Liege & Lief
After briefly contemplating breaking up following the serious van accident that claimed the life of drummer Martin Lamble, Fairport Convention recruited new drummer Dave Mattacks. Dave Swarbrick was also bought on board as an official member, leading the group into a more folk-focused sound. Delving deeper into the traditional vein that bought ‘A Sailor’s Life’ on the previous record, bassist Ashley Hutchings ransacked archives of obscure folk songs to unearth suitable material for the group to use.
While ‘A Sailor’s Life’ felt like primarily an experiment, these covers are much more entertaining, with Denny infusing plenty of drama into the epics ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Tam Lin’ and Swarbrick leading a run through the Celtic hoe down ‘Toss The Feathers’. ‘Matty Groves’ tells the story of an unfaithful wife’s sticky end (“But bury my lady at the top/For she was of noble kin”), before opening out into a prime Thompson and Swarbrick jam. The atmospheric ‘Reynardine’ is another winner, while the two low-key Thompson songs dovetail nicely into the record and feel like they could have been dug up from sometime in the 14th century as well.
Fairport Convention had been steadily building up to this peak since they began, and perhaps realising they would never top it, underwent their most significant lineup changes yet, with Denny and Hutchings leaving to form Fotheringay and Steeleye Span respectively. Still, this is a very impressive peak, and if you have any interest in British folk rock you need to hear Liege & Lief immediately.