Guile-less ‘singing’ – the unadorned sound of truth amid a miasma of Mendacious mediation

I recently shared with friends some examples of what I called ‘guile-less singers’. What I meany by that was singers, of a kind that I have recently heard a lot on my radio, who sing in an unusually natural way, one that has no apparent concern whatsoever with what we might think of as ‘good’, ‘trained’, accurate’ sining. Instead they sing as you would imagine they would chat with you and in this way somehow cut across and cut through something that divides singer from listener, so that each and both share a certain equality.

If progressive DJs are featuring such artists (I’ll list a few later), it might coincide with a combined legacy of rap, punk, and I would claim Bob Dylan circa 1965 that is also apparent in many young bands and their singers (or ‘front persons’). Many of these (again I’ll list a few later) don’t sing at all but deliver slabs of lyric reasoning in as deadpan a way as possible, while usually maintaining some element of rhyme.

Dispensing with the ornament of melody, along with the value of expertise, again, creates a bridge between ‘singer’ and audience, across which whatever emotional, ironic, political or other content the lyrics might contain and convey can be traded, immediately, directly, clearly and without effort – after all, we all know of songs we have loved for years but whose lyrics we have never quite translated, disguised as they are by the melody and its artful performance.

Perhaps, in an age of swirling mass communications, much of which hurts us, bores us, confuses us, or wastes our precious time artist and audience seek something honest and well-meant in these tuneless and guile-less voices I have been noticing recently? Singing/talking/shouting/rapping in this way (often with a pronounced local accent) offers something solid and reliable, as well as unambiguous and unequivocal. We may therefore be looking at a kind of ‘truth claim here.

It’s surely true that what we have been discussing from the outset here is a heightened form of honesty, and that honesty is, it seems, in very short supply in our world full of mediations, fakery and downright lies all spewed-out by the ton and at an ever accelerating rate. Somewhere within this macabre and illicit miasma is the little human heart. We all have one, we each are one, and that is who and what I hear coming through these regional, trembling, dead-pan, shouted or spoken vocalists, who also have no fear in broaching the most ‘unpoetic’ of subjects.

Somehow, it seems, we need this new honesty to survive this monstrous moment. I might even try it myself sometime soon!

BTW some of the artists I was referring to include: Shirley Collins, Kath Bloom, Jessica Pratt, Nico, along with Robert Wyatt, Richard Dawson, Sleaford Mods, Idols, Porridge Radio, The Lovely Eggs, Dry Cleaning, and then yes there’s the whole rich legacy of Punk, plus so many kinds of rapping styles, some more guile-less than others of course, and that proto-punky, slammed-down wit that you find semi-spoke in Bob Dylan’s classic albums circa 1965.


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