Fairport Convention‘s yearly bash, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention returns after a three year break.
Well…it’s back! One of our favourite festivals on the circuit has finally completed it’s 2019 line up iteration (save for one swap). Foiled due to the obvious, the success of Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2022 was palpable as punters revelled in many a tradition that they had missed so dearly.
For us, many of the At The Barrier team were in the fields, and thus, our take on the weekend is in depth. Like the Cropredy line-up, each band gets their own section in our review; no second stages. Mike, Dom, Howard and John will take you on a journey through Cropedy 2022.
With warnings not to pack disposable BBQ’s and be extra vigilant in the campsites, the ground in and around Cropredy was tinder box dry and the mercury was rising…
Compère for the weekend, Anthony John Clarke said it best: “Normal service has been resumed!” It was true – we’re really here – in the Home Farm field in Cropredy. It’s an established Cropredy tradition that Fairport open the weekend with a short acoustic set, starting with Chris Leslie’s Festival Bell. The song is, of course, the story of the bell in the tower at St. Mary’s church in Cropredy village, which was newly installed and named after Fairport on the occasion of the 30th Cropredy festival. An honour indeed!
That same bell rang around the village as Fairport took the stage, and – boy – did they look happy to be doing so! Their short, sweet, set took in Traveling By Steam, John Barleycorn (so good I (John) even named my boat after it!) and ended with a blistering version of Cropredy favourite, John Gaudie – dedicated this time to two-year-old Taylor Apollo who was attending his first of what will, surely, be many Cropredy’s.
It felt so good to back again after the enforced layoff.
Cropredy 2022 – We have lift-off!
The Thumping Tommys
In our preview of this year’s festival (here), we promised that The Thumping Tommys would get things off to a stonking start. They didn’t disappoint! The band’s heady mix of bluegrass, country, Irish folk and just the right amount of humour was just what the doctor ordered to get things fully underway.
Every tune and every song was wonderful and it seems a bit churlish to pick out a few highlights from their set – but I’m going to have a go, anyway, in the interest of brevity…
I loved the frantic version – complete with a terrific scat vocal from Giles Casswell- of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues; Wild Bill featured a lovely violin solo from Georgina Leach and some masterful banjo picking from Ben Scrivener and Silvanus, a Scottish-flavoured folk song inspired by a ghost story that Ben’s mother used to tell was perfect for the occasion.
Elsewhere, Giles had the audience in stitches with his yodels on Lovesick Blues and his surreal vocalising on One More Drink and I’m Coming Home. Mole in the Ground drew a few delighted “Yee-ha!s from the crowd, before things took a decidedly Irish turn for versions of Sally Maclenanne and The Rocky Road to Dublin.
To round off. The Tommys showed the full extent of their versatility with a barnstorming take on Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite. The crowd were delighted – this was my first exposure to The Thumping Tommys. I’ll tell you what – it won’t be my last!
Introduced as the go-to band for a party, a gentle opening with solo bass runs evoked the classic reggae spirit with the melodion adding a different touch. Physically the temperature didn’t need to be raised whilst a minority of the audience gently swayed along. The joy bringing 8 piece outfit did raise the musical temperature with a selection of Caribbean favourites and their reggae arrangement of traditional folk songs taken from 2021’s Dancing Tunes (our review here).
As the dancing audience grew to Linstead Market, Yellow Bird, Banana Boat Song and Island In The Sun the party atmosphere grew and we were treated to a cheery reggae version of Dirty Old Town. New and old group compositions Rocky Road, Love Vigilante, Long Time Girl were added to the Caribbean mix. By the time we had a reggae Dashing Away they had clearly stole everyone’s heart away.
An instrumental with trad folk songs segued in had more musical colours than Simon Care’s technicolour shirt. Night Nurse slowed the pace briefly before the end came which vocalist, Glen Latouche, said was sad to hear and sad to say. But the set ended with what there is always plenty of Cropredy …. Life. It’s 10 years since they last appeared at Cropredy and those who got out of their seats to jig along to Yellow Bird will want to dance along to them soon.
Clannad were due to head happily into the sunset of retirement back in 2020. In fact, they were the final gig we reviewed (here) before we were all strongly advised to ‘stay at home’. Putting the final finishing touches to a long and glorious career, their set touched all bases as the sun set; from the very first song they recorded to the most recent song they’ve done. Incidentally, the latter, Celtic Dream, was overseen by the studio legend that is Trevor Horn, all set to take to the stage himself for the headline slot following Clannad.
Adding more than a touch of ethereality to the festival, their signature textures floated across the field with Moya Brennan’s stately and angelic presence leading the passage along with the delicacy she provides when she turns tothe harp Even those on the fringes would have recognised ‘the hits’; more songs that you relaise songs you’re familiar with, which are the cherries on the icing on the cake. Closer To Your Heart (which actually rocked gently courtesy of Pól Brennan throwing in a few guitar hero shapes), In A Lifetime (the original featuring Bono “but he’s busy”); the TV and film themes – Harry’s Game and I Will Find You and of course the unforgettable Robin Of Sherwood soundtrack which provided enough for a lengthy medley. The three Brennans across the lip of the stage, accompanied by a well-drilled trio, might be a filtered-down version of the family, but the spirit remains willing.
A fifty-year journey reaching its conclusion and where better place than the Cropredy field to wave their goodbyes.
The Trevor Horn Band
Closing out the first night of a blistering first day were The Trevor Horn Band. For the uninitiated, Trevor Horn is a producer extraordinaire who has credits to his name for the past six decades. As far as a human jukebox goes, look no further. With a welcome, albeit minimal, dip in temperature and a sun hopping off for a few hours, the man introduced as ‘the man who invented the 80’s’ hit the stage and wasted no time. When you can start a set with Two Tribes, you know you’re in for a good night.
‘What a beautiful evening and a lovely place to be,’ remarks Horn as he takes the mic for the first of many stories pre-empting the musical selections. We couldn’t agree more, Trever. With his introduction of long-time collaborator, Lol Creme, Horn mentioned how he used to know Boris Johnson’s son as his kids went to the same school. After a chorus of boos, the band ripped through The Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star and a quite stupendous take on 10cc’s Rubber Bullets. The opening trio of songs had the crowd firmly on their feet and boogying.
Cropredy is notorious for guest appearances; 2022 brought a corker off the bat. Having performed at Cropredy before, Toyah and her husband, the mighty Robert Fripp, both made an appearance. Trevor Horn invited the pair to the show as he had heard them performing Lenny Kravitz’ Are You Gonna Go My Way? on their Sunday Lunch YouTube Channel. The song is iconic and to see the flamboyant Toyah on stage with Mr Fripp laying down the massive guitar riff (complete with party hair) was a joy to behold.
Ryan Molloy is one of the main players in Trevor Horn’s band. Having stepped in for Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 2004, he is the perfect fit for the band. His confidence and energy on stage was to be commended. His passion on The Power Of Love was superb, and his power in Relax towards the end of the set was arguably one of the best vocal performances of the weekend.
Another former Cropredy main-stager, Steve Hogarth (of Marillion), joined the band for several numbers including Life On Mars?, Joe Jackson’s It’s Different For Girls and Tom Waits’ Downtown Train which he sang with Molloy. Downtown Train was introduced by Horn with a brilliant story of ringing Tom Waits to ask if he could write a middle eight for the song as it didn’t have one; the reply was a distinctive ‘Waits’ grunt/growl according to Horn. Whichever way, it worked a treat and any sharp-eared Marillion fans would have spotted Steve Hogarth’s “this train is my life” lyric tease (cue massive grin as he dangled the bait of the Happiness Is The Road track) at the end of the excellently performed song.
Whilst there were plenty of hits from the 80’s, the 90’s were also represented well; mainly from the movies. Seal’s Kiss From A Rose and LeAnn Rimes Can’t Fight The Moonlight (sung wonderfully by Hayley Sanderson) both brought the emotion. Couple this with songs like Yes’ Owner Of A Lonely Heart, 10cc’s I’m Not In Love and the aforementioned Downtown Train, and you have a beautiful concoction of songs, styles and genres.
With Relax closing the main set, the band returned for two more numbers. Stevie Wonder’s Master Blaster (Jammin’) finished the night, but the undoubted highlight of the encore was a massive rendition of Dire Strait’s Money For Nothing with all the members of Dire Straits that can, according to Horn, could still walk – alluding to himself and keybard player, Alan Davies.
Whilst Cropredy is coined a folk festival, it is so much more. The fact that 20,000+ plus ‘folkies’ belted back this wonderful array of hits shows that the festival doesn’t take itself too seriously and with the wait for this festival to return, this was the blow out that the punters needed and probably wanted. A truly joyous night to end day one of the festival.
After the party of day one, and the excitement of being back in the field, day two felt like a more chilled affair…at least where the music was concerned. With the mercury still popping up over the 35 degree mark, the festival had more treats in store.
It takes courage to walk on the Cropredy stage as an experienced musician but bottle and confidence oozed out of Maddie as she bravely opened with an unaccompanied mournful Barbara Allen and never dropped a note . The normally chatty opening set audience were stunned into silent admiration as she sang the tale/ myth of Greek legend Philomena with her mystical hypnotic vocals. Entrancing.
Maddie showed her political awareness with the song Voted and in the sea shanty style tune Haul Away Joe Maddie cleverly and intelligently gave an autobiographical account of youngsters today and their difficulties in finding employment. However gigs and higher billings will surely ensue after this talented bubbly performance. After an early exit, much too early, she returned to end a superb set with Upstream dedicated to Marsha P Johnson.
Come back soon Maddie ……Cropredy loves you!!
Emily Barker has never been one to shy away from trying something new. Shifting direction, shifting shape, emerging in new and different forms with new musical compadres and new sounds. Flanked currently by partner Lukas Drinkwater on basses and guitarist Kit Hawes, who’s finding himself some nice sidesman gigs (last spotted with doing a stint with Seth Lakeman which is worth noting on the CV) they’re a classy and understated unit. The bowed double bass in particular added a real richness and depth while Hawes guitars is the perfect foil, as it lightly decorated and tickled the pallet.
