Bill Jones,
Two Year Winter
(Brickwall, 2003)

The first thing that will strike you about this CD is that Bill is a girl. The second thing that will strike you is that you have stumbled upon a major talent regardless of gender or name.

Almost everyone would hate a two-year winter, but listening to this CD I might not mind, if the album lasted those two years. Here we have a girl with classical music training who has been seduced by the joy and reality of folk music. She reacted to this by bringing an intense professionalism mixed with a great love of the genre to songs old and new. In fact, she has managed that magic of taking some old traditional songs and making them new.

Over 12 tracks, Bill Jones will mesmerise you with a voice that is beautiful but almost impossible to compare to any other.

She opens with a track called "From My Window," which started out as a song in the Irish language by Eamon Friel. Here, it has been translated into a totally new and excellent song. I particularly loved the use of phrasing from childhood like "the clocks go round and round like ragged rascals." The title track is a combination of the words of Anne Hills and the music from Bill Jones.

Her musical ability is to the fore on the set "Night Time Jigs" on which she plays whistle and accordion. These jigs will not tire you. They are played at a fabulous laidback pace that I have seldom heard. The tempo gives a new life to this music.

Jones takes an old historic story, an Irish tune and a great composing talent to bring us the tale of the heroine of the Longstone Light, Grace Darling, on the track "The Story of Darling Grace." This is not your usual ballad of heroism but rather a heartfelt tale of how the events affected the life of the heroine. In this it is a great song but also a lesson in social history and life.

"The Lover's Ghost" is one of the greatest songs of the folk tradition. I have always loved the lyrics and the theme. Here, Jones makes the song her very own. The pace is altered, the percussion is inspired and a jazz feel is imbued that even I, who rather dislikes that genre, is captivated. I loved it.

Jones has a knack of being able to alter traditional songs that, far from destroying them, makes them so much better -- no mean feat. She does this to perfection on "Hey Away." The song began in a book of songs from the 19th century. Jones translated the "Geordie" into modern English and dropped a few verses. She did not like the original tune so she set it to "The Flower of Northumberland" and another tune. She then wrote and amalgamated a few other pieces. In any other hands this might have been a disaster -- here it is a triumph. This song deserves a wide audience. Some will hear echoes of "Liverpool Lullaby" in this song; oh, that "Hey Away" should get similar exposure!

Another set of emailed lyrics from Anne Hills inspired the track "Lost Chances." This is a song that must be heard to be truly appreciated.

Have you ever experienced the Irish performance called lilting? This is a sort of light "mouth music" and if you want to hear it to perfection give a listen to "Diddling Set." We call it "diddly aye" music.

Jones has the class and talent to follow the lighthearted set with a song by Pete Morton titled "The Two Brothers." This is a fantastic song with real words and presented here with just vocals and piano. Listen and weep. She then takes us off on another jaunt with a lovely light traditional song "The Haymakers." Here is another slice of the past with its nine-month sequel. I truly enjoyed the production and the instrumental insert. The CD ends all too soon with "Bide," another traditional tune.

Anyone reading this review will be in no doubt that I was blown away by this CD. I will be seeking out any and all the work of Bill Jones and so should you.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 6 September 2003

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