The British have always, at least in the canon of popular song, been coy about referencing our towns and cities, seeming much happier to fantasise around the US, with a decades long parade of the never traveled singing about Amarillo or somesuch. True, there are exceptions, if one enjoys paeans to the joys of Durham Town., but all pretty thin on the ground, with maybe more Yanks singing about Liverpool than actual Liverpudlians. But the field of folk is different, many of the songs stemming from a time before Uncle Sam was even a glimpse in the telescope of the Plymouth Brethren, and it is here I have had to search.
I live in Lichfield, a very small city, about the size of a market town, population about 35k, based around a cathedral (see above picture) built in between 1195 and 1249 and, yes, it did take that long, making Gaudi seem somehow less of a slouch down in Barcelona. In the English midlands, a 40 minute drive northward from Birmingham, it is close to the centre of the country. I love it and, after 12 years, feel proud to call it my home. So, songs about Lichfield?
Luckily I have one that hits all my spots, as I make no secret of my awe and admiration for the family Thompson. Richard Thompson has had a near half century of muted fame, usually happily ensconced to the side of the radar, preaching to the converted, a hardcore base of staunch supporters stretching back to his actually only very brief tenure within Fairport Convention, to his duo with erstwhile wife, Linda, and beyond. RT has written many a song about his home country, perhaps most famously a hill in Surrey, and has become ever more English the longer he has lived in L.A. Well, this isn't about him. Nor indeed his son, Teddy, who has carved out a career singing such homegrown fare as this, showing apples don't necessarily always fall closest to the tree. No, this is another family member, daughter of Richard and Linda, sister of Teddy, one Kami Thompson. Her apple is perhaps slap bang right next to the trunk, as what she felt the 2014 world needed more than anything else was a folk-rock duo like, well, the comparisons are inevitable, her ma and pa. And so, with husband, James Walbourne, guitar on hire to many and varied, including Jerry Lee Lewis and Son Volt, the Pogues and the Pretenders, they form the Rails, their debut appearing last year. It is an unwritten rule that SMM avoids lifting music from under a decade old, even in these mp3 light, YouTube heavy days, but I feel I can get away with this, as it comes from an unreleased radio session. (Hell, without it, I would be scuppered for this piece as it so clearly references the city, my home.)
Trivia fans may also be intrigued to know that a frequent member of the larger live Rails band, on 2nd guitar, is one Zak Hobbs, Kami's nephew and, yes, RT's grandson. Here he is with grandpa.......
Of course, and there is always an of course with trad.arr., a slight problem is that many versions of the same song abound, each with a varied memory of who said what, living tradition and all that malarkey. So here, in memory of where my brother used to live, or, at least, relatively nearby, here's another version, by the seemingly now lost in action great folk hope of 2000, Bill Jones. Curiously, although she was born in Staffordshire, the county within which is Lichfield, her version talks of Southampton............
Buy the studio version by the Rails.
Or, for the full Thompson, try THIS