The newest album, A Dark Murmuration Of Words, offered up the bulk of the set although Emily wasn’t averse to dipping into the A Sweet Kind Of Blue country soul and what a delight to hear the title track of Dear River from The Red Clay Halo days of almost ten years ago still making the playlist. Often tagged with the Americana label (which is neat for an Australian playing in a field in England), the bottom line is admirable subtle songwriting. The start of another sweltering day was cooled with a classy musical treat and accompanied by the occasional respite coming from the waft of a refreshing breeze to accompany the chilled sounds flowing from the stage. A lovely set of chilled-out and relaxing songs.
I’ll have to come clean – I’m (John) a Home Service fanatic, and I have been ever since I first came across their unique blend of brass-infused folk rock in this very field, way back in 1982. And the great news is that the one and only John Tams is back in the band’s ranks after a short, unsuccessful, attempt at retirement. And oh – how we need him in these troubled and uncertain times!
I felt a genuine shiver make it’s way down my spine as the band filed onto the stage and burst into a raucous Napoleon’s Grand March. It was soooo good to welcome them back. By my reckoning, Cropredy 2022 was the band’s fourth appearance at the festival and this performance might just have been their best yet!
The roar that greeted John Tams’s appearance on stage was quite deafening and in Walk My Way, he demonstrated that his voice has lost none of its potency. He uses a walking stick nowadays – it’s also a handy stage prop that he uses to great effect to emphasise the points he makes in his songs.
A full, unexpurgated, version of A Lincolnshire Posy, the band’s tribute to the work of Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger was dedicated to the late, great Howard Evans, before the band launched into a blistering Alright Jack. John’s socialist resolve has not been mellowed one iota by retirement and he used the intro to Alright Jack to fire a broadside at Johnson, his pals and his predecessors.
Tams’s voice seemed to grow stronger as the set progressed and his passion built, and by the time we got to Peat Bog Soldiers it was at its absolute best – and Graeme Taylor’s soaring guitar was simply awesome.
All the ‘hits’ had been dusted down and polished up – Lewk Up, Lewk Up was followed by Scarecrow before the band rounded off a fantastic performance with their Sorrow/ Babylon is Fallen medley – and you CAN’T follow that! And, as always, JT’s introduction pulled no punches as he clarified that Babylon is Fallen was a song from the Civil War. The LAST one – not the NEXT one!
I’ve missed The Home Service, and I’ve missed John Tams. I’ve missed his humour, his rhetoric and his songs. But, most of all, I’ve missed that wonderful voice. Welcome back, John – Back on the Streets, where you belong! I was heartened also by a wonderful ‘drummers’ clinch’ when, just before the band kicked off their show, Dave Mattacks sidled on stage to give Michael Gregory – fellow drummer and former colleague – a hug and to wish him luck. It seems that I wasn’t the only one to be delighted at the re-emergence of The Home Service!
Not the only ‘one man and a guitar’ who graced the Cropredy stage in 2022. Size isn’t everything yet takes something a bit special to hold the attention of several thousand. Brave men. here’s nowhere to hide. Like Richard Thompson would surely do later on the bill, Martyn Joseph gave a stunning masterclass in captivating and holding a large crowd from a large stage. ‘Presence’ they call it alongside a vision and ability to articulate issues from the global to the personal and arguably the most passionate and inspirational performer of the weekend. Courageous too as his set of songs of beauty and hope came with a rare tinge of naked reality with his Take You Out where the subject inhibits the area of what it takes to take another life. Clearly a subject that strikes hard and the emotion pouring from the stage can;t have failed to touch many in the audience – far beyond those familiar with Martyn’s work.
Driving Home To London does the same. Exploring personal themes that strike a chord with many of us, he gave us chance to compose ourselves with some of his more stirring anthems: the belief that there lies a better future in Here Come The Young and When We Get Through This and Nye – his tribute to Nye Bevan that formed part of the Sweet Liberties project (and given a Thompson-esque guitar accompaniment) and the marvellous NHS – is sung as a lesson in songwriting.
The ruminations of Born Too Late highlight what’s perhaps his most personal album, last year’s 1960 and I Searched For You acted as another reminder that when visiting the CD stall (or online bargain when they got home) that Sanctuary is an album to search out. Ultimately, many must have felt chills, goosebumps, a stinging tear in the eye or a moment of clarity as he arguably set up a new song for Cropredy in There Is A Field – “In a field where love welcomes you, In a field where we’re made whole, I’ll meet you there.” Surely, surely this song must be made for Cropredy. Don’t just buy the album, go to a gig and hear him deliver it with the guitar. Shout out for it if need be as the fan who requested Dic Penderyn got their request even though “it takes eight years to sing that song – you can remind me of the words if I forget!” A beautiful set that crept up subtly , touched and lifted Cropredy 2022.
The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
Tagged as an Americana band, The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams are so much more than the tag suggests. During their brilliant set, the band tipped plenty of hats to a wide array of influences. It was hard to move away from hearing Tom Petty but there were flashes of Springsteen and Zevon in there as well as The Moody Blues and Syd Barrett.
