A double nomination in the 2015 BBC Folk Awards – for best singer and best new song – was a timely reminder of Jez Lowe’s standing in the UK folk and acoustic music scene. Not only he is one of the busiest live performers in the country, but his songs are among the most widely sung by other performers, whether by long-established acts like Fairport Convention, The Dubliners and Bob Fox, or by the new breed of stars like The Unthanks, The Young Uns and The Duhks.
Jez’s own long-established band The Bad Pennies (featuring Kate Bramley, Andy May and David De La Haye) continue to attract a huge following, and his other collaborations with The Pitmen Poets (with Billy Mitchell, Bob Fox and Benny Graham), The Broonzies (alongside fellow-veterans Maggie Holland, Chris Parkinson and Roger Wilson), Men at Words (with James Keelaghan and Archie Fisher) and with fellow-songwriter Steve Tilston, show a willingness to push boundaries and venture boldly into pastures new.
Meanwhile, his involvement in the award-winning BBC series The Radio Ballads continues, with his song The Wrong Bus singled out for inclusion on Radio 4’s Pick of the Year last year, and five more of his contributions included in the BBC Radio broadcast featuring the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in November 2019. Many of these songs also feature on his last solo album, The Ballad Beyond, the success of which prompted a feature in fRoots magazine and glowing reviews the world over.
Jez’s ongoing partnership with fellow-singer/songwriter Steve Tilston reached fruition in 2016, with the release of a duo album, The Janus Game, consisting entirely of new, co-written songs by the duo. They continue to tour together, with a series of UK concerts scheduled for 2021.
Jez’s role as musical director for Badapple Theatre is also an ongoing concern, and he will be contributing songs and music to their next production, due in Spring 2021.
The publication of Jez’s first novel, “The Dillen Doll”, in 2017, with an accompanying CD featuring a “suite” of traditional songs inspired by the story within it, was met with widespread acclaim. This project sees him return to his roots in the folk music of his native North East England. His second novel, entitled “The Corly Croons”, was published in October 2019, and is a “continuation” of the first, rather than a follow-up, and introduces readers to a new hero, Evan Piper, who will return in a third novel, due for publication in 2022.
A special anniversary was celebrated at the beginning of 2020, when Fellside Records released a five CD set of Jez’ solo albums, forty years since the release of his debut LP in 1980. “The Jez Lowe Fellside Collection” contains every track that Jez ever recorded for the label, up to 1993, and also includes extensive liner notes by producer Paul Adams.
Jez shows no sign of slowing down – following a solo American tour last September, the “Farewell” tour by The Pitmen Poets, last October, the year ended with The Bad Pennies joining him for their annual Christmas tour. Lined up for 2020 was a tour of Canada with James Keelaghan, followed by summer Canadian festival appearances for the duo, and another US solo trip, plus an enviable list of UK solo dates and a UK tour with Steve Tilston. It seems for the moment that most of these will have to be postponed.
However, a new solo album, “Crazy Pagan”, his first for six years, and recorded during the lockdown of 2020, has just been released. Twelve new songs, with Jez playing all the instruments and doing all the vocal work, this new CD is a solo album in every sense. The new album is a tantalising, not to say hopeful glimpse towards the future, when once again, Jez Lowe will be coming to a venue near you.
Recent review of ‘The Ballad Beyond’ here