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ALICE JONES - Poor Strange Girl

ALICE JONES - Poor Strange Girl
Splid Records SPLIDCD017

Years ago this writer first heard Alice sing at Oxford Folk Festival when she was the singer/clarinet/whistle player with John Dipper’s Band. I was captivated, and for me theirs was decidedly the most enjoyable music all weekend, notwithstanding that a certain Bellowhead were on the bill. Based in Ripponden, she’s been involved in many subsequent ventures including The Black Box Band, the Five Finger Frank project with Pete Coe and as a resident at the famed Ryburn 3 Step Folk Club.

This, her first solo release, is confident, authoritative and with nothing one-dimensional about it – Alice negotiates English and American traditional terrains in her repertory covering many too rarely-visited songs, examples of which are The Castle By The Sea, noted by the Warners in 1940, and When I Am Far Away from Frank Kidson’s vast broadsides collection.

Jones sings in a strong clear voice, the Yorkshire accent adding to her brio with no hint of the feyness all too often the hallmark of many of our young female singers. She has the ability to get inside a song, not just making it her own but making it ours.

There are so many highlights here; the title cut in a way models the feel for the whole album with a scarcity of cheery missives and a predominantly dark troubled aura. Alice’s keyboard and whistle arrangements are spare and subdued with just Tom Kitching’s fiddle and Hugh Bradley’s bass to occasionally enhance the reflective ambience, especially on the three instrumental sets.

Let the sorrow of the rueful heartbreak of Woody Knows Nothing enfold you and allow that only the hardest of hearts would fail to empathise with the honest emotions evident on such as Green Bushes and Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still - you’ll be in deep!

This record sets musical standards few established artists could match; Alice Jones wins her laurels with this debut. A satisfying work and just stunning.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.