I never thought I'd be announcing the arrival of "new" recordings by revered British singer-songwriter Nick Drake, but that's just what will happen on June 19, when the Drake estate will release Family Tree, a collection of acoustic demos, covers and other unreleased recordings that Drake made at home in the late 60s, before he secured a record deal and released his debut album, Five Leaves Left, in 1969.
Before his death from an overdose of antidepressants in 1974, Drake released three records of fragile, sublimely beautiful acoustic pop, but he died -- at age 26 -- in almost complete obscurity. Although his music was adored and his tremendous talent (as a songwriter, guitarist and singer) was appreciated by a small cult of hardcore fans, Drake's music didn't obtain any measure of mainstream awareness until the title track of his final album, Pink Moon, was used to wonderful effect in a Volkswagen commercial in 2000. That widespread exposure, coupled with the release of the outstanding Fruit Tree box set (comprised of his three studio albums, plus an extra disc of unreleased outtakes and rarities) cemented Drake's reputation, almost 30 years after his death, and revealed the tremendous influence that he has on singer-songwriters to this day. He was, more or less, the Sufjan Stevens of his day.
Many of Drake's early home recordings have been widely bootlegged for years, most famously on a release called Tanworth in Arden that is a staple of any good boot collection. But the sound quality on Family Tree promises to be noticeably better than the hissy, high-generation tapes that collectors have long passed around. This new release will also feature some uncirculated material -- namely, collaborations between Drake and members of his family -- that very few people have ever heard before.
Thanks to the good folks at The MuseBox, we've received a preview track from Family Tree, an early (and discarded) Drake original called "They're Leaving Me Behind". While it's not in a league with his classic studio material, it's an interesting peek at a brilliant artist still struggling to find his voice, and we're pleased to be able to share it.
MP3: Nick Drake - "They're Leaving Me Behind" from Family Tree