It seems a long time since Jez Hellard’s last album, Blood & Honey, and it is, in fact, almost four years although it has benefited from a reissue since then. I like that album but I have to say that Heavy Wood is truly magnificent.
Jez describes it as a homage to the art of the mixtape and that describes it pretty well. Jez has written one song and some are traditional but you can guess that most of the tracks came with the thought “hey, that’s a great song”. The album opens with ‘The Lord Giveth (And The Landlord Taketh Away)’ by Canadian songwriter Scott Cook; a song that Billy Bragg would be proud to have written. It melds a biting lyric with a jolly tune in an attack on the banking system and right-wing government. The next track is a contrast: Robin Williamson’s ‘By Weary Well’ sounding just like the traditional song it is destined to become. Then comes ‘We Have The Time’, Jez’s sole contribution as a song-writer, and ‘Waltz Caramelo’, a tune originally from the Peninsular War borrowed by the anti-fascists in Spain.
By now you’ve realised that there isn’t really a pattern to the album but it flows naturally; traditional ballads and tune sets alongside what we have to call protest songs for want of a better term. The core of the band is the fiddle of James Patrick Gavin supported by the double bass of Nye Parsons but there are nine players in all bringing in uilleann pipes, whistles, viola and piano accordion, even clarinet on one track. The imagination that has gone into the record is boggling – who else would have thought of pairing Tucker Zimmerman’s ‘A Taoist Tale’ with Donald Shaw’s ‘Mcleod’s Farewell’? And I have to thank Jez and his friends for introducing me to Larry E McCullough, Billy Rowan (aka The Undercover Hippy) and Scott Cook all in one afternoon. Pass It Along.
Artists’ website: www.jezhellard.com
‘The Lord Giveth (And The Landlord Taketh Away)’ – live: