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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2019 | Weird World

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It's a hard time to be happy, and Richard Dawson knows it. The British guitarist and songwriter would hardly be the first artist to make music that reflects the chaos and uncertainty of a time when the world's political outlook has turned ugly and the divide between the haves and have-nots grows wider by the minute. Dawson's 2019 album 2020 is certainly a work of its time, reflecting the social, political, and economic uncertainty that has swept the globe. But rather than dealing in sloganeering or checking off the familiar outrages that are part of our collective existence, Dawson casts his gaze on the daily lives of ordinary people trying to live their lives despite the fractures in the society around them. Whether it's the poor slob who has come to despise his job ("Civil Servant" and "Fulfilment Centre"), the novice runner whose fears become reality when his Kurdish neighbors are attacked ("Jogging"), the community reacting in a variety of ways to a flood that has disabled the town ("The Queen's Head"), or an ordinary man confronted with mortality and pain ("Dead Dog in an Alleyway"), Dawson makes his characters and their anxieties disarmingly real thanks to the relentless details of his lyrics and the flat but eloquent tone of his voice. Even when the stories deal with the personal rather than the political, Dawson makes them part of a larger malaise that brings the pieces together in the service of a greater statement. The tangled sounds of Dawson's guitar, by turns acoustic and quiet, and electric and rich with fuzz -- along with the occasional bursts of electronic noise -- provide an effective backdrop for these songs, and if Dawson hardly sounds like a singer, that works to his favor on this album, matching the modest poignancy of the lyrics. Richard Dawson is an eccentric but clear-eyed observer of the human condition, and just as he brought something fresh to the U.K. folk tradition on 2017's Peasant, 2020 reveals how he sees the details of everyday life in a way that slips past most writers. And if it isn't always fun, the honesty and passion in this music deliver more than enough reward for your time. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 2, 2017 | Weird World

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Greil Marcus once famously described the music collected on Harry Smith's iconic Anthology of American Folk Music as documents of "the old, weird America." On the other side of the Atlantic, Richard Dawson has devoted his talents to conjuring a vision of an old, weird England, one that his nation's folk tradition is just not strange enough to match. (And given the eccentricity of a number of the Child Ballads, that's saying something.) Released in 2017, Peasant is a set of original songs that show the clear influence of traditional U.K. folk tunes, but between his sometimes dour, sometimes fantastic storytelling, his sweet but jagged melodies, the creaky lo-fi tone of his guitar work, and the sympathetic but ramshackle accompaniment of his musicians, this eases past freak folk into a uniquely personal variant on traditional music forms. Look somewhere between the Incredible String Band and the Mekons and you start to get an idea of where Dawson has pitched his tent, though on Peasant he manages to make that place seem more welcoming than some might expect. This cycle of songs about life among the lovely has a genuine charm and vigor, even when dealing with the sordid lives of ogres and sex workers, and the dynamics generated by Dawson and his ensemble fill these songs with a passion and life force that make them effective regardless of how you feel about Dawson's deliberate eccentricity. If Richard Dawson is Fairport Unconventional, Peasant is his Liege & Lief, a strange but fascinating journey through the frameworks of British folk music as seen by one truly unique set of eyes. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 1, 2019 | Weird World

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 3, 2014 | Weird World

If British freak folk discovery Richard Dawson seemed rather inscrutable on his debut album, 2012's The Magic Bridge, he's delivered a far bigger head-scratcher with his second full-length release, 2014's Nothing Important. While The Magic Bridge offered 12 pieces of varying length that found Dawson spinning tales that were sometimes charming and sometimes puzzling while he skittered about on his amplified acoustic guitar, Nothing Important sounds less composed and more improvised as Dawson reaches deeper into the well of noise and extends his focus with two numbers that run over 16 minutes, accompanied by two other pieces that seem relatively economical at 6:40 and 4:48. The shorter pieces are instrumental, while Dawson's vocals on the extended songs are often mixed low enough that they're a bit hard to make out, which isn't helped much by the often cryptic themes that emerge when you can follow him. But when the pieces all fit together midway through "The Vile Stuff," the most formally structured piece on the album, the effect is genuinely impressive as Dawson's dour, fractured guitar lines and the hard stomp of the percussion rise into something honestly majestic. The real meat of Nothing Important, of course, is in Dawson's guitar work, and even when he seems to be noodling, the sharp report of his instrument and his use of feedback takes him into a place your average eccentric folkie would never go -- there are moments here when he seems like a sunnier and very British version of Jandek, but Nothing Important suggests he's developing a guitar style that's less chops-intensive but every bit as compelling as Nels Cline or Marc Ribot, and the fact that one man with a guitar and some occasional overdubs can make something this powerful and challenging is truly impressive. It says a lot about Richard Dawson that's he's made two albums with very different personalities that still clearly come from the same musical mind, and Nothing Important's best moments clearly belie its title. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 20, 2015 | Weird World

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 11, 2019 | Weird World

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 11, 2017 | Weird World

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 6, 2017 | Weird World

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 20, 2015 | Weird World