Latitude 2009

Elvis Perkins, Stephanie Dosen and the singer-songwriter glut

John Mulvey

Afternoon, lovely day here at Latitude, pretty densely populated with singer-songwriters, it has to be said. I started the day at the lovely Sunrise stage in the woods(apparently, its strikingly mellow atmosphere was fractured yesterday when Les Rita Mitsouko got booed off).

Right now, though, there's an angsty strummer called Karima Francis who looks a bit like a dreadlocked Justine Frischmann and sounds, I'm afraid, like KT Tunstall trying to do a Jeff Buckley impression. It's a bit grim, but the crowds lying in the undergrowth seem to appreciate such a politely fraught start to the day.

Stephanie Dosen is next, a blonde from Milwaukee who could easily be mistaken for one of the elfin stewards who hang lurk in these woods. A certain overproduced preciousness blighted her recent album for me, so this is better - stripped back to acoustic guitar, cello and violin. Nevertheless, the pursuit of the ethereal, and a twee, tasteful aesthetic (in ten years of the Cocteaus-affiliated Bella Union label, they've never signed anyone so reminiscent of Liz Fraser) can grate a little.

Maybe Dosen's songs could do with a little more of the curious wit she reveals in her rambling monologues between songs, even if the kookiness gets a bit Phoebe from Friends occasionally. "I dedicate this song to all the owls whose homes were ruined by this tent," she announces. Quite.

A swift hike up to the Uncut tent is rewarded with the excellent Elvis Perkins. Perkins doesn't appear to be remotely precious or, here at least, interested in baring his soul to the suffering public. Instead, he writes and plays excellent, roistering folk-pop songs in a distinct Dylan tradition. Perhaps Willy Mason is the closest modern analogue, but I think Perkins - the son of Anthony Perkins, intriguingly - is better than Masdon.

It's a swaggering, roistering show from the stealthy opening of "While You Were Sleeping" to the revivalist hoedown finale of "Doomsday". By then, Perkins has been joined by most of Cold War Kids and Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, while his drummer is cavorting round the stage with a bass drum strapped to his chest.

All very jolly, and in the spirit of Michael's bizarre star-spotting here, I can report thatMartha Kearney from Newsnight seemed to be enjoying it, too.


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