NIC JONES – An Introduction To Nic Jones (Topic TICD014)

An Introduction To Nic JonesAlongside the 80th anniversary celebrations, Topic Records complete their introduction series with An Introduction To Nic Jones. This presented something of a problem. Nic recorded the sublime Penguin Eggs, his final album for them and licensed a set of live recordings which appeared as Game Set Match. The rest of Nic’s catalogue remains unavailable (and we all know why that is, don’t we, boys and girls?) but the label had the man himself to compile the selection and the gift of two previously unreleased studio recordings from 2013 which are enough to sell this album by themselves.

Penguin Eggs provides five tracks starting with the opening, ‘Courting Is A Pleasure’. It’s a perfect start with its deceptively lazy guitar intro leading into a gentle love song – contrast the style with the urgency of ‘Rufford Park Poachers’ later in this set and originally from the same source. Jones’ instrumental prowess is further demonstrated by ‘Hamburger Polka’. Then comes a sequence demonstrating Nic’s unique choice of material. ‘Isle Of France’ is one of his big songs – I only know of a couple of other singers who have performed it – but the story seems implausibly romantic. Next is the tragi-comedy of ‘Billy Don’t You Weep For Me’ followed by the real tragedy of ‘Dives And Lazarus’ and the uproarious story of ‘Barrack Street’ with the distinctive clatter of Tony Hall’s melodeon. You couldn’t find four more different moods handled with such aplomb.

Two written songs lead us up to the present day. Paul Metsers’ ‘Farewell To The Gold’ features chorus vocals by Bridget Danby and Dave Burland and Harry Robertson’s ‘Humpback Whale’ sees Nic solo with a (relatively) modern whaling song. Which leads us to the bonus tracks featuring Nic’s son Joe on guitar and Belinda O’Hooley on accordion and piano. The first is the gorgeous ‘I Only Spoke Portuguese’, written by Bill Worsfold and based on the story of his great-grandfather and listening to the simple emotion that Nic brings to the song it’s easy to forget that it had been more than thirty years since he had been in a studio. The second new track is very different. Written by Nic himself, ‘Now’ expounds his philosophy that there is no point looking back – although if anyone has an excuse to regret the past, it’s Nic Jones.

When you have finished listening to this CD, you’ll want more and I’d respectfully direct you to the Mollie Music website where more delights await.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Isle Of France’ – old record/modern video:

JUNE TABOR – Airs And Graces (Topic TTSC004)

Airs And GracesAs you must know by now, to celebrate their 80th birthday Topic are re-releasing a series of classic albums in deluxe editions. Airs And Graces is among the first tranche and is arguably one of the most important. When June Tabor first appeared on the scene I’d just moved into the area and was still finding out where the folk clubs were – it was word of mouth in those days – thus I read about her long before I’d seen her on stage or heard her on record. I’ve made up for it since but coming back to a remastered issue of this debut is a real delight.

From this vantage point in time most of the songs are familiar enough but I’m certain that June introduced the world to ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and it was several years before we could get our hands on Eric Bogle’s first album. Airs And Graces opens with the dancing sound of ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’ – that’s Nic Jones on guitar. He was one of the few guitarists who could have matched the liberties June, who was brought up singing unaccompanied, was wont to take with the rhythm of a song. This is still my favourite version of the song. Nic appears again on ‘Bonny May’ which is also decorated by Jon Gillaspie’s sopranino recorder and I must admit that I’d forgotten Jon’s atmospheric accompaniment to ‘Young Waters’ – probably the only use of a roxichord in traditional music.

Next is ‘Plains Of Waterloo’ and June follows Shirley and Dolly Collins in recording it. It’s gobsmacking to think that this was only the third freely available recording of the song. ‘Bonny May’ is a relative of ‘The Broom Of The Cowdenowes’, which I didn’t know until now but I think everyone knew ‘Reynardine’ by then. In fact, June had a remarkable ability to find a song, then find a variant of it and then make it popular. ‘Young Waters’, ‘Waly Waly’ and ‘The Merchant’s Son’ are familiar stories in folk-song but when did we hear them first, I wonder.

There are four bonus tracks, all predating the recording of this album and essentially field recordings. ‘The Fair Maid Of Wallington’ includes the words “silly sisters”, which were to become famous later and ‘The Royal Oak’ was recorded at the venue of one of those folk clubs that I didn’t know about. Sadly, it wasn’t released on the LP that Stagfolk issued. Two others did and good luck with finding them.

We are used to hearing a rather more sombre June Tabor these days but even forty years ago she couldn’t be called a flibbertigibbet. That voice was magnificent and could deliver a song like few others.

Dai Jeffries

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There weren’t many videos in 1976 but this may suffice:

GEOFF LAKEMAN – After All These Years (own label GLAK-01)

After All These YearsGeoff Lakeman isn’t quite as famous as his sons but he is a much regarded singer and songwriter, particularly in the West Country. At 69 Geoff has finally succumbed to the temptation to record an album, After All These Years, produced by son Sean. Geoff usually performs solo with concertina but with friends and family like his it must have been impossible to resist getting them on board, although the contributions of Jim Causley, Cara Dillon, Kathryn Roberts, Sam Kelly, Ben Nicholls, Jamie Francis, Seth Lakeman and Nic Jones are commendably restrained except when it comes to choruses. Geoff himself has the voice of, if not a young man, then a young man who has seen a bit of life – strong and characterful.

If you were a folk club regular in the sixties and seventies you will be entirely at home with this set. Not that Geoff is locked in the past as his cover of Reg Meuross’ ‘England Green & England Grey’ proves but the mix of material is such that if you don’t care for a particular song you’ll like the next one.

