Going For A Song: ‘Clyde Water’

Nic Jones – Clyde Water

A few of the interviewees in this documentary about the musician Nic Jones recount when and how they first heard him and his most celebrated album Penguin Eggs. I think I must have heard his version of ‘Canadee-I-O’ on the Uncut Magazine CD, which is mentioned in the documentary. But Penguin Eggs wasn’t the first album I heard by him – that was Game Set Match.

In the early 2000s, if I was feeling broke, I’d go to my local library to borrow albums (it was pre-Spotify). On the occasion I went to look for records by Nic Jones the only music they had of his was Game Set Match (but still…they had Game Set Match), so that’s what I borrowed. I eventually heard Penguin Eggs, but it’s forever this version of ‘Clyde Water’ on Game Set Match I’ve preferred to the version (titled as ‘The Drowned Lovers’) on that more feted album.

In the documentary, Nic Jones says how he ‘tried to separate the singing from the guitar playing, so the guitar playing became automatic’. The musician Martin Simpson suggests this method gave the effect of ‘moving the vocal about on top of the accompaniment’. You can hear this on ‘Clyde Water’ I think. It gives the song a weaving mesmerising quality; while the lyrics are sung in such a way it’s as if Nic Jones himself is discovering the song’s story for the very first time. It’s an outstanding performance.