Jim Ghedi – A Hymn for Ancient Land
Basin Rock – 26 January 2018
The sense of place and nature in all its busy glory, intertwined with the importance of art runs strongly through this second set from Sheffield born Jim Ghedi. The apparently deep gratitude and awe that Jim holds for the spots he has visited and loves is emphasised from the first bars of A Hymn for Ancient Land, with a forlorn piano backing one of only two vocal songs on the album, the traditional Irish ‘Banks of Mulroy Bay’. Here the keys begin chordal and then merge and converse until Jim’s voice comes in above a gentle drone and soft strings and sings ruefully of the beauty of people and a place he loves but never more shall see. Eventually, the instruments softly usher the voice back and wash over it until, like the narrator, it has disappeared from the fore.
And then they take over completely and lead us on a journey across ‘Bramley Moor’, a stretch of land near the Peak District. The arrangement here incorporates many instruments that sit alongside each other perfectly to form the rambling effect that the tune is going for, but with the slide guitar notes lending it the slightest hint of anxiety that could be the sour note of fracking that has hit the land. Our hike then heads to the Welsh Cambrian mountains on ‘Cwm Elan’, a smiling bobbing spring walk of a song inspired by time in Wales with collaborator and friend Toby Hay (Hay’s Gathering album is a fitting companion to this), before taking us to the woods, with ‘Fortingall Yew’. Here, like on ‘Bramley Moor’, Ghedi’s guitar lines are persistent and run with dramatic strings to form an altogether more serious and bigger track. The same style is adopted on ‘Phoenix Works’, the other sung piece of the set, containing a strong vocal version of a scythe worker’s historic verse. Here the guitar is more metallic and the percussion solid and claustrophobic, creating a robust arrangement.
The pace slows for a long introduction to key track ‘Home for Moss Valley’, the stretch of land where Jim now resides. This one feels like an extensive, meditative study of what makes Ghedi tick on a day to day basis. The wonder of the landscape is captured by the soaring violin and cello lines that sweep over the finger-style guitar loops, creating a kind of pensive joy. This subtle optimism bleeds into the final track, ‘Sloade Lane’, a tune of at first gentle and then rousing energy, bringing in brass to climb alongside Ghedi’s Daniel Bachman-esque picking. The brass ends and Ghedi slowly runs a thumb down the strings to bring to a close an album of significant bucolic beauty.
With A Hymn for Ancient Land, Jim has taken big strides in his sound to create a small masterpiece, a homage of sorts to the subtleties of nature, place and space, played out with a string of instruments that rattle and sweep along together wonderfully to evoke the landscapes and stories this musician has taken in so far along the way.
For details of Jim Ghedi’s tour dates please visit: http://www.jimghedi.com/live/