In a world excited by complicated gimmicks, Neil Young reminds me that it's the simple stuff that stays the course. He's always done whatever he wanted, always written from the heart. His simple and insightful reflections on life in songs like Old Man, Heart Of Gold and Unknown Legend only get better with age. I discovered Neil Young quite late in my life after people kept saying my voice reminding them of his, but better late than never. Now, whenever I'm in the process of writing a question I always ask is: 'What would Neil Young do?'
There are artists who come along and literally change the game for the rest of us. Justin Vernon altered the sonic palette that songwriters can use. The first record, For Emma Forever Ago, completely flawed me at the first track, Flume. And that song remains one of my favourite of the past decade. I owe much of where I am to that song as I wrote my first single Fail For You by intentionally ripping off his style. The vocal work is jaw droppingly beautiful and the use of atmospheric messiness transports you to his creaky wooden world.
Ryan Adams is the Neil Young of his generation. He has an incredibly varied body of work, ranging from the incredible to the absurd. Such variation comes only from artists who follow no one but themselves. He has written some of my favourite songs of all time and after nearly a 20 year career his latest offering is one of his very best. A Ryan Adams show in Brighton was a turning point in my life. He played solo for around 2 hours. One man. One guitar. Two decades of perfecting his stage craft. 2000 captivated fans. I walked away from that show knowing I needed to get better.
Josh Ritter redefined lyrics for me. He writes songs that are more like tiny four minute novels. His song The Temptation of Adam continues to blow my mind, the sheer imaginative poetry of writing a song about two people falling in love while on watch in a missile silo. The same goes for The Curse, another example of the genius of Josh' storytelling. Exactly four years ago I had the privilege of opening a couple shows for Josh, which is still one of the proudest moments of my life. His live show is something to behold. He emits something that not many shoe gazing singer/songwriters can even feel (me included): joy.
Because he's Bob Dylan
Luke's Tornados EP is out November 4th, he plays The Tabernacle on November 5th