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Lowe on stage in 2011
|John Gerard Lowe|
14 July 1955|
|folk singer and songwriter|
|The Bad Pennies; Jake Walton|
Jez Lowe (born John Gerard Lowe, 14 July 1955) is an English folk singer-songwriter. Lowe was born and raised in County Durham, in a family with Irish roots. He is known primarily for his compositions dealing with daily life in North-East England, particularly in his hometown of Easington Colliery. He attended St Francis RC Grammar School in nearby Hartlepool and later studied languages at Sunderland Polytechnic. He performs both as a solo artist and with his backing band, The Bad Pennies. In addition to singing his songs, Lowe accompanies himself and The Bad Pennies on guitar, harmonica, cittern, and piano.
He grew up witnessing the decline of the coal-mining industry that had defined the region's economic profile for generations. A great many of Lowe's compositions address the economic distress that the North Country has suffered as a result of this industrial decline, and the social repercussions thereof. "Galloways," "Nearer to Nettles," and "These Coal Town Days" are among the songs that directly address economic conditions. In the much larger category of social impact songs, well known Lowe compositions are "Big Meeting Day," "Greek Lightning," and "Last of the Widows." (His song, "Last of the Widows", was written in 1991 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the pit disaster at Easington Colliery.) Numerous other songs by Lowe deal with the general issues of poverty and limited social opportunity in the region.
In 2006 Lowe contributed to the BBC Radio 2 'Radio Ballads' documentary series broadcast on Radio 2 as a homage to the original series of the same title pioneered by Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Jez Lowe was commissioned to write 22 new songs for the documentary-folk series, which were not all performed by Lowe but featured guest vocals from the likes of Barry Coope, Bob Fox and many more. The series went on to win two Sony Radio Academy Awards.
In 2008 Lowe was nominated as 'Folksinger of the Year'in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, but ultimately lost the category to young Scottish singer and instrumentalist Julie Fowlis.
In 2015 Jez Lowe received two nominations for BBC Folk Awards, as Folksinger of the Year and for Song of the Year ("The Pitmen Poets"), but again failed to win in either category. He was on tour in Canada at the time of the ceremony, with James Keelaghan and Archie Fisher, under the trio-name "Men At Words".
Jez has an on-going working partnership with guitarist/singer-songwriter Steve Tilston, which sees them do thirty-plus concerts together every year, and which resulted in the album "The Janus Game" in 2016, consisting entirely of new songs written by Tilston and Lowe in collaboration.
In January 2018, Lowe published his first novel, "The Dillen Doll", through the independent publisher Badapple Books. The story of the novel includes many references to traditional North East of England folk songs, many of which are included on a CD, also called "The Dillen Doll", presented as a continuous "suite" of music and songs which culminates in the song "Dol Li A", upon which the story is based.
The latest series of the BBC Radio Ballads, "The Ballad of The Great War", will come to an end in November 2018. This series has featured more than a dozen Jez Lowe songs (bringing it to a total of over fifty of his songs that have been used since the "new" radio Ballads project began in 2006). Jez also provided the lyrics to John Tams's theme music for this series, entitled "The Cherry-Cheeked Optimists", from episodes two to five. An off-shoot from the Radio Ballads, a project called "The Ballads of Child Migration", also features three Jez Lowe songs and was released on CD in 2015. Two further songs were composed by Jez for inclusion in a BBC Radio Two production of Michael Morpurgo's book "Alone on a Wide,Wide Sea" in 2017, which is linked to the Child Migration project.
Note: All of Jez Lowe's albums have been released on CD with the exception of his self-titled debut album from 1982. However, the contents of that entire album are available as bonus tracks in the CD reissues of The Old Durham Road and Galloways