Gregory & the Hawk: Moenie & Kitchi

[14 October 2008]

By Spencer Tricker

Dear Ms. Meredith Godreau,

This year I visited the grave of Nick Drake. If you’ve never been, it’s under this great big tree in the churchyard of St. Mary Magdalene’s (Tanworth-in-Arden). Avoid the nearby pub if you can, it’s been tastelessly remodeled.

So, I was standing there in front of Nick Drake’s headstone, just kind of staring at the inscription for a while. Staring and, you know, sort of waiting for something to happen. After I was all done staring and waiting, though, I decided I would go for a walk around the town before getting the train back to London. I walked up and down the streets for a little while, aimlessly. Then I came upon this break in the hedgerows and there was this sign that said “public path.” So I thought about it for a second and then hopped over this weird little stepladder contraption and out into a big open field. It was kind of muddy where the ladder had dropped me, but I looked out and there was all this lush, verdant farmland ahead. I trudged down through the first field and then over more weird stepladders into the adjoining ones. On my way through, I passed some little brooks and could see sheep grazing nearby. Later a dog even chased me, but I managed to escape just in time.

Finally, I sat down by one of the brooks and got in some more staring and waiting, this time listening to the soft babbling sound of the water running over the rocks. I thought about some stuff, probably, but that doesn’t matter so much right now. A lot of what stays with me, though, is just this feeling of being completely relaxed for a time, for five minutes or a half-hour, I don’t know.

Anyhow, when I listen to your music, I think about some of these things, like cloudless skies and the shady gaunt trees. I think I might have even listened to some of In Your Dreams on the train ride back. I usually skip “Kill the Turkey”. I’m not a vegetarian and it kind of unnerves me.

I like the new album, Moenie and Kitchi, a lot too. It sounds a bit more mature and a little more open. Your songs have this timeless quality, and that’s why they will always remind people of nature. Like “August Moon”, for instance, which is one of my personal favorites right now. Your voice sounds far away on it, like it’s coming off an old record player.

While it could just be that I’m a little hung up on your old sound, I mostly enjoy the tracks that have the sparsest arrangements. On the other hand, my least favorite Nick Drake album is Bryter Layter. Do you know it? It’s the second one, with all these drums and horns all over the place. Well, during that time Island (Records) was trying to sell him as another Cat Stevens or something. Ultimately, I think the results made him lose faith in pop music altogether. This is where the anger of Pink Moon comes from. Also, did you know he hated to perform live? It seems he could never win anyone over to his cause that way. Not like the way you can.

I hear that the recording of this new album was pretty speedy. First takes, etc. This makes a lot of sense to me. I love that “Stone Wall, Stone Fence” is a deeper and darker song than I remember on In Your Dreams. And though I’m not sure I like the new drums on “Oats We Sow” (too much rattle and not enough hum), I think “Harmless” is one of your most gripping songs ever. Have you ever listened to Emiliana Torrini? Well, your new record is better than hers, but don’t tell her I said so. Also, “Doubtful” is a great change of texture, deservedly occupying a larger space than many of your older songs.

To wrap things up, I’d just like to say congratulations on the record deal. If you let them put a song in a Target commercial or something, I won’t judge you for it, but promise you’ll keep the good stuff coming. Make the music you want. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to stay permanent—and, to borrow a term, stay eventual. Your songs speak for themselves in a language that anyone can understand. And that, as I’m sure you know, is a truly enviable gift.

Best regards,

ST

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/gregory-the-hawk-moenie-kitchi/