Album one hundred, apparently, I believe it, so should you! Somebody must have spent a deal of time beavering through the Ashley Hutchings discography and actually identifying the other ninety nine releases that Tyger appeared on, but then the original Fairports do have a tendency to amass recorded appearances, look at Richard Thompson and Iain Matthews, equally complex lists both. Whilst this is a retrospective it isn’t the career spanning that ‘The Guv’nor’ five volume series was, this is more a quick glance over the shoulder to recent live activity which may have escaped notice. The selections culled from shows which celebrate, Bob Dylan – Ashley’s first real influence – Fairport Convention’s early days, poetry and abiding love.
In essence it is what it says on the cover, some of the selections have a full band as on the ‘Dylancentric’ tracks recorded live at the 50th anniversary of the Isle Of Wight festival, from which ‘Lay Down Your Weary Tune,’ a track both Fairport and Steeleye tried whilst Ashley was in the line up, is the standout. ‘Crazy Man Michael,’ comes over well from the Convention selections whilst ‘Lark Rise To Candleford’ gives ‘ Peddling Suffragettes,’ included in the live shows, it has the melody, shape and structure of classic Albion Band.
The maturation of Blair Dunlop, Ashley’s son and increasingly co writer is significant, the pair of them are penning material which sits well in the environs of ‘Paradise & Thorns’ the chronicle of a doomed but lasting love affair which Mr. Hutchings holds as his most successful work. Indeed it would be a very cold heart which listens to parent album ‘By Gloucester Docks,’ and wasn’t moved by the way he bares his emotions and soul, ‘ Brief Encounters,’ is one such, the parting and potential of a relationship comes over in a reflective but stark, honest lyric.
Worthy of investigation then? Yes indeed as with the majority of Ashley’s work. The restless creativity which drives him ever forward is no doubt, as I type these words, outlining album one hundred and one. Watch this space!