Jimmy & Sid’s superlative debut album Let The Wind Blow High Or Low was one of the discoveries of 2014 for me, then seeing the duo live confirmed and even exceeded my already highly favourable expectations. And now comes their even more mighty second album, which retains all the special qualities of that debut but on an arguably even finer selection of material that once again mixes traditional with self-penned and contemporary songs in a well-planned sequence that’s been really thought through to allow for maximum impact and listener interest while emphasising the connectivity of common heritage.
A recurring theme on this latest album is the plight of marginalised or downtrodden groups or individuals, and Jimmy’s impassioned singing style is particularly suited to the expression of this theme. The songs display a strong awareness of such contemporary problems, and give voice to unsung or less often acknowledged perspectives, for example that of the night-shift worker (Night Hours), or the plight of migrant workers during the Great Depression (Harvest Gypsies). They can also often take the form of modern protest songs – Moved On concerns a battle to secure social housing, The Ballad Of Yorkley Court chronicles the forcible eviction of a community of land workers, and The Grazier Tribe focuses on the issues of overgrazing and biodiversity.
The passion in these songs is fully matched in Jimmy and Sid’s fearless treatment of traditional song too, for they prove entirely unafraid to also tackle the repertoire’s big challenges – here represented initially by no less a ballad than The Bonny Bunch Of Roses. The duo’s stirring take on this warhorse is up there with the best, of that there is no doubt (and there have been some notably illustrious predecessors…). Here, as at other strategic points on the album, Jimmy and Sid are augmented by the musicianly talents of members of the trio Teyr – out of which Dominic Henderson’s keening uilleann pipes make a special contribution here. Another disc standout is the duo’s superlative account of Willie O’ The Winsbury, which – in common with a couple of other tracks – begins persuasively with a cappella vocal before introducing the skilful instrumental accompaniment, in this case centred initially around Sid’s intelligently considered guitar work. I’ll also mention that both Jimmy and Sid are very strong in the vocal department, whether singing solo or producing intuitive harmony lines.
The Australian (Banjo Patterson) poem Along The Castlereagh and the shanty Shallow Brown also receive noteworthy treatment by Jimmy and Sid, the latter also featuring washes of accordion and fiddle from the Teyr lads. While Mary And The Soldier is tenderly done too, with Sid’s exemplary guitar backing a model of sensitivity. But it’s Jimmy’s signature banjo playing – supple, charmingly informal and relaxed, almost Appalachian in style – that remains at the heart of the texture for the most part.
Night Hours delivers a brilliant, totally consistent close-on-an-hour’s worth of exceptional interpretation and musicianship; it represents a set of considerable maturity, vision and character from one of the folk scene’s finest young teamings, one of the top must-see acts around at the moment.
|Reed: Maja's Tree||Christy Scott: Amaranthine (EP)|
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