Jez LoweJez Lowe
Album: The Ballad Beyond
Label: Tantobie
Tracks: 15

This is what I would call a real folksong album. And a very good one!

I have a notion that folk songs are an attitude of mind not a formula and Jez Lowe has always got that. He gets what makes a folk song a folk song. That they're born out of the writers and singers experience and beliefs; that they're played with instruments to hand ( rather some notion of what are traditional' instruments) And most of important of all in capturing almost intimate experiment of the common man and woman they can express a bigger truth and story of us all.

And the Ballad Beyond, his first album for four years is as good as representation of all of this as you can get. Many of the songs are developed from songs he wrote for the BBC Radio Ballads project and their range is wide and diverse.

Songs of death of (presumably) an old friend (Candles) ; a lament for the proud mining communities of the north (Pitmen Poets), wild trips to the windswept, north Sea misted funfair (Bother at the Hoppins); all demonstrate a voice that is authentic and memorable.

In a book of mine (A Little Nostalgia for Freedom) I wondered if the gift of the singer, the musician and the storyteller is:

"To weave a spell that casts a collective trance and in which we can revolt against our chains"

And I must have been thinking about someone like Jez Lowe when I put those words to paper. Songs like 'Unprotected' and 'The Lazarus Dance" capture what folk songs can perhaps especially do.

The arrangements are true too. True to the subject and spirit of each song rather than what folk songs are 'supposed' to sound like. There is some beautiful playing here from saxophones, slide guitar, pipes, fiddles, all the panoply of acoustic conjuring.

It might be an odd, even unfashionable thing to say but there is a deep integrity embedded in this album and the man who wrote them.

Steve Bonham