'Heavy Wood’ from Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra ... a thoroughbred album(February 15, 2016)
A combination of savagely poignant lyrics, a staggering jigsaw of musical invention and a sonorous voice that drags you into every song that's ‘Heavy Wood’ from Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra ... beyond that is a beautifully crafted and stunningly delivered piece of contemporary English folk mixing traditions, covers and originals.
Opening with sparkle and energy ‘The Lord Giveth (And The Landlord Taketh Away)’ sets the scene of ‘everyman’ crushed into ‘little man’ in the face of corporate corruption and the inexorable rise of the rich, from there it’s but a step into the incredibly powerful narrative of ‘A Taoist Tale/Mcleod’s Farewell’ as Hellard’s emotive vocals pour meaning into every word, with fiddle and Uillean pipes adding just the right touch. Within the jazz influenced lilt through the enthralling ‘By Weary Well’, they move to the incredibly tender and frighteningly apposite ‘We HaveThe Time’ ... here Hellard pens a song that encapsulates many feelings about Afghanistan’s pointless conflict.
Tradition sits as comfortably with Hellard and the Djukellas as does innovation, listen to ‘Bonny Bunch of Roses’, ‘She Moves through The Fair’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ each given a distinctive edge that instantly becomes unforgettable. The lyrical muscle of ‘Borders’ exudes acid sharp meaning through Hellard’s vocals, again delivered with distinctive originality. And for lovers of a ‘good tune set’, take in ‘Humours of Ballyloughlin/ Cliffs of Moher/ Farewell to Erin’ and ‘Not Safe with a Razor/ Wing Commander Donald MacKenzie’s/ Highlander’s Farewell’.
The sleeve notes, which are copious and informative, state ‘djukella’ is Yugoslavian word for ‘mongrel’ and describes ‘Heavy Wood’ as a ‘mongrel mix of songs and tunes, old and new’ ... be that as it may, for me this is a thoroughbred album. If ‘Heavy Wood’ doesn’t place Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra among the leaders of contemporary folk then whoever in this world is responsible for seeing that justice is done, clearly isn’t on the case.
Playing on ‘Heavy Wood’ are Jez Hellard (guitar, harmonicas, vocals) Nye Parsons (double bass) Alastair Caplin (fiddle, viola) James Patrick Gavin (fiddle, guitar) Dominic Henderson (Uillean pipes, whistles) Tommie Black-Roff (accordion, piano accordion) with James Hegarty (pander) Ewan Bleach (clarinet) and Ben Coulthard (harmony vocals).
Find Jez Hellard and The Djukella Orchestra here: www.jezhellard.com
Review: Tim Carroll