An inoffensive term, one might think, that try as the nauseating likes of Marcus Mumford might, is associated with far more with wordly balladry and tactile human exchange than it is with translucent "authenticity" and dodgy vocal approximations of Farmer Palmer from Viz. Yet if we subject Dawson's career to closer scrutiny, clearing away the rattling acoustic guitars and meandering, apparently provincial narratives (which are never anything like as region-specific as they might seem on the surface), it's easier to see why he might object to such a label. For although Dawson might borrow from and work within many of the aesthetics of the British - well, Celtic - folk tradition, with some bluesy inflections and a consistent gaze towards the shadowy vistas of experimental rock and noise music, there's little that's genuinely "traditional" about his work at all.
Richard Dawson's records are not easy listens. His nightmarish spin on British folk music has spanned six heady LPs, somewhere between John Frusciante's whacked-out guitar work on Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt and Scott Walker's brutal avant-garde epics on Bish Bosch. Dawson's last album, 2014's Nothing Important, consisted of two lengthy compositions bookended by two noisy instrumentals.
Most records about local community tend to come ready bundled with a sense of nostalgia for bygone days. Time dulls any half-remembered pain and suddenly murder ballads become singalongs and weren't it a shame about the plague an' all. Experimental singer-songwriter Richard Dawson feels this challenge more deeply than others. With brayed Geordie vocals and a breakthrough album inspired by the search results for "death" in Tyne & Wear library archives and museums (2013's The Glass Trunk), you would presume him a one-man Cooper Family for Wire readers - but no.
I t's hard to stop certain alarm bells ringing before you've even heard a note of Richard Dawson's sixth solo album. The follow-up to 2014's acclaimed Nothing Important is, we are informed, a song cycle based on the lives of inhabitants of Bryneich - a kingdom in Yr Hen Ogledd, or the Old North - in the early middle ages, a description that provokes the reaction: oh God, it isn't, is it? Dawson has made great capital from unlikely source material before. Nothing Important featured a 16-minute long track that began with his memory of a Year 7 school trip descending into chaos when a pupil produced a bottle of booze filched from their parents' drinks cabinet, and ended with a catalogue of other misfortunes: "My neighbour Andrew lost two fingers to a staffie cross, while jogging over Cow Hill with a Pepperami in his bumbag.