A True Folk Hero
A Brief Insight Into the tragedy and beautiful return of Nic Jones
On 28 February 1982 Nic Jones was involved in a serious road traffic accident. Returning home by car after a gig at Glossop Folk Club, on the road between Peterborough and March in Cambridgeshire, Jones, tired, inadvertently drove into a lorry pulling out of Whittlesea brickworks. He suffered serious injuries, including many broken bones and brain damage, and required intensive care treatment and hospitalization for a total of eight months.
His injuries left him with permanent physical co-ordination problems, unable to play the guitar as well as before, and no longer able to play the fiddle at all. The accident effectively ended his career as a touring and recording professional musician
His recording career is listed below , but Penguin Eggs is his beautiful masterpiece and the opener “Canadee-I-O” has possibly the most beautiful acoustic guitar intro I have ever heard , but I will probably never be able to play because of the tuning and my own lack of guitar technique for such a delicate piece. I love it so much I used it as the lead music in my “Lady of the Water” sonnet.
In his crash almost every bone in his body was broken or damaged and for such a talented musician that would have been soul destroying.
We are now forty years on from that terrible night and Nic is now back performing with his son Joe. He doesn’t play an instrument but he has a wonderful stage presence.
Apparently he never rated himself , something he has in common with me , but he can sing and play guitar beautifully.
A lot of his albums are on YouTube if you search for Nic Jones on there so you can just sink into some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear from a mercurial folk music talent who we are privileged to still have with us despite his horrendous accident.
I keep going back to “Penguin Eggs” which consists largely of traditional songs, English, Irish and Scottish, and one Irish instrumental, "Planxty Davis".
The instrumentation is entirely acoustic and dominated by Jones' acoustic guitar.
The singer's virtuoso acoustic guitar playing on the album is elegant, brawny and lyrical. As with Jones' previous work, an integral aspect to his intricate playing style is the recurring percussive sound achieved by striking downwards using the middle or ring fingers on his right hand onto damped bass strings near or above the guitar bridge, a technique similar to the 'frailing' of a banjo. His modern guitar arrangements on Penguin Eggs display a contemporary feel, and he makes inventive use of progressive open tunings on the album, including DADGAD, though he generally preferred tunings in C and G. These tunings are what throw me when I consider trying to pick up Nic Jones songs, but really it’s probably my laziness and the temptation of the joy of actually just listening to Nic’s singing and playing.
I implore you to listen to some of the music , the concert above , the documentary below or the YouTube list here. A list of his main recordings ends this piece.
The first ten minutes of a great documentary and you can see how he was.
Nic Jones (1971)
Remastered live albums:
In Search of Nic Jones (1998)
With The Halliard
It's The Irish in Me – The Halliard (1967)
The Halliard and Jon Raven (1967)
Broadside Songs (2005 – the Halliard songs from and Jon Raven, plus 10 more)
The Last Goodnight! (2005 – long-lost recording from 1968, plus 3 more)
With Maddy Prior and June Tabor
Silly Sisters (1976)
Jones has also sung, and played guitar and fiddle, on recordings by many other folk artists.
In 1999, John Wesley Harding released a tribute album entitled Trad Arr Jones.
A final addendum to this piece , Nic Jones himself thanked me for this on twitter. A Lovely Man