Success and failure in any creative endeavour can be hard to measure. Is triumph defined by audience numbers, or by money? Is failure defined by obscurity? Luck and timing can determine the fate of an artist’s work as surely as its intrinsic quality does.
In 1974, Canadian songwriter Bob Carpenter made a beautiful album, only to see his work pulped because of a management spat that’s been long-forgotten since. Defeated, he wandered for years, became ill and died more or less unrecognised. Yet his work has been found, re-published and rediscovered by a new generation.
“Upon the ship of life, we are the masts, the sails and the wind”
Marlon Williams is a member of that new generation. At 23, he carries a wealth of musical history around with him, from his own Maori roots, to his classical training as an opera singer, and his obsession with the music of America’s south. He’s a reassuring emblem for the notion that singers are responsible for the continuation of heritage, as much as they are for adding to heritage with their own work.
Silent Passage is the rarest of songs: a ballad that makes you yearn for something you can’t quite place. What was Carpenter’s sailor yearning for? Home? Family? An end to his wanderings? Perhaps the writer foresaw his own future torments when he wrote this lyric.
Recorded live in an abandoned chapel full of haybales on a rainy day in Modewarre, this Church of the Open Sky session is a gem of a thing. We think you’ll be hearing a lot more of Marlon Williams in years to come, and maybe even of Bob Carpenter. You can download the results here.