Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies

Live Review | The Rock, Maltby | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies these days bear little resemblance to the band of the same name I saw on the main stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1997, apart from the bloke in the striped shirt that is, who sang most of the songs and wrote just about all of them.  He hasn’t changed one bit over the years and I’m seriously considering whether or not he might be descended from Peter Pan.  The current Bad Pennies consist of Kate Bramley (Fiddle/Mandolin), Andy May (Northumbrian Small Pipes/Accordion/Piano/Whistle) and Dave de la Haye (Bass), and like all other incarnations before, the band provide more than just embellishment to Jez Lowe’s fine songs, but help create a much fatter sound for all his fine arrangements.  Jez sings traditional songs from the North East but with a difference, the difference being that he writes them all himself.  There’s no reason to doubt that songs like “Durham Jail”, “A Hard Life for a Rover” and “Honest Working Way” will be sung by folk singers in fifty years’ time in exactly the same way as they sing “When the Boat Comes In” today.  Why not?  Bob Fox already does a great job with “Greek Lightning”, so that process has really already started.  Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies appeared in cheerful mood at the Rock in Maltby tonight and although the room wasn’t full to the rafters, there was certainly enough of an audience to get a pretty vibrant atmosphere going.  Starting with “Call for the North Country”, the band played a selection of Lowe favourites such as “Cursed be the Caller”, “Another Man’s Wife” and “Latch Key Lover” with Kate Bramley chipping in a couple of songs from her current solo CD Little Canaan with Jez Lowe’s “The Waltzer” and her own “Carter’s Fair”.  Apart from a set of tunes on the Northumbrian pipes, which Andy May both played and in fact made, the rest of the performance was pretty much a selection of Jez Lowe songs old and new, played in the band’s own inimitable style.  “Taking on Men”, one of the songs Jez contributed to the 2006 Radio Ballad series has become one of the stand out songs in Jez Lowe’s repertoire, both as a Bad Penny and a solo performer.