While it's good to see new blood reinvigorating and reinterpreting traditional English folk music, it's also important that there are artists who preserve the original form too. Tim Jones and his London-based band are one such, the latest album combining both traditional and original material. Here joined by Ted Kemp on concertina, fiddler Karen Phillips, viola player Robin Timmis and Em Marshall on guitar and vocals, it opens on what, from the title, sounds like something from the archives, but, in fact, 'A Calling On Song' is actually a self-penned number about disenfranchisement, Jones' distinctive tones in relaxed mood with co-writer Marshall providing harmonies.
There's four traditional numbers, first up being the oft-covered 'Polly On The Shore' which, opening with Phillips' moody fiddle, is suitably wearied and brooding. Soon after comes 'Sweet Lemeny' with its jaunty fingerpicked acoustic, followed in turn by a concertina-led arrangement of the instrumental shanty 'Jolly Tar Come Along With Your Trousers On' setting the stage for a frenzied klezmer-styled, blazing fiddle romp through of 'Down Among The Dead Men'.
Not traditional as such, the seven and a half-minute 'Stratton Water' is Jones' setting of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's narrative poem, one likely to have club audiences spellbound.
Of the original material, the mournful, concertina and strings-bolstered title track uses the passing seasons to speak of relationship shifts, a theme that extends to the slow waltzing Alexander Rose with its images of years passing and mortality and, again using nature imagery, the suitably ominous tones of 'The Gathering Storm', Marshall again providing solid harmony support.
Naturally you can't have a traditional folk album without a good murder ballad, Jones obliging with the deceptively jaunty concertina sway of 'Christine Collins', the tale of a young girl murdered and dumped in the rivers by the bargee men on the union canal. This is followed by one of the several highlights, 'Candles Out', a fiddle-led song with a slow waltzing singalong chorus built around eye-witness accounts of the London Blitz, and the fear and the defiant spirit of those on the receiving end.
It ends on a pastoral note with 'The Lily & The Ivy', a song which, both on lyric and musical mood, conjures thoughts of songs about being reunited with loved ones sung by the troops overseas in WWI, a fine conclusion to an album that fully deserves as much attention from the new generation of the trad folk fraternity as anything by Seth Lakeman, Eliza Carthy and their like.
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