Sunday, 21 October 2012


Lambertson '98 [Druid's Chant x Sea Urchin] 5.5" Semi. Ev. Re. Em. 27" Tet. A beautiful blue lavender with a white star burst coming out of a green throat and gold edging. Great parent, producing sharks tooth edging. 

“Sandy Denny” is a variety of daylily (hemerocallis) hybridized by Ludlow Lambertson in 1998. Luddy and his wife Rachel describe themselves as “huge fans of both Sandy and Fairport Convention”, hence the choice of name. Rachel sings; Ludlow is the hybridizer; both are painters. Based at Lake Helen, Florida, they open their garden to the public during daylily bloom season, which runs from May to June (details on their website at Art Gallery Gardens). What you won’t find on display, alas, is the “Sandy Denny” bloom. They no longer have it. And nor does anyone else, as far as I can establish. A website in Canada, Rural Roots Gardens, purports to offer it for sale, but the illustration is incorrect (it shows another of Lambertson’s hybrids, “Do The Twist”) and my enquiries have gone unanswered.

Some years ago a horticulturalist in south London contacted me, saying she was planning to import “Sandy Denny”. I met her when she came to the Troubadour tribute in 2008, but failed to keep in touch, alas. I wonder if she succeeded?

Kyle Orosz, who designed the authoritative Sandy website at, incorporated the flower into his illustrations.

Do we know any more about this elusive bloom?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Calling New Yorkers!

Friday 12 October, 7pm

Salina Sias
“The Songs of Sandy Denny”
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002

Salina is a New York-based singer-songwriter who has become a great Sandy enthusiast, keen to spread the word. She writes:

…I discovered her work thanks to Robin Millar, also known as “The man behind Sade” and one of the UK’s most successful record/music producers.  He was kind enough to lend an ear and give me advice – he was the one who introduced me to the names Sandy Denny and John Martyn.  He thought, perhaps, my original music was influenced by their work.  I love being influenced by someone I did not know – a kind of karmic ethos.

Interesting lady – a daughter-in-law of Norman Mailer, no less. If you’re a fellow fan in the NYC area, I’m sure she’d be delighted to see you at her gig.

Postscript 6.11.12: some fan footage has appeared on YouTube showing Salina's version of  'Autopsy'.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Notes and the Words

The Notes And The Words: A Collection Of Demos And Rarities

From the Sandy Denny official website:

Due to the phenomenal and totally unprecedented demand for Island’s complete Sandy Denny Box Set, released in November 2010, Universal Music is issuing a limited edition 4 CD version. 

This boxset will be released on the 29th of October, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon UK

The original box set has become one of the most collectible box sets of all time. Now, for fans that missed out, this new four disc set boasts 75 songs that represent the cream of the rarities, demos and outtakes from the box set, including 17 demos taken from the master tapes of Sandy’s early home recordings. Among these is the first known recording of 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes', recorded in 1967. The set also features demos, outtakes and alternate versions of Fairport and Fotheringay classics as well as many tracks from her solo career.

Having now seen the complete track listing, I can supply more details:
  • There’s nothing on here that wasn’t on the big box.
  • The majority of tracks appeared for the first time on the big box.
  • A handful of tracks on here appeared first on the big box, then again as bonus tracks on the “deluxe” reissues of the solo albums.
  • There’s a small overlap with Boxful Of Treasures and the Who Knows Where The Time Goes boxset.
  • There are a (very) few tracks that have appeared before on single albums (e.g. Fotheringay 2, Alex Campbell & His Friends).  
  • The packaging is more sensible this time – you don’t need to build an extension to your house to accommodate this one.
Overall, I’d say if you’re a Sandy completist and you missed out on the big box (or couldn’t afford it), then this is definitely worth having.  

