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FAIRPORT CONVENTION 'Over The Next Hill' Matty Grooves MGCD041

Simon Nicol was inspired to call 'Over The Next Hill' something entirely different - he'd hit on the working title 'Senior Moments'. I think the band made the right decision in selecting the present title - much better for marketing purposes! Much has been made of how Fairport have overcome many ups and downs since forming in 1967. So it's a very good thing for the band to celebrate 'getting over yet another hill' in one piece. I'm going to be very positive, and focus entirely on the album's music.

Well, this is all very enjoyable, very much in Fairport's solid folk-rock style, and the music breezes along with the band's customary joie de vivre. No radical innovation here - their style works brilliantly well for them, so why change it? It's a solid folk-rock album with strong material, well played and sung - and the band's legion of fans will love it. The album (released on the new Matty Grooves label) gets its 'official' airing at Cropredy in August 2004.

The title track creates a strong English folk feel and has some nice changes of tempo and incredibly melodic violin. Julie Matthews' 'Westward' exudes a folk-country playfulness - all those string instruments come into their own here. Chris Leslie contributes some good songs, including 'I'm Already There' with its slightly wistful, dreamy vocal. I feel this number characterises the band's sound incredibly well - the great rhythm provided by Dave Pegg's bass, Simon Nicol's guitar and Gerry Conway's drums, the lyricism of Ric Sander's violin/mandolin, and Leslie's excellent bouzouki/mandolin. 'The Fossil Hunter' - with Leslie's Native American flute solo - is excellent, inspired by 19th Century Dorset fossil hunter Mary Anning. Ric Sanders provides a couple of great instrumentals; the upbeat, spirited 'Canny Capers' creates a good 'fling 'em up' vibe with its lyrical bouzouki and violin. He also wrote an expressive, emotional violin-led piece, 'Some Special Place'. 'Willow Creek' is a strongly rhythmic, percussive track - some very nice input here by Conway. Ben Bennion's 'Wait For The Tide To Come In' and Leslie's 'Over The Falls' provide a rockier ambience. Dylan's 'Si Tu Dois Partir' is included here by popular demand, and features an original sample of one of the late Martin Lamble's drumbeats - a very upbeat track. A rousing 'Auld Lang Syne' is tucked away right at the end of the album.

I reckon Fairport will be climbing a good few hills yet.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.