Its not always a given that artists can resurrect a career and keep the same quiet dignity that marked their revered works. British songwriter Bill Fay released two albums on Deram in the early ‘70s that, while not commercial killers, eventually became sought after works that would become in demand on the secondary market. The demand would eventually also bring him back for a second leg of his career over this past decade. His newer works have matched the depth of his early recordings, but added a shading of age and experience that let them trace the scars of a life lived. It’s astonishing, then, that his third album into this renewed fertile period is one of his best yet. Pulling back to sparser surroundings, Fay lets his words and melodies shoulder the burden. There’s still some orchestration at play, but this is as much a solo folk record as ever, with his scars laid plain for all to bear.
Fay doesn’t shy away from hurt, but he doesn’t dwell. There’s much beauty in the cracks and crevices of Countless Branches. He ruminates on the wonders of nature without making sound like schtick. He finds the humility of family life and lifts it up to something more than routine. Bill’s early records, while worth their reputations were pocked with the self-involvement of youth. His debut was serious to the point of bleak and the follow-up, a true folk breakthrough that would take years to find its crowd, was doused in his preoccupation with faith. Here, those edges soften, as must everything in time, yet there’s a different kind of faith — a faith in love and humility as the harbingers of true meaning. There’s something alluring about reaching Fay’s age and still finding those bright spots against all odds that the current world throws at us. For that, the album is a wellspring of hope and a reminder that no matter how dark the dawn, there’s brightness if you look in the right spots.
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