JOHN JONES - Rising Road

JOHN JONES - Rising Road

Westpark Music WP87179

Such is the strength of John Jones's sure-handed 30-year helmanship of one of folk-rock's "supergroups" it's hard to conceive of him branching out on his own. But with Rising Road the flamboyant Oysterband frontman finally breaks out and escapes to the hills!

His debut solo album delivers 12 tracks - new treatments of classic traditional songs mingling with four strong new self-penned numbers and a fifth (the enigmatic Boy in the Window) where he collaborates with fellow "Oysters" Alan Prosser and Ian Telfer. It is by turns hauntingly beautiful and sensitive, then strident and driven.

From the atmospheric drone of Jones' own dramatic opener Let Me Fall this is an album you can't ignore. His unflinching and distinctive voice executes every lyric with the precision of a new blade.

The traditional Polly on the Shore is given a driving, almost tribal treatment while the incendiary shanty Fire Marengo is light years away from the recent Bellowhead version and the spellbinding and stealthy One Night As I Lay on my Bed (reclaimed as a man's song!) weaves in the exquisite harp of Sophie Walsh and liquid guitar work of Al Scott.

A great walker, John launched his album by walking between venues on a spring tour ending up at Oysterband's Big Session Festival in Leicester - no mean feat at a 200 mile journey by Shanks' pony. His empathy with his native Welsh Borders is nowhere more finely observed than in Walking Through Ithonside which recalls a Radnorshire riverside ramble, freewheeling its way with all the joy of a newly released prisoner.

Seth Lakeman's trademark percussive playing opens one of the stand out tracks, the traditional Rocks of Bawn, where John is also joined by Benji Kirkpatrick (he has toured with the younger musicians in the past) - their harmonies working wonderfully well on this beautiful arrangement.

Litten Tree, another Jones original is dark and full of trepidation while elsewhere there is an arresting arrangement of the "old as the hills" song Searching for Lambs with Rowan Godel sharing vocals.

Produced by Al Scott, this honest and bold album demands to be listened to. Clearly there is life outside Oysterband - and with this astute, finely-crafted release, Jones proves it admirably.

Jane Brace

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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.