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Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies "Honesty Box" Tantobie Records TTRCD102

It has been four years since Jez Lowe last released a studio album, but the north-east's master songwriter is back with a collection of twelve new compositions. Since the release of the classic Parish Notices in 1998 there have been two changes in the band, with Simon Haworth and Kate Bramley joining the stalwart Judy Dinning. These musicians complement Jez's trademark cittern, guitar and harmonica, by adding violin, viola, bass, bodhran, piano and whistle to the mix. Guest musicians add occasional drums and accordion.

As regards the songs, Jez is not prone to writing a wrong 'un, and the dozen new offerings here are mostly pretty immediate. All Jez's hallmarks are to be found: quality melodies, ace rhyming couplets, funny stories, richly descriptive characters, working class sympathies, plus a smattering of words that no other songwriter would ever think to use! Three of the songs in particular are guaranteed to become future concert favourites: "Latchkey Lover" (about a scorned partner), "Fancy Goods" (about bric-a-brac) and "The Big Fear" ( a poignant, sad and brilliant song about badger baiting).

The CD has been beautifully produced and mastered, with a crystal clear mix, and comes complete with a sixteen page booklet with all the lyrics plus band photographs. It clocks-in at just under fifty-five minutes, and is guaranteed to please all Jez's many fans, as well as gaining some new disciples too.

Adrian Booth

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.