Jon Redfern – What Else But Love

Album Review | Reveal | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

The first song I heard on this, the third solo offering from Jon Redfern, was the ethereal “Don’t Worry”, featuring a duet with one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Becky Unthank, posted to me by a fellow Unthank aficionado as a matter of great urgency.  The song, albeit barely two minutes long, was the prompt that brought me to the rest of the album; that and the eagerness to hear the third instalment of this songwriter’s solo recorded output.  Much drivel has been written about Jon Redfern, particularly with regard to this unfounded notion that any singer-songwriter to emerge over the last decade must be a Nick Drake clone, which is utter nonsense.  The opener to “What Else but Love?”, “Spark in the Sky” owes more to Meddle period Floyd than to anything from the late lamented Tanworth-in-Arden Bard.  Redfern is a maverick, a self-styled song maker of ambient sonic experiences and if he belongs in any pigeon hole at all, it’s the one occupied by a handful of folk-based artists who are unafraid to explore folk music’s fringes and borders and cross those barriers in a spirit of adventure, rather than mischief.  “What Else but Love” is an unashamed outpouring of emotion that concentrates more on self-discovery and self-analysis than on anything remotely resembling instantly accessible folk/pop meandering.  It’s not an album to be rushed, rather to be afforded a little time to get to know.  “Play for Fear” is probably the most accessible song on the album if the more introspective yet soulful outpourings becomes a little too ‘late Saturday night’ than ‘early Sunday morning’ for the listener.  “Troubadour” is a cross between Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” and Man’s “Kerosene” in its distinctly jazzy late night feel, but with an autobiographical tale of lost friendship caught between the grooves.  With a carefully assembled cast including Patrick Durkan, Sam Murray, Anna Rogers and Pete Tickell and with former Tarras band mate Joss Clapp handling all bass parts as well as manning the mixing desk and taking care of production and last but not least, the aforementioned Mercury Prize nominated Becky Unthank providing not only her unique voice but that unmistakable presence that comes with it, “What Else but Love?” provides a suitable insight into Jon Redfern’s highly personal song writing and fits perfectly well into a steadily building body of work.