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Archie FisherArchie Fisher
Album: Archie Fisher
Label: Chariot
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk

This vintage collection was recorded by Bill Leader back in 1968, and possesses both a single-mindedness of purpose and an immediacy that went hand-in-hand with the adventuresome late-60s zeitgeist that was creeping into the folk scene post-revival. It was Archie's debut solo record, and a great calling-card that demonstrated his superb way with a song (even at that early stage) as well as his mastery of instruments (guitar, dulcimer, concertina and sitar) and a fresh, innovative approach to instrumental forces.

As Archie himself comments in a hindsightful 1982 liner note (reproduced in full here), his first solo album was very special because it contains all of the elements in folk music that got him involved in the first place. After the first track, Open The Door Softly, where Archie appended his own verses to a Pete Seeger fragment, the remainder of the album is traditional except for a brilliant account of Ewan MacColl's The Terror Time.

Archie faithfully credits his sources in the aforementioned liner note, so we learn that he got Matt Highland from Al O'Donnell, both The Beggar Wench and Bogie's Bonnie Belle from the late Davie Stewart, Farewell She from Cyril Tawney, The Snows (They Melt The Soonest) from Cathy Bainbridge and The Kielder Hunt from Willie Scott. And Reynardine from Bert Lloyd, of course - Archie's unearthly sitar-accompanied account of this ballad is a stroke of genius and an early album standout. Several songs feature additional lightly judged accompaniment from John McKinnon (fiddle, mandolin) and John Doonan (whistle), which so skilfully complements Archie's own singing and playing.

It's easy to hear, in these warm and involving renditions of these songs, how Archie, with his impeccable control of dynamics and narrative flow, was even then one of the foremost song interpreters in this fair land. This reissue has been a long time in coming, and its only shortcoming is its - er, short coming (a miserly 31 minutes' playing time). It's a pity that the archives seem to have yielded no outtakes or bonus material.

David Kidman