GARETH DAVIES-JONES – The Beauty & The Trouble (own label HWM013)

TroubleAlthough probably better known in the Christian music circle, the Tyneside-based singer-songwriter’s music is not bounded by its religious backdrop. His first full album in three years, this is an easy rolling collection of gently strummed or fingerpicked acoustic folksiness and thoughtful, reflective songs about the world in which we live.

It opens on a song of faith and hope, ‘All Things Come’ which, although he has a softer voice, conjures glowing comparison to Martyn Joseph, a theme that extends to the simply strummed ‘Lost’ with its belief in a life hereafter. ‘The Luminous Years’ turns to fingerpicking a circling guitar pattern for a collaboration with the poet Stewart Henderson on a song about making the most of every stage in your life, giving way to another Joseph-like number in the anti-isolationist theme of ‘Alternative’ with its clear Brexit/Trump-inspired message to those who want to erect walls and “take refuge in our boundaries” to keep out the ‘undesirables’, noting that the alternative to truth is a life.

‘Nature Report’ wheels on the harmonica for an environmental theme about nature taking second place to money and its sobering vision of “where there was once abundance nothing grows.” From eco concerns he turns to politics with the terrific piano-accompanied title track about growing up in County Down and the ‘troubles’ that balances lyrics about “murder waged with cold precision” and a hope for the future in “love revived as fury crumbles.”

The melodically simple but catchy ‘This World Of Mine’ shifts focus for a song in tribute to the late Norman Cornish, a former County Durham miner turned artist whose works depicted mining community life and the industrial past while, staying in the north-east, ‘Kielder’ is a love letter to the Northumberland fells, valleys and lakes in which the titular village is set.

The album closes with three non-originals, first up being a fine arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Pastures Of Plenty’ that musically echoes the spirits of the Irish immigrants who went seeking new lives. That’s followed by ‘Rosa Mundi’, a fingerpicked setting of the bittersweet WB Yeats poem, the cascading chords of which tune leans somewhat on ‘Lord Franklin’. It ends on a note of Christian faith with uplifting arrangement of ‘Love That Will Not Let Me Go’, the best known hymn by George Matheson, the 19th century blind Scottish Minister, interpolating the familiar “God be in my head, and in my understanding” prayer from the 16th century Sarum Primer.

As I say, this will probably get most attention from Christian music quarters, but it’s a superb and far wider ranging, universally-themed album that deserves a far wider audience.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

We haven’t found anything from the new album but this will soon be appropriate: