Living Tradition (issue 114) Review from Grem Devlin




Silver Collection

Faymus Recordings  FRCD1015


As much as I have loved Mike Silver’s songwriting over the years, there is something enchanting about this collection of covers. Four of the 14 are by Silver’s erstwhile collaborator, the late Ewen Carruthers, and all of these are gems, although the absolute jewel is Paris, the opening song that kicks off the album with a perfect atmospheric piece of stature. The rendition of the old standard, Lucky Old Sun, is rock solid and features a blinding guitar solo courtesy of Jo Partridge and tasteful pedal steel guitar by Nils Tuxen. Dylan gets the Silver treatment with Boots Of Spanish Leather, and there’s even a version of The Water Is Wide, which is brilliant. If I tell you that there are also versions of Strange Fruit and The Autumn Leaves you should get a feel for the breadth of material here. I love the arrangement of the Townes van Zandt classic, Snowing On Raton, again with excellent pedal steel guitar from Nils Tuxen. Eric Bogle’s Safe In The Harbour is also outstanding as a solo piece.


If I have to single out one track for inspiration though, it has to be a John Richards song, Foundryman’s Daughter, which sounds like it has heritage but is seemingly quite new, and which features beautiful harmonies by Julie Boreham. 


Now that Silver is in his 70th year, still continuing to tour extensively and coming up with product such as this is heartening. I just wish he’d come up to Scotland again. If alchemy exists you can find the gold here without question.


Grem Devlin



Review from DAVID KIDMAN  fRoots June 2016 No 396


Long revered as one of this country’s most accomplished singer-songwriter-guitarists, Mike now takes the bold and (for him) unprecedented step of recording an entire album of covers. Importantly every song he has chosen for this record has touched him in some way, helping and sustaining him along the road. Repertoire-wise Mike has taken his cue from formative performances in folk clubs, where there was no arbitrarily imposed barrier between traditional and contemporary and artists just sang the songs they loved. So this humble, honest-to-goodness, Silver Collection unashamedly takes in traditional ballads (Lord Franklin, The Water is Wide), jazz and other standards (Lucky Old Sun, The Autumn Leaves, Nature Boy, Strange Fruit - the latter especially brilliantly done) and an exemplary choice of songs from his peers (Dylan, van Zandt Eric Bogle John Richards. But pride of place goes to four compositions by the late, great Ewen Carruthers, whom Mike was privileged to call a close friend; two of Ewen’s finest creations (Paris and Was it You?) bookend this disc.


I can recall instances where perfectly good songwriters have recorded covers as a lazy smoke screen for having no decent new material of their own, or even in a vain misguided bid for commercial acceptance. However there isn’t the merest of dubious motive with Mike, for it’s abundantly clear that theses songs have made their mark on his psyche long-term. It takes a special talent to offer such supremely sensitive, caring and very personal renditions, and Mike’s contain many thrilling insights not least in the phrasing and expressive dynamics. His outstanding interpretive skills ensure that each song is freshly appraised yet with an unriavlled depth of understanding. He Moulds the lyrics and melodies ins own way, avoiding simply emulating the versions which inspired him, while paying them loving homage. Mike’s vocal performance is ideally complemented by beautifully simple instrumental accompaniments. Half of the fourteen songs employ just Mike’s own wonderfully mellifluous guitar, with its trademark less-is-more intricacy with not a note or nuance wasted. The remainder variously reply Nils Tuxen (guitars, dobro mandolin basses and Jo Partridge (electric guitar), and Julie Boreham’s magical vocal harmony graces The Foundryman’s Daughter.


It might sound a worn cliche, but here Mike really does breathe new life into familiar songs, in intensely rewarding readings that destined to last.





Celebrated singer-songwriter Mike Silver has chosen to sing others’ songs on his latest album – re-imagining them with delicacy, deftness and sensitivity


It’s the voice that you can’t miss, right from the get-go - a warm, seasoned instrument in its own right that brings to life each of the fourteen songs on this latest album by the voice’s owner, time-served roots and acoustic singer-songwriter, Mike Silver. Accompanied by his crystal-clear guitar work, together with restrained instrumental and vocal accompaniment, Mike makes each of these songs – all created by other writers and musicians – totally his own.  


A regular and long-time performer on the English folk scene for many years, Silver has always been known for his self-penned songs, solo performances and, more recently, acclaimed concert and album collaborations with Johnny Coppin – always with the emphasis on home-grown songs; so this departure into performing the works of others is a major change.


It’s a fascinating collection, including narrative ballads by Mike’s beloved (and now sadly departed) friend and fellow musician Ewen Carruthers, as well as melodies from the folk tradition, plus classic jazz and Americana songs – all of which are treated with respect and affection, with the re-invention of each song as if it were freshly minted and brand-new. So whilst you may have heard traditional songs like The Water is Wide and Lord Franklin many times before, in Mike’s hands, they slip the moorings of their historic roots and speak to the listener as if these were songs of a modern era, addressing love in our time and the tragedy of loss on today’s high seas.


It’s rare for singers from the folk tradition to take on songs sung by vocal greats such as Ray Charles, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Billie Holliday, but Mike sings Charles’ Lucky Old Sun, Cole’s Nature Boy and Holliday’s chilling Strange Fruit (about lynching in the USA’s southern states) with deft assurance, once again easing them from their expected contexts of smoky period jazz, and re-imagining them as contemporary ballads whose messages are timeless and universal.


Many musicians have covered Bob Dylan songs, but Mike takes Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather, and transforms it into a ballad that sounds as if it has a heritage of centuries. The words are brought to life anew when sung in Mike’s rich voice, and – as with each of the songs on the album - Mike’s fluid guitar accompaniment, and tasteful instrumental flourishes by guest musicians Nils Tuxen and Jo Partridge, ensure that each song is imbued with its own character and memorability.


So treat yourself to Mike Silver’s Silver Collection, and you’ll be assured of a refreshing re-introduction to songs that you will already know and love, now presented with originality and affection by this consummately skilful and sensitive artiste. 

HOW MANY RIVERS ~ Mike Silver's latest CD.

Leeds Music Promotions

Mike Silver is synonymous with producing music of the highest calibre, his recently released album ‘How Many Rivers’ reiterates his standing as one of the most iconic singer-songwriters over the past three decades.

Each of the 12 tracks combines both vocal richness and heartfelt lyrics, which are sung with a voice which could radiate warmth in a bathtub of ice. At times the lyrics and sound flow very easily, yet still touch many a nerve and the deep feelings of the listener.

The whole spectrum of everyday life experiences and observations are covered, from the “Breaking News (Still My Girl)’ where every father of a daughter, will instantly relate to how the feel to protect your little girl, even as she reaches maturity, never leaves you, to a modern day observation with “Listen’ highlights the overuse of lip service and how talk is cheap and the realisation of the plethora of people who listen without ever hearing anything of substance. The track “No Good Times Came’ questions the looking at past experiences/life through rose-tinted glasses, but then positively taking on what the future has in store. Finally Mike’s humour is highlighted with the track “Oh Doctor’ and the acknowledgement that we have all been trapped in those situations and trying to plan our escape without success.

This is Mike Silver at his brilliant best and an album which will have very few, if any peers in 2009.