KSCOPE 24th September, 2021
Jon Gomm is a Leeds legend and, despite the excellence of this album, best experienced live or on a live recording (don’t worry, there is one), to marvel at the guitar playing. No string-puller or fretboard mangler, Jon is a percussive master. He picks multiple notes, keeps the beat on the body as well as the strings, and generally amazes.
This album, a reissue of his first, shows his desire to use his skills to construct thoughtful pieces, creating mood. At times vocally reminiscent of John Martyn, at others purely himself. The second track, an instrumental cover of ‘Ain’t Nobody (Does It Better)’ is a showcase for his Spanish-flavoured picking and the sound of rubbed strings, chords, picking, body taps, etc, makes for a sense of wonder at the one man band.
The album celebrates the tenth anniversary of his first single, ‘Passionflower’ (on the album but also appended in a new version, as the last track here) and was released in 2013. Recorded in his spare bedroom in inner-city Leeds, reeling from sudden media attention after home-made videos went viral (these are the ‘Secrets Nobody Kept’). Suddenly he had a reputation to live up to; a new and unsafe way to be. ‘There’s No Need To Be Afraid’ sounds like a man reassuring himself. Jon describes the album as difficult to make: “But I don’t like music to feel easy, to be purely soft, to offer only comfort and nothing more.”
In ‘Wukan Motorcycle Kid’, we learn that Gomm can make his guitar sound like a Chinese lute, in ‘Orville’ (yes, really, a reference to the overly cute 80s ventriloquist’s dummy) that Jon may actually have six hands. ‘Deep Cut’ has a female vocal and a belief in rhythm guiding us through struggle. ‘Passionflower’ is a lengthy, dreamy, thrilling call to the power of life (the Passionflower in Jon’s yard broke through concrete) and the whole seven minutes are a showcase for the use of virtuosity in the service of music. The Police’s ‘Message In A Bottle’ is fully coloured and illustrated with just a guitar and a voice.
The whole is a fulfillment of the promise held in that first single, ten years ago, and those early videos. Now, check his website for a live date near you and seeing, as well as hearing, is believing.