Tag Archives: Oysterband

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. 9-11.08.2018

Our fourth visit to Cropredy.  We only go when there are people on the bill who we really want to see. I suspect the vast majority of customers go every single year, meet the same people in the same spot in the arena every year. They then set up a village and talk all weekend.  They wouldn’t know if they had paid £150 plus to watch Peter Sutcliffe and the Hammer Wielders. Nice situation for the organisers though! Diversion getting there, set our tent up only to be flanked by someone with Blenheim Palace perched on a couple of wheels.

Thursday.  Fairport Convention . Fairport now start proceedings with a twenty minute acoustic spot. ‘Festival Bell’ kicks off the weekend, with former member Maart Alcock making the first of quite a few guest appearances.               Smith and Brewer. Couple of blokes with acoustics.  ‘Another Shade of Blue’ was among the songs they played from their upcoming record. Pleasant enough, they got a good hand.                               Police Dog Hogan. Mix of Irish, Americana and West Country . They managed to overcome a false start when the bass player’s Poundworld guitar lead seemed to have melted. Suspect he may struggle to get a refund. Unusual line-up, but Her Ladyship got a bit fidgetty and went back to the tent for umbrellas and ponchos. Strange that Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’ seems to be the ‘go to’ song for anyone venturing into Plastic Paddy mode. Bit of humour too, but not sure if either of us would queue up at the signing tent.                     Oysterband.  One of the reasons we plumped for a visit . We have been big fans since first seeing them in 1999 and find it unbelievable that they haven’t featured here since 2004.  Lots of favourites today (‘River runs’, ‘Here’s to you’, ‘All that way for this’, ‘Walking down the road with you’ and more). A reworking of their very old ‘Oxford Girl’ got some singalonging, but they lose a point for no ‘Bells of Rhymney’. A great performance , please don’t let it be another fourteen years wait!                      Brian Wilson presents Pet Sounds. I was very, very nervous about this. I have been a Beach Boys fan since the sixties and rate ‘Pet Sounds’ only beaten to the top spot in’ best lp ever’ by Love’s ‘Forever Changes’. ( Back in the early noughties I saw Arthur Lee and Love do a great job live with that.)  Tonight we get an awful, cheesy ‘Greatest Hits’ orchestral interlude before we are greeted  with the sight of a very frail BW being helped on stage with a nurse and walking frame. The opening notes of ‘California Girls’ strike up and Brian’s vocals are very ‘strained’. A couple of other hits follow before he (wisely) hands over the vocals to Al Jardine whose tonsils  have weathered the years better.  More hits follow, plus Al’s excellent ‘California Saga’ along with some more obscure songs.   We then get the entrance of Blondie Chaplain , who fleshed out the group in the seventies. He took over the vocals on ‘Feel Flows’, ‘Wild Honey’ and ‘Sail on Sailor’.  But he seems to have thought the show was ‘The Brian Wilson Show starring Blondie Chaplain’!  Much heavy metal guitar ( ‘basic’ is the kindest adjective I can muster’), maybe someone had sprinkled some Colombian Marching Powder into his £8.00 fish and chips?   Then it was ‘Pet Sounds’. Not going to give a blow-by-blow account but Mr W at one point during ‘God only knows’ looked genuinely upset that he couldn’t ‘make’ the notes. But then again, he knew back in 66 that brother Carl would nail it and gave it to him. (Mike Love wisely incorporated live footage with Carl in Beach Boys shows a few years ago.)  A few more hits to finish off the show, but not his solo ‘Love and Mercy’ which has featured on the tour.  It was at times a bit tearful, both watching the poignancy of a fragile genius and just watching him on stage after being a fan for fifty plus years.    Great night.

