Neither fish nor foul, Fairport Convention holds a position somewhere between traditional English and contemporary Celtic music. Although mostly acoustic, electric bass and piano make appearances, and while the bandmembers enjoy the folk songs of yesteryear, they also pen new material. The band's approach and style also separate them from the folk-rock of the Richard Thompson/Sandy Denny era, which rocked quite a bit harder. XXXV celebrates the band's long history by dipping into a few old favorites like "I Wandered by a Brookside" and "The Deserter." The group plays as a collective unit, offering a nice blend of mandolin, fiddle, and guitar along with energetic percussion. There's a relaxed version of "The Banks of the Sweet Primroses" and a stately take on Thompson and Dave Swarbrick's "Now Be Thankful." Anna Ryder's vocals add a nice touch to "The Crowd," and Ian Anderson offers some fancy flute work on "Portmeirion." Interestingly, this latter instrumental reminds one of other "new acoustic" compositions by outfits like New Grange, another band on the Compass label. While all of the selections are performed competently and professionally, a certain sameness seeps into the proceedings halfway through the album. It's as though the music has become too safe, too predictable. Fans of Fairport's recent albums, however, will enjoy sitting down with a pint of their favorite beverage and taking a long look back at the band's illustrious history.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.