The Minstrel Show
October 1, 2012
The singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s was the sound of baby boomers coming to grips with adulthood. Mourning their generation's failure to deliver a cultural revolution, the likes of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor turned inward, taking comfort in gently plucked acoustic guitars and their own mellifluous voices. Yet despite being so much a product of its time, the genre has proved timeless-especially in the U.K., where today's artists still pay tribute to the sound and sentiment of the original article. Beth Orton emerged in the early '90s, attracting an unlikely audience among techno ravers, who found in her spare, melancholy songs the perfect early-morning "comedown" soundtrack. Following a motherhood hiatus, she returns this month with The Sugaring Season, her first album in six years (Venue, Oct. 16, 2012). In a similar vein: Ed Sheeran and Michael Kiwanuka-age 21 and 24, respectively-became bona fide stars in Britain during the past year; the former's vulnerable tenor and mop of ginger hair have made him an unlikely heartthrob among bookish girls, while the latter recalls the soulful balladry of Bill Withers and Van Morrison (Queen Elizabeth Theatre & Commodore Ballroom, Oct. 4, 2012).