Denis Jones – Red + Yellow =

Release Date 11/10/2010 (Humble Soul)

By Chris Oliver

I’ve seen Denis Jones live thrice – once was with a full band, and it was the least effective of the three. The other shows gained a lot from the fact that Denis does everything himself (mostly with a loop pedal) – and it’s genuinely fascinating to watch him do it. I’m worried that this album won’t quite capture the uniqueness of the one-man show.

The first song is one that I have seen live, and it’s an interesting tune called ‘Clap Hands’. It borrows lyrics from Shirley Ellis’ ‘The Clapping Song’, but it’s a great ‘cover’ – partly because it sounds nothing like the original. The next two songs are strong. ‘Elvis’, the most narrative, tells the story of an Elvis impersonator who feels he’s ‘more than just a tribute’. The third song is called ‘Sometimes’, and is my favourite. It’s lyrically so intriguing and obtuse that I just can’t get it out of my head.

The rest of the record doesn’t have the same immediate impact, but there are highlights and plenty of vibes. The lyric, “God doesn’t play dice, he puts his stock in Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s mice”, tickled me, and the song ‘Conception, Consumption and Radiation’ is chilled like a comedown sunrise. The last song ‘Blengin’ is a swelling round, reminiscent of another Denis Jones track: ‘The Beginning’

Red+Yellow = has a very ‘soundtrack-y’ feel to it, given the general atmosphere and the uniqueness of so many of the sounds. As a nice step up from the live show, real pianos, trumpets and other more classy, more hi-fi sounds support the gritty sounds that I’m accustomed to in his live performances. Another thing I really like is the diversity in emotional content on the record. It passes through darkness, intrigue and emptiness to arrive at a truly uplifting conclusion.

I think Denis Jones might be a real folk pioneer. He’s not playing ‘folk’ music as the music press would label it, but he’s not treading any of the musical establishment’s recognised paths – which for me is the essential difference between ‘folk’ (‘alternative’) and ‘classical’ (‘mainstream) music. As Denis Jones says in ‘Bastion of Blood’, “this power belongs to me” – well, more power to you, Denis.

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