THE SANDY DENNY PROJECT - Otley Courthouse - 31 January 2020

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 16:58
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THE SANDY DENNY PROJECT - Otley Courthouse - 31 January 2020

The Sandy Denny Project is a coming together of six highly talented musicians (two of them impressive multi-instrumentalists)… or four lead vocalists… or, if you wish, all of IOTA backed by three of Little Johnny England… another branch of the band-family tree would take you back to the revived Fotheringay or Trad Arr. This is an act with a record (several in fact – see the merch stand) and this is their latest conviction – and utterly convincing it is!

However, you subdivide the SD Project, it’s a group of players who’ve come together to perform and celebrate the music of Britain’s greatest female singer-songwriter.  Sally Barker’s tongue-in-cheek opening question (“Has anybody heard of Sandy Denny?”) brought a roar from the audience and led straight into the well-chosen Listen, Listen, which opened a set featuring music from across Sandy’s career. Naturally, the essential and obvious were in there, but so was the unexpected – annA rydeR’s understated take on a song from Sandy’s first solo album; Sally’s subtly rewritten Come All Ye; the pop singalong of London, a Sandy lyric with a melody created by Thea Gilmore.

Always respectful of its source material, the SD Project is most definitely not a covers band. Songs and arrangements are reimagined – Rising For The Moon is driven not (as I expected) by fiddle, but by slide banjo; John The Gun, as P J Wright introduced it, is “folk metal”; annA took Until The Right Thing back to Fats Waller and added cornet to her piano accompaniment; Winter Winds benefitted from more than a touch of ABBA!

Other highlights included Marion Fleetwood’s emotional reading of The Lady which perfectly captured the spirit of Sandy, the magical arrangement of Fotheringay, and the a cappella trio first half finale of Quiet Joys.

Then there’s that encore! We’d have been content with Time Goes, but instead that became the centrepiece of a trio of Sandy’s finest, an absolute hat-trick of consummate performance – the best encore I have seen in years.

The logistics of bringing this band together (all members have other career commitments) are problematic and any opportunity to see them should be grabbed with both ears.

Nigel Schofield

The Setlist

Listen, Listen
Farewell, Farewell
I’m A Dreamer
Late November
Rising For The Moon
Bushes & Briars
John The Gunn
Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood
Come All Ye
The Sea
Next Time Around
Winter Winds
Until The Real Thing Comes Along
The Lady
Dark The Night
Matty Groves

Who Knows Where The Time Goes
It’ll Take A Long Long Time