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Nic Jones - "Unearthed" - MMCD0203

There is a dramatic quality to the life of Nic Jones - a life smashed and slowly mended, music lost and partly found. "Banish Misfortune" is the chosen tune. Ralph Jordan, producer of this seismic 128-minute double CD, has done a mighty bit of banishing. Building on Dave Emery's work on In Search Of, this digitally remastered collection of club, concert and studio recordings shows why Nic got to be a hero. Here is a singer of mature confidence and insight. An influential guitarist of effortless skill. A surgeon of the tradition, adept with scalpel and suture. An original whose style has never dated and is unsurpassed.

Thirty one tracks on the album, each a good reason to buy it. Here are just five. "Boots of Spanish Leather" - from Bob Dylan via Tony Rose. "Billy Don't You Weep For Me" - never was a broadside ballad brought more thrillingly to life. "Rapunzel" - his reflection on a favourite fairy tale of daughter Helen. "Clyde Water" - a better arrangement than the Penguin Eggs version, with superb guitar break and coda in his classic percussive style. And the closing "Ten Thousand Miles" - a song already taken up by many younger singers.

I could go on. There are songs from Jeff Deitchmann, Anne Lister, Cyril Tawney, Tucker Zimmerman, and Ivor Cutler... five short tunes… "Yarmouth Town" as tribute to Peter Bellamy… many a bold escape from the folk police… fun along the way. Most of the material was never put down on record, and some discoveries and re-discoveries are exciting enough to register on the Dylan Bootleg Series earthquake scale. The sound quality compares well with the tired tapes and ravaged vinyl of my pre Penguin Eggs collection.

Nic's album notes are a tease - witty and revealing on how and why, silent on when and where. In Search Of showed his repertoire as the 1982 car crash loomed, but these recordings have a longer span - probably from mid 70s, since I could detect nothing from early days. As a pointer, there are live performances of three songs each from Noah's Ark Trap ( (1977) and From The Devil To A Stranger (1978) but nothing from Ballads and Songs (1970) or Nic Jones (1971). In case you didn't know, those four vinyl albums remain in the clutch of Celtic Music and have yet to be re-issued in CD format. Nic is only one of the Leader and Trailer label artists affected. Some misfortune takes an age to banish.

One more reason to buy? "The Prickly Bush", where Nic takes his usual liberties with the tune but the true love saves the day in the end, as she ever did. The artwork for this CD includes Helen's beautiful drawing of Nic and his wife Julia.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.