For a musician whose reputation rests in no small part on his guitar skills, it’s interesting that Nick Drake never released a guitar instrumental. Over the years, however, some tantalizing solo acoustic home recordings of his have come to light. Many are work tapes containing ideas and fragments, or “sketches”, as he called them. Some may have been intended to be further developed into songs with vocals and some may not.
A guitarist named Scott Appel became friends with Drake’s parents and was given some of these work tapes in the late 80’s. Appel was an accomplished musician and composer in his own right, but was also astonishingly sympatico with Drake’s style. This kinship was such that he developed a collection of snippets from these tapes into a fully realized track called “Far Leys”- named for the house where Drake grew up (and where he died).
It’s a haunting piece, and Appel’s interpretation conveys the power and emotion of the original music well. He summons wistful and bittersweet notes, deep and rich, with a style informed by Drake’s guitar sound, but not a hollow imitation. Beginning with a driving, assured, loping fingerpicked rhythm the song eventually eases into a more introspective second part – moody and mysterious. There’s something ancient yet eternally new about the track. As if it’s echoed down the ages from some mythic land of light and shadow.
Appel released 3 albums before his death at 48 from heart disease in 2003. “Far Leys”, along with a number of other Nick Drake covers, is found on his second, Nine of Swords.
Scott Appel- “Far Leys”:
Drake’s original untitled sketch: