Monday 29 September 2014

Dave Fidler - I'm Not Here

Dave Fidler's debut album I'm Not Here is one of those albums that might not reach the audience of more celebrated singer-songwriters, but those that are lucky enough to cross its path will recognise it as one of the finest of the genre and timeless in creation and execution.

There's plenty of male singer-songwriters on the scene at the moment and their styles are similar enough for it to be difficult to tell the difference even when they beef their sound up with a band.  It's therefore something of a relief to discover one that stands out from the crowd, sounds different and isn't trying to develop a successful formula to get themselves heard but rather concentrating on writing and recording achingly beautiful songs the way they were created.  That singer-songwriter is Dave Fidler.

His finger style guitar playing is reminiscent of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac and Australian virtuoso Tommy Emanuel and Dave isn't afraid to namecheck his influences or concerned that he has to change this style in order to get a wider audience.  In fact, the instrumental track Tommy is loosely based on Emanuel's Stevie's Blues.  It's a brave move, basing it around one of the best known works of one of the finest exponents of the art of finger style, but Dave pulls it off effortlessly and makes his interpretation very much his own.

It's been recorded direct to reel to reel tape so it captures the intensity of the live performance where Dave's guitar playing comes into its own.  Lead track Taking Over is another example of his mastery of the guitar, making it sound both intricate but expertly simple at the same time.

However, don't think that this album is just an exercise in showing off, it weighs in at under thirty minutes for ten songs so there's no room for elongated guitar solos or any such nonsense. There's also some more traditional singer-songwriter material on the album, but it's done with a little more finesse than you'd usually expect.  Where Does All My Time Go veers into that boy-girl relationship territory much trodden by male solo artists, but does so with a lyrical intelligence that's often missing - "I'm young, I'm stretched, trying to be free, she's in my head like a melody, when will she sing along with me?" whilst The Raise explores that uplifting feeling of being in love "tired eyed and feeling blue, I long to collapse into your gaze."

The lyrical content is incredibly personal in places.  Easy Gone, Easy Come is a song for his son Dylan and written from the viewpoint of a parent with the joy of watching their child come into the world - "my heart was singing out when I found out" - just after the loss of his own father and wondering how things will turn out for him - "will you learn from your mistakes, will you punch above your weight?".

A Song For Nico has had people in tears at some of his recent gigs such is the directness of the lyrics, a vow of love and protection to his daughter after a complicated pregnancy - "they told me you wouldn't make it, they didn't know who you were that day.  Dragged you out into the open, fragile bones and a fragile frame."

Ailsa similarly is an arm round someone's shoulder to help them deal with situations in their life - "your face suddenly aged when you heard the news that day" that manages the clever trick of being simple enough for a listener to know what it's about without it sounding too specific and personal and avoiding being empty or hollow.

I'm Not Here is an absolute triumph, it's a joy of an album to listen to wherever you are. It feels like it's over in a flash which makes you want to start listening to it all over again.  It's not flash, it's not extravagant and it doesn't make any claim to be anything other than what it is - half an hour of ten beautiful pieces of music that will make you relax, smile and if you listen closely to the words, maybe even cry.

Dave Fidler's website can be found here and the album can be pre-ordered on CD and vinyl from there.  He is also on Twitter and Facebook.

He has the following gigs coming up:

2nd - LONDON Putney Half Moon (with John Bramwell)
4th - SELBY Town Hall (with John Bramwell)
19th - MANCHESTER Shut the Far Cupboard, Odder
30th - MANCHESTER Whiskey Jar (album launch with John Bramwell DJ set)
1st - WREXHAM Caitlin Finch Centre (with John Bramwell)
4th - HULL The Adelphi (with John Bramwell)
19th - WORTHING St Peter's Church (with John Bramwell)

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