Other news:
  • The provisional date for the TV broadcast of 'The Lady', the Barbican tribute concert, is now 9 November (BBC4). (There is also a one-hour documentary on Fairport Convention scheduled for 14 September on the same channel.)
  • As its coverage of the London Olympics draws to a close, BBC TV has repeatedly (and quite rightly!) been showing a montage of British medal winners to the accompaniment of Thea Gilmore singing ‘London’ – which might just spark further interest in Thea’s Sandy project. Seems like everyone’s a winner from the Olympics. (If the BBC link doesn't work for you, the montage is also available on YouTube.) 
  • The latest issue of Clifton Life (pp56-9) has an affectionate piece by Ian A Anderson looking back to the heyday of the Bristol Troubadour club in the 1960s. He recalls the famous names who graced its tiny stage, Sandy among them. It also includes a photo of the reclusive Shelagh McDonald, taken on her visit to Bristol earlier this year.   
  • Currently on eBay is a rare chance to acquire a Sandy autograph. This framed piece of sheet music of 'Tarantelle in A-flat for piano by Stephen Heller' measures 25x30cm and belonged to Sandy. It was given by her to Dave Swarbrick, who is now auctioning this item for charity. The item is authenticated by Dave Swarbrick in a signed declaration on the back of the frame.The proceeds of this auction will be donated to Ethiopiad, who have been working in Ethiopia since the late 80s and are a charity committed to using their funds to create self-sufficiency. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Lady at the Barbican

As readers of my book will know, 2008 saw a notable tribute concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. In the words of the organiser, ‘it was designed to avoid the mawkish and place the focus firmly on Sandy’s songwriting’. A little over three years on, that concept has taken wing in the form of an eight-stop tour of English cities. Playing to sold-out houses and earning standing ovations, it landed in London last week, where I was lucky enough to see it.

The Barbican concert wasn’t about egos; it wasn’t a ‘talent’ show, with tear-stained contestants and acid-tongued judges. Nor was it an exercise in biography with musical illustrations. (I didn’t catch Patrick Humphries’ pre-concert talk, but I’m sure he provided all the context a newcomer would need.) No, this was a celebration, by a variety of artists from different generations and different backgrounds, of Sandy’s musical legacy.

Twenty-five songs. What a feast!

Maddy Prior had never sung Sandy’s own compositions before, but you wouldn't guess it as she ranged easily from the madrigal inflections of ‘Fotheringay’ to the angry dissonance of ‘John The Gun’. Unlike the thunderous majority, I don’t share in the general rapture over Thea Gilmore’s completion of Sandy’s unfinished songs. I find the whole project slightly dubious. However, Thea is a powerful stage presence, and there’s no denying her uptempo contributions (‘London’, ‘Don’t Stop Singing’) varied the mood. Lavinia Blackwall of Trembling Bells was perfectly cast for the folkier end of Sandy’s output. Her ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’, which she’d arranged in three-part harmony with Prior and Gilmore to back her, was one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in ages.

For me, the two American contributors, both from way outside the English folk-rock axis, were the revelation of the night. As she left behind her folk roots on the later solo albums, Sandy was edging towards a more ‘accessible’ style, and arguably a more ‘American’ style. This is what American singers bring out when they cover her songs. Joan Wasser (aka Joan As Policewoman) delivered two superb numbers at the piano. Palpably savouring the rich chordal progression of ‘The Lady’, Wasser hinted at the song’s jazz potential, and I found myself thinking of another great artist called too soon to the studio in the sky – Laura Nyro. Meanwhile, PP Arnold, looking extraordinarily young for her 65 years, comes from yet another tradition. With heavy vocal backing in the chorus, ‘Take Me Away’ became the epic soul number we never realised it was. Indeed, PP likes the song so much she has recorded it; a download is available from her website.

So this night belonged to The Lady and it belonged to the ladies. I have to say the male singers left me underwhelmed. I recall Green Gartside from the Nick Drake tribute a couple of years ago, but he made no stronger impression here than he did there. While Blair Dunlop (son of Fairport founder Ashley Hutchings) is a talent to watch and Sam Carter was sharp and to-the-point, soloing on ‘Bushes And Briars’ and duetting playfully with Swarb on ‘It Suits Me Well’, I missed two of the more distinctive talents that had adorned the QEH show in 2008:  Johnny Flynn and Marc Almond. Both had prior commitments, alas.

As encore, we finished inevitably on ’Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ tutti. One dyspeptic reviewer in a national newspaper took exception to the ensemble turning this quietly contemplative ballad into a soft-rock anthem for massed forces. I (sort of) know what he means – it received similar treatment in the ‘Daughters Of Albion’ concert at the same venue in 2006. But it’s the song everyone in the audience expects to hear and everyone on stage wants to sing, so the format is almost pre-ordained.

