Fairport Convention

Festival Bell

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It's been 44 years since Fairport got together to emulate the American folk-rock bands they admired. Along the way, they started delving into the folklore of their native land and kicked off a revival of interest in the traditional music of the British Isles. In 2011, the band is still going strong, with original member Simon Nicol still on board, along with Dave Pegg, almost an original member with 31 years in the band under his belt. Chris Leslie (fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki) and Ric Sanders (fiddle), both vets with more than ten years in the band, contribute most of the original material, compositions that hew closely to the band's roots of traditional and singer/songwriter music. Several tunes here sound like they could end up on Fairport's next greatest-hits compilation. Leslie's "Mercy May" is a brooding song that details the doomed voyage of Lord Franklin to the Arctic Sea in 1850. Sanders contributes "Ukulele Central," perhaps the least typical tune on the album, a ragtime-meets-vaudeville number featuring a quintet of ukuleles and drummer Gerry Conway on washboard. The title track, a playful romp written by Leslie with a tongue-twisting folk/rap lyric and an insanely catchy melody, is another winner. Covers include Richard Shindell's Civil War tune "Reunion Hill" given a melancholy reading by Nicol and featuring Leslie's bluegrass-influenced mandolin fills. "Around the Wild Cape Horn," a new tune by Ralph McTell, is a sea song with a jaunty arrangement that combines British and Irish influences. It's driven by Pegg's melodic bass and Leslie's mandolin. The also cover themselves by reprising Sandy Denny's "Rising for the Moon" the title track of the band's 1975 album. Here it's given a midtempo reading with Leslie singing lead and Sanders adding his distinctive fiddling to the mix.

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