When it comes to singer-songwriters, Bill Fay is as cult as they get. On the cusp of the ’70s, the U.K. musician released only a pair of studio albums; both were written off as commercial failures at the time, leading Fay to slide into decades of seclusion and obscurity. But like so many of music’s overlooked geniuses, the albums went on to find their audience years later, as they eventually drew acclaim from modern greats like Jeff Tweedy and Jim O’Rourke and became prized jewels among record collectors with an affinity for artistic-driven folk. So to say Fay’s new album has been a long time coming would be a true understatement.
Following 2010’s Still Some Light, a collection of home and archival recordings, Life is People marks Fay’s first studio album in 41 years, and for fans, this is the masterpiece they’ve been waiting for. Featuring American producer Joshua Henry and several players from 1971’s Time of the Last Persecution, the album is not for the young at heart, as the songs are very much the work of a man who’s lived a full life, with tales spun of compassion and wisdom. However, the years haven’t hurt Fay’s musical abilities in the least, as his voice and playing on these folk-rock spirituals are as masterful and moving as ever.
While the songs are often heart-wrenching, they also bring hope, such as the beyond-touching “Cosmic Concerto (Life Is People)” and the rollicking “This World” featuring Jeff Tweedy, whose Wilco song “Jesus, Etc.” also gets a stunning tear-jerker of a cover.
Insightful, beautiful and intensely personal, Life Is People is not only a musical achievement, but a human one.