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Ashley HutchingsAshley Hutchings
Album: From Psychedelia to Sonnets
Label: Talking Elephant
Tracks: 2+4

The full [and self-explanatory] title of this new double album from Ashley Hutchings is "From Psychedelia to Sonnets- The Remarkable Journey of Ashley Hutchings Based on his book Words, Words, Words, with Ruth Angell and Becky Mills -Recorded live @ Acoustic Roots at Wigan Parish Church on 6/2/2016".

I was fortunate to be present at Wigan Parish Church on 6th February this year when this remarkable performance took place under the auspices of David Cartlidge's Acoustic Roots organisation, which has brought the very best in acoustic music to this wonderful church for the last seven years.

It is always quite a thrill to be present when a live album id being recorded, knowing that the show will be captured for posterity. My first such experience was in 1973, when I was present when "Genesis Live" was recorded.

Ashley Hutchings [or "The Guv'nor" as he is also known] has made and played on countless albums [he reckons about ninety but one website puts it at one hundred and forty eight] and needs no introduction from me. Ashley recently published his first book "Words, Words, Words" which is a compilation of his favourite song lyrics, poetry and album sleevenotes from throughout his long and illustrious career which began with the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra way back in 1966, half a century ago.

The live show [and album]"From Psychedelia to Sonnets" comprises readings, by Ashley, of his poems and lyrics, together with songs which Ashley performs with two highly talented female singer/musicians, namely, Ruth Angell [vocals, violin, pump harmonium, acoustic guitar] and Becky Mills [vocals, acoustic guitar].

Having been at the show in February, this double cd brought back happy memories of a thoroughly entertaining [but rather cold] afternoon spent with this remarkable man, who Bob Dylan called "the single most important figure in English folk-rock". Amen to that.

The show was intimate, charming and revealing and this is captured on this fine recording by sound-wizard Ian Cleverdon.

My favourite moment in the show was when Ashley read from his sleevenotes for the reissue of the first Fairport Convention album, in which he describes in vivid detail "the best years of our lives, the most colourful and creative period of British history [discounting the Elizabethans]".

It is a joy to hear this show again. If you have not seen the show, do listen to this album, you will not be disappointed.

Peter Cowley