Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies,
Live at the Davy Lamp
(Lowe Life/Tantobei, 2000)

For a great night out while staying in, get this CD, a bunch of friends and a few pints of bitter or brown ale.

Live albums are notorious for being "bitty," but this double CD from Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies is a tour de force of what live folk should be. In 23 tracks plus an enhanced CD-ROM track, which offers words, pictures and a video clip, this excellent singer-songwriter brings you the magic of folk.

The songs are often deceptively simple but most hide a strong and heartfelt message. They are combinations of great tunes, humorous lyrics and spirited renditions that will leave even the armchair "folkie" shouting for more. The CD is all the more amazing in that all tracks are written by Lowe (two in collaboration with Bev Sanders), but there are no two songs the same.

The opener, "Another Man's Wife," features the distinctive sound of the hurdy gurdy and sets the tone of the night. As usual with Lowe there are numerous songs about the northeast of England and the blessing or curse of the coal industry on its inhabitants. A particular favourite of mine is "Black Diamonds," a title that conjures up the reality of the industry. Another song of the coal, "These Coal Town Days," reminds us that while coal-mining is a dangerous occupation, it is a job and people have very mixed feelings when a mine is closed.

There are some fantastic funny songs on the album. "High Part of the Town" is one that had me laughing aloud with the witty observations of a "young lad" about his "Da." "Big Meeting Day" is another song of fun and atmosphere as it helps us relive the miner's gala days when thousands gathered for music, fun, frolics and not a little beer. "Weave and Worry" commemorates the Eastington Colliery closure and is a poignant tale of the life of a miner's wife, which is epitomized by that title.

"Kid Canute" brings us back to humour as Lowe makes fun of those eternal rock 'n' rollers that we all know -- the ones who still have the drainpipe trousers, coiff and grease of the '50s. "London Danny" is another Lowe classic telling that oft-told story of the man who marries a girl who was left behind by a high-roller, and his fears when the successful man returns. Like so many of these songs by Lowe, it tells a deep and heartfelt tale with lovely music and gentle words that never get too sloppy. The penultimate song, "You Can't Take it With You," is a typical live program closer with an infectious chorus.

Thankfully, with this CD you CAN take it with you. You can take great songs in a beautiful performance in the car, on a train, to your sitting room or anywhere.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

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