Poets will moonlight as singer-songwriters when The Adulterators perform in Nelson and Motueka next week.
The band offers a revue of poems and songs spanning the genres of roots folks and alt country.
As a band, they represent one of the latest developments in the revival of words and music as a literary art form that has been taking the poetry world by storm.
One of the two poets who make up The Adulterators is John Newton, the author of four acclaimed books and a CD titled Love me tender, made up of alt country songs, recorded in 2011 with his band, The Tenderizers. Newton, originally from Blenheim but now based in Auckland, has teamed up with Nelson and Motueka-based poet Cliff Fell to bring their brand of original, edgy songs and poems to the top of the south.
Newton's collections of poems include Lives of the Poets and 2013's Family Songbook, seven long poems based in the backblocks of the South Island in which he recalls his wandering, guitar-playing youth.
Newton is also the author of Double Rainbow, a social-cultural history of James K. Baxter's life in Whanganui's Jerusalem commune.
While best known as a poet, he's a seasoned performer whose love of country music and song-writing underpins his work.
Well-known poet Cliff Fell has been performing songs and poems as an act for some years now. He's looking forward to the prospect of working with Newton.
"Whenever we meet we seem to start playing music, and so it seemed inevitable that sooner or later we'd find a way of putting a song and poetry show together," he says. "We each do some solo work during the evening, mixing up the two forms and also do some songs together."
Tanya Nock of Samba de Sol will join them on violin. She and Fell are family, but haven't played together in public since Nock accompanied him on his radio poem, Motueka Song, almost 10 years ago.
One of the differences between their work as poets and singer-songwriters is in their approach to songwriting. Fell says Newton sees writing poems and writing songs as separate things, drawing on different techniques, whereas when he was writing the poems in his last book, Beauty of the Badlands, he discovered that some of them also had a life as songs.
"I really like to be able to take a poem off the page and renew it as a song," he says. "It gives them more possibility to perform and keep themselves fresh and alive. Perhaps that's because I've been singing old folk songs - and writing some original stuff - for as long as I've been writing poems, which is most of my life, now. I think those songs, folk and blues, have always been at the heart of my poems."
- The Adulterators, The Free House, December 5, 8pm; and Toad Hall, Motueka December 6, 6.30pm.
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