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Fairport Convention Fairport Convention
Album: 50:50 @50
Label: Matty Groves
Tracks: 14
Website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

For fifty years the world has been graced by one of the most popular and valuable folk bands there are. I might add that this band has essentially been playing for nearly twice my age. It must be pointed out that for any band to last this long it takes a lot of work. It also takes a lot of talent. Fairport Convention clearly have both of these traits in abundance.

Considering how long Fairport Convention has been around for it must be difficult to always think of new ideas to make albums stand out from everything done before and from everything else on the folk scene. Fairport can of course rely on their reputation as one of the most popular folk bands but having a release such their 50:50@50 shows that there are still clever ideas that can be used to mix everything up.

As the title suggests, the album is 50% new material for this release and 50% live shows of popular classics and favourites that fans of Fairport Convention have grown to know and love. I personally adore this idea. Not only does give the well recognised nod to the past but it also looks ahead to the future and shows that after 50 years Fairport Convention have not run out of ideas. I also like the way the album is structured, it alternates between new and old releases which I feel gives equal weight to all songs.

I want to start by talking about the live releases. These are songs that all good folkies will be familiar with. We start with 'Ye Mariner's All' which is instrumental for the first half before booming into lyrics for the second. I have always been fond of the vocal skills used in Fairport Convention. No matter who is singing a particular song they always sound friendly. Some artists play around with vocals to present different atmospheres but Fairport are consistently friendly and is what I personally believe makes them so popular. That and the great musical talent of course.

Fairport Convention don't tend to do the same style of song over and over again. Just by listening to the first few live songs you can see that there is an abundance of variety and originality to every song they use. The only thing that every song choice does have in common is that each one is catchy and will stick in your mind firmly. In particular I found 'Mercy Bay' to be particularly enchanting as it projects a very misty image and keeps up an air of mystery. I also like the mixture of instrumental tunes such as 'Portmerion' which shows that the musicians can play just as well as the singers can sing.

The new songs released for this album are equally as invigorating. 'Eleanor's Dream' starts us off with power and passion and a very noticeable modern twinge that is less prominent in the older songs done live. There is still that friendly voice greeting you but even here there is a renewed energy that grips you firmly. In contrast to this first song we then get 'Step by Step' which is much slower and gentler, giving a softer and more relaxing sound than 'Eleanor's Dream'. This mixture of music is present throughout the album and by the end of the album you may find it hard to tell the difference between the live songs and the new releases.

I must admit that my absolute favourite song on the album is 'Devil's Work'. This song particularly got my feet tapping, however, every single track on this album is pure gold.

Paul Rawcliffe