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REVIEW by Fred Hall

Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies at Dartford Folk Club, 21st May 2002

I've said it before and I'll, no doubt, say it again - why, oh why, don't more people know about Jez Lowe? Why is the overwhelming majority of the British public unaware of the riches this man can bestow upon them? At Dartford he, along with his three-piece band The Bad Pennies, played a set full of skill, warmth, compassion and, above all, humour to a club full of the lucky souls who have discovered his rich vein of songwriting.

Lowe's self-deprecating humour was evident from the off with Latchkey lover, from the most recent album, Honesty Box. The tale concerns a man whose woman finds her fun without him. Lowe said: "In the north-east, he's what we call a pathetic git, so I suppose this could be called The Ballad of the Pathetic Git." Hailing from County Durham, he introduced band members Judy Dinning (vocals and percussion) and Simon Haworth (bass, keys and vocals) as fellow north-easterners. Then, playing to his Kentish audience, he announced Kate Bramley (fiddle and vocals) as: "Our token southerner. She's from York." A sad note was Lowe's revelation that this was to be Dinning's last week with the band as she's off to plough pastures new. She was still a Bad Penny at Dartford, however, and her beautiful, clear tones once again lifted Lowe's ghost-driven Military Road - "a kind of Geordie X-Files" - and, as part of the unaccompanied four-part vocal harmonies of the whole band, made Armstrong's army a spine-tingling five minutes.

My friends Keith and Marg, seeing the band for the first time, were touched to find Lowe had written a song about them. Fancy goods they swear, sums them up to a tee, as the couple in the story squabble over her collection of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac and his guitars and banjos which are always littering the place. Two new converts there, then. The first set finished with one of Lowe's strongest songs (among a bulging catalogue of strong songs), You'll never do better than the tom-tom, which never fails to lift the hairs on the Hall arms.

The second half was as enjoyable, moving and funny as the first and featured such Lowe stalwarts as Coaltown days, In my trade, Durham Jail, The Brockie lads and Another man's wife - "One of Bob Dylan's lesser-known Geordie love songs". The evening finished with the chorus-heavy You can't take it with you when you go and an encore of I saw hands and it was 11.15pm and the powers that be said things had to stop. As ever, at the end of a Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies gig, I was left wishing they'd done . . . and why hadn't they sung . . ? The man just has so many good songs to choose from. On the other hand, everybody at Dartford Folk Club had just had a fantastic evening in the company of one of this country's great undiscovered treasures. And now we can look forward to his next trip south, in the autumn, with the latest incarnation of The Bad Pennies. Wherever you live, if he and his band play anywhere near you, go along and see them, you'll not regret it.


Fred Hall

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Last updates:
23 May 2002
05 Apr 2003 - Redirection of website
12 Dec 2009 - Edited Main Contact Email Address