Ed Askew's reputation isn't hurt by his context -- haunted ghost of '60s folk via the legendary/notorious ESP label -- so arguably the nearly three and a half decades overdue appearance of Little Eyes, his taped-then-unreleased follow-up to Ask the Unicorn, simply had to formally exist to succeed. In an era of endlessly rediscovered psych/folk obscurities, Askew was practically tailor-made to be celebrated by the likes of Arthur magazine and Devendra Banhart's fan base, for instance, but the neat thing about Little Eyes is that it doesn't need that receptive ground to work on its own -- it is, quite simply, an enjoyable treat and would have been upon the time of its release as well. Featuring only Askew, a tiple (much more like an autoharp in sound instead of a guitar), and on a few songs harmonica, sequenced quite literally in the order in which it was recorded, Little Eyes is by default a ragged affair; certainly he'd also be the first to admit the obvious debt to Bob Dylan's example as iconic folk troubadour in the electric/space age, but his high quaver is much more suggestive of someone like Robin Williamson while the effect of the tiple is to create a more fragile, fractured air in general. Combined with the perhaps unavoidably thin sound of the recording, the effect is to make Little Eyes sound much older than its years, something from a Harry Smith box set rather than the era of What's Going On or Led Zeppelin IV, say. On the flip side, the downside of Little Eyes is its relative sameness -- no rare thing among most albums, to be sure, but arguably the songs are best heard in small bursts or even one at a time for their gentle power to best resonate.
Little Eyes Review
by Ned Raggett