Dave SwarbrickDave Swarbrick
Album: Passing The Baton
Label: Folkstock
Tracks: 4

I was in two minds as to whether I should have called this a Dave Swarbrick review or various artists, as the title is subtitled, 'Dave Swarbrick guests on tracks by The Blue Pig Orchestra, Said The Maiden, John Farndon and Kelly Oliver' I thought it was most practical to go with the former.

Dave Swarbrick is patron of the Folkstock Arts Foundation and this release comes about through an initiative of theirs, where artists were invited to submit tracks and a lucky few would have Dave Swarbrick make a fiddle contribution to them, passing the baton from his generation to the next. By coincidence, Dave Swarbrick also happens to be a Fatea Lifetime Achievement Award holder and three of the four artists that he's contributed to have appeared on the Fatea Showcase Sessions, so I was always going to be really interested in this release and I guess I should sort of declare an interest.

The things I really love about "Passing The Baton" is how diverse the songs are. There's none that you wouldn't call folk, but they are all so different and therefore Swarbs contribution is also very different, highlighting what a sympathetic musician he is and why he's considered one of the musicians of his generation.

First up is Blue Pig Orchestra's "Gallows Hill", A tale about witchcraft, greed and hanging, it's more up-tempo than you might imagine with the subject matter. Here the fiddle supports the narrative by delivering a sense of urgency as the song drives towards dramatic climax.

Whilst, Kelly Oliver's "Grandpa Was A Stoker" is a much more personal song, one that's easy to relate to as you imagine similar sentiment that may have come from a similar relative, though maybe not so well expressed. Here the fiddle really show it's most delicate side, adding touches and flourishes to bring a depth to a passage and to help direct the mood.

John Farndon's "Peace In My Heart" which is the most political song on the EP and emphasises folk as a platform for campaigning for social justice and fairness. It's a track that really shows how empathetic the fiddle is, giving weight to the heartstrings being tugged at, fuelling the passion behind the lyrics.

Last but by no means least is Said The Maiden's "Shady Grove" here the fiddle not only provides the introduction to the core of the song, but helps to bridge the verse chorus nature of the piece and the tight vocal harmonies that give it a real trademark sound as well as providing an instrumental passage that delivers a wonderful counterpoint to the voices.

"Passing The Baton" is a great success, everyone involved ends up a winner. The fiddle gets to showcase its flexibility as an instrument, Swarbs shows why he has so many years of playing behind him and four diverse artists get an opportunity to have their songs embellished by one of folk's great musicians. Can't do anything other than recommend this and recommend it strongly.

Do check out the Folkstock Arts Foundation to discover more about this release and the organisations other activities. All of the artists featured on the EP will also be appearing with Dave Swarbrick on at least one date of his tour, more details on site.

Neil King

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