We have seen our share of Britain in the last few years. We have been to Yorkshire, we have been to Cymru and we even sailed to the Outer Hebrides. Well, so has Jim Ghedi. However the big difference is that he turned his historic geographical experiences from these travels into sounds on the beautiful A Hymn for Ancient Land (2018). Now the follow up to this mostly soundscape filled album is set from a human perspective. Since we’re not that folk minded over here we didn’t give the album any proper attention in the first days after it was brought out. But it kept sticking around and suddenly Ghedi unexpectedly managed to touch our very souls.
The beginnings of In the Furrows Of Common Place are proud to the core. Opener Common Thread is a propelling song. It breathes out an upbeat Celtic vibe made by fiddles, well timed drumming and banjos. It immediately gave us a sense of freedom. After Common Thread ends the propelling sound is replaced by more serious tones. Lamentations of Round Oak Waters is a droning solo harmony which listens like a historic poem about how landscape and social structures are irreversibly changed in the name of economic progress.
Ghedi’s dramatic, earnest singing is firmly rooted in the distant past as he lays out a narrative of greedy landowners that are pushing ahead their reforms for economic benefit without having an eye for local culture and nature. Within the song he also looks to the present by addressing the government approved mass felling of thousands of trees in his hometown Sheffield. Ghedi shows us that history is repeating itself and that the people of Northern England must not forget where they came from. It’s a history that also should be celebrated so as a sort of an interlude fiddle and guitar take over on the cheerful instrumental titled Mytholm, which in Old Norse means ‘where two rivers meet’. The cheers are however countered by slow guitar picking on Stolen Ground. As the song builds Ghedi’s sombre recounts a story about the lost working class of old. Violins, horns and cellos eventually swell as Ghedi sadness turns into anger telling us people who have a honest job nowadays are no part of any policy anymore and, there it is again, are too easily moved aside for the good of modern economy.
After the stunning Gregorian chant Ah Cud Hew the album continues with Beneath the Willow. Ghedi brings in another working class chronicle. A tingling guitar and melodious violin jaunty take the lead here. The athomehere however never becomes too uplifting. It’s Ghedi’s heartfelt voice that keeps us on topic while in the end he directs us to a subtle string lead out. From here we are swept into the second part of the song which is a wonderful four-and-half minute instrumental Celtic pace changer. In the Furrows ends with Scotish traditional Son David. Here Ghedi drops almost all the instrumentation and aims the spotlight directly on his vocals. Sure, his guitar play and some swelling background strings help to build some drama but wow, it has been a long time since we heard such an enchanting song. In a soothing carefully timed manner Ghedi lifts the notes in the most perfect manner. If folk music isn’t your thing that’s okay, but at least play Son David once. Everything you’ll hear on this closing track is as honest as the day is long.
Without a doubt it’s easy to place In the Furrows Of Common Place in the context of spectaculair TV shows and video games about the dark ages. We however think this work goes beyond the single dimensions of today’s popular culture. We would say the album is more like a critical contribution to the discussions about how the ever-changing role of the past is shaping modern day rural England. In the Furrows must be seen as a musical manifest that arises from a blend of Old English, Norse and even Pictish vocals. Ghedi ultimately says that we have to learn from our past and essentially adds that laissez-faire capitalism is, and has always been, the destroyer of culture. Enough is enough! And quite possibly he’s right about that…
Label: Basin Rock, 2021
Buy it here: http://www.jimghedi.com/merch
- Common Thread (3:34)
- The Lamentations of Round Oak Waters (5:51)
- Mytholm (3:14)
- Stolen Ground (6:05)
- Ah Cud Hew (2:36)
- Beneath the Willow (3:54)
- Beneath the Willow Part II (4:29)
- Son David (8:15)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 120221