Fotheringay (self-titled)

In 1970, Sandy Denny’s departure from British Folk heroes Fairport Convention brought us Fotheringay, named after Denny’s original composition “Fotheringay” (about Fotheringay Castle), which appeared on Fairport Convention’s 1969 album What We Did on Our Holidays. Two former members of Eclection (Trevor Lucas, who would become Denny’s future husband, and Gerry Conway), and two former members of Poet and the One Man Band (Pat Donaldson and Jerry Donahue) completed the line-up. The newly formed group was ready to head in to the studio, and give us their first (and long believed to be) only album. Fotheringay has become recognized as a lost British folk rock treasure.

Of course, Sandy Denny’s voice is immaculate and flows ever so sweetly. “Nothing More,” track one, immediately sets the mood for the album, and features some of Denny’s finest vocals. This definitely sounds like a woman who knows all about pain, and offers her fellow mankind the best possible advice to move on from the past. Self-aware, yet sensitive, this is classic Sandy Denny. But believe me, the album just keeps getting better. The second track, “The Sea,” is absolutely stunning, a song that always gets me choked up a bit and gives me goosebumps. Let’s not forget to mention the musical quality here, either. For a newly formed and fresh band, they sound as though they’re completely comfortable with each other and have been jamming for years. The group knew exactly what they were doing.

Trevor Lucas takes the mic for “The Ballad Of Ned Kelly,” “Peace In The End,” a positively killer cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel,” and an almost equally impressive cover of Bob Dylan’s “Too Much Of Nothing.” I’ve always loved Lucas’ vocals on this album. He has a country-rock leaning to his voice, and I instantly dug it right from the start. The album closes with the truly beautiful traditional “Banks Of The Nile,” a perfect ending to a nearly perfect album.

I kept my favorite track for last. “The Pond and the Stream” affected me in a pretty personal way. In fact, when I first got my hands on a copy of this album, I played that one song five times in a row. Lyrically and musically, it hits me pretty hard. I’ve since held it in the same high regard as classic Denny-era Fairport songs such as “Genesis Hall” and the immortal “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”

Sadly, Fotheringay split in January of 1971, right while they were in the middle of recording tracks for their second album. Some of these songs managed to make it on to Denny’s debut in ’71, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. Lucas, Donahue, and Conway later resurfaced in the “new” Fairport Convention in 1972 for the album Rosie, which also contained some Fotheringay songs. In 2007, Donahue completed the abandoned album by using takes never-before-heard from the original tapes. Fotheringay 2 was finally released in 2008, and is also recommended.

I cannot say enough about this album. A definite “desert island disc” for me, it has brought me a lot of listening pleasure for quite some time. It may also become one of your favorite discs to spin on a cold winter’s night. Highly recommended.

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“The Sea”

:) Original vinyl | 1970 | Island/A&M | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Fledg’ling UK | buy here ]

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  • An incredible record.
    Alongside Fairport’s Liege & Lief, definitely Sandy Denny’s finest moment. Her voice is peerless throughout. Props also to Jerry Donahue and his incredibly tasteful guitar playing. The solo at the end of ‘Nothing More’ is beautiful. A all-time top five album for me.

  • Rambling_man

    Great great album, absolutely love it! Didn’t know about the 2008 new issue, I will definitely have to check it out, thanks for the heads up!

    Denny also went back to Fairport for the Rising for the Moon album, together with Lucas.

    Not to be nitpicking, but the last song on the album is “Gipsy Davey” ;-P

  • Annie

    Yet another “GREAT” review…so very informative & enjoyable to read. Thanks alot….I’ll have to check this one out.

  • Len Liechti

    A fine album, and very much of its time. Am I the only person alive who finds Sandy Denny’s singing just a tad dreary? I always thought her opposite number Jacqui McShee of Pentangle had the edge, with just a spark of humour showing through. Nonetheless, the songs on Fotheringay are pretty damn good and the guitar work is pretty well peerless, with Jerry Donahue in particular showing great restraint. Unleashed, he’s probably the finest bender of strings on a Telecaster this side of Clarence White, and without the benefit of a String Bender – check out some of his work with the Hellecasters. You all know of course that Donahue as well as Denny and Lucas reunited with Swarb, Mattacks and Peggy for Rising For The Moon, probably Fairport’s last really great outing, although rather more West Coast and less traditional English folk in style. I had the privilege of catching Jerry Donahue playing live at the former Country ‘n’ Western venue, The Bungalow Inn near Bristol, some years ago, and can confirm that he’s a truly virtuoso player and a really modest and pleasant fellow to boot.

  • David Young

    I guess it was back in December of 1970, I was in university and visiting a friend. We were smoking hash, drinking wine and listening to music. He had a bunch of newly purchased records which we listening to and critiquing. “Fotheringay” was the one I liked best. “Merry Christmas” my friend said giving me the album! Years later I met and became friends with Pat Donaldson when he was living in Montreal and playing with Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Great guy, I hear he’s currently in France.

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