The Sunday Dozen: Fairport Convention

About the featured image. They’re two of my favorite Fairport Convention albums and represent different eras. Sense Of Occasion was their current album when Dr. A and I took the Festival Tours Cropredy tour in 2007. Festival Tours is owned and operated by Richard Thompson’s then wife, Nancy Covey so we had inside access and got to hang out with the band. It was a blast.

We hung out with the band at a pub and played a game called Aunt Sally. It involves throwing chunks of wood about. I was on the same team as lead singer Simon Nicol so quite naturally we made wood jokes that got raunchier the more ale we consumed. Simon is a nice bloke and has a superb pun game. Here’s the proof:

In fact, all the guys in Fairport circa 2007 are lovely people. It was a pleasure to meet them. I’ll save the picture of me and Dave Pegg for the end of the post.

The other album in the featured image is Fairport’s 1969 classic Liege & Lief. It’s the band with three of Fairport’s all-time greats, Sandy Denny, Dave Swarbrick, and Richard Thompson. I think you’ve heard of the last guy.

Sandy was long dead by the time we made it to Cropredy, but we met Swarb and cruised the Thames with him on my birthday, no less. I am not making this up.

Enough with trip pictures and memories, let’s move on to the music. For those of you unfamiliar with Fairport’s music they play sophisticated and intelligent folk rock. In fact, the original band was one of the creators of the genre. But Fairport has never been earnest even though some of their fans are crunchy granola types.

I started off with over 25 songs and cut until landing at a dozen. It’s never easy: some great songs fell by the wayside. That’s the essence of the dozens, difficult choices for no particular reason.

Fairport has had so many different lineups over the years that my head spins contemplating them all. I don’t plan to go into the details. Why get needlessly dizzy?

As always, the songs are arranged in chronological order and reflect my own personal taste.

Let’s begin at the beginning with the song that Fairport plays as their final encore in concert. It’s usually a singalong moment as well. If I had a bouncing ball for you to follow, I’d post it. Until then we’ll just have to Meet On The Ledge.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes is a well-loved oft-covered song that was written by the great Sandy Denny.

Matty Groves is a traditional murder ballad that Fairport has owned since 1969. It has been rearranged over the years and is always a concert highlight. This is the original studio version.

Walk Awhile is perhaps my favorite Fairport tune. It features the fabulous fiddling of Dave Swarbrick. It’s a great set opener. They have many of those.

Here’s a more recent live version featuring the fabulous fiddling of Ric Sanders:

Bring ‘Em Down is one of my idiosyncratic choices of the dozen. It was written by Trevor Lucas who was in and out of the band for 14 years. He was also married to bandmate Sandy Denny who died in 1978.

Rising For The Moon is the title track of Sandy Denny’s final album with the band. It’s one of the finest songs she ever wrote. That’s saying a great deal.

The Widow Of Westmoreland’s Daughter is another traditional tune that’s a highlight of any Fairport set it graces. When we saw them multiple times in 2007 on our trip to England, it was the set opener.

Red & Gold is one of the band’s many historical tunes. Written by Ralph McTell, it tells the tale of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in 1644 during the English Civil War.

Speaking of songs about history, Jewel In The Crown takes a jaundiced view of the British Empire. The jewel was, of course, India.

John Gaudie introduced the song stylings of Chris Leslie to the band. On first listen, Dr. A thought that they were singing John Breaux instead of John Gaudie. She still calls it the John Breaux song. It’s fine with me: he’s one of my favorite Louisiana pols. The nicest and least pompous US senator I’ve ever met.

The Wood and the Wire is a song about guitars. It doesn’t get more obvious than that.

Chris Leslie’s ode to VW Vanagons, Keep On Turning The Wheel, concludes the Fairport Convention dozen.

For lagniappe, two songs written by one of my favorite songwriters, Steve Tilston. I’ve been known to sing the first number to my cats. The late great Oscar was particularly fond it. He loved me so much that he pretended to love my singing.

At the risk of repeating myself, there’s only one Fairport song one can close with:

The Peggy-centric angle of that number from Cropredy 2017 is no mistake. For the third consecutive week, Dave Pegg is featured at the end of the Sunday Dozen. This time with your humble blogger:

4 thoughts on “The Sunday Dozen: Fairport Convention

  1. I saw the Full House lineup (without Sandy, but with Richard) at The Fillmore East in 1970. They shared a bill with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown. Fantastic!

    1. We didn’t go there. We actually talked British politics. It was when Gordon Brown was riding high as a new PM and hinted he’d call an election. Peggy and I thought he should. He didn’t and the rest is history.

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