Friday. Had a walk into the village. Her Ladyship is a very smiley individual and was disappointed and suprised that this snotty, folky crowd are just plain ignorant. At every other fest we go to , we are greeted with ‘Good Morning’ from passers-by. Here? Not so much as a nod. And the arena last night was a sea of litter. Anyway, sod ’em, back to the tent to start ex- Fairport producer Joe Boyd’s book . (Cheers Les, will give you it back in October). By now, lashing it down so headed for our first ever visit to Brasenose Arms. Managed to find a seat and decided to stay. Decided to go to the arena after a few sherbets, where it was             Cregan and Co. A few years ago Jim recruited a talent show Rodalike and hit the boards playing some songs he co-wrote , and lots he didn’t.  He also features in the new-look Family line-up. (The Rodalike wasn’t there tonight though.)   Last few songs featured ‘Sweet little rock n roller’, ‘Twisting the night away’ and ‘Maggie May’. (He neglected to say he didn’t co-write any of those.) Much singing along to a club group, basically.   Hoping next year that Tetsu and Co are here, playing Free and Faces songs. After all, he co-wrote the ‘B’ side of ‘Wishing Well’.    Her Ladyship went off to watch the Doonicans doing a brief spot at the Radio Oxford tent. I predicted before we set off that that they would take Cropredy by storm.                   Le Vent du Nord. Electric Francophiles from Quebec. Very talented and unusual but with limited appeal. Strangely enough, they didn’t play ‘You wear it well’. One of them ran over a dog in 1972 that belonged to a woman who lived next door to a milkman who delivered Rod Stewart’s yoghurts.                          Fish .  Her Ladyship is a fan, but she is not sure why! She can’t even remember seeing him at the Acoustic Festival some years ago. Then again , she did go wandering off to the toilet that night about 2.00 am , fell into a water-filled ditch and was stuck in mud and nettles until somebody heard her cries. To me, he is still very much sub-Genesis Gabriel era.  A Marillion song to finish, he still has a loyal following.                                  Kate Rusby. Amazingly, she has never appeared here before. Last year’s t-shirt boasts The Divine Comedy and Petula Clark. Am I missing something?  Great to see Ms R doing a ‘regular’ set, our recent viewings have been her Christmas songs. Plenty of well-known numbers , incl ‘Hunter Moon’, Nick Jones’s ‘The Blind Harper’, ‘Big Brave Bill’ and ‘The Ardent Shepherdess’. Her Ladyship had gone down to the front to watch, and like me on the hill, found herself surrounded by loads of people talking and not giving a ‘f**k about who was on…or anyone who actually wanted to listen. Ms R should adopt Neil Young’s response (‘Why have you people actually paid f**kin money to come to see me?!) . Kate ended with ‘Underneath the stars’, coinciding with a plug for her own fest of the same name.  She has been a class act for years. Not interested in yet another appearance by the Levellers. Early night to bed for us.

