How little we are, clung to the river's edge
October 12, 2019 3:59 AM   Subscribe

Richard Dawson is a singer from Newcastle upon Tyne. Although his Wikipedia entry lists him as a folk musician, his music strays more widely than that - taking in punk, world music, hints of Captain Beefheart and Derek Bailey, possibly even progressive rock. His 2017 album, Peasant was Quietus' album of the year for that year. Each song tells a different story of someone living in the sixth century kindom of Bryneich (where Newcastly is now). Shot through with humanity and wit, they detail the minutiae of people's lives - “a panorama of a society which is at odds with itself and has great sickness in it, and perhaps doesn’t take responsibility – blame is going in all the wrong directions” as Dawson himself has put it. His new album, 2020, does the same for residents of Newcastle today.

There have been two videos from the album released - Jogging and Two Halves. The sound is much more in the rock/punk mould, following on from his work in 2018 with the group Hen Ogledd on the album Mogic.

Radio 4 interview with Dawson (if BBC Sounds will allow you)
The Smudging Ritual (short documentary)
The Vile Stuff
The Wooden Bag
Sky Burial (Hen Ogledd)
Tiny Witch Hunter (Hen Ogledd)
Problem Child (Hen Ogledd)

YouTube playlists of music:
Nothing Important
The Glass Trunk
The Magic Bridge
posted by Grangousier (12 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I love everything Dawson does. Thanks for this post!

I'd add this fab video "Jogging"
posted by Glomar response at 4:30 AM on October 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

The full Mogic album by Hen Ogledd ("Old North", his side project) is completely worth your time. Tiny Witch Hunter was the first thing of his that got my attention, and now I'm fully signed up. It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I was writing about it.

The comparisons with Beefheart's music are apt - there is a fierce intelligence at work stripping everything down and building it back up in new, strange and wonderful shapes - but Dawson seems very much less solipsistic than the Captain.

This is music that people will be talking about fifty years from now. Don't miss out.
posted by Devonian at 6:27 AM on October 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

The first time I heard “Jogging” I had an “uh, that’s nice” sort of response, but the song was stuck in my head for days afterward, and when I finally got around to listen again it felt transformative. Dawson’s doing something pretty amazing.
posted by ardgedee at 8:54 AM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

That's another point of comparison with Beefheart - the first listen will barely scratch the surface, it can seem slight or ugly, even if you're familiar with his music. Two or three times around, and the infection begins to take hold, and before you know it the full fever is upon you.

I'm so glad his star is in the ascendant. In the words of John Peel, it makes me feel glad I lived long enough to hear it. (And very sad that Peel himself did not - he'd be playing it to death and back. Perhaps even at the right speed.)

In a related tale - I have two very good friends, a couple I love and admire, but do not share their taste in music. They are full-blown folkies, and go to lots of festivals. We were talking over wine... lots and lots of wine... about music, and they mentioned one festival they'd been at that I knew Richard Dawson had played. I told them that at last we had something in common on the folk music scene.

"Oh, him", said my friend. "He's... weird, isn't he?"

Oh well. I try.
posted by Devonian at 9:42 AM on October 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

If I post something it often feels like I shouldn't comment (because I might get carried away), but... I went to see him play at the end of 2017 in support of Peasant, and it was stunning, even though the show was stopped for at least an encore's worth because someone fainted in the crush at the front and the St John's Ambulance had to have a look.

Peasant is incredible (I've not had a chance to properly assess 2020 for incredibleness, yet), to my mind one of the best albums of the past decade or so - whenever I listen to it it leaves me almost breathless. My introduction was Spotify throwing Ogre at me, and my mind throwing variations on "What the hell is this?" back - at first in incredulity, ultimately in admiration.
posted by Grangousier at 11:37 AM on October 12, 2019

For me maybe a more apt basis for comparison than Beefheart is Richard Thompson, whose songwriting also tends towards drawing detailed psychological portraits through story (and who incidentally also has a penchant for art music).
posted by ardgedee at 12:21 PM on October 12, 2019

Richard Dawson previously. Not to be confused with Richard Dawson.
posted by misteraitch at 1:14 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

This sounds like what I imagine Half Man/Half Biscuit would have sounded like if they'd carried on and grown older.
Many thanks!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:53 PM on October 12, 2019

(The most recent HMHB album was last year. You have some probably joyous catching up to do.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:15 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Richard Dawson is stunning. Every album feels like he's accomplishing something increasingly urgent: finding what's magic and true within the banal, embracing easy pleasure but insisting on putting it to work to find something more.

The Wooden Bag, as an early example of his genius, is such a fascinating juxtaposition: an obviously emotional chorus hook alongside lyrics that, until the very end (and entirely through the first verse), reject emotionality and sentiment. But that's where the truth is found: in those little perceptive details that make the feeling real.

From there it's just been high after high. And 2020 might be the best he's ever done.

(Also, seconding HMHB's continued relevance. Few bands have ever sold me on their music from the title of a song alone, but 2018's album was called No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut, and if you can find it in you to dislike something called that, well, you are not me.)
posted by rorgy at 8:44 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jogging is my favourite song of the year so far. So much compassion and humanity and pain in the lyrics and in the way you hear it in his voice.
posted by reynir at 1:39 PM on October 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

He just did the Quietus Baker's Dozen. Lots of stuff to track down, there.
posted by Grangousier at 11:30 AM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

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