With the release of ‘Yawny Yawn’ – Bill Ryder-Jones’ reimagined version of last year’s excellent ‘Yawn’ LP – coming as a welcome surprise this summer he has taken to the road to present these songs and an Autumnal Monday evening at the Joiners ends up being the perfect setting.
The former Coral guitarist is now five albums into his solo career, with a musical sound that has evolved from the instrumental film soundtrack stylings of debut ‘If….’ to the Pavement-esque fuzziness of 2015’s ‘West Kirby County Primary’. In between these tonal touchstones has been the sound of the tortured troubadour singing songs not just on love but the full spectrum of heartbreak and elation that comes from just, well, living life.
For the majority of the show Jones is behind the piano, a black cloth hiding the many cables and leads the only concession to stage props. Lyrically he’s also laying bare – the themes of tonight’s songs range from the death of his brother to broken relationships whilst ‘John’ is dedicated to his father who, as Jones’ sardonically muses, ‘may or may not have had an affair’. In the wrong hands this could get overwraught and weighed down with sombre emotion but Jones is charismatic, funny and self-deprecating.
A charming and eloquent host, Jones invites the audience to request songs during the set. One of the first to be asked for is ‘Two to Birkenhead’ which the singer seems hesitant to play at first for fear of messing it up. He’s not so keen to play a stripped down version of the song insisting that the audience member who requested it sings along to the guitar instrumental in the middle of it but he needn’t have worried. It’s a slightly gangly take with just an electric guitar but stripped of the full band means it’s themes of a lost relationship come across to the fore.
Joining him on stage for ‘Lemon Trees’ is his support act for the tour – Lucy Gaffney. The pair’s vocal’s work well together and perhaps give an indication of where Jones’ next album could go whilst the obvious playful nature of their relationship shines through giving a well timed levity to proceedings.
A little later on we get the slow burning ‘Don’t Be Scared, I Love You’ with Jones keen to explain to the audience the song is written from the perspective of the other person from a recent relationship. Played solely on the piano it’s intimate sparseness together with the newly discovered context seems to give the song a sense of hope, a beacon in the storm. As the set closes with the stirring and rather epic ‘A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart’ Jones repeats the line ‘Will happiness come at last?’ in the song’s coda. It’s a lament from a song that sums up tonight’s show; a beautifully melodic catharsis wrapped up in honest fragility.
Photo: Chris Horton