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Water and Light
Artist: Gareth Davies-Jones
Label: Heading West
Length: 13 tracks / 59 minutes
Some things change, some things stay the same. With Gareth Davies-Jones you get both. His voice is still warm and lilting; the pace of his songs remains consistently relaxed; and thoughtful content is still a hallmark. The change is a major one: previous discs were so full of weight that you sometimes dared not load them for fear of taking the woes of the world into your ears, but here substance is soaked in hope.
The disc is well-titled. Water is ever-present. The northern islands and north-east coastline of “Scottish Lights” and “Shoreline of Ghosts,” the poignant sea-faring tragedy of “Princess Victoria,” piers and rowing boats in “One Life” and the river-inspired reflections of “Water” all give a liquid theme to the collection.
But light also shines through many tracks, whether physical ones in “Scottish Lights” or the light of life. “Borderland” is an extended metaphor paralleling the meeting of countries with the thin places between earth and heaven, and the superb “Breathe” illuminates our reason for being here:
It wasn’t just the numbers that stacked up to bring us here
Now stocks are diminishing, quotas are lowDavies-Jones is still rightly telling stories of people and issues, but here they are spaced out among personal reflections and other more immediate matters of daily life. Taking a broader approach has led to including two particularly fine tracks: the traditional “Black Velvet Band” and the gorgeous acoustic guitar instrumental “Path to Windy Gyle” – although I was disappointed to see such a fine piece of work labelled as a bonus track, because this is exactly the sort of music which adds space and highlights his intricate, delicate and precise playing.
This disc feels like a coming-of-age for Davies-Jones. He has continued in his songwriting, which is full of unpredictable, yet natural melodies, but has matured in pacing an album by not trying to save the whole world in 40 minutes. This strong collection should give him a new level of respect on the UK folk scene and way beyond.