|Here's another really good singer/songwriter who's all but unknown outside
his home patch and richly deserves wider recognition. How many times do
you hear reviewers make that claim, I hear you say, cynically… Well, if
I were pushed, I'd probably describe George as belonging to the "old
school" of songwriting in that his stock-in-trade is the old-fashioned
kind of quality songsmithery that everyone can relate to, as opposed to
the more exclusive (and excluding) overt-confessional-soapbox mode that
we're perhaps more used to nowadays.
That's not to say that George is in any way politically naïve, or that his outlook is without conscience, but he is more concerned with lasting values than transient trends or parading activism; he takes genuine delight in simple pleasures. And yet… George hadn't written a song in his life before just over two years ago, but since then has produced no less than three CDs of his songs, all self-performed. The latest, Silent Majority, has been released on the new UNLaBELLED offshoot of Robb Johnson's Irregular label (this in itself should straightaway be taken as an indication of the man's quality, right?), which should ensure wider potential circulation.
George has always been involved with music, being first exposed to folk clubs in the 70s before living abroad for some years, but it was his return to the UK in late 2000 and his discovery of the Herga and Maidenhead folk clubs and singers like Johnny Collins that proved the catalyst for a massive burst of creative writing that has continued apace up to this day (he's written some 80 songs to date, of which 9 or 10 have already found their way into the repertoires of other singers). As a performer, George has a virtually unique singing style (well so what if there's a very occasional trace of an accent betraying his non-British origins, I'm not referring to that trait). It might at first seem diffident, almost apologetic in its gentility and understatement, although as you'll hear George is not lacking in passion. As a writer, George is driven by a love of people with all their imperfections - indeed, because of these imperfections, their constant struggle to improve themselves and the society they live in. He is determined to celebrate the perfect moments that life can nevertheless bring, and he conveys the various issues and concerns with a healthy integrity and a deep folk sensibility.
In his own music, you can discern the influences of those songwriters and musics he himself admires - he's a man of admirably catholic tastes who appreciates the finer, often largely unsung modern folk writers (Stan Rogers, Dave Webber, Cyril Tawney) as well as the acknowledged masters. You can tell too that he understands and reflects the at once impish and waspish humour of such masters as Clive James, Jeremy Taylor and Jake Thackeray. Although I wouldn't wish for a moment to imply that George is a musical magpie, he's clearly conversant with a variety of musical styles and song forms, and proves himself particularly adept at achieving the authentic feel of traditional folk song. His versatility extends throughout the many facets of folk music and types of folk song - from seasonal (Welcome In Another Year) to the theory and practice of war (What Life For A Soldier), protest (Silent Majority), industrial (Lowestoft Rock, dealing with the demise of trawling), or vocational (Sound The Horn, It Takes A Soldier), social observation (Busker), local history/nostalgia (Remember Joe Turner), childhood memories (Circles In The Air), maritime (Old Sailors, Batavia), philosophical anthems (Recessional) and songs written with the folk-club environment in mind (As Long As Someone Sings A Song), not to mention story songs. He also mirrors the music and rhythms of his native Greece (Rain, Vassiliki).
In listening over and again to the music on these three CDs, I have discovered one particular feature of George's work, at least as presented on CD, that might be considered a mild drawback: in playing virtually all the accompaniments himself on 6-, 12-string and bass guitars, he's taken the opportunity for selective multi-tracking. This can sometimes (and to a varying extent) be distracting, since in producing an over-busy, trilling, rippling texture, it is liable to work against the lyrics gaining their maximum impact (as on Hello And Goodbye). Perhaps his apparent diffidence in vocal delivery is born of an over-reliance on instrumental arrangement, minimal though this often is.
But George clearly has no need to be in the least apologetic, nor should he hesitate in stepping forward with his undoubted talents. In fact, the above minor point notwithstanding, George has produced an impressive body of songs thus far, and a fitting epithet for his work might well be "songs for tomorrow's tradition" - praise indeed.
David Kidman www.netrhythms.co.uk, September 2003
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George's CDs are manufactured by Bump Studios