Thursday, November 11, 2010

Archie Fisher at the Freight and Salvage

Scots folk music aristocracy in the person of Archie Fisher, M.B.E.,* showed up at the Freight & Salvage last night, wearing a clean shirt and playing an absolutely gorgeous guitar of unknown provenance.

I suppose Archie got the MBE for broadcasting folk music on BBC's Radio Scotland for 27 years and just generally being an impresarial advocate of Scots folk music, and I can recall him from my term at the University of Edinburgh in 1965 where as a callow youth I studied traditional ballads with unremitting enthusiasm for awhile. Archie has apparently retired from combat at the BBC to a rustic lifestyle in the Borders country, where he does something or other with horses.

He is indeed a Master of Gentle insofar as his own singer-songwriting is concerned, and a half-dozen or so of his songs are well-known to almost everyone familiar with modern British folk. His playing consists of pretty much non-stop 1-2-3-4 rapid arpeggiation against a number of open tunings, a pleasantly sophisticated style that he performs very perfectly.

For my taste I would have enjoyed hearing some more traditional Scots stuff, which I love dearly and which Archie is quite good at, but I suppose one worries that U.S. audiences might not be up to it.

Despite numerous visits to the Freight in years past, this was my first visit to the new digs on Addison near Berkeley BART. I thought it looked like a modern movie house, rusticated with a lot of planks taken I suppose from the old place and nailed in perpendicular precision to the walls. The intimicacy and trashy ambiance of 60's folk clubs is unhappily absent here, but the new place is totally if alarmingly rational, and the convenience of its new location inestimable.

* One would think that the anachronistic title of "Member of the Order of the British Empire" might be a matter of some embarrassment to proto-folkies like Archie and Martin Carthy. The selection committee never seems to give it to the best folk guitarists in Britain, but on the other hand, how would they know.