The influence of Molly Drake on her son’s music has always been referenced by reviewers and fans alike however her work has only ever surfaced on the 2007 Nick Drake compilation, Family Tree. Those songs; Poor Mum and Do You Ever Remember are both included on a 19 track self-titled Molly Drake album being released by Squirrel Thing Recordings.
Comparisons will inevitably be drawn between Molly’s work and that of her son’s but these recordings stand up on their own. Rather than being compositions inspired by her son’s music and sad spiral into a fatal depression, these are home recordings from the 1950s when Nick would have been just a young child. However the similarity between mother and son’s vocal delivery is striking with both sharing a fragile, vulnerable quality that makes them sound like they are sitting right next to the listener, singing to you only. One of the many qualities that makes Nick Drake’s music so loved.
Performed on the piano and sung in a smoky almost classical jazz voice that transports you back to the 1950s like an audio time capsule, fans of wounded singer Billie Holiday and other contemporaries will find much to love here. The production is intimate and unpolished, recorded direct to tape and disc in their Warwickshire home with help from husband Rodney, which suits the quiet, sweet mood of the songs. You can hear the creak of the old family piano and just imagine her young children sitting round her feet as she composed these lullabies in their home in the village of Tanworth-In-Arden.
The sadness of Nick Drake’s early death at the age of 26 and then subsequent commercial and critical success is a story people live in fear of being repeated. A Vincent Van Gogh story of unrecognised genius slaving away for years only to be ignored. Unfortunately this is one more comparison between Nick and Molly as this release comes 20 years after her death in July of 1993.
Like her son, not an outgoing performer, Molly’s performances were usually reserved for private gatherings of her family and friends. It is appropriate that her daughter Gabriella Drake has had a strong input in the release which features a letter pressed jacket, a collection of family photos and a biography written by Gabriella. In the biography Gabriella remembers that: “For Molly music was a private joy, as was her poetry. She would sit alone for hours at the piano, working out words and music. It never occurred to her that her work could be of interest to a wider audience.”
The Drake family tree history continues in that these tracks have been lovingly restored by Nick Drake’s sound engineer John Wood with Nick’s good friend, mentor and producer Joe Boyd describing them as the “missing link in the Nick Drake story”.
The underlying sadness in much of Nick Drake’s work, particularly the later Pink Moon era recordings, is present here. But rather than being a morbid or depressing presence, it in fact comes across as a warm, rewarding comfort. You can hear where Nick Drake came from, the music and the personality that he grew up around. The love and beauty in his mother’s voice will make you smile and be thankful that in Nick Drake’s too short life, things were not always so sad.
Molly Drake’s self-titled album is available to buy now.
By Josh Bennett