Jamie Francis – The Patient Neighbour

Album Review | TCR Music | Review by Ian Taylor | Stars: 3/5

Banjo player Jamie Francis has been the constant companion of folk troubadour Sam Kelly since they met at University, throughout their BBC Folk Award-winning Lost Boys and Changing Room incarnations, and has also played in Seth Lakeman’s band.  Francis is therefore more than adequately qualified to produce this, his first solo album, helped only by fellow Lost Boys Graham Coe on cello and the seemingly ubiquitous (in a good way!) Toby Shaer (John McCusker, Heidi Talbot, Cara Dillon) on, well, everything else. The Patient Neighbour features banjo-led arrangements of traditional Irish and American tunes alongside some original compositions – around half of each – at least one of which – the traditional American tune “Angeline The Baker” – has featured in a Lost Boys live set, and rightly so, as it is a rollicking good tune.  Francis also contributes guitars, mandolin and bouzouki to the mix, and shows throughout what a fine musician he is.  But it is on banjo which he excels, whether it be on fast-picking tunes or slow ballads, such as the beautiful original piece, “Dodd Wood”; the Ernie Carpenter arrangement of “Elk River Blues”, or the haunting solo album closer, “Last Sun On The Solway”.   The traditional material is skilfully presented also, the guitars and whistles on top of the banjo giving the material an almost live feel.  Check out “The Patient Neighbour Set”, for example, which builds over almost five minutes of sheer joy to a foot-stomping climax.  Whilst mention of an album of banjo music would normally generate a list of jokes as long as my arm in this household, Francis puts the doubters to shame with this more-than-accessible collection.