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Nic Jones Nic Jones
Album: An Introduction To... (New)
Label: Topic
Tracks: 12

So hands up who needs an introduction to Nic Jones? There can't be many but there are some of us skulking in corners who are ashamed to admit that although we may know the name and may have seen the 'enigma of Nic Jones' documentary, that's about as far as it goes. Handy then that Topic Records are celebrating eighty years with a series of these 'introduction to's including the likes of all the Carthy clan, June Tabor and Shirley Collins, just in case anyone else has been living in a cave.

So for all those folks who think these sort of albums are, in the main, pretty redundant, here's living proof that they're perfect for some of us who still remain in the dark. Of course we know the name; it's one that has influenced and inspired so many people. Kate Rusby talks of getting all emotional when Nic contributed to her '20' album and only the other day I was watching Sam Carter's stunning version of 'Seven Gypsies'.

So here's "the definitive entry point" that's made up of ten songs chosen by Nic himself plus the bonus of two new tracks, his arm being twisted into the 2013 studio tracks aided and abetted by son Joe and Belinda O'Hooley who both add weight to Nic's own delicate craft. We get the man's own selection of material from Topic's 'Penguin Eggs' (released in 1980 when I was probably getting back into the rock scene after toying with the punk explosion) and 'Game Set Match' albums. A read through the explanatory and knowledgeable essay from Colin Irwin and we're away.

The famous guitar picking style is apparent immediately; Hamburger Polka and Billy Don't You Weep For Me both showcasing some rolling and tumbling passages. Tony Hall's melodeon and the recorder of Bridget Danby add a jollity to Barrack Street as the sequence of traditional songs and tunes get the Jones treatment. Farewell To The Gold has Nic on fiddle along with one of his great supporters, Dave Burland, on vocals. 'Seven Yellow Gypsies' is a stunning hit on what what Colin Irwin calls one of the "hard-won live hits" and anyone familiar with the good turn that Faustus did with 'Ballina Whalers' can track back to Nic's 'Humpback Whale'.

The two recent recordings add to the vintage and segue seamlessly. The melancholy sway of Belinda's accordion, 'I Only Spoke Portuguese' that includes some particularly poignant lines ("if I had the wings of a tui, I would sing from the highest of trees") adds an significant emotional clout. It's an appetiser for his own 'Now' that pushes that dial into the red and justifies Nic's own comment - "a few of those songsā€¦that will hopefully set your vision alight." Moments to cherish and rouse thanks Nic.

Mike Ainscoe

This review of "An Introduction To" came from a new listener for the perepective of an old hand, Click Here