Published Nov 13, 2017Sometime during 1969 and 1970, a prep school teacher, visual artist and musician named Ed Askew brought a humble collection of songs to a public radio station. Nearly half a century later, four reels of those charming performances have resurfaced as a complete record titled A Child in the Sun.
Long before collaborations with Sharon van Etten and Steve Gunn, Askew's work was deemed pivotal in pioneering a genre called "acid folk." His debut album, Ask the Unicorn, is considered essential listening, yet his sophomore record, Little Eyes, somehow missed an official label release until 2003.
On A Child in the Sun, Askew delivers performances brimming with rawness and honest mistakes, such as light coughs or rasping breaths — Askew even admits between chuckles during the performance of his song "Accordion Man" that he "screwed it up." Despite this, these minor flaws are a trait of Askew's artistic vision and ethos. On one of the two interview snippets titled "Purity Chat," he briefly explains that his artistic vision prioritizes authenticity over perfection.
The performances are conducted using a tiple, a small, ten-stringed, ukulele-like guitar. The instrument successfully creates a unique, psychedelic sound that often saunters along a thin line separating a hypnotic mood from a sweet and poppy one. The combination makes for a final product that stays faithful to tradition while remaining in step with a new generation.
Askew's unique vocals have notably garnered comparisons to Bob Dylan's, as the musicians share similarities in their high-pitched, somewhat nasal vocals. However, regardless of any critical juxtaposition, A Child in the Sun reveals a showcase of the immense talent that Ed Askew possesses, and grants an excellent introductory glimpse into an incredible catalogue of work that continues to flourish today. (Drag City)