When I first met King Creosote, aka Kenny Anderson, in 2003, his catalogue already stretched to 29 albums. Nevertheless, the King was particularly pleased about the release of his 30th, Kenny & Beth’s Musakal Boat Rides, released on Domino Records. ‘It’s my debut as a real CD,’ he beamed across his pint as he readied himself for the evening’s gig at Cecil Sharpe House, London’s folk music temple. This real CD contained an idiosyncratic and gripping mélange of accordion, toy instruments, guitar, dreamy vocals, unusual wit and Funkadelic samples. Impressed not only by his music but also by the King’s refreshingly unpretentious musings, I visited his website and discovered The Fence Collective. I immediately subscribed to the house magazine, The Fencezine, and ordered a pile of CDRs. The offer was irresistible. From perhaps a dozen new albums you could choose a handful, and it cost no more than one and a half full-price albums at the nearest glitzy lifestyle emporium.
Singer-songwriters are cheap to keep. All they need is a guitar and a broken heart and they’re happy to mope about in their cold garrets churning out songs until the old liver gives out. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that in the past couple of years we’ve had a flood of James Blunts and James Morrisons foisted upon us by financially challenged record companies looking to keep costs down.
It’s 20 years since Tracy Chapman was transformed almost overnight from an unfashionable guitar-strumming folkie into the archetypal socially concerned contemporary singer/songwriter. Her spellbinding performances at the birthday festival held in honour of the still-incarcerated Nelson Mandela at Wembley Stadium gave a thoroughly fresh impetus to the art of political songwriting. The release of her eighth album, the ambiguously titled Our Bright Future, marks a return to the spirit of the old days and is accompanied by a solo tour.
They emerged five years ago, seemingly from some remote hinterland of the Southern US States that hadn’t been touched by modern life since the last time Creedence Clearwater passed through in search of peace and a new pair of cowboy boots. They were unfeasibly young, yet sounded old beyond their years, sporting facial hair the like of which hadn’t been spotted since ZZ Top. They played a raw, punkish type of swamp boogie that was impossibly thrilling.
The music encyclopedias all have him down next to his former bandmates in Bristol – Massive Attack and Portishead – as a pioneer of trip-hop. But Tricky famously rejects such a label. His musical method of fusing beats and samples with spoken word, intriguing melodies and eerie female vocals might well fit in nicely with the trip-hop blueprint. but even his first singles ‘Ponderosa’ and ‘Aftermath’ showed that his was a singular voice, much darker and more abrasive than most music that was loosely comparable.