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It's hard for a band to keep evolving after they've been playing for four decades, and that's the challenge Fairport Convention faces in the 21st century. When Fairport was formed in 1967, they modeled themselves after Jefferson Airplane, but it was when the group began embracing traditional British folk music a few years on that they grew into something extraordinary; by defying the conventions that separated rockers from folk purists, they created their most enduring music, but these days, Fairport have become something of a genre unto themselves, and Dirty Linen presents a band that's still performing strong and entertaining music, but isn't nearly as exciting as they were in their salad days. Dirty Linen was recorded during a 2003 concert in Canterbury, Kent, and this edition of Fairport Convention, anchored by longtime members Simon Nicol (guitar and vocals) and Dave Pegg (bass, mandolin and vocals), sounds tighter and more professional than the group that recorded Liege & Lief and Full House. But there's a certain lack of fire and inspiration missing in the group's performances and repertoire; it would be unfair to say this music sounds rote, but it does suggest the work of a road band who've learned how to go through the paces and work the crowd without drawing much of a sweat. While former Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson still sounds like he's pushing himself and his songs on his live recordings released since the turn of the millennium, on Dirty Linen, Fairport sound expert but a bit chilly, especially compared to material on Festival, a 2003 live release drawn from Fairport's performances at their 2002 Cropredy Music Festival. Dirty Linen leaves no doubt that Fairport Convention remains a band of gifted musicians who play with uncommon skill; however, it seems to take something special to rouse them into an exceptional performance, and that doesn't seem to be the case on the night this set was recorded.
Performance CreditsFairport Convention Primary Artist
Simon Nicol Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Dave Pegg Mandolin,Electric Bass,Vocals,Acoustic Bass
Gerry Conway Percussion,Drums
Chris Leslie Mandolin,Violin,Vocals,Mandocello,Native American Flute
Ric Sanders Violin
Andy Cuttridge Acoustic Guitar,Vocals