Denny, Sandy

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The Lost Art of Making Time Stand Still

The British folk goddess Sandy Denny (1947–1978) was obsessed with time. On the first song she ever wrote, she wondered, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" She posited an answer, musing in a tone of distanced, daydreaming ambivalence, with stanzas about time as a great unknowable. This, her second solo album, opens with an anthem of patience, "It'll Take a Long Time," a thought she extends a few selections later with a wise cover of Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time." Among the unreleased songs that surfaced after her death is a wispy, totally stunning meditation on life's passages entitled "Now and Then."

Denny was a key figure in three British folk institutions—her voice graced the heyday of Fairport Convention (see p. 268) as well as Strawbs and Fotheringay. She managed, along the way, to wander from the traditional bent of the bands long enough to investigate slightly more accessible pop-leaning music. Sandy is the most successful of these projects—a series of graceful odes appointed with shimmering string ensembles ("Listen, Listen"), festive horns ("For Nobody to Hear," arranged by Allen Toussaint), and pointed rock guitar ("It'll Take a Long Time" features Richard Thompson—see p. 775—and pedal steel player "Sneaky Pete" Kleinow in an animated conversation).

The songs are plenty interesting to start with, and Denny gives them extra richness. Her phrasing is easy and casual—at times she seems to muse over an idea for a while before letting it go, giving each note slow consideration. This makes for quite a contrast: As she laments the ceaseless rush of time, her lovely, languid voice makes time stand still.

Genre: Folk
Released: 1972, A&M
Key Tracks: "It'll Take a Long Time," "Listen, Listen," "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood."
Catalog Choice: Who Knows Where the Time Goes (a box set that includes "Now and Then").
Next Stop: Fotheringay: Fotheringay
After That: Judee Sill: Heart Food
Book Page: 218

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