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Fairport Convention - Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 16 / 2 / 2008

Fairport Convention - Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort


Recorded originally for TV, Fairport Convention and the Matthews Southern Comfort Band's new DVD was filmed at a country fair in Maidstone. Ben Howarth finds it an absolutely fascinating and unique period piece

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t first pick out this Fairport Convention concert film because it was recorded in Maidstone, my home town. The thought of the most respected of all English folk-rock bands, in their pomp, popping up at a country fair in the county town of Kent, where there are now a total of zero is somewhat amusing. Not the ‘classic’ line up with Sandy Denny, this is still something of a treat for the devoted folkie, as it is the only known performance of the line-up that made the ‘Full House’ album, with Richard Thompson - soon to depart the band - leading from the front. Also on the film is footage of another band, ‘Matthews Southern Comfort’, led by former Fairport member Iain Matthews, who I have to admit that I had never heard of, but are very good. Made for television, (and introduced by a young and remarkably posh sounding John Peel) this is rather slight at just over thirty minutes, augmented by an interview with the director Tony Palmer. But it is a fascinating period piece, as the bands play in front of a curious ordinance of hippies, young families and curious looking old people simply strolling through the park, looking at the fair. In an age where performances tend to be confined to elaborately marketed and highly priced corporate events, we’re not used to this kind of thing anymore. Despite being interrupted by an RAF helicopter taking off, the band performed impressively. Intricate musicianship naturally modernises traditional English folk music. This finishes many notches above today’s generation of psych and folk revivalists.

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