Recommended Songs: - “I Remember,” “Poor Mum,” “Happiness”
Genre: Folk - For fans of: Nick Drake, Kath Bloom
Like anyone with a good conscience, it warmed my heart to watch folk musician Nick Drake rise from a relatively unknown figure to one of the most beloved and respected songwriters in music. Drake's success is long overdue. Even though his body of work consists of only three core LPs and a handful of cuts and various recordings, they remain some of the most fascinating and definitive statements in the folk genre. After the completion of “Pink Moon,” his final LP and his masterpiece, Drake died tragically at the age of 26. In light of his passing, Drake was immortalized as something of a legend and to this day he remains a most compelling figure in rock, folk, or really any other genre of music. Drake's work remains absolutely singular. It floated out into a bizarre place that never sounded like it belonged in its time, or ours. Despite the unique nature of his music, Drake still had one contemporary – his mother Molly Drake.
The final link in the Nick Drake legend is tied together with the recent surfacing of the recorded works of Molly Drake. Recorded somewhere in the span of the 1950’s to the 1960’s, Molly recorded music that she described as being exclusively for friends and family. We were never supposed to hear these songs, of which there are 19. Yet we have them, sitting in our hands through whatever media preferred. Fans of Nick will be happy to discover that Molly bears an eerie similarity to her son in tone, style and songwriting. Like Nick, Molly is really more of a poet than a songwriter. The songs that she crafted rarely exceeded more than two minutes, and were rather simplistic in nature; a sharp contrast to Nick’s complex, finger-picked guitar playing style. Molly’s instrument of choice was a piano that was likely sitting somewhere in the Drake family living room, and it’s through this that she adds color to her otherwise minimalist compositions. Molly’s piano playing leaves a little something to be desired and though it does sound lovely, it doesn't add much to the music and serves more as grounding for what’s truly important, her lyrics. Through her songs she tells stories, crafts metaphors and reveals the inner workings of a fragile and complex mind. Molly’s tone throughout many of her songs is rather gloomy, musing on memories she vividly paints, and various feelings and emotions such as love, happiness, sadness and nostalgia. On the beautiful highlight “I Remember,” Molly reflects on a romantic getaway, presumably with a certain Mr. Drake, and contrasts her lovely experience with his, which turned out to be a negative one.
“I remember firelight, and you remember smoke,” she sings. There is a remarkable intimacy to Molly’s music and it isn’t difficult to see why she intended them to be heard only by the ears of friends and family. Many of these songs are performed without context and can leave an unaware listener scratching their head in confusion. Still, much of the material that has been released is largely accessible, and more importantly fantastic. There’s the devastating “Poor Mum,” the melancholy “Happiness” and the short lived but powerful “How Wild The Wind Blows”
It isn’t hard to imagine Nick Drake as a child sitting on a piano bench as Molly lifted his fingers up to touch the ivory keys. The influence that Molly had over Nick is overwhelming, and with the release of her material, we have a glimpse into the life of one of the most gifted and wonderful songwriters of the 20th century. Yet, as I’m sure you can guess, Molly is much more than this. She is a singular artist, who through her simple words was able to transcribe her entire life story for the ears of those close to her. Were we meant to hear it, probably not, but it’s an experience nonetheless.
You can find Molly’s recorded material here:
Sean Contris is a student at Tacoma Community College. Oftentimes he comes too close to embodying the classical, and often times stereotypical, persona of a young male writer. Sean enjoys listening to a wide range of music and locking himself in his room to read sad Russian novels.