Sunday, September 09, 2012

If you like Stornoway, thank Nick Drake

I stumbled across the song "Zorbing" by British indie band Stornoway (who are, ironically, not from Scotland), thanks to the Song of the Day project that actor/director/fellow Kenyon grad Josh Radnor has been doing on Twitter (which I cannot recommend highly enough):

It has the haunting, harmonic beauty of the British folk revival of the '60s (which ultimately inspired the corresponding folk revival in America). But there's also that infectious brass band riff that comes in halfway through the song, which is an element of the folk revival that is distinct to the U.K.

Which is why I was immediately reminded of one of the last British folk revivalists to have a national following -- the incomparable Nick Drake. Compare "Zorbing" to the song "Hazey Jane II" from Drake's 1970 release, Bryter Later

You'll hear the same haunting vocal quality, though admittedly with less harmonizing than Stornoway applies. And yes, those are electric guitars rather than acoustic. But the brass band riffs take on a leading role in this song, driving the whole rhythm and energy forward, and it's suddenly easy to hear where Stornoway got the inspiration for "Zorbing."

So remember, if you like Stornoway, thank Nick Drake.

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