Monday, September 04, 2017

Cropredy 2017 Review: Day 2

Life crowded in, and I'm not a completer-finisher, but here's the next instalment.

There was a chance of rain over the festival, and Friday saw a bit of very fine drizzle for a time. Luckily the ground remained firm, and things dried up before we all became wet and discouraged. I think it's probably fair to say that this day saw the most varied programme on the stage of the three days. Let me explain.

To its credit, Cropredy gives a slot to the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Winners, and this year they were Josie Duncan and Pablo Lafuente. Beautifully performed songs, they have rightly made an impact on the folk scene. Josie comes from the Isle of Lewis, and Pablo is a "young guitarist and fiddler from Spain via Stirling". Well worth checking out.

I can't quite remember when the gentle hazy drizzle started, but I suspect it reduced my enthusiasm to engage with the next two acts. Gerry Colvin was up first. A singer from Barrow with his band, with a career going back to the 70s. I've rarely seen a performer so excited to be performing, and especially to get a reaction from the audience. I didn't know much about him before the festival, but it's quite a CV on the website.

From the top of the arena field, once the weather improved.
Next on were Quill - folky rock with its roots in the Midlands, driven by lead singer Joy Strachan Brain, and a band that has been going since the 70s. Cropredy always has excellent musicians, and there's no doubt that Quill are, but they just didn't quite capture my attention like some acts. However, it could have been the weather...

Gigspanner followed, led by Peter Knight - perhaps best know for being part of Steeleye Span. They were a band who definitely fall into the folk category, but whose music has influences from further afield. Again terrific musicianship from a very experienced musician and his band took us up to just before 5pm.

CC Smugglers were up next. The lead singer was so excited he got a bit shouty between numbers, but great energy and fun to watch. They have also played Greenbelt, so they're obviously in demand for festivals. What genre? Well here's the description: "Listen to CC Smugglers and you’ll hear the ghosts of American folk music, swing, jazz, country, ragtime and bluegrass. Listen more closely and you’ll hear contemporary touchstones such as hip hop, metal, dubstep, house and dancehall. Nothing is off limits for this outfit." Now you know.

One of the highlights of my first Cropredy in 2016 was the Pierce Brothers making their debut. Two lads from Australia, who had been touring small venues in Europe turned up, having just played a bar in Belgium. "Which stage are we on?" they apparently asked, expecting a small side venue. It was explained to them there was only one stage, and it clearly blew them away to have such an opportunity. They went down so well they got an invitation to come back this year, and they were great. Humour, energy, and still really excited to be there at all.

A lovely touch was when they told the story that their sister required medical treatment that wasn't covered by insurance. When they crowdfunded for her, Cropredy goers chipped in and helped, which showed the connection they had made.

The contrast with the next act couldn't be greater. At the tender age of 84, Petula Clark was playing her first ever festival. It was a strange choice of artist. Let's be clear - she can certainly still perform, and has an incredible CV and a remarkable set of recollections and stories. And I remember as a small child her hits like Downtown being on the radio. They were all in a very polished set, but it did seem a bit out of character with the rest of the line-up. Still, there were plenty of people singing along.

Although Petula Clark was probably technically the headline act for Friday, Richard Thompson followed her. An original Fairporter and a great musician in his own right. Personally I preferred his acoustic set, which treated us to a number of favourites including this - Vincent Black Lightning 1952.

This was the third time I have seen him live, and I am always fascinated by his acoustic guitar technique. As a friend put it - he is a musician's musician. I'm not quite so keen on his electric material, but there is no doubting his legendary status and musicianship. A good way to finish Friday.

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