JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys / Chrissie Hynde


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Through thick and thin, Chrissie Hynde never once stepped outside of the Pretenders, which makes her union with JP & the Fairground Boys significant. Teaming with twentysomething Welsh singer/songwrter JP Jones -- rumor has it the relationship was more than professional, a whisper supported by Hynde singing “I’ve found the perfect lover but he’s half my age” on the album opener -- and his band of shaggy Libertines disciples, Hynde loosens herself up considerably. Over years of touring, the Pretenders wound up as a precision-tuned machine, so it’s a welcome change to hear Hynde with a band lacking such finely honed chops. Still, it’s a mistake to think of JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys' Fidelity! as a Hynde solo album in disguise. This is very much a collaboration, with nearly every song song co-written and sung as a duet between JP and Chrissie, the one exception being the Jones spotlight “Leave Me If You Must,” whose very existence suggests that the whole project is a way to showcase JP, not Chrissie. To that extent, Fidelity! is effective, suggesting that Jones has an appeal somewhere between Glen Hansard and Jeff Tweedy, an impeccably messily manicured roots troubadour who works hard to make everything look easy. He’s ingratiating, but his charm is strengthened by Hynde’s reaction to him; she’s clearly infatuated -- on a professional level, to be sure, but quite possibly more -- and her joy at playing with Jones and the Fairground Boys infects the entire record, lending it a ramshackle warmth that’s been missing from her music for a while now.

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