A Review of the CD
"Honesty Box"
by Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies

"Honesty Box"
by Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies

Copyright 2002
Lowe Life Music
Tantobie Records
P.O. Box 891
Azusa, CA 91702
http://www.tantobie.com and

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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There is one incredible song on this release. This doesn't diminish the other cuts--I'll soon get to them. But "The Big Fear" is one of those offerings that make the heart and mind reel. With this ballad, Lowe has cagily crafted a subtle broadside (as he so often capably does) that directly targets those who camouflage their bloodthirst in the name of sport hunting, specifically badger-baiting in this story.

He captures the point of view of the animals of the forest, a la Richard Adams "Watership Down" or George Orwell's "Animal Farm," with a stylistic and lyrical nod to Raymond Chandler. It opens with:

"The day had been just one big sleep, now the night was one big fear,
Trouble might be my business, but it had no business being here,
Some cubs were high on pesticide and a few too many truffles,
Along the way, there'd been fowl play, and some chicks got their feathers ruffled,
These woods are like a circus now, this forest is like a zoo,
and when the fur starts flying, then it's me they all come to."
Coming across suspicious looking deaths (the badgers and dogs used in this sport are often disposed of along roadsides disguised as roadkill), Lowe sings:
"But cars with jaws full of teeth, and claws, that 's one suspicious deal..."
Firing away at the perpetrators, he sings:
"...Is it fodder for your traffic or sport to quench your thirst for blood?
Who's to know the difference through the maggots and the mud?
Now the Copse is asking questions and the forest's all a-buzz
They're asking when the likes of them will respect the likes of us..."
I challenge anyone to find better craftsmanship than this.

The other offerings cover the gamut of Lowe's quality stock in trade: economic struggle, class distinction and the quirks and foibles of individuals and families backlit into humorous and sorrowful song.

The characters of "In My Trade" edge from gnawing unfulfillment to glorious liberation, only to unsteadily creep back to their respective shackles.

When a pregnant wife submits the winning contest entry for a brand new car in "Maddison," the vehicle is:

"...itself long and white, the whitest in the world,
Like something Obi-Wan Kenobie might have used to get the girls..."
Her husband doesn't know how to drive but soon takes lessons. On the day he receives his license, he drives away with his instructor, Eunice.
Expressing the irony is a couple of lines:
"...Eunice is the girl you want, she'll teach your man the drill,
And by the time your baby's born, he'll be off like Damon Hill..."
"Latchkey Lover" is an anthem for all those befuddled spouses left behind whilst their better halves are out tripping the light fantastic. As the hubby in the tune wonders where his wife is:
''Has she taken holy orders, is she kidnapped,
Sucked up to heaven by the little green men?..."
Delving into the sometimes inexplicable world of collectibles, Lowe offers his take on the subject with "Fancy Goods" and Matchboxes."

"Mother's Day" consists of separate letters sent to three respective mothers. The last one packs a jolt:

"...Mother, I'm in trouble and it's kind of hard to share,
The last thing that you need is another cross to bear,
The lads I thought were for me, all denied me and skipped town,
You're right I should have found a nice Jewish girl and settled down.
I know that Magdalene could mend for me her wicked ways,
And things would be so different on a good carpenter's pay,
It's Easter in three days. Oh, why did Father leave us?..."
Lowe has done it again. Interesting, quality songs and enjoyable musical presentations.

Lowe, on vocals, guitar, cittern, harmonica, piano and whistle, is assisted by Judy Dinning on vocals, percussion, keyboards, piano and bodhran; Simon Haworth on vocals, bass and keyboards; Kate Bramley on violin, viola and vocals; Sam Pirt on accordion; Jeff Armstrong on percussion and drums and Andy May on low whistle.

Track List:

All songs written by Jez Lowe, except as noted.

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