This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4/04
This is the fourth album from a veteran of the UK folk scene. But
it is the first of Jim's that has come my way.
The first obvious question: does it make me wish I'd encountered the previous three? The honest answer is I am not entirely sure, but let's put it this way: there are plenty other artistes I review at 3rd/4th album stage, and some of those would need to pay me serious money to investigate their back catalogue. Not so Jim Donaldson. There is much to enjoy in his work.
First of all the voice. As I write, the great Gordon Lightfoot still is battling with serious illness. Perish the thought that he should be no more, but when that day arrives, Jim has an assured future doing Lightfoot impressions all over the English-speaking world.
And it is not just the voice. This is an album of high quality musicianship, and amazingly it is all the work of Jim with his trusty 8 track. Guitars, dobro, banjo, mandolin. Remarkable.
So remarkable in fact that on some of the up-tempo numbers one could swear that it is the great Red Shea one can hear with those glorious guitar runs in the background.
Not only has Jim Donaldson provided all the input, he has also produced the album too. And a very crisp and clean sound it is. It would be a credit to a major studio.
So should you buy it? I'd say, perhaps, however there are a few provisos.
For one thing you had better not have a hang-up on people needing to sing in the same accent with which they speak. If you passionately feel this way, then don't take your money out of your pocket. For the fact is that I can safely bet that Jim speaks in a British – probably Scots – accent, but he emphatically sings in North American. (The liner notes tell me he is living in the Great Glen, south of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Had I read that he was living in the Canadian Rockies, I would not have been surprised!) Up-tempo he has the Canadian cadences of the aforementioned Gordy; slower numbers I detect the vowel sounds and tonal quality of the late Marty Robbins.
(Don't get me wrong: his is a very fine voice. And he shows remarkable breath control. Just listen to the final note of “Time for movin' on”, if you want proof of the latter.)
Another proviso before you buy it is that you shouldn't expect ace songs. Oh sure these are pretty decent songs – all but two from his own pen – and they use rhyme and scan and make sense. One or two might be a bit too agitprop for some people's tastes, but I reckon his heart is in the right place, so they didn't offend me.
Of the non-Donaldson numbers, I'd like to say that it was so nice to see a song from the great forgotten man of the British folk scene, Jack Hudson. The British folk scene should hang its head in shame at the way it has treated him.
Also Jim does a John Gorka song, with the sweetest of melodies. Although that said, I fancy his own attempt at a “Gorka” – track 9, “Two Lives on the Slide” – outgorkas the real thing! The best track on the album.
Also there is a decent stab at telling the James Dean life-story, “Boy From Fairmount”. Pleased to say he doesn't do this with a Jimmy Dean delivery.
And if all this was not enough, he throws in a few very accomplished instrumentals: one (track 11) he colours with interesting sound-effects: I won't spoil the surprise by letting the secret out of the bag.
Buy it from Jim's e-mail address: email@example.com
All songs (unless stated) by Jim Donaldson.
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