Roots

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Rein­vent­ing Richard Plain­song Fledg­ling/Planet

Vet­eran English roots mu­sic band Plain­song, which in 2012 called time on a ven­er­ated ca­reer, has re­united to pay trib­ute to a rel­a­tively un­sung Amer­i­can coun­ter­cul­ture trou­ba­dour of the 1960s, Richard Fa­rina, an im­mensely gifted singer-song­writer who was an in­te­gral com­po­nent of Greenwich Vil­lage’s sem­i­nal folk scene — along with his close friend Bob Dy­lan and sis­ter-in-law Joan Baez — un­til he died in a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent in his late 20s. Fifty years af­ter his pass­ing, Plain­song has suc­ceeded in rein­vent­ing him while pre­serv­ing the spirit of the orig­i­nal record­ings. Singer-gui­tarist Iain Matthews and his multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist part­ners Andy Roberts and Mark Grif­fiths have done a re­mark­able job of up­dat­ing a se­lec­tion of vi­sion­ary songs from the three al­bums Fa­rina made with Mimi Baez. Ex­quis­ite ar­range­ments that fea­ture acous­tic gui­tar and man­dolin play­ing of a high or­der in­ter­min­gled with sub­tle elec­tric gui­tar and drum loops, al­lied to Matthews’s ex­pres­sive lead singing and ex­cel­lent har­mony back-up, al­low max­i­mum ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Fa­rina’s so­cially aware lyrics. Lines from songs such as the anti-drugs rant Main­line Pros­per­ity Blues and the trad folk-in­formed anti-mil­i­taris­tic rave The Fal­con are as rel­e­vant to­day as when Fa­rina wrote them; like­wise Sell-Out Ag­i­ta­tion Waltz and An­other Coun­try, which Plain­song has re­vived with equal panache on a su­perb set that strad­dles folk, blues, coun­try, pop and rock ‘n’ roll.

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