Man And Myth, Roy's first studio album in 13 years, isn't just proof that one of the leading, most erudite and passionate orators of the British folk rock renaissance hasn't lost an iota of his gifts, but also timely evidence for anyone who has wondered why so many musical luminaries have been lining up to praise this enigmatic and legendary singer-songwriter.
In 2011, Harper performed a special show at the Royal Festival Hall in celebration of his 70th birthday, where those who joined on stage included Joanna Newsom, Jonathan Wilson and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, who once penned a tribute called 'Hats Off To Harper'. David Gilmour not only played on record and stage for Harper, but Pink Floyd engaged him to sing 'Have A Cigar' on the band's landmark album Wish You Were Here. Fellow collaborator Kate Bush has called Harper "one of the greatest English songwriters" while the late John Peel declared, on his death, that cricket obsessive Harper's "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" be played at his funeral. Johnny Marr, meanwhile, has stated that Harper's 1971 opus Stormcock was "intense and beautiful and clever."
Having moved to County Cork in Ireland in the late '80s, and in between planting trees, publishing a book, a DVD, two important compilations and attending to re-mastering his back catalogue, Harper hasn't endeavoured to release a follow-up to 2000's The Green Man: "I've written poetry, prose, essays and articles and gone through the motions of being Roy, but I didn't have the will to make another album until recently" he admits. "I was inspired to write again around 2009, by many of the younger generation finding me and asking, who are you? But it's also been those of my own generation, who said they'd never bothered to listen to me until now, but in the process of looking for something else they might like, they'd found me, and some said they now knew why they'd kept hearing my name. Good for your confidence when things like that happen. I wrote 'The Stranger' round about that time (2009), and then fell into what turned out to be another long song. I'd picked up the guitar after a long break, and this song started to engage me with different tunings and ideas, and suddenly I was off to the races again."
Four of the seven tracks that constitute Man And Myth were recorded with Jonathan Wilson at his studio in Laurel Canyon. The recently discovered keeper of the West Coast rock flame had been assembling a Harper tribute album and the two struck up a friendship after meeting backstage at Wilson's show - Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde was also present - at London's Borderline in 2012. 'Heaven Is Here' and 'The Exile', the album's epic closing tracks, and 'January Man" were subsequently recorded back in County Cork.
Roy Harper will appear at Beautiful Days & Green Man Festivals before returning in October for a UK tour. Those dates below.
Saturday 17 August - ESCOT PARK - Beautiful Days Festival
Sunday 18 August - GLANUSK - Green Man Festival
Tuesday 22 October - LONDON - Royal Festival Hall
Friday 25 October - MANCHESTER - Bridgewater Hall
Sunday 27 October - BRISTOL - Colston Hall