Windward Away
Red House Records 124

Archie Fisher has performed since 1962, but Windward Away is just his sixth solo album. Like the previous five, it’s a keeper. It resembles Sunsets I’ve Galloped Into (1995) in that it’s poetic, instrumentally sparse, and indulges Fisher’s love of horses. It might even be a tad derivative, but since Sunsets is a certified masterpiece, who cares? Among the eleven new tracks are several destined for long lives. Fisher’s sensitive-soon-to-be-definitive take on “Bonnie Border Lass” would be the album’s centerpiece, were it not for the stunning “Every Man’s Heart.” Inspired by the Annie Proulx novel The Shipping News, the song muses on how women complete men. “Before Eternity” will probably also get a workout by performers seeking to set wistful moods. For a man who turns seventy next year, Fisher’s voice retains its distinctive buttery qualities. Although he complains in the liner notes of his “limited range,” one has to crawl pretty far down the low ends to detect a quaver, and the high range never was his turf.
Windward Away comes with eight bonus tracks from a rediscovered master of an aborted project from the 1970s. Among them are the earliest takes of now-cherished songs such as “Ashfields and Brine,” “Cullins of Home,” and “Joy of My Heart.” The master proves several things; first, 1970s arrangements are largely forgettable. When one compares the excess-posing-as-lushness orchestral backing of “The Final Trawl” with what made it to release, it’s hard not to thank Fisher for waiting. Above all, though, the master confirms that Fisher has lost a step, but not a stride.

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