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

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