Matty Grooves (label)
10 March 2017 (released)
17 April 2017
The title is intended to cover all the bases: the band is 50 years old and the album is equally split live/recorded songs. Though that doesn’t truly reflect that Fairport Convention are much more likely to be seen on a stage rather than a recording studio these days with two nationwide tours and a festival every year.
The main interest is on the new material, as the live recordings, good as they are, won’t be totally unfamiliar to Fairport devotees. However, there aren’t going to be many people who will tire of this beautiful version of Portmeirion, while Robert Plant’s on lead vocals on Jesus on the Mainline just add that little bit of a sparkle to a reliable crowd-pleaser. And talking of crowd pleasers, there’s a rollicking version of The Naked Highwayman
Turning to the new songs, the album kicks off with the up-tempo of Eleanor’s Dream with the band in fine rocking form. Up next and demonstrating their versatility is Step by Step a plaintive acoustic, then there’s the jaunty and proggy instrumental Danny Jack’s Reward, with added strings. Devil’s Work is a playful, if unadventurous, meditation on DIY, while Our Bus Rolls On is as self-referential and as ambulatory as the title suggests.
The Lady of Carlisle features Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee, and is probably the most traditional track on the album but just sort of drifts past. The final new song is Summer by the Cherwell a jaunty jig dedicated to their annual Cropredy Festival.
From a 50 year old group that spends a lot of time on the road, whose members are involved with a few side-projects and occasionally record together, this album is as fair and fitting as could be expected.