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Nic Jones

But for a near-fatal car accident on the 26th of February 1982, which left him in a coma for a few months and forced him into retirement, Englishman NIC JONES would’ve been a name to contend with during hard times for the folk fraternity during the sad 80s.
Born Nicholas Paul Jones, 9th January 1947, Orpington in Kent, the talented guitarist (and violinist) first surfaced in the late 60s with trad-folk trio The HALLIARD (alongside lead vocalist Dave Moran and Nigel Paterson). After one Celtic-folk type set in 1967, IT’S THE IRISH IN ME, the shared THE HALLIARD / JON RAVEN (1968) found a certain standing with those following his trad-folk career.
Taken under the wing of Bill Leader’s Trailer imprint, two subsequent solo sets arose, BALLADS AND SONGS (1970) {*7} and the eponymous NIC JONES (1971) {*6}. The intricate and detailed guitar work and fresh arrangements of the likes of `Sir Patrick Spens’, `Reynard The Fox’ and `The Outlandish Knight’, set apart NJ from his contemporaries such as STEVE ASHLEY, etc., while the said self-titled work produced much of the same via `The Bonny Bunch Of Roses’, `Lord Bateman’ and `Dance To Your Daddy’.
Much in demand as a session fiddle (and guitar) player, Nic would figure on works by DAVE AND TONI ARTHUR, DAVE BURLAND, SHIRLEY COLLINS & THE ALBION COUNTRY BAND, BARBARA DICKSON, MARTYN WYNDHAM-READ, PETER BELLAMY, the collaborative `Songs Of A Changing World’ set (with JON RAVEN and TONY ROSE), RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON, The SILLY SISTERS and JUNE TABOR.
Back in solo circulation, in 1977 and ’78 respectively NIC JONES finally came up with two LPs in quick succession: THE NOAH’S ARK TRAP {*6} and his first for Transatlantic Records, FROM THE DEVIL TO A STRANGER {*6} – both sets highlighting piano from Helen Watson. The short-lived BANDOGGS (aka PETE COE, Chris Coe, TONY ROSE and JONES) found time and extra energy to unleash their sole eponymous set around the same time. Due to unforeseen and aforementioned circumstances, PENGUIN EGGS (1980) {*7} became JONES’ swansong effort, a delightful cocktail of handpicked trad fare plus three covers: PAUL METSERS’ `Farewell To The Gold’ and Harry Robertson’s `The Humpback Whale’ and `The Little Pot Stove’.
Although many further sessions featured pre-accident NJ on guitar (DAVE BURLAND, STEVE TURNER, Brena Wootton and The English Country Blues Band among them), there was brief respite when relative newcomer to folk, GERRY HALLOM, gave Nic’s voice a try-out on his 1989 album, `Old Australian Ways’. If you want to listen to one of the man’s true followers, find JOHN WESLEY HARDING and his 1999 album `Trad Arr Jones’.
On the 5th of August 2010, it was a pleasant surprise to find Nic back on stage at the Sidmouth Folk Week. Nearly three decades out of the business, the great man sang three songs from his days in the BANDOGGS. From small acorns… as they say… in 2012, with his son Joseph and folk’s newest star, BELINDA O’HOOLEY augmenting, an understandably frail but fluent JONES played to considerable adulation at folk festivals, including Cambridge. Early the following year, Nic was given the prestigious title of Folk Singer of the Year at BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards. A subsequent BBC4 documentary, showed just how much his music embraced, as star after folk star commented on his worth; there was even a children’s choir singing his most enduring and poignant piece: `Now’.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD-MCS // rev-up MCS Sep2013

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