor Man's Heaven
10 Kris Drever, John McCusker, Roddy Woomble Before The Ruin

* one obvious ps concerns the criteria applied in composing the list. No, I do not see every folk CD. Now that I live in the Gulf, and am no longer the folk critic of The Daily Telegraph, agents and record companies feel much less need to bombard me with everything that is released. So I rely on those that are sent to me, by the people who have dealt with me long enough to know whether I am likely to try to make use of them, and those I buy myself.
In other circumstances, I am sure some of the following - and others, had I heard them - would have entered my considerations since each is by an artist I have in the past championed or regularly reviewed:

Bob Fox & Stu Luckley 30 Years On
Karan Casey Ships In The Forest
Tom Paxton Comedians & Angels

Jim Moray Low Culture

Rosie Doonan Moving On

Catriona Macdonald Over The Moon
Mary McPartlan Petticoat Loose
Loudon Wainwright III Recovery
Tiny Tin Lady Ridiculous Bohemia
Capercaillie Roses and Tears
Chris While and Julie Matthews Together Alone
Tom McConville Tommy On Song
Dervish Travelling Show

Sandy Denny, Fotheringay and the album that refused to stay buried

Fother1Image: Linda Fitzgerald-Moore
One of the most memorable live experiences I have ever known came at the Cropredy festival in 2007, when the sublime Chris While took Sandy Denny's place in what was otherwise the Fairport Convention line-up that recorded Liege and Lief; nearly four decades on, track by track, they re-created that gloriously influential album. If that event took some of us back to the end of the 1960s, what of the tremendous project, pursued by Jerry Donahue, to ensure that a subsequent step in Sandy's career - the second, abandoned album by Fotheringay - was not lost for ever in record label archives? This article, from The National* (published in Abu Dhabi), tells the story - and, don't forget, for a mainstream readership - of Jerry's determined campaign to salvage a priceless gem of the British folk-rock era....

Thirty years have passed since Sandy Denny, a young woman with the voice of an angel but a taste for hard living, suffered a brain haemorrhage while staying with a friend in London. Just 31, she slipped into a coma and died.

She left a young daughter, large numbers of adoring fans and a fair body of recorded work that was to trickle out in various forms over the next three decades.

To coincide with this year’s anniversary of her death, the BBC produced a radio documentary named in part after her most famous song, Who Knows Where The Time Goes? The project echoed a recent explosion of interest in the singer far in excess of the attention she commanded when alive.

And just when it seemed there could surely be nothing more to say or hear, that every radio and television library, record label archive and attic had been combed for material to satisfy the fascination with her life and work, another Sandy Denny album has surfaced.

The story of Fotheringay’s 2, the follow-up record that took 38 years to complete and release, is an extraordinary one. Who, indeed, knows where the time went?

Continue reading "Sandy Denny, Fotheringay and the album that refused to stay buried" »

Best folk track of the year? Step forward Cara Dillon

No sooner had I voted in the BBC Folk Awards for Bellowhead's Fakenham Fair as my traditional track of the year, and Eliza Carthy's Mr Magnifico in the contemporary category, than along comes something that knocks spots off both of them.

I am talking about Spencer the Rover, which appears on Cara Dillon's outstanding new album, Hill of Thieves, on her own Charcoal label.

Continue reading "Best folk track of the year? Step forward Cara Dillon" »

Long distance information

Some people are altogether too clever. Others just paid attention at school.

Those paying attention at Salut! Live will have seen my reference to the delicious Sandy Denny/Fotheringay anecdote from the Manchester gig where, in response to repeated demands Banks of the Nile, the band appeared to relent - only to bash out Memphis Tennessee.

As I departed Abu Dhabi for a holiday on the Nile, a Salut! Live reader writing as Private Beach added this comment:

I wonder if Sandy remembered that Memphis Tennessee takes its name from Memphis in Egypt - which is indeed on the banks of the Nile?

I will not say it was the highlight of an enthralling holiday. But to Memphis, ancient capital of Egypt, I duly went. There was not a great deal to explore - most of what remains of the old city is at the museum where the main picture was taken - but it had to be seen.

Private Beach's theory seemed so compelling that I abandoned my assumption that the band intended no more than a gag. Of course, I told myself, one or more of them must have known precisely what they were doing.

I promised to check, and this I have done. With this surprising - to me - response from Jerry Donahue, the Fotheringay guitarist behind the project to salvage, complete and issue the band's second album 38 years after work first started on it:

We have always loved a rocker and I do remember doing Memphis Tennessee at times but never knew
that the origin of the city name was from Egypt! If Sandy knew she didn't mention it in my presence and
I suspect that it is just a coincidence. However I will run that one by Pat and Gerry to see what they may

Keep watching this space. If Jerry's own inquiries shed more light, it will be reflected here....