Hailing from NYC, the band won the hearts and minds of the Cropredy faithful. Tales of meeting the ghost of John Lennon to feeling the presence of Sandy Denny and Judy Dyble on site led to a spiritual feel for the Slambovians. The band received a warm reception from the crowd and the reception only grew. Smiles were plastered across band members faces as so many people were watching their band.
The highlight of the set was Beez (I Know Where The Beez Have Gone). With it’s distinctively Beatles-y intro, it’s clear to see what the ghost of John Lennon is up to, inspiring the band with messages of looking after bees and the grass in your garden. The little things. The vocal refrain was tailor made for the Cropredy crowd; the crowd lapped up the chance to get involved.
If the band needed any reinforcement of the impact that they had on the crowd, the people that gathered for their short acoustic set on the Saturday of the festival showed the amount of new fans they had made. The Slambovians are a wonderful bunch of people who genuinely have love for music, people and good times. Their manner is warm and you could tell that they were genuinely bowled over to be there.
The Sharon Shannon Quartet
As Sharon Shannon’s broad smile lit up an already sun-drenched field her trio rallied the waning and well oiled (sun- tan I mean) crowd into jigging mood. Her masterly melodian playing wowed the cooling evening crowd showing her adeptness on the pipe too. Breaks came with her leaving the vocals to her guitarist Jack who sang the Americana song Man of Constant Sorrow, a tune she had recorded with Jackson Browne. Her guitarists, Jim and Jack nimbly accompanied Sharon and showed a classical bent with some nimble finger picking. An emotional song dedicated to Amy Winehouse was aired amongst more traditional Irish songs like regular favourite Galway Girl. An entertaining performance showered the sun kissed audience with festival spirit. Peggy jigging back stage was in full thrall too!
With such hot temperatures for the weekend, Turin Brakes might be a name you would associate with a little more of a chilled out vibe. Well…this is not true. When they struck the match for the opening chords of Isolation (from their forthcoming album – Wide Eyed Nowhere, due Sept 2022), the band ramped up the volume and rocked hard; not a line I ever thought I would be writing about Turin Brakes.
Sporting a wicked Brudenell Social Club shirt, Turin Brakes bassist Eddie Myer, and the band felt their way through their set with a smattering of fire based jokes building a lovely relationship with the crowd in amongst crunching indie guitar anthems.
Famed for their early 00’s hits Pain Killer (Summer Rain) and Underdog (Save Me), the band visited many stops throughout their lengthy career.
Dark On Fire showcased the harmonies that the band are capable of and the chirpy Keep Me Around brought joy. The Door, taken from Mercury nominated The Optimist LP in 2001, had a prog diversion in the middle. The band segued into Breathe (In The Air) to create a brilliant, psychedelic medley. When you listen to The Door, it is the perfect song to mix with Breathe…and it has brackets, which Turin Brakes are seemingly fans of! The crowds collective smile at hearing ‘the Floyd’ was lovely to see. It helped endear the band further. Turin Brakes were genuine in their thanks to the crowd and their loud and raucous set will have surely led to a whole host of new fans on board.
Seconds out, third time lucky!
Steve Hackett’s headline set list must have undergone changes as his revisited tours have changed focus in the last two years.
Opting for, in his words, a truncated “Seconds Out’ we had an abridged version of his last Genesis live contribution.
After opening with a couple of visits to solo material in Clocks (The Angel Of Mons) and Shadow Of The Hierophant, he strolled into what he called “a truncated version of Seconds Out.” After Nad Sylvan acted out the characters in Robbery Assualt & Battery, we had the spectacle of the landing light production in Afterglow before his own arrangement of Firth Of Fifth with Roger King playing the full piano intro opening; an abridged version of Musical Box, then a full length version of Suppers Ready. Both the classic Hackett solo in Firth with some chest rattling bass pedals from Jonas and the doom laden Apocalypse section of Supper were particularly powerful. Rge searing guitar and the pounding rhythms echoing across the field.
A return to Selling England By The Pound gave us Cinema Show to the ending of the album before the Seconds out finale of Dance On A Volcano/Los Endos (including a little trip into solo Hackett territory) encore brought the magnificent trip down memory lane to an end.
The whole evening’s performance the current band’s arrangement seemed louder and brasher than the originals with an overall more symphonic sound with Roger King’s keyboards and Rob Townsend’s multi-instrumental pieces. Jonas Reingold and Craig Blundell drove the band along, coping superbly with all the complicated time signature changes. The drummer’s multi-shaded drum solo was pure joy.
Nad Sylvan’s vocal interpretations added his own lovely individual touch to the classic pieces. Although Genesis are not known for singalong tunes from the Gabriel era, many sang with Nad all the way through the long Supper’s Ready. One audience member joked they’d gone for a pint and the loo and when they came back they were still playing the same song!! Also noteworthy was how Steve reprised his sitting role often seen in his early Genesis years but whether up or down he was always outstanding!
A marvellous performance fully deserving the Saturday night top billing to bring the second day to a close.
Day three of the festival, and day three of a heatwave…Cropredy hung in there and threw the artists all they had.
