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Ashley Hutchings - A Midwinter Miscellany

  by Zena Grieg

published: 26 / 11 / 2020

Ashley Hutchings - A Midwinter Miscellany
Label: Talking Elephant
Format: CD


Atmospheric and wintry collection of spoken word and song from Fairport Convention founder member Ashley Hutchings, which he has recorded with the singer-guitarists/songwriters Becky Mills and his son Blair Dunlop

Ashley Hutchings, the English bassist, vocalist and songwriter, founding member of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the Albion Band, has released ‘A Midwinter Miscellany’. This is a seasonal album of mainly new songs written by Hutchings and his special guests, the singer-guitarists/songwriters Becky Mills and Hutchings' son Blair Dunlop. The record also includes some spoken word, poems and stories. Recorded by Dunlop at Hutchings’ Derbyshire home over a couple of days in early autumn, the album explores topics from hibernation and snow to ancient Midwinter customs. Following up on the collaboration of Hutchings and Mills several years ago, when they toured ‘The Beginnings of Fairport,’ a spoken word and song presentation telling the story of Fairport Convention, this latest collection continues the theme of combining words and songs, creating a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and flavours of short winter days, long dark evenings and the celebration of Christmas. It takes excerpts from a wide range of literary sources including George Eliot and Kenneth Grahame, and gives a fresh complexion to other writing by Smart and Chesterton through new music composed by Dunlop and Mills. Highlights of the album include the atmospheric opener, an excerpt from a poem by Christopher Smart blending with Mills’ song ‘Crocuses’ about loss and new life; an evocative reading from George Eliot’s ‘The Mill on the Floss’ by Hutchings in his sonorous baritone; the musical interpretation by Judy Dunlop of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 'Mahogany Tree', her singing accompanied by son Blair on acoustic guitar; and the traditional-sounding but new ‘Christmas Wreath’, words by Hutchings to music by Blair Dunlop, closing the album. Renowned for his work, including in schools, to keep English folk music, dance and traditions alive and vibrant, Hutchings has since the early 80s been organizing a small group of acclaimed folk musicians to tour each December as the Albion Christmas Band. This album, which has the feel of a live performance, presents an entertaining festive celebration of this musical event in this socially distanced time.

Track Listing:-
1 Crocus Poem, Crocuses
2 Raggle-Taggle Lad
3 Her Name Was Mary
4 The Mill on the Floss
5 Animals Carol
6 Hibernation
7 Three Angels
8 Sweet November
9 Mahogany Tree
10 Silence of Snow
11 Ancient Midwinter Customs
12 The Christ Child Lay on Mary's Lap
13 Christmas Wreath

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