Robin Pecknold, a shy guy with a heavenly voice, is a spiritual son of the Laurel Canyon songwriters of the late 1960s. Most of his spectral support set could easily have come from the pen of Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young in their most melancholic moments.
Joanna Newsom | Rating: *** | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Pecknold’s party piece as frontman of the beloved Fleet Foxes was to sing a song entirely unamplified. But on his ownsome, he stuck to the comfort of his microphone, his clear, sad voice ringing to the rafters on songs old, new and mostly blue.
Joanna Newsom’s mannered voice, however, is more of a dealbreaker - but they said that about Kate Bush too, didn’t they? Like her forebear, Newsom heads a benevolent cult of acolytes, who hang on her every breathy baby utterance.
Newsom is an accomplished and imaginative musician, jumping restlessly about tempo and instrumentation. In performance, she alternated between harp and piano, occasionally within the same song, while between them her accomplished backing quartet just about covered the entire orchestra.
In making full use of her odd armoury, many of her songs sound like exercises in quirkiness. Where else might you hear duelling thumb pianos on a mystical romance about a deep dea diver? Or the blend of Celtic drumming, tumbling harp and touch of bouzouki which gives Peach, Plum, Pear its sonic richness?
Newsom deserves credit for creating a unique sound at a time when homogeneity rules the commercial waves but her melodies are often just too slippery and disjointed to make that simple, crucial emotional connection to the core.