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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » S » Swarbrick, Dave



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Dave Swarbrick (b05/04/1941)

Swarb, as he is popularly known, is the figurehead of England’s folk violinists. His clearly recognisable playing style, with its exceptional command of varied bowing, and his singular, impish character have allowed him to retain his place as the leading player over four decades despite his many musical and geographical excursions. Even when illness intervened in an otherwise continually busy playing career, his broad fan base remained unswerving in its enthusiasm, ensuring full houses on the diminished number of appearances. He is always assured of tumultuous applause as he comes on stage, to contrast with a rapt silence as he picks up his violin.

Swarb emerged from a pool of growingly accomplished folk musicians in the late 1960s, initially appearing on the leading English folk label Topic. The stepping-stones were skiffle bands, the mighty figure of singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, and a friendship with the guitarist Martin Carthy. The late 1960s saw three joint albums with Martin Carthy which created a new genre and helped lead the way to the folk-rock fusion epitomised by Fairport Convention. In came the world of the electric violin, and it was characteristic of Swarb that he embraced the experiment despite the harshness of the early sound. The album Liege and Lief (1969) and the subsequent years of enthusiastic touring established the Fairport language, and the image was enshrined of Swarb dominating his spot on the stage, with his fiddle and a fag hanging from his mouth in equal prominence.

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