Gareth Davies-Jones has been perhaps one of the most underrated songwriters on these islands over the past 15 years. A Northumbrian (where he lives) or Northern Irish (where he’s from) Martyn Joseph is the best way to describe him, very solid craft in the classic songwriting tradition, oozing deep content of truth, tradition, prophets and loss as the title to this his tenth album declares.
Like Joseph, Davies developed late and this record for me is his most satisfying piece of work. It has to be said he tested himself. If you want to find out how good your writing is then set your songs alongside some of the strongest songs ever written.
T,T,P&L has five trad songs alongside Davies-Jones originals. Gareth’s Irishness comes through in Raglan Road and Ulster’s finest My Lagan Love. Peggy Gordon gets a beautiful working and I found his arrangement of Isaac Watts’ My Shepherd you Supply My Need opened the familiar Psalm 23 like a flower in bloom.
The arrangement of that Psalm could actually be the anchor of this collection. The album title Truth, Tradition, Prophets and Loss is a good name for Gareth’s work in general but this album was much more pastoral for me, like a meditative retreat beside the quiet waters King David mentions in that Psalm. Karine Polwart kept coming to mind.
We find ourselves on the Wild Atlantic Way, along the River Lagan, up Warden Hill. We are in the presence of the majestic curlew birds. I happen to be watching Autumn Watch as I type and those curlews of More Than Memory in juxtaposition with Kavanagh’s autumn leaf falling on Raglan Road is perfect.
There is ever a spirituality embedded in Davies-Jones work. It is not preachy. There are no handbrake turns to squeeze it in. On this record it like that Palm 23, a resource to understand the world around but also bringing hope and resilience in challenges like Coronavirus. From No One Else to In Company there is a sense of presence on this, the first record that Gareth had the confidence to play everything and do the recording and production too.
Not just good but good for the soul.