Branding. Whether we like it or not, it’s a powerful marketing tool. People like to be able to label things, and splitting music into genres is part of the process. Personally, genres don’t really mean very much. I either like a track or I don’t. If I do, then I play it on Radio 2, if I don’t, I don’t. I like to explore across the genres through all sorts of different styles of music, although I sometimes stretch the definition of ‘Country’ to its limits! It’s a broad church.
I actually don’t have any particular resistance to the idea of identifying a style of music by a category…it’s just a quick and simple explanation of what that music is. It’s also a rallying point behind which a ‘buzz’ can gather momentum. Labelling music can be a good thing, particularly if it’s a cool label and ‘nu-folk’ is cool. Here’s a genre that represents a fabulous new take on acoustic music…Nick Drake for the 21st century!
The breakthrough album was probably the beautiful ‘Veneer’ by Jose Gonzalez. First released in 2005, the album glows with gentle songs and shimmering, Spanish-style guitar. One of the tracks was used in a television ad last year which, crucially, took the music across into mainstream. The success has given impetus to a whole new generation of song-based, acoustic artists, and in Britain we are blessed with some of the very best.
I’m now featuring acoustic sessions on my Saturday night programme to showcase the emerging talent and the first was from Dublin born David Kitt, described as ‘a songwriter of real genre-defying imagination’! I first heard him in 2001 when he released his 2nd album ‘The Big Romance’ and was really impressed with the approach he took…utilising new technology but not letting it attack the integrity of the music. Sparse loops, layers, harmonies and percussion…recorded into a home computer and messed with. The CD went double platinum in Ireland and paved the way for tours, awards and a succession of imaginative albums since.
Then we featured Derrin Nauendorf, who arrived in Britain from Australia five years ago with a guitar and twelve hundred pounds, determined to make a career in music. It hasn’t been easy. He slept on floors then lived in a post office van, playing anywhere that would have him. But four albums and over one thousand gigs later, he’s built a loyal following, one fan at a time. That he’s now sold more than twelve thousand albums shows the extent to which his hard work is paying off. Paul Jones is also an enthusiastic supporter.
Brian Houston played live on the programme in December and his latest album ‘Sugar Queen’ is a gem. To quote my sleeve notes (!) ‘Brian brings commendable virtues to his music…warmth, honesty and a great sense of humour. There is integrity about his writing, which I find inspiring. He hasn’t thrown too many toys at the production of the new album and consequently the songs are allowed to breathe, demonstrating the range of Brian’s musical influences…from Van Morrison to Country to Folk’.
It was also wonderful to discover why everyone thinks so highly of Lisa Redford. She was lovely…bright, enthusiastic and talented. She works incredibly hard and takes a hands-on role in all aspects of her career, from recording, pressing and releasing her own CD’s to booking her own tours. I first discovered her through her second album ‘Lost Again’, which contains a superb version of Neal Casal’s ‘Fell On Hard Times’…just voice and guitar. She exactly locates and expresses the plaintive emotion of the song.
Jon Redfern played live on the programme at the beginning of January, a few days before the release ‘Maybe Some Time’ on Reveal Records, his first solo album since his departure from the band Tarras, with whom he recorded for Topic. He’s been compared to John Martyn and Nick Drake and there’s a smoky, dreamy, slightly jazzy feel to his music, embellished by the virtuoso guitar playing of Patrick Durkan.
And the wonderful Angie Palmer played for us in mid-January. Like Lisa Redford, she puts a huge amount of work in behind the scenes…but it’s all worth it. She has integrity and guts and is blessed with a blues voice from Chicago. The reaction to her session was absolutely amazing, with e-mails coming in from all over the world.
Tunng are lined up for a session soon, as well as Kris Drever, Thea Gilmore, Rebecca Worthley and Yvonne Lyon, as I endeavour to showcase outstanding British singer/songwriters. We are blessed with great acoustic talent here in the UK and I’m hoping that some or all of Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands, Megson, Karine Polwart, Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy and Martha Tilston will also make appearances on the programme over the next few months.
Nu-folk, nu-acoustic, singer/songwriter. It doesn’t matter what you call it…this is music that means something. The future’s bright. The future’s nu-folk!
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