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The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (Remastered)

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iTunes Review

As primary guitarist and producer, Richard Thompson is an unmistakable presence on Sandy Denny’s first solo album. Though his quicksilver guitar shines on songs like “Blackwaterside,” one can sense that his sole mission was to underscore Denny’s vision. Coming off of the late-'60s Fairport Convention albums, the influence of The Band looms large here, both in the woodsy resoluteness of the drums and the organic feel of the instrumentation. Still, unlike her compatriots, Denny was more mystical than frisky. Though she does some romping in the form of “Down in the Flood” and “Let’s Jump the Broomstick,” the album’s tone is best captured on “John the Gun,” “Wretched Wilbur,” and “The Optimist,” which employ the poetical structure and language of traditional British folk music to illuminate a darkness that becomes more and more personal as the album moves forward. While Denny was regarded as a singer, she was also a writer. When she delivered her self-made tales of life on the high seas (“Late November,” “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens”), her singing left no doubt that while the narratives were classical, the meaning was wholly autobiographical.

Customer Reviews

Likely Her Best

Although not as finely crafted and polished as her later work with husband Trevor Lucas, this set is closer to where Sandy Denny was at as a folk artist. Great songs here, the staples of her live work and Richard Thompson's sympathetic guitar support (solo on "The Sea Captain" is RT at his best from this period) leans more toward the Fairport era and catches the essense of the beginning of his own solo efforts. This is one of the most approachable representations of the British folk-rock era and if you like this outing, you'll appreciate the rest of Denny's catalog all the more.


Born: January 6, 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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