Jez Lowe survives and returns

Bob Bossin

Submitted Article

Monday, September 24 2012

I’m delighted to announce that Jez Lowe, the renowned County Durham folk singer, is returning to Gabriola on Thursday, Oct. 4. Some of you will remember that stormy night at the Net Loft, all those years ago....
It was winter. Very winter. Jez had been to Gabriola before, having played a balmy, midsummer outdoor concert on the shore of Degnen Bay. But when he came back, touring with Canadian singer, James Keelaghan, it was February. That would have been OK, had not Keelaghan, an Albertan, booked Jez and himself on a flight from Vancouver first thing the morning after the Gabriola show. Way to go, Jim. The only way to make the plane was to catch the last ferry from Duke Point, and the only way to do that was to charter Tom Upton’s boat from Green Wharf.
As fate would have it, a howling southeaster blew in that night. Hastily racing away after their last song, the musicians were last seen through sheets of rain, huddled together aboard Tom’s wildly bucking crew boat, beating into the weather, decks almost awash. It was like a verse in a Stan Rogers song.
But they made it, and Jez went back to touring Europe, Australia, the U.S. and other safe places. He has returned to Gabriola a time or two over the last decade, and now, will do so again for what must surely be his most intimate performance – Lowe plays places like the Kennedy Centre.
Jez Lowe is one of folk music’s true stars. His lilting, just-south-of-celtic songs have now been recorded by something like a hundred different performers, including yours truly. Jez himself has put out 15 albums, singing in such a distinctive border-country accent that it is hard to resist mimicking his dusky northern vowels.
Oddly, it is a voice long known in this part of the world. Jez hails from Durham, now famed as the setting of Billy Elliot. But before that, starting in the 1860s, the northern coal town sent shiploads of its sons to work the seams of Nanaimo and eastern Vancouver Island.
Jez is himself the son of a miner and his tunes sound like they were hewn in the pits and polished in the pubs.
Jez recreates coal-town life with a cast of characters worthy of Dickens. Like Kid Canute, a 50-year-old, duck-tailed rocker still living in the 1950s – a half-century after the fact; or the “night soil” collector, euphemistically Working on the Midnight Mail, who complains, “I might have been a policeman, but I knew me father’s name.”
Jez has been writing such songs, each as good as the last, for over 30 years, creating an oeuvre rich in (as the Guardian put it) “variety, passion, intelligence, keen observation and instantly memorable tunes.” You can hear for yourself at www.jezlowe.com.
The venue for Jez’s Gabriola show is still to be decided but the performance will start at 7:30 p.m. Details to the left.