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Review: Ashley Hutchings and Becky Mills at the Lichfield Guildhall

This year marked the 50th year of Fairport Convention, the epoch-changing, ground-breaking, foot-tapping musical ensemble that deftly blended folk music and rock rhythms together in the 1960s, adding new life to an old repertoire.

The Beginning of Fairport Convention was written and presented by Ashley Hutchings and Becky Mills, and served as an evocative recap of the 1960s, in all of its creativity.

With little more than a bass, an acoustic guitar, and a life-time of stories from the fore-front, stages, and recording studios of the world, the two kept the audience entertained for the entire evening.

As the group’s original bassist, Ashley Hutchings MBE recorded and performed with such players as Simon Nichol, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, and a number of other musicians, whose open minded approach to music making, technical know-how and willingness to tour saw them as a leading band of the 1960s, and onwards to today, where they still sell out festivals and concerts, more than 50 years since first meeting.

This show was a largely spoken word evening, with anecdotes about the band, their recordings, and stories about everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles being featured.

Although there were no stories of debauchery, as could be expected from rock bands of the time, such as Led Zeppelin, or Fleetwood Mac we were still left with some finely wrought stories about life on the road.

With the singer songwriter Becky Mills sharing a stage with him, much of the music featured was written by other names from the sixties, such as Bob Dylan, who’s Lay Down Your Weary Tune served as both encore, and the first song of the night, while Leonard Cohen’s Bird on A Wire was a showcase for the harmony singing of both performers, and a cover of the Byrd’s I Tried so Hard was also a fine showcase for the duo’s vocal, and nimble fingered music making.

Other songs included Ashley Hutchings own Given Time, written as a tribute to Nick Drake, who was discovered by Ashley Hutchings, and Sandy Denny’s Never Wanted Me, which was once again a showcase for the powerfully tuneful vocals of Becky Mills, whose own songwriting prowess was shown in the touching ballad William.

Very few songs by Fairport Convention featured, with Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes being a particularly noticeable omission, but the set closer of Crazy Man Michael showed that the songs of Fairport Convention are still relevant to the world.

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