NEWS: Mdou Moctar/Richard Dawson @ The Cumberland Arms | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The word ‘eclectic’ is considerably over-used these days, being pressed into uses as mundane as describing supermarket confectionery to underpants. But nowhere is it more ubiquitous than describing music, where the throwaway use of a violin, say, or perhaps the 5/4 time signature, is enough to have the eclecticists rubbing their hands with glee. And so it is with great caution that I suggest The Cumberland Arms’ gig on Thursday 19th November is, if not strictly eclectic, then blessed with a unique combination of talents as rare as a simultaneous lunar and solar eclipse.

Support Richard Dawson should need no introduction to many.  A stalwart of the local scene for many a year, his live shows are one part deadpan-hilarious shaggy dog story to one part avant-garde folk generated by just Dawson’s voice and mini guitar. He’s been called the North East’s own Syd Barrett, and his work is gradually seeping into the national consciousness, but for now he remains very much a local hero. If he plays 16-minute opus The Vile Stuff, a potted history of his childhood that explains rather more than a bit about why he is how he is, you’re in for a treat.

Headlining is Mdou Moctar, a Niger-based musician whose diverse (who needs ‘eclectic’?) output imbibes traditional African Zouk music, and, on record at least, spits out a slightly slower drum-machine version of said style, overlaid with drone-based guitar riffs and all manner of vocodered and auto-tuned vocals. But much of that frippery is for show – at the music’s heart is Moctar’s exemplary guitar work, whose Hendrix-reminiscent left-handed Stratocaster technique often relies on just a delay pedal for company, whilst generating ever more complex musical narratives. For his final trick, he adds a drummer and a second guitarist and properly rocks out, but all the while maintaining the hypnotic drone-note backbone which characterises his continent’s musical style: expect to dance. With one performer from near, and one from far, under one roof in the inimitable Cumby, you’d have to be rather eclectic indeed not to go.

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