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From the summer of love to a setlist soaked in affection

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 11, 2012

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When folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention first got together in 1967, their joyful emergence coincided with the hippy goodwill spirit fostered by San Francisco's legendary Summer of Love.

Forty-five years later, they retain the huge affection of legions of original fans, as well as fresh faces. It's a mutual appreciation, and to celebrate this landmark anniversary the band invited these loyal camp followers to pick their favourite Fairport songs to re-record for a new compilation.

Hot off the press, the new album By Popular Request, featuring numbers like Walk Awhile, The Hexhamshire Lass, Matty Groves and, of course, Meet on the Ledge, heralds the band's current tour, which sees its penultimate gig at The Watermark at Ivybridge later this month.

The setlist will feature many of these well-loved requested classics, but also songs from their critically acclaimed news studio LP Festival Bell, released last year.

The band's first studio recording for four years, its 14 tracks include compositions by members of the band, two songs by renowned singer-songwriter Ralph McTell and a reworking of the Sandy Denny classic Rising For The Moon.

"Forty-five years is a milestone, but we don't intend to rest on our laurels or hark back to the past," says Fairport co-founder Simon Nicol. "This year's concert will be rather different – not only have we got the new material from Festival Bell, but this is the first time we have invited audiences to select the repertoire for a concert tour.

"Fairport are a band that always looks to the future. All five of us are looking forward to getting back on the road. In fact we're raring to go, because our first love is live performance."

With Simon on guitar and vocals, the rest of the ensemble are Dave Pegg on bass and backing vocals, Chris Leslie on fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki and lead vocals, Ric Sanders on violin and Gerry Conway on drums and percussion.

Together they stage annual winter and summer UK tours; last winter they celebrated the 40th birthday of their early folk rock opera concept album Babbacombe Lee by playing it in its entirety at every one of their concerts, as well as at their annual Cropredy Festival last August.

These performances were recorded and the cream of the crop edited together for another new album – Babbacombe Lee Live Again – which is released in early June.

Steeped in Devon history, its songs tell the notorious true tale of petty thief John Lee, from Abbotskerswell who was convicted in 1885 of the brutal murder of his employer, Emma Keyse, at her home at Babbacombe Bay near Torquay. Despite weak evidence, and his own protestations of innocence, he was convicted and sentenced to death. But he was reprieved after three failed attempts to hang him at Exeter Jail. This real life drama was played out only a score or more miles from Ivybridge.

"We've played in Devon many times before, but this will be our first visit to the Watermark," adds Simon. "We have heard they have a very welcoming audience, so we are looking forward to meeting them."

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