Everyone loves an elusive singer-songwriter, and U.K. musician Bill Fay is a prime example. He started making music in the Sixties as a college student, leading to a brief stint on an imprint of Decca Records, during which he released two albums: a self-titled debut in 1970, followed in 1971 by Time of the Last Persecution, an indictment of the Vietnam War, Jim Crow, and other modern horrors. After that, his label began to reject new music, and Fay stepped away from the music industry. He married, raised a family, and worked normal jobs: a groundskeeper, a fish packer at a supermarket. For decades, he wrote new songs in solitude. Then, about 10 years ago, after his older work was rediscovered by fans like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, he returned.
Fay’s third album since then, Countless Branches, is best enjoyed as a whole, but “Your Little Face” is the immediate stand-out. Over slow, honeyed chords, he forgoes the cosmos for love: “In the furthest reaches of outer space/Slowly, but surely, a globe was made/But the sprawling sky and the rolling sea/Ain’t nothing compared to the eyes that I see on your little face.”
There’s a lot of space in the song. It’s not burdened by excess instrumentation, instead propelled forward by Fay’s aged-wine voice, light percussion, piano, and subtle strings. The song, like the album, is steeped in melancholy, but not the sharp depression of youth — the knowing sadness of years spent living.
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