It was Seth Lakeman who took over the time honoured Richard Digance Saturday morning slot. One who usually encourages some rabble-rousing with his “it’s Friday/Saturday night guys…” (cue the dancing and drinking) so the Saturday lunchtime might have been more of a challenge. One that Seth, Alex Hart and Benji Kirkpatrick were certainly up for, ass they combined and mixed and matched ringing guitars, banjo, bouzouki and harmonium. The tradition of Richard Digance’s hanky waving (one maintained with a pre-recorded video pre-Seth’s set) may have also found a new home too, reappearing as an alternative to one of the livelier tunes. It could be the new tradition as well as Seth becoming the replacement Saturday opener – after all, the Lakeman dynasty is well founded. There’s a thought.
Meanwhile, the first of two festival appearances of the day – necessitating a dash North to headline the Magpies Festival later in the day – was a Lakeman jukebox. His catalogue is such that he can afford to miss out some of the usual foot tappers and focus on some of the moodier and broodier arrangements, particularly for those mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun. No shortage of tunes though as the new Make Your Mark album was mined for The Giant, Side By Side and Shoals To Turn, mixing the moody and the jaunty. The duet with Alex Hart on Bury Nights (not an ode to his trips to The Met…) was intimate enough to threaten taking out Alex’s eye with the fiddle bow, while his duet with Benji Kirkpatrick on Setting Of The Sun harked back to his earlier work along with Bold Knight and the brief hoedwon opportunity on Blood Upon Copper.
It felt like rolling subs with his buddies bother getting breaks for the solo slots on Kitty Jay and Lady Of The Sea. The latter now played on viola as apparently things (like your voice) drop as you get older… Spotting the Cornish flag at the back of the arena, the usual high octane finish came with Change (cue the hankies). Seth Lakeman – never lets you down – and what a sub to call from the bench. Maybe one to be on from the start in future?
Holy Moly & The Crackers
One thing is guaranteed at a Holy Moly gig. No matter what size of the venue and what size of the audience, there are six people who are going to have a fabulous time. Being truthful, you could add several thousand to the good-timers after a performance that defied the heat, mopped up the sweat and rang it out, while rerouting the energy expelled on stage could have well earned the band a handsome payday in the domestic energy crisis.
They look good, they sound good and who knows, probably taste great too as they powered through a set where a wild Upside Down, a thumping Sugar, and their signature-ish The Devil And The Danube were all dusted off with a panache, a youthful verve and joie de vivre. The term ‘full of beans’ sprang to mind as each of the sextet provides a visual foil for one another. A simple case of not knowing which particular firework to watch as they explode with sass and pizazz.
The live album (did you get the limited edition splattered vinyl pressing?) recorded just before the big shutdown is great but still doesn’t do justice to a close encounter of the first kind. It’s no wonder Conrad and Ruth send the band off for a breather as they took the opportunity to show their folky chops before welcoming back the “bunch of mad bastards!” That interlude showed they’re in touch with songs of the people, particularly those of their native North East. Maybe worth watching that space. Their I Will See You Again – a song to keep the fire burning – was another contender to throw into the pot for the Songs Of Cropredy playlist. AJ Clarke called them “a band that’s come of age today.” Holy Moly & The Crackers – the healthy alternative to a giant sugar rush.
The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican
Like returning heroes, The Bar-Stewards followed up their career defining Cropredy 2018 appearance with another massive turn that rocked the masses…gently…of course. Whilst the Doonican’s ‘butcher’ all of your favourite songs, the masses at Cropredy were fully strapped in for the bands set in the crushing afternoon heat. A show of hands for who had seen the band before was overwhelming. This was undoubtedly a band preaching to the converted and every note, joke, colloquialism and double entendre was gobbled up.
Portaloo (who doesn’t like ABBA?), Campervan Of Love (a great Housemartins mashup), All Around My Hat (for the folkies) and Festival Heroes were all relatable for the Cropredy crowd. With Scott taking lead, Bjorn assisting on guitar and banjo and Alan on accordion and his giant throbbing organ, the trio ran through other hits like the brilliant Lady In Greggs and All The Dinner Ladies; prefaced by asking if any teachers were in….the loud shout was met with, ‘Don’t shout out…you wouldn’t like it at your gig!’
New songs included Where The Sheets Have No Stains and the brilliant Goat Yoga. When we spoke to the band before their set (interview to come), the band talked about their new album and how they didn’t want to offend Fairport Convention as it parodied Liege & Lief; one of the most sacrosanct records in the history of music. If you haven’t heard The Broadside Ballad Of Maggie Gove yet, you will hear the genius in the music and more so in the lyrics. And as far as masterful lyrics go, the wonderfully witty Ornithologist Waltz is one of the finest pieces in the Doonican’s repertoire…and Alan gets top billing! Is that an Alan chant I hear?!
When the band performed at the 2018 festival they had the now sadly departed Maartin Allcock perform with them onstage. To bring things full circle, the band brought Maart’s son, Jered on stage for the climax of Jump Ararnd…the South Yorkshire hip hop anthem was complete with rubber dinghy crowd surfing to the bar, a barmy crowd and constant cries from Scott to move in so the dinghy didn’t drop! Alongside The Devil Went Darn To Barnsley, Jump Ararnd produced the most anarchic moment of the weekend. Another triumph for the trio who are oh so entertaining.
