Just before the Folk It! summer programming, English fiddler Dave Swarbrick died on 3 June. In this broadcast we give, even if it’s a few months later, a musical overview as an hommage to one of the greatest folk violinists of all time.
Swarbick, or Swarb to his friends and fans, started his career in a skiffle group, which was a popular music genre in his youth. Beryl Marriott, the local Ceilidh bandleader -a folk dance accompaniment group- convinced him to join her formation. That’s how he caught the eye of then leading folk singer Ian Campbell. With his band, Swarbick recorded some records. English folk icon to-be Martin Carthy asked Swarbrick to contribute to his solo album, which led to a long friendship and many albums. Producer Joe Boyd then invited Swarb to play two songs on the album Unhalfbricking of Fairport Convention. Swarb immediatly became a permanent member of the formation, which just started to transition from an alternivate little pop band to a representative folk rock groep.
With Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Ahsley Hutchings, Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks the legendary Liege en Lief was recorded. This created some friction within the formation, but ultimately, Swarbrick would become the face and sound-dictating musician of this group. At least until hearing problems withheld him from excel on stage in electronics. Fairport was disbanded, only to later rise like a phoenix without the fiddler, who would throw himself into numerous collaborations with duo partners like old Fairport colleague Simon Nicol and fellow citizen Kevin Dempsey. He also recorded solo albums and other albums, like the trio record with bass and harp player Danny Thompson and Savourne Stevenson.
The Dempsey duo grew into the second important formation with Swarbrick in it: the all acoustic quartet Whippersnapper. After several years he again picked up his work with Martin Carthy, but in 1994 migrated to Australia due to health problems. The chain-smoking violinist had completely smoked up his lungs. Down under, the duo Alistair Hulett & Dave Swarbrick saw the light. However, Swarbrick returned to England to undergo a lung transplantation. In spite of his health, Swarb continued to make music from his wheelchair with to oxygen tanks attached to the back. He started his second life after a successful operation. He again worked with Carthy and Demsey. Complemented by ex-Fairport member and Jethro Tull musician Maartin Allcock, he formed Swarbs Lazarus, a cryptic illustration of his new wind. He toured the Netherlands at the start of the century with this trio and, unknowingly, gave his last performance on Dutch soil at the Arsenaaltheater in Vlissingen. Swarbrick could be found less and less on stage and stopped touring, but still recorded some records. On 3 June 2016, he passed away.
01. Fiddlestix. (W. Ross / trad. arr. Fairport Convention). 3.03.
Ewan MacColl. (with Dave Swarbrick).
02. The Bark Gay Head. (trad, MacColl). 2.37.
Ian Campbell Folk Group
03. Rocky Road to Dublin-Drops of Brandy. (trad.) 1.25.
Dave Swarbrick & Beryl Marriott.
04. The Heilanman-Drowsy Maggie. (trad.) 2.44.
Dave Swarbrick & Martin Carthy.
05. Byker Hill. (trad.) 5.25.
06. Brilliancy Medley-Cherokee Shuffle. (trad.) 3.22.
07. Rosie. (Swarbrick). 3.13.
08. Rising for the Moon. (Denny). 4.06.
Dave Swarbrick & Simon Nicol.
09. Sheebeg and Sheemore. (trad.). 5.46.
Dave Swarbrick & Kevin Dempsey.
10. I Know My Love. [Live]. (trad.). 4.19.
11. Hen’s March. (trad.). 3.18.
12. Foolish. [Live]. (Swarbrick). 5.14.
Peter Bellamy with Dave Swarbrick.
13. Around Cape Horn. (trad.). 2.28.
Dave Swarbrick & Alistair Hulett.
14. Days of 49. [Live]. (Joaquin Miller/trad.) 3.15.
Dave Swarbrick & Savourna Stevenson with Martin Carthy.
15. The Trip We Took Over the Mountain. [Live]. (Stevenson, Swarbrick, Carthy). 3.10.
16. Dirty Linen. (trad.) 3.43.
All tracks are from the collectors’ box ‘Swarb! Forty five years of Folk’s finest fiddler’ – Free Reed Music FRQCD 45.Produced by: