Gertrude Stein - Ed Askew - For The World
Label: Tin Angel Records - TAR037LP • Format: Vinyl LP, Album • Country: UK • Genre: Folk, World, & Country • Style: Folk
Perfectly suited to such esteemed company, Askew's album - played on air by John Peel and hardly anyone else - featured him accompanying himself on the Martin Tiple, a ten-stringed instrument similar to a lute or, according to Askew himself, "a baritone ukulele" which is notoriously physically demanding to play, a fact that contributed to Askew's urgent, strained and tremulous vocal style. Later described as "the Holy Modal Rounders jamming with Skip Spence," Ask The Unicorn was soon as vanished and mythical as its namesake; Askew's second album for ESP, Little Eyesremained unreleased for 33 years, until De Stijl Records finally put it out into a warm critical reception that sparked a revival of interest in Askew's music.
He carved an underground reputation as a painter and a poet throughout the s and beyond, while continuing to compose and occasionally perform songs.
His playing, however, was hampered by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the result of several years of earning a living by scraping down and re-painting houses. A small inheritance in the mids Gertrude Stein - Ed Askew - For The World his musical career, allowing him to buy an electric piano, a few microphones and a four-track, and he began regularly releasing home recordings on cassette. He continues to pursue this DIY approach to this day, though it's made easier now thanks to the advent of Pro Tools and Bandcamp.
Askew Melanie C - This Time previously recorded many of these songs on his solo releases, and these new Невидь - Зов Новой Гипербореи, augmented by such a professional cast, are relatively slick and polished by his standards. Indeed, opener 'Roadio Rose' as performed here, could conceivably be a mainstream Gertrude Stein - Ed Askew - For The World hit, if delivered by a trained, conventional singer.
Happily, Askew is neither of these things, and his imperfect but ambitious voice is what makes the song, and the whole album, special. Askew also has a painter's talent for imagery and symbolism; the black rider breaking silver chains amid the tumbling piano chords and tear-pricks of harp on 'Roadio Rose,' or the yellow Gertrude Stein - Ed Askew - For The World and weeping clowns on the impressionistic 'Drum Sync - Disasterpeace - FEZ (File, Album). As in their work, there's a childlike innocence and wonder evident too, a quasi-religious joy in nature and the possibilities of love and life - witness for instance the repeated affirmations of 'Blue Eyed Baby', which also recalls fellow New York song-poet Baby Dee.
But like Dee, and indeed the aforementioned great American poets, Askew's visionary moments are never pompous or pretentious, but are delivered with a working man's offhand modesty and humility, and a gentle sense of humour. Sometimes he comes on like Jeffrey Lewis's equally wide-eyed granddad, documenting the everyday minutiae of a life, the changing seasons and the observations of a moment, with a poet's commitment and discipline. The songs are intensely personal, as on the moving 'Moon in the Mind' and its "don't cry, Billy," refrain, but also somehow universal in their humble portrayal of the human condition.
Spare, affecting and hauntingly melodic, For The World is a timeless record, looking back only in a human, personal way - not to some lost golden age, but over a life lived, with all its ups and downs, losses and gains.
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