Tag Archives: John Kirkpatrick

Won’t Be Long Now

19 Oct

LindaTWontbeLong

Issued earlier this week on Topic Records (TSCD822) ‘Won’t Be Long’ is the first album from Linda Thompson since 2006 (and only her third collection of wholly new material this century). Although she’s hardly prolific, her albums have always been worth waiting for and this one is no exception.

I’ve always loved Linda Thompson’s voice since I first heard her sing alongside former husband, Richard, back in the seventies. It’s an enormously expressive alto – with a slight edge but one that gives it a certain vulnerability rather than harshness.

The  support cast is pretty classy. The main collaborators are producer Ed Haber and also son Teddy who who supplies the main acoustic guitar parts as well as contributing two of his own songs and co-writing another four with his mum.

Others from the extended family also contribute – especially on the Anna McGarrigle/Chaim Tannenbaum song ‘As Fast As My Feet’. I can remember hearing the composer perform this in London at the Shaw Theatre (now demolished) back in the eighties –  but I think it only made it onto record last year.  The lead vocal on this uplifting uptempo track is taken by daughter Kami while daughter Muna joins Linda on backing vocals. An astonishingly mature Thompson-esque electric guitar solo is taken by Linda’s teenage grandson Zak Hobbes and it also features bass by  Jack Thompson (Richard, but not Linda’s son) and drums are provided by Fairport Convention’s  Gerry Conway, with whom Linda first recorded in 1972 as part of The Bunch!

Other backing musicians include Richard himself, accompanying her with some sensitive acoustic guitar on her self-penned opener, ‘Love’s For Babies And Fools’, which harks back to their work as a duo (“Let better pens than mine/ Extol the joys of love divine/ Before I ruled love out/ I searched every north and south”).

In addition there are appearances by David Mansfield, and British folk royalty Dave Swarbrick,  Martin Carthy (along with his daughter, Eliza) and John Kirkpatrick.

There are nine further songs in the collection, a couple of which are traditional – including a live, unaccompanied version of ‘Blue Breezing Blind’ Drunk’ and one which appeared on the soundtrack of the film Gangs of New York (‘Paddy’s Lamentation’). The song that first grabbed me though was ‘If I Were A Bluebird’ – which shows off Linda Thompson’s melancholic vocal to great effect, contains great guitar from David Mansfield and is the sort of song than in ten years, many people may well think IS traditional.

Although I’m not going to list the remaining tracks, be assured that none of them are ‘fillers’  The time it’s taken to assemble this collection means that it has strength in depth

Eagle-eyed fans will note that the image above is from the lyrics booklet rather than the CD cover and is included because it’s autographed!

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Morris On

28 May

MorrisOn

I first bought this on vinyl on Island Records’ budget HELP label for something like £1.49 in 1974, a couple of years after it first appeared. My current copy is a CD on the boutique Fledg’ling label (FLED3037). I got it largely because it featured three former members of  the ground-breaking ‘Liege and Leif’ line-up of Fairport Convention (Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson and Dave Mattacks) along with a couple of others, (Barry Dransfield and John Kirkpatrick) who I didn’t know at the time. This album was also the first time I heard the great English traditional singer Shirley Collins (credited as Shirley Hutchings because she was, at the time, married to Ashley) who provided vocals on a couple of tracks.

In its own way ‘Morris On’  is no less remarkable than ‘Liege and Lief’ because what Ashley Hutchings did (and while the album is credited to all five principals, it was Hutchings who assembled them and put the project together). This was to record twelve traditional morris dance tunes using their traditional accompaniment of fiddle and concertina supplemented by a rock trio of  electric guitar, bass and drums. This sounds pretty simple now – but nobody had ever thought of it in 1972 and it worked surprisingly well! Morris dancing – and the music that supported it was, at the time,  deeply unfashionable – but this project exposed it to a rock audience. While it  didn’t make it fashionable, it did help kick it out of a reverential, respectful  ‘preservationist’  men-only custom into a  more open and enjoyable revival of the tradition which continues to this day!

For readers outside the UK it may be necessary to explain that morris dancing is a traditional English custom, going back at least to the 15th century, in which men (and back then,  it WAS just blokes), drink beer in between undertaking formation ensemble dances – generally in the open air. They are often dressed in white, sometimes wear bells on their knees and wave white handkerchiefs or large cudgels or swords, depending on local tradition.  Some sides also perform with blacked-up faces – although since the custom goes back way before Britain became multi-cultural, there are no modern racist connotations). The word ‘morris’ appears to be derived from ‘Moorish’ and may relate to  the expulsion of the Moors from Spain in the 15th century.

The players sound like they had a great time – it’s energetic, exuberant, good-humoured and slightly eccentric. The tunes chosen are deeply evocative of rural England and the recording was done ‘as live’ – which gives it a homespun sound – complete with false starts. They even brought in a morris side to perform a couple of stick dances as the tape rolled.

Pretty much every time I play this I end up smiling and humming along!