On their first album in five years, Fairport Convention, which now boasts a steady lineup (nearly a decade together!) for the first time in its history, carries on two traditions. The shorter-term one is the tradition of Fairport itself, a band intended to blend contemporary rock with folk, often in the form of work by current singer/songwriters, here including Clive Gregson and Leonard Cohen. The longer term one is the tradition of Scots-Irish music, with its jigs and reels and story songs that date back to the Middle Ages. Sometimes, the band combines the two traditions, recording songs like Steve Tilston's "The Naked Highwayman" and Ralph McTell and band member Maartin Allcock's "The Islands," which update traditional themes in interesting ways. (Allcock, by the way, has added an extra "A" to his first name since we last heard from him.) Simon Nicol, the only original member of Fairport Convention dating back to 1967, has developed into a sturdy baritone singer, and multi-instrumentalist Allcock carries the bulk of the musical burden. Jewel in the Crown is a well-balanced collection of songs that is true to the spirit of Fairport Convention and its antecedents.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann