Fairport Convention

Sense of Occasion

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The occasion is the band's 40th anniversary, and, although it's virtually all changed in terms of personnel now, they continue to mine the folk-rock seam exquisitely. They've made a career of it, having largely moved from the traditional fare that really made their name into contemporary work. In Chris Leslie they have an excellent songwriter, and Ric Sanders can provide memorable tunes. But they still keep one foot in the traditional camp, here with "Tam Lin" and "Polly on the Shore." The real oddity, though, is a cover of XTC's "Love on a Farm Boy's Wages" that fits in perfectly (it was always a folk song anyway), driven by mandolin. Yet, for all the quality here -- and there's plenty of it -- there's the sense that it all feels comfortable, and doesn't stretch the band at all. That's fine, as far as it goes, but by the end, even with such loveliness as "Best Wishes," there's a sense of it being more a holding action than any step forward. After all this time maybe they don't feel they have to, but sometimes an edge can be a good thing, even after 40 years.

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