Archie Fisher has enjoyed an unquestioned status as a mainstay of the Scottish folk revival since its early days, but he’s released surprisingly few records in the space of four decades – barely a dozen in total, and that’s including joint ventures with Garnet Rogers or Barbara Dickson. A Silent Song is only his seventh solo album, indeed, and it comes after a seven-year gap since 2008’s Windward Away.
There’s something very special about any Archie Fisher album, and even more so when each successive disc is such a long time in coming. And there’s also something so maddeningly simple, yet deceptively so, about his performance – an enviably warm and laid-back singing style that’s not only been honed over years of performing but also stemming from a consummate ease with presentation (witness his long stint as BBC Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk show presenter). The sheer seemingly effortless nature of Archie’s vocal work is brilliantly matched by his timeless, fluid – and again seemingly effortless – guitar accompaniment. This comprises virtually all of the instrumental support on this lovely (if short) disc, with only occasional extra contributions, these being from Luna Skye (cello on two tracks), Phillip Mazure (guitar on one track) and Joel Sayles and Isaac Alderson (bass and flute respectively, on the finale Parting Glass) – and all subtly and tastefully managed in keeping with Archie’s own elegant performances.
As far as sources are concerned, the disc’s 12 tracks are divided equably: four are Archie’s own compositions, these dealing skilfully, economically and memorably in straightforward, uncomplicated emotions and include the poignantly valedictory You Took The Day and live favourites Song For A Friend and Waltz Into Winter. There’s also Archie’s unique treatments of songs by other writers: Richard Berman’s inspirational The Gifts, Kirsty McGee’s impeccably observed No Way To Treat A Friend and Ian Davison’s tender A River Like You. The latter sports a delightful backing vocal from Linda Richards, as does Archie’s account of the traditional Lass From The Low Country (a distinctively different treatment from the earlier, quite eerie and rather idiosyncratically-sung John Jacob Niles adaptation which seems almost to originate in another world entirely). The menu is completed by Bonnie Annie Laurie and the traditional Mary Ann and Lord Of The May, the last-named having something of an Appalachian ballad feel in Archie’s setting. Whatever the provenance, though, Archie handles the material with trademark sensitivity, meeting the demands of the text with a gentle expressiveness that through its very understatement is even more telling.
Review by: David Kidman