Susquehanna Folk Music Society rescheduled this show for Super Bowl afternoon, a day after it was originally planned… this following the Friday blizzard. While the venue, Fort Hunter Barn, was not packed, I was happy to see a pretty decent house for this soft-spoken Scottish legend.
I’d last seen Archie perform in about 1986, in Philadelphia. His gentle, poetic lyrics and melodic guitar accompaniment have long been favorites with me; he does what he does extremely well and doesn’t change his style to fit the flavor of the week. To my eyes, he’s one of the very few singer songwriters that earn the description “poet” as well.
The afternoon was filled with a nice mix of old and new: at least one as-yet-unrecorded song, a sprinkling of traditional material, covers and originals, all featuring just Archie and his Fylde guitar, in a variety of tunings, including plenty in dadgad. (I believe Jim Malcolm has credited ARchie with being the source and inspiration for him to use dadgag tuning.)
I’ll kIt was wonderful to see that a full 20 years since I’d last heard him live, Archie has lost none of the magic. His between song banter was as funny and charming as ever, and the songs were impeccably rendered in his flowing fingerpicking style.
Much of the material was from his latest CD, Windward Away, which includes some tracks from a lost 70’s album that was never released.
Highlights for me were the beautiful ballad Coshieville - a Stewart MacGregor song first done back on Fisher’s Man with a Rhyme album - and the last song of the second set, the oft-covered The Final Trawl. It would be neck-and-neck to me as to whether I prefer Gordon Bok’s cover of this or Archie’s take on his own song, but there seems to be a bit of, perhaps, the Scottish romanticism in Fisher’s reading of his own material, while Bok’s may be more of the mater-of-fact Maine acceptance of the retirement of a fishing trawler. A beautiful encore of All that you ask me closed the show, with the audience singing along.
At 70 years of age, Fisher still performs beautifully; his voice has lost little through the years and his guitar is as melodic as ever; he’s also hilarious in his between song banter and song introductions. He doesn’t perform as often as he used to in the States - the Bush years were plaqued with visa problems for him and he stuck mostly to Canada when he toured - but there are a few more dates on this tour within a 4 hour drive of State College, including Baltimore and Philly. While those venues will likely not have the intimacy of this show at Fort Hunter barn, they will no doubt be well worth the drive.
Kudos to Jess Hayden and SFMS for this show!