Posted: January 22, 2015 in MUSIC
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“Fotheringay” was one of Sandy Denny’s finest compositions, and one of the best songs on the first album she sang on as a part of Fairport Convention, “What We Did on Our Holidays”. One of the song’s strengths is that it sounds as if it could have been an authentic ancient folk ballad. It wasn’t, however — it was an original tune, and with a very good haunting sad melody, something at which Sandy Denny excelled. Although Fairport Convention were a folk-rock group and not a folk one, the arrangement of “Fotheringay” is quite folky, featuring little other than acoustic guitar and bass, although some very faint ghostly harmonies can be heard. The scenario of “Fotheringay,” too, fits in well with the British folk tradition: a woman seemingly held captive within a castle, lonesomely watching the day wane, though sung by Denny with a knowing reserve. It’s implied at the end of the song that the woman might be considering suicide as a way out of her predicament, as Denny comments that these days will last no more, and tomorrow at this hour the girl will be far away, much further than these islands (presumably where the castle’s located). The melody of “Fotheringay” was taken from an earlier song, in fact her first known composition, “The Tender Years” (also known as “In Memory”). A yet sparer version of the song, recorded by Denny as a 1967 home demo and featuring only her voice and guitar, was released on the compilation The Attic Tracks Vol. 3 (and on the bootleg Borrowed Thyme). There are also Fairport Convention BBC versions of the track from 1968 on Heyday and 1969 on the Fairport Unconventional box set with Denny on vocals. These aren’t remarkably different from the studio version, and are certainly of lower fidelity, but are good to have just for the hell of it.


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