Jed Marum,
Soul of a Wanderer
(Boston Road, 2002)

We often hear people say, "They don't write songs like that anymore." This new CD answers that with the very firm "oh yes, they do." At least Jed Marum does. Here is a writer and performer who has a feel for a tale and the talent to put the words and music together in a hypnotic mix.

This is the first time I have reviewed a song inspired by an incident in a novel. "Desolation Island" is a fabulous song written by Marum about an incident in a book by Patrick O'Brien. It has a feel of a song written at the time of the fictional disaster and is a treat to hear. Marum also takes other people's work and sings them with a heart and soul that betrays a love of good music and lyrics even if they are not his own. His rendition of "My Sweet Wyoming Home" is spine-tingling, especially in the harmonica section.

I really appreciate the background given in the insert to tell us how these songs were inspired. "Banks of Mobile" is a beautiful tale of a fascinating lady. It tells of the life of a Scottish-born girl who became a front-line nurse in the Civil War and lived to the age of 76 in her beloved Mobile.

"Soul of a Wanderer" is a poetic piece that seems to come straight from the heart and the rich backing adds greatly to the sound. "Lost Little Children" is not his own composition but he takes it over. It could be a sad tale about children looking for emigrant parents but he gives it an optimistic beat.

I love some of the older pieces Irish comic songs and none are better than the works of Percy French. Marum takes "Phil the Fluther's Ball" and brings it 100 years on. Sadly, so many of these songs have been murdered in pubs, wakes and weddings. It is great to hear them rehabilitated and performed as here by Marum. Listen to the lyrics -- French was a master of songwriting. Another track in this genre is "Garden Where the Praties Grow," which he heard from his father. His a cappella rendition lets you hear the lovely words so often lost in a spirited rendition.

Another old song -- but not quite so old -- gets the Marum treatment to great effect on "San Antonio Rose." How lovely to hear a voice, guitar and string bass perform this great song. Nothing gets in the way of the words.

My twin loves are good music and history, and Marum combines them again with "The Sons of Liberty." The notes tell us that the song combines two old texts. The tale of Irish men reluctantly fighting for Britain in the Revolutionary War is sung with great feeling. "Letter from Lilac Acres" again takes us back into history with Marum expressing the thoughts of those left at home when partners are involved in wars.

There are classics included on this CD such as "Lakes of Ponchartrain" and "Drill Ye Tarriers." The former sounds excellent with just guitar, cello and whistle backing. He ends the CD with a fantastic song dedicated to a girl called Sarah. It is a reworking of "Wild Mountain Thyme," now called "Sarah's Mountain Time," and I must admit that I prefer the new words -- something I don't often do.

Jed Marum is a name to watch in the world of great songwriting and singing. I will be seeking out earlier works and watching dispatches for any new releases.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 22 March 2003

Buy it from