Many people have such fondness for the music of Nic Jones, as the documentary Nic Jones: Return of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero represents. Focusing on Jones’ return to music after a terrible car accident late one night after a performance, the film shows both the Jones of old and the music he is performing today. After the accident, there was a period of 30 years when Jones didn’t play live. During this time he had to rediscover how to be able to play and sing again. Now Jones is supported during performances by his son who is also a musician, their voices providing the blend that can only be found in families, which makes for something beyond the music that we hear on Penguin Eggs.
The live footage that was shown in the film is captivating. I only wish there would be a sister screening of the whole of one of the live performances to accompany the documentary. It’s almost the stuff of ballads and t is no wonder that fans of Jones are emotional about his return to performing live. The tremor in his voice brings a lump to the throat.
Whilst standing in the folk genre, those interviewed about Jones speak about his music as almost transcending folk, moving beyond it to take up the mantel as just great music. Listening to the Penguin Eggs album produced in 1980 it’s easy to see why. Recorded live in the studio in two days, it captures something magic.
These songs are scrimshaws of whaling and prospecting, of working men and wiley women. When I listen to songs like Humpback Whale I feel both connected to the past, in awe of the subjects of the song and in the moment of the music as Jones plays it. I think this is how folk music is today, both of the past and of the moment through the interpretation of the music we are hearing. Maybe without Jones, the prejudice of what traditional music is supposed to be would never have been shaken and contemporary artists in the folk genre wouldn’t have been able to reach the wider appeal that they have today.