In the 45 years that, almost unbelievably, have passed since the desperately early death of Sandy Denny, musicians and writers have done wonders to ensure the wonderful body of work she created in such a short life, remains alive.
Without the least disrespect to the many I will unintentionally overlook, I readily bring to mind Philip Ward, Andrew Batt, Phil Lloyd Smee, Thea Gilmore, Chris While, the large extended Fairport Convention family, Jerry Donahue and all those artists – Judy Collins, Mary Black, Nina Simone, Nanci Griffith, Kate Rusby, Rufus Wainwright, Eva Cassidy, Barbara Dickson, 10,ooo Maniacs and so many more including the afore-mentioned Gilmore and While – and their covers of Sandy’s songs.
One singer and one artist are absent from that provisional, incomplete list: Carla Fuchs, an admirable performer, writer and academic, and Georgia Rose Lucas, the daughter of Sandy and an accomplished artist.
Carla Fuchs (R, Georgia Rose Lucas (L) flanking the image of Sandy, Credit: Martin Vernert
The two of them have joined forces to produce Songbird, an outstanding project in which Carla has put to music to the lyrics – some complete, some not – found in the notebooks of Sandy.
Of the 10 tracks, the words of only two – Georgia and Sixpence – have previously been turned into songs.
One, the title track, is a wistful, wholly new song, which repeated listening is gradually enabling me to appreciate.
Georgia, whose Australian father, the late Trevor Lucas, was a fixture of Sandy's Fairport and Fotheringay eras, came up with the idea of inviting Carla to join her in creating this impressive album. She used her artistic skills – and those of her mother - for the drawings that illustrate the CD sleeve and inner artwork.
Carla will perform the full album as part of the Brasenose Fringe Festival in Cropredy, Oxfordshire – the gathering point for Fairport’s annual festival - next Thursday (August 10) while Georgia will present an exhibition, curated by her, of her mother’s memorabilia.
If you visit another Salut! Live link - https://www.salutlive.com/2023/08/sandy-by-carla.html - you will find Carla’s own description of how the project came into being and how she had to overcome personal tragedy of her own to remain focused on the challenge she had set herself.
With mum's Gibson at the Regent Sounds music shop in London's Soho
My thanks to the priceless music publicist Stevie Horton for reminding me of another piece of evocative writing from Carla, similar to what she contributed to Salut! Live on how her love for Sandy’s work developed into this project from the impact one of her albums made on her as she drove home over snowswept German mountain roads.
In the winter of 2020, when I was alone in my tiny car at night, driving through snowy roads in the high mountains playing Sandy Denny’s album Sandy. I was suddenly overcome with inspiration. I was so fascinated by her music and her voice that, as soon as I got home, I had to sit down at the piano and play her songs.
Before I knew it I had started my project Songs of Sandy Denny.
Georgia and I first met online after I put my first Sandy covers on YouTube.
Our connection from that first moment is another mystery that is hard to put into words. We had found each other. I took courage and sent her my song Songbird and my version of Sandy’s lost lyrics to Sixpence.
Shortly after, I almost fell off my chair when Georgia suggested we make a whole album with lyrics Sandy couldn’t put to music. From one part of the world to the other, from Australia to Germany.
The depth of our friendship grew with a great gratitude that we had both found someone with whom we could share this Sandy journey in all its details.
We lived together in our project. We made plans, supported each other in questions of music, songwriting, searching through the original lyrics together with Elizabeth Hurtt.
And, while I was taking care of the music, Georgia was crafting her own artwork from Sandy’s sketches, the wonderful artwork of our album. And out of the energy, thoughts and love for each other, came this album that unites three women - regardless of space and time - making the impossible possible and picking up what seemed to be over long before I was even born!
The evolution of those wintertime thoughts of Carla Fuchs have, with Georgia's enthusiastic encouragement and skilled artwork, led to this bold, imaginative project. As Stevie puts it, "Carla has not attempted to make another Sandy tribute album, nor is she trying to sound like Sandy". Rather, she sought to evoke a "Sandy-inspired soundscape that plays homage to Sandy's musical nuances" .
Talking Elephant Records will release Songbird by Carla Fuchs on September 15. The album will be available earlier at a special pre-launch event in August (see Cropredy mention above), The title track Songbird was issued as a digital single on July 7 and Sixpence a week later. Both those songs weer already set to music, by Thea Gilmore for her 2011 album. Carla has given them new music.
2. Go West
4. Simply Falls Apart
5. If You Are Free
6. Charm and Patience
8. Half Way Home
9. Winter Elms
10. Winning of the Game
Plus a hidden track: Georgia reciting Sandy’s diary extract on which she based the lyrics of Winter Elms
Carla Fuchs by Birgit Riedmann