Writing and Photos by:
I often go to Rebel Spirit nights at Rockwood Music Hall, which are held on the first Wednesday of each month. It’s usually a pretty good night of music. I’m not sure exactly what is involved in their selection process, but Deena Goodman, one of Rebel Spirit’s founders, was always great at finding talent for the New York Songwriter’s Circle when she worked with them, so I keep dropping in to see who is being showcased.
Last week featured a couple of artists recently transplanted to NY from Nashville and another visiting from LA, but the one to whom the night unquestionably belonged, was an ‘Englishman in New York’ by the name of Will Knox. It was obvious from the set up that there was something unique about to happen. It isn’t often that one sees both a banjo and a violin on stage at the same time.
To center stage steps a handsome young man with tussled curls and an impish smile. He speaks with a proper English accent – though he is said to be from London…and he does, in fact, support one of London’s top ranking football teams, Arsenal (I’ll try not to hold that against him), he has no sign of the common cockney dialect, but rather presents himself as a charming and refined gentleman with a quick wit and a gleam in his eye.
Before he struck the first note I was silently rooting for him, ‘oh man, if this kid can play…this is a hell of a package …”
Gently plucking the strings he begins. Then, he sings. His voice dances with a lovely lilt, telling stories in the classic folk tradition; of emigrants, of the quest for fame and fortune, of the fear of moving to NYC, and of lost love. Crafted words and beautiful old world melodies updated with 21st century pop sensibilities. Music that would be as comfortable in an old Irish pub as it would be at any current venue on the Lower East Side. He is a classic singer/songwriter, but with a clever Celtic twist that separates him from the rest of his contemporaries.
Some sweet and simple melodies are coupled with beautiful, intelligent lyrics which draw you in like an old friend telling you a story:
“She said learn some gratitude
And give the thanks I’m overdue
She said learn some self respect
Repair the other life you wrecked”
The band harmonizes as the violin adds a sympathetic sound, all beautifully arranged to envelop the audience in the tales he tells. Looking around the room, it’s easy to see, they gladly follow the dimpled troubadour into the lives of immigrant workers or down Hollywood Blvd, wherever this stories lead. And judging by the encore they demanded, they would have done so all night long.
Check out his myspace www.myspace.com/willknoxmusic to hear for yourself – and find a show near you…then…
have the inkeeper stoke the fire, pour the wine, and settle in for a fine night of music from a songwriter you’re very likely to hear making quite a name for himself rather quickly.
Other band members shown in photos:
Clayton Mathews on Violin and Kyle Hauser on Banjo.