Life is PeopleDead Oceans ****
CD CHOICE:There are few out there who will recognise Bill Fay’s name, and that’s understandable. A brace of albums released more than 40 years ago and more recent namechecks and hat-tips from the likes of Jeff Tweedy and Jim O’Rourke are probably not enough to elevate the London musician beyond cult curio.
Fay’s first two albums, Bill Fay (1970) and Time of the Last Persecution (1971), are full of sweet, soft, swirling English folk psychedelia. Neither were particularly successful, and Fay kept busy writing and playing music for his own enjoyment between various day jobs. They were reissued in the late 1990s and caused a brief flurry of interest in Fay. But he followed them up with no new material, and interest quickly waned.
The arrival of Dead Oceans label boss Joshua Henry, a band of talented musicians (including Tweedy, who has regularly covered Fay’s 1970 Be Not So Fearful) and time
in a north London studio persuaded Fay to put new music on tape. Life Is People demonstrates that the art of making great records is a knack some never lose.
Life Is People doesn’t rely on Fay’s back-story for validation. Here are songs of quiet wonder, pastoral beauty and emotional, dream-like reflection, the work of a man who has observed the world and the watched the seasons go by, and has found plenty to write about from his particular vantage point.
Classically formed and arranged, This World, There Is a Valley and Be at Peace With Yourself are magnetic thanks to Fay’s distinctive, tender voice and the deployment of sublime melodies. A bright, heartfelt version of Wilco’s Jesus Etc shows what Fay can do with the music of others, but it’s his own visions that should really be heard and saluted after all this time.
To paraphrase the closing song, Life Is People is a cosmic concerto to stir the soul.
Download tracks:This World, There Is a Valley, Be at Peace With Yourself, Cosmic Concerto