Monday, 27 January 2014

Blair Dunlop and Ashley Hutchings - Cookley Village Hall, Sunday 26th January 2014

Photo by Sean Redmond
There was an air of changeover surrounding this final leg of a series of shows featuring father and son artists Blair Dunlop and Ashley Hutchings. The theme of this wonderful arrangement sees Ashley gradually relinquish the steering by providing more of a supporting role as Blair continues on the road of fulfilling his prodigious talent. The sonnets, poetry, literary recitals, stories and bass playing created a backdrop for Blair to display the determination and skill to forge ahead in his own career. As well as a touch of family baton passing, Blair himself is in the process of moving away from his excellent BLIGHT AND BLOSSOM album and switching focus to a new record due out in May.

Blair has had no better guiding light than a father steeped in English folk rock heritage and has been at the forefront of a movement for now approaching nearly fifty years. Any Ashley Hutchings stage appearance is going to bring up re-collections of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, and this evening’s show extended to a recounting of the discovery of Nick Drake along with his passion for championing the folk lore of the English Morris tradition. Blair is successfully absorbing this enormous amount of influence and creating a style that embraces a contemporary twist.

Having seen Blair a couple of times last year supporting Larkin Poe and the Carrivick Sisters, it wasn’t surprising to see him adopt a more reserved approach alongside his father but this greater focus allowed him to show those present what a fine guitarist and song writer he is. In the final throes of promoting BLIGHT AND BLOSSOM we were treated to exquisite performances of its title track, ‘Less the Pawn’, ‘Billy in the Lowground’, ‘Secret Theatre’ and ‘Black is the Colour’. The latter was a collaboration with Larkin Poe’s Rebecca Lovell and Blair joked it wasn’t cost effective to fly her over from Georgia, USA for this evening’s village hall gig.

The new material from Blair is gradually moving from embryonic status to its fully fledged set list presence and perhaps the most prominent song featured during this evening was ‘The Song of Two Bridges’. Inspired by a combination of poetry and Anglo-Italian influence, the track was a definite positive taster of what is to come. In sync with the previous slots I have seen him play, he reserves a spot for his version of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning 1952’ and this is no mean effort to replicate the work of a legend so intertwined with his father.

Photo by Roddy Clark
Ashley’s poise and authoritative stance was a superb foil for Blair thus creating a very entertaining evening of blending retro and contemporary. This event held at Cookley Village Hall was the latest in a line of folk inspired events promoted by the Shindig organisation in rural Worcestershire locations under the Live and Local banner. Those, and they were fairly numerous, who braved a wet Sunday January evening were privileged to witness this inter-generational collaboration.

There were many admiring glances from Ashley to his son on stage and while there is mileage in his own desire to promote the music he loves, the future is really about Blair Dunlop. The folk scene has already recognised him but this should not be the limit of his talent that can reach out beyond and carry the tradition to new admirers as well. 

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