There are a number of people that I’ve become aware of through my association with Americana UK, covering a wide range of musical styles. One particularly rich and rewarding niche of the endlessly sub-dividable americana genre is surely what could be called singer-songwriter. There are a few who’ve hoved into view who would surely have been amongst the most lauded had they just had the fortune to have been recording at the peak of the so-called singer-songwriter movement – people who should be as widely familiar as Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell. That’s a big claim I know, but I’m a great believer in celebrating the music of now as well as the music of then – because some of the music of now is just so damn good.
Christien Oele records under the name VanWyck, which was the maiden name of one of her grandmothers and which is used as a tribute as Christien has explained: “Both my grandmothers were strong women (a nurse and a teacher) who came from very humble backgrounds and had to work hard and take care of children. Being creative was a luxury that was often not allowed to them. Being in the foreground was also not something they were allowed to aspire to. One of my grandmothers was very inspirational in making me reach higher and to put all my talents to work. I keep her picture as a young girl on my desktop to remind me of the chances she never had and the way she pushed me to reach higher.”
Based in Amsterdam VanWyck spent her twenties studying history and playing different roles in different bands – her musical background encompasses a variety of styles (she’s a trained classical pianist, was keyboard player and one of the first female rappers in the Netherlands in a jazz dance band and was half of a trip-hop duo) – and her thirties combining work as a historian with a music career, before finally focusing on one goal: a solo career as a singer-songwriter.
And in the last five years that has meant an impressive run of excellent albums: ‘An Average Woman‘ (2018), ‘Molten Rock‘ (2019), ‘God Is In The Detour‘ (2020) and ‘The Epic Tale Of the Stranded Man‘ (2021). This took us on a journey from classic confessional singer-songwriter to a concept album exploring relationships through metaphorical and mythological allusion – although, truth to tell, that was already there on ‘An Average Woman.‘ Even her simplest and straightforward songs have layers – and they often have great hooks and melodies which keep them rattling around in the mind and that’s in part what drags this listener back again…and again.