A Review of the CD
"The Parish Notices"
by Jez Lowe
Copyright Green Linnet Records 1998
"The Parish Notices"
by Jez Lowe
43 Beaver Brook Road
Danbury, CT 06810
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 10/98
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
send me an email message A montage of life in the north of England--the good, the bad, the funny, the sad--comprises "The Parish Notices," the latest release from Jez Lowe and The Bad Pennies. A keen social observer with the remarkable ability to transform everyday vignettes into incisive song, Lowe also possesses the uncanny talent of synergistically uniting his lyrics with just the right music. His timely and opportune employment of the cittern, mandolin, dulcimer, banjo, fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, melodeon and accordian on various cuts enthusiastically resonate with his lyrics, enhancing his songs' effectiveness. He is an effectual user of colloquialisms. Witness the song titles "Propping," "Sod All," "Hand Away, Gan On," that help transport the listener to the land(s) in which he sets his songs. Lowe presents the trials and tribulations of besotted souls, successful emigrants who return to a reception of scorn and envy, lost and bewildered unsuccessful emigrants, single parenthood, unemployment, and the effect of the appearance of AIDS in a small English village, among other topics. "Sod All" is a melancholy tune about falling under the spell of a silver-tongued devil and then being forsaken after a resulting pregnancy. The mother plaintively strikes out at the world, telling her son:
She continues on:
"Sod all there tongues with their rights and their wrongs
Sod all their speeches of unmarried leeches
There's sod all in handouts of welfare-state pay
And you've been a right little sod all day..."
Judy Dinning effectively trades vocals with Lowe on this cut. Using the cittern, whistle and hurdy-gurdy effectively on "Spitting Cousins," Lowe tells the tale of a visiting Australian cousin returning to the north of England to a bitter reception. As the resentful relative, he sings:
"...Your father will never be daddy to you
And never whatever to me.
And maybe one day you will follow his way
Seduced by the diddle-dee.
The dark was his light, like yours is tonight.
His music it wooed and licked me.
It stuck to the bone, like moss to a stone
But he rolled away soon as you kicked me.
The charm of his blarney sure tricked me."
Continuing on, he says:
"...Instead of too much time to rue my lot
I could've been the one to have the things you've got
If my old man had had a bit more bottle
And had seen what the rest all saw..."
In "Had Away, Gan On," a song borne out of his homesickness during a tour of Australia, Lowe humorously sings:
"...There's been one or two changes since you went away
We got colour television, but real life turned grey..."
Johnny Handle is a folksinger from the northeast of England. His chorus goes:
"...Last night a woman said
I had the style of Frank Sinatra
A professor up from Wollongong
Said I'd the pen of Jean-Paul Sartre
And a Scotsman said me songs were shite
And me accent was a scandal
And the only true Geordies left were
Sting and Johnny Handle..."
"Hand away, gan on" is a County Durham expression meaning "Get away, go on." The true story depicted in "The Parish Notices," is the tale of the arrival of a lesbian couple in a quaint English village. Tongues start clucking as:
Had away, gan on
Why man what ye deein'
Well, I wish that I was back with them
That know just what I mean
When I say had away, gan on..."
However, when one of the women subsequently contracts AIDS and dies:
"...They (the townspeople) have their own lives to live and let live
And their own business to mind
Their cards are played close to the heart
But when apples are spilled from the cart
The parish notices..."
The power and cohesiveness of Lowe's writing is nowhere more apparent than in this song. The vivid images and the story he presents in just 27 lines of verse is remarkable. Other strong compositions on this CD include the bouncy "Propping," the galloping "The Limping Drinker's Polka," "Go Away Joe," and the cheerful "Idle Time." Lowe is an underrated songwriter and performer. Neither flashy nor bombastic, his marriage of music and words often offers delicate shadings, nuances on life as he sees it. Because of this, this is not a bleak or caustic release, despite the subject matter. He gets his point across without assaulting the listener. He is ably assisted here by Billy Surgeoner on fiddle, keyboards, whistle, saxophone, percussion and vocals; Jez Luton on double bass, electric stand-up bass, keyboards, guitar and vocals; and Judy Dinning on vocals, guitar, keyboards and percussion; and special guests Jake Walton on hurdy-gurdy; and Rob Kay on melodeon and accordian.
"...And one alone in her grief still remained
To hear no comforting sound
Just gather your goods and be gone
And take your damn plague from this town
She laughed with her back to the ropes
And she spat on their street and she hopes
The parish notices."
All songs written by Jez Lowe.
- Glad Rags Again (5:05)
- Tom-Tom (3:33)
- Propping (4:28)
- Sod All (5:07)
- Spitting Cousins (3:58)
- Spares Or Repair (5:13)
- The Limping Drinker's Polka (3:55)
- Go Away Joe (3:50)
- Had Away, Gan On (4:19)
- The Parish Notices (4:59)
- Idle Time (3:55)
- If I Had Another Penny (4:09)
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