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ROY BAILEY - Live At Towersey Festival 2015

ROY BAILEY - Live At Towersey Festival 2015
Fuse Records CFCD410

Roy Bailey was on the cusp of his 80th birthday when this was recorded. Yet you would hardly know it from the voice. It still has that unique timbre that has thrilled us down the decades. Over five decades indeed since his first association with Towersey: and he has become almost as synonymous with this festival, as say, Michael Eavis with his Glastonbury.

This live recording is handsomely presented in a striking Digipak, and has an informative liner booklet written by Roy. He is accompanied onstage here by Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting, Marc Block, Ian Brown and guests Kit Bailey and Molly Simpson. The 11 tracks are bookended as one might expect, by Si Kahn’s stunning What You Do With What You’ve Got and John Tams’ glorious Rolling Home. Nothing original I can say about these two magnificent songs: it has all been said before. But perhaps I can point out that the chewing gum has still retained its flavour alright, with both. Great songs never die, if in the hands of a master like Roy.

Of the nine tracks in between, the highlight is emphatically his choice of With God On Our Side. How interesting that I put this album into my CD player for the first time on the very day it was announced Bob Dylan was to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. I recall over half a century ago, the brouhaha over him stealing Dominic Behan’s Patriot Game, and my thinking at the time that what vindicated his theft, was his Judas Iscariot verse: this raised his song to a whole higher level than the commendable Behan one. And all these years later, I see no reason to change my view, and Mr Bailey here really delivers.

He delivers too on the other numbers, though in truth, if I think back down the years, he has previously presented appreciably stronger playlists at his gigs. It is fair enough that Roy chooses Jon Fromer’s Welcome, in that it chimes with Roy’s humanitarian agenda, but I am not sure it quite cuts it as a top-top song. In The Neighborhood is not the pen of Tom Waits at its best, nor does Les Barker’s Dawning Of The Day quite do it for me, as it makes Patrick Kavanagh appear like WB Yeats. Apart from the Dylan high water mark, the best of the rest is the juxtaposing of two Robb Johnson songs, from Robb’s accomplished song suite Gentle Men.

But hey, what Roy Bailey sings matters not a jot: it is that he sings, which is important. He is still a voice for all that is good in the Towersey Festival, for one.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.