Unbeknownst to most local college students and non-oldie-lovers, a Scottish folk legend, Archie Fisher, will be making an appearance in Somerville tonight (Oct. 7) at the nearby Burren. While the youth of this generation have probably never heard Fisher’s name, it turns out that he’s actually a pretty big deal across the pond. An important figure in folk music for over 50 years, Fisher’s music not only has impressive longevity, but it also has earned him a spot in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame as well as an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), an honor bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II herself. He is also well known in his home country as the former host of BBC Radio Scotland’s “Traveling Folk” show.
Fisher entered the Scottish music scene in 1968 with an eponymous debut and is currently touring the United States in support of his new album “A Silent Song,” released Sept. 18. His first solo album in seven years, “A Silent Song” is stark and expressive, featuring only a warm acoustic guitar and Fisher’s deep voice on most of the tracks.
The vibe of the album sets it far apart from most other contemporary music. Even though folk bands and songwriters are still abundant in the music scene, their work is not without modern embellishment; percussive elements and string arrangements often fill any open space. Fisher’s music, on the other hand, has a far more traditional feel. The studio effects and complex instrumental layering to which new music listeners are unconsciously accustomed have no place on this release. As a result, the songs may seem rather empty and slow. This is not as much an insult to Fisher — whose guitar playing is beautiful enough to bring a particularly sentimental listener to tears — as it is a testament to the variety of music available today.
It would take a patient music fan to sit and listen to the entirety of “A Silent Song.” However, the experience is truly rewarding and, along the way, one realizes how powerful Fisher’s music is without flashy production enhancements. There’s a historical weight to these tunes, a palpable nostalgia that sends listeners on a trip through the Scottish moor.
The traditional tilt of “Lord of the May” travels far beyond the ’60s and almost makes Fisher sound like a Renaissance troubadour. His Scottish accent, especially pronounced in this song, increases this effect tenfold. Fisher’s guitar playing is steady and unwavering as he keeps up a consistent picking pattern. At the end of the song, the pattern veers off-rhythm, adding an ornamental coda to the piece.
“No Way to Treat a Friend” stands out as a particularly catchy number. With deft and pretty arpeggios carried out with remarkable ease, the song softly scolds characters that mistreat friends, as well as the mistreated friends themselves. It’s a simple song, but that doesn’t take away from its chipper aura. On this song, and the album in general, the distinctive fullness of Fisher’s guitar shines. Since there are no other instruments to block out string noise or slip-ups, the listener can hear every nuance the instrument produces. Still, due to Fisher’s incredible talent, the track is flawless.
Album closer “The Parting Glass,” a folky and blissful tune featuring subtle chord changes overlaid with Fisher’s resonant vocals, is another highlight. The addition of a flute is a beautiful touch that complements the guitar and voice quite poignantly.
Fisher will be performing at The Burren’s Backroom on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m.