Summer 2021 will see the release of The Fruitful Fells, the eagerly awaited new studio album from Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra.
The process started when Jez and the band headed for the first time to Mike West’s 9th Ward Pickin Parlor in Machynlleth. They’d shared a bill with Mike’s band, Truckstop Honeymoon the year before at Broadstairs Folk Week, and as soon as the double-bill had been announced, Jez had an email out of the blue from a friend in the States telling him he should make sure to meet Mike as he thought they’d get on, and also that Mike is a great recording engineer. He was right on both counts.
A Manchester-raised Australian, Mike settled as a young songwriter in New Orleans and established Truckstop Honeymoon with his inimitable other half, Katie and an increasing number of musical children. Luckily they were all on tour when Hurricane Katrina entirely destroyed their home, the rest of the Lower Ninth Ward and countless lives and livelihoods in what Dr. John called “The Lower 9-11”, and they spent the next 13 years based in Kansas, running 9th Ward Pickin Parlor, producing countless records and touring the world with the band, until a couple of years ago the kids asked if they could move to Wales and Mike & Katie thought, “why not?” Thus, Machynlleth’s premier recording facility is so curiously named.
After three more days in the studio, Jez had an album and a half of beautiful takes to whittle down, and only a few overdubs from various instrumentalists to collect. Ewan Bleach (clarinet), fastidious and almost super-human as he is, had a perfect take back within a couple of days, but the fiddlers proved slightly harder to catch. When lockdown was announced, Jez thought “Aha! Surely if they’re confined at home, surrounded by recording equipment, they might get it done!” and by August, Alastair Caplin (violin) sent in some gorgeous parts via the magic of the internet, but it was well into September that James Patrick Gavin (violin) finally came through and Jez was able to high-tail it to Mach to get the album mixed just before Wales went back into lockdown (where it was rumoured to be legal to shoot an Englishman in a camper-van with a bow and arrow) then to Hammersmith and the wonders of Fluid Mastering to ready it for human consumption.
It’s a rich blend of songs old and new, deftly deranged by the Djukella Orchestra, taking in some true masters of song-craft, with a rather topical one by Jez thrown in for good measure. Distilling some of Jez’s thoughts on these past few years of febrile political machinations and “virtual” vitriol, along with a healthy dose of nature-poetry to balance the narrative, it’s an attempt to remind you that it’s the world, rather than you that’s been going mad.
Jez Hellard is a singer of potent songs, teller of gripping tales, fine guitarist and simply stunning harmonica player who has spent the past 20 years travelling the world performing, often in unlikely places. His band, The Djukella Orchestra, play traditional and contemporary folk music, from jigs, reels and rebel ballads to tango, rhumba, reggae and pretty much anything in between. In the past decade they’ve played well over a thousand gigs; from Glastonbury Festival to the North Country Fair, New York to Taipei, Union Chapel to Extinction Rebellion.
Featuring Nye Parsons, one of the most captivating double-bassists you’re likely to witness, and some of the finest instrumentalists on the folk scene, including Alastair Caplin (Band of Burns, The Langan Band), James Patrick Gavin & Dominic Henderson (TEYR) and Piotr Jordan (Dunayvska Kapelye), their blend of virtuoso musicianship, witty political comment and a deep repertoire of powerful songs never fails to turn heads.
Artist’s website: www.jezhellard.net
‘For Mr. Thomas’ – live, solo and acoustic: