Darcy Wickham has a fine new CD entitled Featherfingers. Three of the eleven tracks are his fingerpicking-style instrumental compositions. The brief title track is a lucid, lyrical melody, lively, warm and appealing. Remembering is a longer, low-key reflective piece, darktoned, minor and hypnotic, which has an open, slightly unresolved ending that speaks for itself. Hooked on you is upbeat and quite repetitive. These tracks reassure one that good as the lyrics he writes alone or with Robert Carmichael are, and good as his voice and delivery are, supporting all that is a fully-fledged artist on the guitar.
Two of the tunes, Malahat Highway, and Hanging at Owl Creek Bridge, show Darcy as a traditional balladeer, a chronicler of events of moment in a community, be the event a hanging (with Tom Dooley or Danny Deever or Kevin Berry as the victim), or an epic pattern of important stories embedded in geography, such as Lightfoots Canadian Railroad Trilogy, or Dylans Highway 61 Revisited. Mr. Wickhams songs in this genre are convincing and the material in Malahat Highway could become an historical document.
On the musical level, I like the native drone the guitar lays down in the instrumental bridge between verses in these and other of his tunes, though one also gets the feeling that some of his melodies blend into a sameness. The lyric writing is quite masterful in these and other songs such as Only Trying to Say Goodbye where this sharp line occurs: Dont confuse me with words about what a great guy I am when youre only trying to say goodbye.Brother of Mine epitomizes Wickhams skill in varying rhyme-schemes to create surprise phrasings, particularly when the end word of the first line in a couplet is mill which rhymes with the word hill that is placed only two-thirds of the way through the next line so that it becomes an internal rhyme.
Darcy Wickham is also the songwriter of the sad, the balladeer of the blues (think of Ewen McColl), whos womans got that goodbye look. He gets some good lines in that kind of tune such as Come back to me, thats all I ask/I need you in my future like you were in my past. This is from the tune Cant Imagine Any Future, that rises, in my opinion, above the level of popular bluegrass to the level of a genuine, traditional folksong because of the high quality of story, lyric, and above all, his featherfinger picked guitar.