Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Album review: ED ASKEW - For The World

Highlights: Roadio Rose, Blue Eyed Baby, Maple Street, For The World

If you happen to know a few things about Ed Askew prior to listening to this album, you must have spent some time scraping the bottom of the 60’s barrel. Back in 1968, when everybody had a record out, Ed had one of his own. It was called Ask The Unicorn and it slipped through the memory holes and the holes of history like an obscure and not particularly brilliant acid folk record from 1968 should. Now this man is back.

A has-been who semi-successfully (I’m being generous) resurrected his career in the new millennium and then suddenly, in 2013, recorded one of the most beautiful albums of the year. Everything about For The World is just so tasteful and nice: the cover painting showing the man himself, a song called “Gertrude Stein” (which sounds like an accomplished sketch) and, most importantly, the actual music.

Which is folk music – impressionistic, poetic, timeless-sounding. When you begin a 2013 album with an epic ballad that lasts seven and a half minutes – you either know you are really good or you simply don’t give a damn. Must be a combination of both for Ed Askew. At first it sounded too fragile and free-floating, but then you get entangled into this thing, which is basically just an acoustic guitar, a piano, occasional harmonica and Ed’s frail yet affecting voice. There’s nothing especially catchy or hard-hitting about these melodies, but in some strange way they are so bloody good they don’t even need you saying so (if that makes sense). “Maple Street” breaks my heart and then the ukulele-based title track (with, inexplicably, Sharon Van Etten) offers a bit of half-upbeat, unassuming optimism.

We do of course realise that the album is for the world that wouldn’t care. Or notice. But this is highly recommended to anyone who practices musical taste. And don’t we all love great albums nobody knows about?..


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