BILL JONES – Wonderful Fairytale (Brick Wall Music BRICK007CD)

Wonderful FairytaleFifteen years on from taking a short break to raise a family, the Sunderland-based former Radio 2 Horizon Award winner finally returns with her fourth studio album. Produced by Ian Stephenson, who also plays guitar and double bass, and featuring Jean-Pierre Garde on strings, percussionist Stephen Henderson, Santi Jayasinha on flugelhorn and with backing vocals from Anne Hills and Gareth Davies-Jones, the wait for Wonderful Fairytale has been worth it. Indeed, opening with the Hills co-write swayalong ‘The Arboretum’ (its traditional feel partly down to the fact it’s a version of ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’), a tale of love blossoming over a shared love of botany, it’s like she’s never been gone.

There’s another borrowing for the piano waltz inner Cinderella/Snow White domestic drudgery-themed title track which interpolates the well-known chorus from Lavenders Blue before moving to one of only two non-originals, ‘A Far Cry’, a swaying love song by Peter Crossley, in whose band Who’s That Man? she played in the 90s and which also features on his own new debut album.

Her passion for traditional music is clear throughout the album, both in her own songs and in arrangements or reworks of songs from the repertoire. A case in point being ‘The Cold Susquehanna’ which, again co-written with Hills and coloured by icy piano, Henderson’s rumbling percussion, and Niles Krieger’s violin, offers a twist in ‘The Two Sisters’ that spins a gender twist on the original murder ballad’s victim as well as its sibling bonds.

Featuring just her yearning warbling voice and piano, ‘My Elfin Knight’ is a dreamy pastoral folk ballad about love and loss that gives way to another love song, this time for her adopted home in the piano country waltz roll of ‘The Wear County Line’, a widow’s coming home song. Krieger’s fiddle puts in another appearance, Jones providing the accordion, on the playful ‘Humphrey Kynaston’ which, in 70s folk rock manner, tells the story of the Shropshire highwayman and spendthrift son of the county’s High Sheriff.

The only actual traditional number comes with ‘The Three Ravens’, her doomy arrangement for sombre piano and mournful viola and featuring flugelhorn that combines words from that, the ‘Twa Corbies’ and her own additions, the pace picking up with jaunty sway of ‘Never A Lad’, her accordion giving it a European folk flavour, Hill’s lyrics drawing on the same lover poisons her man to stop him straying narrative of ‘Lord Randall’.

The last of their collaborations comes with ‘Myself At Home’, a descending scales, almost hymnal piano ballad Garde’s viola adding extra wistful emotional texture to a lyric about reflection and self-discovery, time passing and growing older that chimes with the earlier ‘Wear County Line’.

Featuring a full string quartet, ‘Caden’s Lullaby’ is what it says, a song for her youngest son, a “little bonny boy” with a habit of not being inclined to visit the land of nod and referencing his dad and two brothers too. It all ends with the other cover, an acapella reading of English folk singer and promoter Alan Bell’s ‘So Here’s To You’, a parting glass song she first performed 17 years ago alongside Hills and Aoife Clacy as with Faire Winds, Hill here harmonising on the second verse and joined by Davies-Jones for the chorus.

After fifteen years’ absence, when she sings the line “now I know we will meet again”, it fair gladdens the heart.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.brickwallmusic.com

‘My Elfin Knight’ – official live video:

Bill Jones returns with new album

Bill Jones

Bill (Belinda) Jones is an English folk singer/songwriter, who started her career in 1999, winning a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award (Horizon Award) in 2001. Three studio albums later (Turn to Me, Panchpuran, and Two Year Winter), countless festival appearances, and tours across the UK, USA, and Japan, Bill took a long break in 2004 to raise her family. Back then a young singer, Bill received accolades from audiences across the folk and acoustic music scene. Live sessions on Radio 1’s Andy Kershaw Show, Radio 2’s Mike Harding Folk Show, and Radio 3’s In Tune programme followed, as well as an interview and live performance on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Bill’s beautiful voice and catchy tunes led to a stream of messages over the years asking Bill if she is coming back, and now it’s finally time.

