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December 2010

Sandy Denny: a grudge-free, five-star indulgence

Welcome to all those coming here via the Expecting Rain site - your visits are an unexpected pleasure

Jef Aérosol 2006

I owe no favours to Island or Universal. The publicist dealing with press inquiries on the new 19-CD collection tracing Sandy Denny's extraordinary career told me that even he hadn't been provided with a box set of his own.

Critics are now invited to listen to tracks online. It is apparently becoming the way of the world with record reviews, even for conventional one-disc releases; how things have changed. I know what my response would be if employed as an editor; fRoots carried a long feature about this set and I sincerely hope its editor, Ian Anderson, made this conditional on receipt of a review copy. So no favours, but also no grudges. This is my review, published by The National, Abu Dhabi on Dec 8 ...

Sandy Denny Sandy Denny: Limited Edition 19CD Box set (Universal)

Rating: *****

In a short lifetime that established her as an outstandingly gifted singer and songwriter, Sandy Denny made several albums on her own and with Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, the Strawbs and others.

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Bravo Bellowhead: fRoots album of 2010


An e-mail
from the fRoots editor Ian Anderson brings news that Bellowhead have won the album-of-the-year award in the magazine's annual poll - its 25th - of critics and others associated with folk and roots music.

I am delighted for Bellowhead, an outstanding band, and offer them Salut! Live's warm congratulations.


But the choice vindicates my own decision not to take part, for the first time in as many years as I can recall, in this year's judging. The same applied to the BBC 2 folk music awards poll.

My chaotic existence over the past five or six years - moving from Paris to the south of France to London to Abu Dhabi and back again (but without Paris) - has limited my access to as much music as I would like to hear. The supply of review albums has also steadied to a trickle, an understandable consequence of the little amount of reviewing I still do in newspapers as opposed to here (and it's not that much more here).

I have asked both fRoots and the BBC to keep me in mind as a panel member for next year and hope very much to make Salut! Live much more active than it has been. But for 2010, I simply could not have done justice to the judge's role.

So bravo Bellowhead, and to the other winners, as announced last night on BBC Radio 3's World On 3 by Mary Ann Kennedy and Ian:

Album Of 2010: Bellowhead Hedonism (Navigator)

Compilation/Re-issue: Various Artists: Africa 50 (Stern's/ Discograph)

Best Packaged Album: Natalie Merchant Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)


Since I have none of these albums, a gap in my life that I shall now rectify, the correctness of my decision to abstain from the voting was clearly justified.

If the awards entice you into buying any of the selected albums, or any others that have been mentioned here over the past couple of years, consult my Amazon list by scrolling down the right sidebar or go directly to the Bellowhead link by

and navigating the Amazon site.