JON PALMER ACOUSTIC BAND – The Silences In Between (own label)

SilencesWill someone please explain why Otley’s finest folk-rock band are not huge stars. The Silences In Between is their third studio album – there’s also a rocking live set – and is as good as anything they’ve done.

There’s plenty to enjoy here. ‘I Don’t Know’ is about love as in “I don’t know much about love …but I’m gonna to find out” – there’s a Richard Thompson song that would follow it perfectly – and ‘Haul Away’ sounds like a rollicking old shanty. I love ‘Barleycorn Boy’ which is plainly not a folk song because “nobody dies and nobody drowns and no-one gets lost at the fair”, a typically witty Jon Palmer lyric adding a modern twist to an old idea. Two songs have appeared before on the live album: the title track and the traditional ‘Pay Me My Money Down’. The former is a love song with all the drive that the band can muster and could be a single if such things still mattered and the latter gets a more considered treatment than it does as a live show closer.

The line-up remains determinedly acoustic with guitars, double bass and Jon’s son Tom on cajon as the only percussion. Instrumental breaks come from Wendy Ross on fiddle and Matt Nelson’s mandolin, whistle and saxophone. My first impression was that there is more poetry than politics in The Silences In Between. The one obviously protest song is ‘There’s A Cold Wind Blowing (Over This Land)’ which sort of updates Billy Bragg’s ‘Between The Wars’ and that’s no bad thing since nothing much has changed since Bill wrote it.

There’s also a measure of unrequited love. ‘Hour Glass’, featuring the only guest appearance from singer Rachel Goodwin, is one such. Like several of Jon’s songs, it’s deceptively simple, but there is something oddly post-apocalyptic about it and the line “Burn the cathedrals” is the one that sticks in the mind. After one or two plays I think I understand why Jon didn’t include the lyrics with the record – the feel of a song is more important than detailed textual analysis – and there is little profit in trying to unpick his words.

The bottom line is that this is a superb album of 21st century folk-rock. Go out and buy it in thousands and make the Jon Palmer Acoustic Band rich and famous.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘The Silences In Between’ live:

JON PALMER ACOUSTIC BAND – Live At Otley Courthouse (own label)

Live At Otley CourthouseYou’ll be relieved to know that Jon Palmer and his chums weren’t in court for sentencing, although if protest ever becomes illegal it’s just a matter of time. Live At Otley Courthouse was originally recorded just to be sold to the faithful at gigs but the response was so positive that the band decided to let the rest of us buy it as well.

They kick off with two contrasting songs. ‘Brown Eyed Northern Girl’ is a song of contentment as the singer reflects on life with the woman of his dreams while ‘London Town’ – “where the streets are paved with credit cards” – is just the opposite. They follow that with ‘Joyful Noise’ just to remind us that music is supposed to be fun, too.

The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band have been compared to all manner of folk-rock bands from Levellers to The Waterboys but the word acoustic is important and they have resisted the temptation to crank up the volume. Matt Nelson’s mandolin and whistles and Wendy Ross’ violin are crucial ingredients of their sound. There is a solid core of politics at the heart of what they do and, if pressed, I’d liken them to their colleagues across the Pennines, Merry Hell. Songs like ‘Stuffed Their Mouths With Gold’, ‘Working For The Gangmaster’ and ‘Eton Mess’ have obvious messages but Jon shows his subtler side with ‘Where The Mountains Meet The Sea’, a song about forced Irish emigration. The set wraps up with three covers: a dirty rocking ‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘Meet On The Ledge’ shorn of the sentimentality Fairport now imbue it with and the traditional ‘Pay Me My Money Down’.

The sound is beautifully clear and although the audience is clearly present they don’t overwhelm the mix. There are guest appearance from female vocal trio, Yan Tan Tether, also from Otley and Rachel Goodwin, an emerging singer from Harrogate. If you haven’t the band yet (and why haven’t you?) this is a damn good starting point.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

Songs From The Show: