JED GRIMES – North Face (Blue Guitar Records BGCD016)

North FaceAfter the full-blown Heart & Hand Jed Grimes takes himself back to basics. North Face is all traditional, featuring Jed’s multi-layered strings and with just Michael Doonan for company. The only problem is that it’s far too short, just six tracks even with the extended instrumental, ‘Spalpeen Aroon/An Phisloach’.

Jed opens the set with a well-known Northumbrian song, ‘The Show It Melts The Soonest’. We’ve all heard many versions of this piece with all manner of arrangements but what I like about Jed is the matter-of factness of his performance. Many singers work to wring every ounce of emotion from the song but this is the arrogant male version: she says she will leave, but she’ll be back you mark my words. Acoustic guitar is backed with lap steel as it is on the Appalachian rambler’s tale, ‘Rake And Rambling Boy’, this time with the addition of bouzouki where a country singer might use a mandolin.

All three instruments are heard again on the Shetland waltz, ‘Christmas Day In The Morn’ with Doonan’s whistle coming in to take the top line midway through. ‘The Lambs On The Green Hills’ belongs to the ‘Week Before Easter’ family of songs and is unusual in that it features the failed but persistent suitor being threatened by the best man and told that it’s his own fault that he lost out and he should push off with all due speed. ‘Pride Of Kildare’ follows a similar narrative without the threats but with a weary resignation.

Finally we have ‘Spalpeen Aroon/An Phisloach’ with Doonan’s uilleann pipes taking up the melody after Jed has set the scene. Here, as throughout the whole album, the arrangements are clever but understated with the lap steel evoking not the sun-baked prairie but the wild moorlands of Ireland and the north-east. Beautiful music but more appetiser than banquet.

Dai Jeffries

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There is no video from North Face yet but we think this is appropriate – ‘I Drew My Ship’:

JED GRIMES – Heart And Hand EP (Blue Guitar Music BGEPCD 0022)

Most of you will know that I don’t generally review EP CDs but in Jed’s case I’ll make an exception. I’m just watching Saturday Kitchen (with the sound turned down) whilst listening to this fine appetiser from a man of great taste. Opening with the laid-back ‘Country’ feel of “Farewell To Bon County” (from the Samuel P Bayard Collection) Jed certainly knows how to express lyrics in an unrushed but achingly honest way much like Fox & Luckley used to do with “Shores Of Old Blighty”. On top of that, the skilfully judged re-working (to Grimes own melody) of the classic “Byker Hill” where the gently driving percussion along with Uilleann pipes courtesy of Mick Doonan and crowned by a glorious ‘choir’ is just asking for National Radio play. Then there’s “The Bold Fishermen” with its 5/4 time signature which has been visited by Jed before (in a previous incarnation as a member of Hedgehog Pie) and the inclusion of “Rain And Snow” with its passionate lyrics of a man wronged by his woman. Complete with brooding sustained Hammond organ chords this track provides a slice of mature audio pleasure. With Grimes’s take on long-established songs, giving them his own twist, he certainly knows his way around reinterpretation with a respectful nod to the tradition. This 4-track recording is available from Amazon as a download or from Jed himself at gigs but as a starter I personally can’t wait for the full banquet. PETE FYFE

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