Saturday. We inadvertently arrived a few minutes before the gates opened, and the sight of middle-aged men and women scurrying across the field to get their ‘spot’ was laughable.                                Richard Digance. A Croppers institution , although he missed last year. An occasion to air some new songs, but the likes of ‘Sod’s Law’, are never far away. His ‘Salisbury’ song is a modern day protest song almost and , of course, there is ‘We are searching’ complete with hanky waving.  He has the rare ability to get the audience crying and laughing simultaneously and is a great guitarist.  Try to catch him on tour if you don’t fancy sitting in a wet field.                       Eric Sedge. Singer-songwriter. His opening ‘Pleased to meet you’ had a bit of Quo tagged on. Thoughtful songs.                  Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. Fellow Barnslegians to Kate Rusby. How would they go down with the Cropredy faithful? Would my prediction come true? There were a few sniggers to start with from an unsure crowd, but an hour later it was mayhem! Thousands ‘Jumpin Arraand’ and clapping.  I think it helped that a big majority were Doonicans virgins. For the uninitiated, they rewrite the lyrics to well-known songs by such as Chris de Burgh, Rainbow, Marc Cohn, Police , The Wombles and …Abba. Sometimes the lyrics are lost in a noisy crowd but the punchline is the title which always gets a huge laugh. I won’t spoil the jokes but Her Ladyship couldn’t breathe for laughing at the newer ‘How Deep is your Glove’. Doonicans won by a cricket score.  I should have had a bet.                         Will Varley. Had the unenviable task of following the Doonicans. In an electric four-piece, he has one of those voices that seems to be about to burst into tears. He gave us the first (and second) ‘F’ word of the weekend.  He did nowt for me, and the rest of the audience seemed only to give him polite applause. But his short overrun generated some more interest. Plenty of people queueing up for cd signing.                      Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys. Nothing to do with the deceased ‘Porridge’ and’ Allo, Allo’ actor or the Keifer Sutherland comedy vampire film.  A sort of East Anglian Seth Lakeman. Mainly originals, they did an interesting ‘Sultans of Swing’, featuring some great banjo playing. They finished with mass jumping too.                              Afro Celt Sound System. By now it was lashing down and after the next twenty minutes of screaming women and endless percussion solos I knew what the term ‘water torture’ meant.  The rain and the ‘music’ went on for an hour.  What a gay day!                          Al Stewart. It was about now that I found it impossible to hold a book, pen and umbrella at the same time and keep the ink from running too. So apologies to Mr Stewart and his cohort for not logging details of their very good spot. Ralph McTell joined him on a Jackson C. Frank song.  ‘On the Border’, ‘Time Passages’ and his ‘hit’ ‘Year of the Cat’ were all well-received as were his anecdotes about Robert Fripp etc.  He deserved better weather.                         Fairport Convention and Friends. I was again rendered unable to write, courtesy of the relentless precipitation. But I remember ‘Crazy Man Michael’ making an early entrance. As usual plenty of instrumentals to show off their prowess, such as ‘Bankruptured’ and ‘Surfeit of Lampreys’.In fact , the opening half was very much in recognition of the forty years since the hugely untimely death of Sandy Denny. Plenty of guests came on to sing her songs including Iain Matthews and Fish, after a Denny slideshow. ‘Solo’ and ‘Who knows…’ went down well. Dave Pegg introduced ‘Walk awhile’ from the Full House lp as his first Fairport performance, it’s still great.  Maart came on again, fresh from his bass-playing with the Doonicans. But no Ralph McTell?  As usual, Fairport finish the set with ‘Matty Groves’ before coming back on to lead 20,000 piss-wet people through ‘Meet on the Ledge’.   A great end to a great weekend.

Music. Some great performances, some ok. In my opinion, of course.

Prices. Beer started with a 4, but this is Oxfordshire. The Welsh Oggies seem to have shrunk in size.

Security. Quite why we have to show our wristbands to go to the toilet, when we cannot have got there without having one anyway I don’t know. But never heavyhanded.

Campsite. Fine…and quiet!

Litter. As mentioned before. It’s as if the folky elements expect some lower class minimum wage people to pick up their crap.

Bar staff. Fine, unusual not to be shortchanged at a festival!

Village. It embraces the festival, which it makes financial sense to do. I found a cassette of Bob and the Band’s ‘Before the Flood’ for 50p. Plus a Howling Wolf double cd and my third copy of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s fantastic debut lp for a quid each.

We will return! Hoping for Pure Prairie League, New Riders of the Purple Sage or Little Feat next year. ( I made a similar request after 2013 but not successful! Check out the 2013 review.) If it is UB40 or The Buzzcocks again though we will be somewhere else. In fact , ANYwhere else.

And if Alison Krauss and Union Station are coming I will pick the litter up myself…with my teeth.

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The Great British Folk Festival. Butlins. Skegness. 2-5 December 2016

Last review of the festival was 2012, we haven’t been since. We decided to give it another go, as the line-up looked much better than what was offered from next January’s Rock and Blues Festival. Got there in good time and went for a couple of heartstarters in The Front Room.

