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Date TimeOctober 26, 2019
VoiceCelebrated for his incredible voice and outsider-folk charm, the musician is stepping out of the shadows with his new album, 2020, a one-of-a-kind opus that is being hailed as a masterpieceHere’s one of the most audacious, esoteric British stars of our times, shuffling into an anonymous industrial unit between Heaton and Byker in Newcastle (the city’s Blank Studios, where he records, are housed here). His look brings to mind a wayward Father Christmas off-season: a tweed-patched baseball cap over silvery hair and a beard, a plaid shirt over a T-shirt celebrating Finnish metal band the Circle. From his right hand swings a bunch of six bananas. “Would you like one?” Richard Dawson gestures, shyly.
Richard Dawson: anthems for a blighted nation
We’re here because of Dawson’s one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-nation new opus, which is called, very simply, 2020, and has been hailed by more than one reviewer as a masterpiece. It’s a record about the bleak lives of civil servants, convulsing fulfilment centre workers, and homeless people sleeping in alleyways next to happy families coming out of Nando’s. It’s a very different proposition to his last LP, 2017’s Peasant, a research-heavy odyssey set between AD400 and 600, mixing together the rawer moments of folk, punk’s attack and squiggling psychedelia. It nevertheless made many end-of-year lists, partly because Dawson has a way with a tune despite his avant garde leanings, but also because of his incredible voice. At times, it’s the plangent roar of an ancient summoner. At others, it’s a sad, high quiver, as if Neil Young had gone northern. (When I first saw Dawson sing a cappella at the 2017 Green Man festival, the power of the experience floored me: I was rooted to the spot, agog and in tears.)

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