Fairport Convention – A Sailor’s Life

• “A Sailor’s Life” set to a story slideshow. Thanks to MrSpudTuber.

8.7 “Excellent Folk Rock / Americana from England”

From their 3rd LP “Unhalfbricking” (Island Records ILPS-9102) released in July, 1969.

“Unhalfbricking”, so named on account of one of Sandy Denny’s contributions to an inexplicable on-the-road word game, was the second of three albums from Fairport Convention in this year. For this release they were: Sandy Denny (22, vocals, harpsichord); Richard Thompson (20, electric and acoustic guitars, electric dulcimer, piano accordion, organ, backing vocals); Ashley Hutchings (24, bass, backing vocals); Simon Nicol (18, electric and acoustic guitars, electric dulcimer, backing vocals) and Martin Lamble (19, drums). Although enthusiastically received, it was a bittersweet release for the group. Recorded between January–April 1969, the work was soon overshadowed by a tragedy on 11th May 1969. Just two months before the album was released, drummer Martin Lamble and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend, Jeannie Franklyn, were killed in a car crash as the band were returning from a concert in Birmingham.

I talk more of this tragedy in my full album review, which you can check out here alongside the rest of my favoured long players of ‘69.

“A Sailor’s Life” closes side 1; here the group demonstrate a fine sensibility for the old traditional, and are completely uninhibited in reframing it in a moody, late 60s environment. During the course of the 11 minute epic drag, we learn that a young woman is fretting about the non-return of her sailor lover, sweet William. She sets off in a boat to find him, eventually finding out that he has drowned. In her grief, she herself re-enacts the drowning in an attempt to rejoin him in spirit. It was Sandy Denny who learned it in her solo career and brought it to the table. The group are wholly terrific around Sandy’s vocal, and with Dave Swarbrick guesting on violin, the eerie mood is perfectly represented. Every member contributes excellently.

Martin Lamble was gone too soon but he certainly crammed a lot in to his short life; no-one can take his three Fairport albums away from him.

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