Chris Leslie of Fairport Convention Releases Origins

Chris Leslie of Fairport Convention Releases OriginsWhen Paul Johnson and Darren Beech of Folking interviewed Chris Leslie at the 2008 Cropredy festival, Fairport Convention’s main songwriter and multi-instrumentalist joked that the festival site Oxfordshire is the center of the universe.

As the saying goes, many a truth is said in jest. So it may well be in this instance. Leslie’s traveled a long way, literally and figuratively, since he was a young, self-taught fiddler in Banbury, dreaming of joining Fairport. And while he’s won acclaim for his work with the band and his mastery of an array of other musical genres, it’s clear his allegiance is to the Fairport-styled Folk that captured his youthful heart. Indeed, Oxfordshire remains the center of his universe.

Doubters need only listen to Origins, Leslie’s just-released solo album, for confirmation.

It’s almost unnecessary to say that Leslie’s musicianship and vocals are as strong as at any time in his career. Anyone who follows Fairport or Leslie’s side projects — Feast of Fiddles and St. Agnes Fountain — know that’s obvious.

But it’s even clearer here because Leslie supplies all vocals and instrumentation as he moves gracefully from traditional folk (Sandy Denny’s “Sweet Rosemary,”) to country-flavored rock (Michael Martin Murphey’s “Geronimo’s Cadillac,”) to pure Native American music (his own “Tipis in the Snow”) on the 13-track album. And stand-out track “Lost Bird,” is just pure beauty.

It must be tempting for the multi-instrumentalist to make his arrangements complex, but Leslie’s fans know he always leans toward keeping his sound pure though a close listen will reveal its sophisticated intricacy. The Beach Boys’ songs come to mind for comparison (though the artist himself would certainly disagree with any comparison of his work to the legendary Brian Wilson just as he does with comparisons to Fairport’s past songwriters including Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick).

Fans of Leslie’s last two solo albums ­­–– The Flow and Dancing Days — will find the same sophisticated yet accessible music on this album and likely trace the mastery of many of these songs back to their Origins.

What’s different here, though, is that Leslie really lets his listeners hear him soar on these songs, half of which he wrote himself.

The result is a sophisticated musical tapestry that explores multiple facets of the “Origins” of the artist and all of mankind.

In less capable and cultured hands, the album could easily be the musical poster child for multiple musical personalities.

But under Leslie’s masterful artistry, the album can only be described as an enchanting and often spellbinding tour de force.

Find out more about Chris Leslie and order Origins on his website.

NANCY DUNHAM / @NancyDWrites

Fairport Convention With Sandy Denny Live At Ebbets Field 1974

Fairport Convention With Sandy Denny Live At Ebbets Field 19743/16/2011 – Philadelphia, PA – Much to the excitement of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny fans around the globe, Philadelphia’s ItsAboutMusic.com will release ultra rare recordings of the famed UK group recorded live at Ebbets Field in Denver, Colorado May 23/24, 1974. Produced and digitally remastered by Fairport Convention’s Jerry Donahue for ItsAboutMusic.com, the 1974 line-up of Fairport Convention on these recordings feature Sandy Denny (Vocals, Piano), Dave Mattacks (Drums), Jerry Donahue (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Dave Pegg (Bass,Vocals), Trevor Lucas (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar) and Dave Swarbrick (Vocals, Violin). This historical audio documentation catches the band at the height of their career performing to an ecstatic audience. Fairport Convention are an English folk rock band formed in 1967, who are still recording and touring today, and are considered “the most important group in the English folk rock movement”. Their critically acclaimed album ‘Liege and Lief’ helped launch the English folk rock movement. The vast number of personnel who have passed through band’s revolving door are amongst the most highly regarded and influential musicians of their era, and have gone on to work with many significant bands. Since 1979 the group has hosted the Cropredy Festival, a large annual event held in England. Individually and collectively the members of Fairport Convention have garnered numerous awards recognizing their contribution to music and culture.

Fairport Convention was formed around 1967, and originally played a “harmony-and guitar-based folk-rock style” strongly influenced by Californian groups of the day like the Byrds. The line-up that recorded their self-titled debut album in 1968 featured Richard Thompson, Ian Matthews, and Simon Nicol on guitars; Ashley Hutchings on bass; Judy Dyble on vocals; and Martin Lamble on drums. Fairport Convention didn’t reach their peak until Dyble was replaced after the first album in 1968 by Sandy Denny, who had previously recorded both as a solo act and with the Strawbs. Denny has been touted as the best British folk-rock singer of all time. This incarnation of the band would record two well-received albums. When Ian Matthews left the band in early 1969, and Martin Lamble (still in his teens) died in an accident involving the group’s equipment van in mid-1969, Fairport regrouped, replacing Lamble with Dave Mattacks, and adding Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. Their repertoire became much more traditional, and electrified traditional folk numbers would dominate their next album, ‘Liege and Lief’ (1969).

This line-up didn’t last long and by the end of the ’60s Ashley Hutchings had left to join Steeleye Span (he was replaced by Dave Pegg). Sandy Denny also left the group to form Fotheringay with Jerry Donahue. Richard Thompson remained for ‘Full House’ (1970), but by the beginning of 1971 he too had departed, leaving Nicol as the only original member. Sandy Denny would actually return to the group for about a year and a half in the 1970s, prior to her death in 1978. Fairport Convention have continued on and off for the last 25 years, touring and performing frequently. To this day, the band is supported by a devoted fan base. Now with the release of ‘Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny – Ebbets Field 1974’, one important chapter of the band’s history is preserved for generations to enjoy. Here’s a magic recording of Sandy Denny, Jerry Donahue, Trevor Lucas, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks captured live!

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