With a four year gap since their last studio album, Fairport have clearly taken their time with this new offering, bouncing back with a body of work that oozes class in every department. Most immediately noticeable is the thoughtful production, binding the 14 tracks into a cohesive whole and offering a depth that allows a clear place for every vocal and instrumental nuance.
Within this, the material mixes group originals with four songs from outside, including two fine works from Ralph McTell and a gentle remake of Sandy Denny’s Rising For The Moon. Chris Leslie’s Darkside Wood is a tragic love story, while his Mercy Bay joins the canon of Fairport’s history songs. Three instrumentals offer variety, with Ric Saunders’ two-part Danny Jack piece contrasting with Dave Pegg’s bass romp on Albert & Ted, while Peggy takes lead vocal on the lovely Celtic Moon song.
As befits the back story of the Cropredy church bells, the closing title track is a celebratory work which binds together that particular Oxfordshire village and its annual festival visitors. For a group well into their fifth decade, Festival Bell is a work of maturity and depth, yet delivered with a lightness of touch that will delight fans old and new.