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Bill Jones
Two Year Winter

Review By Steven Stone
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Bill Jones Two Year Winter

CD Number: Compass Records 7 4366 2 

 

  Bill is short for Belinda. I can't help but wonder how someone with such a decidedly feminine musical demeanor ended up being called Bill, but Bill it is. Although relatively unknown in the United States, Ms. Jones has won the BBC's Horizon Award for Best New talent in 2001, and already has two previous albums under her belt. I think it's about time we North Americans got up to speed.

The opening cut on Two Year Winter, "From My Window" by Eamon Freil and Dave Duggan brings you face to face with Bill Jones' most notable asset, her voice. Her vocals have a simple purity and disarming intimacy that could bring traffic to a dead stop during rush hour at Piccadilly Circle. Her harmonic purity coupled with an almost total absence of vocal artifice (she does very occasionally add a smidgen of vibrato at the end of a line) makes it seem as if she isn't really doing anything. Willie Nelson has a similar vocal trait. Their phrasing makes it sound so uncomplicated and effortless that you think to yourself "That's easy. Even I could do it." Try and you soon discover delivering a song as simply and directly as possible is harder than tarting it up.

To compliment her disarming voice, Bill Jones also plays piano and accordion. The title cut "Two Year Winter," written by Ann Hills, features Ms. Jones' masterful piano. As with her vocals, she eschews flash in favor of delicate runs and precision power chords. Joined by David Wood on guitar, Stewart Hardy on violin, Sarah Wright on flute, Miranda Sykes on double bass, Shanti Paul Jayasiha on cello, and Keith Angel on percussion, Jones also adds an occasional flute, diddle, or whistle. What is a diddle you ask? Sing the word diddle and you've just diddled. Now go diddle yourself.

In addition to a full 12 cut CD, Two Year Winter includes a bonus CD entitled Bits and Pieces EP with four additional selections. Two Year Winter certainly doesn't need any additional padding, so the second CD serves as a spectacular dessert to a most filling musical meal. Recorded with the same personnel, and in the same recording studios, the Bits and Pieces EP has a very similar sonic signature to the main 43:14 minute disc. Since Bits and Pieces is only 14:34, I can't help but wonder why its material wasn't just included on Two Year Winter. But it's good to have some mysteries, right?

Much of Bill Jones' material is either from traditional Gaelic sources, or written by Anne Hill, who is able to write songs that mate contemporary lyrics with a strong traditional feeling. Here in the United States the "Americana" musical movement has heralded a welcome return to traditional musical forms and sounds. In Great Britain a similar re-visitation to older influences (Britainica?) from artists such as Kate Rusby and Bill Jones has also rejuvenated their airways. What was old is once more new, and Bill Jones' Two Year Winter can penetrate musically jaded sensibilities like the first cold north wind of autumn cuts through a lightweight fall coat. This is great stuff.

 

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