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Art and Life

by Ed Askew

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about

Ed Askew is maybe still best known for an album from 1968 – his psych folk masterpiece Ask the Unicorn. The cult following surrounding that ESP-Disk record has grown over the most recent decade with archival releases Little Eyes (DeStijl), Rose (Okraïna), and the astounding 1980’s recordings on Imperfiction and A Child in the Sun (both from Drag City).

Askew’s status as an important gay songwriter is not yet fully recognized. A trailblazer of the LGBT scene, was writing openly gay love songs in the macho folk scene of the late 60’s. Personified by a fully out New Haven hippie hitchhiker in white polyester suit with giant shock of bright curly red hair. An iconic but self-effacing figure who would be important to the current and future generations.

But Askew hadn’t been in a recording studio since recording Ask the Unicorn, the entirety of which was recorded in one take, until the making of Art and Life in 2016.

Jerry David DeCicca produced the first Tin Angel record of new songs by Ed Askew. The bulk of the album – featuring contributions from Ed fans Sharon van Etten, Mary Lattimore and Marc Ribot – was recorded in an art studio in Harlem. That record, For the World, solidified Ed’s trio in New York with Tyler Evans and Jay Pluck with whom he has since toured the east coast with Bill Callahan and played in Europe with Destroyer, Linda Perhacs, and Mike Heron.

The songs on Art and Life have been fully arranged by Ed and his band. For the first time they recorded with album intentions in a proper studio (Jason Meagher’s Black Dirt and Jeff Zeigler’s Uniform). Mary Lattimore returned in a Philadelphia session; and the trio drove upstate during a blizzard with Josephine Foster to record arresting duet with Ed on the track ‘Quartets’, which also features a string arrangement by Jordan Hunt.

The arrangements main priority is Ed’s voice. And then narrative. The instrumentation accentuates his warmed-up voice and his care-worn tales in the quietest way. The vocals on ‘Clint Eastwood’ ring out so deep into the night that it is undeniably rock’n roll. The Terry Riley inspired arrangements on key track Boston love story ‘Crazy Angels’ and seminal tune ‘Art and Life’ strike with spare precision that sets into Grecian tragedie relief Askew’s equally precise but also unhinged and totally unique harmonica breaks.

The lyrics are tent posts, straight up and bare but strong enough to support a larger world.

“Saturday night / I just got in / I’m looking for someone to dance with.”

“I remember when I met you / You were serious and I was scared.”

“I’m glad you came over tonight / just to talk about art and life.”

These songs about love affairs, rooftop parties and hotheaded desperation – both small town and very NYC – are in the deep imagist tradition and are also unlike anything else.

“In all my life / I won’t forget / I won’t forget / the steps.”

credits

released October 27, 2017

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Ed Askew New York

The singer-songwriter / painter moved to New York for a few months in 1967 where he met Bernard Stollman of ESP-Disk, who offered him a contract. Between 1968 and 1986, Ed lived, mostly, in New Haven; doing occasional shows with his band, and later doing solo shows there. Around 1987, Ed moved to New York City, where he continues to write and record songs, and occasionally perform. ... more

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