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Djukella Records JDHCD004 

This CD comes handsomely presented in a six panel Digisleeve, with a liner booklet containing lyrics to some of the songs, and with prose which also holds your attention with some fascinating detail as to the creative process Jez employed recording them. I quote him: “it’s a rich blend of songs old and new, deftly deranged by the Djukella Orchestra”. (Don’t you love that “deranged”?) Jez gives us 14 tracks / 63 minutes playing time, and I salute him for not short-changing his audience.

Who are his audience members exactly? Well, I’d guess they’d not contain many Tories, since his selection of songs always includes some that express strong left-of-centre sentiments. And here they are none the worse for that: his own Black Mirror’s Got You, pulls no punches, and really registers, as does Sally Ironmonger & Brian Carter’s Foodbanks & Ferraris. But the standout tracks for me were his covers of familiar oldies: Ewan MacColl’s inspirational The Joy Of Living, and Richard Thompson’s The Sights & Sounds Of London Town. On them, as on most of the tracks, Jez is joined by Piotr Jordan on violin, and Nye Parsons on double-bass. They perform admirably, as does Jez himself: not content with a warm tuneful voice that always brings to mind Rory McLeod, blow me, if his performances on guitar and harmonica are worthy of the great Rory too.

A lovely CD which ends with a trio of strong songs: the first two from the pen of that glorious free spirit, Robin Williamson, topped off with a song from the late brother-in-law of Joan Baez. It has been many years since I heard The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood, and it reminds me what a loss Richard Fariña was, in that road accident back in the 1960s.

And just in case Jez sells out and needs re-stocking, perhaps he’ll put a little correction slip into his liner booklet, pointing out that Ewan MacColl was not 89 when he wrote his magnificent The Joy Of Living. He couldn’t have been: he died at 74. (He actually wrote it aged 72.) And although Jez is commendably fastidious in attributing songs to the writers involved, whilst rightly telling us that Big Steamers owes its lyrics to the great Rudyard Kipling, he omitted to add that the fits-like-a-glove melody was by Peter Bellamy.

And also re the liner notes: I beg Jez to study the history of Rule Britannia! For if he does, he will see that the poem was written shortly before it was set to music in 1740: and it was only around then that the Barbary pirates were finally being defeated. Until then they had, for two centuries, been raiding coastal towns in Southern England and Southern Ireland, taking the locals off to a life of slavery in North Africa. Now, in 1740 with a strong navy, we swore that our natives will / shall never be slaves again. With that in mind, it’s a different song then Jez, eh?

An album well worth the buying.

Dai Woosnam


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine