Gareth Davies-Jones released his new album, Truth Tradition Prophets & Loss, at the end of October. The album is a collection of traditional and self-penned songs. He describes himself as a technophobe who’s spent the time off given by the pandemic as an opportunity to “learn the ways of technology and begin to capture my song writing in a home studio.” I’m glad he did.
Highlights of the traditional songs are rather lovely versions of ‘Peggy Gordon’ and ‘Isle of St Helena’; the wistful poem ‘Raglan Road’, put to music by The Dubliners’ Luke Kelly is here as well; and the studio album closes with the hymnal ‘My Shepherd You Supply My Need’ – written in 1719 by Isaac Watts, it’s older than much of what we call traditional music.
These are great interpretations. As a songwriter, we get to hear another side of Davies-Jones. Whatever else you listen to, listen to ‘The Belfast Ladies Association’ a record of how the Association was set up in 1847 in response to the potato famine to provide aid and education irrespective of religion. Sometimes a songwriter can capture the essence of a mood, or of a time, or of a place – or all of them – with a wonderfully matching melody and lyric (think ‘Village Green Preservation Society’, ‘An Old Cricketer’, or even ‘Ghost Town’ from a different tradition) and Davies-Jones does it here – an optimistic tune which captures that sense of “Hope in the darkest times” that he sings of in the chorus, whilst telling the story in the verses.
Of the other tracks written by Davies-Jones, the album opens with [You Know Me Like] ‘No-one Else’, one of those songs that arrives fully formed and is captured in thirty minutes; ‘More Than Memory’ was initially written for World Curlew Day and draws on the tradition for its feel; ‘Hosea’ was written after a discussion about art and faith at Keswick Unconventional and tries to capture the essence of the Old Testament Book; ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ and ‘In Company’ are gently lovely. An eclectic album, then.
Truth Tradition Prophets & Loss finishes with a couple of live tracks recorded in Hebburn two years ago. Davies-Jones shows himself to be an accomplished live performer – and there’s a sense in which that’s how this album strikes me, taking me back to a time and mood. You remember the days when you’d go to a folk club every week, irrespective? Occasionally, you’d go along one week (because that’s what you did) where you knew nothing in advance about the person who was playing … and then you were wowed by what a great evening you’d had? That’s what this album reminds me of. It’s observant of traditional music but builds on it; it’s played and sung elegantly; above all, it’s an hour in the company of someone you’ve just come across – and you’re rather glad that you have.
Artist’s website: https://www.garethdavies-jones.com
‘The Belfast Ladies Association’: