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Album Review

After far too long between solo outings, England's leading man of folk returns with a surprisingly relaxed, refreshed set, Signs of Life. While there's plenty of traditional material, like the epic revisiting of "Prince Heathen," which Martin Carthy first recorded with musical partner Dave Swarbrick back in the '60s, and a wonderful take on "Sir Patrick Spens," the emphasis is far more on the modern, be it Hoagy Carmichael's "Hong Kong Blues," a tune he recalled from childhood, or Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel," beautifully rendered as country blues, or most unusual of all, a very moving version of the Bee Gees' "New York Mine Disaster, 1941" which makes the listener realize that at heart it's a folk song. His guitar technique, never flashy, is sparer than ever, but never less than effective and gripping, while his voice has mellowed beautifully into something that not only befits a folk veteran but also carries wisdom. The highlight of the disc, however, has to be "Prince Heathen," a song he's grappled with for 30 years and has finally completely made his own. Even as he reduces it to something simple, it grows more complex in his hands, showing itself as one of the great ballads. While it might have taken him a while to make this record, the contents are more than worth the wait.

Biography

Born: 05 April 1947 in New Malden, Surrey, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Dave Swarbrick is one of England's most influential fiddlers. As a member of Fairport Convention, between 1970 and 1979, Swarbrick was instrumental in the band's transformation from Byrds-style folk-rock band to its focus on updating the jigs and reels on Great Britain. Although he's continued to perform at the Fairport Annual Reunion Festival in Cropedy, Swarbrick has successfully explored a variety of outside projects as a soloist, a duo partner...
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Signs of Life, Dave Swarbrick
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