Live Music + Gig Reviews

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2008: Day 2 @ Cropredy, Oxfordshire

8 August 2008

By the afternoon of the second day, a few Cropredy essentials had been ticked off on our list.

As well as imbibing cider and pie, we’d seen a dog wearing a cravat, with owner matching him, of course. We’d seen plenty of the Charles Darwin beards that adorn the throngs of fifty-somethings that make up the heartbeat of this special festival. And we’d also seen the fleshy, much-fondled, ample, conspicuous bosoms of their wives. Good times.
The other demographic high in number this year was a bizarrely loutish element, or ‘chavs’ as the middle class hoi-polloi like to call them. Perhaps this is down to the fact Cropredy does not take place in the relative isolation of, say, The Green Man, Latitude, Bestival or End Of The Road. With Banbury down the road and all the rural oddball villages surrounding, Cropredy does have a tendency to attract young shirtless males from the provinces with more desire to drink Strongbow, pick fights and possibly slash your tent than Morris dance. This year this crew were out in force, and some parts of the site were more akin to football matches than a folk festival.

Anyway, BBC Radio 1 stalwart Mark Radcliffe is not one exactly opposed to a foaming flagon, and as long they don’t do it for too long or too often, the band he fronts, The Family Mahone, are just fine. Not quite jugband, but in that ballpark and despite the frivolousness they market themselves with, this collective are mighty fine musicians too.

After the perky (if not electrifying) gypsy-jazz-folk of the much revered 3 Daft Monkeys, we had the duo of Siobhan Miller and Jeana Leslie. These two had secured their slot here by winning the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award earlier this year. Two years ago this gave us the excellent Bodega, and last year the also impressive Last Orders, both of whom combined prodigious musicianship with an understanding of the bawdy celebration essential to this style. Miller and Leslie, while very sweet and good singers, simply had nothing to get excited about. Essentially, they are treading the same ground as Rachel Unthank And The Winterset, with less innate brilliance or maturity. Perhaps that will come.

Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady deserves a mention; indeed, he deserves a few more mentions than he has received throughout the course of his long and varied career. His songs are of the kind that combine the personal with the wider concerns of societies, and are of a standard to make Elvis Costello or Ron Sexsmith look on with envy. A slot below the vacuous boogie-woogie guitar of Joe Brown and Dave Edmunds and, following them, headliners Levellers, did him some injustice but those getting rained on this evening witnessed a man Fairport should get back sometime soon. Tremendous stuff.

Levellers themselves claimed they were delighted to be here, having been waiting to be asked for some years. If there was ever a group surviving on the strength of their political convictions it is this one. The energy of their live show and the adoration their fans afford them is undeniable, but their last genuinely good song was, let’s face it, nearly two decades ago. Is this harsh? Perhaps. But their headline slot came and went, and another day was done.

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