We made reference to Fairport Convention a few days ago, and whilst the right to change opinions about The Greatest Band Ever on a weekly (nay, daily) basis is at the very core of our Unpopular Philosophy of Musical Appreciation and Critical Understanding (we’ll be running a course in this when we eventually retire from the tedious grind of telling eleven year olds to stop eating glue-sticks) it would be fair to say that in recent years it has come to our attention that the Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention are indeed that Greatest Band Ever. Granted, it took us a few decades to eventually reach this conclusion; decades in which we slowly discarded the flimsy gaudy rags of Keeping Up With The Now in favour of the hallucinatory history lessons of Losing Ourselves In The Then. Perhaps this is what enlightenment feels like.
Now whilst it is tempting to share with you our thoughts on why the Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention are the Greatest Band Ever we are sure too that it would be somewhat superficial and essentially pointless. Others, notably Rob Young in his ‘Electric Eden’ have said it better than we could possibly manage. But still, it would be fair to say, would it not, that no-one has ever quite managed to blend mystical folk traditions with electric rock hallucinations with quite the exquisite balance as did Fairport Convention in 1969. We are very clear that our Younger Selves snubbed noses and suggested that this balance was too strongly rooted in the folk and that the rock strangeness was not Strange enough, but years have passed and we understand more clearly than ever those lines about not needing to be strange to be strange. Fairport Convention implicitly understood this before Mark E. explicitly suggested it, but that’s not saying one was more valuable that the other. For we like to think there are rivers of conceptual enlightenment running through time to infinity, tapped into in different moments and contexts by those open to their electric pulses. Oh lord. And now we sound like some of those damned Hippies we always swore we despised. The ones who Ruined Everything and who hilariously Get Their Just Rewards in that recent Tarantino movie fairytale about Hollywood and 1969. The one with the terrific soundtrack (and hey, did you catch that line from Chad And Jeremy’s terrific ‘Paxton Quigley’ coming from ’Three In The Attic’?) although what? No Fairport Convention? Perhaps if it had been ‘Once Upon A Time In South London’. Perhaps not.
Yet whilst in recent years we have certainly enjoyed the pleasures of Losing Ourselves In Then we admit that the intrigue of the Now retains a certain thrill. Not as in some desperate Need To Keep Up of course, but rather as in the delights of tripping over and falling into the rumbling surf of contemporary clamour to come up with a few precious stones to add to our collections. Izzie Derry is certainly one of those precious stones, as you will surely agree when you hear her gorgeous ‘In A Year’ on the forthcoming Unpopular mix for March. There is a sweet video clip on The YouTube of Derry performing the song with her acoustic guitar beside a tastefully decorated Christmas tree back in 2018, and whilst it is endearing and occasionally sets the hairs on the back of our necks quivering when her voice cracks just so in that Joni manner, it’s the ‘full band’ version released a year later that really stirs our souls. For with a troupe of carousing revellers alongside her, Derry shifts up a gear and allows the electric blankets of sound to bolster her voice into something tougher, whilst retaining the brittle tenderness essential to human connection. This, and the excellent five song ‘Lost At Sea’ EP put us in mind of Natalie Merchant and her 10,000 Maniacs or, to cross oceans and time frames, of the wonderful (and underrated/forgotten?) Annika Norlin whose English/Swedish IndieRockFolk songs as Hello Saferide and Säkert! are so precious to us. Or what about Frida Hyvonen? We would love it if Derry could cover ’The Lakes We Skate On’ or ‘London’. Wouldn’t that be something?
And as for that Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention reference? Well, turns out that Izzie Derry supported the 2019 incarnation of the group in a church last year, played a cover of ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ and received the Denny stamp of approval for it. Imagine that! As we are wont to say, ‘it all fits’.