on 29 September 2013
Let me start by sharing that I'm not an avid reader, preferring to pick up a stringed instrument than a book. However when my wife upgraded her Kindle I was intrigued to try it out and see what was available about my influences. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve in May 2013 as we (The Huers: www.thehuers.co.uk) supported Steve at a rare solo gig in Wigan. It shames me to say that I wasn't that familiar with his musical output, but was aware of his links to Fairport Convention, of whom I have been a fan since the age of ten.
I downloaded the e-Book to find out more. Two things had me hooked - the first was the number of high profile musicians that Steve has influenced over the years, let alone collaborated with. The second was Dave Thompson's informal way of writing, managing to nicely weave a wealth of interviews and research into an entertaining, chronological account of Steve's career. The end of each chapter was left - like a novel - in a way that I wanted to know what happened in the next part!
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read for any fan of music whose life has been touched in any way by those with whom he worked. This may sound odd but although I wasn't familiar with much of Steve's work (apart from 'The Spirit of Christmas' from the Electric Muse album and 'Fire and Wine' from various folk club covers done by guest singers...mostly not doing it justice) I now feel that my own songwriting has been indirectly influenced by him.
Dave's book goes a long way to credit Steve for his influential career, and deserves a wider audience. It brings to life the excellent musical and songwriting skills of a very modest musician - and a thoroughly nice chap, which I can confirm having met him a few months ago!
on 30 September 2013
I can heartily recommend 'Fire And Wine'. It's a fascinating progress through Steve's career and fully captures the interconnectedness of Folk and Folk-rock's myriad of luminaries; all who have contributed in some way to Steve's musical life. Dave Thompson has managed to convey, with an interesting collection of personal anecdotes, the myriad twists and turns that have been Steve's travelling companion during his colourful journey and the vagaries of life as a 'folk musician' are fully explored in this thoroughly enjoyable read.
on 15 October 2013
Although far from prolific, over the past 40 years, Steve Ashley has proved himself to be one of the most distinctive English singer-songwriters, blending an understanding of traditional music, astute social commentary, and no small measure of wit. Dave Thompson's book is based firmly on interviews with Steve himself and associates, and traces his career from early group days, his first recording with Shirley Collins, the landmark 'Stroll On,' the CND 'Demo Tapes,' and through to the 21st-century renaissance culminating in 2006's 60th birthday concert album. The good news is that there's a new record in the pipeline. Of course, the one down side of a book like this is that it makes you wish for a companion CD set with all the unreleased material to which it refers (& those cassette-only 'Demo Tapes' have long since worn out!). A lot of lesser artists have had their BBC sessions packaged for public consumption - a set of Steve's would make an excellent accompaniment to this welcome career overview.
on 13 January 2014
I was bought Fire and Wine: An Armchair Guide to Steve Ashley by my wife for Christmas, and as a fan of Steve's since first hearing my dads' scratchy copy of Speedy Return in the late eighties, I found the book an interesting and informative read. The narrative follows a linear timeline, which alters course when necessary, but generally remains chronological. I found particular interest in Steve's many collaborators and associates through his career and have bought a few interesting albums discovered through the book.
Though mentioned in other books, boxed sets, and articles this is the first book solely covering the life and work of Steve Ashley and I think Dave Thompson does an admirable job. Steve was involved with some of the greats of folk and folk rock, including Shirley Collins, Peter Bellamy, The Albion Band and Fairport convention along with many others and has been a key player in the history of folk rock, although at times his own output has been limited, he has managed to produce idiosyncratic work which is influenced but not ruled by the tradition, while also very clearly wearing his heart on his sleeve with regard to the things which are important to him. I think Dave Thompson captures this in the book. There are interesting insights from collaborators and friends and maybe because he has not as mainstream, as some of the other biographies I have read, this one does not get weighed down with boring detail. Overall a really interesting read which offered great insight into the life of one of the unsung heroes of the folk and folk/rock world, and I would recommend it to anyone who is genuinely interested in that type of music.
I was also at the Wigan gig where the Huers supported and have to say it was a brilliant night and Steve was on fine form, I had no knowledge of the Huers prior to the gig and have to say the provided brilliant support, with great playing, humour and harmony.
on 17 November 2013
Reading "Fire And Wine. An Armchair Guide to Steve Ashley" is a bit like climbing the stairs to that
dusty attic and finding the jigsaw puzzle that matches the solitary piece that you've had in your possession
For me, the solitary piece is an album from 1974 called "Stroll On" Unique in its 'contemporary tradition',
English to the hilt, atmospheric, brilliant.
Steve Ashley, the singer/writer.
Author, Dave Thompson has put the piece beautifully back in its rightful place.
It's all there. The times, the folk, the rock, the politics, the connective musical tissue/muscle.
Names like Dave Pegg, Simon Nicol, Anne Briggs, Ashley Hutchings, Robert Kirby, Chris Leslie
Linda Thompson, David Munrow and many more, walk through this book like old friends. Exceptionally
talented friends that have all, at some time, been a part of Steve Ashley's life and music.
Anecdotes present themselves like tour bus patter. Engaging, truthful, funny, embarrassing, enlightening
but above all, refreshingly humble. One of the surprises for me being Motown Records picking up "Stroll On"
for release in America.
Steve's relationship with Dobe Newton and The Bushwackers via a rendering of Henry Lawson's, Past Carin',
pricked up this Aussie lad's ears. Trevor Lucas, Sandy Denny - the connections step outside, take a look around,
then walk back through a different but familiar door.
I loved this book. It was everything I had hoped for and expected as I eagerly anticipated its arrival on my doorstep.
As intriguing perhaps as trying to match the wonderful drawings on the cover of "Stroll On" to the musical gems within.
Steph Miller Nov 2013 Sydney