Ed Askew is something of a legendary bard of ‘outside’ folk. He released his first album Ask the Unicorn in 1968 after he graduated from Yale where he had became a well known face thanks to his performances at poetry events and his unusual choice of instrument called a tiple which was close in size to a baritone ukulele and has ten steel strings in four courses…not the easiest of instruments to master. On moving to New York he began to play Greenwich Village where he met Bernard Stollman the founder of New York based experimental, avant-garde, and free-jazz label ESP Disk (Pearls Before Swine, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler). The album was unlike anything else at the time but soon disappeared into folk-psych obscurity…not helped by the label’s loss of money before folding in 1974. The album was never marketed properly and his follow-up Little Eyes stayed in the label vaults until 2007 when it saw a limited release. On 16th September Ed will be releasing his latest record ‘For The World’ on Tin Angel Records.
In 2011 when at the age of 71 he decided to tour the US for the first time in support of the limited vinyl/ digital re-release of the 80’s era cassette tape Imperfiction. Ed was accompanied on piano by Jay Pluck and travelled with tour mates, The Black Swans.
Two weeks later, as a result of the tour, it was decided that Jerry DeCicca of the Black Swans and producer of the final recordings of Larry Jon Wilson (Drag City/ 1965 Records), would assist Ed in making a record. Down the street from the Cotton Club, they spent a week in a West Harlem warehouse that September. Ed Askew was joined by Jay Pluck, two members of The Black Swans’ Tyler Evans (banjo, tiple, electric guitar– and now a permanent member of Ed’s entourage), Canaan Faulkner (bass) and Eve Searls (backing vocals), along with Mary Lattimore (Meg Baird, Thurston Moore) on harp. Later on, electric guitar was added by fellow outsider Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) and backing vocals on 3 songs by super fan Sharon Van Etten.
The results of those sessions were to become the album For The World.
Filled with Askew’s trademark baroque odes the album builds up to an unrelenting crescendo of harp flourishes and harmonica. Askew’s charismatic warbling vibrato vocals, at times, are reminiscent of both Simon Finn and David Bowie. ‘For The World’ continues to offer an insight into his life although it is notably less heart-breaking than its predecessors. These charming songs of love and escapism capture both the spirit of Askew along with the hearts of musicians (and fans) who have been with him for decades.
Ed Askew – Blue Eyed Baby
Take Away Show for La Blogotheque with Diane Cluck:
Ed Askew from a 1986 public access channel show (playing his Martin tiple).
For The World’ out on Tin Angel Records 16th September 2013