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Fairport Convention - The Wood And The Wire CD (album) cover

THE WOOD AND THE WIRE

Fairport Convention

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3 stars The raw materials for fine music

Released by Woodworm records in late 1999, "The wood and the wire" appears to already be something of a forgotten album in the Fairport Convention discography. For this album, Gerry Conway returns to play drums with the band for the first time in almost 30 years. The album though is very much in the hands of the multi-talented Chris Leslie, who even manages to slip in some didgeridoo on one track. Leslie writes or co-writes with Nigel Stonier many of the tracks here, with Ric Sanders adding one, and a few traditional pieces appearing later on.

The music here is very much in the vein of the Fairport Convention of the 1990's; a bit less folk, a bit more mainstream, but always diverse and melodic. Highlights include Simon Nicol's lead vocal on "The heart of the song" and the violin led instrumental "A year or a day". The melody of the opening title track puzzled me for a while, but I eventually clicked that it reminded me of Plainsong's "Yo yo man". The title refers to the raw materials which are used to create the many diverse instruments which have been constructed from these raw materials over the years. The sleeve image includes a picture of a young boy, the son of Chris Leslie, looking at a selection of such instruments in a shop window.

"The Good Fortunes" is a good old fashioned jig, perhaps best sub-titled as "The hens march to the midden/The four poster bed, part 2"! It is though a great nod to the band's early days, complete with an "Orange blossom special" type race to the finish. On "Western wind", Simon Nicol does a decent impersonation, albeit unwittingly, of Gordon Lightfoot, the songs rather odd time signature giving it an offbeat feel.

While most of the tracks are of a superior quality, some are pleasantly inoffensive, and the odd one, specifically the over rock orientated "Still A Mystery", sub-par.

Leslie's contribution to the album cannot be understated. His songwriting suits this Fairport for the new century well. While his singing is melodic, I cannot help but feel that the album would have been improved had Nicol taken the lead on more of the tracks. Nicol's sympathetic rendition of "The lady vanishes" simply transforms the song from a routine ballad to another album highlight.

In all, another fine album from the 21st century Fairport Convention, which will undoubtedly please those who have enjoyed their music over the years.

The re-release of the album includes two bonus tracks, a spirited live version of "The good fortunes" (from this album), and a new but faithful recording of the classic "Now be thankful".

Report this review (#418150)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the best later day Fairport albums by a country mile. Walk awhile with me and I'll tell you about it.

The Wood And The Wire is the first FC line up to feature multi talented Chris Leslie in a more dominant role as a songwriter. It also reunites the band with Fairport chum and ex Sandy Denny, Fotheringay and Cat Stevens drummer Gerry Conway, who took over permanently for the on again, off again Dave Mattacks.

The loss of multi instrumentalist Maartin Allcock (he spells his first name with two As) is immediately felt on this album as Leslie has resigned himself to being primarily a mandolin player who also dabbles on violin at times, and this brings a more folky acoustic sound to this already folk heavy band. However, Leslie is a terrific songwriter and almost every song penned by him for this album is top notch with the title track and Heart Of The Song being among his best. The band also adheres to their great ability of finding and interpreting other writers material as his been their practice through the Allcock years and Western Wind, a traditional song sung by Simon Nichol, has that extra something added to it that only Fairport could provide it.

It's worth noting that original Full House album members, Nichol and Dave Pegg, somehow impart the FC aesthetic into the band's new music and make it feel as if it's it part of a larger whole with past albums like the great Liege and Leif and relatively newer releases like the stellar eighties album's Red And Gold and Jewel In the Crown.

Unfortunately, this heavy reliance on acoustic folk arrangements would wear thin after a few albums, but for the time being, The Wood And The Wire is Fairport Convention at one of their zeniths. Fantastic. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1394947)
Posted Monday, April 6, 2015 | Review Permalink

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