The wood and the trees

It’s hard to be a critic these days. Aside from the fact that everyone is one you also get to a level of age and experience where you find (or feel) that everything is being repeated. Your terms of reference are so much wider that you can hear and see new things but will always have something that you can compare them to – not always beneficially.

To illustrate this I recently heard Lewis Watson, feted by many and easily comparable to lots of other artists. Whenever I encounter an act like this I find myself able to appreciate their work but also ask whether I wouldn’t rather spend the time listening to Dylan, Drake, Young, Oldham, Cave or a host of other singer-songwriters.

I recognise the necessity of the new but when we all have the ability to dredge through the history of music via Spotify, YouTube and their ilk you realise that new acts are stuck in that impossible position of having to compete with the past as well as the present. It’s a hard slog to say the least.

They say we’re stuck in a period where popular music has less variance than ever, largely due to pop working to a set formula and structure that has been proven to produce hits. Of course this only refers to the music that’s breaking through and being given airtime by popular radio stations, there is always a wealth of unbelievable music that may never reach that wider audience even when it is fully deserving of doing so.

Thus for every Lewis Watson or Tom Odell I could give you George Barnett, Pete Williams, Micky Greaney and Dan Whitehouse. Barnett is poised on the edge of greatness and with an Absolute Radio session due for broadcast this Sunday (from 8pm, Unknown Pleasures) he has the best chance of ‘stardom’. Greaney has been around almost as long as me and his work has a refined edge that fully deserves the plaudits that others seem to gather easily. He was once poised as Barnett is now but lacked that degree of luck, his time was not then but could still be.

Whitehouse is a workhorse, I’m sure he won’t mind me saying so. His work ethic is admirable and you feel that one day it will pay off. The new songs are undergoing a metamorphosis in the studio to produce an album that will give a greater sign of his depth. Then we’ll have even more to shout about.

There is so much out there that it is wrong for me or anyone else to tell you what is best, that is down to your own taste and temperament. There is no doubt that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees but as long as you know the wood is out there then I won’t have mangled this idiom in vain.