Wizz Jones

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

A Wizz Jones performance has probably changed very little over the years and we’re talking fifty years here; still every bit the folk troubadour he always was, relaxed and with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of blues and folk styles, Wizz made his welcomed debut at the Wesley Centre, although he was no stranger to the old place in Wentworth.  Removing the old Epiphone he bought second hand in 1967 from its battered case and his more recently acquired banjo, Wizz settled down for a relaxed and intimate performance, suitably aided by the smaller stage that Rob Shaw occasionally erects in front of the much bigger concert stage, for matters of intimacy.  Tonight, that small stage was just right for an artist who was in no mood for anything other than a laid back performance, which included such blues and folk classics as “Weeping Willow Blues” and “The Glory of Love”.  Although Wizz Jones never quite achieved the same level of recognition as his contemporaries Ralph McTell, Al Stewart and Bert Jansch, his name frequently pops up in indexes of biographies and tonight he regaled us with tales of being frequently contacted for memories of those singers and musicians he either influenced or rubbed shoulders with in the past.  “I remember Sandy Denny..” he told one writer, “she was always pissed!”  With a nod to some of those contemporaries, Wizz paid tribute to the likes of Davy Graham with “Angi”, Robin Williamson with “Womankind” and also referred to Steve Tilston’s “Some Times in This Life Are Beautiful” as ‘one of his easy ones’, which he went on to play with assured confidence.  The two musicians frequently refer to one another at their gigs, which shows a mutual respect.  Dylan was also referenced with his take on the timeless “Song to Woody”.  Other ‘old favourites’ coming out to play tonight included “Sitting on Top of the World”, “That’s How I Learned To Sing the Blues” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed” and “Burning”, blues standards that appear to have stood the test of time.  Local musician Dave Deighton joined his friend on stage towards the end of the night to perform the old Mose Allison blues “You Can Count on Me to Do My Part”.  Although known as a guitar player first, Wizz also has a long association with the banjo, having first set out on this fifty year musical journey with banjo player Pete Stanley appearing on the seminal Sixteen Tons of Bluegrass album and tonight Wizz finished his first set with a couple of banjo led songs “Long May You Run” and the old Grandpa Jones number “Old Rattler”.  Wizz still appears perplexed as to why he keeps getting asked to sing his own songs such as “National Seven”, which he explains was written in about two minutes in a Paris hotel room.  The same could possibly be said of Happiness Was Free, a nostalgic reminiscence of times gone by. Wizz famously extolled the virtues of beatnik life in 1960, appearing on the Tonight programme, where he was interviewed by Alan Whicker.  Wizz now feels embarrassed by this footage.  “Here was this war hero who was sent down there to interview a load of stupid kids who were complaining because they couldn’t get a cup of tea, he must’ve thought we were pathetic”.  Despite this, the one timeless moment in that old film was the confession that all Wizz wanted to do was travel and play music and history has shown us that this is precisely what he has done and what he is still doing fifty years on.  Long may he continue to do so.