Review: Bill Jones, The Black Swan Folk Club, York, July 11

A MOST unexpected and welcome return. Bill (Belinda) Jones was one of the very finest folk singers to emerge with the new Millennium, but semi-retired from music to raise her three boys.

It has been a very long wait, the tantalising prospect of new shows in 2006… 2007… 2008 never materialised. Fifteen years on, Jones is creeping back into the music business.

The empty seats pointed to the lack of fanfare about this re-emergence, and you sense Jones is content to keep things low key while she finds her touring confidence. In person she was lovely company, with her fiddle player Jean Pierre Garde adding depth.

This was her third visit to the Black Swan, and the voice is unchanged. It is a thing of great beauty, her Staffordshire upbringing mixed with her adult life in the North East creates the sort of tone that could lure the most hard bitten of sailors into fathomless leagues.

Showcasing new material from her just released Wonderful Fairytale record, Jones has cleverly adapted traditional materials to give them a fresh twist, but without losing an iota of feel. Caden’s Tune is a lullaby threw gritted teeth that rings with authenticity while The Wear County Line is an enjoyable paean to her Sunderland home. The pick of the rich crop is Myself At Home, refracting her child-rearing years with a swooning melody by Jones and aching words by American poet and singer Anne Hills.

Like the best folk music, Jones brings a relevance to even the most archaic tunes. While the body count in folk music is high, Jones invests her female protagonists with greater power. The white bones in the Susquehanna river are male.

It was wonderful to see this folk force return, and already in full sail.

Paul Rhodes