Folk On 2: Dave Swarbrick

Dave Swarbrick and Fairport Convention

(Cooking Vinyl MASH CD 001)
Cooking Vinyl Records
P.O. Box 311
Port Washington, NY 11050

A review for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Mark O'Donnell

Genre: Folk Time: 44'42"

Much has been written about the founders of folk-rock--those being The Byrds in America and Fairport Convention in Britain. Both started their careers by covering modern folk artists (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell) and proceeded to extend and refine the folk genre bringing in a beat to move the music along. Both also eventually fell back on older forms as they explored the edges of folk-rock: The Byrds to country and Fairport to the jigs/reels/strathspeys of the auld sod. No one was more important in that development and in the development and survival of Fairport than fiddler Dave Swarbrick. Swarb, a latecomer to Fairport, kept the band going when all of the original members had moved on and all else seemed lost. For that, he is owed many thanks for the fine music that Fairport produced in that extraordinary phase of the band's history. History is the topic of a recent release from Cooking Vinyl in what will be the first of an ongoing series of releases that mine the archives of the BBC's Radio 2 where seminal bands and players have been appearing for over 25 years. In this case, the history reviewed is that of Dave Swarbrick on the occasion of his 50th birthday.

This 1991 recording, simply known as Dave Swarbrick Folk On 2, reunites Swarb with many of his sundry and famous cohorts over what has been a quite extraordinary 40+ year career. Starting with pianist Beryl Marriot and her Ceilidh Band, Swarb plays once again with the woman who first encouraged him to seriously take up the fiddle in the 50's. Swarb and Ms. Marriot work up several lengthy medleys ("Drowsy Maggie/The Heilanman", "The 72nd's Farewell to Aberdeen/The 93rd's Farewell to Gibralter/The Atholl Highlanders") that will have you thinking of a Saturday night get together in a rural English town hall. Yes, a guaranteed toetapper.

Swarb was a young upstart fiddler when he joined the folk revival under the tutelage of Ian Campbell who then had quite a name in the country. Dave joins Ian and Lorna Campbell on a couple of vintage folk chestnuts, including "Viva La Quince Brigade" (a very moving Spanish Civil War song). Perhaps somewhat constrained in this setting, it wasn't long before Dave moved on and started a 30 year on and off partnership with folk guitar genius, Martin Carthy. On Folk On 2, they reprise a couple of the duo's standards in "Oh Dear Oh" and "The Begging Song" with Martin on vocals. Swarb, as ever, is in wonderfully fine form accompanying Carthy.

Needless to say, the triumph of the evening is Dave's reunion with the current Fairport lineup (Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, Martin Allcock, original member Simon Nicol and Swarb's successor, Rick Sanders). The songs presented are true Fairport classics, and finally, allow Swarb a chance to stretch the old vocal cords on the ever beautiful "Rosie". This is a good reminder as to what a fine composer Swarb has always been. The highlights, as might be expected, are the reels "Hens March/ Four Poster Bed" and "Dirty Linen". Fairport is in fine form here and these tunes rock, or should I say folk-rock? Thrown into the mix is the rollicking "Hexhamshire Lass" with Swarb on vocals. This is just plain fun!

Swarb has been missing from the recording scene for some time now, owing in part to the hearing problems which have caused him much pain and difficulty over the last decade. One can only hope that we will hear more from Dave--perhaps a second volume of this excellent, but all too brief recording. The fact that BBC2 and Cooking Vinyl have teamed to release the treasure trove that is in the BBC vaults gives one much hope for the future. Regardless, this 50th Birthday Concert is a most auspicious beginning and well worth your pursuit at the local disc emporium. Highly recommended.

[Edited by: Paula Gregorowicz]

Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
It may be reproduced with prior permission and attribution.

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