City Halls, Glasgow, Sun 14 Jan
Putting a gig by Ms Newsom on in the middle of January’s a good call, because her music’s just about the most snug thing ever invented. She plays a harp, for God’s sake. And sings in a voice that’s reminiscent of both Björk and a precocious 11-year-old child (Lisa Simpson, in fact, as one critic said).
Joanna Newsom, it’s fair to say, is an acquired taste. She’s been much lauded in certain music mags of late, chiefly ones of a dazzlingly alternative bent or those aimed at older readers, where admitting to liking a harpist is not a confession to be frowned upon. Such praise is, in all honesty, deserved. The 24-year-old Newsom is originally from Nevada City and, curiously enough, is the cousin of San Francisco’s mayor. She first came to prominence after supporting Will Oldham on tour, a showcase which subsequently saw her signed to the Drag City label, and she has since become aligned with the new wave of psychedelic folk artists to have taken the genre in new and different directions, alongside friends and sometime tourmates like Devandra Banhart and Vetiver.
Following on from 2004’s debut The Milk-Eyed Mender, last year’s Ys album raised her to a new pedestal of popularity. Recorded with Steve Albini, Van Dyke Parks and Jim O’Rourke, it’s a record whose delicate musical beauty sometimes fails to signpost Newsom’s sometimes tortured lyrical concerns, which would often put a country diva to shame. If you can just learn to love that voice, then much winter warmth shall be found here.