Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Pointing Ahead

Nashville label signs folk-rock legends

By Michael McCall

JULY 17, 2000:  The reputation and stature of Nashville-based Compass Records--one of the stronger independent labels to emerge in recent times--has led to the signing of legendary English folk-rock group Fairport Convention, the long-running band that once included Richard Thompson, Ian Matthews, and the late Sandy Denny among its members. Compass will release Fairport Convention's next album, The Wire and the Wood, on July 25. The band continues to feature two longtime members, founding guitarist Simon Nicol and veteran bassist Simon Pegg, in a lineup that has remained the same since 1996. Thanks to the band's worldwide reputation, the album will likely become one of Compass' best sellers.

More than that, though, the signing of Fairport Convention adds new prestige and market penetration to the fledgling label, which is known for its tasteful packaging of a wide range of adult music, including top-flight jazz artists like Victor Wooten and Astral Project, leading English acoustic musicians Clive Gregson, Kate Rusby, Boo Hewerdine, and Eddi Reader, highly regarded American songwriters like Kate Campbell and Pierce Pettis, and the critically acclaimed work of label co-owner Alison Brown.

This year, Compass has been on a particularly fruitful run: It released the year's best Celtic album, Cathal McConnell's Long Expectant Comes at Last, a monumental and highly personal work by the founder of the great Scottish band Boys of Lough, as well as a particularly artful album by the English duo of guitarist Ian Carr and accordionist Karen Tweed. The label also has issued a fine jazz guitar album, For Joe, a sweet-toned tribute to the late Joe Pass by Astral Project member Steve Masakowski, and a new funk-rock collection by Hamish Stuart, a former member of the Average White Band.

Other notable releases include Brown's first full-fledged bluegrass album, the inventive and sunny Fair Weather, as well as the latest works by singer-songwriter Judith Edelman and the roots-rock band Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love.

Besides the Fairport Convention album, the label has several other promising forthcoming releases: the second album of high-flying acoustic jams by the Anger/Marshall Band, featuring multi-instrumentalists Darrol Anger and Mike Marshall, and the debut American solo release by young Celtic flute and whistle expert Michael McGoldrick, who has earned a reputation for his work with with Kate Rusby and the Scottish bands Capercaillie and Lunasa.

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