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FAIRPORT CONVENTION "The Wood and the Wire" WRCD033

The new millennium begins with a new Fairport Convention album - the band who started off the folk-rock movement in the late sixties.

The spotlight here fixes firmly on Chris Leslie who joined the band in 1997. He wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 12 vocal tracks on the album. His writing is of a uniformly high standard - "The Dancer", about his local Morris Dancing tradition, and "Banbury Fair", from his childhood memories - give a strong flavour of his Oxfordshire roots. The title track describes the first attractions to the life of a musician - an attraction felt by many without the skill or commitment to follow it through!

The ensemble playing which is mainly acoustic based is excellent throughout. New drummer Gerry Conway uses a wide range of percussion effects which help give a lighter feel to many tracks. Simon Nicol remains a consistently thoughtful acoustic guitarist - listen in particular to his work on "The Lady Vanishes" where his soft phrasing complements the violin parts. They can still rock, as on "Still a Mystery" which is all clattering drums and electric guitar.

61 minutes long, with 2 tune sets and 12 vocals and whilst there is only 1 traditional song, "Western Wind", the majority of the material on this disc borrows or quotes from traditional sources.

If you are aware of their recent work, then this is well up to standard and arguably is better than anything since 'Jewel in the Crown'. If you thought this group finished about the time of 'Walk Awhile', buy this and think again.

David Thorpe

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This album was reviewed in Issue 39 of The Living Tradition magazine.