Friday. First on is Kelly Oliver . (guitar, vocal), to quote a Richard Thompson lp.  Mixture of traditional and original songs. Pleasant voice, there was no danger of the ladies sat near us joining in…or even paying attention. One was doing patchwork, the other crocheting.   Her Ladyship’s stomach was making noises like a pitbull with piles, so went for our evening meal.               Cara Dillon. Missed her last time , in favour of Iain Matthews, so was determined to check her out. Plenty of original songs, including ‘Shotgun down the Avalanche’. Her group included husband Sam Lakeman and well-regarded folkie John Smith. We both switched off a bit when she went into Christmas mode, but woke up when Joni Mitchell and The Pretenders got airings. ‘Beautiful Star of Bethlehem’ was the first of many ‘singalong’ requests during the weekend.           Oysterband.    One reason why we chose this weekend.   To say they are absolutely ‘the business’ is preaching to the converted or the blissfully unaware. If you amongst the latter, put them on your bucket list . Mixture of older and newer songs, ‘Walking down the Road with You’ had their devotees at the front in full voice and there was an interesting re-vamp of ‘Oxford Girl’. ‘Granite Years’ has stood the test of time, but no room for ‘Bells of Rhymney’ despite Her Ladyship’s pleas.  A great performance. Interestingly, I picked up a couple of 1993  ‘Folk Roots’ magazines from the library in Castleford (home of John Jones’ mother’s family). ‘ Oyster Band’ featured on the front cover and there was a piece inside re their ‘Holy Bandits’ lp. They were big news in the folk world as long as a quarter of a century ago. Donovan’s ‘A Gift from a Flower to a Garden’ was advertised too, as was ‘Intuition’ an lp featuring 6 female artists including a certain 19 year old young lady recently made a Freeman of Barnsley. Sorry, no prize for her identity.              Los Pacaminos (feat Paul Young).    A couple of our friends were keen to see them, being Paul Young fans. I warned them that we have seen them before and it won’t be a Paul Young show at all.   Basically a Tex-Mex type outfit with Paul Young one of 3 vocalists.   Standards like ‘Tequila’, ‘Wooly Bully’ and ‘La Bamba’ were featured, but I reckon the advertising was a bit economical by not emphasising that this NOT a Paul Young show. They were…ok .      We had missed the latest incarnation of Lindisfarne, they clashed with Oysterband, but I collared Rod Clements later on , who kindly signed my ‘Dingley Dell’ cd cover. (My late cousin Alan Brown gets a name check on the Family Tree). Re the Lindisfarne story, we know some fans from the early 70s who regard the situation as a soap opera on a par with Eastenders, has anyone called it North-Eastenders yet?  If not, I claim it. Lindisfarce even? It was refreshing to see Mr C the following morning , duly waiting in line for breakfast with the proletariat . Would Bob ‘Man of the People’ Geldof do the same on Sunday morning , or send a minion to queue up in his place which I believe he did at an airport check-in desk?    The ‘larger than life’ DJ played Fairport’s most famous song, calling it ‘Meet ME on the Ledge’. She later referred to Ray Davies’s ‘Harry Rag’ as ‘Henry Rag’.

Saturday. Having just mentioned Lindisfarne , first up were The Pitmen Poets. One of them is Billy Mitchell, no not an Eastender but a North-Eastender. Also part of the Lindisfarne story…and Lindisfarne Story!  The flyer says ‘An epic journey through the life and times of the people who made their living in the Northumberland and Durham coalfields. ‘ . Bob Fox, Jez Lowe and Benny Graham joined Mr M and did what it says on the can.  Her Ladyship reckoned it was like listening to her late grandfather, a Durham miner.  She thought they were wonderful, she was not alone.          Gary Fletcher Band.  The Blues Band bassist was keen to say he was not going to churn out a lot of 12 bars, he has a day job to do that. All good musicians, but we left after about 20 minutes, it just seemed to lack a bit of purpose. Quite a few left too, to check out Gryphon on the other stage, but there was a worrying stampede in the opposite direction.   Onstage were the afore-mentioned veteran folkies, reformed to present their mediaeval noodlings. Very much an acquired taste, I fear. We didn’t acquire much. We lasted about as long as ‘The Directory of Italian Second World War Heroes’.                          David Knopfler and Harry Bagdanovs.    DK left Dire Straits after the first 2 lps and his onstage patter and occasional interview reveal that he is very much incommunicado with his brother. He tells us there were 2 writers in the group…but only for about 25 minutes.  What he should  really be doing is thanking his more talented elder brother for making him a millionaire. His songs all sound like they could have been out-takes from a Dire Straits lp or MK’s ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ and his vocal style is strangely familiar.  A strange act for a Folk Festival, he is also on at next year’s Rock and Blues Festival. Coincidentally, he is on the Rock Artist Management roster (see reviews passim). Having said all that, he and his chum were ok.                     Kate Rusby. First of her annual Christmas show dates.  We are both fans, but would have preferred her ‘regular’ show.  Her Ladyship went , out of curiosity, to check out Bob Geldof. She came back saying he was very good and the joint was rocking.            Itchy Fingers.  Local lads made good, last year’s Introducing Stage favourites.  Good end -of-night dancing stuff. 50’s swing style, Her Ladyship especially liked the percussionist’s armoury.

