Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-06-23 - 9:50 p.m.

Excellent evening in the large-ish performance space at Wwk U along with around 1000 other people to hear Mss N Pollat and S Vega.

NP is British and in her mid 20s - a singer songwriter who plays guitar OK and piano very well. As far as I can see she has 1 CD which came out in 2001. The piano songs reminded me slightly of Tori Amos. She went down very well indeed and all her Cds sold out during the interval - if I had been able to get near the stall I would have got one and had it signed. I suppose that says that she needs to gig as much as she can so that she can build her audience.

SV rocketed up in my estimation. She performed with an acoustic guitar with only a superb elec bass player to fill out the sound. She went to the same school as Laura Nyro in NYC and one of her early albums was produced by Lenny Kaye who works with Patty Smith. Ms Smith in curating Meltdown has an evening which looks at NYC-UK guitar based songwriting with Kaye Marr Jansch Harper and I must say SV made the point very well. I first realized that SV might have more to interest me when I heard her version of an early Laura Nyro song on a memorial album.

There were times when I cd hear J C Frank in the writing - also London Conversation period J Martyn - when she played what she said was the earliest of the songs still in her repertoire. She can do that fast claw hammer thing you get on the original Donít Think Twice, for example.

The later songs were quite as interesting as the early ones. She seemed to strike a good rapport with the audience and so she tried out songs that she was still working on - including one which just a solo voice - which people really liked. There was an excellent song about 9-11-2002 not yet recorded.

I couldnít help thinking that she emerged in NYC at the same time as Ffrith and Zorn were assuming prominence and how odd it was in the early 80s that this chansonnier approach should break through.
The two early songs she played were about love - but she also played some of the material carried her first to an international audience - for example Marlene on the Wall - and these had a kind of edgey autonomy to them - projecting a very ambiguous persona. This is post Cindy Sherman song writing.

Press-Reynolds shove her in the same Chapter as Courtney Love and Sinead O Connor starting with an intriguing reference to S Denny and the Banks of the Nile - how is that these two are so consistently fascinating in their angle of attack. On that basis one could even pull in P J Harvey.

As luck would have it earlier in the evening I had got into a conversation with a german feminist post-doc who had written her PhD on the autobiographies of female poets in 20C - she said she had skipped S Plath on the grounds that she was too difficult. I asked her who was the first critic of german literature to emerge after the 2nd WW. She suggested Luckacs which was handy because I have read some of his History and Class Conciousness and because he was keen on Walter Scott who wrote his novel Kenilworth about a nearby castle.

With this background I decided that SV wrote some songs about the fem sublime of the small. There is a French term - moivre - which means (I think) - little me - arent I cute? SV avoids doing this too explicitly but I think the audience bring that to some of her stuff.

SV was very clever in using all the limited music resources. So she would sing unaccompanied she would sing just with the bass - she got the audience to do the tune on Tomís Diner - which is at the intersection of 112th and Broadway - that is just near which she and LN were educated. And she also used audience clapping very artfully. This invention is the sense in which she most obviously displays her sourcing in the early 1980s art world - although there is something about the way she constructs melody too - which would stand useful comparison with the Smiths.

Anyway she tours here a lot and next year I strongly recommend going to one of her concerts.

Sitting listening to her I had two new ideas - one about a way of constructing pieces - another about a way to use the forthcoming Isbin-Graham event. The former comes from hearing SV after continual M J Blige. New York New York.

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