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The Wood and the Wire
Artist: Fairport Convention
Label: Compass Records
Length: 14 tracks - 61 minutes

Folk music is often described as the music of the people.  Reflecting the culture from which it springs, it becomes timeless as it tells the stories that have been handed down through the years.  Fairport Convention has carried on this tradition with their 51st release, The Wood & The Wire.  Yes, I did say 51st!  One of the "grandaddy's" of the folk music scene, Fairport Convention, in one guise or another, has been making music since the early 60's.  Boasting an impressive array of former members, from Richard Thompson to Sandy Denny, this current incarnation of the band has put together a set of songs that borrows much from its Celtic roots and tells the stories of England and the "Emerald Isle."  With a bit more of a pop feel, they remind one of The Chieftains but with more vocals.

The current lineup consists of Simon Nicol on lead vocals and guitars, Chris Leslie, lead vocals and mandolin, Ric Sanders on violin, Dave Pegg, lead vocals and bass guitar, and Gerry Conway on drums and congas.  With the occasional addition of bodhran, bouzouki, and didgeridoo, the instrumentation 
is full and interesting.  Lots of fiddle and mandolin add to the Celtic feel and two instrumental numbers demonstrate the fine playing ability of these musicians--the first a lovely violin number and the second consisting of a couple of reels.  A couple of the tunes are traditional, but most were written by Leslie and deal with such things as an Irish dancer's heritage, sharing a song with friends, and a lonely lighthouse keeper's yearning for his loved ones.  The title song speaks to the way that music, the feel of the wood and strings of an instrument, can grab your heart and change your life.

     The wood and the wire can claim a man
     Dreams in his fingers power in his hands
     Louder than laughter, brighter than fire
     The promise that lives in the wood and the wire. 

"The Game Pieces" tells the strange tale of a set of 12th century chess pieces.  Images of an English street fair are vividly recalled in "Banbury Fair."  And love songs are beautifully rendered in "The Lady Vanishes" and the traditional "Western Wind."

In a time when many in the Christian music industry are trying to decide what really makes Christian music "Christian," and when others declare that all "secular" music is worthless, it is good to know that there are still musicians who are making good wholesome music.  Fairport Convention is not a "Christian" band.  Their songs do not sing praise to God nor do they exhort one to find their comfort in Jesus Christ.  But what they do through their music is celebrate many of the wonderful things in this magnificent world that God has created--friends, lovers, song, music.  All this is God's and by its very being it gives praise to its Maker.  This is worthwhile music even if not under the umbrella of "Christian music." 

The Wood & the Wire is proof that folk music is timeless.  As we go through our lives and our culture grows and changes, we will always need those who will reflect our world back to us.  After 51 releases, Fairport Convention's reflection shines brighter than ever.

Janet Friesen 8/28/2000



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