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Saturday 15 June 2024

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Songbird – Carla Fuchs.

Aug 23, 2023

The music of Sandy Denny still holds mystique, charm and attraction some 45 years since her passing. Her colleagues in Fairport Convention carry her torch, others have celebrated her by reforming Fotheringay her short lived group from the early 70s or simply playing her songs as tribute. A while back – 2010 as I recall – Thea Gilmore took some forgotten lyrics addding her own tunes resulting in the attractive album ‘ Don’t Stop Singing.’  You lose count of rejigged records, box sets, live shows, bootlegs … Sandy’s allure remains.

So maybe you’d think that the well had run dry. Think again. German musician Carla Fuchs wrote the track ‘Songbird’ which she dedicated to Denny, after some thought she sent a link over the web to Sandy’s daughter Georgia Lucas who lives in Australia. Liking what she heard Georgia approached Fuchs about writing music for yet more lyrics discovered in Denny’s notebooks by Phil Smee when he’d used some of Sandy’s images in an archive CD collection. The pair began to plan, matters were made more difficult by geography and the pandemic but now their efforts are finally here with the appearence of ‘Songbird.’

From the off it’s clear that this is a production of the Denny estate, Georgia besides providing the motivation has overseen design and layout whilst her stepmother Elizabeth Hurtt Lucas pens the sleeve notes. There are ten tracks amongst them Carla’s own work which began the project and gives the album its name. A quick scan of the enclosed lyric book shows the unmistakeable hand of Denny with words which reflect and echo her earlier work, some refer directly to events and influences from Denny’s life. For instance ‘Go West’  thoughts about relocating to America, Sandy did consider the move when she was frustrated with the matters in England, ‘Georgia,’ is obviously a mother’s lullaby to her infant, ‘Halfway Home,’ is a piece which shows the loneliness and longing which solo touring brings. There are others which reveal frustration and dark thoughts, difficulties of failed relationships, winter imagery and the sea, each one a reccuring theme within her repertoire.

Happily the music here is miles from straight imitation, Fuchs cleverly evokes the spirit of Sandy Denny with her keyboard work. At times I found myself thinking the chords were distant cousins of  ‘The Northstar Grassman and The Sea Ravens’ or maybe ‘Bushes & Briars,’ perhaps ‘Sweet Rosemary.’ The 1971/72 vibe seems right. Equally compelling is her guitar work, again there is a connection but no copy. That fact alone makes the album a captivating listen. A small band of musicians add warm support including Marion Fleetwood on fiddle, though Fuchs turns in a multi-instrumental display of her own, perhaps necessitated by covid restriction, it’s still an impressive list taking in several keyboards and types of guitar, oh, and she produces. Multi tasking or what?

Wisely picked up by the decent types at Talking Elephant ‘Songbird’ comes in a great cover which happily explains the background in as much depth as you could want. Ultimately I suppose you have to ask the question does it add to the legacy of Sandy Denny? The answer is a resounding ” yes!” Yet it does more than that, okay it stands alone, but it makes you, as the listener, want to return to those glorious records that Alexandra Elaine MacLean Denny cut so long ago and listen closer to appreciate them for the wonderful music they contain as well as muse on what might have been. A splendid achievement.

Simon Jones.


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