A Great Pembrokeshire Talent – Dan Jordan EP Reviewed

For a song to bear repeated hearings, it has to have not only an appealing unity of music and words, but also a certain depth and mystery.

The tracks on the new four-track EP, Smoke Signals, from Pembrokeshire singer/songwriter Dan Jordan tick all those boxes beautifully.

On Darlin’, Don’t Go Easy Dan’s gruff, unearthly voice, the heavy lyrics and the swampy feel are strongly reminiscent of some of the fine work Bob Dylan created in the 1980s and 1990s with Daniel Lanois in the producer’s chair. The atmosphere is palpably electric.

Dan says that Water Horse originates from the Pembrokeshire version of a Welsh folk tale about “a creature that resides close to water and has the ability to change form to lure and play tricks on lost travellers”. It’s certainly spooky stuff and here, with the insistent rhythm, and Dan’s rough poetics offset by the pure vocals of Julie Urquhart, there are shades of Leonard Cohen.

A touch of Neil Young-esque harmonica takes us into Bronze and Blue, another slice of lyrical mystery. And the record ends with Assume I’m Wearing Back which has more of that Dylan/Cohen/Kurt Weill Sprechstimme (half-spoken, half-sung) delivery, this time in waltz time. “When I said I loved you, it was wild exaggeration…” is such a great line…

The fact I’ve mentioned other great singers and songwriters here is meant as a compliment not a criticism. Dan Jordan definitely has his own voice and his own approach to singing, writing and recording.

Now 34, Dan says: “I was born and grew up right in the south-west corner of Pembrokeshire, along the coast. Once I ‘flew the nest’, I pretty much travelled and lived along the line: Carmarthen, Swansea… and now I live and am based in Cardiff.”

Dan acknowledges that, paradoxically, limitations appear to expand his horizons. He says his songwriting seems to be freer on solo projects like this than it has been when he has been composing as part of a band.

And the stripped back instrumentation, mostly provided by Dan, on Smoke Signals, has more impact than a full-blown production ever could. Everything in this bare setting seems to be in its rightful place and creates real drama .

So the limitations bear tremendous fruit. Dan says, “I have never called myself a guitarist, a pianist, a singer. I’d feel like a fraud if I were to label myself with these wonderful titles. What is important to me is that I can convey my stories in a simple manner.

“Generally, I try not to put too much thought into the music. Once the chords are in place, I usually run with the first idea I get for any of the parts. It’s very natural, fluid. They’re usually recorded in one or two takes and as soon as that track is down, I forget about it and move on. It’s a quick process. It takes longer to re-learn the songs so that we can play them live! But I like this way of recording and writing, it’s organic in the way that they seem a lot more alive when improvised, you get lovely, nuanced moments to your song this way, it’s very of the moment, not forced.  

“You don’t need to pick up the best or most fancy instruments to get your point across. That’s why I’m not too bothered by the roughness on some of the tracks. Hopefully, I like to think that I can scrape by on the merit of a half-decent song or tale.”

Smoke signals, along with rhythms and voices, are among the oldest forms of human communication – often sending out a warning. These Smoke Signals from Dan Jordan are very clear: they announce the presence among us of a notable poetic and musical talent.

For more information, visit www.danjordanwarbirds.com.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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  1. October 10, 2021

    […] featured Pembrokeshire-born musician Dan Jordan here before and make no apologies for doing so again – because he has just released a new album of truly […]