Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo: why I love Sandy Denny

The guitarist recalls the magic moment when the magnitude of an artist suddenly hits you and an obsession begins

I came late to Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. I don't know why, but that's the beauty of music – songs and voices are there when you need them, when you're ready to find them, whether in their time or after.

I'll tell you what first drew me in. I was driving through the west Texas desert with my friend Mark, listening to his mixtape, and Meet On the Ledge came on. And there it was: an entry into a new and magical world. Fairport Convention bloomed like a crazy and beautiful desert flower for me out of that one amazing song (which I played over and over on that drive, I couldn't get it out of my head). Immediately after that trip through Texas you could find me listening constantly to What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking and, in particular, Liege and Lief. Finally, many years late, I was totally digging Fairport. And most especially Sandy.

That magical voice. I couldn't believe I'd overlooked it for so long, and I wanted to hear more, everything. I'd known many folks held captive under her spell, and I even had her recordings with the Strawbs already on my shelf, but sometimes it takes a particular moment for the magnitude of a certain artist to hit you. Who Knows Where the Time Goes? set me off on a search for all things Sandy. I spent the next couple of years finding out all I could about her, and listening to everything I could get my hands on – her studio albums, bootlegs, rarities – as well as pestering many collector friends to comb their archives for me.

Sandy always transports me to a unique musical place, and defines a certain time in music history to my ears. Her music and voice have been elevated to the top-most reverential rungs of all I hold dear in my musical life. I've performed Bushes and Briars, while her solo albums, in particular Northstar Grassman and the Fotheringay records, will forever have pride of place near my turntable.

Lee Ranaldo

The GuardianTramp

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