self released, 2011, DD EP, 13m 23s, £free
Original songs in the style of folksong aren’t ‘folk’ in the sense of ‘traditional music’, and nor in fact do they actually sound like any traditional music ever did: this is really a modern style that grew out of the 1950s folk club movement, where I imagine singer-songwriters wanted to find a sound that fit with their own enthusiasms, and was palatable to the notably purist (well, frankly bigoted) folk club audiences.
All such conceptual musings aside, this is a collection of finely crafted songs in a style that draws heavily on that tradition, with some rock elements, in the form of some bass and percussion, and some very tasteful, and sonically imaginative electric guitar. It lacks any of his nasally hey-nonny tendencies, but I found myself wondering whether Nic Jones might have sounded like this if he’d been working today: the guitar playing sits somewhere between his intricate fingerpicking and the textural ostinatos of latter day indie and post-rock.
The arrangements are gently kinetic, and not afraid to exploit the dramatic potential of putting the brakes on from time to time, while the writing presents some beautiful melodies with a strong (and visual) feel for language: ‘and I write this down fast/ ’cause the truth’s on the move.’ I know how he feels! Writer/ singer John Elliott has a voice that moves backwards and forwards in his throat to find the right timbre, as well as the right volume, and engages the listener completely in the world of the songs. This is highly creative stuff, and realised with all the skill required by something so subtly ambitious.