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DAVE SWARBRICK "Swarb" Free Reed Music FRQCD45

I'm sure I heard the postman muttering as he left me holding the latest project from those ever so nice chaps at Free Reed Records. And who can blame him I suppose (?) for this weighty four-disk set of goodies is an astonishing feat by any stretch of the imagination. I'm sure that the protagonists Neil Wayne and Nigel Schofield are well used to receiving the accolades they so rightly deserve (the OBE can't be too far away) and the 'folk' world can once again rest easy in their beds in the knowledge that justice has been served. I'm talking about the kind of justice that only comes to light after serving forty-five years on the circuit and being proved guilty of giving the public what they want and to coin a phrase ".what they really, really want".

OK, so let's look at the evidence: packaged (from an idea by Swarb himself) in such a way that it resembles his fiddle case you open this Pandora's Box of delights to reveal not one but two books. The astonishing detail that has gone into each is, you can tell, a labour of love. The first is the "Story of Swarb" a 136-page biography, that, although, as the credits state is "not definitive" (but they take a damn good stab at it anyway) complete with archive pictures of our hero is a unique insight into a unique character. The second is a selection of Swarb's most well established tunes notated by Maartin Allcock. In themselves, these books would be nearly worth the asking price but no, the crowning glory of this celebration is the content of the little silver disks. From a choice of over 2,500 recordings the final 73 tracks that eventually made it provide the listener with an overview of one of the folk circuit's most endearing (and enduring) characters. His cheeky-chappie approach, although not politically or musically correct has spawned many copyists but whenever you hear the man himself you can't help but wallow in the nostalgia of it all. I couldn't even begin to relate a fraction of the tunes and songs that are included but let's just say that a majority of my personal favourites are here (although there's no "To Althea From Prison") along with many I'd long forgotten about. Icon isn't a word I bandy about too often but in Dave's case I'm happy to make an exception and much to the Nation's mailmen's chagrin I'm sure they'll be delivering many more of this wonderful collection. Come to think of it I don't know about the Postman's Knock but.'The Mailman's Mutterings' - now there's a tune just waiting to be written by Swarb!

Pete Fyfe

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.