Dust of Yesterday
A Singer-Songwriter Deluxe That Transcends Simple Genrefication
I was rather smitten by Jason McNiff’s last release, Joy & Independence in 2018; and a lot has happened in his life in the intervening years, most notably his leaving of London and settling in windswept and interesting Hastings on the South Coast.
While that last release was stark and basic in construction; here McNiff has upped the ante right from opening song For The First Time, which sets the tone quite beautifully, with the singer’s silky voice and dextrous finger-picked guitar styling complimented by (producer) Roger Askew, Beth Porter and Basia Bartz who add not just musical accompaniment; but a touch of class too, albeit in the shadows.
Sometimes I find myself having to think carefully about the words I use (not that you would notice!) as some can be taken ‘the wrong way’; and here I want to use ‘charming’ to describe the overall feeling that Jason’s songs leave on me; but I don’t want you to think for a second that they are ‘twee’ in any shape or form.
Far from it; the title track Dust of Yesterday and Wherever I Choose too; are beautifully constructed and eloquent modern Folk Songs; but have a sharp Americana ‘edge’ to the words and the way McNiff plays with imagery; yet they still sound quite ‘lovely’ ….. which is quite a trick to pull off.
Many years ago, when he first moved to London it coincided with Bert Jansch’s final weekly residency at the 12 Bar Club; and McNiff was at first entranced watching the Master Craftsman at work, then the two became friends ……. and Jansch’s legacy lives on through McNiff and the Folk Cognoscenti will be thrilled to hear the guitar playing on songs like Mary Jane and A Load Along; but the younger man’s vocal styling owes a lot more to the likes of Mark Knopfler, Paul Simon and Jackson Browne; and it’s no stretch to think his songwriting is in a similar vein too.
While intrinsically set in the world of English Folk Music; Jason McNiff’s song construction has more than a whiff of Americana in it too as Try For The Sky and the tragically beautiful If You Could See Me Now prove every time I hear them.
If you accidentally caught him at a Songwriter’s night somewhere you’d be left puzzled whether he was an American trying to sound English; or vice versa; and that’s meant as a compliment as he will fit in both well on both sides of the Atlantic.
As I say many times; this is an old fashioned long playing record and will be best served by you sitting comfortably and letting the music seep in; but there are two very notable songs that deserve special mention and therefore tie for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song.
Damaged Woman is both claustrophobic and fascinating; is it a story? A poem? A fantasy? Each of us will draw our own conclusion and; again …. that’s quite a trick to pull off.
Then; there is Tom; a gentle tale that weaves in between being a love story for a long lost friend; and perhaps even something of a ghost story ……. quintessentially English in style; but will tug on heartstrings all around the world.
There’s much to like about this album; and Jason McNiff himself; not least the richness to his voice, which makes these songs quite timeless yet contemporary at the same time and especially the way the guitar interludes within the songs; allow the stories to breathe and develop; allowing the listen to really envelope themselves with the music.
. Although I’ve said Jason McNiff is probably most at home on the Folk Circuit; don’t pigeon-hole him; judging by this album he is a Singer-Songwriter Deluxe that transcends simple genrefication; try him ….. you’ll like him.
Released April 16th 2021
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