Nigel Richard is a familiar name in Scottish folk music, as a master instrument maker. That a master maker would know the instruments they make inside out and be a masterful musician shouldn’t be a surprise. Nigel has been involved in numerous musical ventures and collaborations, including the trans-continental India Alba with Ross Ainslie who plays on this album. It was not long after his 70th birthday Nigel revealed himself to be a songwriter, and a writer with something to say. NOT BEFORE TIME, like Nigel Richards own tastes and experiences is rooted in the Folk blues of Bert Jansch and Davy Graham but also is also informed by the musical eclecticism of someone who has travelled and listened long and hard to the world.
The album opens with Nigel’s superb rhythmic picked acoustic guitar. The spirit of Bert Jansch, Michael Chapman and Wiz Jones crackle through his fingers. His worldly voice fits his folk blues material, he has clearly lived a life in the world he observes and describes. Neat blues slide too. ‘Preacher Man’ and ‘Done Wrong’ are a man looking back over his life to deliver lessons hard learned over beautiful fluid guitar. ‘For Your Love’ is a, tenderly played and sung love song. Very English understated strings gently sweeten this ode to love. ‘Mountain’ is a wider musical journey of a song. Nigel’s reflective lyrics, reminding me of Chris Wood, come after a loose mystical intro of bells and atmospherics, it’s part Nepal part English Churchyard. The guitar part with that John Martyn percussive rhythm is beautiful as is Dick Lee’s Brass arrangement and Euan Richard’s jazzy lead. ‘Monkey Flunky / The Pagan’ is a skittish cautionary addiction tale, driven by tabla and Nigel’s Cittern. The pairing of the tabla and Ross Ainslie’s pipes is inspired. ‘Lost And Found’ features a real Bert and John pairing between Nigel’s acoustic and Donald MadDonald’s electric lead. The song, another observational cautionary tale has a real Pentangle feel to it. ‘Trickle Down’ is a warning folk song for our times, delivered like a folk blues Roy Bailey or Robb Johnson. The brass and massed chorus choir make this sound like a music hall singalong but Nigel’s growling message is bleak and he artful. ‘Living On Air’, written for Grenfall is another lyrically uncomfortable listen. Nigel’s furious Cittern and Euan’s roaring electric pack a punch as raw and powerful as the lyrics. ‘Wave Dancer’ is a sensitively played instrumental, Nigel’s string arrangement building perfectly over his dexterous but expressive guitar.
This is a album of dexterous and ear friendly guitar, fine songs and interesting arrangements. Martin Green of LAU says “the best things are worth waiting for”. Nigel himself says; “making musical instruments professionally is not a casual occupation and has been a thief of my time, but I have managed all the same, to keep the actual playing of music to the forefront.” Both of those statements are true and this album is the evidence.
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