It's been quite a while since we had a new CD from Gentleman Jim, the Bridlington Fiddler, but he's still very much alive and kicking and giving value for money wherever he performs. If you've ever fallen under his spell, then his latest CD won't disappoint. It's a refreshing blast of east-coast air (whether the flat Humberlands or the exposed wild cliffs further north); and equally refreshingly it's a definitively, resolutely "what it says on the tin" CD.
The entirely apt cover photos present a spry, dapper, honest-to-goodness chap with fiddle tucked in prime playing position below (as opposed to across) the left shoulder; what you see is what you get, an immediate, personal performance in a unique mode of delivery. Traditional, yes, but - one might well argue - Jim is his own tradition. He's grassroots folk, holding a stick up to the "cosy folk" brigade and giving us a defiantly no-frills, almost anti-folk experience that readily espouses the punk ethos. It's impossible not to be drawn in.
His fiddle playing is gloriously rough and raw, but that's a Good Thing, for in being fearless in exploring his instrument's possibilities his artistry will never be in danger of being sanitised. His singing too is strongly individual, a true "voice of the people" whose natural style relates to his listeners. No doubt he will disagree with my assessment, for in a recent interview he said: "I feel myself to be in permanent revolt against other people's declarations of what I am…" - an entirely justifiable and understandable stance, and one cannot but healthily respect him for it. So Jim's new CD is a no-nonsense 20-track, 40-minute procession that precisely and reliably alternates tunes with songs.
Just under half were learnt from traditional singers and musicians of his acquaintance (as named in the liner note bar track 18), and include singularly spirited renditions of less-often-heard variants (The Merry Cuckold, Good Luck To The Barley Corn, Adieu To Old England), either a cappella or fiddle-accompanied. The disc also contains three songs "made up by Jim": priceless, quirky little observations-cum-commentaries It's Still Around Somewhere, A Message From Genghis Khan and There's A Puffin In My Pint (need I say more?! … ). And five of the disc's solo fiddle tunes come from recordings and transcriptions of Goathland musicians.
In all, this is a well varied set, persuasively delivered. The only thing seriously missing from this disc is one of Jim's celebrated covers of early punk or rock classics (cue fond memories of Bat Out Of Hell or a number by the Clash)! But hey, we won't hold that against him!
|Alejandro Escovedo: Burn Something Beautiful||Gerry Beckley: Carousel|
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