Joy Boyd was where the actions was during the ’60s and ’70s. He produced Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Richard & Linda Thompson, Sandy Denny, the Incredible String Band and plenty more.
Now he’s written an essay on “Inside Llewyn Davis” for Logger, The Believer‘s blog.
While it’s true that Inside Llewyn Davis takes some of its plot from The Mayor of MacDougal Street (Elijah Wald’s book about Dave Van Ronk), the Coen Brothers never intended the character portrayed by young, skinny Oscar Isaac to bear much resemblance to gruff, burly Van Ronk. This hasn’t prevented re-evaluations of Van Ronk’s music appearing in both The New York Times and The Guardian, explaining to younger generations his importance as a folk-blues singer and an influence on the young Bob Dylan.
Before proceeding further, I’d better declare my interest. I knew Van Ronk and heard him play a number of times, but was never a fan. From my youthfully opinionated 1962 perspective, I disliked the path he laid out for younger white folk singers to butcher the blues: scratchy voice, “red-hot-mama” clichés, plunky Josh-White-influenced guitar picking.
In White Bicycles, I wrote about waking on the morning of November 22, 1963, hearing about the killing of President Kennedy and rousing Dave, who was sleeping on my couch in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His reaction was to gloat that “chickens” were “coming home to roost,” and then to turn over and go back to sleep.
Robyn Hitchcock has recorded an album which may be called The Man Upstairs, with the great record producer Joe Boyd (Fairport Convention, Richard and Linda Thompson, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Pink Floyd, and many more), to be released in 2014 on YepRoc Records. Charlie Francis (better known as a producer and engineer) plays piano on four tracks.
In his newsletter Boyd writes: “I am occasionally approached by managers or artists wondering if I’m still up for producing records. I say yes, in theory. Then I set forth the way I’d like to do it: live in the studio (mostly, anyway, a few overdubs allowed…), no more than 6 days recording, maximum 6 days for mixing. For singer-songwriters, I say we’d have to include other people’s songs mixed in with theirs. Not covers of well-known songs, just good songs that fit in. Most respond with, ‘we’ll think about that and get back to you’ and I never hear from them again.”
Ah, but when Boyd told Hitchcock the lay of the land…
“my pal and touring partner Robyn Hitchcock has agreed to all my conditions,” Boyd writes. “We recorded and mixed a cd in 7 days (with the invaluable assistance of the great engineer Jerry Boys) and we’re both delighted with it. It will emerge on YepRoc sometime in 2014 (provisional title “The Man Upstairs”) and you can judge for yourselves if the Boyd approach works or not.”
With the release of 18 recordings by the late great British singer-songwriter Nick Drake’s mother, Molly Drake, we gain new insight into the music of Nick Drake. Recorded in the 1950’s at the Drake family home, the tracks have been restored by Nick Drake’s engineer John Wood. Drake’s producer, Joe Boyd, says, “This is the missing link in the Nick Drake story.”