JON BODEN – Painted Lady (Navigator Records NAVIGATOR098)

2016 sees the 10th anniversary of Jon Boden’s first solo album Painted Lady, which is being re-issued to mark the event.

This is an album of love songs, of a sort,  but certainly not chivalric love or the deep love of long-term relationship.  Instead there is a feeling of furtive, perhaps seedy love.  As he sings on ‘Blue Dress’ “Wear your blue dress tonight, Meet me down behind the graveyard, Bring your cigarettes, Wear your leather boots, Go down where the rushes grow.”

Later in the same song we hear lines which even blur the lines between potentially right and potentially wrong without ever finding out who is taking the lead in events. “You’re the only girl for me, in this whole wide world. When I see you in school, I think we should run away.  Don’t care what the teachers say.

On the track ‘Drunken Princess’  he sings a lullaby to his love but we are never sure if this particular girls exists as anything other than a glossy photograph.  As Boden was to show three years later in Songs From The Floodplain  he excels in exploring dystopian, bleak worlds.

The reworking of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Want To Dance With Somebody’ works very well.  Slowed down and stripped back to a minimal backing it becomes a plaintive cry of loneliness and a desperate search for love.

This is possibly not an album for the finger-in-the-ear traditionalist.  As Boden was to go on to show in his other works and collaborations he is not going to be constrained by anything as artificial as a musical genre.  He both sings and plays all the instruments on the album, easily moving from folk to blues and even including some rock and electronica.  Of course the standard of playing is superb throughout.

This is an album to get if you want to complete a collection, or to track the development of an artist over time, but it more than stands alone as an excellent piece of work from one of the most innovative and creative musicians there is.   The album is available to pre-order now, through Propermusic, with a release date of 30th September.

Tony Birch

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