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Fairport Convention, the birth of folk rock music.

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Wednesday, 23rd February 2011 – David Franchi
FairportFairport Convention is an English folk rock band widely acclaimed as the most important group in the English folk rock movement. Since 1979 they have hosted the Cropredy Festival, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, which is the largest such annual event in England. In 1966 bassist Ashley Hutchings met guitarist Simon Nicol when they both played in the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra.

They started to rehearse together in Simon Nicol’s father’s medical practice a house called “Fairport” in Fortis Green, north London, from which the name of the group. Fairport Convention officially formed in 1967. They get involved with folk music after the guest appearance by folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick on a recording of “A Sailor’s Life”, a traditional song brought to the band by singer Sandy Denny from her folk club days. This was a turning point for the band and Hutchings started to make research in the English Folk Dance and Song Society Library at Cecil Sharp House, London. In 1969 in a van accident in the motorway member Martin Lamble, aged only nineteen, and Jeannie Franklyn, member Richard Thompson’s girlfriend, were killed. Fairport nearly disbanded. However, they could recover and kept on working on the combination of British folk music into rock resulted in their fourth album the influential ‘Liege and Lief’ (1969) commonly considered to have launched what it is today called folk rock.

Fairport Convention, the birth of folk rock music.At that time it was commonly used the term electric folk or English folk, but today both terms are used indiscriminately. It was a huge leap forward in musicality and it had the feel of a concept album. The distinctive sound of the album came from the use of electric instruments and Dave Mattacks’ efficient drumming with David Swarbrick’s fiddle accompaniment in an unforeseen and powerful combination of rock with the traditional. The entire band had reached new levels of musicality, with the fluid guitar playing of Richard Thompson and the ‘ethereal’ vocal of Sandy Denny particularly characteristic of the sound of the album.

Although early experiments of few British bands (Strawbs and Pentangle), Fairport Convention were the firsts to do this in a purposeful way. Disagreements arose about the direction of the band in the wake of this success and some members left. However, the band kept on and in 1971 was released the concept album ‘Babbacombe Lee’ – this year celebrating the 40th anniversary – the ambitious folk rock opera project developed by Swarbrick, based on the life of John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee, ‘the man they couldn’t hang’. The following years were a baffling chain of band member changes. Fairport Convention seemed to be arrived at an end in 1979. FairportThe folk rock market had largely disappeared, the band had no record deal and Swarbrick had been diagnosed with tinnitus. Besides, in 1978 former determining member Sandy Denny died aged 31, of a cerebral haemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs. Fairport decided to disband. They played a farewell tour and a final outdoor concert on the 4th August in Cropredy, the village where Dave and Christine Pegg lived. The remaining members followed their own lives and career. Dave Pegg was the first of several Fairporters to join Jethro Tull. In 1980 Fairport staged a reunion concert in Cropredy which became the annual Cropredy Festival, and turn into the major mechanism for sustaining the band.

The Peggs continued to release the Cropredy concerts as ‘official bootlegs’. In 1985 the decision to reform the band was taken. The resulting album ‘Gladys’ Leap’ (1985) was generally well received and Ric Sanders joined the band. In 1997, Chris Leslie joined them and in 1998, Gerry Conway did as well. In 2011, the band released their new studio album Festival Bell, the first new album in four years.

The Fairport Convention has received much recognition. They won BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for: Lifetime Achievement Award (2002); Most Influential Folk Album of All Time (2006) as ‘Liege & Lief’ was voted by Radio 2 listeners; Favourite Folk Track of All Time (2007) for ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’. In February 2011 they won the coveted TPi music industry award. The current Fairport Convention line-up is: Simon Nicol (guitar, lead vocal), 1967 – 1971, 1976 – present; Dave Pegg (bass guitar, mandolin, backing vocal), 1970 – present; Ric Sanders (fiddles, occasional keyboards), 1985- present; Chris Leslie (fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki, lead vocal), 1997 – present; Gerry Conway (drums and percussion), 1998- present.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.co.uk

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/fairport-convention,-the-birth-of-folk-rock-music./

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Written by davidfranchi

February 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm

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