Sandy Denny

Borrowed Thyme

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Denny did not record all that much during her career. She is not exactly a catalog megaseller, despite her fervid cult status. And there was already much notable unreleased Denny material bootlegged on the well-packaged Dark the Night CD and various other Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, and solo Denny bootlegs before the 2001 appearance of this disc, which despite the lack of a label name is very professional looking. All this taken into consideration, it's astounding that these 24 tracks -- none of which appear on Dark the Night -- are a substantial and worthy addition to the collection of the serious Denny fan. All of the material dates from her early career in 1966-1968, the first 17 of the 24 songs culled from 1966-1968 solo demos, in which she's accompanied only by guitar. Many of these songs (including half a dozen which bear the writing credit "unknown") never appeared on any of her official recordings, and there are early versions of some of her standout original compositions ("Fotheringay," "Who Knows Where the Time Goes"), traditional folk tunes like "She Moves Through the Fair" and "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme," and a cover of Fred Neil's great "Little Bit of Rain." The singing is always good and sometimes magnificent, even if the execution is sometimes more tentative than what would have been allowed on a final studio master. The final seven songs, taken from 1967-1968 BBC sessions (four of them as a singer with the Johnny Silvo Four, the rest solo), suffer from notably substandard fidelity, but nonetheless are good performances, including covers of tunes by songwriters like Tom Paxton and Jackson Frank, as well as traditional folk numbers. If the sound quality of the demos were better, this album would rate higher; some of those demos boast virtually perfect fidelity, others are tainted by a bit of varispeed wobble or slight distortion. Still, for the most part it's wonderfully haunting, sad British folk, filling out our picture of the early work of one of the greatest British folk and folk-rock singers.

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