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Jed GrimesJed Grimes
Album: North Face (EP)
Label: Blue Guitar
Tracks: 6
Website: http://www.jedgrimes.com

Jed's latest release follows the nowadays-increasingly-common practice of bringing out an advance edition of a handful of tracks serving as a taster for a forthcoming full-length album. This time, it's an exclusively trad-arr project, which gives Jed the chance to rekindle his feel for the kind of repertoire associated with his days with the band Hedgehog Pie in the late 70s. This has entailed getting back in touch with his long-time pal (and erstwhile HP colleague) Mick Doonan, whose musical expertise (on uillean pipes, whistle and flute and occasional harmony vocals) proves a key element in the tastefully conjured sound (and vision) of the disc, both complementing and cocooning the enterprisingly luxurious guitar (and lap steel and bouzouki) textures so elegantly constructed by Jed himself: aural magic in which to cradle Jed's involving interpretations.

The four songs, variously sourced from the British Isles, Ireland and Appalachia, comprise The Snow It Melts The Soonest, The Lambs On The Green Hills, Pride Of Kildare, and Rake And Rambling Boy, all given splendid renditions characterised by Jed's signature superlative, intricately moulded string virtuosity and gritty yet tenderly felt vocal with its wholly idiomatic phrasing. The first-mentioned, taken from the Northumbrian Minstrelsy, may be very familiar in folk circles, but Jed's version is without doubt one of the finest you'll come across.

The instrumental items turn out to be much more than mere interludes to fill out the playing-time and give Jed's voice a rest! The first is a lovely take on the familiar Shetland waltz Christmas Day In Da Morn, while the second is an inspired, fresh melding of two pieces of Irish origin: the slow air Spalpeen Aroon and a spirited slip-jig. This medley, the disc's finale, forms an extended eight-minute excursion with transcendent world roots flavours, and just has to be considered the EP's standout track, tracing a journey from gorgeous slide-infused prelude to a fabulous passage of piping before puckishly stepping out to the tune which I know from the Chieftains' second LP as O'Farrell's Welcome To Limerick but which has rather curiously been retitled here as An Phisloach. The standard of musicianship and inspired collaboration on display here is second to none - no exaggeration. So, after Jed's proved such an expert guide for our scaling of the north face with this EP, the future full trek to the summit will no doubt be eigerly awaited! (Sorry!).

David Kidman