When I was a little kid, the term “folk music” conjured overcast skies, foggy perennial forests, and the crackling of burning logs in a low lit tavern in the dales. A healthy dose of BBC programs (through a not very legal parabolic dish) and PBS documentaries cemented those beliefs. Possibly Clannad‘s soundtrack for Robin of Sherwood is to blame.
In the furrows of common place, the new album by Jim Ghedi, conjures those old images with its brutal honesty and folk sensibilities. Just like the scouring of the Shire, the green pastures now have overnumerous mine spoil heaps, the sky is darknened by a myriad chimneys belching dark fumes, and the people go into pitch black mines to extract coal, coughing their health until they hew no more.
Ghedi‘s strength as musician is building upon the already established patterns of folk. It swings into cinematic post rock, it harks to classic folk with overwhelming vocals, and sometimes it becomes louder than the heaviest of distortions you can think of, without moving an inch away from acoustic instruments.
Folk is the genre for storytellers, a side-effect of its oral tradition origin. It’s fascinating the switch from the revelry of ‘Mytholm’ to the introspection of ‘Stolen Ground’. It should be a jarring change of tone, but it works, and that comes from years of honing a musical skill. Jim Ghedi’s takes on the folk staples ‘Son David’ and ‘Ah Cud Hew’ are heartbreaking exercises that bring a slight catharsis, specially in the solemnity of the latter. Ghedi‘s vocals in ‘Ah Cud Hew’ are so close to the bone you might want to take a break from the album. Or dance to ‘Mytholm’ once more, to the amusement of your fox terrier.
The icicles outside melt. The ashes in the now waning fireplace grow cold. The wind carries an ill-omen. Pensive, melancholic even, guitar notes bring some much needed warmth. The sun might be nesh today, but we’ve got Jim Ghedi for company. A trusty old friend.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López