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Folk n' Roll
Vol.1: Tales of Isolation


Artist: J.S. Ondara
Label: Verve Forecast
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 29 May 2020

Kenyan singer-songwriter J.S. Ondara follows up 2019's Tales of America with Folk n' Roll: Vol.1: Tales of Isolation...

Once again J.S. Ondara channels the spirit and ethos of Bob Dylan with another collection (11 songs - 59 min, 59 sec) of politically charged folk songs. The whole album plays out like a connected story and listening from start to finish is certainly the most meaningful way to digest this.

Released pretty much at the start of the first wave of global lockdowns to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the songs take on a weird and almost hopeful look at the effects of isolation and the weird uneasy change to everyone's daily lives. And looking back on this now, almost a year later it not only reflects those times, but also the madness that is still raging.

For some, however, they may not be able to get past the mistaken belief that Ondara is a Dylan tribute act, but writing and performing his own songs. The mumbling delivery, and sporadic interjection of harmonica don't help to discourage this belief, but it shouldn't take away from the act that Ondara is very much a poet and musician in his own right and these songs are obviously inspired by Dylan but never come even remotely close to trying to pass themselves off as such.

This is a beautifully stripped back album that allows Ondara's raw vocals and song writing to come shining through... and if you want to hear just how strong his talent is... 'Shower Song' is an emotional song that is instrument free. Here he conveys his talent solely through his voice and hand clapping. Powerful stuff.


Nick Smithson

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