Swarbrick plays Swarbrick
I was surprised to find the other day that folk violinist Dave Swarbrick, who has been very ill with emphysema, had somehow managed to record a new album. The fact that despite being practically bedridden, he has been able to play at all is miraculous enough, but what makes it even better is that English Fiddler: Swarbrick Plays Swarbrick is such a strong album. Being a collection of classic tunes written throughout the man's long career, it's not groundbreaking by Swarb's standards, but it has fine playing from everyone involved and the arrangements are as daring as ever.
Musicians on the record include Swarb's old friend and partner Martin Carthy, old Fairport Convention stalwarts Simon Nicol and Dave Pegg, more recent Fairport Convention stalwarts Martin Alcock, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway, Whippersnapper guitarist Kevin Dempsey and Swarb's old mentor Beryl Mariott. They revisit the tunes they were originally involved in, sounding occasionally under-rehearsed but performing with skill and feeling. Sadly, Swarb doesn't sing on the album because his illness has cost him his singing voice, but the violin work is still a joy to listen to. There's even a return to the electric violin sound from his Fairport days. The other musicians get plenty of space to make themselves heard as well. The best example of this is in the final tune, "Miss Stevenson/Turnabout", where they get to jam for almost 2 minutes in the middle of the song before Swarb cuts in with the electric violin.
English Fiddler is out on the Naxos label, so you may have difficulty finding a store that carries it. Naxos is mostly known for commissioning inexpensive recordings of classical music and reissuing jazz and pop from the period before World War II, but they also have a great selection of folk music from across the world (the bluegrass album Little Grasscals has become a favorite in the studio), and it's all red-book compliant and cheap!
(Note: Oddly, Amazon lists this item both under Popular Music and under Books. This may have something to do with Naxos' distribution arrangements. When listed under books, it's a special-order item, but the music listing says it should ship within 24 hours.)