Fairport Convention – By Popular Request (2018)

Posted by Green on December 10, 2018as

320 kbps | 128 MB | LINKS

I’ll admit to just a twinge of disappointment when I heard that Fairport Convention would celebrate its 45th anniversary this year with the release of re-recorded versions of 13 fan-selected songs. It’s not that the songs on “By Popular Request” aren’t all flawless classics — legendary songwriters including Fairport alumni Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick wrote them. The problem, to me anyway, was that I already have the classic songs locked into my permanent memory bank. I was craving something new.

How fortunate for me — and, of course, countless other fans of folk rock in general and Fairport Convention in particular –that Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders and Gerry Conway gave us just that on “By Popular Request.” The songs are all the standards that fans of classic Fairport love — including “Meet on the Ledge,” “Walk Awhile,” “Farewell Farewell” and “Matty Groves” — but they’ve got just enough new instrumental flavoring to make them fresh.

Consider the classic English folk tune “Matty Groves” which, candidly, I’d felt I’d heard enough times to last well into another life time. And perhaps one beyond that. The tweaks made for this version – specifically the addition of banjo by brilliant multi-instrumentalist Leslie – adds just enough pluck (sorry — I couldn’t resist) to give it new sparkle.

“Farewell Farewell” is another classic that received a modest but arguably long overdue overhaul in the form of lovely harmonies and added instrumentation. I can only imagine the challenge in recreating a song from the much-revered “Liege & Lief” album – not to mention one that the incomparable Denny sang. As fans know, many traditionalist cry foul whenever a song Denny popularized is rerecorded, especially without a female vocalist. Yet, Fairport’s latest version is as starkly poignant as the original.

That’s not to say there aren’t songs I wish had received a bit more flavoring. “Hiring Fair” comes immediately to mind. But, really, that’s a minor quibble that may stem from my over familiarity with the song that has been on my husband’s heavy rotation playlist for years.

“By Popular Request” is truly a magical album that reimagines Fairport’s best songs as only the virtuoso musicians in its current line up could do.

by Nancy Dunham

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