Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Accordion: John Kirkpatrick

Who? Shame on you, Kirkpatrick is the king of the English squeezebox, I would say single-handedly bringing back this instrument, or instruments, into the modern folk (rock) pantheon. You don't maybe know the name, but please accept you have heard him. Let me take you back, hell, over 40 years. Witness the boy (me!), awkward and lumpen, picking slowly up on the UK folk tradition, by way of Fairport Convention and this song. It's back to my beloved Top of the Pops, and a sadly currentlyunavailableonyoutube footage of this seminal band, performing a Dylan song a la Francais. Amidst all the striped jumpers and onions was one John Kirkpatrick, squeezing away for his very life.

Move forward a year or 2 and it was 'Morris On' that captured me, folk-rock interpretations of Morris tunes, leading me to years of dancing with hankies, eventually spending 10 years as a fully fledged, if flat footed, member of a side, spending my weekends dancing the dance and, it's true, drinking the drink. In the album sleeve above, Kirkpatrick is the chimney sweep, singing and playing this song. Incidentally, should the anathema of electric Morris prove too alarming, he was the prime culprit in an eminently recommendable album, 'Plain Capers', all acoustic and straight from the village green.

But he wasn't entirely tied to tradition, something Richard Thompson, erstwhile Fairport alumnus, and the green woodsman in the album cover above, was able to exploit in his initial run of duet records, with then wife Linda, and later solo records, someone much missed from his current output IMHO. Here is an astonishing live song, with quintessential Kirkpatrick holding it all together.

For reasons never acknowledged or admitted, despite an ongoing willingness expressed from Kirkpatrick, Thompson seemed to drop him after a while, with Kirkpatrick retreating back to the folk clubs from whence he had sprung, give or take a short caretaker role in Fairport "rivals" Steeleye Span and with his own band. Before, after and during this, he has continued, solely or, in earlier days, with ex-wife Sue Harris, to play alone or as a duo. Here is his tour de force, apologies if it is too raw for your refined ears.

Of course he is intricately linked in with the incestuous family tree of UK folk, plus or minus rock, via the various Albion Bands, Country and or Dance versions, and brass-folk pioneers Brass Monkey. Perhaps to and in my mind and ear, his seminal piece of work, in cahoots with another ex-Fairporter, Ashley Hutchings, the 'Godfather of Folk-Rock', is 'The Compleat Dancing Master'. Sorry, no clips....

Without this man I honestly believe there would be lesser an english folk tradition, vibrant and alive, with very much less a likelihood of an ongoing squeezebox legacy, through John Jones/Oyster BandSimon Care/Edward II or Gareth Morris/Little Johnny England.

Buy at his page, astonishingly he has one, albeit entangled with others, but 'Morris On', 'Plain Capers' and a lot more are there......

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