My mums dog, Honey, is a gorgeous if slightly dippy fox coloured Labrador. Honey is a rescue dog, and one of the saddest problems with rescue dogs is you don't know an awful lot about their past. One afternoon, my sister visited mum, and whilst messing around with an old trilby, covered her eyes with it's brim (a la the cover of All Hits by All Saints). Honey went quite uncharacteristically berserk at this, snarling and barking with the hair on her back stood up. My sister removed the hat, and Honey instantly went back to her normal self;waggly tailed and hustling for a fuss. We're not sure what that hat symbolised to poor old Honey, but it clearly triggered something unsavory in her psyche. It was a sobering moment for all concerned.
I have similar reaction to the word 'folk'. I was dragged along to a local 'folk' night once and it was a spectacularly bad evening, it's quaintness both forced and false. The session was teeming full of men with egg yoke stained jumpers and bits of pork pie in their beards singing songs about either a) small children drowning in a well or b) having their hearts broken by a 'lady so fair'. Some of the music I like has been described as twee, but really, this was aural bunting. Don't get me wrong, I can and do enjoy folk music (Judee Sill, Sandy Denny and Judy Collins for example) but the word 'folk' sends my mind spiraling back to that night and off in search of a stiff drink and a listen of something abrasive and urban (nine times out of ten it's Light User Syndrome by the Fall). Live 'folk' music? Brrr. Not for me pal.
Enter Chrissy Barnacle. I first saw Chrissy supporting Durham Irn Bru crew Martha (though poles apart in musical type, they made surprisingly good touring partners. Both play songs that simultaneously hold your head and your heart, and they share a defiance of taking themselves too seriously that borders on militancy). The first thing that strikes you about Chrissy is what an amazing guitarist she is. I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that she must use a headache inducingly difficult tuning, because at times the effect is like listening to three guitars at once. It's either that or some kind of witch craft. You can't help up but be drawn into the songs intros, delicate with the intricacy of a spiders web, her Spanish guitar chimes, echos and loops like smoke spiraling from a librarians candle.
Then comes the voice. I've read elsewhere of writers comparing her voice from everyone from Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush. Well maybe, but to me her voice is one that has taken years to discover and finally find the courage to release to the world. She stands at the mic, guitar just under her chin, eyes closed and shoulders hunched, searching deeply for this voice, her voice, to propel the yearning within her. Her songs are like a sword fight between her inner optimism and the self doubt that lurks on her shoulder, despairingly desperate to validate their hopeless romanticism. It's an often breath taking tussle.
With songs so dizzyingly intimate and brimming with chimericaly emotional wanderlust and wryly honest aural postcards about the ascertainment of the true inner self, it's impossible not to champion Chrissy Barnacle both as an artist and a human being. I'm not sure what she is searching for, but you can't help but hope she finds it. Chrissy has made folk music for the punx to fall in love with, and for that we should take our hats off to her, as I'm sure Honey would agree.
All of Chrissy's recorded music to date is available as pay what you like (IE nowt if you're tight) downloads and can be found here:-http://chrissybarnacle.bandcamp.com/
Photo credit: www.jamiemcfadyen.blogspot