As a long-standing admirer of Fairport Convention , I am slightly ashamed to say that I had never attended their annual Cropredy Festival until this year . Somehow I missed the previous 39 festivals.
Having attended this year’s event, I now realise what I have missed , as it has a wonderfully friendly atmosphere and an eclectic selection of music . This year , as well as the customary folk acts we had prog rock, punk-folk, gypsy-punk, zydeco and thrash metal !
I won’t attempt to describe the whole 3 days’-worth of music but will set out my personal Top Ten Moments of the Festival , in chronological order.
1 The Festival began with an acoustic set by Fairport , during which they introduced their special guest Georgia Rose Lucas, the daughter of the much-lamented Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas. Festival compere Anthony John Clarke read a poem written by Georgia called “Where I Am From” which touched the hearts of the entire crowd and she received a standing ovation.
2 Lil’ Jim , an accordionist from Derby really got the early evening crowd going with his infectious zydeco stomp. The highlight of his set was a deranged heavy metal Cajun rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”.
3 The Waterboys headlined Thursday night and produced a superb set , with Mike Scott on great form . The highlight was an impassioned version of “The Whole of the Moon” . Ironically, the moon was not visible through the clouds but we were treated to Mike doing a verse in a Cockney accent as a tribute to Chas and Dave. Surreal!
4 Wilson and Wakeman are keyboardist Adam Wakeman [ son of you-know-who] and vocalist Damian Wilson . Their set was exceptionally well-received and featured a superb version of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars ?” on which Adam re-created the marvellous piano part that his dad played on Bowie’s original recording. An equally popular moment was a fabulous rendition by Damian of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables , not the most obvious song that you would expect to hear at a folk festival but Adam and Damian were genuinely thrilled by their reception . Adam told me that Cropredy is “the most friendly festival that I have played at”.
5 Caravan. I have loved the music of Canterbury’s Caravan since 1971 when I first heard their wonderful album “ In the Land of Grey and Pink” . Tonight they treated us to two tracks from that classic album, namely “Golf Girl” [which featured violinist Geoffrey Richardson on spoons] and the epic suite “Nine Feet Underground” which was an absolute joy to hear played in all its glory and still sounding innovative after nearly 50 years.
6 Seth Lakeman needs no introduction. Tonight he was accompanied by his superb band , Ben Nicholls on bass, Kit Hawes guitar and Evan Jenkins on drums. However , the stand-out moment of Seth’s set was , for me, a thrilling, climactic solo performance of “Kitty Jay”, a tour-de-force which had the crowd in raptures.
7 Richard Thompson and Friends. When I found out that Richard was going to play Cropredy alongside former Fairport colleagues Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks , I knew that I had to be there. This was the “Full House” line-up [ minus , of course, Dave Swarbrick] that I saw in 1970 at Manchester Free Trade Hall. Richard opened his set with a solo acoustic section, then brought on his former bandmates to play a blistering set of Thompson classics , including such gems as “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight”, “Wall Of Death”, “Shoot Out The Lights” and “Tear Stained Letter”. Richard’s electric guitar solos ranged from the sublime [ “Hand Of Kindness”] to the outrageous [“The Rattle Within”]. I have to say that this set alone was worth the price of my weekend ticket.
8 Daphne’s Flight is an extremely talented group of five remarkable singers and songwriters which includes one of my favourite female singers of all time – Christine Collister. Christine showed her incredibly soulful voice and amazing range on Randy Newman’s confessional “Guilty”. Incredible.
9 Martin Barre Band Plays 50 Years of Jethro Tull. No Ian Anderson , of course, but a credible substitute in vocalist Dan Crisp and several genuine members of Tull joined Martin on stage , namely Clive Bunker [drums] , Dee Palmer [keyboards] and Dave Pegg . It was great to hear Martin and Band takes us through Tull’s musical history . My highlight was a gorgeous version of “Life’s A Long Song” sung by Ali Hart and Becca Langsford with superb guitar and piano from Dee and Martin respectively.
10 Fairport Convention.The festival was completed on Saturday night with a marathon set by our genial hosts , Fairport, and several special guests. There were many highlights but here are some. Genuine, original British rock and roller Joe Brown now lives in Cropredy and he joined Fairport for a delightful version of his 1962 hit “ A Picture of You”. Great stuff!
In honour of Georgia Lucas we had a tribute to her mother , Sandy Denny , with a tremendous , thunderous version of Sandy’s anti-war epic “John The Gun” with Fairport backing the superb vocalist Sally Barker. There was also a tribute to Georgia’s father Trevor Lucas with Fairport performing “Polly On The Shore” a song he arranged and sang on Fairport’s 1973 album , Fairport 9.
Sadly, former Fairporter Maartin Alcock passed away last year , shortly after making a farewell appearance at Cropredy and there was a poignant tribute to Maartin from the band and his widow.
As is now traditional, the 40th Cropredy Festival concluded with the rousing, communal singing of the Fairport’s anthem “Meet On The Ledge” . It is incredible to think that , given the significance attached to its lyrics, it was written by Richard Thompson when he was just 17.
Roll on 2020 when “It all comes round again”.
Words Peter Cowley
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