It would be something of an understatement to call the 2014 Towersey Festival a bit special.
With a 50th anniversary to celebrate, last weekend’s festival will go down in folk history as the last Towersey Festival to be staged in Towersey (it is being relocated to the Thame Showground) — and on top of all that it was the first to feature a performance by Richard Thompson.
The ex-Fairport Convention man is of course a regular guest at Cropredy, but somehow Towersey has missed out on RT. Headlining on Friday night, with a classic performance of his classic songs, Thompson certainly made it worth the wait.
His last UK tour saw him with his band delivering powerful takes on his album Electric — the clue being in the title.
With impeccable timing, his first Towersey gig coincided with the release of his retrospective album Acoustic Classics, on which he re-recorded his best loved songs — and the likes of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and Wall of Death were all faithfully delivered to a crowd recognising one of English folk music’s great heroes.
The fact that this folkie also happens to be one of the greatest living electric guitarists could be set aside on Friday night but there were surprises too. Coming on after an exuberant set by festival favourites Merry Hell, Thompson opened with Bathsheba Smiles, his delight with the warmth of the welcome most obvious during the boisterous participation on Thompson’s sea shanty take on infidelity, Johnny’s Far Away.
And the audience was richly rewarded with a tender takes on Beeswing and Persuasion.
Recognising the poignancy of the night perhaps, he also gave us a rare performance of Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, introducing it with a moving tribute to his old bandmate, the late Sandy Denny, who would surely have loved this event as much as him.
An unforgettable evening was brought to a close with Stony Ground, a song from Electric effortlessly turned into a great song on acoustic, with this darkly humorous take on lust in old age reminding us that the high standard of Thompson’s song writing has been maintained for almost as long as Towersey itself.