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Oysterband's John Jones on walking to work


Salut! Live breaks its long recent silence, on which can be blamed a fraught move between Abu Dhabi, the UK and southern France, to spring back into action with an account of John Jones's decision to walk the 175 miles between a series of gigs starting in Hay-on-Wye tonight and ending in Leicester on June 19 ...

Most musicians, gazing at an easy-on-the-eye pastoral landscape from the tour bus, would be grateful to be off the motorway for a change.

Other thoughts occur to John Jones, lead singer of Oysterband. He finds it difficult to suppress the urge to get off and complete the journey on foot.

Starting tomorrow, that is what he will be doing as he combines a bit of moonlighting from the band with the passion for hiking instilled in him in childhood by a grandfather who was convinced that walking was "good for working class".

John's solo tour, called Feet Don't Fail Me Now, actually begins in Hay-on-Wire tonight (Thurs May 21) and will involve a relatively sedate walk around the town before the gig at The Globe.

He hits the road in earnest first thing tomorrow, aiming to cover 20 miles across the Wye Valley to the next stop on the tour, his home village of Titley.

"It's a idea that has been hatching in my mind for a long time," says John, who will be accompanied on each leg by a changing cast of friends and fellow musicians, including - unless plans change - Seth Lakeman, Oyster's The Chopper and the producer Al Scott. "If I see a range of hills from the tour bus, I just think how fanatstic it would be be walking the distance."

Oysterband's decision to take a break and John's desire to tour solo and make an album in his own right - Rising Road, due out in July - finally presented the opportunity to turn the idea into reality. Full tour details, and a lot more about John's activities, may be found at this link.

"A lot of Rising Road is inspired by walking and openness," he says. "For me, all sounds have a visual aspect. I have wanted to record some traditional songs for some time and the ones I have chosen have that panorama of stories with the huge sweep and scope you get from traditional lyrics. A lot of these songs I imagine as outdoors songs and I try to write my own in the same way."

He is especially pleased, on the forthcoming album, with a couple of his own songs, Walking Through Ithonside and Henry Martin, and the traditional Rocks of Braun, with its story of a farmworker's hard labour and "a gorgeous melody".

John has been walking seriously for several years, starting in mid-Wales and the English/Welsh border country where he has made his home and branching out to Snowdonia and Spain. Some of his non-musician walking pals will join him for parts of his trek.

The route will take John and walking companions, after Titley, to Leominster, Hereford, Worcester, Cheltenham, Nettlebed, Banbury, Braunston, Rugby and Leicester.

"I am pretty fit," John says, "but I've never combined the two things. I'm really more concerned about my voice as I'm having to do so much talking. i know I can do the walking but the cumulative effect will be interesting.

"I want to make sure I arrive at gigs with plenty of energy to perform well."


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