Q&A May 2011, Part I
6/10/2011 (updated 6/10/2011)

Was just wondering about your hindsight views on Sandy Denny's chosen career path: whether she  would have been better served staying in a group set-up or was it right that she was encouraged to become a solo artist (I assume by Joe Boyd?). I would have liked to have seen Fotheringay continue as they appeared to have a great sound and a lot of potential (the recently released 2nd album is excellent). A lot of her solo work is undoubtedly brilliant but to my mind there is not an album that particularly stands out as a classic....nDream Attic is one of your best by the way... Many thanks. Leon Vander-Molen - London UK

Even with hindsight, I'm not sure I know the answers. Sandy was obviously comfortable being in a band format, and the security that that implies, but at some point, outstanding individuals in bands want to test themselves in the marketplace, and Sandy was definitely ambitious. It was inevitable that she would be a solo artist, and it was unfortunate that she wasn't a more commercially successful one. Given a longer life and more success, she might have ping-ponged between the two, and enjoyed the advantages of both, as many artists do these days; in the band format make an album and tour every three years or so, and then everyone does their solo projects in between.

One of the aspects of the Q&A I find particularly entertaining is reading fans' interpretations of your songs along with your responses thereto (Red Molly setting up James, anyone?). John Lennon famously responded to attempts to analyze his lyrics by including nonsense rhymes in "I Am the Walrus". Are you ever tempted to play with your listener's heads in a similar manner? (ps. glad to hear you may be returning to Montalvo - we suffered through withdrawal pangs last year). Regards, Stephen Jacobson

It's hard, but not impossible, to envisage writing something naff just to throw people off the scent. My own theory about I Am The Walrus is that it is a collection of Brian Epstein's pet phrases, and the song is a kind of tribute to him, and is far from nonsense, whatever the author may say (what does HE know?). Not quite apropos, but I love the story of Sinatra going into the studio to fulfill a contractual obligation, and picking the worst song he could find out of sheer spite, and getting it beautifully arranged and singing it in true Sinatra style. I believe it was called 'My Doggie Goes Woof'.

I am fascinated by that "scritch" sound sometimes produced by fingers moving over guitar strings. I rather love it, as it indicates a set of real fingers attached to a real human being, but I'm surprised musicians are OK with it. Is there an attempt to squelch it or keep it to a minimum? Is it inevitable when moving from certain notes or chords to others? Or is it related to technique and/or experience? Is it more common with acoustic guitar than with electric? Long live the sound the authentic playing. But do you hate it? Karen Duncan

I know people who can't listen to classical guitar music because of the squeaks. In exposed places it is possible to minimize it sometimes, but often there's no avoiding it. On electric guitar, it is sometimes glorified and celebrated as part of the emotion (I do it myself). Jazz players use flatwound strings, which reduces the finger noise, but those strings don't sound very good in other contexts. I think it is something we'll have to live with.

Thanks for the chords to Among the Gorse Among the Grey. Any chance of the chords to A Brother Slips Away and Big Sun? Thanks also for your answer on definitive versions of songs I have a supplementary question (but a bit long) on that! :) Dav Devalle

Brother Slips Away:

|| Eb / / / | / / / / | F / / / | / / / / | Eb / / / | / / / / | F / / / | / / / / | / / / / |

| Bb Eb Bb / | Eb / / / | Bb Eb Bb / | Cm / Gb F | Bb Eb Bb / | Eb / / / |

| Bb Eb Bb / | Gm Cm D / / / | Eb / / / ||

n.b. 6 beats in penultimate bar.

Big Sun:

|| F#m7 / / / | F#m6 / / / | F#m7 / / / | F#m6 / / / | F#m / / / | C#m / / / |

| D / / / | C#m / / / || rpt

| Bm / / / | / / / / | C# / / / | / / / / |

| A / F#m / | D / / / | A / F#m / | D / / / | C / Am / | Dm6 / / / | Esus / / / |

| E / / / || rpt

I am a young fan of Richards from Glasgow, Scotland and was recently at his "Celtic Connections" gig in Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall in January there which was amazing! I'm now in Cape Town South Africa where I work as a Paramedic. I keep searching for CD's or even better mp3 downloads of the gig I was at but can't find anything. Would you be able to tell me how to get a hold of the recording for that night and could you also get me that nights setlist as a good few of the songs I had never heard before and I am very keen to hear again! Thanks in advance. Sean Henderson Swan

Hi Richard! I really loved what I saw and heard from the Dream Attic Tour. The band was great, and your extended slow burn improves were positively molten! The Glasgow show was nicely filmed (in HD no less!) and selections were presented on SkyArts. Sadly, no molten slow burns, like "If Love Whispers Her Name" or "You Can't Win" were included. Any chance of making more of the show available to your adoring fans? Perhaps on DVD or, dare I hope, Blu-ray? Thanks a bunch, SloJoe

The full concert should be available on DVD soon - stay tuned!