In 1996 a dear friend with very refined musical taste gave me a copy of Joy Askew’s remarkable debut CD entitled “Tender City.” Unbeknownst to me, I had already had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Joy sing and play keyboards on tour with some of my favorite musicians: Peter Gabriel, Joe Jackson and Laurie Anderson.
In 2013 I wrote in the Huffington Post that her song “Little Darling” from “Tender City” was one of the most amazing songs ever written: “If you like Rickie Lee Jones then you will be blown away by this song. The piano and bass are so soft and precious. Joy’s ethereal voice will move anyone with a beating heart. This song is magic.”
In May of 2020 Joy posted a pandemic-induced faux-Zoom recording of her song, “This Is How The Story Goes”:
Incited by the glowing reactions to this beautiful tiny symphony, Joy wrote and recorded her ninth solo CD “Everything Is Different”.
She says, “One of the biggest inspirations was my group of friends who are in the ‘Songwriter’s Hang’ that I began running at my apartment in Brooklyn every month in 2019. When the pandemic began, it quickly became a saviour for the isolation, and we would meet on Zoom, sometimes 9 or 10 of us and sometimes every two weeks, just to be together, listen to what we were writing and feel the warmth of the friendship and inspiration! The input I got on my songs was so valuable and also just the need to keep writing when everything around us was different!”
During lockdown, Joy worked alone in her studio, playing, singing, producing, and gathering separately recorded musical contributions from twenty-six musicians, engineers and mixers — people whom Joy met on her journey as an artist and musician since arriving in New York City from England in 1982. Joy said, “All the musicians took such great care to get the best sound they could with their home recordings and were so willing to give me different takes if something wasn’t perfect.”
She describes these contributions as “ribbons of connecting sounds, from Tokyo, Connecticut, Long Island, Nashville, London, or even just a block away in Brooklyn. Some were recorded in living rooms, some in gorgeous-sounding studios, using everything from pots and pans to smartphones.”
Personally I loved the whole CD but the one track that immediately gripped me was the ironically entitled “Silent,” which begins with the word “extinction” and reminded me of Harry Nilsson’s song “One”. Joy told me that only when the album was finished did she notice that some of her new songs reflect the innocence of life before the pandemic, while others reveal the changes that has set in fast and deep during it. “Silent,” for me, represented that shift in consciousness regarding the fragility of life that we all experienced during the pandemic.
Joy said that during the making of “Everything Is Different” Blake Mills, Shara Nova and Mitski were inspirations as well as Bon Iver. If you appreciate the intricate and soulful musical explorations of Ani DiFranco, Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson, then you will be enthralled and enchanted by Joy Askew’s new eclectic masterpiece.