Spellbound years ago by the haunting images found in the music of English folksinger Nick Drake, Scott Appel began a correspondence with the late artist's parents, Rodney and Molly Drake. Their faith in Appel's discreetness and their awareness of his empathy with Drake's music paid off handsomely for the New Jersey-based guitarist, as he was one of the few musicians given access to Drake's mythical and fiercely protected private recordings. Since then, Appel has shouldered the Drake legend more comfortably than any other singer, songwriter, or guitarist.

Appel first started playing guitar at the age of eight. His early influences included the English folkies Davy Graham and Bert Jansch and in 1972, he had mastered the instrument enough to gain entrance into Boston's famed Berklee School of Music. After only a year, Appel realized he knew more than his instructors did, so he quit. Through the rest of the '70s, he earned his living teaching guitar, playing jazz and folk in coffeehouses, bars, and supper clubs, and even playing Led Zeppelin-influenced heavy metal in cover bands. By the '80s, however, he had returned to the acoustic folk that he loved best, recording his first album, Glassfinger, in 1985. Glassfinger showcased Appel's ability on bottleneck slide with the emphasis on Irish and English folk music as opposed to American blues.

Nine of Swords, Appel's second release, was the fruit of his intensive study of the melancholic sound and unorthodox guitar tunings of Nick Drake. The record is a better tribute to Drake than any written eulogy, offering covers of several early Drake songs never released (legitimately), as well as "Place to Be" from Drake's stark masterpiece Pink Moon. (the CD reissue on Schoolkids includes even more Drake compositions). Parhelion, the follow-up release, further explores the Drake catalog with stunning results. Appel's own compositions complement rather than conflict with the Drake covers. An apt description of his songs might be "melancholic new age/folk": gentle and dreamlike, with low-key, mature vocals and adroit finger-style guitar. Appel's recordings are somewhat difficult to locate, as all are on small, independent labels, but the persistent will be rewarded. ~ Peter Kurtz, Rovi