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trio with bass and drums – and quite often when I’m about to go on stage to play a solo gig I’m saying ‘Now why didn’t I go out with a trio?’ But that element of risk creates its own dynamic. It’s a very different relationship with the audience – as a per- former you are more exposed and the audi- ence somehow become more involved. But I like to be learning and playing solo is a really good way of learning.”


Indeed his Friday solo set at Folk East is brilliant, containing not just Afterglow material, but several old Bellowhead favourites too… Jordan and the like.

“I’m aware that people come to the gigs expecting to hear some songs they know. It was twelve years of my career and most of my good ideas were put into Bel- lowhead and I’m tremendously proud of the stuff I did with them. A lot of it was written on guitar or fiddle anyway so it works solo. I feel nothing but warmth and pride in Bel- lowhead, I don’t see it as a burden.”

He’s apt to throw in a few surprises too.

He’s never been averse to the odd pop cover – some of us recall the early days of Spiers & Boden playing Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time (or was it Oops I Did It Again?) also once recorded – folk trivia quiz fans – by Richard Thompson. There are one or two excited murmurs certainly this Friday night in Suffolk as Boden delivers a heart- felt ballad that gradually reveals itself as the old Whitney Houston hit, I Want To Dance With Somebody. It’s not a joke or a novelty, it’s a really good song.

laying solo is very scary. Which is kinda why I did it. There’s no-one to cover you. It would be so much easier to come out with a

“One of the great joys of playing con- certina is playing ’80s pop power ballads on it,” he says. “It’s particularly good when you’re on tour with three other concertina players and there’s a lot of sitting around in vans playing concertina versions of different songs. I Want To Dance With Somebody was on the driving playlist and I suddenly started listening to the lyrics for the first time and they’re great. Really dark, cinematic lyrics. So I started playing it on concertina and realised it worked in waltz time and that was that and it ended up as a guitar song. When I first started doing it there was a lot of laughing as the penny dropped, but it’s not a joke song. But the more I’ve done it, the less it has happened, so I’m not sure if that is because people now know it is coming their way or if I’m doing it in a different way. There’s no tit- tering any more, just the odd whisper.”

Some nights you might also hear him play Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love, occasion- ally in a concertina quartet with Sam Sweeney, Paul Sartin and Rob Harbron as there is also a six-piece Remnant Kings ready, willing and able to play those shows that the big band can’t.

“The nice thing about having Ben Nicholls in the band is that he’s a concertina player too and I really like the idea of the Remnant Kings being a concertina band as well as a string quartet.”

I Want To Dance With Somebody appeared as a bonus track on the tenth anniversary reissue of Boden’s very first solo album Painted Lady last year, an album that he’d virtually never performed live on its original release and which – out the same year as Bellowhead’s Burlesque, playing on Eliza Carthy’s Rough Music as well as a new Spiers & Boden album – was completely lost

in the tide. It had its moments, although Jon scarcely recognises the songs that emanated from his much younger self.

“It was mostly written in my mid-20s

and it didn’t come out until I was 30 so I feel quite detached from it, but I really like the production values. It was just me and Ben Ivitsky messing around in Eliza Carthy’s stu- dio in Scotland with whatever came to hand, but I really like the production values. You can hear the home-made element and I really like that. It’s something you can hear on some Tom Waits albums. But there are various songs on it which I wish someone else would cover because they feel like someone else’s songs. I listen and think oh if only Ed Sheeran would cover that it would be massive.”

Inevitably, we talk more of his days with B… and the bid for major label glory with the Revival album on Island in 2014.

“We went into it with our eyes open.

We weren’t expecting it to be a panacea, we just thought there was a chance of it catching fire. There was a moment when the previous album (Broadside) could have been a lot bigger. We were on the A-list playlist for Radio 2 for about two and a half months – Chris Evans was playing Roll The Woodpile Down every day. It was at the point a major label can say ‘right – TV ads, let’s make it big!’ So we thought it would be quite interesting to give it a try with a major label. It didn’t quite happen with Revival, but it did get to number twelve in the charts on release. Apparently one of the things with major labels is if you get in the top ten they go for it, and it might have done if it hadn’t been released the same week as Glastonbury when everyone buys albums by people they see at Glastonbury.”

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