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Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:27 pm
by Adam Blake
I posted this up in the other place rather than here because I didn't want to be just "the guy who talks about old records". Then I thought, who cares? Somebody here might enjoy it or respond to it, or both, or neither. So here you go:

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSMqHpuMT2Y

“She Moves Through The Fair” was the harbinger of the British folk-rock movement. If “Nottamun Town” was a bit of a steal from Bert Jansch, “She Moves Through The Fair” represented a completely original angle. If it’s implications sunk into the folk world thoroughly, it must have been obvious that some fundamental change, a quantum leap, was being made. One of the most mysterious Irish folk songs, with a text dating back in some form to the medieval period, “She Moves Through The Fair” was a song that Sandy Denny had sung regularly at her solo folk club gigs. She had taken her basic arrangement from Margaret Barry, an Irish singer and banjoist who lived and performed in London in the late 50s and early 60s. Sandy loved the song, so why should she not also perform it with Fairport? Thus she sang it to her usual dropped D acoustic guitar accompaniment while the band improvised an ad-hoc arrangement around her. Ashley Hutchings’ gentle swooping and diving bass lines recall Paul McCartney’s work on then contemporary Beatles LP’s, while Richard Thompson’s lines owe more to Jorma Kaukonen or Robbie Krieger than to any folk player. Martin Lamble’s drums would, in fact, suit a muted version of The Doors “The End”, which illustrates the point that, initially at least, Fairport Convention didn't play traditional folk material like folk musicians because they were actually contemporary rock musicians – weaned on rock’n’roll, not jigs’n’reels. They had no real reference points for folk; only Sandy had any genuine folk training, and she was a novice – even if she didn't sound like one. Fairport’s receptiveness to that training created something that sounded very much like a genuine marriage of two quite separate popular musics – the one ancient and fairly fixed, the other modern and in a state of constant dramatic change. What’s more, it would seem that this marriage was made completely innocently, in an entirely spontaneous manner. On subsequent albums, aware of what they had done, Fairport would consciously and deliberately set about employing traditional folk within contemporary rock settings, but here – where this innovatory fusion is first achieved – it seems it happened quite naturally. Folk-rock? “Sadly, these awful terms do stick”, wrote Nick Coleman, in his New Musical Express review of the first Sandy Denny box set in 1986, and I’m afraid he’s probably right.

“She Moves Through The Fair” – a strange song of a ghost and an inexplicable disappearance, of an impending marriage and a rather sinister dimension to the promise of eternal love – Sandy Denny’s performance of it here is quite impeccable, only equalled by some half dozen other of her recordings. The elemental imagery of the lady’s disappearance:

“And then she went onward, just one star awake
Like the swan in the evening moves over the lake”

Is given the full weight of its magic by the richness and sympathy of Denny’s signature phrasing, and the last verse, with the ghost’s appearance:

“And she laid her hand on me, and this she did say
Oh, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day”

Is laden with sinister foreboding by virtue of an astonishing swell on the long, low notes of “long love”. A virtuoso performance by anybody’s standards, and the first of several very old folk songs that would have life breathed into them by this newly discovered alchemy of Sandy and the Fairport’s, in some cases after the songs had lain moribund for what may have been centuries.

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:25 pm
by Nigel w
Very nice piece of insightful writing, and it was defintely a key song in the Fairports' growth, just as was A Sailor's Life which a year or so later would signpost their next move.

But you are probably a bit harsh on Nottamun Town, which I don't think was stolen from Jansch, particularly. The group would also have known the song from Davy Graham's version with Shirley Collins, a couple of years before Jansch, and I always felt that they must also have listened closely to Dylan's arrangement of the tune when he stole if for Masters Of War.

But thanks for sharing the piece on She Moves Thru The Fair. It really is beautifully expressed and does full justice to the Fairports' exemplary performance.

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:47 pm
by Chris P
Martin Lamble's contribution to this track is just 'so right'. Beautiful & haunting music, by a group with special ingredients, chemistry, simpatico interaction, & great musical talents

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:54 pm
by Rob Hall
Maybe when Norman and Gary revive their 'No Reason' show (cough, cough) they could feature Adam talking us through this as a 'prefect moment'?

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:09 pm
by Jamie Renton
Adam, please keep posting about old records on here, because
A. What you have to say is always interesting and beautifully expressed
B. It makes me feel young & "with it"

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:22 pm
by Chris P
Nigel w wrote: But you are probably a bit harsh on Nottamun Town, which I don't think was stolen from Jansch, particularly. The group would also have known the song from Davy Graham's version with Shirley Collins, a couple of years before Jansch, and I always felt that they must also have listened closely to Dylan's arrangement of the tune when he stole if for Masters Of War


what Nigel says. Surely good commenting, knowledge & intuition

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 1:28 pm
by Adam Blake
Thank you for your encouragement, folks. Jamie, I have always thought you were admirably "with it" and "down with the kids".

