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Secret Records SECDD053

Nothing if not prolific, it’s increasingly difficult to keep pace with Fairport’s new releases and energetic touring schedule! Live albums feature frequently in the bewildering discography and this ‘bargain’ priced double disc set is a recording of a 2003 concert in Canterbury replicating most of their headline outing at that year’s Cropredy Convention.

It’s the established quintet line up of Dave Pegg (basses, mandolin, vocals), Simon Nicol (acoustic/electric guitars, vocals), Ric Sanders (violin), Chris Leslie (violin, mandolin, mandocello, native American flute, vocals) and Gerry Conway (drums, percussion), augmented on acoustic guitar and vocals by Andy Guttridge (just after the release of his own brilliant and undersung Band Album Sundance incidentally…a personal desert island essential!)

Clearly recorded and balanced, some characterful introductions and commentary are included for the authentic live experience. The 20 pieces (including two medleys) represent well their mix of distinctively skilled renderings of traditional material and choice songs of others (such as Huw Williams’ very moving Rosemary’s Sister) with their own material. All culminates in their familiar fashioning of a medley centred on Matty Groves (replete with histrionics but without the delightful dramaturgy of the animated film of recent Conventions) before the finale ‘community singing effort’ that is Meet On The Ledge.

Having seen them live several times, it was interesting to scrutinise their collective live craft for this review. Three things stood out. Sanders’ technical tricksiness, finesse and cross-genre invention ornamenting their music and song is very evident. Secondly, Leslie’s contribution as songsmith and versatile musician, with Morris pedigree, cannot be understated. Finally, there’s the whole group dynamic to which the interlocking detail of Pegg’s characteristically busy, trebly bass is very apparent on the ear.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.