Askew created two interesting folk albums at the close of the 1960s, the first to little acclaim, the second remaining unreleased in wide circulation until De Stijl put out the CD last year. Rainy Day Song, however, is not a reissue. It’s Askew’s first new recorded work (released for public consumption) in almost 40 years. While there are connectives – lyrically, Askew doesn’t change that much – and it’s the same man making the music after all, the intervening four decades have shaped him as a very different artist. Before he fit dependably into the zeitgeist, but Rainy Day Song shows him transfigured. As history never goes away, his earlier self, his earlier art, is still in there, but the dialectical transformations have rendered them hazy and dissolute. Thus in vulgar marketing terms, he can’t simply be re-packaged and easily sold to the neo-folk crowd like Bunyan’s Lookaftering was.
The album itself lies somewhere on a spectrum encompassing Leonard Cohen and David Grubbs. Askew sounds like neither, but inhabits the same basin of attraction the others occupy. In other words, there are certain artistic trajectories that lead one into this basin, the aesthetic of the unheimlich singer-songwriter, playing around with the standard tropes, adding bits of stochastic novelty such as a non-repeating piano melodies. Rainy Day Song achieves within it the fusion, and eventual subsumption, of the folk structure with tactics of modern composition. The storytelling aspects and even the legacy of protest is there (“Climbing to the Top”), but it’s decidedly not folk music or even neo-folk music (whatever that ‘even’ signifies).
By Andrew Beckerman (DUSTED REVIEW excerpt)
released June 1, 2008
released on Spinning Gold Records. posted here with permission.
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