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NEW ALBUM: Bill Fay - Countless Branches
#1
BILL FAY ~ Countless Branches

[Image: R-14655343-1579012733-2106.jpeg.jpg]
 
What an odd and strangely moving album. And what a poignant story.

The songs are small, fragile, naïve almost – and compellingly human. It was really easy to absorb his lyrics, which are more prose-like than hook laden, philosophical paeans to a life enjoyed in all its minutiae. Bill Fay – anyone heard of him? I hadn’t. A singer songwriter from the UK, he released his eponymously titled debut album in 1970 and his second in 1971 before being dropped by the Deram label and disappearing off the radar altogether. He’d barely made a blip to begin with but somehow, one Californian Vietnam vet, Jamie Henry, father of Joshua, ended up with Fay's second offering Time of the Last Persecution. The album was never released in the USA and Henry Snr didn’t even collect records to begin with (although Joshua is a songwriter and producer) so quite how Snr laid hands upon it in the first place, is something of a mystery.

The album had been a curiosity to Joshua all his life and then when he was caring for his terminally ill father they listened to it countless times and it fueled their conversation. They spoke of the dream of finding Bill Fay and getting him to record another one, and that is exactly what happened. After Jamie Henry’s death some years ago, Joshua Henry sought Bill Fay out, planning to persuade him to record again and it turned out that he’d quietly been writing and laying down songs on eight track all the while – working on them pretty much every day for four decades while getting on with life. Nobody is more surprised than Fay to find he has a cult following – one cannot help but draw comparisons with the tale of Rodriguez - Fay thought he had been ‘deleted’ as he puts it. 

He is 77 now and his voice reflects his age. It’s careworn and cracked and he sings of everyday pleasures, little observations of life and social commentary – he seems to be quite good at getting to the heart of the matter – the things that are the most important, like stopping for five minutes to feel the earth under your heels – that is what is real, not all the other distractions that fill up our busy days. It seems his first two albums were fairly apocalyptic in content (with a Christian element), which is no surprise; he was deeply disturbed by Vietnam and remains sceptical of the various systems that inform the way we live.

It doesn’t come as a shock to find that his followers include Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Nick Cave. Jeff Tweedy and various other artists have covered some of his songs too and he has influenced some current younger musicians (War on Drugs) but isn’t planning to tour any time soon! Countless Branches is an intriguing listen – it’s quiet, slow, contemplative, and by turns frail and stirring. Fay plays piano and there is occasional orchestration including some beautiful strings. I found it an endearing and fairly emotional listen so I have started listening to the first of his albums produced by Joshua, Life is People, which was made eight years back now – amazing how markedly stronger his voice was - some good stuff so far.

Love the cover artwork on Countless Branches – the whole package is definitely some way off the beaten track as far as contemporary new releases go! I kinda liked the earthy, unpretentious, no frills realness … my picks …
 
“In Human Hands” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdwSED2Cvps

“Your Little Face” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XANwwOuqbkQ

“One Life” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jbi7EPIvSU

“Filled With Wonder Once Again” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PxfcGYd12I

“Time’s Going Somewhere” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znfD0xJw2Gw

“Love Will Remain” – super simple but somehow very evocative ... 



"The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us." ~ Bill Watterson
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#2
so intrigued was I with your write up (as I always am/do) that I had to listen to the album.

as I was listening I read his Wiki and couldn't help but notice a almost indentical parallel career to that of Sixto Rodriguez
in the way he recorded two albums, they failed to ignite the charts, he was then dumped by his label,disappeared into
obscurity and was only remembered by a few "hardcore cult fans" (for want of a better turn of phrase).

fast forward several decades...
he's been writing songs all this time waiting for his time to hopefully stand in the sunshine and BOOM!, four albums later and in his 70's
he releases this.

as I was listening I was actually thinking Nick Cave.
and while the lyrics aren't as in depth or literary as Cave, instead, they are simple and poetic.
yet both styles convey emotive, poignant, sombre feelings.


he album plods along at a pace that a snail could beat and to make comparisons to another album
I have to once again go back to Nick Cave with his 2019 album Ghosteen.
whilst not as ethereal, angelic or polished like Cave's album it conveys what it has to in its solemn, earthy, rootsy style.

all up, very nice album
Reply
#3
^Exactly. Thanks for the feedback. Sorry I don't to get to listen to enough of yours - always read them though.
"The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us." ~ Bill Watterson
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#4
ok, you guys sucked me in
driven by another slow chart week

this is a very good album
and failing to come up with a sounds like is always good for me
love the voice, love the strings, love the songs
I was going to skip the bonus tracks
then I saw the title Don't Let My Marigolds Die
being a fan of marigolds I had to listen

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