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Alice Jones

Venue: Bothy Folk Song Club
Town: Southport
Date: 15/10/17

Alice Jones is no stranger to FATEA Magazine. Her debut album “Poor Strange Girl”[2016] received a glowing review from Ian Taylor and a track from that album [“Woody Knows Nothing”] was featured on FATEA Showcase Sessions Autumn 16 : Mirage.

Furthermore, I reviewed her excellent show with Pete Coe “The Search For Five Finger Frank”, about the pioneering folksong collector Frank Kidson from Leeds , which they performed here at The Bothy in April 2016.

Alice clearly impressed the Bothy management as they immediately booked her for a return appearance ,which resulted in tonight’s solo performance.

Accompanying herself on harmonium , tenor guitar and piano ,Alice performed a wonderful range of songs from her impressive repertoire ,all beautifully sung in her unaffected ,natural West Yorkshire accent [she’s from Ripponden ,you know].

Alice began her performance ,on guitar, with “The Castle By The Sea” which was collected by Frank and Anne Warner.Alice says that she loves this song because the woman gains the upper hand over a false young man who ends up being chucked into the sea. Another song from the Warner Collection , “A Long Time Travelling” featured Alice accompanying herself not only on guitar but also added percussion from her feet by way of sit-down French Canadian Step Dancing.

From the “Five Finger Frank” album , Alice gave a spirited rendition [on syncopated harmonium !] of Charles Lolley’s jolly tune “Young Banker”.

Alice moved across to her electric piano for a superb performance of the Irish ballad “Banks of the Lee” [as made famous by Silly Wizard and Christy Moore]. Alice’s dramatic piano arrangement gave this haunting song added intensity.

By way of contrast , Alice and her mum Pauline gave us a “Bothy world Exclusive” when they performed a mother-daughter dialogue song in which the daughter is “in the notion now” to get married ,whilst her mother tries in vain to dissuade her. Predictably ,the mother turns out to be right!

Either side of the interval [and raffle,of course] Alice performed two stunning songs ,on piano, which told of the hardships of those who have fallen on hard times and who have to move to find work.

The first was her epic adaptation of the traditional “Adieu to Old England”,which was first recorded in 1953 by Harry Cox and which ,as Alice says, is “frighteningly relevant today in the light of recessions and hardships of recent years”.

Earlier in the evening ,Bothy resident Keith Price had given us a rousing version of press-gang song “Here’s the Tender Coming” ,which appeared on Dave Burland’s first album “The Dalesman’s Litany”.This inspired Alice to start the post-raffle section of the evening with the title track of that album ,which describes the iniquities imposed on workers during the Industrial Revolution – “From Hull and Halifax and Hell , Good Lord deliver me” . In fact the words to “A Dalesman’s Litany” were written in 1900 by an academic, Frederick William Moorman , who was a professor of English at Leeds University.

However, not all workers’ songs are about hardship, as Alice demonstrated by singing “Success to the Weavers” . This song, made famous by the Oldham Tinkers in 1971 , celebrates the pride of weavers in their trade and Alice’s harmonium gave it an authentic nineteenth century feel.

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of Alice’s performance tonight was when she gave a demonstration of Hambone [aka Juba Dance]. Hambone was brought to America [specifically Charleston, South Carolina] by African slaves .It involves slapping oneself on the chest and cheeks to create a rhythm pattern [slaves on plantations were not allowed to have rhythm instruments].

Alice created such a rhythm pattern by slapping herself and finger-clicking to accompany her singing of the slave song /spiritual “Trouble Will Bury Me Down”. As this incredible performance drew to a close, the rhythm got faster and faster [and, no doubt, more painful!].

After this very physical performance , we had a total contrast with Alice’s last song, her beautiful rendition of “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still” ,from the Warner Collection .

Of course, Alice was not going to be allowed to go without an encore and she duly crowned a wonderful evening with the aforementioned “Woody Knows Nothing” from her album “Poor Strange Girl”.

All I can is that if Woody knows anything ,he will be aware that Alice Jones is an extremely talented and engaging performer. On the strength of performances like this tonight here at The Bothy , Alice Jones is certainly a name to watch out for.

Peter Cowley

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