Mike Silver – How Many Rivers

Album Review | Faymus Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

From the opening few bars of the title song from Mike Silver’s new album How Many Rivers through to the closing scrape of Phil Beer’s fiddle on “10-15 Year Old’s Festival Blues”, we are presented with a dozen songs of outstanding quality from one of Britain’s most treasured songsmiths. With a good thirty years of writing and playing behind him, the ideas and themes continue to be drawn from a seemingly bottomless well, a well that is so often and justifiable so, plundered by many singers up and down the country eager to add some quality to their respective repertoires. Mike Silver writes with assured confidence and manages to appeal to both serious song collectors and the breakfast radio MOR listener in equal measure. This is down to the accessibility of Silver’s lyrical prowess and his ability to come up with melodic grace time and again. It also has something to do with the subjects this song writer addresses, which touch upon broader issues than your average songsmith. Done away with are standard love songs and protestations about improving the world in order to make way for songs that have a greater depth of meaning and understanding to a more mature generation. “Breaking News” manages to hit the nail right on the head to anyone who has a daughter all grown up. This is a reflection on life that tugs at the heartstrings but without a trace of sentimentality. A fathers place is (and always will be) to be present, to observe, to understand; to be there when they need picking up, literally and metaphorically. If Nizlopi’s endeavours to put a certain piece of heavy plant machinery on the song map brought about both folk festival and chart success simultaneously, then Mike’s “JCB” revisits the yellow digger with an air of authority. As a metaphor for an elderly neighbour’s green-fingered toy girl, the image appears to stay with you long after it has trundled along down the lane. Silver is a generous musician, who shares some of the space on How Many Rivers with one or two of his peers such as Johnny Coppin, who takes a verse on “The Dove and the Dolphin” to the inclusion of the only non-Silver composition on the album “Black and White 1945” written by newcomer Ross Brown, showcasing a potentially great song writing future in an astonishingly beautiful song, which began life in one of Silver’s writing workshops. Mike Silver also handles late night jazz crooning with authority and augments the more serious songs on this collection with moody numbers from a bygone age such as “Easy If You Look At It Right” and the Hoagy Carmichael-esque “Oh Doctor”, both of which confirm Silver’s credentials as a highly competent guitar player as well as a master songwriter. The bluesy “10-15 Year Old’s Festival Blues” probably resonates in each and every one of us who has dragged our offspring kicking and screaming to folk festivals over the years, and makes light of what is potentially child cruelty. I’m kidding of course. Mike Silver has once again proved we have a class act amongst us.