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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Album Review: Peasant – Shady Retreat

Softly whispered Americana, from a promising young talent.

Written by Ian Steadman

003_1Rick the punk poet does his thing

Being a wee bit literary, approved sale I have a penchant for poetry, visit this site so it was with some expectation and enthusiasm I went along to the Poetry Night at Coffee And Corks coffee shop in Canterbury last night.

This poetry night is a weekly affair, held every Tuesday evening, but last night’s was different, in that it was being held in conjunction with the Airplot initiative. What’s Airplot, I hear you all clamour? Well, it’s a project that’s been dreamt up by Greenpeace to help stop the building of the third runway at Heathrow Airport – put simply, the NGO and a group of celebrities have bought a plot of land that is slap-bang in the middle of the proposed runway site. Members of the public can buy a share in the plot and therefore become a ‘beneficiary owner’ of the land.

002_1Coffee And Corks: it doesn’t just do coffee, there’s alcohol too – now that’s the stuff

As such, the evening was kicked off with an introduction from Greenpeace’s John Hallyday. “Climate change is having – and will continue to have – a massive effect on our species and every other species on the planet,” he said. “If we allow the third runway to be built at Heathrow, the UK won’t meet its greenhouse gas targets set last year. Plus, 500 people’s homes will be demolished in the village of Sipson, which stands in the way of the proposed site.”

After giving a plug to Canterbury’s upcoming Climate Fair, John’s final words were borrowed from the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, as he read a poem written by the latter while aboard a Greenpeace ship chasing whalers on the high seas. It’s fair to say it set a good vibe for the night to come. And it was immediately followed by the handing out of cards that those in attendance (poet participants, listeners or those just enjoying a coffee; all were welcome) could fill in for a prize – three hours’ free recording time at Canterbury’s West Track Studios. Not missing a trick (and why should they?), the organisers also ensured that by filling in a card and entering the raffle you also signed up to the Airplot campaign.

And so to the evening’s poetry itself. To say that there was great variety in what the poets – many regulars, some new – performed would be an understatement; to say that some of it was risqué and rather personal would be a vast understatement. However, I must admit, the vast majority of the poems impressed me, as did the pluck many of their authors had to stand up in front of people (some of whom, like I said, had only come in to sip a late latte) and deliver their thoughts, feelings, wit and wisdom through verse. I must give special mention to the middle-aged Adrian, whose ‘The Web Of Life’ was a lyrical, eco-friendly missive, and Rick, a self-proclaimed coffee-shop-culture-punk resplendent in a Mr Happy t-shirt, whose delivery owed much to the beat poets of old and whose entertainment value was only equalled by the title of his final poem, ‘Don’t Eat Dodgy Food In Foreign Countries’.

004_1

What a fine sentiment – especially in a coffee shop

All in all then, this was a great evening that hopefully drew attention to and created new converts to Airplot, as well as highlighting the good work of the Skillnet Group Community Interest Company in the Canterbury community, in conjunction with West Track Studios. I tip my hat – or rather my beat poet’s cap – then to the organisers, in particular Helen Long who it was that brought Greenpeace, West Track Studios and Skillnet all together on this chilly evening in a caffeine-fuelled fun-filled event.
003_1Rick the punk poet does his thing

Being a wee bit literary, drug I have a penchant for poetry, so it was with some expectation and enthusiasm I went along to the Poetry Night at Coffee And Corks coffee shop in Canterbury last night.

This poetry night is a weekly affair, held every Tuesday evening, but last night’s was different, in that it was being held in conjunction with the Airplot initiative. What’s Airplot, I hear you all clamour? Well, it’s a project that’s been dreamt up by Greenpeace to help stop the building of the third runway at Heathrow Airport – put simply, the NGO and a group of celebrities have bought a plot of land that is slap-bang in the middle of the proposed runway site. Members of the public can buy a share in the plot and therefore become a ‘beneficiary owner’ of the land.

