Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Album review: BILL FAY - Life Is People

Highlights: There Is A Valley, The Healing Day, Be At Peace WithYourself, The Coast No Man Can Tell

Sometimes reviews must start with the inevitable: Life Is People is Bill Fay’s first proper album since Time Of The Last Persecution (which was only Fay’s second) from 1971. 41 years then – not something a singer-songwriter should look back on with pride and contentment. However, let’s drop the question of what was keeping him out of studio for this long and concentrate on the music instead. Which is nothing short of quiet, subtle, understated triumph.

While listening to Life Is People you do get a good feeling why Jeff Tweedy is such a fan. You might draw parallels with Wilco’s quieter moments, but I guess it’s mostly about that heartfelt, fragile vocal delivery.

Even after the first listen to these stately, mostly piano-based songs you will hear just what a masterful songwriter Bill Fay is. Not much will jump at you straight away, but the sheer depth of these stately, timeless melodies is simply irrefutable. It’s mostly ballads (in fact, “This World” might be the only upbeat number on the whole record), and aside from a couple of somewhat bland moments, it’s all slow-burning (further listens do pay off), strings-drenched (though occasional guitar lines are also noteworthy) gorgeousness. The solemn, uplifting anthem “Be At Peace With Yourself” is the standout, but you can’t go wrong with the naked, spiritual beauty of “Thank You Lord” or his clever, mature reading of Tweedy’s “Jesus, etc.”

Life Is People is a mellow classic; certainly an album from someone who has had a lot to keep to himself over these 40 years.


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