Track of the Day: 'Dirty Linen'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In 1999, the great folk-rock violinist and mandolinist Dave Swarbrick was hospitalized. The Daily Telegraph ran an obituary for him. He wasn’t dead, and he seemed to be entertained by the mix-up: “It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry,” he later quipped. Sadly, the emphysema that struck Swarbrick has finally felled him at age 75.

Swarbrick is most famous for his stint in Fairport Convention from 1969 to 1979. After playing on the classic Unhalfbricking, he joined the band for the equally classic Liege and Leaf. I’m partial to 1970’s Full House, which lacks singer Sandy Denny but showcases Fairport’s powerhouse instrumental abilities. Here’s Swarbrick arrangement of a series of old folk tunes into “Dirty Linen,” a single tour de force. Keep up if you can:

That’s Swarbrick on fiddle and Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol on guitars; the rhythm section of Daves Pegg and Mattacks, sometimes outshined (though not outplayed) by the band’s other virtuosi, steps forward.

Rest in peace, Swarb.

(Track of the Day archive here. Earlier archive here. Submit a song via hello@.)