Plainsong was originally a British country rock/folk rock band, formed in early 1972 by Ian (later Iain) Matthews, formerly of Fairport Convention; Andy Roberts, previously of The Liverpool Scene; Dave Richards; and Bob Ronga. The original group split u...
Plainsong was originally a British country rock/folk rock band, formed in early 1972 by Ian (later Iain) Matthews, formerly of Fairport Convention; Andy Roberts, previously of The Liverpool Scene; Dave Richards; and Bob Ronga. The original group split up before the end of 1972 but, since the early 1990s, Matthews and Roberts intermittently performed and recorded together, with other musicians, as Plainsong
The original band
Matthews had been a member of Fairport Convention between 1967 and 1969, and then left to work solo, soon afterwards forming his own band, Matthews Southern Comfort. After that band split up, he recorded two solo albums, If You Saw Thro' My Eyes and Tigers Will Survive in 1971, before forming Plainsong, with Roberts, Richards and Ronga, in early 1972. The band were signed by Elektra Records, and recorded an album, In Search of Amelia Earhart. The album mixed songs by both Matthews and Roberts with covers, including versions of "Red River Dave" McEnery's song "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight", Paul Siebel's "Louise", and Jerry Yester and Judy Henske's "Raider". The album also included "True Story of Amelia Earhart's Last Night", a Matthews song based on research that suggests that Amelia Earhart on her round-the-world flight may have been spying on Japanese bases in the Pacific islands; and "Even the Guiding Light", a response to Richard Thompson's "Meet on the Ledge".
The album was critically well-received but was not a commercial success. The group toured extensively with drummer Roger Swallow and began recording a second album, but Matthews and Richards disagreed on the direction the album should take, Ronga left before the sessions were completed, and the band broke up. Matthews and Roberts each then began recording again as solo artists.
In Search of Amelia Earhart was reissued on CD in 2001. Several albums of archive recordings of Plainsong have also been released on CD since the 1990s, including ... And That's That, comprising recordings made for the band's unreleased second album.
In 1991, some eighteen years after the original band broke up, Roberts encountered Matthews again when he was performing in a pub in Brighton, and the two decided to revive Plainsong. Adding Mark Griffiths and Julian Dawson, they recorded three albums - Dark Side of the Room (1992), Voices Electric (1994), and Sister Flute (1996) - before Dawson left to pursue a solo career. His replacement was Clive Gregson, once of Any Trouble and later Gregson & Collister. The new line-up then recorded New Place Now in 1999, before Matthews and Roberts recorded a duo album under the Plainsong name, A to B, in 2001. For their last album, Pangolins in 2003, Dawson replaced Gregson. The band continued to perform and tour during the 1990s and 2000s. Plainsong's final album, Fat Lady Singing, recorded live in the studio, was released in 2012. Plainsong disbanded after 40 years and a final farewell tour culminating with two dates in Japan in October 2012.
In 2014 Matthews and Roberts decided to record some of the songs of Richard Farina, to mark the approaching 50th anniversary of his death. With Griffiths on board as well the decision to use the Plainsong name made sense, and the group was again re-activated. The album "Reinventing Richard. The Songs Of Richard Farina" was released in 2015. In July 2016 the trio played a handful of UK shows with US and European dates following in September and October.