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Matty Grooves Records MGCD053

It seemed a good idea at the time to offer to write a review of Fairport’s new CD, their first one recorded in the studio for four years. Then I mentioned what I was doing to a friend, who sowed the seeds of doubt by asking what could possibly be said about the band that was new. That got me worried.

In one respect he was right. It is impossible to find new things to say, except that all the material on Myths And Heroes is new, seven tracks by the band and six by writers such as Ralph McTell, Rob Beattie and Anna Ryder. But in another respect, why is it necessary to find new things to say about the institution that is Fairport Convention? Do long standing fans want new directions etc? I doubt it. And they are not going to be disappointed.

All that you would expect is here - superb playing from the band, excellent lead vocals from Chris Leslie and Simon Nicol, both like a good single malt, improving with age, it’s held together by the unique drumming style of Gerry Conway. I don’t need to mention the sheer class of Ric Sanders, mostly on violin but occasionally on ukulele, and, of course, Dave Pegg on bass.

All the material is new; sleeve notes tell the story of each track. The title track pulls you straight in with one of those choruses you still hear hours later. There’s the inevitable song about WW1, but this time about John Condon, a young Irish soldier who died in Belgium, emotively sung by Simon. Songs about love, striving to overcome the loss of a child, and the onset of old age, all under the banner of Myths And Heroes. However the outstanding tracks are Clear Water, with its message of everyone pulling together, and Grace And Favour, Chris Leslie’s homage to and celebration of arguably our greatest female hero, Grace Darling.

It’s history now, but last time I saw the band, Dave arrived on stage with a heavily bandaged hand, having recently badly damaged his tendons, meaning he was unable to play. His place was taken by his son Matt, also an excellent bass player. And that is what is new about Fairport Convention on Myths And Heroes - Matt plays bass on a handful (sorry) of tracks and a good job he does too.

The production and recording is of equally high standard, whilst the booklet and packaging show that it is still possible to produce something worth having in your hands, something those who download will be missing.

So my friend was wrong. It is possible to find something new about Fairport Convention. Or am I deluding myself because they are just as good as ever, or maybe even better? I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by Myths And Heroes. Peggy reckons its one of their best and who am I to disagree?

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.