JEZ LOWE – Crazy Pagan (Tantobie TTRCD 120)

Crazy PaganIf anyone is equipped to record a solo album at home in these strange times it’s probably Jez Lowe. Crazy Pagan contains new and recent songs and Jez brings all his instrumental prowess to bear – I don’t recall him playing accordion before, but I could be wrong. The songs draw on the people and the history of his home in the Durham coalfields but this is neither sentimental nostalgia nor political diatribe. Jez is a very entertaining performer with a light-hearted twist to some of his songs but Crazy Pagan feels grittier than usual, somehow.

In the opener, ‘Shaking Monty’, Jez reflects on meeting a boyhood sporting hero, something fraught with potential disappointment. He isn’t specific and I reckon you’d need to be a native-born North-Easterner to identify him. The switch to the bitterness of ‘This Is Not My Tribe’, written during the last general election, is marked but then Jez switches mood again with a tribute to Louisa Jo Killen. In one verse he writes a summary of his life and either side of that he recalls his final chance meeting with her. I confess that it brought a tear to my eye,

‘Time Rich, Cash Poor’ is for the unemployed and homeless and Jez moves smoothly into explanations for their situation. ‘Father Sun’ begins by pointing the finger at the builders of solar farms and wind turbines but, without missing a step, points out that greedy landowners had long ago raped the fields for coal. Of course, ‘High Handenhold’, written about the village where Jez’s grandfather worked, reminds us that all that is now passed into history, too.

‘Three Indian Kings’ was a somewhat disreputable tavern with a bohemian clientele and Jez tells of it via an encounter with a rough sleeper and ‘Honeymoon Terrace’ holds duplicitous politicians responsible for his situation. Then we return to coal with ‘Loon In The Moon’, concerning a famous album cover photograph taken in Easington Colliery – you know the one I mean – and ‘Coal Mountain’ remains there with the eerie underground roar of the old pit in the background.

Jez finally turns to comedy with ‘Talk To Me Dirty In Geordie’, a pre-lockdown live recording with the joke telegraphed for the audience to anticipate. It’s worth it just for his pronunciation of “Pret A Manger”!

I haven’t yet read Jez’s second novel, Corly Croons, so I can’t tell you what the words actually mean but Jez describes the closing song that shares its title as “a lock-down sea-shanty” and I can imagine its swaying rhythm becoming a live favourite if we ever get back to that point.

When you have listened to Crazy Pagan a couple of times go back and listen again for the linguistic tricks and clues scattered in the songs and enjoy the instrumental work that lifts the album. It will repay you well.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.jezlowe.com

‘This Is Not My Tribe’ – official video:


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