Welsh-born Jack Harris was the first international artist to win the New Folk songwriting competition at The Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas in 2005. Now based in London, he has become something of a favourite on the city’s folk scene. His Latest offering, The Wide Afternoon, is his third album, produced by Gerry Diver, who also plays whatever isn’t a guitar and contributes greatly to the overall sound. The wait has been well worth it.
Jack Harris studied English Literature at Oxford, a background that clearly plays its part in his writing. Indeed, the opening track on the album, the somewhat medieval troubadour shaded As I Walked Out One Morning, has hints of William Blake and, like much of his work, draws heavily on imagery from nature. He’s drawn past comparisons to the likes of Jackson C Frank, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson and Martyn Joseph, but none are notably evident here, sounding very much his own voice, seasoned with the years into a slightly raspy husk that adds resonance to the often melancholic and reflective poetic lyrics.
He’s painting from a decidedly folksy palette, the strings-swathed The Oldest Man calling on traditional American influences filtered through shades of I Think It’s Going To Rain Today mode Randy Newman. There are touches of the blues in A Soldier Walks Away, whilst traditional English notes can be heard on the brooding, pulsingly sparse The Horses. Meanwhile, Bird in the Broken Clock, the bridge imagery of Rivets and the more uptempo marching beat of The Drowned House are steeped in Irish mists. There’s another Irish nod to be found on the melodically sprightly Molly Bloom, a track that showcases his deft fingerpicking as well as his reading of James Joyce.
Following the lyrically disturbing ghost story cum mental turmoil tale Brilliant Light, with its strings mid-section the album ends on the violin-fluttered The Vanishing Birds, a metaphysical meditation on the fleeting nature of existence couched in a sort of end of days vision of a extinct birds circling in the skies. A sublime song on a sublime album by a sublime artist.
The Wide Afternoon is out now via Rootbeat Records