Sunday.  Chris Jagger’s Acoustic Roots.  Her Ladyship had gone off to see one of her favourites Fake Thakray..the recipient of the Annual Programme Spelling Mistake Award. But I stopped for Mr J. ( Fiddle, stand-up bass and acoustic guitar. Had that Parisian cafe feel to it.) Things quickened up with a Cajun number.  Proceedings slipped back into Stephan Grappelli mode for ‘Lights of the City’.   I enjoyed ‘Long Black Veil’. which the Clarence White-era Byrds used to do.   He has a good onstage patter, with very little reference to his more famous/infamous brother.    Question. What common human bodily function can Mick Jagger (according to Chris) not perform?  * Answer at the end             Slim Chance.   Saw them last time they were here. Similar set, mixing mainly old Ronnie Lane songs like ‘How Long’, ‘Debris’,  ‘The Poacher’, ‘You’re so Rude’ and ‘Ooh La La’ with some current songs.   Great good-time afternoon act for any festival.     Went out into the Pavilion and caught a bit of Crumbling Ghost, who would have been more at home at the Cambridge Rock Festival ,having  a female-fronted 5-piece.  Mind you, you could say the same about an OAP with a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club t-shirt!.       Kasim Sulton.   Another strange choice. ( Her Ladyship nipped off to check out Jona Lewie, she didn’t stay long). He has a CV almost as long as a list of reasons why Donald Trump should not be let anywhere near a building with a Zip Code 20500.   Just Kasim plus acoustic guitar, he played original songs, plus numbers from his times with The Cars, Utopia and Blue Oyster Cult. An acoustic snatch of ‘Godzilla’ was the second time we had heard the song at Skeggy, the first being via Blue Coupe (see earlier review). Both times preceded by Her Ladyship bellowing out the title.  Did ‘Across the Universe’ too.  Would have brought my Utopia cds to sign if I’d have known he was on.        Donovan. Now 70, the 60s folk troubadour gave us his familiar, fairly chronological trip through his 60s singles and lp tracks. Don, it is a touch immodest to refer to your first 2 lps as ‘iconic’.   His voice, sadly, has not always weathered well  and his phrasing during ‘Remember the Alamo’ and ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ was particularly dodgy. But anyone who has seen Bob Dylan live since 1992 has witnessed some terrible vocals!  Pretty much all of his hit singles from the 60s, sadly no place for the 70s and Her Ladyship’s favourite ‘The Intergalactic Laxative’.  Plenty of cds and vinyl on sale, but is it just a bit naughty charging a fiver more for a signed copy?           Holy Moly and the Crackers. Did I hear them being announced as ‘All the way from Newcastle’?  Donovan had just come all the way from New York…and not the New York up in County Durham.    7-piece, featuring 4 with facial hair and 3 without. The 3 girls were armed with trombone, fiddle and accordion. Unusual genre for relatively young musicians but a good end-of -fest choice. Not enough to keep us from our appointment in Chateau Snoozeau though.