Have listened to both Jansch and the Graham/Collins versions of "Nottamun Town" and enjoyed them. My point was that Fairport's arrangement of "She Moves..." was completely original by virtue of their ignorance of the folk tradition.

So fol-de-rol-diddle-ol-dey to ye all...

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:03 pm
by NormanD
It's worth listening to the earlier version from Margaret Barry you refer to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DZXRQLN3bs

There were many versions of this song around before Fairport's - Pete Seeger's ten years before, Cy Grant, and even Marianne Faithfull in 1966 (with a solo sitar?! - honestly not at all bad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz2wFzZnXdA In fact Marianne's version may conceivably have had more influence than Margaret Barry's. Discuss)

It's a song / poem of deep mystery and some fear, as death songs should be. But all versions I've had a listen to miss out the third verse:

"The people were saying,
No two e'er were wed
But one had a sorrow
That never was said.
And I smiled as she passed
With her goods and her gear,
And that was the last
That I saw of my dear"


It's also worth listening to some of the other songs that Fairport '68 were playing, but didn't record. Contemporary songs like "Suzanne" have Fairport's stamp on them as much as "Fair". They really hit the mark with "Liege And Lief", their third album released in 1969. Three LPs in one year. By then, they'd broken with their previous incarnation and were truly a folk band - recording some songs that were not that well-known, and writing others that were definitely in that musical tradition and style. "She Moves Through The Fair" was their warm-up.

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:10 pm
by Adam Blake
NormanD wrote:It's also worth listening to some of the other songs that Fairport '68 were playing, but didn't record. Contemporary songs like "Suzanne" have Fairport's stamp on them as much as "Fair". .


Good point, Norm. Perhaps the wonderful Ms Dyble (of this parish) could confirm or deny whether this epic arrangement was arrived at when she was fronting the first edition of the band?

Also, Fairport's arrangement of Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine" bears very little resemblance to the Dylan original - in fact it has far more in common with Sandy Denny's signature tune "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" which didn't get recorded (by Fairport) until "Unhalfbricking", later that same year (oh, that was an Ian Matthews album wasn't it?)

Three albums in one year and all of them quite different and quite wonderful. I don't think any British band has ever topped that for fecundity, have they?

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:19 pm
by NormanD
What do you think of Marianne? So long?

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:37 pm
by Adam Blake
NormanD wrote:What do you think of Marianne? So long?


What do I think? I think I can play better sitar than that, dammit. I feel them old born-too-late blues comin' on.

Marianne sings it very nicely, with what might be called (in elite musicological circles) a tremulous vibrato. She doesn't sing "laid her hand on me" in the last verse, though, which is what gives me that thwack of authentic dread. I wouldn't be surprised if members of the Fairport camp said rude things about the record (whilst secretly rather liking it). You know how musicians are...

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:55 am
by Jude
Adam Blake wrote:
NormanD wrote:It's also worth listening to some of the other songs that Fairport '68 were playing, but didn't record. Contemporary songs like "Suzanne" have Fairport's stamp on them as much as "Fair". .


Good point, Norm. Perhaps the wonderful Ms Dyble (of this parish) could confirm or deny whether this epic arrangement was arrived at when she was fronting the first edition of the band?


Yes I can confirm that FC's wonderful arrangement of 'Suzanne' was created while I was in the band.. It always always sent shivers down my spine, when I sang it with them on stage. A shame it was never recorded, or perhaps not. Martin's drumming was always so subtle and mindful of the lyrics as well as how the whole song would sound. He understood the light and dark, the dynamics... Does that make sense?

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:01 am
by Adam Blake
Oh yes. Thank you, Jude. If you don't mind me asking, were these arrangements arrived at in rehearsal? Or would someone (Richard? Ashley?) bring them to a rehearsal and teach them to the band? I am fascinated by working methods and they are so rarely discussed.

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:50 am
by Jude
Adam Blake wrote:Oh yes. Thank you, Jude. If you don't mind me asking, were these arrangements arrived at in rehearsal? Or would someone (Richard? Ashley?) bring them to a rehearsal and teach them to the band? I am fascinated by working methods and they are so rarely discussed.


With my wobbly memory.... it would have been a mixture of both, everyone would have listened hard to the songs suggested and probably Richard, Simon and Tyger would have developed the bare bones with Martin, but it was usually changed and developed more in a full rehearsal. I can't remember whether we started working on it before Iain's arrival, it may have been in the set list before he joined. Rehearsals were often just who was hanging around the Fairport house at any given moment..
But other's memories of the time may differ...

Re: Fairport Convention: She Moves Through The Fair

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:11 pm
by Adam Blake
Thank you very much, Jude. I prefer organic arrangements. By which I mean arrangements that are arrived at by musicians playing together and working things out as they go along. Obviously some people work very differently - Burt Bacharach, I imagine would never use 'head arrangements' - but when the song is conceived orally, the arrangement ideally should reflect this, as in folk and blues.