‘Bill’ reteams with Hills at Godfrey Daniels
You could say it’s been a while for Belinda “Bill” Jones.
The English folksinger and songwriter and multi-instrument musician makes her return to the stage with a summer tour, which includes a 7 p.m. June 28 concert at Godfrey Daniels, Bethlehem, after a mostly decade-long hiatus from the stage.
Also performing is Anne Hills, acclaimed Lehigh Valley-based singer-songwriter.
Jones isn’t coming empty-handed. Armed with a long-awaited fourth album, “Wonderful Fairytale,” after an even longer, 15-year studio silence, she’s ready to take a new step on her interrupted journey.
In 2001, less than a year after releasing her debut album, “Turn to Me,” Bill received the Horizon (Best Newcomer) Award at the BBC Folk Awards.
Bill has also released “Panchpuran” (2001), “Bits & Pieces” (2001), “The Bill Jones Band: Live at The Live” (2002), “Two-Year Winter” (2003), “Faire Winds Live” (2003), the latter recorded during Bill’s first United States tour with the Faire Winds (Bill, Anne Hills, Aoife Clancy). Bill played at Godfrey Daniels on that tour.
In 2004, Bill took off a couple of years off to raise her sons (born 2003, 2005 and 2012).
The more things change, however, the more some things stay the same.
“That slight introverted tinge behind her behind her clear and powerful voice,” according to a press release, remains familiar to fans as a tranquil, mid-summer’s day.
“In her voice, she has an ability to move,” Hills, a collaborative partner with Jones. “It’s a soprano voice and very light. ... I just love her voice and I’m a little jealous of it.”
Hills’ song, “Follow That Road,” was the title cut of the Martha’s Vineyard Songwriter Retreat and has been a certified folk classic since the late 1990s.
Hills and Jones toured the United States and United Kingdom in 2009. Together, they penned some of the tracks on “Wonderful Fairytale.”
“We became chums traveling and we had an opportunity to co-write some of the new material,” Hills recalls.
Many of the duo’s compositions, along with the solo Jones material and two covers, have roots in the folk tradition. This is in Jones’ wheelhouse and she’s as nimble as ever at delivering the goods. Bill plays accordion, piano and Irish whistle.
For example, “the title track uses a line of a traditional song in the chorus,” promotional material promises. Others feature a modern twist on an old classic, like the track, “The Cold Susquehanna.”
Hills has long been impressed with Jones’ penchant for rearranging classic folk songs. That talent often breathes new life into them, while maintaining a deference to the original.
Jones enlisted Ian Stephenson for the “Wonderful Fairytale” recording and production assignments. While it is a Jones’ solo album, she has plenty of musical muscle helping with the heavy lifting. J.P. Garde performs on violin and viola. Stephen Henderson handles percussion. Shanti Jayasinha is on flugelhorn. Hills lends her lovely voice with several harmony vocals.
The result is not only a superbly-written, recorded and performed set of tracks, but a visit to a different time and place that some Jones’ fans won’t want to leave.
For all of the accolades and talent, the fact remains it’s been a long time since Jones has been on the road.
Hills acknowledged the music business can be fickle and just how fans are going to react is anyone’s guess.
Jones briefly toured Japan in 2016 and did a few United Kingdom gigs two years later.
Tis spring and summer is the real deal: nearly three months of dates for U.S. and U.K. audiences. A few concerts are also scheduled for fall with a winter tour in the works starting in January 2020.
“This is very much a reintroduction tour for her and we are very hopeful,” says Hills.
Tickets: Godfrey Daniels, 7 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem; godfreydaniels.org; 610-867-2390