And still the highlights kept on coming with Saturday proving a bit of a Cropredy fantasy lineup for some amongst the faithful. Looking razor sharp and colourful, Rosalie Cunningham, her partner Rosco Wilson and her brand new band stepped up to showcase her Two Piece Puzzle album. And brand new in that it’s a fledgling band finding its feet in their early days of live performing and just for good measure they’re due to record a live album in their upcoming schedule. Next gig it would seem – nothing like a challenge… And while they were flying by the seat of their pants, getting to know each other onstage, which is. pretty thrilling venture, who should pop up but Ric Sanders to play (well, recreate – kind of – as you know how music evolves when played live some time after the songs have been committed to tape/vinyl/the hard drive). That was the two part Donovan Ellington ‘suite’ once the band had got their opening flurry under the belt, the instrumental Start With The Corners and then taking a Ride On My Bike.
No pressure then, but Rosalie is a strong and personality and a confident musician whose vision, image and whose musicianship are on red alert, with two solo albums plus the Purson music to call on as she continues down the path to her higher calling. And not only did she and her band provide an injection of visual spendour in their stagewear, but accompanied it with a set that fizzed with a quirkiness that challenged by powerfully charged electric bursts. Volume up, heavier rock, solo spots, particularly the bass/flute combo which almost inevitably steers things in a Tull-like direction. There’s the organ/keyboards too, set up in a suitably retro casing, which is such a vital part of the texture and when it comes to touching bases, there are enough references to folk, psychedelic and the outlandish bohemian. The prospect of a live recording of this band and with a hint of what the next album has in store (watch out for our upcoming little interview piece with Rosalie) , one thing’s for sure on this evidence, is that vintage cool is in.
The Matthews Baartmanns Experience
Iain Matthews gave us about an hour of bluesy beautiful tunes with a Laurel Canyon feel and sometimes a hard message. For example, in the song The Corner of Sad and Lonely he explains that from feeling down we can be uplifted. Much of the performance focussed on the new album with BJ Baartman called Distant Chatter. However he did visit his FC roots with a gorgeous new arrangement of Reno Nevada; his soft, pure vocals having a hypnotic quality. This was particularly evident in the song about an Elvis fanatic visiting Graceland in which silence spread throughout the field.
BJ Baartman’s guitar prowess shone out vividly with some sublime slide guitar in Darkness Darkness , some raunchy blues in the number Working in the New Mine and a melodic solo in Sailing away. Despite a very strong performance he displayed his vulnerability too when his lyrics sheet, needed to assist him, being caught by a rare breeze.
Cropredy, as mentioned, always offers some marvellous surprises and Iain didn’t disappoint when he brought on Richard Thompson to play the much loved hit Woodstock , refreshing the sun drenched audience who probably wouldn’t swap the Cropredy experience for anything.
Iain is an accomplished raconteur. He told us about how Bobby Darin downgraded his Las Vegas lifestyle highlighted by the song Me and Mr Hohner, swapping swing orchestra for harmonica. Matthews completed his set with a folky -rock style song Fond of Fire which referred cryptically to lost heroes and had us guessing who each verse was about… Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Hank Williams being among the candidates. I don’t think I’ve seen a Cropredy audience so subdued for so long during this set. It was the most serene hour or so of the weekend and every second was an absolute joy.
If Iain Matthews brought serenity, the roar that greeted Richard Thompson’s appearance on stage can only be described as ‘rapturous.’ He was here to play an acoustic set – a prelude to his scheduled appearance in the ‘Full House’ Fairport line-up later in the evening and, by heck, he delivered! We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘audience in the palm of his hand’ and, on Saturday 13th August, I saw what that phrase really means.
Richard’s choice of material was truly inspired. There were a couple of new songs in the set list and lashings of familiar ones – often delivered with an interesting new twist. Set opener, I Misunderstood was followed by the evening’s first new number, the devastating If I Could Love My Life Again, written during lockdown – a new killer from the ever-expanding Thompson canon.
Genesis Hall was next – written when Thompson was just 17 years old – and then the wonderful Johnny’s Far Away. No Richard Thompson show is complete without a blast through Vincent Black Lightning, and, tonight, the crowd loved it, and, during the majestic Beeswing, you could, quite literally, hear the proverbial pin drop.
My friend whispered “This is one of the best songs ever written,” as Richard invited Iain Matthews back on stage to sing an incredible version of From Galway To Graceland. This really was one of those unforgettable festival moments – the crowd was in raptures and it was, quite possibly another highlight of the entire weekend.
For anyone else, Galway… would have been impossible to follow, but this is Richard Thompson we’re talking about, so follow it he did – with the blues standard Parchman Farm, before Zara Phillips joined the fun to sing some glorious backing vocals on perennial crowd-pleaser, Wall Of Death.
And there was still time for yet more. A new song, Singapore Sadie, made its Cropredy debut, followed by Word Unspoken/ Sight Unseen and The Rattle Within, before things were taken to a rousing finale with I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight; a song Thompson described as a ‘weekend song.’
