The spectrum of song: Jeays, Jenkins, Roberts

I have a theory that there are three men in the UK each of whom represents one of the primary colours — red, green and blue — in the spectrum of song. From blending their work in different proportions, you could make any other colour you wanted. But, even though all of them wear the influence of strong traditions on their sleeves, what sets these performers apart is that they don’t sound like derivatives.
Blue is the South-East London blues of Billy Jenkins, who plays the guitar like a clown, a truly sad clown. Green is the twist on traditional folk songs (parables of hunting and shapeshifting) performed by Alasdair Roberts. Red is the English chanson repertoire of Philip Jeays, with its shades of Jacques Brel, Jake Thackray and Brecht/Weill.

It’s the latter who prompts me to post today, as Mr Jeays has just released a new album, Mr Jeays, and completely re-vamped his web site. The site has full-length audio streams of all the songs on his previous four albums, so do check them out (I recommend Geoff and Only This High as good places to start, though there are many).
After you’re hooked on the songs, you’ll want to see a Jeays performance, and then you’ll discover the songs all over again, laughing out loud at lines your ear only half took in from the recordings. Most precious are the Christmas ‘raffle’ performances in the wonderful setting of the Battersea Barge: everyone gets a raffle ticket at the start of the evening, and if your number comes up, Philip Jeays plays your request from his catalogue. This year’s is on 13 December — book before it sells out.
All three performers remain underrated. The selfish silver lining to this cloud is that you can still see them in intimate venues like the barge. I’ve seen each of them three times in the last twelve months, conscripting friends to join me, and I keep coming back for more.

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