Ashley Hutchings

Burning Bright
Free Reed Records FRQCD50

Once again may we have a huge round of applause for those tirelessly hard working guys at Free Reed Records (Nigel Schofield and Neil Wayne) for laying on another folk music banquet – this time around celebrating all things Hutchings. And this really is a celebration!

In at the birth of the folk-rock movement with both Fairport and Steeleye, Ashley had an uncanny knack of drawing together musicians and performance artists crossing theatrical boundaries that in many ways now seem commonplace. My own first recollection of meeting the man himself and being overawed by the flourishes of his band’s musical genius was at one of the earliest concerts by the Albion Dance Band at Trinity School in Croydon. I was suffering from a bad case of flu (and my friend had glandular fever!) but that did nothing to mar the occasion - and that’s what it was, ‘an occasion’. The stage was taken up with practically every instrument under the sun including melodeons, shawms, crumhorns, vielle, electric guitar and drums all underpinned by the trademark Hutchings bass. Heady days indeed! There was of course the element of dance laced with a touch of the theatrical and all part of the interaction with his audience. At the time this was the mark of a visionary and obviously someone who knew how to employ a broader sense of the word ‘folk’ to encompass his own passion in the art of presentation.

Anyhow, enough wittering and onto the subject matter itself. I’m sure that there’s no self-respecting English folk musician out there who does not know a song or instrumental that has been touched without consulting the Hutchings repertoire including: ‘Poor Old Horse’, ‘Time To Ring Some Changes’, ‘Maria Marten’ and ‘Hopping Down In Kent’. In fact (and it must have taken some doing) a lot of Ashley’s more established repertoire including ‘Merry Sherwood Rangers’ and ‘Tam Lin’ are sidelined in favour of more diverse material. It is this aspect of the 4 box-set presentation that makes it a must-have addition to your CD collection. With an overview that showcases highlights from an illustrious career bringing everything up to date with his latest project Rainbow Chasers it was the arduous although I’m sure thoroughly enjoyable task of ploughing through such a vast repertoire of material that has paid dividends for us, the listening public.

One major factor in purchasing this set as ever, is the inclusion of the 156 page book exploring this colourful character and again full credit must go to Nigel Schofield for bringing it all to life. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious reading to catch up on.

Pete Fyfe

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 62 of The Living Tradition magazine.