His first album since leaving London - McNiff is now based in Hastings - Dust of Yesterday is an elegy on moving away from a beloved place and a lament for lost youth. We are treated to a musical tour of McNiff's life to date, from his 8-year residency as a Flamenco guitarist in a Spanish bar in Waterloo (Damaged Woman) to hopping the northbound train from King's Cross, hiding in the lavatory up to Nottingham (A Load Along). All the songs on Dust of Yesterday, in one way or another, speak of the past. But it is not bleary-eyed nostalgia.
"I read somewhere that it is possible to literally change the past and I became very interested in this idea. It so happened around the same time that I discovered the Greek/Egyptian poet, Cavafy. In his poems he would talk about the past, but the memory is not a thing of the past, but something that is still part of him in the present. I could relate to that. "
Musically, Jason is influenced by the British acoustic guitarists (Jansch, Graham, Wizz Jones) and the great folk/rock troubadours of the 60s and 70s. He loves Mark Knopfler in the early days; the English teacher turned reluctant rock star, singing about Leeds and Newcastle and sounding like JJ Cale. For McNiff, the lyrics are central, and he has been especially captivated by those considered poets and writers as well as musicians. He loves literature and cites Hemingway, Chekhov and the aforementioned Cavafy, as major influences in his work. ( He has 'translated' Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' into a song on a previous album, 'Nobody's Son')
Jason McNiff was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1974 to an Irish father and Polish mother. Academically gifted, he did well at school and went to the University of Nottingham to study French and Russian. He fell in with the Folk & Blues scene in that city before moving to London in the mid-nineties to do another degree in English Lit. He was just in time to catch the Bert Jansch residency at the 12 Bar club. For 6 months, every Wednesday night, McNiff would be in the front row of Soho's tiny club learning fingerstyle from the master. He would later sign his first record deal with Snowstorm Records, a label run by Bert's brother-in-law and found himself opening for Bert on numerous occasions.
STAFF COMMENTSsays: This wonderful collection shines with the sort of understated beauty and accomplished but uncomplicated melodic phrasing you'd hear in a Jansch record, but brought to the modern day with unhurried production and brittle, tender vocals. Beautiful.
1) For The First Time
2) Try For The Sky
3) Wherever I Choose
4) Mary Jane
5) Dust Of Yesterday
7) If You Could See Me Now
8) Damaged Woman
9) A Load Along