At the 2006 Cropredy festival, the Friday night saw about four hours of bliss. Magic, almost.
Deborah Bonham was at her lung-bursting best, while the lovable, curmudgeonly rogue John Martyn and even popsters 10cc all played flawless sets to take a night that promised much into soaring delirium.
No doubt the flagons of ale helped, but I stand by the belief that this was one of the finest nights ever at the event, or at least in my short history of attending.
The line-up on paper last year was quite something. As well as those mentioned we got Glenn Tilbrook and Steeleye Span. This year, however, the Cropredy team sheet looks a little less formidable. Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra on the Thursday we just don’t need, the noxious purveyor of insufferable boogie-woogie being so, so boring. Add to this, Lulu. Yes Lulu. At a credible folk festival.
However, there is something very special to counter this. To mark the 40th anniversary of Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief, the 1969 line-up of the band will perform the album in its entirety on Friday night. Obviously, the dead ones won’t be there, such as Sandy Denny (replaced on the night by the rather less talented Chris While) but messrs Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Dave Swarbrick and Ashley Hutchings certainly will. This one-off performance might get rid of the Jools Holland aftertaste.
Following them on Friday is Thompson in a solo set. The Cropredy regular is of course one of Britain’s, if not the world’s, most consistently brilliant guitarists and songwriters. While Cropredy ever year provides music of an impressively high standard with artists from far and wide, their resident genius is untouchable and the knowledgeable folk fans who sit on the hill in their deck chairs know it.
Of the younger wave of folk artists, Cropredy 2007 is represented by Seth Lakeman as he gears up for his new album in the autumn – expect some new material. Expect other lesser-known pretenders Hummingbird, Kerfuffle and Give Way to potentially come of age at the festival too.
While Fairport always select the acts to play with a great deal of care, their tastes are not watertight and inevitably, duds will get through. The Sunday afternoon graveyard slot has been a particular favourite time to wedge the deadwood, so beware this year. This problem is worsened by the fact there is only one stage, leaving the fan with but one option: beer. Beer is a Cropredy theme even as much as accordions, and the cricket club just off the festival site remains the most economic place to imbibe, though the ale provided on site by 6X is not exactly a chore either. This year’s festival will produce some moments of sublime talent as well as the regular emotional depths when Fairport perform Meet On The Ledge to close on Saturday night. Come all ye.