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Dave Swarbrick

Born David Cyril Eric Swarbrick, 5 April 1941, New Malden, Surrey, virtuoso violinist (and vocalist) DAVE SWARBRICK has been at the centre of folk music since his days as a member of the IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP between 1961 and 1966. However, it is for his time spent with FAIRPORT CONVENTION during the whole of the 70s, and his musical partnership on albums alongside genius guitarist MARTIN CARTHY, that he’ll be best remembered.
Concentrating on his work with the latter, it all began with an uncredited (due to contractual obligations) appearance on the man’s eponymous set in ‘66. Their self-descriptive RAGS, REELS & AIRS (1967) {*7} was a Joe Boyd production, and a celebratory one which saw the addition of Canadian-born Diz Disley (a jazz guitarist) on no fewer than eighteen internationally-sourced trad tunes, from `Spanish Ladies Medley’ to the combination of `Father Kelly – Skopje – Sligo Maid’.
Prior to Dave joining FAIRPORT CONVENTION, in September ’69, the fiddler was co-credited on three further LPs with CARTHY: `Byker Hill’ (1967), `But Two Came By’ (1968) and `Prince Heathen’ (1969); a selection of major session work at the time included recordings by A.L. LLOYD (`First Person’ and `Leviathan!’), earlier radio recordings of EWAN MacCOLL, PEGGY SEEGER and Charles Parker (`The Big Hewer’, `The Fight Game’ and `The Travelling People’), VASHTI BUNYAN (`Just Another Diamond Day’), JOHN RENBOURN (`The Lady And The Unicorn’), SANDY DENNY (`Sandy’), AL STEWART (`Past, Present And Future’), champion wrestler(!) Brian Maxine (`Ribbon Of Stainless Steel’) and Lorna Campbell (`Adam’s Rib’).
Moonlighting from/with the FAIRPORTs, SWARBRICK released two albums for Transatlantic Records, SWARBRICK (1976) {*7} and SWARBRICK 2 (1977) {*6}, both items boosted by the talents of CARTHY, DAVE PEGG, SIMON NICOL, Bruce Rowland, Kate Graham, SAVOURNA STEVENSON, Roger Marriott, Beryl Marriott and Alan Robertson; two years later, basically with the same musicians (but no CARTHY or STEVENSON), Sonet Records simultaneously delivered LIFT THE LID AND LISTEN (1978) {*7} and THE CEILIDH ALBUM {*6}.
Keeping former FAIRPORT friends in tow (RICHARD THOMPSON, Dave Mattacks, NICOL, PEGG, et al), the rumbustious SMIDDYBURN (1981) {*6}, was well-received, topped off as it was by a SANDY DENNY song/tribute, `It Suits Me Well’; follow-up FLITTIN’ (1983) {*5} was basically part 2, while low-key, cassette-only releases with SIMON NICOL kept Swarby (who’d incidentally lost his hearing in one ear) in overtime hours.
On leaving the Convention in 1983/84, Dave (now based in Northamptonshire) formed progressive acoustic-folk quartet WHIPPERSNAPPER, alongside CHRIS LESLIE and former DANDO SHAFT alumni Martin Jenkins and Kevin Dempsey. A folk supergroup of sorts, the band released four sets with Swarby, `Promises’ (1985), `Tsubo’ (1987), the live `These Foolish Strings’ (1988) and `Fortune’ (1989); the remaining members delivered `Stories’ (1991) without him.
Further CARTHY collaborations on two sets, `Life And Limb’ (1990) and `Skin And Bone’ (1992), and a place in the set-up of BAND OF HOPE (alongside JOHN KIRKPATRICK, Steafan Hannigan and ROY BAILEY on one 1994 set `Rhythm & Reds’), kept up SWARBRICK’s high profile. His first solo albums for some time were released in 1996, LIVE AT JACKSONS LANE {*5} and 50th BIRTHDAY CONCERT {*7}, albeit live recordings from five years previously, the latter of which featured many friends past and present. In 1996/98, SWARBRICK teamed up with ALISTAIR HULETT on the albums, `Saturday Johnny & Jimmy The Rat’ & `The Cold Grey Light Of Dawn’; their `Red Clydeside’ was in the shops in 2002 (for Red Rattler records). Yet another CARTHY-SWARBRICK combination, `Straws In The Wind’, was delivered in 2006, while Swarby’s 2010 album, RAISON D’ETRE {*6}, featured work over the previous eight years and of course all the usual suspects in session. 2014’s WILSON & SWARBRICK set, LION RAMPANT {*6} maintained his full-circle connection to UB40, Jason Wilson being the cousin of Michael Virtue – IAN CAMPBELL (Folk Group) the father of Ali and Robin Campbell. Sadly, Swarby died of emphysema on 3rd June 2016.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Sep2015-Jun2016

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