Thea Gilmore has released more than 20 albums since 1998. Her last album was released under the name Afterlight in October 2021. Many English folk stalwarts have played on her albums including accordionist John Kirkpatrick. He has played with Steeleye Span, Richard Thompson and Martin Carthy. He is also on “Don’t Stop Singing” along with his son Benji, who plays guitar, banjo and mandolin. Thea Gilmore recently divorced her husband, Nigel Stonier, who had produced all her albums, including “Don’t Stop Singing”. Nigel Stonier’s first demos, in 1973, were produced by Dave Cousins of Strawbs with arrangements by Robert Kirby, who worked on Nick Drake’s first two albums. Nigel Stonier has written songs for Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne and The Waterboys. He has performed with Martha Wainwright as well as releasing six solo albums. Between them, Thea Gilmore and Nigel Stonier have been at the heart of English folk rock for the last twenty years.
Sandy Denny abandoned a career in nursing to study at The Kingston College of Art in 1965, where she became involved with the campus folk club. In 1967, she joined Strawbs and a year later, she joined Fairport Convention. The three albums she recorded with the band, “What We Did On Our Holidays”, “Unhalfbricking” and “Liege And Lief”, were not only full of great performances but broke new ground in the English folk rock scene. In 1969 she formed Fotheringay and they released one album which included one of the most beautiful songs ever released, “The Banks Of The Nile”. Between 1971 and 1977, she released four solo albums as well as briefly rejoining Fairport Convention.
In 1969 she met Trevor Lucas, they got married in 1973 and in 1977 Sandy Denny gave birth to their daughter, Georgia Rose Lucas. Trevor Lucas had formed Eclection in 1967 and helped Sandy Denny form Fotheringay.
Sandy Denny suffered from substance abuse and sometimes appeared to neglect the welfare of her daughter. In March 1978, she fell down a flight of stairs and hit her head on concrete. Suffering from severe headaches, her doctor prescribed her strong painkillers which caused her behaviour to become even more erratic. Fearing for the safety of his daughter, Trevor Lucas took her to his native Australia without telling his wife. Four days later, Sandy Denny fell into a coma and died on 21st April 1978, aged 31.
Trevor Lucas settled in Australia and forged another musical career, producing albums by Australian artists and writing film scores. He married Elizabeth Hurtt and had a son, Clancy. In 1989, he died of a heart attack in his sleep, aged 45.
Georgia Rose Lucas rarely discusses her mother’s legacy. She lives in Australia and has released some DJ-based music under the name Georgia Katt.
Elizabeth Hurtt Lucas now manages the estate of Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas. When lyrics to 20 unfinished Sandy Denny songs were discovered, she invited Thea Gilmore to write accompanying music and record them. The result is this intriguing album, comprising 10 songs.
Before the wonderfully generous Arthur bought me this album, I assumed I had never heard any of the songs before. However, at the end of the 2012 Olympics, the BBC produced a wonderful collage of clips and used “London” from the album, as a soundtrack.
Although “London” is a bouncy, positive song, the main emotion that pervades most of these songs is a melancholic sadness. Loneliness, hurt, upset and vulnerability inform the emotional depth of the music. The opening song, “Glistening Bay” ostensibly describes a beautiful scene, viewed from a cliff top. However, a “chill wind” has tugged her heart and it becomes clear that this is a memory of a happier time. Thea Gilmore doesn’t attempt to sound like Sandy Denny but the musicianship, orchestration and feel of the songs, perfectly conjure up the best of Sandy Denny’s work.