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