The Ballad Beyond
JEZ LOWE – THE BALLAD BEYOND – Tantobie Records – TTRCD 113
Released: 17 Nov. 2014
Many of these songs were among more than SIXTY new compositions written by Jez between 2006 and 2014 for the award-winning BBC Radio Two series, THE RADIO BALLADS. Some are presented here as written for broadcast, while others have been further developed beyond their original Radio Ballads role.
Also included here are songs unconnected with THE RADIO BALLADS, and are merely things that have been recently added to Jez’s concert repertoire.
All titles are newly recorded at Anomaly Studio in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2014, with accompaniment from the members of Jez’s long-time band The Bad Pennies, along with some special guests who bring a new style of instrumentation to these songs.
Jez has chosen to group the songs in themed sections, to reflect their varying origins.
PART ONE – “GREATS AND GOODS”
1 – THE LAZARUS DANCE (4.53) – The album begins in a dream, the sort where all the dear-departed heroes, friends and legends come together for a knees-up and a sing-song, Geordie-Irish style. Like many of the songs here, this one began its life under the Radio Ballads umbrella, before being given a new spirit for this collection.
2 – TETHER’S END (4.42) – A cliché from a classic blues song leads off into a protest song for modern political cynics everywhere.
3 – THE PITMEN POETS (4.12) – Many of North East England’s celebrated mining ballads were written by the miners themselves, and this salute to them was written for the occasional musical combo that shares this name, and of which Jez is a member.
PART TWO – “TRACKS AND FIELDS”
4 – BERLIN (2.30) – From the BBC Ballad of The Olympics series, and the first of two that harks back to the 1936 games.
5 – JESSE OWENS SHOES (3.55) – The hero of 1936, with four gold medals for the USA, started life as a child working in a shoemaker’s shop in Ohio, and was later the first athlete to be sponsored by Adidas running shoes.
6 – THE BALLAD OF DORANDO AND JOHNNY (4.21) – Italy’s Pietri Dorando came first in the marathon at the 1908 London Olympics, but the gold went to Johnny Hayes of the USA, after an objection was lodged. Dorando remained the “people’s winner” and was much celebrated. Hayes faded into relative obscurity, until now.
7 – THE MORPETH OLYMPICS (5.49) – A song commissioned by the Morpeth Gathering Music Festival in Northumberland, this celebrates the popular sports event of this name that ran from Victorian times until 1958, where crowds of up to 15,000 watched “boxing, wrestling and pedestrianism” by athletes from all around the world.
PART THREE – “WRITES AND WRONGS”
8 – UNPROTECTED (2.54) – From the 2006 Radio Ballad, “The Enemy Within”, which dealt with the curse of the AIDS virus.
9 – CANDLES (3.59) – Inspired by boyhood memories that were brought into harsh focus half a century later.
10 – AUSTERITY ALPHABET (4.24) – Another Radio Ballads song that has been re-written in an attempt to make a point beyond its original context. Updates may be forthcoming.
PART FOUR – “BILLYS AND TOMMYS”
11 – THE TOWN HALL YARD (3.24) – The BBC series The Ballad of the Great War is yet to be broadcast as this album is being recorded, so it isn’t clear whether or not these songs will be included in the final production. First up is this tribute to those who were cruelly branded deserters and cowards inspired by a visit to the courtyard of the Town Hall in Poperinge in Flanders, a hundred years later.
12 – THE WRONG BUS (3.03) – It was apparently the idea of an officer on the Western Front called Winston Churchill to transport the troops to the trenches using a fleet of London buses, ferried across the channel especially for the task.
13 – NAMES (2.56) – Confronted by the rows of anonymous white headstones at Tyne Cott cemetery near Ypres, this simple and somewhat indignant song was a spontaneous reaction in the drizzle of an Autumn day.
PART FIVE – “BUFFS AND BLUES”
14 – BOTHER AT THE HOPPINS (4.41) – Another re-working of a Radio Ballads song, this time from the 2006 Swings and Roundabouts programme, which brought back vivid memories of annual trips as a teenager, to the Tyneside fairground known as The Hoppins.
15 – LASS OF HEXHAMSHIRE (3.37) – Finally, a tribute to the late Judy Dinning, a superlative singer from Hexham, Northumberland, whom I was lucky to have as a member of my band for many years. This is based on a well-known traditional song, to which I’ve adapted new lyrics.
All songs by Jez Lowe, published by Lowe Life Music
Produced and recorded by David de La Haye at Anomaly Studio, Newcastle on Tyne
Mastered by Christopher Leary at Melograf Mastering
Artwork by Penelope Page
THE MUSICIANS –
Jez Lowe – Vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, cittern
Andy May – Irish Pipes, Northumbrian Pipes, accordion,piano
Kate Bramley – Violin, vocals.
David De La Haye – Electric bass
Kari MacLeod – Violin
Laura Bell – Soprano and alto saxophone
Ian Thompson – Double Bass
Rod Clements – Slide guitar
Maggie Holland – 5-string banjo, vocals
Christine Stockton – Vocals.
Paul Stockton – Vocals
Martin Douglas – Percussion
SLEEVE NOTES FROM THE BALLAD BEYOND: Jez Lowe
In 2005 I was invited by radio producer John Leonard to be part of a BBC project called The Radio Ballads, inspired by Ewan MacColl’s ground-breaking series of half a century before. It is an on-going project, and as I write, the third series in still in production , It has been an inspiring and rewarding experience for me in so many ways. I’ve written around sixty songs for the series, inspired by the words spoken by the ordinary people – the ordinary folk, dare I say? – who’s voices and stories I have always considered to be the true heart of each programme.
Only a very few of my Radio Ballads songs have so far moved beyond the context of the radio shows. Around half a dozen have so far been recorded and sung by myself and by other people, but included in this collection are a bunch more that I feel are worthy of a life beyond the airwaves. Some remain as they were first written, while others have been developed further, sometimes far removed from their original form. They’ve all gradually fought their way into my repertoire, and are recorded here for the first time, to stand in their own right.
Other songs included here have come into existence outside of the Radio Ballads context, but I’m sure they all feel the influence of the work I’ve done since 2005, in what has been a truly special time for me.