Named after the castle, Fotheringay were an English Folk Rock band formed by singer/guitarist/pianist Sandy Denny, this being their self titled debut. Denny’s voice is both enchanting and commanding, and her reputation as being one of the leading members of English Folk Rock in the 70’s is well deserved. Her voice is strikingly similar to Joni Mitchell’s, and I wouldn’t blame you if you had guessed it was her on first listen, but there are differences in their styles and tones. She’s not the only singer in the band though, everyone but the drummer Gerry Conway has vocal listings. The production on this album is lush and warm, it’s got that magic sound from that Folk Rock era, much thanks to bassist Pat Donaldson.
The album opens with the gorgeous Nothing More, as song as moving as it is impressive. It’s a song about a frustrating relationship, a disconnect where the person she’s singing to is unable to open up and be honest and vulnerable. The band matches her growing frustration perfectly, ramping up the explosions of anger after each verse, louder and louder. I really love the erratic guitar solo on The Ballad of Ned Kelly, it’s very imaginative but still remains grounded to the rest of the song somehow.
Side B opens with a Gordon Lightfoot cover, The Way I Feel. It’s a song that Lightfoot himself has recorded several times, both acoustic and electric. It’s impossible to say which is the best, they are outstanding each in their own way. Fotheringay’s version is much louder and more intense, with a heavy focus on the bass and cascading guitars. Singer Trevor Lucas is brilliant here, and it at times feels like he’s driving the song more than the band is. Soon after is the Bob Dylan cover Too Much of Nothing, and I simply just like their version much better, but I think that really speaks to how much of a Dylan fan I am. To close out the album, Sandy Denny tenderly sings the folk traditional Banks of the Nile. Her voice is so light and comforting, but also heartbreaking on this ultimately mournful song.
Despite how well everyone fits together in Fotheringay, the band broke up shortly after their debut. Some scraps were collected and released, but they weren’t anything as cohesive and powerful as this album. A fraction of the band regrouped in 2015 and is touring, but with the untimely death of Sandy Denny in 1978, any chance of a true reunion is lost. As sad as that all is, it’s best to instead focus on spreading the popularity of this Folk Rock gem, an album that every fan of that genre should be intimately familiar with.