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.