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Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention


This year marks some milestone anniversaries for some of Rock’s founding members, but perhaps none is as unlikely as that of Fairport Convention’s thirty-fifth. With their revolving door membership and tragedies over the years it’s a small miracle that they’re still here. But, here they are, and their latest effort, XXXV (The 35th Anniversary Album) (Compass / Woodworm), is as much a gem as any other jewel in their crown! 

XXXV features both old and new, with some remakes of old songs, and some brand new compositions penned for the occasion. There are studio tracks and live sounds, with a nod of the head to the crowd at their annual Cropredy festival, which takes place this year on August 8-10 and features the usual assortment of brilliance (including Richard Thompson, Oysterband, and Alison Brown, among many surprises and guests). On the older but treasured side are magnificent re-dos of such Fairport faves as Ric Sanders’ “Portmeiron,” this time done with the accompaniment of percussion and mandolin, and featuring the flute-playing of Ian Anderson; John Richards’ “The Deserter,” long a crowd pleaser and Cropedy highlight, and the old Richard Thompson/Dave Swarbrick composition, “Now Be Thankful,” a song from the distant, dark beginnings of the group. 

Newer material, which seems destined to wear in the Fairport annals as well as the old, include a couple of Chris Leslie tunes, “My Love Is In America” and the superstitious intrigue, “The Light of Day,” which is marked by XXXV’s hardest edge and sharpest fiddling. By contrast, Ric Sanders’ more whimsical side of fiddling shines for his newly penned violin piece, “Everything but the Skirl.” XXXV shows that the boys haven’t lost their touch, even if with another adjusted line-up—this time including Chris Leslie (vocals, mandolins, violin, banjo), Ric Sanders violins, electric piano), Simon Nicol (vocals, guitars), Dave Pegg (vocals, bass guitar), and Gerry Conway (drums, percussion)—that only debuted a couple of years back. Next up for Fairport will be the massive four-CD set, Fairport Unconventional, due out this spring, the 35th Anniversary Cropredy Festival, and more Stateside dates in the fall. A busy year, but as long as the music stays this fresh and well played, let’s hope it goes on for at least another 35 years!—Steve Bedney

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