With a name like “Askew,” you can bet that you’ll be slotted you into an oddball/eccentric niche. And to be sure, Ed Askew has outsider cred to burn, having released his debut album on the original avant label ESP Records way back in 1967. But Askew’s new LP, For The World, is far from weird — unless direct, emotional songwriting is weird these days. Which it may well be.
With all-star contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Marc Ribot, Mary Lattimore, and members of the Black Swans, the 71-year-old Askew has crafted a singularly affecting album that exists somewhere between the dream life and the everyday. This is the first time he has really worked in a “band” setting, and while the playing leans toward the delicate side of things, there’s an elegiac majesty to the proceedings — check out the gently cascading piano and lonesome harmonica of the opener, “Roadio Rose.” Over the next nine tracks, the listener is treated to an autumnal musical journey. For The World may not be strange, but it sure is beautiful. words/ t wilcox