Photo credit Kuba Ryniewicz
“One of the most original voices in English music.” – Time Out
“A fantastic and unique talent.” – Stuart Maconie – BBC6 Music
“He is a musician like no other.” – Huw Stephens – BBC Radio 1
Rising up from the bed of the River Tyne, a voice that crumbles and soars, that is steeped in age-old balladry and finely-chiselled observations of the mundane, Richard Dawson is a skewed troubadour at once charming and abrasive. His shambolically virtuosic guitar playing stumbles from music-hall tune-smithery to spidery swatches of noise-colour, swathed in amp static and teetering on the edge of feedback. His songs are both chucklesome and tragic, rooted in a febrile imagination that references worlds held dear and worlds unknown.
Both live and on record Dawson is a barrage of musical expression and personality. A shambling exterior, amidst tales of pineapples and underpants, ghosts of family members and cats, his stage presence is at once inviting and awe-inspiring. The visceral power of his voice against the lurching modality of his guitar lines conjure false memories of Tim Buckley and Richard Youngs duetting with Sir Richard Bishop and Zoot Horn Rollo. There is a rawness to the music that embodies timeworn singing traditions – the fire and pestilence gait of the Sacred Harp singings, the fractured call and response of the Gaelic Psalms, the unbridled power of Mongolian throat singers – its power tempered by intimacy, flecked with human emotion anchored by a sense of place.
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, Richard’s new album ‘Peasant’ will grab newcomers to his 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?
Hugh Metcalfe is a musician and filmmaker from London and Suffolk. He is best known as the promoter of The Klinker Club in London, which he has run in various venues since 1982. He plays guitar, violin, hi-hat and gas mask. He performs in several bands including Bicycle Clip Sex, The Small Faeces, The Cross-Dressed Quartet and F*ck Off Batman. He also performed with noted sound poet Bob Cobbing, saxophonist Lol Coxhill and dancer Jennifer Pike in Birdyak, up until Cobbing’s death in 2002.
Richard Dawson website