Record Review: Bill Fay “Who Is The Sender?”


Veteran U.K. folkie Bill Fay practices what he preaches

Bill Fay’s second album since his comeback enlarges on themes, lyrical and musical, that have been part of his work since his ill-fated debut: the dance of life and death, the approaching apocalypse, aging, the place of religion in modern life and the possibility of salvation.

Fay is in his late 60s, but his voice is still supple and expressive, with an understated vocal style that draws you deeper into these consecrated meditations. “War Machine” is an anti-war song with a churchy organ and a subtle string section supporting Fay’s hushed vocal. The verses contrast the subtle joy of birth and the casual violence of war with a quiet intensity that adds power to its thoughtful message. Fay’s stately piano and Mikey Rowe’s sanctified organ celebrate the mysterious power of music to soothe the soul on “How Little.”

“Bring It On Lord” is a fervent prayer for peace. Fay’s quiet vocal is supported by Rowe’s stirring gospel-drenched Hammond B3 and J. Spaceman’s lush harmonies. Fay’s whispered vocal on “A Frail And Broken One” is poignant enough to bring you to tears, with Matt Deighton’s chiming guitar and Rowe’s Hammond increasing the solemn ambience of a hymn that could be a benediction for the soul of the crucified Christ, or any victim of senseless cruelty.

The songs all deal with weighty subjects, but the music, a pleasing hybrid of blues, rock, classical and gospel impulses—not to mention Fay’s sparse lyrics, delivered in his gentle, reassuring baritone—shines the comforting light of faith onto every tune.

—j. poet