|Richard Dawson||Peasant||Weird World/Domino||Jue 2, 2017|
Richard Dawson — Peasant (2 Jun. 2017)↑↑↑ I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Thursday’s gig at the Black Box. I had heard some of Richard Dawson’s music before and it definitely stands out as being well outside mainstream folk. Actually it’s probably outside of everything mainstream. Psychedelic or experimental folk might describe his style best, but he is an impossible musician to slot into any particular genre.
•★• No listener to Dawson’s earlier music has ever discerned a lack of artistic ambition. Whether they got on at the last stop — the 4 track Tyneside~Trout~Mask~through a~Vic and Bob~filter of Nothing Important — or earlier in the journey, with The Glass Trunk’s visceral song cycle or The Magic Bridge’s sombre revels, devotees of his earlier recordings will be at once intrigued by and slightly fearful of the prospect of a record that could make those three landmark releases look like formative work. Peasant is that album. From its first beguilingly muted fanfare to its spectacular climax exploring a Dark Ages masseuse’s dangerous fascination with a mysterious artefact called the Pin of Quib, it will grab newcomers to Dawson’s work by the scruff of the neck and refuse to let them go until they have signed a pledge of life~long allegiance. Driven forward by exhilarating guitar flurries, Qawwali handclaps and bursts of choral ferocity, Peasant’s eleven tracks sustain a momentum worthy of the lyrics’ urgent subject matter. Dawson describes the themes of these songs as “Families struggling, families being broken up by circumstance, and — how do you keep it together? In the face of all of these horrors that life, or some system of life, is throwing at you?” The fact that these meticulously wrought narratives all unfold in the pre~mediaeval North Eastern kingdom of Bryneich — “any time from about 450AD to 780AD, after the withdrawal of the Roman Empire” — only makes their contemporary relevance more enduring and vital. Dawson’s objective was to create “A panorama of a society which is at odds with itself and has great sickness in it, and perhaps doesn’t take responsibility — blame going in all the wrong directions” . But encountering Peasant’s captivating sequence of occupational archetypes (‘Herald’, ‘Ogre’, ‘Weaver’, Scientist’), listeners might find themselves wondering if these multitudes could somehow be contained with one person — surely we all have a ‘Shapeshifter’ and a ‘Prostitute’ within us?Genres: Folk, psychedelic folk, experimental rock, freak folk, avant~garde
Occupation(s): Singer~songwriter, musician
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, keyboard, samplers
Location: Newcastle, UK
Album release: 2 Jun. 2017
Record Label: Weird World/Domino
01 Herald 2:18
02 Ogre 6:56
03 Soldier 4:52
04 Weaver 5:58
05 Prostitute 4:00
06 Shapeshifter 4:30
07 Scientist 4:48
08 Hob 5:57
09 Beggar 7:24
10 No~one 1:20
11 Masseuse 10:49Review
By Luke Cartledge / 03 JUNE 2017, 09:30 BST / Score: 9.5
• Richard Dawson never seems entirely comfortable with being described as a folk musician — “anything but that,” as he recently asserted in an interview with The Quietus.
• An inoffensive term, one might think, that try as the nauseating likes of Marcus Mumford might, is associated with far more with wordly balladry and tactile human exchange than it is with translucent “authenticity” and dodgy vocal approximations of Farmer Palmer from Viz. Yet if we subject Dawson’s career to closer scrutiny, clearing away the rattling acoustic guitars and meandering, apparently provincial narratives (which are never anything like as region~specific as they might seem on the surface), it’s easier to see why he might object to such a label. For although Dawson might borrow from and work within many of the aesthetics of the British — well, Celtic — folk tradition, with some bluesy inflections and a consistent gaze towards the shadowy vistas of experimental rock and noise music, there’s little that’s genuinely “traditional” about his work at all. His songs are not adaptations of troubadour classics, nor are they the ramshackle ‘60s~pop~tunes~disguised~in~Fairport~Convention~costumes that apparently pass for folk music post~Mumford. They’re weirder, wider in scope, infinitely more profound than that. They always have been, and, on Peasant, are perhaps more so than ever before.
• Since the record was announced with the expansive, resplendent “Ogre” — personally, my favourite song of 2017 so far — we’ve had an inkling of what to expect. • That song is one of his greatest so far, a dizzying maelstrom of primal guitars, primitive percussion and howled, evangelical melody that dervishes into a transcendent climax from its quaint, unglamorous introduction. One of Dawson’s great powers — of which there are many — is his ability to instil his work with a sense of the ultimate, the apocalyptic, no matter how prosaic its superficial content may seem. Songs like “Wooden Bag”, which begins as an obsessive listing of the appearance and contents of the eponymous receptacle and fast becomes a devastating rumination upon the transience of all things human, or “The Vile Stuff”, in which the songwriter manages to perfectly express the terrifying powers of vice and religion via an allegorical tale of a Year Six school trip, are masterful cases in point, and “Ogre” is more than worthy of that canon. By focusing on the tiniest specifics of archaic life, Dawson manages to express the timeless profundities of family bonds and local identity with an eloquence that is unrivalled by virtually any British songwriter working today.
• So although “Ogre” is undoubtedly the record’s early highlight, by no means does the rest of Peasant pale in comparison. Never a man to shy away from his grand narrative ambition, Dawson has set his album in the Anglo~Saxon kingdom of Bryneich, whose territory covered much of North~East England and South~East Scotland in the 6th and 7th centuries. The period details are (to a layman like myself at least) exactingly and beautifully realised. Although he sings in modern English, Dawson constantly harks back to small but significant facets of the era — “we’ll pitch a tent of pig~skin on the beach” et al — and this constant focus on such minutiae lends those moments in which he opens out into timeless sincerity even more powerful than they have been in the past. For instance, when the first two lines of “Prostitute” (“There has to be more than this; is there no reason for me to exist?”) enter after the frenetic workout of “Weaver”, the singer’s extraordinarily versatile voice loses its drama, and the vulnerability that is always at the heart of Dawson’s work is laid bare. Then, just as the mask is about to slip entirely, the song leaps up (literally and figuratively) into a passage that expresses a period~bound but contemporarily relatable outrage: “How is it so that a child can be bought for a year’s worth of grain in this day and age? It’s hard to explain, but it happens again and again”. Once again, Dawson’s allegories are almost unnerving in their spot~on pertinence, despite their apparent obtuseness. — thelineofbestfit.com • https://www.thelineofbestfit.com/
• Richard Dawson Sings Songs and Plays Guitar (2007)
• The Magic Bridge (2011)
• The Glass Trunk (2013)
• Nothing Important (2014)
• Peasant (2017)
|Richard Dawson||Peasant||Weird World/Domino||Jue 2, 2017|
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