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The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (Remastered)

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Album Review

Following the breakup of the short-lived Fotheringay, Sandy Denny returned with her first post-Fairport solo album, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. Produced with ex-bandmate Richard Thompson and longtime engineer John Wood, who would go on to produce the bulk of Thompson's work with Linda Thompson, the record consists of eight evocative Denny originals, along with the traditional "Blackwaterside" and a pair of borrowed rockers. There's a looseness and roominess to the sound, with acoustic guitar, piano, and Thompson's electric guitar leading the sparse backing from former members of Fotheringay, along with the occasional accordion, violin, pedal steel, and strings. Songs such as "Late November," "John the Gun," and "Next Time Around" are among her best, while "Blackwaterside," featuring Thompson's guitar and accordion, continues to show her mastery of traditional music. Because her songs tend to lean toward the melancholy and are primarily on the slow to midtempo side, Denny had to look elsewhere for upbeat material. Choices such as Brenda Lee's "Let's Jump the Broomstick" and a ragged yet somewhat effective duet with Thompson on Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood" are good ones, though both sound as if they were afterthoughts. Her best record was still a year away, but The North Star Grassman is a solid effort from Denny's sadly shortened solo career. [The 2006 reissue includes four bonus tracks.]


Born: 06 January 1947 in Wimbledon, London, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Maddy Prior, Jacqui McShee, and June Tabor all give her a run for her money, but the late Sandy Denny remains the pre-eminent British folk-rock singer. In addition to recording several albums of her own, Denny was an integral force behind the best work of the most respected British folk-rock band of all, Fairport Convention, and also contributed mightily to recordings by the Strawbs and Fotheringay. It's impossible for words to fully evoke the haunting, spectral presence of her powerful and penetrating...
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