002_1Coffee And Corks: it doesn’t just do coffee, there’s alcohol too – now that’s the stuff

As such, the evening was kicked off with an introduction from Greenpeace’s John Hallyday. “Climate change is having – and will continue to have – a massive effect on our species and every other species on the planet,” he said. “If we allow the third runway to be built at Heathrow, the UK won’t meet its greenhouse gas targets set last year. Plus, 500 people’s homes will be demolished in the village of Sipson, which stands in the way of the proposed site.”

After giving a plug to Canterbury’s upcoming Climate Fair, John’s final words were borrowed from the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, as he read a poem written by the latter while aboard a Greenpeace ship chasing whalers on the high seas. It’s fair to say it set a good vibe for the night to come. And it was immediately followed by the handing out of cards that those in attendance (poet participants, listeners or those just enjoying a coffee; all were welcome) could fill in for a prize – three hours’ free recording time at Canterbury’s West Track Studios. Not missing a trick (and why should they?), the organisers also ensured that by filling in a card and entering the raffle you also signed up to the Airplot campaign.

And so to the evening’s poetry itself. To say that there was great variety in what the poets – many regulars, some new – performed would be an understatement; to say that some of it was risqué and rather personal would be a vast understatement. However, I must admit, the vast majority of the poems impressed me, as did the pluck many of their authors had to stand up in front of people (some of whom, like I said, had only come in to sip a late latte) and deliver their thoughts, feelings, wit and wisdom through verse. I must give special mention to the middle-aged Adrian, whose ‘The Web Of Life’ was a lyrical, eco-friendly missive, and Rick, a self-proclaimed coffee-shop-culture-punk resplendent in a Mr Happy t-shirt, whose delivery owed much to the beat poets of old and whose entertainment value was only equalled by the title of his final poem, ‘Don’t Eat Dodgy Food In Foreign Countries’.

004_1

What a fine sentiment – especially in a coffee shop

All in all then, this was a great evening that hopefully drew attention to and created new converts to Airplot, as well as highlighting the good work of the Skillnet Group Community Interest Company in the Canterbury community, in conjunction with West Track Studios. I tip my hat – or rather my beat poet’s cap – then to the organisers, in particular Helen Long who it was that brought Greenpeace, West Track Studios and Skillnet all together on this chilly evening in a caffeine-fuelled fun-filled event.
003_1Rick the punk poet does his thing

Being a wee bit literary, about it I have a penchant for poetry, buy so it was with some expectation and enthusiasm I went along to the Poetry Night at Coffee And Corks coffee shop in Canterbury last night.

This poetry night is a weekly affair, held every Tuesday evening, but last night’s was different, in that it was being held in conjunction with the Airplot initiative. What’s Airplot, I hear you all clamour? Well, it’s a project that’s been dreamt up by Greenpeace to help stop the building of the third runway at Heathrow Airport – put simply, the NGO and a group of celebrities have bought a plot of land that is slap-bang in the middle of the proposed runway site. Members of the public can buy a share in the plot and therefore become a ‘beneficiary owner’ of the land.

002_1Coffee And Corks: it doesn’t just do coffee, there’s alcohol too – now that’s the stuff

As such, the evening was kicked off with an introduction from Greenpeace’s John Hallyday. “Climate change is having – and will continue to have – a massive effect on our species and every other species on the planet,” he said. “If we allow the third runway to be built at Heathrow, the UK won’t meet its greenhouse gas targets set last year. Plus, 500 people’s homes will be demolished in the village of Sipson, which stands in the way of the proposed site.”

After giving a plug to Canterbury’s upcoming Climate Fair, John’s final words were borrowed from the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, as he read a poem written by the latter while aboard a Greenpeace ship chasing whalers on the high seas. It’s fair to say it set a good vibe for the night to come. And it was immediately followed by the handing out of cards that those in attendance (poet participants, listeners or those just enjoying a coffee; all were welcome) could fill in for a prize – three hours’ free recording time at Canterbury’s West Track Studios. Not missing a trick (and why should they?), the organisers also ensured that by filling in a card and entering the raffle you also signed up to the Airplot campaign.

