Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fairport Convention, "Sir Patrick Spens" (BBC sessions version)

We are now into my least favorite part of the calendar year. The holidays are over, and now there are no happy distractions from the oppression of winter's cold and dark. I almost always fall into a mental depression and get physically ill this time of year. I got spoiled by my three winters living in Texas, and have had a hard time with them in Jersey. While the weather is not as extreme as it is in my Nebraska homeland, the effect it has on my commute can be soul-destroying. There's nothing like spending an hour in Penn Station crushed cheek to cheek with other irate commuters waiting for a train that will be even more crowded. Snow also means shoveling, now that I'm a home owner, and there's nothing like ending a hard day of working and commuting with having to shovel my much too long driveway.

I try to warm myself however I can, from hot chocolate to dark beer to bourbon to lamb stew (made a big pot last week) to the right music. I lived two very very long winters in Michigan, which happened to coincide with my exploration into folk music. (This was assisted by the amazing music collection at the Grand Rapids Public Library.) I find it well-suited to the winter months, especially English folk music. 

Fairport Convention are one of my favorites, due to the combination of Sandy Denny's gorgeous voice, Richard Thompson's impeccable guitar playing, and Dave Mattacks' impressionistic drumming. I tend to like their originals best, but there's a special spot in my heart for "Sir Patrick Spens," an old Scottish folk song about a doomed ship. It's the tale of the Scottish king asking Sir Patrick Spens to sail a ship for him, even though Sir Patrick doesn't think he's up for the task. The ship sinks, and Sir Patrick assumes he's been manipulated by an "enemy" to going to his death. I love the way that Mattacks' drums roll like the waves of the sea on this song. It's also good to hear that all the way back in medieval times capricious bosses were setting their subordinates up for failure.

I like the BBC sessions version of this song from the Live At The BBC album best, since it has a rawness to it that I think all good folk music should have.

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