REVIEW WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Imagine a Scottish version of John McCutcheon. That’s the sound of Archie Fisher.
However, Fisher’s been recording since 1962; so that should probably read “John McCutcheon’s expressive baritone sounds like an American Archie Fisher.”
Something of a national treasure in Scotland (He hosts BBC Radio Scotland’s “Traveling Folk” show, and indie band Frightened Rabbit featured him on their 2011 song “The Work”), Fisher has even been honored by Queen Elizabeth as a Member of the British Empire — something he has in common with The Beatles (minus John Lennon, who mailed his MBE medal back to Buckingham Palace in protest in 1969).
Fisher’s first album in seven years, “A Silent Song,” is a curious mix of traditional United Kingdom-rooted folk chestnuts — note the distinct Scottish dialect of “Lord of the May,” “Bonnie Annie Laurie” and “Lass from the Low Country” — original compositions and deft guitar playing (I’d be shocked if Fisher doesn’t already have a terrific instrumental album or two in his catalog).
“Waltz into Winter” sentimentally evokes autumn, and will sound great on stage at Sellersville Theater during an Oct. 10 show with Garnet Rogers. The tricky part about seasonal songs, however, is you’re only inclined to want to hear them at certain times. No way are you listening to this song, for example, in April after the deep freeze of winter.
Winter’s ice and snow are referenced in the Kirsty McGee-penned “No Way to Treat a Friend,” but they’re used as a set piece in that song while describing friends that will stick by you no matter what.
In “Song for a Friend,” Fisher recalls a completely different season. On it, he sings:
“When years roll away,
fond memories shine.
A warm summer’s day,
a cool glass of wine.”
One of the tunes on “A Silent Song” that stays with you is “The Gifts,” because it’s the intersection of Fisher’s role as a folk historian/preservationist, and as a contemporary singer/songwriter. The song achingly reflects on the toll of a rite of passage gone wrong. Its emotionality is in the now, yet is clearly set in another century.
“Half the World Away” is relatable for anyone separated from a loved one by a great distance, figuratively or literally:
“Your day is still my night.
Although the hour may be the same/my darkness is your light.
This moment of my life, is now your yesterday.”
The apropos closer, “The Parting Glass,” goes back to Fisher’s days playing with Irish folk legends Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy in the ‘70s. He adds a middle verse that wasn’t in the original, but it fits so well that you can’t tell.