Jim Ghedi: less a person, more a location. To listen to Ghedi is to hover over time and place. His last solo album, A Hymn For Ancient Land, took us across wood and dale, and here we come back down to earth with a crash so deep you can taste the dirt.
Till’d the land where the coal heaps found
Harrowed the plain as seasons leave
Now the coal all closed around us
Do you remember underground music? This is no romantic paen to times past, or a nostalgic look back to analogue days; it’s a dirt-deep dig, a delve into what lies beneath the surface, a view from the inside looking up. These are songs about today.
The eight songs are neatly bound into as much a band as a solo effort; a trumpet adds to the guitar, bass, fiddle foray. Some of it follows a tradition, but often the songs stray off the well-trod path. Then there’s the voice. Ghedi’s distinctive singing is so well adapted to a beautiful rendition of the Ed Pickford song ‘Ah Cud Hew’, where his single vocal easily matches the huge male chorus so often heard in this tale of ageing pitman and pit. Later he turns to the words of peasant poet John Clare in order to mirror Clare’s lament for his surroundings — which were then swiftly being land-grabbed by various heinous enclosure acts — to the current robbing of tens of thousands of trees in Ghedi’s adopted home town of Sheffield today. These songs deal with robbery, most of it by daylight, most of it by laws we voted in ourselves, and there’s a palpable spine of injustice running throughout — not as a rage against the machinery, but as bile for the men who built the machines that were set in action at the click of a mouse in some godforsaken council office or Whitehall.
It’s this balance of the old and the new that takes us deeper, that stops the album from being mere observation and report. It’s a deeply personal work, and one I hope Ghedi claws his way out of, lest the plight of the common earth suffocate him. Much as I enjoy a light air and dance, the world needs Ghedis right now, and the treasure to be found here is a rich seam indeed.
Through it all, despite it all, there is warmth, oomph, and wondrous beauty, with the sound of human musicians playing, as one band should, in one room (recorded in the Outer Hebrides, as it happens). Though this is an album-length passage of songs, none outstay their welcome, and you will find yourself pressing repeat sooner than you think, hungry for more.
In the Furrows Of Common Place took a week to record, but several hundred years to come about.
‘In the Furrows Of Common Place’ is out today on Basin Rock records, and is available to buy and stream here.