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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Ashley Hutchings on Blair Dunlop and the folk awards

It was definitely among the more pleasantly surprising lunch breaks I've had. After strolling around the beautiful new concourse of St Pancras for a few minutes admiring the apparent sense of purpose and self-defeatingly unwieldy luggage of those around me - why, why do people pack so much that they need their luggage to have wheels? -  I stopped to buy some lunch. And as I looked around after placing my order I realised that I recognised the person standing next to me.

"Excuse me. Is it Ashley Hutchings?"

He looked up in a friendly manner. We'd met before, once, at Cecil Sharp House, but I doubted he'd remember.

"It's Emma. Emma Hartley."


And I got the best bear-hug I've ever had from someone I slightly knew.

I'd like to say that I've just got one of those faces, or that there's something about me that's supremely huggable. I was once in a room with Michael Palin, who was giving out some awards, and couldn't help noticing that anyone, men included, who got within five feet seemed to want to kiss him. Sadly that's not me - usually I fail to score hugs even when I'm hoping for them.

It was just that Ashley Hutchings was very pleased indeed about my review of his son, Blair Dunlop's, album.

I said no problem, I only wrote it because I meant it. And anyway Blair did all the hard work. We sat down to eat lunch.

That part was slightly awkward. "If I'd known I'd be sitting opposite someone else I wouldn't have ordered the burger," said Hutchings, looking at his food a little anxiously.

We exchanged pleasantries. He said something unusually nice about my blog, I asked what he was up to musically these days and he said that mainly he was thinking about Blair and his stuff and how proud he was about Blight & Blossom and the folk award nomination. It was the day after the nominations had been announced and Dunlop's up for the Horizon Award.

"Everyone's got a beef with the awards and mine is usually with the original song category," he said. "It's great about the Horizon award. But what I was secretly hoping for was an original song nomination for Blair."

"For which song?"

"Blight and Blossom."

Ah. My favourite is Bags Outside the Door. But I can see where Hutchings is coming from: the album's a treasure. Since Blair's only 20 one can afford to take the long view, though.

He talked about how exciting it had been to realise that his son was a real talent, about the encouragement he'd given him - "his mum wanted him to go to university but I said I thought he could do this, if he wanted to" - and about having to take a step back now. "Blair's got himself a proper manager. John Hart worked at Universal and has been in Edward II. But maybe I could still help manage him on a personal level - encourage him to get out of bed, that kind of thing." He also said that Blair was off to the US to make an album with Larkin Poe, adding that they were a little older than him and probably a good influence. Take a look at that video, it will break your heart for your own youth...

I asked if I could take a picture, to prove that this wasn't the latest of my fantasy folk awards posts. He said no problem and put his hat on specially...

... then took a snap of me in return with his pink iPhone (I should have asked him about the colour). I don't remember him eating his burger. But mine was delicious and I went back to the office in the winter sunshine with a spring in my step. I told the guy sitting next to me what had happened: it was his turn for a break. "Just off out for a snack with David Bowie," he said.

* Here's my review of Blair Dunlop's debut album Blight & Blossom, which it would be fair to say I  enjoyed.

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