All in all , a very good weekend. Some great acts , some a bit less than great. So a few extra thoughts

  1. Staff. All very efficient and friendly. Apart from one barman who overcharged Her Ladyship. He wouldn’t admit it, and she went back the following day to have another go and called for the manager. She got her refund!
  2. Artists. Pretty good, although difficult to see some as ‘folk’
  3. Disabled access. Ridiculous on first night where wheelchairs couldn’t get past people sitting on the floor.  At one point on final night though, I was surrounded by 3 Sherman tanks plus ‘carers’ One of them nearly ran over my bloody foot. . Well done to the man who was sitting and played hell when one of them just stood right in front of him.  All for equality , but it is not a bloody one way street.
  4. Heat.  I had to clap during Chris Jagger’s set just to keep warm.
  5. Queues. Even worse than before. Sunday evening, doors open at 7.00pm. Queues started at 4.30pm!!! Two and a half bloody hours!!
  6. Floors. The Front Room pub was like walking on treacle, and all the venues were like that. Her Ladyship said one of the toilet floors was filthy.
  7. Food. Perfectly fine, has been for ages.

Still a good value  and popular weekend


Oysterband/Blair Dunlop. Leeds Irish Centre. 4.12.2014


It’s a couple of years or so since we have seen Oysterband, and there have been some line-up changes. Our first encounter was back in the last millennium at the ‘Jig and Swig’ weekend in Morley. We had bought tickets , mainly to see the Coal Porters doing their Gram Parsons show, but were impressed with Oysterband (Her Ladyship especially).  Probably seen them half a dozen times, and we were pleased that this time they had one of folk music’s rising stars in tow.

Got there 7.40pm, and was surprised to see the room had been partitioned off. Has the austerity syndrome hit the fans pockets? Or are they not as popular any more? Christmas approaching?  Whatever reason, even the strange addition of BD as ‘special guest’ still only made the crowd maybe 300.  I say ‘strange’ because BD can command a decent audience (and ticket price) in his own right.

So, young Mr D shuffles on at 8.00 pm-ish. Strangely silent reaction, apart from three women near me discussing the booking fees on their 1 Direction tickets!   He gave us songs from ‘Blight and Blossom’, including the title track and his song about Christopher Marlowe , ‘Secret Theatre’, plus  the likes of ’45s (c14)’  from this year’s  ‘House of Jacks’ .   He finished off with Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’.  I am tempted to say the obvious, ie that young Mr D is a big fan of RT, but when I tried to hint that I thought that Blair must be a fan of Seth Lakeman in my Moonbeams Festival review it was as if I had said he was a fan of Jimmy Savile, it created such indignation. (But am I bovvered?  Am I folk.).   Have been playing both cds in the car of late (cheers Les) , with an Albion Band (The Next Generation) cd waiting in the wings.  A great 30 minutes set, which surprised a lot of people, but not the closed-eyed, head-nodding section sitting on the floor.

Oysterband. 9.00pm and on they come. If they were surprised at the relatively small crowd, they didn’t seem to show it. However, in his pre-amble to ‘Spirit of Dust’, John Jones did mention previous mayhem at their Irish Centre concerts.  It always amazes me that every song of theirs is so…anthemic. New songs like ‘Diamonds on the water’ seem as though they have been there forever.

‘Deserters’ was the first cd of theirs I bought, for a few dollars in the Virgin sale in New York in 2001, and ‘The Deserter’. ‘Granite Years’ and ‘All that way for this’ still feature in the set. (Back in 1989 though, I picked up their 12″ single ‘The lost and found’ pretty cheap and liked their ‘Change is gonna come’. )  ‘Walking down the road with you’, ‘Street of dreams’, ‘Everywhere I go’, they are all such bloody good songs.  And almost thankfully we didn’t get ‘Bells of Rhymney’, otherwise I would have had to get windscreen wipers fitted to my eyelids. It is an absolute tour-de force ‘live’,  especially if you have any involvement with the mining community.

Difficult to describe them to the uninitiated. I am tempted to say ‘Fairport Convention turned up to 11…with a squeezebox’. I know it’s not completely accurate but it’s the best I can do!

Her Ladyship only had her phone for pictures, so quality not too good. She didn’t actually ask young Mr D to do his impression of Freddy Krueger, honest!