I’d been wondering why I’d not heard much of Jake of late. Readers will most likely know him as a hurdy gurdy player par excellence, who collaborated with Jez Lowe on the 1986 album, Two A Roue. I recall interviewing him around the turn of the millennium and was enchanted to discover his other work, original songs and tunes composed over a career which even by then had already chalked up over two decades of music-making.
Given that virtually all of Jake’s previous albums are long ‘discontinued’, the arrival of this CD will be judged very good news. Silver Muse is a representative collection of Jake’s songwriting spanning four decades. By my reckoning (and I stand to be corrected here), of the disc’s 15 tracks, two-thirds are re-recordings of old favourites. Interspersed among these we find five compositions of more recent provenance, which fit snugly here and prove the consistency of Jake’s vision and his writing over the years, the latter heavily inspired by the Celtic lands – their myths and legends – and informed by the cycles of nature and man’s place within the scheme of things. Several of the songs take their cue from literature, including a setting of Yeats’ Lake Isle Of Innisfree and creative adaptations of O’Shaughnessy’s Ode (The Music Makers), Elizabeth J. Coatsworth’s St. Eval (After The Plough) and an old Irish prayer (White Wave Sea).
Jake’s is a style that doesn’t date, although it might be considered ‘old school’ in that his music is both mellifluous and melodic, flowing and genial and commendably easy on the ear even when tackling less than comfortable topics (Trees, Tom O’Bedlam’s Dream). Jake also benefits greatly from the contributions of long-time collaborator Eric Liorzou and other musical friends including Jez Lowe, Bryony Holden, Alex West, Kathryn Wheeler, Athene Roberts and David De La Haye. You can take it as a recommendation that within a short time of placing this disc in the player, you’re bound to fall under Jake’s spell. The accompanying booklet and contents are most attractively presented too.