I’ve had the privilege to have been at countless Richard Thompson acoustic shows, but Cropredy 2022 was possibly his best yet. His guitar work was as peerless as ever, but his voice seems to have ascended to a new level, with absolute controls over an astounding range.
Richard Thompson – we love you.
And so, eventually, it did indeed all come round again. We’ve all had a long, long wait since we last left this field at midnight on Saturday 10th August 2019. Since then, we’ve been to hell and back – several times – but now, finally, Fairport Convention we’re back where they belong. On THAT stage in THAT field. Welcome home everyone!
The night was always going to be special. Fairport have had both barrels of their Cropredy shotgun loaded and ready for action for three years now, and they’ve made sure to keep their powder well and truly dry. The band couldn’t hide their delight as they arrived back on our favourite stage. The scorching weather had been marvellous for some, a challenge for others, but the choice of Here Comes The Sun as their entry theme is something that we’ll look back to with nostalgia at the many rain-sodden Cropredy Festivals that, no doubt, lie ahead of us.
Fairport’s set list was very much along the the lines that many of us had expected – a mixture between the belated opportunity to promote their still excellent Shuffle and Go album and a chance to celebrate the 50+ anniversary of the band’s seminal ‘Full House’ album – Dave Pegg’s first.
Despite those particular reasons to be cheerful, the band had elected to kick off with Ye Mariners All, a rousing drinking album from the often-overlooked Tipplers Tales album. The perfect way to get a field-load of inebriated up on their feet and jigging. Cider Rain – dedicated to Peggy’s Brittany pals was next, before proceedings were brought to a temporary halt when Simon’s monitor started to misbehave.
A minor hitch, and Fairport have faced much, much worse over the years, and the show surged forward. Fotheringay was like a piece of chamber music and it had the crowd spellbound. Peggy’s Bankruptured was dedicated to Banbury’s Horton Hospital – an establishment with which I and mine have had too many unplanned encounters for comfort – and the band’s only Allcock/Leslie composition, Lalla Rookh, was given the respect it truly deserves.
Two favourite songs from Shuffle and Go came next – Chris’s Year of ‘59 had the crowd hand jiving and Moses Waits was divine. Audience members John and Lauren will savour Ric’s introduction to Steampunkery for a lifetime, as it included John’s proposal of marriage which, to the delight of 20,000 people, Lauren accepted!
Moondust and Solitude, my top pick from the Shuffle and Go jewellery box came next before the band were joined by the one and only Dave Mattacks for a swipe at Honour and Praise, a track from the 1985 Gladys’ Leap album, a project that was key to reviving a seriously injured Fairport and paving the way to the band and festival we all enjoy so much today. DM stayed on board for Hexhamshire Lass – indeed his introductory reference the the “Smart-arsery” that pervaded the band at the time the song recorded was hilarious. And tonight’s rendition was scorching!
Part one of the show was drawing to a close, and a sense of expectation was starting to build, but the Fairport 2022 model hadn’t quite finished with us yet…. Journeyman’s Grace was excellent and Cropredy anthem, Ralph McTell’s The Hiring Fair was performed under a glowing full moon which added so much poignancy.
That same full moon helped to add an extra-special something to Ric’s showpiece, Portmerion, before Simon brought Part one to its close with a superb version of Jewel in the Crown – Julie Matthews’ potent swipe at colonialism that seems to build in relevance every year.
Dave Pegg had his audition as a potential replacement for Ashley Hutchings as the foundation stone for Fairport Convention way back in 1970. As he pointed out, if he’d failed that audition, none of us would have been here tonight, but – happily – he passed, and the good ship Fairport sailed on to where we find her today.
Dave’s daughter Stephanie added to the occasion with a lovely video intro – and there they were – the Fairport Full House lineup, with Chris Leslie ably standing in for the otherwise occupied Dave Swarbrick. As the band launched into Walk Awhile, and the few corners of the field that weren’t already on their feet got up to dance, I was asking myself how on Earth this was never a number one single…?! The ominous Doctor of Physick had everyone clutching their relics near – just in case – as Richard knocked off the first of his many mind-boggling solos and then Peggy knocked us bandy with his bass fingering on the timeless Dirty Linen.
it was wonderful to see Dave Mattacks back amongst the Fairport ranks – his drum sound is immense, and I’m always astounded to see how easy he makes it look, and that assessment was never truer than in tonight’s memorable performance of the epic Sloth. Peggy, Simon, Richard and Chris all took their turn to amaze us – and amaze us they certainly did!
If you haven’t heard Peggy’s story of his efforts to hang his new mandolin on the wall of his Tomm when the band shared the squalor of the the former pub, The Angel, in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, then I strongly recommend that you buy him a pint and ask him to tell you. It involves descriptions of Swarbrick’s elaborate courtship rituals, and was the perfect introduction to Flatback Caper, one of my all-time favourite Fairport instrumentals.
It was after Flatback Caper that it started to dawn on the band that they were in serious danger of breaching the festival’s midnight curfew and, after a hasty on-stage conference, the show proceeded – with a majestic version of Poor Will & The Jolly Hangman with a breathtaking solo from Richard Thompson, before the Full House rendition was brought to a close with closing track, Flowers of the Forest, featuring – as always – Simon on dulcimer.
And that was nearly it. Nearly, but not quite. There was still time for Chris to ‘knacker a whirling dervish’ with a breathtaking Jenny’s Chickens/Mason’s Apron, before Georgia Lucas joined us from Melbourne with a touching video introduction to her mother’s classic Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
There was no time for Matty Groves to get friendly with master’s Mrs – so he was at least spared his traditional gruesome fate, so we all huddled with our loved ones to see a magnificent festival to its conclusion with a lusty Meet On The Ledge, with Fairport joined, as always, with the friends that they’ve been longing to meet since we were all last here. We hope, beyond hope, that normal service really has been resumed; we needed Cropredy 2022 so badly and it was a wonderful, wonderful event.
Cropredy 2022 was truly wonderful. The weather was resplendent, the music was sublime, the crowd were brilliant and the normality was welcome. All the things that we love about this, and any festival of this type in general, would not happen without the hard work and dedication of stage, light and sound crews, stewards, bar staff, emergency services, the scouts, volunteers and any other background workers. Cropredy have the magic elixir when it comes to putting festivals on; thank you to every single person who made the weekend one to remember.
Same time next year?
The festival takes place on August 10th, 11th and 12th in 2023.
Fairport Convention: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
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Categories: Live Reviews
Pretty much sums the weekend to perfection
We’re glad you agree. It was wonderful wasn’t it?
An excellent and thorough review to remind us of a great weekend. Thank you for the effort you’ve put in. Some lovely photos, too.
Thank you for the comment, Simon. It is comments like the one you have left that make the effort completely worth it. Thank you. It was a wonderful weekend, and we are very glad you liked the review. Thank you ever so much for reading.
Great reviews, and so glad to see The Home Service set get so much love…….
……however; the tune is Napoleon’s Grand March (though I’ll be calling it Napoleon’s Grandma from here on) Peat Bog Soldiers is from the 1930s and the horrors of The Third Reich; the English Civil war song was Babylon Is Fallen; and how rousing was that !!! Long may JT have the energy and passion to bring those songs to us.
Hi Mark -Many thanks for your feedback and particularly for pointing out the basic errors in my review. I was certainly well aware of both the points you raised – but I guess I was the victim of trying to meet a tight deadline with just the aid of an iPhone! I’m also fervently hoping that John keeps his energy and passion for a while longer – God knows we need him!
And, by the way, the errors have been corrected!
Wonderful weekend very well reviewed. The Fringe was excellent too , Loved Tradarr and Kapreka’s Constant at the Brasenose and Treebeard on Cream of the Crop’s impressive stage.
Cheers for taking the time to read and comment, Trevor.
We wanted to catch Kaprekar’s as we’re big fans (search our pages!) but we had commitments in the main field. TradArr are also great!
Really glad you had a good one. It was a superb weekend.
Thank you again for reading and commenting so kindly. We all really appreciate it.
Finally got a chance to catch up with the ATB reviews, and having become something of an ‘honorary member’ of the Cropredy review crew, its brought it all back. Great reviews of a fabulous festival, with every band/artist on superb form, reflected brilliantly in the reviews. Too many highlights to single one out, but a huge thank you from jane and I to all our gang – Tom w, Dom, Howard, Johnny b, matt b, dave, kelvin and Mike… have I missed anyone ??? For making us feel so welcome. See you all next August!!!
Cheers Martin – Many thanks for the kind comments about the reviews. It was lovely to see you and Jane and we’re all looking forward to seeing you in that same field in August 23. Look after yourselves and try to squeeze those white-shirted footballers a little closer to where they really belong…
During Sharron Shannon’s set I looked around me at all the women, children and men dancing, couples in each other’s arms, people giving each other space and respect…. all bathed in golden light of evening and I welled up! What an amazing festival. Something infuses it, some sort of benign spirit – an echo of the late sixties perhaps. An antidote to the hell of Putin, the chaos of the current Tories and the impending horror of climate change. If we could only bottle Cropreddy and feed it to the world we might have hope as a species. Your review brought it all back. I miss it. This was my first Cropredy. I am 56 and kicking myself I didn’t visit thirty years ago. I will return!
We are so pleased that you enjoyed the festival as much as we did. It was a glorious weekend and one that we, as a team, love dearly. Hopefully you’ll be signed up for next year?! It is a special place.
Thank you for the comment and kind words. It is much appreciated.
What have I been missing all these years! My first Fairport Corpredy Festival and what a blast it was. It was great to be with some of the ‘At the Barrier’ team there who were busy interviewing and photographing acts (great photos here guys) and their enthusiasm for the music was addictive. I’ve see Fairport a few times now and I’ve alway wanted to go to one of their festivals. But, for over 10 years I didn’t because something always got in the way. This year I did it! What a line up! I will be back next year. Bring it on!
Cheers Kelvin – It’s always great to be able to introduce a new friend to the pleasures of Britain’s Best Festival. This year’s festival had everything – great music, great weather, a wonderful crowd, peace, love and Hooky to! And as for 2023 – as you say – Bring it on!