First Look: Fairport Convention Fan LP

 

 

By Popular Request is exactly that, 13
songs selected by fans for re-recording, and available by mail order at
FairportConvention.com.

 

By Nancy
Dunham

Fairport
Convention has done what many might consider the impossible on its recent
release By Popular Request: the
bandmates refreshed the 13 fan-selected songs without adulterating them, taking
the voted-upon selections and going into the studio with John Gale for
re-recording. Think of the sonic facelift as more Christie Brinkley than Liza
Minnelli – just enough to look natural but not over-the-top in any sense.

 

That’s saying
something when you consider that each of the songs on the album – including
“Meet on the Ledge” and “Walk Awhile” – has been in the band’s catalog for most
of its 45-year history. That left the band facing the challenge of satisfying
purists while not becoming, in co-founding member Simon Nicol’s own words, its
own tribute band.

 

Credit the
band members’ restraint (each is a celebrated artist in his own right) with
their reverence for the group’s past songwriters and players for exceeding
expectations. Not only do the vocalists – notably co-lead singers Nicol and
multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie, the current incarnation’s chief songwriter
– sing with zeal but the instrumentation and arrangements add just enough new
textures to air out some of the (let’s just say mustiness) of a few of the
tunes.

 

Consider one
of most refreshed tracks on the album “Matty Groves”: this bluegrass flavored
version of the classic English folk song owes plenty to the spirited fiddle of
virtuoso Ric Sanders and Leslie’s sparkling banjo. The Richard Thompson-penned
“Meet on the Ledge” is another Fairport standard that receives a welcome update
by way of a slightly changed arrangement noticeably regarding fiddle and
mandolin and a slightly more urgent tone in Nicol’s lead vocals. Even the
haunting “Crazy Man Michael” is improved upon notably with the addition of what
must be whistles according to the album’s liner notes.

 

By Popular Request shows why Fairport Convention
continues to be a folk-rock pioneer. It’s available exclusively via mail order
at the band’s official website.

 

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