Bill Fay - Countless Branches (Deluxe Edition) 2xLP
Label: Dead Oceans
The great Bill Fay returns with the third album in the celebrated second phase of his recording career. "21 years ago, Colin Miles of See For Miles records dropped a pebble in a pond," says Fay. It was Miles who, on a gut instinct, reissued Bill Fay's albums for Deram – records made in 1970 and 1971 and deleted shortly afterwards – which Miles had always admired. Rave reviews and endorsements from the likes of Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) led to a huge revival of interest in this vanished artist. Fay, now 76, was not actually a hermit but a quiet, private person who had withdrawn from a music world changed to the point where he felt no longer involved. But he had continued to make music almost every day in the intervening decades.
"Colin said to me, 'You wanna get out there, Bill'," Fay says, chuckling at the memory. "I replied, 'I'm a corner-of-the-room person, Colin'." It was in that corner of the room that Bill sat at his piano, with some rudimentary home recording equipment, and wrote songs. Quite often these pieces would simply be pleasing chord sequences, strung into basic backing tracks. Some of them invited words and topline melodies at the time. Others sat and waited their turn, and it is to those that Bill returned for the striking songs on his new album.
Producer Joshua Henry, a fan of Bill's after hearing the Deram albums in his father's record collection, returns, as do Matt Deighton, Ray Russel and other friends and admirers who played on the much lauded Life Is People (2012) and Who Is The Sender? (2015). The songs are more spare and succinct than before. A prime Fay song is a deceptively simple thing which carries more emotional weight than its concision and brevity might imply. There are ten of these musical haikus on Countless Branches. For decades now, songs like these have been Fay's ambassadors. "I didn't have to get out there," he concludes. "'Be Not So Fearful' went on tour with Wilco, 'I Hear You Calling' went on tour with War On Drugs, Marc Almond covered 'Cosmic Boxer'... They get out there. So I can just stay in the corner of the room."