On 2020, Richard Dawson retains the extravagant and bristling sound of 2017's Peasant. And like Peasant before it, 2020 has been described as Dawson's most accessible work. Compositions have been further simplified and refined, a habit Dawson has tended towards with each successive release. This by no means portends a compromised or watered-down collection of material. Dawson has always left more than enough meat to reward attentive listeners.
In contrast to the frothing, fire-ant ridden compost-heap pastorality of Peasant, 2020 wanders into urban spaces. But it's still uncomfortable. What Dawson called its 'concrete grey' has acne scars of sad, brutalist decrepitude and quiescence. And Dawson's sound still has that timelessness to it — the result of his straddling of Britain's sonic history. One foot in the contemporary, the other in ancient British folk traditions.
Like its Celtic forebears, 2020 impresses by juggling pomp and earnestness. The LP's lead single, 'Jogging', is exceeded in honesty only by its own bombast. Songs run on for twice as long as you'd expect, muddling beautifully through their strange structures and arrangements. Dawson has a knack for swerving his material in the opposite direction you'd expect. He has always excelled in yanking the floor from his listeners, leaving them afloat and receptive.
This tailored vacuum is the scaffold under which Dawson builds his lyrics. To call his songs parables would imply they are didactic. Instead, Dawson’s tracks present focused and isolated flashes which, when combined, form a detailed whole. He does, with few and simple words, what barely any currently working songwriters can even aspire to.
Dawson never has to stretch to find the truth. He just talks about how he's feeling, and, almost by accident, keys into something universal. Lyrics which can, to new listeners, feel confrontational soon reveal themselves as affable. They find broadness in their specificity. 2020 is naked and forthright, but it's personal; never loaded with an agenda. Unless you count trying to raise money for the British Red Cross.
Richard Dawson’s 2020 is available for purchase and streaming here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe