Written by: Kev Rowland
When I discovered that this album had been released I was somewhat surprised, as it was so long since I had last heard from the band that I actually thought that they had stopped. The last album I reviewed of theirs was back in 1996, but here in 2018 they have released their latest album, titled to celebrate thirty years in the business, an incredible achievement for any band. Musically they have taken three British bands as references, and tend to move between Horslips, Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, sometimes bringing them all together. Now, I have been known to listen to the odd bit of folk rock here and there, and indeed last year travelled from one side of the world to the other just to see Fairport Convention (okay, I also really wanted to see Show of Hands and particularly Richard Thompson, but you get the drift). According to Google that is a one-way trek of 11,750 miles (and I did come back to NZ, honest, straight after the gigs), so it is a form of music I really enjoy.
I prefer folk rock to straight folk, although I do enjoy it as well, as it has so many dynamics and power which is taken to a whole new level with the use of electric guitar. Somewhat strangely there is a cover on here, namely “Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)”, but somewhat unsurprisingly it does fit incredibly well with layers of mandolins and fine violin, which then takes the lead on a great jig in the middle. Band leader Leif Sorbye continues to show exactly what can be developed when one has a great love and understanding of the genre. Perhaps the most poignant number is the last, an instrumental medley simply titled “Swarb”. It is probably safe to say that David Cyril Eric Swarbrick (5 April 1941 – 3 June 2016) is the most influential fiddler in the last fifty plus years in the folk movement. Although I have seen Fairport in concert more times that I can remember, I only saw him play with the band once, sat in a wheelchair connected to oxygen, but still letting his fingers fly. The tribute here from Tempest is the closest I have heard to any band capturing the violin/mandolin interplay made famous by Swarb (all credit to Kathryn Buys for an amazing performance), apart from when Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders take flight in the current incarnation of Fairport.
I was playing this in the car, and when the song finished and the next album started I audibly groaned because it was over and I was enjoying listening to it so much. I must say that sort of reaction is incredibly rare for me, especially given the number of albums I play each week for review purposes, so it shows just how much I was invested in the music. This is a wonderful album, and let’s just hope that the guys keep going as long as Fairport, currently touring in their 51st year. I love it, and I can see why Robert Berry is so involved.
Johnny Cope // Thirty Little Birds // Battle of Aughrim // Trolldans // Norwegian Wood // Lahard Chase // A Toast // High Germany // Madeline Jones // Swarb