Praised with faint damnation

Wednesday, 10th October 2012

Of all the comments that I thought might induce a little private dance of triumph around my bedroom, unfavourable comparisons with one of my heroes ranked pretty low until this morning.

As my three regular readers will know, I occasionally record songs for fun and… well, more fun.

Those that I don't have the rights to stick up here get passed around my family and friends, or are buried in the darkest recesses of my hard drive never to see the light again, on a case-by-case basis.

Thus it is that my hapless nearest and dearest get to hear me try and cover Brandon Flowers and Lou Reed simultaneously, and no-one, least of all me, will ever suffer my early attempts at Florence + the Machine.

Everyone's happy. Or if not happy, then at least quiet in their disgruntlement.

Until, that is, the fateful day that I decided to sing a Joan Baez song, and my mother decided to share it with her friends.

At this point, it is important to know a couple of basic facts:
Joan Baez is one of the greatest folk singers from the last fifty years, and wrote the song in question.
I bought a microphone a bit under six months ago, and am just about getting the hang of vowels.

Which is why I was a little taken aback to wake up to the comment 'Baez sings it best!' complete with video to prove that Baez does, indeed, sing it best.

Needless to say, my first reaction was indignation.
I am, after all, broadly against nonconstructive criticism of a) amateurs sharing fanworks in private, and b) me.

But, while I stewed quietly myself in front of the computer, mentally composing ripostes about the importance of covers in enriching the folk tradition and bringing music to new audiences (or something along those lines), a thought slowly dawned.

As a young and largely church-based amateur, you get used to meeting low expectations.
So long as you show up, look wholesome, and can more or less carry a tune, your job is pretty much done. Looking back on it now, I'm not sure that people register what you do as a real performance. It's sweet or nice or 'a brave effort', but it's something entirely different to the tracks on their iPod, or even the pub band down the road.
Comparing the two would be as absurd as standing in front of the Sunday School's Easter Garden and muttering, 'well, they'll not be on Gardener's World any time soon…'.

It's a long slog from there to being plausible enough for your efforts to be responded to, on the most basic level, as a real songrecorded by a real singer, who is worth comparing and criticising and defending (against).

And there it was. My first faint ping on the 'performing artist' radar.

I grinned all the way to work.
I am being mildly dissed on another level now, baby. I have arrived.