Thursday, August 16, 2007
Bumper Cropredy (The Sequel)
And so we resume...
Back from England's green and pleasant land, my head buzzing with folk-rock and my wallet rendered ultra-light by the pound-versus-dollar fiasco. Fifteen or so current and ex- Fairporters showed up, as did some 23,000 friends, the first-ever sellout for the ever-more-popular, three-day festival held near Banbury at Cropredy (officially declared "Fairport's Cropredy Convention" these days).
Simon Nicol was gracious and jovial, as ever. Dave Swarbrick seemed smaller but healthier, and playing with more pizazz than he has for years. And Richard Thompson?... songmeister and guitar god, and the secret passion of males and females alike, it would seem, from the number of swooning and swanning fans clamoring after him everywhere.
We enjoyed two rehearsal-night sessions of Fairport (with guests); a major, over-two-hours club concert by RT and his Band touring to support the powerful Sweet Warrior album (anchored by "'Dad's Gonna Kill Me," his anti-Iraq ditty); Richard again for a shorter but still-potent set hard on the heels of the much-bruited, on-stage play-through of Liege and Lief by the original band (minus one); and a final-night FOUR-hour set by the variant Fairports.
Plus supporting-act oldsters Jools Holland, Richard Digance, Wishbone Ash, and The Strawbs; folk stalwarts Billy Mitchell and Bob Fox, Show of Hands, and The Bucket Boys; and young-turk hopefuls like Kerfuffle, Seth Lakeman, Last Orders, Give Way, and my personal fave, The Demon Barbers Roadshow. A grand time was had by all.
But I do want to pay special tribute to the woman who filled in for long-deceased Sandy Denny, singing all the Liege and Lief female vocals... Chris While, known to me only as a sometime associate of Ashley Hutching's current bands. Ms. While was pure and clear and powerful and--dare I whisper it--maybe even better that night than were Sandy Denny's own beautiful and slightly wistful vocals recorded nearly 40 years ago. Chris soared head and shoulders over previous Sandy fill-ins like Vicky Clayton and Cathy LeSurf (fine vocalists not quite suited to the part).
The weather was amazing. After weeks of will-it-rain-and-flood-still-more anxiety, instead we sweltered through 10 days of eighty-degree sun, allowing us to bake and fry on the fields of Cropredy. Side jaunts when not musicking included zipping around London, strolling around Stratford-upon-Avon, scouring both Banbury town and Cropredy village for any CDs or beers left unclaimed, and touristing through Cambridge and its aged but undreaming spires. Historically major colleges and brilliant bookstores were the order of that last day.
So to wrap up this Festive report, I think I'll tack on one of my life-of-tourist poems from earlier times in Merrie Olde E...
So on we go jigging her country ways,
Lightly skimming the groins of the braes,
The post-roads humping vales and downs,
Past tangled weirs into gnarly towns,
Mulch and Dreath hamlets, where iron-wrought
Villagers stare and spare no thought
For why, or who is come—hurdling the dells,
Dashing from Mousehole, splash into Wells,
Up Mendip Hills, out across Dartmoor,
Staggered by Glastonbury’s misty Tor,
The Abbey stones reiterating loss
Near a thorn-tree rimed with blossom-frost.
“Running well late,” this sodden spring;
Or so the folk say, blithely imagining
The sun out bright in this steel-wool grey
Drenching gorse and heath, coil-wound hay;
Daydreaming sunlight chipping chalk and flint,
Heat baking Bog Queen and Green Man skin
To ceramic perfection—hedgerows forming,
Starlings exploding, mayflies swarming,
Rife with the old heart-lurching ease
Of Albion’s seasonal epiphanies,
That sap of being, from loin to part,
Never gleaned in the sum of Descartes.
Loosed like the land’s replenishment,
This streaking commotion shields no pent-
Up magic, no ceremonious mystery,
No legends of Arthur, no lords of history,
Neither kingfisher lore nor Fisher King,
No, not Christ cup, not Saxon hoarding…
Merely a bug-flecked French sedan’s
Quarrel of blear-eyed Americans—
Cramped and gawking, time-lost tourists
Pummeled by each day’s ticking lists,
Routed by dale and glen and this late-spring
Gameboard arrayed for castling and mating.