The Bill Fay story is astonishing. That he is here again making music, and such precious music to boot, is a gift to anyone willing to listen. He was a victim of the cruel axe of the music machine back in the early seventies, and it swallowed him and his ample talents, the man vanishing from sight. His first two albums were lovely affairs, and looking back now you see they showed a man filled with great promise. As he remained in the shadows through the 1990s and 2000s his cult status was growing as the likes of Jeff Tweedy championed his cause, which led to a reissue of those early albums and in turn paved way for a rebirth, for which the man himself was (and remains) shocked to his core. He had been writing songs all that time, it seemed.
Only now, all these years later, after a 41 year gap between the second and third albums, do we truly see what this man is made of. There is no bitterness at what has gone before; there is a peace, a wisdom, a light burning brightly that wants to share love for music, for life, for absolutely everything. His voice is gentle, tender, effortlessly sweet. Every note is loaded with pure thought, dream, grace. At his best he is making sublime and perfect folk music here. He should be a ‘go-to’ artist for younger artists to listen to to see how to gracefully present oneself, as both an artist and a character, how to age like a fine wine.
Who Is The Sender? is another stunning collection of songs, be they ones that sat in draws for years or came from his more recent burst of song-writing. His heart is on his sleeve, his wisdom dripping from his words, his piano seemingly sobbing as it watches the world and its beauty (‘World of Life’) and tragedy (‘War Machine’). It’s not just an attractive set, it’s impossible not to feel the warmth, fall utterly in love with the tracks and their sentiments and somehow feel grateful at what is surely one of the most unlikely and best comebacks in the history of Popular Music. Does the ‘sender’ refer to the force responsible for putting us all here, or the person sending joy and pain to another, or something else?
Bill Fay has certainly returned to make us think. The lyrical content is precise, covering life and love and nature. These are seriously thought provoking, evocative and nostalgic words, penned by a man who knows what it feels like to be known, to be unknown, to see the ups and downs of life. This is an album to make us rejoice, on which every note matters, and as a result it’s a complete gift to behold. Thanks, Bill. We can only hope you never go away again.