It’s been a few years since Diana Jones last visited Birmingham and a fair number of her fans defied the often uninspiring Monday night slot to catch her return to the city. For this tour, Nottingham based promoters Cosmic American Music decided to utilise the small room at the Hare and Hounds pub and were rewarded with a decent turnout. This bodes well for this relatively new venture of the promoter spreading their wings and enhancing the Birmingham music scene with a serving of quality Americana which has been bypassing the area in recent years.
In support of Diana, the services of her fellow US compatriot, Jarrod Dickenson, were secured and he duly entertained the audience with the usual high singer-songwriter standard that we have come to expect from UK PR stable of Geraint Jones. Jarrod has just released an excellent short EP titled SONGS FROM WILLOW ST with the biggest regret being that funds restricted the record to four tracks. My personal favourite from this EP is the melodic ‘Misty Eyes and A Troubled Mind’, although Jarrod chose to feature more of his previous full length album in the set and limited showcasing the EP to just ‘Your Heart Belongs To Me’. Jarrod was raised in the infamous town of Waco, Texas and the now New York based artist definitely possesses the Lone Star State troubadour genes. He tackled the age old issue of finding employment with ‘No Work For A Working Man’ and added weight to the theory that tough economic times can be fertile ground for the travelling folk singer.
One man and his guitar was replaced by one woman for the evening’s main set, although Diana did have pair of such instruments to aid her brand of Appalachian storytelling utopia. She has the unique trait of possessing a voice steeped in the soul of the mountain although her heritage had to be discovered after a more urban upbringing. Diana’s career continues to grow since the re-connection with her roots and this has been really in evident over her last four albums. The latest record released last year titled MUSEUM OF APPALACHIAN RECORDINGS featured heavily in the set with it both opening proceedings with ‘Oh Sinner’ and closing the evening with the evocative a capello track ‘The Other Side’.
This inspirational album recorded at the title’s cabin in Clinton Tennessee during live sessions is perfectly suited to be shared with intimate audiences and among its highlights featured during the set were the twin state tracks ‘Ohio’ and ‘Tennessee’ as well as the snappy ‘Love O Love’ which acted as a prelude to the encore. Diana turned the spotlight on the audience to select the first track for the extended set segment and there were few complaints for a rendition of ‘Better Times Will Come’. Prior to this there was plenty of old favourites sprinkled across the set along with the usual stories which explain the inspirations for the tracks. The poignant ‘Henry Russell’s Last Words’ never fails to move while male members of the audience get a little unnerved to the murder ballad ‘If I Had A Gun’. ‘Pony’, ‘Poverty’ and ‘Cracked and Broken ‘were familiar tracks from her previous Midlands gigs which have numbered appearances at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival and the Big Sessions when it was held in Leicester.
Paring Jarrod and Diana together was a masterstroke by the organisers and the opening Monday night of March was a lot richer from the experience of listening to two excellent practitioners of contemporary Americana music with a folk twist. Diana continues to be a popular draw for UK audiences and Jarrod will surely grow his stock once word gets around about his talents.