the creases on a hand: joe murray on jon collin

June 6, 2013 at 7:31 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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J Collin – Follow The Great Road (High Peak Vibrations Vol 1) (download, Giant Hell)

Jon Collin – High Peak Selections (vinyl LP, Winebox Press, edition of 250)

j collin - follow the great roadjon collin - high peak selections

J Collin – Follow the Great Road (High Peak Vibrations Vol 1)

Jon Collin plays the guitar.  Mostly the electric kind with magnetic slides and sheer-faced shingle; but with a tint of acoustic woodiness from time to time too.  And, as with every solo guitarist playing in the 21st Century, the spectre of John Fahey has to be addressed at some point.  I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t hip to Fahey until fairly recently.  I’d love to say I’d been collecting all the early albums since I plied my trade as a teenage blues scholar but it wouldn’t be the truth dear reader.  As a teen I was steeping myself in the blues…shit I didn’t even pick up a record unless it had an old wizened geezer on the cover but the local Our Price only ran as far Robert Johnson, and once I’d supped with the devil my first exposure to Fahey was a little underwhelming.  It was all a bit… pretty & lyrical.  I didn’t get it…the fan boy gleam I’d seen reflected in so many fan boy eyes never caught a spark.  But, my excellent friends, I persevered, played dusty & scratched sides late into the night; listened to the mixtapes fellow travellers had made me and after a few years the silver dollar did indeed drop.  I was a fully fledged Fahey fanatic.  But what’s all this got to do with Jon’s work?   Well…I’d like to say, right from the off, I get this.  I get it, I want it, I need it.   This is a vital, vicious sound that needs no introduction or interpretation.  Jon plays with a palate as dry as a fine Fino sherry.  Tunes are coaxed, not just from plucking and picking but from rattles and slices against the uptight steel strings.  This has been out for a while and, as a physical object, it is sold out.  But the honest & mighty Giant Hell organisation, via the indie-pop graveyard, Bandcamp have made it available for free download to all.  These sound like improvised pieces to me that ghost in and out of consciousness, but with some honest grit beneath the nails too.  Silvery, rolling fingering makes a raga of ‘Virgin Soil’ with a nagging, insistent tug at the edges of sleep that fades to sun-drenched dreams.  ‘A La Sainte Terre’ has a hint of Hapsburg Braganza’s tear-jerking explorations of sepia-toned space and foggy memory; tumbling the blues out of a wire-wool cloud of soft kittenish scratch as it threatens to shake itself to death falling though our cluttered knife drawer.  I’ve said this before, but tape comes into it’s own with Jon’s soundworld, the blowsy hiss building warmly and covering me with beautiful crochet. It’s only with the closer ‘Westward I Go Free’ you get anything approaching a traditional song, nixed with occasional scrabbling, like many hands are trying to turn Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ inside out and back to front.  A right proper stunner that’s perfect flu-recovery music.

Free download from the Giant Hell Bandcamp site. (editor’s note: I took advantage of this after reading the above and concur – it is beautiful stuff.  RH)

Jon  Collin – High Peak Selections

The beautifully packaged, reassuringly heavy album is a child wise before it’s time; generous and a little bit mysterious.  Things kick off in an almost industrial vein with the spooky ‘Prelude to CK Junior Blues’ in which nary a note is plucked.  Thin, tinny, feedback drones croak over heavy amp ‘fuh’ and inner-spring ‘clack’.  Strings are sliced, with a knife perhaps, or certainly menaced in some way, until the ghost gives up and returns to the ether leaving a warm humid scent like pine forests after rain.    ‘Furniture Makers Moan’ collects pockets of headstock ‘ping’ and knuckle reddening ‘clunk’ as hot and cleansing as horseradish sauce and models them into tiny chess pieces ready to be displayed in an antique box.    Even the blind idiot gods of the elements doth their cap as it starts to rain outside the instant ‘High Water’ starts, mirroring the downpour caught as a duet with the salty guitar.  This time things aren’t quite as abstract and, as a Chinese blues hopes of happier times, there’s digging deep into some dark corners of the soul, the overseer looks on, cane in hand.  After so many variations of steel and wood and thumb and finger it’s hard to imagine where else there is to go but ‘For the Road No’s 1 & 2’ adds aggression to the mix with each note violently plucked and spawning a slight shadow in this knotted tone poem.  Complex as the creases on a hand, a pleading tone weeps (man I tried to keep weeps outta this…guitar/gently/weeping etc is a blogging no no) like a boy with a skinned knee.  It’s relentless, like illness, until what I’m guessing is part 2, kicks in with a hopeful riff of golden buttery sunlight peaking over the trees helping you scramble out of the darkness towards home.  Phew…this is emotional stuff, not afraid to be beautiful and not bullied by trends. Essential to my 16 year old self and any other blues scholars out there…oh yeah.

Only 250 issues of High Peak Selections are available in this world and can be located via Winebox Press for £10 plus p&p.

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  1. Listening to Follow the Great Road….man, J Collin is pure genious! I felt totally in home listening! There is something around the TONE that striked me to the bone….thanks Joe for the heads up and Rob for sharing!!! cheers to both of you!

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