And so to the evening’s poetry itself. To say that there was great variety in what the poets – many regulars, some new – performed would be an understatement; to say that some of it was risqué and rather personal would be a vast understatement. However, I must admit, the vast majority of the poems impressed me, as did the pluck many of their authors had to stand up in front of people (some of whom, like I said, had only come in to sip a late latte) and deliver their thoughts, feelings, wit and wisdom through verse. I must give special mention to the middle-aged Adrian, whose ‘The Web Of Life’ was a lyrical, eco-friendly missive, and Rick, a self-proclaimed coffee-shop-culture-punk resplendent in a Mr Happy t-shirt, whose delivery owed much to the beat poets of old and whose entertainment value was only equalled by the title of his final poem, ‘Don’t Eat Dodgy Food In Foreign Countries’.

004_1

What a fine sentiment – especially in a coffee shop

All in all then, this was a great evening that hopefully drew attention to and created new converts to Airplot, as well as highlighting the good work of the Skillnet Group Community Interest Company in the Canterbury community, in conjunction with West Track Studios. I tip my hat – or rather my beat poet’s cap – then to the organisers, in particular Helen Long who it was that brought Greenpeace, West Track Studios and Skillnet all together on this chilly evening in a caffeine-fuelled fun-filled event.
Shady-Cover-Done

The second album by Damien DeRose, website like this aka acoustic act Peasant, there is one for the summer. It’s overwhelmingly (or should that be underwhelmingly?) gentle, a collection of stripped-down folk Americana that bears resemblance to the recordings of groups like Fleet Foxes and Megafaun, albeit on a much more intimate scale. Recorded in attics and in bedrooms, ‘Shady Retreat’ would be unremarkable if not for Peasant’s tin whisper of a voice bringing to mind the dust of cabins and the homeliness of a romanticised rural America – it doesn’t take long for postcard images of kids on tire swings down by the ol’ swimming hole to flash through the mind. There’s Ma, frying up some catfish for the young ‘uns. Pa’s whittlin’ a new spoon on the porch, etc. etc. The liner notes credit, “an old stone house from the 18th century,” that survives in downtown Doylestown, Pennsylvania as a major inspiration – like an old stone building these songs already sound almost timeless in style, a mix of jaunty piano and folk acoustic guitar that contains echo and disrepair in equal measure.

Within seconds of pressing play, you’ll get “Thinking”’s refrain fluttering out of the speakers, at odds to the piano that accompanies it. It’s a somewhat lacklustre declaration that, “we just can’t go on without thinking/maybe we’re wrong/I’ve been thinking” – this is as close to a statement of intent for the album as there is. This isn’t anything like the angst of someone like Bon Iver, or even a Ryan Adams, as it’s just far too restrained. It’s the kind of regret that comes with, roughly, six months of introspection about and dissection of (maybe more, maybe less) a failed relationship – emotionally muted, and now only slightly bitter. Example lyrics: “Keep up your looks/Got you as far as they could,” on “Pry”, or “Tell me that I look like I’m gone/when I’m around … Why you got to treat me this way?,” on perhaps the most upbeat song here, “Well Alright”. Peasant’s entire philosophy seems to be a shrug.

peasant grass

His delivery, though, is always, always kind. The lack of specifics, the reduction of the target of these songs to vague descriptives, keeps everything in the inoffensive realm of the folk ditty. His vocal style is laid back, withdrawn, intimate, willowy – the effect is as if he’s in the room down the hallway, just knocking out some tunes casually and carefully, but nothing ever stands out or intrudes upon the rest of life.

Therein lies the problem – whilst there are a few standout songs (“Well Alright”, “Tough”) on ‘Shady Retreat’, taken as a whole it’s more of an extended mood. It is the perfect soundtrack for, say, drifting downstream on a sweet, hazy summer afternoon (you can’t help but think that DeRose does exactly that whenever he gets the chance). These are the kinds of songs that pass the time around campfires, the kind that are a gentle strum in the background of a day spent relaxing in the shade of some oak. They are, to put it succinctly, lovely. However, that is part of their weakness, as ‘inoffensive’ can often be a synonym for ‘forgettable’, and there’s little here to justify heavy rotation. Whatever stream Peasant likes to float down, it’s not a particularly deep one – and that’s fine, for a while. He’s got to return to land sometime, and when he does I’ll be waiting to see what changes it brings.

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