The set opens with ‘The Farmer’s Song’. It was written by Roger Bryant but easily could be one of Geoff’s as he demonstrates with the next track, ‘Tie ’Em Up’. Both are about the decline of traditional rural industries and while both writers were preoccupied with the plight of Devon and Cornwall the same stories are true all around the country. ‘Rule And Rant’ is a bit of obscure Cornish history involving an ingenious mine rescue. The traditional songs include ‘Ye Lovers All’, a song of romantic teasing from Ulster, the well-known ‘Jim Jones’ and ‘The Green Cockade’ a Cornish version of the song that may have arrived from Ireland and ‘Bonny Irish Maid’ – there’s a pattern developing here.

There are a couple of oddities. The first is the original version of ‘Galway Bay’ – not that song and certainly not the celebrated parody (I confess that I was rather hoping for that) – and the closing ‘Doggie Song’. This is the sort of encore that you’ll still find in folk clubs and probably means a lot more in Cornwall but is best not recorded. That aside, this is a splendid album to unwind with, think about and sing along to.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.geofflakeman.co.uk

‘Tie ‘Em Up’ – live:

Kate Rusby releases New Album ‘20’ to Mark 20 Years of Music Making

Kate Rusby 20FEATURING COLLABORATIONS WITH THE CREAM OF ROCK, FOLK & BLUEGRASS ARTISTS INCLUDING PAUL WELLER, RICHARD THOMPSON, NIC JONES, DICK GAUGHAN, PHIL SELWAY, MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, CHRIS THILE, EDDI READER AND MORE…

The Barnsley nightingale Kate Rusby has released a new album to celebrate 20 years of making music. Entitled ‘20’ the album features new recordings of Kate’s favourite songs from throughout her illustrious career.

From the trad folk of ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’ from her solo debut ‘Hourglass’ (’98) to the seasonal beauty of ‘Home’ from her 2011 Christmas album ‘While Mortals Sleep’ via ‘Unquiet Grave’, ‘Sho Heen’ and ‘Wild Goose’ from her Mercury nominated ’99 album ‘Sleepless’, the title tracks from ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004) and ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007) and many more, Kate dips into every corner of her catalogue to create a set that is a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated and a fabulous reinterpretation of her ‘greatest hits’ for the committed fan. In addition Kate has written and recorded a beautiful new song for this album called ‘Sun Grazers’, on which she duets with Paul Weller, who has never sounded in finer voice. Other collaborators on the album include folk giants Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan, Radiohead drummer Phil Selway, bluegrass upstarts Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz, American folk & country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eddi Reader and many more.

‘20’ has been released on the Rusby family’s Pure Records label via Island Records. For this release Island has resurrected the legendary ‘Island Pink’ label on which albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Sandy Denny, and Richard & Linda Thompson were released during the 70s.

‘20’ is available on double CD and digital download from the folking store link below. The full tracklisting is:

DISC 1

1. Awkward Annie (feat. Chris Thile)

2. Unquiet Grave (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)

3. Sun Grazers (feat. Paul Weller)

4. The Lark (feat. Nic Jones)

5. Planets (feat. Sarah Jarosz)

6. Wandering Soul (feat. Eddi Reader & Dick Gaughan)

7. Who Will Sing me Lullabies (feat. Richard Thompson & Philip Selway)

8. Jolly Plough Boys (feat. Dick Gaughan)

9. Sho Heen (feat. Eddi Reader, Phillip Selway & Jerry Douglas)

10.Bitter Boy (feat. Damien O’Kane)

 

DISC 2

1. I Courted a Sailor (feat. Jim Causley)

2. Mocking Bird (feat. Sara Watkins)

3. The Good Man (feat. Joe Rusby & Jerry Douglas)

4. Annan Waters (feat. Bob Fox)

5. All God’s Angels (feat. Paul Brady)

6. Elfin Knight (feat. Dave Burland)

7. Wild Goose (feat. Stephen Fretwell)

8. Home (feat. Mary Chapin Carpenter)

9. Underneath the Stars (feat. Grimethorpe Colliery Band)

10.Bring me a Boat (feat. Declan O’Rourke)

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Words and music on all songs are by Kate Rusby except ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’, which are traditional songs arranged by Kate, ‘The Good Man’ whose words are a combination of trad and Kate with the tune written by Kate, and ‘Bring Me A Boat’, which has lyrics by Kate and melody by Phil Cunningham.

Kate Rusby was born into a musical family in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Her parents had a ceilidh band which Kate and her sister Emma joined at a very early age. Kate’s musical world is still very much a family affair – her parents, along with Emma and her brother Joe manage her, run her label, record her albums and book her tours, while her husband Damien O’Kane co-produces her records and plays guitar in her band. Kate’s first album release was a collaboration with another young singer – ‘Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts’ (’95). She has since released 9 solo albums: ‘Hourglass’ (’98), ‘Sleepless’ (’99), ‘Little Lights’ (2001), ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004), ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly’ (2005), ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007), ‘Sweet Bells’ (2008), ‘Make The Light’ (2010), and ‘While Mortals Sleep’ (2011). She was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in ’99 and has won Folk singer of the year (2000), Best album (2000), Best song twice (2002 for “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies” and 2006 for “No Names”) and Best Live Act (2006) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Proof that the cottage industry approach can pay off in the 21st century, Kate has quietly sold over a million records on the family-run independent label Pure Records and regularly plays sell-out tours around the country.