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BILL JONES 'Panchpuran' Brick Wall Music BRICK002CD

As a classically trained musician, on piano and flute, Bill came late to traditional music (despite a stint in her father's ceilidh band and the formation of a Morris side as part of her degree dissertation), but, as another young graduate of the influential Folkworks Summer Schools, she has shown a remarkable grasp and understanding of both traditional music and descriptive, story-telling songs. Her first solo gig was only in March '99, but this was followed by a hectic round of touring and self-promotion, with Bill rapidly developing her talent and resulting in a well-received debut CD, 'Turn To Me', released in Springtime 2000. The album won her the accolade of Best Newcomer in the BBC Folk Awards 2001, and it was just reward for the promise and potential shown on that debut recording by a performer working hard to become established. So, twelve months down the road how does her second album fare?

'Panchpuran' (Hindi for 'a mix of five spices') has the same clarity and purity of voice found on her first cd, but here it is stronger, carrying more authority, and confidently handling some surprising, risky even, arrangements. The material is predominantly traditional, and what could be more so than 'Tam Lin', but Jones eschews its familiar tune, replacing it with a self-penned powerful piano and string quartet arrangement of her own which successfully alters the tone and intensity of this dark epic ballad. She uses a strong brass section to absolutely glorious effect on 'The Hexham Lad' and 'The Blackleg Miner', and her background jazz interest shines through with her piano, flugelhorn, and drums treatment of 'Rocking The Cradle' - brave, fresh, but extremely effective, treatments. Perhaps she just hasn't been around long enough yet to realise how daring she's being!

Coope, Boyes and Simpson give support on an upbeat, soaring version of 'William Taylor', Kathryn Tickell lends fiddle to 'The Barley And The Rye', and Karen Tweed handles production with a very safe pair of hands. But it is the title track 'Panchpuran' which is the biggest surprise, a self-penned unaccompanied ballad in traditional form, telling of her aunt's move from India to England. A stark and very moving tale which is quite simply stunning.

Bill Jones has garnered to herself a superb set of singers and musicians for 'Panchpuran' and has succeeded in neatly eclipsing her debut album, demonstrating a burgeoning new talent, and completely validating her Horizon Award. She's a newcomer no longer, she has most definitely arrived!

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.