Big Dave’s ‘The Man!’ Everyone knows that – especially if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.
Considered in many places as an ‘alternative blues’ man, DAVE ARCARI is also very much a custodian of the traditional Delta Blues sound and this, his fourth solo album highlights both as well as reflecting his proud Scottish roots.
In essence, ‘Nobody’s Fool’ could be considered a bit of a ‘Best Of’ compilation with a few new ‘bonus’ tracks thrown in. Or it could be termed a ‘new’ album with a few ‘Best of’ tracks pegged on as ‘bonus’ tracks. What I mean is that of the thirteen songs on the album, six are ‘new,’ five appear also on the ‘Devil’s Left Hand’ album and two are taken from ‘Got Me Electric.’
That said, those tracks that are repeated, have been re-recorded at the Sonic Pump Studio in Helsinki, with added backing from Juuso Haapasalo on upright bass and Honey Aaltonen on snare drum and brushes. Like, for example, title track ‘Nobody’s Fool.’ This new version has been filled out with the added instruments. The sound is still pretty minimalist, but the song now has a light ‘chugging’ sound to it and perfectly illustrates that ‘track’ (like in ‘railway track’ as I interpret it) down which Dave kicks that money-man’s ass!
Likewise ‘Walkin’ Blues’ and a favourite of mine, ‘Blue Train,’ both of which now have a more rounded sound. Indeed, ‘McPherson’s Lament’ the Robert Burns poem that Dave was asked to set to music for a BBC documentary, has the added pained atmosphere of Jamie Wilson’s fiddle, that neatly combines the Blues with traditional Scottish folk music.
And while on the rather touchy subject of ‘Folk’ music, one of the ‘new’ tracks to appear on this album, is Dave’s interpretation of the traditional Scottish song ‘Loch Lomond.’ This song can be excused of Dave if only because he lives in that particular beautiful area of the country. However, conditioned as I (and six million other Scots) am to the Runrig version that is trailed out at the end of every birthday / wedding celebration, I have to say this rendition doesn’t quite cut it – for me at least. I keep waiting for it to erupt and of course, it doesn’t. Dave’s rasping vocal delivery does give it a bit of an edge, but it’s just too ‘folky’ and not enough ‘bluesy’ for my liking.
That apart, the other ‘new’ songs work really well. The traditional ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ has Dave on banjo for a change as he succeeds in making such a grave subject (intended!) quite enthralling. ‘Baby Let Me Follow You Down,’ another ‘traditional’ song sees the acoustic guitar given an airing.
But it’s for his dexterity with the National steel-bodied resonator guitars that Dave Arcari has built his reputation, and his take on the Chris Scott written ‘Hot Muscle Jazz,’ has him back where he is at his most compelling with his growled laugh and shouts of ‘C’me On!’ adding to the frenetic playing. ‘Duncan & Brady’ was made famous I guess by Leadbelly and tells of the murder of a policeman by the bartender, Duncan.
Possibly the album highlight is one of Dave’s own songs – ‘Troubled Mind’ – not to be confused with ‘Trouble In Mind,’ from the ‘Devil’s Left Hand’ album. This version features his old bandmates from Radiotones and results in a pretty heavy, dark and harmonica-infused blues drenched number.
And while considering some of the ‘guests,’ mention needs be made of Paul Savage’s (The Delgados) assistance on this updated version of the manic ‘Dragonfly’ that ends the album.
I know not of the reasons as to why the decision was taken to release an album of which more than fifty percent is updated ‘old’ material. Perhaps the aim is to make the music more ‘accessible’ to those who shy away from the ‘alt blues’ tag? Perhaps, because it’s being issued on a French label, it is to introduce Dave to a new and wider potential fan-base?
Whatever – ‘Nobody’s Fool’ is going to please a lot of people, whether they be new to Dave’s music, or ‘completists’ who like me who just simply love this shit!
(Released through Dixiefrog Records and available now – March 2012)