Bill Fay’s simple, rhetorical question to the universe probes at cosmic significance on Who Is The Sender? It’s a record constructed around the strange impulses and ideas that enter our lives, using little emblems of the physical world to dig into the essence of mortality. “Something Else Ahead” looks toward an eternity that may crumble into nothingness upon closer inspection. “A Page Incomplete” worries at a life not quite finished. But if there’s anyone who is sucking the marrow out of life, it’s this songwriter in his mid-70s who is still delivering scathing indictments of industrialized violence like on “War Machine.”
Who Is The Sender? is a delicately constructed album, relying on organ, strings, and piano to convey the heft of its studied interrogations of morality and time. Fay sounds less like he’s operating in the singer/songwriter milieu and more like a saddened, remote prophet watching a world unhinge into the slow terrors he predicted. There’s a sense of remove here, as though Fay wants to impart one final warning to the lost world he’s slipping away from. It’s a very physical record, connecting controversial topics like climate change, religion, and anti-war sentiment in a seamless, authentic whole — an issues album that makes you forget these are debatable evils, driven by political machines. Instead, his deft songwriting turns even the messianic promise into something supple, like on Clapton-indebted closing number “I Hear You Calling.” Of course, this is a new version of Fay’s own song from 1971, a willful epilogue to his own story.