With a release date of 1st May 2019, Bill’s new album Wonderful Fairytale features traditional, contemporary and self-penned songs, all stamped with Bill’s appealing and accessible style. Produced and recorded by Ian Stephenson at Simpson Street Studios, Bill is joined by Ian (guitar/double bass), JP Garde (violin/viola), Stephen Henderson (percussion), Shanti Jayasinha (flugelhorn) and Gareth Davies-Jones and Bill’s co-writer Anne Hills (harmony vocals). Two tracks also feature string quartet arrangements. Review copies are available by request. Bill will be touring the album in the UK from May 2019 onwards, and is also visiting the USA in June 2019. Go to Bill’s website to see the video of Bill singing new song ‘My Elfin Knight’. You can also hear previews of the album

Artist’s website: https://www.brickwallmusic.com/

‘My Elfin Knight’:

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: www.garethdavies-jones.com

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

GARETH DAVIES-JONES – Now But Not Yet

GDJ-NBNY-cover-1400-x-1400Eagerly anticipated new solo album from much travelled singer-songwriter Gareth Davies-Jones

Recorded at The Foundry Music Lab in Motherwell, Scotland, Gareth brings some 10 years of professional songwriting and touring experience to this fine collection of completely original songs. Laced with his trademark vocal style, strong sense of melody and perceptive lyrics this is an impressive return to the kind of form that saw former album “Water & Light” hit the air-waves in force in 2008/9.

There is a rich variety of instrumentation on this album too. The mandocello, acoustic guitar, tenor guitar, mandolin, twelve string guitar, banjo and piano all appear – all played by the artist.

Joining Gareth on the recording and with an impressive studio debut on backing vocals is his daughter Bronwen Davies-Jones. The way in which the harmonies effortlessly blend on tracks like “Hundred Year Skin” and “Montsoreau” lend plenty of credence to the idea that blood harmonies are among the most striking to be heard.

BIOGRAPHY :

Professional since 2003, Irish-born singer-songwriter Gareth Davies-Jones has demonstrated an honesty, depth and passion with his beautifully arranged, evocative and challenging songs. Recognised by commentators as an established talent in the Troubadour tradition Gareth is a seasoned performer, activist and campaigner often using his music to promote social justice and working with organisations such as Traidcraft. With regular solo tours in the UK and Ireland his music has been featured on BBC National and Local Radio. Collaborations and support work includes Yvonne Lyon, Calum Stewart, Megson, Waterson Carthy, Spiers & Boden, Steve Tilston, Jez Lowe, Paul Field and Karine Polwart. Originally from County Down, Gareth now lives in the Tyne Valley in Northumberland.

TRACK DETAILS:

Track  1- Dawn

Is what the title suggests – written after an extremely late drive back from a faraway gig. As I drove into our village the sun was just starting to rise…..

Track 2 – Hundred Year Skin

A collection of lines that have been frantically typed out on the phone at different times and in different locations over the past three years. Mostly a response to where I found myself at times – often at the extremities of the British Isles where I seem to book a disproportionate amount of gigs.

Track 3 – Montsoreau

A reflection on a beautiful afternoon spent with Nicki, whiling away the time at a picturesque riverside cafe in the village of the same name in the Loire Valley during June 2012.

Track 4 – Elusive

One of two songs that contain lyrics written in response to an artist project run by Tearfund in 2010. We were encouraged to go back to our communities and explore where we saw hints of ‘The Kingdom”.

Track 5 – Guide

A deconstructed hymn. I guess I was trying to draw out an on the ground response to some very rousing words.

Track 6 – One Girl Among Many

A tribute in song to Malala Yousafzai – the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for daring to go to school and assert that she and others like her had a right to learn. An inspiration and now living proof that the pen is far mightier than the sword.

Track 7 – Rua Reidh

My accommodation during May 2013 on a trip to the North West Highlands to sing for the Arctic veterans of the second world war. A stunning and beautifully located lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula that runs directly North West of Gairloch. The views from the light are so captivating that they could hardly be imagined.

Track 8 – New Deal

A treatise on the state we find ourselves in contemporary Britain.

Track 9 – Lindisfarne

In the summer of 2013 the Lindisfarne Gospels came back to North East England for the public to view them. The story of the creativity and dedication that led to the making of this iconic book caught my own imagination. Allegedly written by the monk Eadfrith on the islands of the same name just off the Northumberland coast, it’s an inspiring tale of invention, solitude and perseverance.

