Old-school folk singer Marlon Williams

Last updated 09:12 06/07/2014

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"I guess I'm pretty "old-school folk" in that I consider myself a singer first and a songwriter second.

I think that's something I've picked up from listening to Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys incessantly over the last few years. Over his staggering 60-years-and-counting career he's written his fair share of beautiful songs, but they sit alongside traditionals or songs penned by any of the various revolving members of The Clinch Mountain Boys.

It's not important where they came from, or even what they're about, just that you find a way inside them and can convince whoever is listening that you've done so.

I know some people who can't take gospel music because they don't believe in God, but when listening to an album like Let Me Rest On A Peaceful Mountain, I get swept up in lead singer Keith Whitley's conviction and jubilation in the promise of everlasting joy beyond the grave, just as certainly as I'll be reduced to tears by the terrible sadness of Mary stoically holding her lost son in Michelangelo's Pieta.

And despite giving up many precious Sunday mornings to the Christchurch Catholic Cathedral Choir in my teens, I'm certainly no Christian.

Ralph Stanley aside, the album I've been listening to most of late is a little known masterpiece called Silent Passage by a mythical character named Bob Carpenter. Mythical because it's the only album he released and so little is known of him, and also mythical in the Ancient Mariner-esque world he brings to life so breathtakingly across the 10 songs on the album.

The title track is as close to perfect a song as I have heard, with lines like "After all this time I've found that I'm avoiding thee, for nothing more or less than fear of what I have to gain from staying in the clear".

Just marvellous. I ambitiously recorded a version of it with Aldous Harding and Ben Woolley of The Unfaithful Ways for my new album, and I can listen to it without throwing the master out the window, which, considering the iconic power of the original, is enough for me."



Marlon Williams tours New Zealand this month, supported by Aldous Harding and Melody Pool.

Tour dates: Wellington San Fran Bath House - Fri, July 11; Auckland Tuning Fork - Sat, July 12; Dunedin Taste Merchants - Sun, July 13; Lyttleton Wunderbar - Wed, July 16.

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