Not since discovering River six years ago has there been such an event. Caedmon were a lost legend, known to a hardcore of folkies and one-time fans. When I first heard their work, on an illicit down-load, I was blown away.
At the weekend the band, with all its members, played together in public for the first time in 32 years, gathering in the centre of Edinburgh. And there is even a new album in the pipeline.
As they re-created the sound of their legendary album, it became possible to see how it was done: a cello played like a fiddle; a folk ensemble playing in harmony with a rock guitarist; members with the talent and versatility able to magic up a mandolin, ukelele or accordion as the moment required; and those amazing Gaelic folk-rock melodies.
They were forgotten for a period of 12 years after the members packed up their student life in Edinburgh and set off for real jobs. In 1978 that folk-rock was not fashionable, especially acid folk as it came to be called. They have been of interest here because some analysts classify them together with Parchment as having been the only two Christian acid folk bands, both playing in the 70s, mixing electric guitar, acoustic, mandolin and more.
Watching them live, you could see a band that enjoyed doing what it did, not quite recognising the unique sound and corps of songs they had created. And don’t forget in 1978 Celtic rock was only two years away. U2 were about to emerge as were Big Country.
As they played there were few signs of that 32 year gap. The extra performers on the stage – their children – indicated the passage of time. We saw musicians playing together, enjoying re-creating their former sound but also enjoying trying out new songs, adding the experiences of life to their one-time youthful exuberance.
So from our party these were the favourites:
Aslan – 2 votes
Old Kings (new song) – 1
Give Me Jesus – 1.
The last is my choice – even though it’s not their composition and is a traditional spiritual. The rendition was anthemic with vocalist Angela Webb (Naylor) joined on stage by her daughter.
Of the new songs I might have voted for Four Winds, performed by electric guitarist Jim Bisset, and telling, I think, a moving story in powerful lyrics. I’m sorry they didn’t play Second Mile, my all-time favourite. Another time?
I hope they continue to play together. I hope some folk festival – Cambridge? – gives them the starring role they deserve.