I've always been "taken" by the Michelle Shocked "discovery" story, an unsung folk guitarist playing to a cassette player on the outskirts of the Kerrville Folk Festival. She's fine artist still, but there's something about that "pre-fame" time. In some ways, her career never got better than the times when her work was naive, discoverable. I am a huge fan of Bill Nelson, whose work is now divided between a number of electronic and ambient genres. But I'm not sure that it gets much better than his first effort, "Northern Dream", recorded on what sounds like a 4 track and released by his little hometown record company in Wakefield, Yorkshire. When I was in college I went to Wakefield with a friend to try to find early Nelson recordings. The proprietor of the record shop which released the album looked at me with that "are you daft" look when I asked for this album which had been "out of print" well nigh a decade. Still, I was glad I had taken the trip, because this was the non-touristy England I wished to see. We walked past the little church on the bridge and watched kids play soccer. We went to the rural carnival where I convinced myself I had a psychic ability to figure out which pence slot machines would pay. When we wandered out of town, we found ourselves on one of those rolling hills and grazing cattle countrysides, like something out of a book about Yorkshire. When we passed an old church, and paused to wonder about it more or less in the middle of nowhere, a caretaker popped up and asked "What would y'like to know?", and told us stories of nuns with fever during the Napoleonic wars, and the like. We learned a lot that weekend, while resolutely not trying to learn anything. We learned about the impossibility of finding a place to sit in a number of fish and chip establishments (and perhaps the absurdity of the idea of a "sit down" place); we learned what a breakfast of scrambled eggs accompanied by what we would call barbeque beans can taste like; I learned that the amount of incense a high church Anglican cathedral can use, which certainly exceeded the null set which a rural southern US Methodist church uses; we learned that "haven't a clue" can sound vaguely like a jazz clarinet to my Arkansas ears when the phrase is intoned in a Yorkshire accent; conversely, we learned that my Arkansas accent can be wholly indistinguishable in a dark pub if one asks about "lunch" rather than "snack" or "sandwich". We didn't learn anything, really; we learned everything, really. It was a glorious weekend of mundanity and innocents abroad.
Bill Nelson wrote a song called "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" which describes "time spent in places my footsteps have found" and how "time knows no limits on days such as these". That's just how I felt.
I want to figure out how to record a song on a simple recorder and then put it on a CD.
I'm no Bill Nelson or Michelle Shocked.
But the sheer search for the sincerity of
a simple low fi recording has me in its grip, and never mind if I'm only going to be finger painting, it'll be my own finger-painting, and that's fine.