A found­ing father of prog folk re­vis­its the scene of his mag­num opus.

Prog - - The Musical Box - PAUL SEX­TON

His­tory will record Ash­ley Hutch­ings’ great­est achieve­ment as his co-found­ing role with prog folk’s ti­tanic tri­umvi­rate of Fair­port Con­ven­tion, Steel­eye Span and The Al­bion Band. But he be­lieves his finest recorded mo­ment may be one that was also per­haps his most per­sonal.


1987’s By Glouces­ter Docks I Sat Down And Wept, which

Talk­ing Ele­phant reis­sued to ac­claim in 2013, de­scribed an un­fin­ished love story as it de­vel­oped, with love let­ters, po­etic mus­ings and back­drops from rock’n’roll to bal­ladeer­ing.

Hutch­ings’ bucket-list new project is, in some ways, what hap­pened next, con­ceived af­ter he re-es­tab­lished con­tact with the amour of the orig­i­nal. That frame­work, which forms the first CD here, would be am­bi­tious enough for many, but Par­adise And Thorns be­comes wide-an­gle in scale by adding a sec­ond disc, Other Tales Of Love, which com­prises the broader mus­ings of Hutch­ings and oth­ers on the phys­iog­nomy of love, and the gamut of emo­tions it en­gen­ders, from joy to grief.

The new visit to Glouces­ter is what you might call a reimag­ined di­rec­tor’s cut, but that of an older and wiser di­rec­tor with more de­tail to share. He uses sev­eral record­ings from his past to that end, in­clud­ing 1980s per­for­mances by his All­stars and one from 2005 by the Rain­bow Chasers. Hutch­ings also uses the power of his speak­ing voice to good ef­fect on in­lays of a John Donne poem, a snip­pet of Louis MacNe­ice and even an ex­cerpt from Pushkin’s Eu­gene One­gin.

It may sound like book­ish stuff, but there’s an in­clu­sive el­e­gance, and it serves as a poignant es­say on love both per­sonal and uni­ver­sal. Devil-May-Care In Our Danc­ing

Shoes and Thirty-Two Years And A Life­time, new songs co-writ­ten with Hutch­ings’ son Blair Dun­lop, add even greater cross-gen­er­a­tional depth.

Dun­lop also plays on disc two, which has the father-and­son duet Lost In The Haze amid show­cases from other re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tors, like vo­cal­ist Polly Bolton, singer-gui­tarists Kitty Mac­far­lane and Becky Mills, and ac­tor Michael Maloney. In Dun­lop’s adap­ta­tion of Polly On The Shore, bloody war rages as the nar­ra­tor wishes him­self alone with his girl. The de­vice also serves on I Was Dream­ing Of Clarissa, a quo­ta­tion from the 1968 film The Charge Of The Light Brigade.

Cin­ema’s un­lim­ited abil­ity to con­vey ro­man­tic long­ing prompts quo­ta­tions from Casablanca and Frank Borzage’s adap­ta­tion of Hem­ing­way’s A Farewell To Arms, be­fore Chekhov and Shake­speare level the scores for the writ­ten word. As a creative achieve­ment and a far-reach­ing nar­ra­tive, this is a love story with a happy end­ing.

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