Members of Bellowhead provided a strong house band throughout, augmented by Fairport veterans Jerry Donahue on electric guitar and the irrepressible Dave Swarbrick on violin.  

The BBC were filming the show for television (transmission at a later date, as yet unknown), which seemed to give extra edge to the performances. It certainly added to the nerves, causing even artists as experienced as Maddy Prior and Pat Arnold to suffer false starts.   

The gig, and the tour of which it formed part, were a massive team effort and team success. But we should single out for mention producer and compere Andrew Batt. Andrew has done more than most in the last five years to bring Sandy’s work to a wider public and to ensure that it has a future. As well as producing the 2008 tribute show which formed the template for this tour, he researched and compiled the massive 19-CD box of her Collected Works and the recent ‘deluxe’ reissues of the solo albums. I doubt that anyone outside the ‘business’ understands just how much work is involved here, especially in putting together a multi-artist, multi-venue tour like this one. So hats off to Mr B!

And then, still hatless, let’s raise a glass to Ms Denny, without whom none of this would be happening.

Set list

A Sailor's Life - Lavinia Blackwall
Late November - Lavinia Blackwall
North Star Grassman And The Ravens - Green Gartside
Stranger To Himself - Green Gartside
Glistening Bay - Thea Gilmore
London - Thea Gilmore
Bushes And Briars - Sam Carter
Fotheringay - Maddy Prior
John The Gun - Maddy Prior
The Sea - Blair Dunlop
It’ll Take A Long Time - Blair Dunlop
By The Time It Gets Dark - Joan Wasser
The Lady - Joan Wasser


Matty Groves - Ben Nicholls
Long Time Gone - Thea Gilmore
Don’t Stop Singing - Thea Gilmore
Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood - Lavinia Blackwall
It Suits Me Well - Sam Carter & Dave Swarbrick
Nothing More – Green Gartside
Solo - Maddy Prior
I’m A Dreamer - PP Arnold
Like An Old Fashioned Waltz - PP Arnold
Take Me Away - PP Arnold


No More Sad Refrains - Joan Wasser
Who Knows Where The Time Goes? - ensemble

The band

Pete Flood..................Musical director/drums/percussion
Jerry Donahue...............electric guitar
Benji Kirkpatrick...........mandolin/acoustic guitar
Nigel Stonier...............acoustic guitar
Andy Mellon.................piano/trumpet
Nick Pynn...................violin/viola
Ben Nicholls................bass
Sam Carter..................acoustic guitar

(Photos by John Chase)

(Part of this review was first published in R2 (Rock’n’Reel))

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Events in 2012

The Lady: A Homage to Sandy Denny
A special UK tour in May 2012 commemorating Sandy's songwriting legacy.

In the years since her death, Sandy has emerged as one of the UK 's greatest singer-songwriters. Her classic song ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ has been recorded by a diverse range of artists including Cat Power, Nina Simone and Judy Collins. This special tour celebrates her legacy for a new generation and showcases for the first time her entire songbook taking in her work with Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, her solo career and the new songs completed by Thea Gilmore on her acclaimed album ‘Don’t Stop Singing’.

Thea will join a unique line up of artists including former colleagues and friends Dave Swarbrick, Maddy Prior, and Jerry Donahue, alongside Joan Wasser (aka Joan As Police Woman), PP Arnold, Green Gartside and young admirers including Lavinia Blackwall (Trembling Bells), Sam Carter, Blair Dunlop (The Albion Band) and Ben Nicholls. Together with members of Bellowhead, who form the core of a house ‘super group’, they create this unique, adventurous homage to the artist described by Richard Thompson as ‘the greatest British female artist of her generation’.


May 19: LIVERPOOL Liverpool Philharmonic 0151 709 3789

May 20: NOTTINGHAM Royal Centre 0115 989 5555

May 21: BRIGHTON Festival 01273 709709

May 22: COVENTRY Warwick Arts Centre 024 7652 4524

May 23: LONDON Barbican Centre 020 7638 8891

May 24: BASINGSTOKE The Anvil 01256 844244

May 27: GATESHEAD The Sage Gateshead 0191 443 4661

May 28: MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall 0161 907 9000

[Produced by Andrew Batt and MBM]