Track 10 – Messines

It’s 100 years in 2014 since the start of the First World War. The story of how a 22 tonne British mine from the battle of Messines Ridge in 1915 remains to this day buried and unexploded under a Belgian farm intrigued me greatly. The song contrasts the conditions then and the dilemma now. Last I heard the family that owns the farm still live and work there – in the full knowledge that at any moment their world could literally explode underneath them.

Track 11 – From Castlereagh

Ever since I was a small child I’ve been inspired and engaged by the writings of C.S.Lewis. He grew up in the Castlereagh Hills just above Belfast and less than 5 miles from my own place of birth. I continue to be challenged by and discover new things in his books.

Track 12 – Tear It All Down

The second song containing lyrics written in response to the Tearfund project. I like the idea of the transience of earthly powers and empires. One day even the strongest will fall and the weak and the marginalised will have their day.

Artist’s website: www.garethdavies-jones.com

“Very beautiful music. I can thoroughly recommend this…”  Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

“..intelligent songs which make a point gently and invoke sympathy……someone to be taken seriously”  fROOTS

“Some artists often sing in the name of one cause or another without conviction, but that is not the case here. The legacy of well-written, descriptive music laid down by Woody Guthrie, still lives on here in the UK”  Maverick Magazine (5 Stars)

Gareth Davies-Jones, Chasing Light (Heading West Music, 2011)

Gareth Davies-Jones wastes no time with this follow up to 2008’s thoroughly captivating “Water & Light“. In many respects, it’s business as usual here; but when your usual business is this good you’re unlikely to rock the boat. Borrowing from the folk vernacular, married with great skill to soaring pop-laden hooks, “Chasing Light” maintains a steady grasp of humanity and nature, reinforced by an astute compassion-filled lyricism.  A potent sensitivity flows through the album, courtesy of Gareth’s gentle, soothing vibrato, lending a fragility that belies his confidently executed vocals.

Opening the album, “The Fields” conjures up imagery of filmic proportions, harnessing the forces of nature as a cypher for the tribulations of life and love, within a capacious arrangement that really allows you to experience a sense of escape in the lyrics. Pouring scorn on the world’s more materialistic woes, and in particular the media’s overhyped reaction, Gareth almost gets angry on “Headlines,” but instead opts for a more derisive angle on the seemingly endless stream of bad news that accompanied the world financial crisis, bemoaning the seemingly helpless spiral of despair that ensued.

Elsewhere there is a shift to a more introspective focus; an environment where the gentler tones of Gareth’s voice are particularly adept at flooding the lyrics with an intuitively emotive empathy. Whether it’s on the traditional paean to his homeland, “Sweet Portaferry,” taking a more global view of a divided world on “Berlin To Bethlehem,” or the intimate profession of unconditional love that fills “Character,” there is an unrelenting gravity that pulls you towards the very heart of the sentiments that are teased out through both the lyrics themselves, and more importantly the flawless integrity with which they are delivered.

The muscular musing of “Troubador” provides an honest account of life as a working musician, resigning oneself to the weariness of travel, whilst recognising the opportunity to broaden one’s horizons through the sharing of songs and stories. Similarly powerful is “PQ17,” the story of a World War 2 supply convoy, facing the perils of enemy forces whilst crossing the Arctic Ocean; these exquisitely written lyrical history lessons are fast becoming a calling card for Gareth.

Two further traditional songs receive a reworking, with very different results: “Reilly” is reborn as a punchy, rhythm-driven pop effort, whilst “Rover Of The Sea” is interpreted as a dreamy, acoustic ballad. With endeavours like this, the hand of folk can truly reach out to touch the heart of many, with the perpetual relevance of the lyrics furnished with arrangements that contain a genuine appeal to the more contemporary ear.

There really are few writers and performers who consistently perform to the standard exhibited throughout “Chasing Light,” a recording that manages to achieve genuinely broad appeal, whilst keeping the sentiments of the writer so manifestly intact. Gareth Davies-Jones is big news; it’s only a matter of time before everybody starts waking up to this fact.

MIKE WILSON

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Artist Links: http://www.garethdavies-jones.com/