Jones is widely recognised as one of the most enduring artists to come out of the 70s English folk revival. Although he originally styled himself as a folk singer, his fame rests largely on his skill as a guitarist and in composing memorable arrangements for traditional songs.
His early musical interests included acts like Ray Charles and The Shadows. He first learned to play guitar while at school. His interest in folk music was aroused in 1964 by some old school friends who had formed into a folk band called the Halliard. When the members of the Halliard decided to turn professional, one of them left to pursue a different career and Nic was invited to take his place. Whilst playing with the Halliard, Nic learned how to play the fiddle, and also how to research and arrange traditional material.
The Halliard split up in 1968 as the members decided to pursue individual interests. For Nic, after a period at home with his family, this meant forging a career as a solo artist. At first finding work as a session musician, his solo career eventually took off and he recorded five solo albums, plus contributions to another album with the folk act Bandoggs.
In February of 1982, he was involved in a serious car accident while driving home after perfoming at Glossop Folk Club. He broke a large number of bones and suffered some brain damage and was hospitalised for eight months. Although he survived, he still suffers co-ordination problems and feels he is unable to play the guitar well enough to perform and record. He can no longer play the fiddle at all.
Nic now lives in York and continues to play guitar and write songs for his own pleasure. He has also developed a passion for chess. His wife, Julia, set up the record label Mollie Music which has issued two albums of re-mastered live recordings from Nic’s early career. In 2006 Topic released a third compilation of live recordings, Game Set Match.
Nic’s guitar style was unique in its day and has often been imitated since. He played with a plastic thumb pick but not his fingernails. Instead he opted to grasp and pluck the strings of the guitar which led to the slapping down onto the fingerboard with no small force, a technique similar to that employed when plucking the lute. This created the percussive effect which became his signature sound.
Nic’s first four albums were originally released on vinyl and have never been reissued, making them rather sought after. The label that now owns them, Celtic Music, has stated it will not release CD versions until all the existing vinyl versions are sold. However, in spite of repeated enquiries by fans, no-one has yet managed to buy one of the ‘existing’ vinyl copies.
With the Halliard:
* It’s The Irish In Me - The Halliard (1967)
* The Halliard and Jon Raven (1967)
As a member of Bandoggs (Pete and Chris Coe and Tony Rose)
* Bandoggs (1978)
As a session musician with Maddy Prior and June Tabor
* Silly Sisters (1976)
Solo, now Unavailable:
* Ballads and Songs (1970)
* Nic Jones (1971)
* The Noah’s Ark Trap (1977)
* From the Devil to a Stranger (1978)
Solo, still available:
* Penguin Eggs (1980)
* In Search of Nic Jones (1998) (remastered live material)
* Unearthed (2001) (remastered live material)
* Game Set Match (2006) (remastered live material)
In 1999, John Wesley Harding released a tribute album entitled Trad Arr Jones.
In 2001, Penguin Eggs was voted the 2nd best folk album of all time by listeners of the Mike Harding show on BBC Radio 2. The opening track on this album, Canadee-I-O, besides being an excellent example of Nic’s guitar style is notable because it was recorded by Bob Dylan and included on his 1992 album Good as I Been to You. Whilst Canadee-I-O is a traditional folk song, some critics have accused Dylan of stealing Nic’s arrangements for this song without credit or the offer of royalties. Others disagree, and believe the arrangements to be different. Another school of thought is that the arranger’s copyright on recordings of traditional songs is little more than a legal fiction, allowing artists to receive “mechanical royalty payments” that would otherwise be kept by their recording labels. See the links below for further discussion on this issue.
Not having sung in public since the car crash some 28 years ago, Jones made a surprise appearance at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in August 2010. During a programme dedicated to performances of his work, he took to the stage to perform three songs with one of his past line ups, Bandoggs. It was an emotional event for audience and performers alike and Jones, having been rehearsing for the show at his home in north Devon, has now declared that he is considering performing again.
In 2012 Nic was a featured vocalist on the Kate Rusby album, 20, singing compelling yet tasteful harmonies with Kate on her self-penned song “The Lark”. If this teaser is anything to go by we may be in for another treat from Nic Jones.
Edited by IanBarkerMusic on 15 Jan 2013, 01:08
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