1960s British folk rock pioneers recall how they did it

Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:44am EDT
 
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By Andrew Dobbie

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The term folk rock has been absent from the vocabulary of the hip and cool for several decades.

However, Fairport Convention, the band that hewed the form from the free-for-all of late 1960s pop music, demonstrated at the weekend why it caused the shockwaves that it did.

At a concert in London's Barbican, surviving members presented a musical history of the band's early years, culminating with a selection of songs from their landmark fourth and fifth albums, "Liege & Lief" and "Full House," which told the musical world that British folk rock had arrived.

A sampling of titles from earlier albums, with original singers Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews, illustrated the band's American roots, with songs such as Emitt Rhodes's "Time Will Show the Wiser" and the Dylan cover "I'll Keep it with Mine."

Even in those early arrangements the dazzling instrumental work of guitar guru Richard Thompson, a prolific songwriter and performer in his own right since his Fairport days, shone through as an essential component of their unique sound.

Guest singers, including Thompson's daughter Kami and son Teddy, gave new life to several fondly remembered Fairport tracks of that period, such as "Genesis Hall" and Sandy Denny's haunting "Who Knows Where the Time Goes."

Kellie While was drafted in to substitute for folk's elder statesman Martin Carthy, unable to attend because of his wife's illness, to tackle the beautiful and complex "A Sailor's Life" from the "Unhalfbricking" album, the traditional song that took the band into uncharted territory.

Of the six musicians who played on "Liege & Lief," regularly voted one of the most influential folk albums of all time, four took to the stage to perform six of the album's eight tracks: Thompson, Simon Nicol (guitar), Ashley Hutchings (bass) and Dave Mattacks (drums).   Continued...